Do you know how long a cow, a pig, or a chicken could live if they were not slaughtered?
Surprisingly, it is not an easy task to find the natural life expectancy of so-called farm animals. Neither agricultural textbooks nor special-interest media make this information readily available. However, their ideal age to be slaughtered is easily found in many textbooks and agricultural fact sheets. This leads us to believe that the true life expectancy of these animals is not relevant in contemporary agriculture.
If you compare the average length of their actual life as farm animals with their potential life expectancy you will discover a huge discrepancy. As you can guess, life expectancy for many farm animals is much longer compared to when they are slaughtered. To illustrate this, FOUR PAWS arranged this information into several charts.
The term “actual life” refers to the usual slaughter age (independent of the breed). The real life expectancy is based on experiences documented with farm animals of different breeds that are kept in animal parks for species- specific conservation purposes or sanctuaries. The life expectancy of specialized high-yield breeds is not widely known, as they are usually not kept until their natural death.
In the chart, wild varieties of livestock (e.g. wild hog) living in their natural habitat are not displayed as we want to show how young farm animals are when slaughtered. Also omitted from the chart are farm animals that die of illness or are killed before reaching their actual slaughter age (mortality rate/ culling rate).
The best way to not contributing to the early death of farm animals is to avoid the consumption of animal products, including meat. In all animal production systems – regardless if conventional or alternative – animals do not live as long as they could.
If you want to continue eating meat, then it is highly important to look out for higher animal welfare standards.
- Products with reliable animal welfare labelling (with good strong criteria)
- Certified organic products (usually more focus on animal welfare than conventional farming)
- If you have the chance to visit the farms you buy products from then check out for yourself, go for direct marketers operating a free range system, don’t hesitate to ask the farmer if you can have a look at the animals