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Archive for April, 2009

Source: NY Times online

Source: NY Times online

The pig you see here being dangled by the leg is still just a baby, and by now he is already dead and thrown away for absolutely no reason, as are the rest of the 300,000 pigs in Egypt.  According to the New York Times, “Egypt ordered the pig slaughter even though there hasn’t been a single case of swine flu there and no evidence that pigs have spread the disease.” I find this so frustrating.  How typical that we humans blame this epidemic on pigs, and kill them without a second thought!  Because they’re expendable!

How can people be so ignorant?  This virus was created by HUMANS when we put thousands and thousands of pigs into small quarters (breeding grounds for disease), it is spreading human to human, and we are killing pigs?  Does this make sense? It seems to me that we are being shown a giant, flashing sign that is begging us to stop factory farming, and instead of listening, we are killing sentient beings who have nothing to do with this disease beyond being innocent victims of it.  I don’t have the words to describe my shock, anger, and frustration with this whole situation. All I know is that if humans don’t wake up soon and smell the tempeh-bacon, we’re all going to be dead, and we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.

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This is one of my favorite responses from omnivores when they find out that I would love it if the whole world stopped eating animals. “But what would we do with all the animals that are currently on farms? They’d have to die–we can’t possibly keep them all around if they’re going to serve no purpose.*  Is that what you want? You want all the farm animals to just die?”

Um…okay, really?  Yes, that is why I’m vegan – because I’d like all the farm animals to DIE!  Does that even make sense?

First of all, people aren’t going to go vegan over night – at least not the entire population. These kinds of things don’t just happen like that.  If they did, I guess I’d have to give some pretty serious thought to what would happen to the billions upon billions of animals that are currently suffering on farms everywhere.  Until that’s a real possibility, I’m not really going to stress too much about what we’d do with all the now “useless” animals.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that many farmed animals could likely survive if they were left to their own devices.  Those that couldn’t – like “broiler” chickens – would only find it difficult because of human intervention in their breeding.  Chickens who are bred for meat grow so large so quickly that even with the best of care, they do not live long.  My sister lives in Tampa, FL and she sees wild chickens all the time.  They live like any other normal wild bird, and are happy and free. Many farmed animals would be able to do the same if given the opportunity.

The last thing I’d say on this issue is that sometimes people say that these animals wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t breed them and eat them, and isn’t it better to have existed just for a little while than to never be born at all?  To that I’d like to say a BIG FAT NO.  If an animal never existed, s/he would never know s/he never existed, but when an animal lives in pain and fear every day of his/her short life, and then is brutally slaughtered at the hands of humans, s/he knows it.  That’s no way to live.  So, do I want pigs, cows, and chickens to exist?  Of course I do – but I want their existences to be ones of joy and comfort. And I don’t want them to die just because humans like the way they taste!

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* Someone actually told me that animals would “serve no purpose” if humans didn’t use them for food, clothing, etc. I did not do a very good job of hiding my shock.

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polarSometimes being an animal rights advocate is emotionally exhausting.  Today is one of those days.

Last night I was watching Animal Planet, as I often do, and the show was about polar bears in the wild.  There was a  mama polar bear and her 2 cubs who were not yet full grown, but also not tiny. Due to lack of food, a big male polar bear was following the threesome in the hopes that he could eat one of the cubs (apparently they will eat their own kind if they can’t find other food).  The mama and her cubs walked for hours trying to get away from him, but finally one of the cubs collapsed from exhaustion and hunger.   The mama bear was trying to get him back up but she couldn’t and eventually she had to leave him so that she could protect her other cub and herself.  I had to turn the channel before the big male bear got to the dying cub.  And then I cried.  Yes, I cried at the cruelty of nature.

What immediately hit me after getting so emotional about this is how nature is kind in comparison to the horrible cruelties humans impose on non-human animals, especially “food” animals.  That cub probably lived just as long as any pig does on today’s factory farms…and he at least lived his short life FREE.  He knew the love of his mother, got to swim, play, and run around.  Chickens, turkeys, pigs and other farmed animals get nothing of the sort. They spend their lives cooped up in tiny cages, feeling pain and sorrow every day.

So then I got even sadder.  Then today I read a story about a man who broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house and put her 5 month old puppy in the oven and killed him, and I got EVEN SADDER.  I mean, how can a human being be so incredibly heartless? HOW?

