THE casual brutality shown to many animals shames us all. It happens all around us, and not just in laboratories.

I visited a reputable farm shop. A chilled cabinet held a display of chickens grade A, whatever that implies.

Four had hock burns dark, bruise-like markings. In chickens, this is caused by intensive farming of selectively bred birds, which reach slaughter weight in approximately 42 days.

Putting on unnatural amounts of weight, they develop crippling leg disorders and have to drag themselves rather than walk. The majority are raised in windowless, crowded sheds with no room to perform natural behaviours. The stocking density permitted is currently 17 birds per square metre. Battery hens fare no better and are merely egg-laying machines.

In recent years, approximately 500,000 male dairy calves were shot at birth, having no economic use. With the resumption of live animal exports, many will now be transported to spend short lives on veal farms, housed in barren conditions with restricted diets.

Many sheep from our country are transported to the Middle East where they suffer ritual (unstunned) slaughter in the most horrendous conditions.

All of us could to some extent, by buying compassionately, influence this abysmal situation. There are several accreditation marks to be found on farm produce.

Sadly, most are meaningless in terms of animal welfare and merely confer doubtful legitimacy on cruelly produced meat. (See Compassion In World Farming's website at for more information or simply buy free range or organic).

It was no coincidence that the recent Viva! vegetarian roadshow in the Guildhall, York, was inundated with visitors. I cannot be the only one to feel sickened at the godless treatment of animals today.

Mrs Janet Kay, Askham Grove, Acomb, York.