Skip to Main Content

Student Project: Factory Farming: Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty Prosecutions

While federal law has proven largely ineffective at regulating abuse and neglect on factory farms, some state laws have been interpreted to allow for the prosecution of farmed animal abusers.  Though most state laws exempt factory-farmed animals from their cruelty statutes, some state laws have been successfully used to prosecute those who abuse and neglect farmed animals.  The following cases are examples of farmed animal abusers being brought to justice under state animal cruelty laws.

  • In a 2012 case, three workers at Idaho's Bettencourt Dairy, a Burger King supplier, were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty for abuse of cows at the facility.
  • A 2015 Tennessee case has led to the investigation of workers at T & S Farm, a Tyson and McDonald's supplier, for animal cruelty against their chickens.
  • In another 2015 case, workers at North Carolina's Deese Farm, a Perdue supplier, were arrested on criminal charges of animal abuse after an undercover video surfaced showing extreme cruelty and neglect towards the chickens being raised there.

Animal Abuse in the Factory Farming Industry

Factory farms are designed to be low cost with maximum output.  The result is often hundreds of thousands of animals confined to dark, cramped, poorly ventilated areas.  Without access to fresh air, sunlight, or grass while being held in close proximity to other animals, these animals often develop health issues as well as physical and mental problems.  Employees are often overworked and under trained, resulting in mishandling and mistreatment of the animals.  It is common practice for male chicks to be ground alive or suffocated in the egg-laying industry due to their inability to lay eggs.  In the hog-farming industry, baby pigs are castrated, their tails are docked, and their tusks are clipped without any pain killers.  Female cows in the dairy industry are forcibly impregnated, and male calves are taken from their mothers, often at birth, to be fattened and slaughtered for veal.  Standard industry practices such as these are accepted and even protected under the law.


  • Animal Legal Defense Fund aims to "protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system".
  • Mercy for Animals "is dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and polices".
  • The Humane Society of the United States provides "direct care to more than 100,000 animals each year" through their "sanctuaries, veterinary programs and emergency shelters and rescues".



Documentary Films

  • Earthlings "Filmmaker Shaun Monson exposes the suffering endured by animals at factory farms, research labs, puppy mills and more."
  • Death on a Factory Farm "An investigation into alleged wrongdoings at a Creston, Ohio, hog farm questions the treatment of animals bred for consumption."
  • Indigestible "A new documentary short film takes on one of the worst atrocities happening in our time, the factory farming of animals raised for food."