“PET" FACTORIES. WHEN A SENTIENT BEING BECOMES A PRODUCT

What is behind the "pet” factories?

During the 2022 summer Vacaloura Sanctuary echoed in its social media a dramatic case happening in a pet farm in Galicia. The company, called Xaraleira, had gone bankrupt seven months earlier and gave their remaining animals to the sanctuary. Thus, Vacaloura made an appeal to collaborate in the adoption or fostering of all those thousands of animals, including gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, and chinchillas.
Already in May 2022, with no staff other than one of the company's veterinarians, around 2,000 animals were surviving there, and it is estimated that many had already died due to the situation of almost total abandonment in which they were found.

Right now, when there are no more animals left on the farm, it is still urgent to help in their adoption and fostering, since the sanctuary, many shelters and the people who took care of some of them have reached the limit of their possibilities.

It is because of these facts that we have begun to learn more about what is behind these animal "factories". Normally we don't even think about it when we see them in the stores, since there is not much information about them. The companies involved in this business tend to keep their practices hidden or show only part of them. For these businesses, the least important thing is the animals or the needs they may have. Their only interest is to manufacture a product that satisfies the demand of a part of our society. This is the idea of animals that the industry is trying to normalize.

Eira Do Val, fotografía, explotación animal, animals view
Eira Do Val, fotografía, explotación animal, animals view

The pet animal breeding business

Since its creation in 2003, Xaraleira company has exponentially increased its production, that is, the number of animals kept in its facilities, to breed between 500,000 and one million animals per year. This company ended up becoming the largest rodent farm in the entire state. It traded rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, squirrels, gerbils, hamsters, rats, mice and even fish, shrimps, and insects, which it also exported to other countries such as Portugal, France, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

According to some media reports, the animals were sold to stores, such as those belonging to the Kiwoko chain, to become pets for people willing to buy them. But many of them were also killed in the farm's own gas chambers to be sold, packaged and frozen, to zoos and reserves such as Faunia, the Madrid Zoo or the Cabárceno Natural Park, serving as food for other animals. As some media pointed out, some of the animals that were killed for the latter were specially selected for this purpose, and others were animals discarded from other uses due to their low reproductive performance; this happens with hamsters at one year of life and with rabbits at two years of age.

Another of their animal products was what they called "didactic kit", which consisted of cages with mice and their offspring aimed for educational centers to allegedly study the laws of genetics.

Xaraleira was seriously affected by the Covid pandemic in 2020, but the fact of not being able to sell their "products" did not prevent them from continuing to breed animals since, as the owner of the farm declared in the press, "if it (the reproduction of the animals) is stopped, it would take six months to start up again".

After the confinement, despite the fact that sales of these small animals skyrocketed, the company went bankrupt due to mismanagement. Unfortunately, although this company no longer trades with sentient beings, if people continue to demand animals as "pets", other companies will continue to "manufacture" them as just another product.

A consequence of speciesism

We might think that what has happened in this place is an isolated case, an exception on which to look for a single culprit and dump on him all the responsibility for what has happened to these thousands of animals. But this is not the case.

We live in societies that consider animals as resources: something to eat, something to wear, something to entertain oneself with or something to keep us company to avoid loneliness. The real needs of animals are never considered. This discriminatory relationship towards them is what is called speciesism.

What happens to animals from other farms and those we don't see? If a company like this complies with the regulations, functioning as expected of it, will the animals be okay in that case? The reality is that they will not stop being bred, sold, gassed, spending their lives in cages to entertain young and old, or abandoned when they are too much work.

If we do not try to change our attitude towards other animals, these places will never cease to exist. It is in our hands to do something for them.

You can collaborate in the adoption or fostering of animals from this farm by contacting the following organizations:
Santuario Vacaloura - Federación Española de Protección Animal (FEPA)  - Colonia Procats  - Mundo Vivo Org  - Asociación Galega de Adopción de Exóticos (AGAE)

Investigation by Xiana Castro, Carmen García and Eira Do Val.

Video, Xiana Castro. - Photographs, Eira Do Val.

Published in August 2022

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