Billions of animals are killed every year. These shocking figures don’t even include the sea creatures fished so intensely that the numbers can only be measured in tonnes.
There are hundreds of thousands of animals that humans abuse. The huge number of animal cruelty cases reported is just the tip of the iceberg; most cases are never reported.
There is also extraordinary cruelty behind so much of the food on our table. If we were more informed and had more transparency in our food labeling, perhaps we would make more conscious choices regarding the food we consume.
By the meat and dairy industries only, 150 billion animals are slaughtered each year.
There are animals hunted to extinction, and yet illegal wildlife trade and poaching are still thriving. The world is dealing with an unprecedented spike in the illegal wildlife trade today.
We have selected ten of the most exploited animals to raise awareness, but sadly the list is endless.
10. Sea Turtles
Only in the US more than 250,000 sea turtles are accidentally captured, injured, or killed each year due to fishing as a by-catch. They are wrapped in the nets or hooked on bait lines set for fish.
There are seven living species of sea turtles and all of them are affected by commercial fisheries.
Loggerheads and Leatherbacks have the greatest risk because of their feeding habitats. Besides the natural threats of predators, the major threat for sea turtles is humans. Commercial fishing, illegal sea turtle shell trade, harvest for consumption, marine pollution, and oil spills are just some of the major threats.
Hawks-bill sea turtles are critically endangered today due to their highly reduced numbers. They are poached for their body parts; the shells are used as souvenirs and for making decorative items, and the oil extracted from them has been used in traditional medicine in parts of Southeast Asia.
They are harvested for their meat and eggs for human consumption and are considered a delicacy.
The wild tiger is one of the most threatened species on the planet. Humans are the tigers’ most significant predator, and illegal poaching is a major threat.
Habitat loss has also greatly reduced tiger populations in the wild. Tigers have been poached for longer than perhaps any other animal.
Traditional Chinese medicine creates an increasing demand for tiger body parts, such as tiger bones, eyeballs, ribs, heart, penis, whiskers, bile, teeth etc.
Besides this, the tiger pelt is still sought after by trophy hunters, and circuses worldwide still use tigers as entertainment.
Many of these endangered animals held in captivity may be mistreated or die while being held by circuses. There are more than 5,000 tigers held in captivity in the US alone, exceeding those numbers in the wild.
One sad thing that all 5 rhino species have in common: they are all endangered.
While at the beginning of the 20th century, over half a million rhinos were living in the Asian and African continents, today, the number is down to mere 29 000 rhinos.
The number one enemy of these beautiful creatures are human hunters.
Rhinos are killed for their horns, which are used in alternative medical practices. Even though research has shown rhino horn to be composed of only keratin (just like human hair and nails), rhino horn is still used in traditional medicine and sought after in Vietnam and China. These countries are the world leaders in the illegal rhino horn trade.
As a result of poaching, the West African Black Rhino population fell by 96% during the 30 year period and ended in their final extinction in 2011.
Today, in central and southern Africa, portions of land are carefully marked and guarded so that the rhino has a safe haven. That’s the only way so far that has proven to protect them somewhat.
Elephants, these beautiful, gentle giants, are on the brink of extinction due to illegal poaching.
In the last 100 years, 95 percent of the elephant population has been killed, and the elephant population in Africa has dropped from over 3 million to about 500,000.
Every three years, 100,000 elephants are poached for their tusks.
Ivory is desired for trophy reasons and traditional medicine. Pound for pound, it is worth more than gold, silver, cocaine, and oil. It is not only the African elephants but also the Asian elephant populations that have been decimated.
These endangered, amazing creatures die due to conditions in circuses as well, which do not usually provide sufficient space and roaming room.
However, with the help of conservation groups, volunteers, and local government, and law enforcement, the Elephant might yet be saved from the brink of extinction.
While the media focuses on the poaching of large mammals like elephants, rhinos, and tigers, this strange-looking scaly mammal is the most trafficked wild animal today.
Many of us have never heard of and never seen pangolins because they seldom survive in captivity. These gentle animals are now threatened with extinction.
