Lauren Smithson
Michelle Newcomb

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Most people are unaware of the suffering endured by factory-farm animals- Szicsak, 2000

The Artefact

Renowned UK street artist Banksy, brings light to the issue of animal cruelty and factory farming with one of his installments in his month long open-air exhibition in New York City. The controversial piece, ‘Siren of the Lambs’ (Geer, 2013) can be viewed in the above video that has been uploaded to Banksys You-tube page. The scene is set with a worn and faded slaughter truck marked with the words “Farm Fresh Meats” that has been prudently positioned in the New York City’s meat packing district for a two week stint in October 2013(Banksy NY, 2013). The truck, filled with 60 stuffed animals peering through the wooden slates of the slaughter truck, is accompanied by an array of wails, screams and winces, making a blatant attack at the casual cruelty of the meat industry.

The Public Health Issue

factory farming (fak-tuh-ree fahr-ming) noun: an industrialised system of producing meat, eggs, and milk in large-scale facilities where the animal is treated as a machine Wordsmith, 2008
It is difficult to imagine a moral theory that would sanction the continuation of factory farming (Pluhar, 2010) yet meat consumption is still rising world wide. Meat production has tripled over the last four decades and increased 20 percent in just the last 10 years (World Watch Institute, 2013) with people In the developing world eating on average 32 kilograms of meat a year, compared to 80 kilograms per person in the industrial world (World Watch Institute, 2013). It is unclear as to why the world’s population continue to consume increasing quantities of meat and further supporting factory farming. The animals on their plate were neglected, mutilated, genetically manipulated, caused chronic pain and crippling, transported through all weather extremes, and killed in gruesome and violent ways yet consumption still rises. Where do we as humans draw the line between animal rights and meat consumption?

Literature Review

Most factory farms possess the mutual characteristic of maximizing output whilst minimizing expenses, commonly, at the distress of animals' (PETA, 2013). It is obvious through Banksy’s stylized attack at the industry, that factory farmed animals are stripped of their innocence as he depicts the 60 stuffed animals on there way to slaughter in a casual yet evidently provoking display. The artist reiterates through the piece how society comprehends as little as possible about the grim details of factory farming. This was proven through the distressed reactions of witnesses further reiterating society ‘eating with their eyes closed’ when it comes to meat consumption (New York Times, 2013). Cows, chicken, pigs, calves and other livestock are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and confined to wire cages, gestation crates, barren dirt lots, and other cruel confinement systems, stripping the animals of all natural behaviors (PETA, 2013).

According to PETA (2013), factory farmed animals are:

  • Kept in small cages or jam-packed in sheds or filthy feedlots, often with so little space that they can't even turn around or lie down comfortably
  • Deprived of exercise so that all their bodies' energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption
  • Fed drugs to fatten them faster and keep them alive in conditions that could otherwise kill them
  • Genetically altered to grow faster or to produce much more milk or eggs than they naturally would
  • Become crippled under their own weight due to such harsh living condition and die just inches away from water and food

These disturbing conditions can be seen to go against The RSPCA’s five freedoms that guide the industry standards and Codes of Practice. These can be described by the Australian Meat Industry Council (2011) as:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst,
  • Freedom from discomfort,
  • Freedom from pain, injury and disease,
  • Freedom to express normal behavior,
  • Freedom from fear and distress.

It is unarguable that prevailing academic and public opinions alike tend to agree that mammals and birds (at least) are responsive beings capable of experiencing apparent physical pain and psychological distress, that is, suffering (Prunty & Apple, 2013). As we take a closer look into the species specific practices in factory farms, it is increasingly more evident that this idea of the animal is disregarded entirely.


Veal - Veal calves often live out their mere 15 weeks of life in complete darkness before being killed. The animal is separated from their mother at birth and kept tied down in cement bins only two feet wide. This environment causes insufficient muscle formation for the calf ever to stand. A diet of iron-free sludge with never enough water is designed to accelerate growth and induce a state of severe anemia, thereby producing a tender white meat "to fulfill the gourmet consumer's requirement” (Szicsak, 2000).

Meat Cattle - Every year roughly 9 million cattle are killed for meat in Australia making up around 30-40% of the Australian Meat Market (Animals Australia Unleashed, 2013). Meat cattle is often found suffering from disease, stress and lack of exercise as a result of an unnatural environment and intensive conditions in which they live (Animal Liberation QLD, 2013). Cattle are also branded, dehorned and castrated (Animals Australia, 2013) as calves; usually without the use of pain relief. Meat cattle on their way to slaughter are crammed onto trucks where they typically go without food, water, or rest for the duration of the journey (PETA, 2013). After they cows are unloaded, they are forced through a chute and shot in the head with a captive-bolt gun meant to stun them (PETA, 2013) and are forced to endure a long and painful death as the butcher performs the slaughter.

Dairy Cattle – It is no doubt that genetic manipulation has favoured profit over the health and wellbeing of dairy cows over time (Voiceless, 2013). Over just 3 decades, average annual milk production has increased from 2,900 litres to around 5,950 litres each (Dairy Australia, 2012). At 2 years of age, a young female cow is impregnated (Animals Australia Unleashed, 2013). After giving birth to the young calf, the mother is separated from its child as it is taken away to be slaughtered. The mother is then re-impregnated 6-9 weeks later. This cycle continues until the cow can no longer produce enough milk to be considered a ‘profitable unit’. Then, she too is killed (Animals Australia Unleashed, 2013).


