According to the fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A, today is Cow Appreciation Day. Coming from a restaurant chain that supports the slaughter of animals, this may seem ironic at first. But Chick-fil-A has long advertised that consumers should "Eat More Chikin."

Despite recently taking heat for supporting organizations that oppose gay marriage, the fo od chain declared July 8th a holiday — Cow Appreciation Day. Chick-fil-A is encouraging people to dress up like a cow in order to receive a free meal.

While the company may be focused on the humorous advertising, they got one part right. Eating cows is bad not just for the cows, but also for the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that over two percent of total heat-trapping emissions in the United States are due to beef production alone. The process of slaughtering cows for consumption produces emissions equivalent to those emitted by 24 million cars, or 33 coal-fired power plants in a year.

But cows aren't the only ones needing protection. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, "chickens are arguably the most abused animal on the planet." Estimates suggest that over 8 billion chickens are killed each year in the U.S., and without laws protecting chickens from abuse, reports show some animals spend their lives in horrific conditions.

Last December, the Humane Society of the U.S. reported that the largest producer of fresh eggs in the country, Cal-Maine, had farms practicing inhumane treatment of chickens. Their undercover reporter found:

"Birds trapped in cage wires, unable to reach food or water. Cage wires can trap hens' wings, necks, legs and feet, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.

"Abandoned hens. Live birds were roaming outside their cages, some falling into manure pits.

"Injuries. Birds had bloody feet and broken legs from cage wires.

"Overcrowding injuries. Cal-Maine crams multiple birds into one cage, giving each hen only 67 square inches of cage space — less than a sheet of paper on which to live for more than a year.

"Eggs covered in blood and feces."

According to MSNBC, Cal-Maine responded that it "offers all of its customers the choice of cage-free eggs." This highlights an important issue — the consumer. If the demand for a food exists, it is very hard to eradicate the product. If there is a demand for chicken and beef, then chickens and cows will most likely continue to be slaughtered. For today though, perhaps consider embracing Chick-fil-A's odd holiday, and appreciate a (living) cow.

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