Today is the 28th annual World Farm Animals Day. According to the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) it’s a day “dedicated to exposing, mourning, and memorializing the more than 58 billion cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, and other land animals who needlessly suffer and die every year in the world’s factory farms and slaughterhouses.” Not coincidentally, today is also the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, who famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

The theme of World Farm Animals Day 2010 is “Exposing the Dirty Secrets of Animal Agribusiness.” Sadly, that would probably take far more than a day. Most of us involved in the animal movement know about such “secrets” as gestation crates, battery cages, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and so on. This year, FARM hopes to draw attention to some perhaps lesser known travesties, what they call the Top 5 Dirty Secrets of animal agribusiness. Here they are:

  1. Repeat violators of laws protecting public health and animal welfare are allowed to continue producing harmful animal products. (Case in point: Jack DeCoster, the man behind the salmonella outbreak in eggs.)
  2. Waste discharges from animal farming are accountable for an ecological “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, much larger than the BP oil spill.
  3. For years, meat purchased by the U.S. government for school lunches was so low-grade that even McDonalds would not use it.
  4. Chicken and turkey feed contains chicken manure and the ground up carcasses of cats and dogs killed at local pounds.
  5. Every single minute, over 100,000 farmed animals are killed globally — a number equivalent to entire human population of Berkeley, California. Approximately 99 percent of these animals are babies under 6 months of age.

Pretty nasty stuff. The countless animals abused and killed for the benefit of our palates are often ignored and forgotten, which is why a day like World Farm Animals Day is so important. It’s a day to contemplate the wholesale slaughter of our fellow living creatures, and more importantly, a day to do something about it.

You may choose to take action against battery cages, ask stores to stop selling veal, or lobby against the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture, which allows factory farmers to keep animals in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. Perhaps you’ll donate to an organization dedicated to helping farm animals.

Or, you could give up meat, maybe for a day, maybe forever. After all, World Farm Animals Day comes one day after World Vegetarian Day. And who could benefit more from vegetarianism than farm animals? To once again quote birthday boy Gandhi, “I feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.”

Photo Credit: Mercy for Animals