Factory farm pigs often live gruesome conditions with little to no freedom to exist naturally with over 6 million pigs slaughtered annually in Australia alone (Animal Liberation QLD, 2013). Most piglets will have their tails cut off, their teeth cut with pliers, and if they are male, they may be castrated. All these practices occur without pain relief (Make It Possible, 2013) at an extremely young age. Pigs designed to breed, known as breeding sows (Animal Liberation QLD, 2013) are impregnated and forced to give birth on a metal or concrete floor (Make It Possible, 2013) with little protection for the mother or the piglets. Within weeks of being born, her piglets will be taken away to be fattened up for slaughter. From as young as 4 months old, they will be killed and turned into pork, bacon and ham (Make It Possible, 2013).


Laying Hens - In Australia, the industrialization of farming has cost layer hens dearly (Hens Deserve Better, 2013). Today, 95% of Australia's commercial laying hens live in battery cages equaling a massive 11 million birds (Animal Liberation Australia, 2013) with the demand for the product only increasing. It is evident that efficiency is held in higher regard then ethics with most laying hens subjected to a life of continuous confinement in battery cages (Hens Deserve Better, 2013).

Meat Chickens - Chickens who are raised for meat, have been selectively bred to grow at three times their natural rate (Make It Possible, 2013). The living conditions of these animals are extremely unethical with tens of thousands of birds crowded into each shed. Along with having no space to move or fly, the shed they live in will not be cleaned and the animals will be forced to sit and stand in their own faeces (Make It Possible, 2013). Animals Australia Unleashed (2013) describe the slaughter practices for chicken flesh as shackling chickens upside down by their legs, then being electrically stunned. Their throats are then slit by a motorised blade and then pass through a chamber of boiling water jets to remove their feathers. Some unlucky birds may not get properly stunned and on occasions may face the motorised blade and even the scolding chamber fully conscious (Animals Australia Unleashed, 2013).

Social Analysis

Existing research on human attitudes towards animals indicate that general disapproval of their suffering unnecessarily at human hands is a social norm. However, studies also reveal an absence of related knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors seemingly implied by this attitude (Prunty & Apple, 2013). This idea can be linked to society and affected ignorance; the phenomenon of people choosing not to investigate whether some practice in which they participate in might be immoral (Williams, 2008).

Animal agriculture, like many other industries, works on the principles of supply and demand. Factory farming causes the most suffering to the largest number of animals in Australia – more than 500 million every year. (Voiceless, 2013). As opposed to being perceived as animals or beings, they are treated like commodities in a production line (Voiceless, 2013). Though, by decreasing the demand for these products, we can decrease their production.

Artists, like Banksy, with backgrounds in traumatic activities such as his career in the meat industry, possess the potential to raise awareness and understanding of the harsh realities of an issue. By raising awareness, Banksy attempts to persuade individuals to reduce the demand for factory farmed animals by becoming vegetarian, vegan, or by simply cutting down consumption of meat, eggs, and milk products (Ilea, 2009). This idea can be related to Marx’s social studies on production. It can be noted that relations of production take a form, in which, control over the application of productive forces is in the hands of capitalists and it is not in their interests to do these socially beneficial things (UNSW, 2010). This can be further explained through Conventional economic theory and practice that is based on the assumption that it is desirable for production and development to be driven by profit (UNSW, 2010). These theories prove why unethical practices so commonly occur on factory farms.

There are many organisations, both political and community based, that support the movement for free range farming. These lobbyists support the ethical and humane slaughter of animals killed for meat. An Australia Based activist group, Make It Possible is just one of many groups providing consumers with the knowledge to make wiser and more honorable choices. The group outline that factory farming is the only way to meet the current demand for animals products and that this demand would never have occurred if consumers knew how animals were treated (Make It Possible, 2013). They continue to describe how if consumers refuse to buy factory farmed products, the businesses producing them will quickly get the message that there is no future in animal cruelty (Make It Possible, 2013).


Overall, Banksy’s depiction of the cruelty of factory farming was not only provoking to the general public but also a suitable campaign for society to gain further insight on the harsh reality that is in front of them. This blatant attack at the casual cruelty of the meat industry allows us as humans to visually recognise the innocence and suffering of factory farmed animals.

The effectively the use of stuffed toys through the artist depiction of the harsh realities of factory farming represent an unintentional innocence to the helpless animals at factory farms. Factory farmed animals, similarily to stuffed animals, have no voice, no say and no control over the acts taken out on them. Through Banksys use of the stuffed toys he makes a deliberate statement to the public about these helpless animals. The reactions to the open-air exhibition, as seen in the video above, prove the ignorance and unfamiliarilty of the severity of factory farming. It reiterates the overall lack of knowledge or desire to learn about the practices undertaken in abbatoirs and slaughter houses and raises questions about the ethics and morals of meat-eating humans.

Through studying the processes and activites undertaken in factory farms, I have been personally confronted by my own ignorance to the issue. Even with my rare meat consumption of 3-5 white meat meals a week, I felt hyporctical and unethical about my consumption due to lack of knowledge about animal farming. The study has provoked a feeling of helplessness yet I will now strive to consume more meat-free meals as well as supporting ethical and caring farming practices.


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