Ethical Choices Program
Part I. – Introduction to the topic
The Humane Educator (HE) will write her name and contact information on the
board and introduce herself by telling the students briefly about her background
and a short explanation of why she is there: to explore a daily part of our lives –
food—and it’s connection with animal treatment, our bodies and our environment.
The HE will emphasize that she’s not there to tell them what to think or feel, but
instead to encourage them to think critically about the issues they’ll be discussing
and come up with their own conclusions. She’ll tell them that it’s going to be an
interactive presentation and that she’ll need everyone’s participation.
Part I. - Brainstorming
The HE will ask the students to come up with adjectives about a farm animal
such as PIG = fat, dirty, dumb, cute, etc. This will let the lecturer introduce the
danger of stereotyping and will show pictures of the farm in a natural
environment and explaining its positive attributes and then showing a picture of
the same animal in a factory farm setting.
The HE will ask the students what they think about the stereotypes they have
about pigs by asking: Were they as “dirty” and “slobbish” looking? How many
knew that pigs build nests? Also as it turns out, pigs are fairly clean animals—
walking at least 20 feet from their nests to go to the bathroom.
Part II. - Practical Illustration
The HE will ask for two volunteers willing to take off their shoes. She’ll place two
milk crates upside down on the floor next to each other, and ask the two
volunteers to stand on them. She’ll let them know that she’ll get back to them in a
little while, and then continue brainstorming encouraging critical thinking.
The lecturer will ask students whether it would be legal to go home and take a
hot iron and press it into the flesh of their dog without painkillers. When the
students say “no,” she’ll ask if they think it should be legal. When they say “no”
again, she’ll tell them it is perfectly legal to do to other animals, and ask if they
can think of which ones. When they say “cows” she’ll ask them what this is called
(branding). The HE can then make further comparisons as well. For example, it is
illegal to place a pet bird in a cage so small the bird can’t stretch her wings, or to
cut off two thirds of the beak of a pet bird, but it is perfectly legal to do to other
birds (egg-laying hens and turkeys). It is illegal to go home and perform a home
castration without painkillers or anesthesia on a cat, but perfectly legal to do to
cows, pigs, and sheep on farms.
The HE will discuss whether these inconsistencies reflect a prejudice.
Periodically the HE will check in with her two volunteers and find out how they
are doing. They will likely tell her their feet hurt. The HE will continue by setting
some restrictions for them (make “metal bars” that go up from the sides of the
cage and bend knees and cramp down). She’ll tell them to pretend that there is
a conveyor belt in front of them and that they can reach through the bars to eat
the food on the belt. Also, that there are tubes of water on both sides of the cage
that they can drink from. Lastly, if they need to go to the bathroom, they have to
go in the cage and let their waste fall through the crate.
Then the HE will briefly discuss the behavior of chickens in their natural
environment vs. the ones in factory farms.
The HE will ask the volunteers: how is everything up there? How would you feel if
you had to stay in that position for a day? How about after a week? What about
an entire year? How would you end up feeling about your cage mate? Would you
still want to leave even if you had free rent, water, and food? Show us how you
would exercise or stretch? Or sit down and sleep?
The HE will add that after living in these cramped conditions for a long period of
time, the hens often become aggressive and fight. She’ll ask the students to
imagine being stuck in a little room with 10 strangers for nearly 17 months. The
HE will explain that to deal with these aggressive behaviors, chickens are
debeaked—having the tips of their sensitive beaks cut off with hot blades and
without any painkillers.
She’ll then ask: In such setting, what would happen if one got sick? (Students will
probably say that the disease spreads to other chickens). The HE will agree and
explain that under normal conditions natural sunlight and dust bathing helps
chickens fight off parasites—but not in the dark and dirty conditions on factory
farms. She’ll tell the students that problem is “solved” by feeding all the chickens
antibiotics throughout there lives —whether sick or healthy, emphasizing that this
not only is this harmful for the birds, but the drugs given to the chickens often
carry over into the eggs, posing problems to human health.
