Who has a better quality of life: A farm animal or a wild animal?

99.9% of all higher animals will die at a very early age, in a way that is too horrible to imagine. Slow starvation or dessication. Or being dissolved alive in someone’s digestion system. A lucky few will die quickly, torn apart by teeth or talons.

Even terminal humans are consigned to a long slow death march. A farm animal lives a rather peaceful, if boring life, until suddenly, inexplicably, the lights go out, with no bucket list.

From your cite, which you seem to have lifted almost verbatim:

majority of eggs, meat and dairy products sold in the United States come from factory farms, where animals are kept tightly confined in spaces barely larger than their bodies.

… which would make a solid case that your on-farm experience isn’t that extensive either.
Can’t imagine why the American Humane Society would over-egg their pudding.

Yes, most eggs come from caged birds.
But for meat products, poultry, pigs, cattle, sheep or goats are not cage reared, with the possible exception of the niche white veal. Porkers and broilers would be pen or shed reared,
And for dairy products, cattle, sheep or goats are not cage reared.

If 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, then 1 out of 3 ain’t a pass.

I don’t think animals give much thought to their state of affairs much beyond “I’m hungry” or “Owww!” but it seems to me more or less that living in a farm would be more pleasurable than having to hunt for food and shelter and all every day. Hey I mean people lure wild animals with food: raccoons, bears, deer, all kinds of things, sometimes they catch them and the animals just learn to rely on them for everything, and seem pretty comfortable and to even prefer it.

You don’t like my cite? Provide one of your own.

And those “pens or sheds” are packed so tight that the animals might as well be in their own small cages



This is why i pay extra for pastured pork and chicken and eggs. I know where most of them come from. It’s a short life, but it’s not a horrible life.

I’m buying pastured beef and lamb now, because that has been convenient during the pandemic. I’ll probably go back to buying it at the supermarket soon, though.

Dairy cows lose their calves young, but otherwise have pretty decent lives.

I guess I’m just pleased to didn’t cite PETA.

And those “pens or sheds” are packed so tight that the animals might as well be in their own small cages

So first off you accept the point that they aren’t in cages, but are in pens. That’s some progress anyway.
Secondly, if the livestock were “packed so tight” then those at the back of the pen couldn’t move to the feed and water which would be a very ineffective way, indeed counterproductive of rearing them.

The first of your images is of sow stalls.
Sows pre partum are moved into these cages and stay there until their litter is weaned, so maybe a couple of weeks because sows aren’t the most attentive mothers and if in a free range will lie on their newborn piglets (not deliberately, but they just don’t care) and crush/suffocate them. Sow killing and eating the litter of other sows in is not unknown, nor is cannibalism. Just pigs being pigs.
Anthropomorphically you might think the sows would appreciate an opportunity to get out of the stall for some exercise. Which is very human thought, but the only way to get an adult pig to exercise is to put them on a treadmill.

The second of your images are bails for lot feeding dairy or beef cattle. The bars are reinforced because a couple of hundred kgs of hungry steer will bend them. Also allows animals to feed with enough room so they don’t crowd or boss each other. There is no side bar or back behind the bail restraining the animal. Once an animal is finished eating they just back out and return to the yard or paddock

There are people who do really shitty things to other people.
There are also people who do shitty things to animals.
But if you are raising livestock for a living then the primary principal of livestock husbandry is their welfare. 'Cause that’s in your primary interest too. Animals who are stressed or hungry simply don’t grow as well. They are more costly to produce, they don’t produce as much or as well and what they produce is likely less valuable. Works for the intensive industries, the farms and the rangelands equally.

HSUS is an extremely biased organization whose hands are very far from clean in the animal cruelty department. They lie about their mission, which is to eliminate domestic animals and hunting entirely. All pets, everything. I am not making this up! They “rescue” thousands of pet cats and dogs every year and euthanize them all. Yep. There was quite the scandal when they scooped up hundreds of wandering pets after Katrina, made no attempt to reunite them with their owners, just killed them.

They make good points about industrial farming but in many cases they are ludicrously off base and wildly exaggerating. They milk the soft-hearted city folks for money and don’t tell them how they spend it. They make videos of purporting to show that shearing wool off sheep is akin to skinning them for example. PETA is their terrorist arm. I know very few farmers and ranchers in the real world of livestock who don’t hate and fear them.

I am not talking about the industrial livestock farming world, but the world of people who have a hundred pastured dairy goats and make cheese, or run range sheep who see the inside of a building one day a year, when they are shorn, people who raise some dozens of heritage-breed turkeys as a side cash venture … the large majority of farmers have less than a hundred acres, and at least one person in the family works in town. On the phone yesterday to my friend in California who, while she was talking to me, was escorting a litter of weanling pigs to the orchard, where they would spend the day. Kind of noisy. Yes they will all be butchered once they come up to weight, but meanwhile they are not exactly suffering.

While this is a true statement it is also misleading. The majority of people doing farming are as you described but the majority of food is not produced by those people.

This is correct. However, the reason this is true is not that there are not enough people who want to farm. It is because of political and economic decision-making that favors globalization and mega-corporations. The US government has gigantic agricultural support payouts, but they generally only benefit the largest producers and landowners, and leave smaller operations – which very often are more humane (not always) – to twist and die. This could change if the political will existed.

