Victims in the Shadows: Emus

By There’s An Elephant in the Room blog

(This article has been slightly edited for re-publication by United Poultry Concerns.)

Today the spotlight will shine on emus. Did you know that the farming of emus is once again increasing in popularity due to consumer demand for emu oil? I decided to look into this new horror that I was previously unaware of, and here’s a brief summary.

A soft-feathered, brown, flightless bird who can reach up to 1.9 metres or 5 to 6 feet tall, the emu is native to, and farmed in, Australia and is also farmed in North America, Peru, China, India and elsewhere.

Emus are primarily farmed for their dead flesh, their skin, feathers, and in particular, an oil made from the fat of slaughtered individuals. Native to a frequently challenging environment, emus have fat stores on their backs for survival. If food is scarce, they can tap into this store and go for weeks without eating if they have enough in reserve.

Following a lull in demand in the early 2000s, demand is currently increasing for emu oil, which is sold as an anti-inflammatory medication, although claims about the efficacy of this lubricant appear to be highly suspect and unproven.

Emu feathers are used for fishing lures, hair extensions, flower arrangements, hats, and numerous decorative arts and crafts. As is also inflicted upon ducks, geese, and some other species, feathers are sometimes plucked from the living birds, who are forced to endure this excruciating plucking again when the feathers grow back. This procedure causes agony to the bird who is often blindfolded while being plucked, to prevent the birds’ attempts to defend themselves. Because each feather is held firmly in a follicle filled with nerves receptive to pain, the victims are covered in blood by the end of the plucking process.

With a natural lifespan of 25 to 30 or more years, emus are slaughtered before reaching the age of two. Like the majority of our needless victims, emus are gentle individuals who resist every step of the way to the slaughterhouse as they are captured, terrorized, shoved onto trucks, deprived of food and water and taken to their deaths.

On arrival, they are herded off the trucks to the kill floor. They are then shot with a captive bolt or electrically “stunned” – electrically paralyzed while fully conscious to facilitate the killing and defeathering mechanisms – then hung upside down for throat cutting, then intentionally kept alive so their hearts will pump out the blood.

Leather” made from the flayed skin of slaughtered emus has a distinctive patterned surface, due to a raised area around the feather follicles in the skin; emu skin is used in such items as wallets, handbags, shoes, and clothes.

So there we have it. Yet another example of the needless brutality of a species that claims to “love animals.” Living in line with the values we ALL claim to hold means living vegan. Being vegan means that we do our best to stop having victims of any species at all.

Jan Whalen and Bluie the Emu
Jan Whalen and Bluie the Emu in Everett, Washington