Anyway, the thing about caring so much about animals is that it lends itself all too easily to sadness.  I still have not figured out how to completely combat this.  How do you find the energy sometimes to go about your every day life when you know how much suffering there is in the world around you – human and non-human?  And how do we ever know if we’re doing enough?  The truth is that I never feel like I’m doing enough.  I’m vegan, and I educate others about veganism; I write this blog; I volunteer for an animal rights organization doing office work and event planning; and I have a dog and a cat whom I love dearly….but none of it really feels like enough.  Will it ever?  Will I ever hear a story about animal cruelty and not feel like surely I’m NOT doing enough if things like that are still happening?  I don’t know.  Anyone have any thoughts/advice?

(Sorry this post is such a downer….I guess it’s just one of those days.)

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Egg laying hens are arguably the most abused animals on today’s factory farms.  More often than not, they are confined so tightly to wire cages that they cannot stretch their wings, clean themselves, turn around, or exhibit any of their normal behaviors at all.  They are subjected to toxic fumes from the pools of waste that lie beneath them, and they are roughly handled by factory workers.

There have been countless investigations of egg farms conducted by animals rights groups in the United States, and each time we see the same things: dead hens in cages with live ones, birds who have lost their feathers from stress, and egregious abuse of these beautiful birds by farm workers.

Mercy for Animals recently conducted such an investigation of “Quality Eggs of New England” in Turner, Maine, and what they found is both disgusting and unconscionable, and yet, sadly, it’s not all that unusual:

  • Rotting carcasses in cages with live hens still laying eggs for human consumption.
  • Workers and managers killing birds by grabbing their necks and swinging them around in circles – an attempt to break their necks which often resulted in prolonged, torturous deaths for the hens.
  • Supervisors and workers throwing live birds into trash cans, leaving them to be slowly crushed under the weight of other birds’ corpses and unable to access food or water.
  • Birds suffering from broken bones, bloody open wounds, and untreated infections.
  • Hens confined four to six in tiny wire cages so small they were unable to stretch their wings, move freely or engage in other basic behaviors.
  • Birds trapped in the wire of their cages or under the feeding trays without access to food or water, some with body parts, including their faces, pressed against moving conveyor belts.
  • Management and workers callously kicking live hens into manure pits where they either drowned in liquid feces or likely died slow and painful deaths from illness, injury or starvation.
Discarded Hens at "Quality Eggs of New England"

Discarded Hens at "Quality Eggs of New England"

And as these atrocities came to light, we got the same canned response from the farm owners and managers:

“Bob LeClerc, the compliance manager for Maine Contract Farming, declined to talk on tape.  But in a written statement he says that the company strives to provide good care for its hens and quality eggs for consumers under the scientific standards of the United Egg Producers Certified Program.  LeClerc’s statement says violations of those standards or animal welfare standards will not be tolerated and if employees are found to have violated them, their employment will be terminated.”

“Violations of…animal welfare standards will not be tolerated…“, and yet when the MFA worker complained to management about live hens being thrown into trash bins to die slowly, the farm owner’s son, Jay Decoster, told him that he shouldn’t worry about it and that “They all count as dead if they’re in a trash can.’ To me that kind of sounds like not only was it  tolerated, but it was the standard “They all count as dead if they’re in a trash can.” WHO SAYS THAT?  A sick, sick person, that’s who.  I wonder if he’d say the same thing if it were a bunch of sick puppies in that trash can?

I’m tired of the excuses – the whole “our farm has strict standards, and we care for our animals, and we would never tolerate these kinds of behaviors” – when really you know that they know perfectly well what’s happening in their barns.  THEY DO.  And people who tell themselves that it’s an isolated incident simply so they can feel okay eating eggs are deluding themselves, plain and simple. This is the standard, not the exception – period.

The last thing I want to point out is that Maine’s law does not specify how many hens may be kept in a cage, nor does it specify how chickens should be humanely euthanized.  I am concerned that because of that, these people will never face the consequences of their actions.  Then again, I’m no lawyer – hopefully this will at least bring some changes to the law.  I’d like to think that no one could possibly argue that throwing live hens away constitutes any kind of humanity, but then again, the state of Ohio deemed that the Wiles Hog Farm was euthanizing pigs “humanely” by HANGING THEM.  So I don’t have a whole lot of faith that the Decosters are really going to be punished appropriately.

Am I getting too cynical?

At any rate, kudos to Mercy for Animals for doing this investigation and bringing it to light. I sincerely hope something good comes out of it – whether that means more people give up eggs, or laws change – I’ll take whatever we can get!

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