People who feel connected to life do not exclude any living being from this connection. Therefore, the only logical conclusion for these people is to live vegan. Not just to eat. That means no leather shoes, no down jackets, no visits to the zoo or circus, no products that have been tested on animals, etc. That actually goes without saying. But now we can eat animals if they are well cared for beforehand and humanely slaughtered at the end. I don’t want to elaborate on the fact that it’s completely impossible to humanely kill someone who doesn’t want to die. Until the last moment, this being will cling to its life – because it has nothing but this. The topic is different. It’s about life as a so-called farm animal in Austria (this also applies to many other countries, but I want to limit myself to Austria for now). Supposedly we have one of the highest animal welfare standards. Seals of approval adorn the packaging of what was once a living thing, often not worth the ink with which it was printed. Because what does reality look like? The VGT is repeatedly fed recordings from companies, from people who do not dare to publish this material themselves, for whatever reason. The VGT, in turn, creates a reveal. Since few people dare to do this, the revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. The true extent of the atrocities happening behind closed stable doors may never be fully revealed. Still, the VGT had 12 disclosures in the last year alone. I would like to briefly describe them below because it makes it easier to see how systemic these tortures are:
On July 20, 2021, there was a discovery of a pig farm near St. Pölten. This shows such terrible conditions that one has to ask oneself how the AMA inspection and the alleged care by the animal health service did not see it. Everywhere one sees excrement and dirt, right in the middle, pigs with bloody wounds on their backs, badly swollen joints, bitten off tails and ears. It looks very much as if one would think that these conditions are normal when kept on full slats. It must be obvious to everyone that this is the worst animal cruelty under the Animal Welfare Act.
On August 20, 2021, a pig transport from Pöttelsdorf was made transparent. The VGT published a video of the pigs‘ last journey. They were loaded onto a livestock truck on which several hundred pigs were penned. From Pöttelsdorf we went to the slaughterhouse „Steirerfleisch“ in Wolfsberg, 170 km away. As expected, the slaughterhouse tried to prevent the discharge from being filmed. There is also a large sign stating that photography and filming is prohibited. Even the last way of the pigs we eat should remain secret.
On September 16, 2021, animal cruelty farms for pigs were uncovered by two Upper Austrian ÖVP officials. New video and photo material from the farms of Peter Gumpinger, ÖVP Farmers‘ Association District Chairman Schärding, and that of Markus Brandmayr, Chamber of Agriculture Councilor for the ÖVP Farmers‘ Association in the Wels-Land district, which was passed to the VGT, shows pigs with swollen joints completely dirty floors, with severely inflamed eyes, bitten off tails, umbilical hernias and constant coughing. Peter Gumpinger’s pig factory carries the AMA seal of approval. The website for direct marketing babbles about “top quality” and “high-quality products”, although photos from the company are wisely avoided. In addition to fully slatted floor fattening, Markus Brandmayr also operates a pig farm with crates and piglets on fully slatted floors. In the media he said: „We young farmers are very modern and progressive“. Does this look like progress? Cruelty to animals in an industrial environment?
On September 21, 2021, a slaughterhouse scandal had to be discussed. From the videos provided, it can be seen that sheep are dragged on the ears and legs, brutally thrown on the ground and crushed. The neck is stretched, after which a slaughterhouse worker begins cutting around the throat. Only after repeated sabers back and forth do the animals begin to bleed profusely. Anesthesia does not take place. The sheep die in agony from loss of blood while fully conscious. Official control bodies, as required, are not to be seen.
On November 10, 2021, material from three partially slatted pig farms will be uncovered. These farms, which have neither more space nor straw bedding, as is actually the case with partially slatted floors in contrast to fully slatted floors, are located near Tulln, Neunkirchen and Korneuburg in Lower Austria. The photo and film material that was leaked to the VGT reveals horrible conditions. The bays are extremely polluted with faeces, the animals sometimes have huge ulcers and bumps on their faces. In addition, there are the usual injuries that one is used to from being kept in a fully slatted floor, such as swollen joints, eye infections, bitten off ears and tails.
On March 15, 2022, a particularly horrific case of neglect in tethered cows will be made public. You can see that the cows are chained tightly together in an old stable building. Their hind legs are covered with thick sheets of excrement up to their hips and the floor is also very dirty. A clear case of neglect.
On March 30, 2022, some cattle fattening will be revealed. It must be said that many bulls that are kept for cattle fattening in Austria have to spend their whole, short life of one to two years in small boxes on completely dirty, fully slatted floors. They have no opportunity to exercise enough, to live out their social behavior or to occupy themselves sufficiently. This form of husbandry is clearly cruel to animals because the animals are obviously inflicted with pain, suffering and damage. Although this contradicts §5 of the Austrian Animal Welfare Act, this form of husbandry is legal. The discovery presented here shows photos and videos from some Lower Austrian cattle fattening stables, in which bulls are kept in small groups in narrow pens on fully slatted concrete floors. There is talk in the industry of „fully slatted floor loose housing“. This is the most common form of husbandry for fattening cattle in Austria.
