Factory farming. This relatively new, industrialized method of food production has come to dominate the global marketplace, but at a terrible cost. We are now learning about the horrific conditions in which billions of animals are raised in these farms, but this is a difficult issue to think about. Understandably, we are disgusted that the animals we eat suffer immensely before they are killed; however, we can easily assume that conditions cannot be that bad.

Here, we would be wrong. The truth is that cows, chickens, pigs and all other manner of creatures endure almost unspeakable torture every day they are alive. To save money, factory farms – which produce 74 percent of poultry, 68 percent of eggs and 43 percent of beef worldwide – force animals to live their entire lives in cages that are so small that they often cannot turn around, stand up or even lie down. Each chicken is enclosed in a space smaller than a newspaper folded up. Calves raised for veal are chained by the neck, hardly able to move until they are killed. The conditions are so cramped that animals sit in their own feces and urine, which also fall on their heads from the cages stacked above. Birds, attempting to exercise their wings, impale them on crude wire bars.

Some pigs are driven mad and attack each other and even practice cannibalism. Hens often peck each other to death. Because the injuries these animals incur do not receive medical treatment, wounds rot and disease spreads rapidly. The employees of factory farms are not required to provide care to the animals and neither are they disciplined when they further abuse them. Undercover investigators have discovered workers hurling live chickens into trashcans, stabbing disabled cows with forklifts and brutally trying to kill a pig by repeatedly dropping a cinder block on its face. Employees brand cattle with red-hot pokers, castrate them and chop off their horns, all without anesthetic. When the animals are finally slaughtered, they are often fully conscious and sometimes fail to die even after their throats are slit several times.

The above abuses are facts, and all have been captured on video on multiple occasions, at numerous slaughterhouses across the world. It’s hard to stomach, but this cruelty is happening every day, everywhere. We can dismiss the atrocities as only part of the necessary process of modern food manufacturing, but in truth it is not necessary. If we want to, we can begin to reform the factory farm system so that animals’ health and well-being will be taken into account. The European Union and four other U.S. states have banned the most horrific types of confinement for animals and California is on the brink of doing so too. It’s not a solution to the suffering, but Proposition 2 is a small step in the right direction. Prop 2 mandates that animals must have enough room in their cages to simply stand up, turn around and spread their limbs. Is that too much to ask?