Ya, I agree with all of that.

I’m curious about the percentage of cattle and sheep that are raised on ranches and then finished in feedlots. At least around here ranchers prefer to freeze their cattle and sheep for a much of the year as they can which certainly is the opposite of the cages proposed by @mikecurtis

Velocity referred to animals in general. That we’ve bred some animals to be docile does not mean domestication is what animals would prefer if they had some choice.

There’s a saying: “good pasture is the best fence.”

If the conditions inside the fence are good, then they’re probably not trying to escape (although you do get the occasional critter who’s just curious.)

Also, creatures used to living in a particular place or fashion are likely to want to stay there.

That said: quality of life for farm animals depends drastically on the farm, and can be anything from excellent to terrible.

Again, as has been said elsewhere in this thread, this varies a whole lot depending on how they’re raised. Meat from animals who did have decent lives is likely to cost more, of course; but there are such farms, and many (not all) people have access to them if they look a little.

This is true; and can vary by breed as well as by species. The modern dairy cow needs to be milked to survive; she produces way too much milk for her calves, and will probably die of mastitis if not cared for; but some of the older beef breeds could probably manage for quite some time, given available habitat. (Don’t some of them still spend much of their lives loose on range, with minimal human attention?) The modern turkey and meat chicken can barely walk on their own, having been bred primarily to produce huge amounts of breast meat in a short period of time; but heritage breed chickens might well survive on their own long enough to keep up a breeding population.

The ones I’ve lived with have certainly seemed to. They’ve all shown strong preferences for entertainment, for who they share space with and how, and for being able to run (and for some species climb) about and to choose particular resting spaces.

Well, that ship has, to put it mildly, sailed. For sheep and goats, oldest in domestication, more than ten thousand years ago. Some animals, still extant in their native climes, like chickens, could not survive more than a few days in the ecosystems we have brought them to. They are native to Southeast Asia. Others, like cattle and horses, can and do live and reproduce perfectly well on their own on the American plains, just like they do on the Asian steppe where they came from. So do pigs, which go feral with ease and are a horrible problem where they have.

I think it is important to differentiate between modern factory farming and how domestic animals have been cared for up until yesterday. Just like humans, animals are ill-suited to life in prison. But that has not, historically, been their lot. Herd animals wandered relatively freely, guided and protected by a shepherd and his dogs. Pigs were turned loose in hardwood forests to forage for themselves and rounded up in the fall.

Although ‘rogue’ animals get offed, leading to greater docility over time, we have not changed our animals’ internal psychology nearly as much as simply trained them from birth to accept management. Ask any rancher rounding up cattle born on the range.

Some strains of domestic animals are barely fit to survive to slaughter (industrial turkeys), but their wild relations are burgeoning right outside the fence, and some of the ‘heritage’ breeds of turkeys would do nearly as well.

In My Opinion? Farm Animals, hooves down. They get feed, watered, maybe shelter, kept safe from being torn to pieces by coyotes (well, usually) and they don’t give a shit about ‘freedom’. And, depending on what kind of ‘farm’ they are on, may avoid slaughter all together.

Animals in the wild have to struggle, every minute of every day. What to eat, where to find water, watching their back from predators. And then there is the verbal abuse…

You also have to know what to look for. A lot of people, for instance, will pay a premium for “cage-free eggs”, from chickens “fed a 100% vegetarian diet”, and then congratulate themselves for it, without even realizing that those chickens are treated even more cruelly than the ones laying the cheap eggs. If you want cruelty-free, then look for cruelty-free.

I’m not sure about the “more cruelly”; but they’re not necessarily treated significantly better. “Cage-free” doesn’t mean either “outside access” or “more space per bird” than caged birds; and chickens are not naturally vegetarian, though they shouldn’t be fed chicken meal. “Pasture raised” is more likely to mean something; though checking the individual farm’s practices, when possible, is the best route. “Cruelty-free” ought to be backed by an organization which spells out (not in detail on the package, it wouldn’t fit; but the organization’s name and contact info on the package) what “cruelty-free” means to them and how they inspect for it.

Let’s consider the OP in terms of a few considerations:

On what bases do we compare the dangers and discomforts of domestic life and life in the wild? Comfort? Lifespan? And in the wild where? We shouldn’t assume “wild” means one set of conditions. Does a desert rat have a harder life than an urban rat?

I’m a sensitive person, one who’s prone to anthropomorphizing everything from chickens to cars. I name my houseplants. I have to remind myself, then, that animals crowded into cages or feed lots aren’t huddled masses yearning to breathe free. I have to determine if those conditions are cruel by using other, more objective means. It’s true humans are animals, but we’re animals with the (as far as we know) unique ability to imagine what it’s like to be other forms of animal matter, with this single, crucial limitation: we can only imagine ourselves into that life, not become, mentally, those creatures.

When we try to establish whether domestic or wild animals have a better life, we have to look at some deeper questions: What constitutes comfort for a particular kind of animal? How much comfort constitutes “better”? How much self-awareness, if any, does that animal have? Is comfort more important than lifespan?

And we have to do so with objective knowledge as to what life is like, both in the wild and domesticity, and without letting our beliefs get in the way.


What’s the difference between a cage and a pen? That’s meant as a serious question.

A cage is typically (relatively) small with a top. A pen can be from small to quite large and no top.