Then, the HE will “release” the volunteers thanking them for their participation
and will ask her audience for a round of applause and continue by telling her
class that the volunteers were representing egg-laying hens in modern factory
farms, and explain that over 95% of eggs in the U.S. are produced in this way.
The HE will then show slides of these facilities. She’ll allow the discussion to
move toward explaining factory farming in general, and remind her audience that
any of these cruelties would be illegal if done to pet dogs or cats (but not to dogs,
cats, or other animals used in laboratories). The HE will show slidess of chickens
in battery cages, and ask them to notice ways in which the chickens look
unhealthy or unhappy.
Next the HE will ask the students if anyone knows what happens to male chicks
born in such egg production settings. She’ll explain to them that since they do not
lay eggs and it is not cost efficient to raise them for meat due to their size
compared to broiler chickens, most of them are ground up for animal feed or are
suffocated to death.
The HE will explain one more reality about egg-laying hens in a factory farm
setting: To speed up egg productions, forced molting is employed. Forced
molting is a common method to prompt hens into a laying-cycle by depriving
them of food for up to 2 weeks.
Then, the HE will ask the students how they feel about the sad realities of factory
farming and add that chickens aren’t the only animals that live and die in these
conditions. Other animals such as cows, turkeys, and pigs are raised in factory
Part III- Visual Illustration
The HE tells the students that she will show a short video “Meet your Meat” that
contains some graphic images. She will give them the option to put their heads
on the desk, cover their eyes or even step out of the classroom; however, she is
going to emphasize that what the video will show is very important and that they
might not have another opportunity to watch what actually goes on because the
farming and food industry (McDonald’s, Burger King, etc) don’t want them to see
it. Then the HE will show the video making sure the teacher stays in the rooms
at all times.
After the video the HE will thank the class for watching the video and tell them
that she knows that a lot of it is very hard to watch. She’ll then ask: Any reactions
people have? Or questions on what you saw? Was it what you expected it to be
Part IV. - Teaching about Positive Choices
A. The HE will tell the class what her typical breakfast is and then she’ll
proceed to ask them: Why do I use soy milk instead of cow’s milk? Why
don’t I eat eggs and bacon? She’ll discuss with the students how their
dietary decisions can affect animals. She’ll mention that by becoming
vegetarian, one can save up to 80 animals per year and thousands over
one’s lifetime
B. The HE will ask: What’s killing most people? She’ll ask students to name
the primary causes of death in the U.S. (heart disease, cancer, strokes).
She’ll ask them what causes these diseases (smoking causes 33% of
cancer deaths, and contributes significantly to heart disease and strokes,
however, it is estimated that approximately 30-50% of cancers can be
prevented through a healthy, low fat, vegetarian diet, while 80-90% of
heart attacks can be prevented through such a diet). The HE will share
some facts such as:
• Vegetarians live several years longer than meat-eaters on average.
• In countries where people eat a plant-based diet, heart disease, colon, prostate,
and breast cancer (3 of the 4 most common cancers in the U.S.) are relatively
• In addition, a plant-based diet can prevent or cure: diabetes, kidney disease,
osteoporosis, obesity, etc.
C. Next, the HE will invite students to raise their hands and name any
significant environmental problems that they can think of. It is likely that some of
the following will be mentioned (in addition to other concerns): air & water
pollution, nuclear & other toxic waste, resource depletion (including water, oil,
minerals, etc.), garbage accumulation, habitat destruction, topsoil depletion, oil
spills, endangered species, hole in the ozone, etc. She’ll write all their concerns
on the board and then analyze each in terms of the effects animal agriculture has
on each. This is an eye-opening exercise in which students realize how huge a
role animal agribusiness plays in environmental problems.
Part V. - Conclusions and Q&A
The HE will tell the students that in spite of the cruel reality about factory farming,
there is lot that can be done to change the current conditions that these animals
are subjected to. She’ll emphasize that students must research on their own, ask
questions and make decisions based on what they believe is right.
The HE will invite students to ask questions and at the end she’ll thank them for
being such a great group and let them know about the free literature she has
available for them if anyone is interested. She’ll leave brochures and evaluation
forms with the teacher as well.