Am 05. April 2022 werden haarsträubende Dokumente eines AMA-Tierqualbetriebes für Schweinemast in Kärnten veröffentlicht. Dabei handelt es sich um Aufnahmen, die kaum zu ertragen sind. Man sieht blutig-abgebissene Schwänze, entzündete Augen, riesige Abszesse, aus denen Eiter quillt. Dass diese Zustände nur grausame Ausnahmen sind, kann bezweifelt werden, da alles andere bewusst geheim gehalten wird. Dafür wurden allerdings bereits zu oft auch bei AMA-Gütesiegel-Betrieben mit sog. kontrollierter Herkunftsqualität vergleichbare Zustände festgestellt.
On April 12, 2022, it was again about a Carinthian pig farm that carried the AMA seal of approval. From the video footage it is clear to see that all the pigs kept there have their tails cut off, which the law only allows in problem situations and exceptionally to prevent tail biting due to stress. So-called activity material, which was supposed to bring variety to the animals‘ dreary daily routine, was only available in ridiculous form and quantity. For 50 pigs there were only two, sometimes only one piece of wood to bite into. A fully slatted floor works best when many pigs are kept in one area, the pen. The animals push their droppings through the cracks with their feet, but also their bodies. That is why many pigs are smeared with feces. Occasionally you can also see bloody bitten tails and other injuries.
On June 23, 2022, there was another discovery in a Lower Austrian pig factory with the AMA seal of approval. The conditions in said factory are again catastrophic. You see animals with injuries and bitten off tails. What particularly catches the eye in these recordings are the countless dead animals lying around in various stages of decomposition, also in the middle of the corridor between the bays. Bone remains prove that the operators do not remove the dead animals for a very long time.
On June 30, 2022, another discovery took place in a pig farm in Lower Austria, this time in the Korneuburg area. While the ÖVP Minister of Agriculture Totschnig continues to oppose a ban on fully slatted floors for pigs, the pigs continue to suffer, as can be seen from this revelation from a pig factory with around 1,000 animals. The fully slatted floor pens are completely covered in excrement, the air burns the animals‘ lungs, the parasites crawl out of the liquid manure channel, the pigs bite each other’s protruding body parts in the litter-free operation without the possibility of rooting, the joints are inflamed so that the pigs can only walk with pain. Actually, the normality on fully slatted floors.
On September 13, 2022 there was another animal fattening scandal in the St. Pölten area. This time sheep, pigs and cattle are affected. Fully slatted housing of sheep is prohibited by law. Nevertheless, on this farm, several groups of young lambs have to persevere on hard, fully slatted plastic floors. The animals, which are only a few weeks old, crowd tightly together. The cattle stand ankle-deep in faecal lakes, lie and sleep in them. For the animals, this means considerable risks of disease and immense animal suffering. What is particularly macabre about this case is that the company was reported back in 2013 and the incidents were well known. The allegations back then are frighteningly similar to the current ones: injured, sick, dying, decomposing animals and massive pollution.
That was just 12 cases in one year. The number of unreported cases is certainly much higher, the reactions are the same and foreseeable. In most cases, the operator is overwhelmed. Or they think that was just a particularly stupid point in time. Otherwise, it is very different. In most cases, the authorities responsible do not officially know anything and now promise to check more closely which, however, never happens. The media jumped on – and after a few days everything is forgotten again. And the people who consume this meat? You are horrified. After all, they only want meat from the best husbandry. Then the spiral of mutual finger pointing begins. The operators feel overwhelmed by the requirements they have to meet and blame the legislator, who is demanding more and more of them. They are also put under pressure by the trade, who only want the cheapest meat, otherwise they would not be able to sell it. The trade, in turn, passes the buck to the consumer, who allegedly only buys the cheapest product and the one with the high animal welfare standards stays on the shelves. And the consumers think they can’t change anything anyway and carry on as before. The authorities speak of overburdening and insufficient funds.
In summary, nobody can really help it and everyone only wants the best, but circumstances force them not to do it. But where is the real trouble? How did it get to the point where sentient beings are treated like dirt?
It’s a systemic problem. As long as everything in turbo capitalism, and in fact everything, including humans and other animals and nature, is seen from the point of view of maximum utility, it will be treated as such. In this system, the animal is not seen as a living being that has corresponding needs, but as a means of production in which investments must be made until it yields a return in the form of its death or the products of its body. The very simple basic economic calculation applies here: Maximize the yield, minimize the costs. The shorter and cramped animals are kept, the less feed is needed for rearing and the faster they reach the necessary slaughter weight. The more animals that can be crammed into a truck, the lower the transport costs and the more animals that are executed within a very short time, the lower the slaughter costs. That’s all that matters within the capitalist, pro-growth system. Ultimately, one may feel a certain pity for the animals, but one holds on to the system in which everyone involved has settled into their place, from which they scream that they can’t change anything. Accordingly, the blame falls equally on everyone who ensures that the system is maintained, a system that is built on maximizing benefits and minimizing costs and actually regardless of losses, a man-made system that destroys those involved. It seems all the more insane that everyone is sticking to keeping it. The only way within the system is to be vegan. If animal products are no longer in demand, it will no longer be profitable to produce them and the problem will take care of itself. Therefore, if you want to set an example against exploitation and abuse, live vegan, a life full of love, peace and tofu.
All videos and photos of the disclosures can be found at https://vgt.at/projekte/aufdecken/index.php