They are sought after in Vietnam and China because their meat is considered a delicacy, and their scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
One of the largest case of pangolin smuggling happened last year, in Indonesia, where five tons of frozen pangolin carcasses were confiscated.
The animals are trafficked in loads weighing several tons, dead and alive, fresh and frozen, gutted and skinned.
Across Asia, a full pangolin for sale is available on the black market for $1,000; restaurants sell pangolins to eat for $250 (£160) a kilo. The average price for a kilogram of pangolin scales is available for sale for $600.
The problem is the increasing Chinese and Vietnamese demand for the pangolin, the wealthy elite who order pangolin to flaunt their status or to celebrate a deal.
Each year millions of rabbits are killed for their meat, for their fur, or during animal tests in laboratories.
In the EU, the rabbit is the second most intensively farmed animal. Although more than 300 million rabbits are slaughtered each year, they are not protected by any specific legislation in Europe.
The animals are kept in terrible conditions; they never see daylight or forage on grass. Instead, they spend their lives painfully on wire floors.
Pet food industry is another major industry that uses rabbit meat and organs in household-name dog and cat food.
They endure terrible abuse when used for clothing (workers on some fur farms rip the fur out of their sensitive skin so that it can be used to make sweaters or scarves) or when they are used in cosmetic research and biomedical research.
Rabbits often end up as abandoned pets, being dumped after a few months.
Just like humans, cows also produce milk for the same reason: to nourish their young. In factory farming, cows are forced to continue producing milk by impregnating them using artificial insemination every year.
Shortly after birth, calves are taken away from their mothers.
Female calves may be exploited for milk, while unwanted males and ‘excess’ females are either shot at birth or briefly raised for veal.
Besides their milk, cows are also exploited for flesh and exploited for clothing (leather).
Many of them are raised to produce “beef.” They spend their lives mostly in indoor feedlots, and antibiotics are commonly given to these animals.
Today, there are so many alternatives to dairy products and meat, removing dairy products from your diet is easier than ever.
Pigs are intelligent animals; they have cognitive ability better than dogs and better than three-year-olds, yet, pigs are suffering in farms and slaughterhouses worldwide.
Alone on the US 115 million are killed for food each year.
Those who suffer most in this industry are probably the mother pigs, ‘sows‘ used for breeding. They spend most of their lives severely confined, in individual “gestation” crates.
Pigs also suffer from serious stress during transportation by road or train. Many pigs die from heat exhaustion in the summer or arrive frozen to the trucks inside in the winter.
The best way to help put an end to this cruelty is to switch to vegan or vegetarian foods or support legislation that abolishes intensive-confinement systems.
More chickens are raised and killed for food than all other land animals combined. Alone in the US, approximately 9 billion chickens are killed for their flesh every year.
Chickens are one of the most abused animals due to our modern-day factory farming methods. Most of these animals spend their lives crammed together in tiny cages – up to 20 per square meter! – and they never see sunlight.
They are exploited for their flesh, and more than 300 million hens are exploited for their eggs.
These animals are as intelligent as mammals such as cats and dogs. They suffer because they are deprived of their opportunity to exhibit natural behaviors such as taking dust baths, roosting in trees, and lying in the sun.
Do not support this cruel industry; make sure to buy eggs from a local farm or a neighbor with backyard chickens if you are lucky enough to have one. Unfortunately, “cage-free” or “free-range” labels on eggs don’t mean much.
All over the world, 87 percent of the fish species are exploited, over-exploited, or have collapsed.
Overfishing is a huge global-environmental problem.
Oceans being fished, marine life being harvested on an unacceptable scale. The fish in our oceans and seas get caught faster than they can reproduce, and this leads to an inevitable fact: there will be no more fish.
Fishing industries have huge vessels, equipment, and technology that they can deploy deep into the oceans, thus catching too many fish to the degree that they are endangered.
The other problem is by-catch when sea animals other than fish are caught, destroyed, and thrown back into the sea. Sadly, fish are generally not effectively protected by animal welfare legislation and are therefore subject to inhumane fishing practices. The effects of overfishing are still reversible.