By Mary Kuhlman
Supporters of animal welfare in Indiana are speaking up today about the plight of animals on modern farms.
As part of World Day for Farmed Animals, events are being held around the state to raise awareness about what animal rights advocates say is the suffering and slaughter of animals raised for food.
Ashley Byrne, campaign specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), says most of these animals are raised on factory farms, where they are denied everything that is natural to them.
"They're kept in crowded, filthy sheds or tiny cages," she maintains. "They're drugged to grow so rapidly that sometimes their legs become crippled and can't support their body weight. And often are denied adequate veterinary care."
World Day for Farmed Animals takes place annually on the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an outspoken advocate of nonviolence towards animals.
Byrne adds PETA is encouraging Hoosiers to think about the decisions they make about what they put on their plate and perhaps fast or abstain from food produced by animals today.
She says besides sparing animals from cruelty, adopting a vegetarian diet is good for a person's health.
"Vegetarians on average have a lower body mass index than meat eaters and they're less likely to suffer from cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure," she points out.
According to the Citizens Action Coalition Education Fund, more than half of Indiana's 92 counties are home to at least one factory farm.
Byrne stresses there are no policies that protect the majority of the animals that are raised on those farms.
"Even though they are just as sensitive and intelligent and have the same ability to feel pain as a dog or a cat, chickens have no federal protection under the Animal Welfare Act," she says.
As part of today's observance, animal-protection organizations are hosting outreach events and demonstrations at universities and public places throughout Indiana.