Category Archives: Animals

NZ stops live animal exports

New Zealand is taking a step in the right direction for animal well being, although there’s still a long way to go. Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor has announced a permanent halt to live animal exports by sea, effective next year 2023. We’ve said before that while there’s cruelty in factory farming and at the slaughterhouse, there’s also cruelty in transportation, with decades of repeated evidence of suffering and death.

New Zealand banned the export of livestock for slaughter in 2008, but has, until now, continued to allow the export of livestock for breeding or dairy production purposes. New Zealand SPCA chief executive Andrea Midgen recalled that her organization has campaigned against live exports since 1985. “It’s just barbaric to be doing this to animals” Midgen said. World Animal Protection New Zealand executive director Simone Clarke called O’Connor’s decision to halt livestock exports by sea a “significant moment in our history for animals, one which other governments around the world must now follow.

But let’s remember that exporting for breeding still results in the animal’s slaughter. Ultimately, the answer to the suffering of farm animals is the plant-based diet. That’s something we can all do now and something that doesn’t require us to wait for changes in government policy.

Suffer the chickens

A very long barn, well lit, showing chickens crowded together as far as the eye can see.

We all know that chickens and turkeys have miserable lives in most of today’s commercial farms. Yet another way chickens and turkeys suffer is from epidemics of disease that rapidly spread in the extremely overcrowded conditions in which they live, known as factory farming.

An outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in chicken and turkey flocks has quickly spread across 24 U.S. states since it was first detected in Indiana on Feb. 8, 2022. Better known as bird flu, avian influenza is a family of highly contagious viruses that are not harmful to wild birds that transmit it, but are deadly to domesticated birds. As of early April, the outbreak had caused the culling, more properly called killing, of some 24 million birds from Maine to Wyoming.

Suffer the chickens. Getting bird flu causes chickens to suffer by the million, often resulting in death. But even more chickens have suffered the culling. How do you kill 24 million chickens? Some farms have had to kill more than 5 million chickens at a single site with a goal of destroying the birds within 24 hours to limit the spread of the disease.

One of the preferred methods is to spray water-based firefighting foam over birds in the barn. That foam kills the animals by cutting off their air supply. They choke to death. Another technique a technique called ventilation shutdown. In that scenario, farmers stop airflow into barns, which raises temperatures to levels at which the animals die. They cook the chickens while they’re still alive. Horrible!

Usually bird flu viruses only infect other birds. It is rare for people to get infected with bird flu viruses, but it can happen. Two types, H5N1 and H7N9, have infected some people during outbreaks in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, the Middle East, and parts of Europe. There have also been some rare cases of other types of bird flu affecting people in the United States. However, there is some worry that the virus might mutate some day in the future and cause an epidemic among humans.

The disease, the suffering it causes and the suffering from culling (killing) is preventable. It doesn’t have to happen. If people stopped eating chickens then the crowded factory farms would disappear, and with it would go the bird flu epidemic. The massive suffering would end too.

The humane-washing of chickens

Chicken industry giants like to tell the public they are moving towards humane and ethical poultry farming, but behind the humane labels and promises to guarantee better practices, most poultry companies have actually cut corners to save money at the cost of animal welfare and our health.

“Free range” is one of the most potentially misleading labels because of the discrepancy between what it implies and what is required to make the claim. The “free range” claim on a label suggests that the animals were able to range freely outdoors. However, the claim does not have to be verified through on-farm inspections, and producers can make the claim on a label as long as the animals were given some access to an outdoor area of unspecified size.

The USDA’s definition for “Free Range” is that birds must have “outdoor access” or “access to the outdoors.”  In some cases, this can mean access only through a “pop hole,” with no full-body access to the outdoors and no minimum space requirement. Chicken and eggs labeled “free range” therefore do not necessarily come from birds that ranged freely outdoors.

Upon entering one of these “chicken factories” you can be hit by a “wall of ammonia” from the “sea of white” chickens. There are tens of thousands of birds defecating on the ground and the ammonia, which causes the strong smell, also causes burns to the chicken’s chests and pads of their feet. Over the past 50 years, chickens have been bred to be bigger and bigger, exposing many to injury, heart attacks, disease, and death. In addition to the impact on the animals, all this ammonia also causes pollution of our waterways.

The conditions for battery caged chickens are even worse. But either way, the chickens wind up in the slaughterhouse. Working in the slaughterhouse is horrible and often very abusive. And, this all to produce unhealthful food.

The solution to all this suffering by humans and chickens is simple: to give up eating chickens, and choose a plant-based diet!

Iceland to stop whaling

Tail of an Iceland Ocean Whale

Many whales are about to be saved. Iceland, one of three countries that engage in commercial whale hunting, may soon give it up entirely, when current quotas expire in 2024. We wish the reasons were for matters of compassion or environmental sustainability, but the reason given was that the demand for whales have declined dramatically and whaling is no longer profitable. There was also an impact on other businesses to take into account. For instance, Whole Foods stopped marketing Icelandic products when commercial whaling resumed there in 2006. Even so, Vanessa Williams-Grey from Whale and Dolphin Conservation said “This is obviously hugely welcome news.” But let’s not forget that there are two countries that are still killing whales, Norway and Japan.

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Your dog can be vegan!

Yes, your dog can be a vegan! When it comes to diet there are three kinds of animals: carnivores that subsist on meat, such as cats, herbivores that subsist on plant foods such as horses, and omnivores that can subsist just fine on either on meat or plant foods such as dogs. Therefore, dogs can do just fine on a vegan diet and they can be even healthier than on a meat diet.

The domestication of dogs resulted in increased levels of enzymes especially designed to digest plant food and this has led to the classification of dogs as omnivores. Reinforcing this, a study looked at the effect of a vegan diet on 12 Siberian huskies involved in sprint-racing.  For 16 weeks, they fed six of them a meat-based commercial diet recommended for active dogs, and the other six a meat-free diet formulated to the same nutrient specifications.  Health checks were conducted by a veterinarian who didn’t know which diet each dog was fed. All dogs were assessed as being in excellent physical condition and none developed anemia or other detectable health problems.

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Vegan Bikers!

These bikers are out to save the animals. The Vegan Knights Motorcycle Club takes to the open road in vegan leather and big black Harley motorcycles to roll up to dive bars and gather around meatless meals to talk about veganism with any locals who will listen, for the purpose of raising money for animal sanctuaries.

Vegan Knights cofounder and tough guy Burak Sarac explains exactly what it means to be a “tough guy ” on the road and a softie in the kitchen, or at mealtime. “I’m a tough guy, but I always remember the purpose of that tough guy. It’s standing up for the voiceless and for the animals.” He goes on to explain that being tough also breaking the mold. I’m going to be tough by making the tougher choice, breaking the mold, and doing the right thing.”

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If slaughterhouses had glass walls…

Planted Foods factory in Switzerland

Paul McCartney, a former Beatle and longtime vegetarian, famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”

Although one of the most well-known quotes in the animal compassion movement, it took the team behind Planted Foods—a Swiss food tech company dedicated to ending animal suffering through tasty plant-based alternatives to meat—to run with the idea.

Convinced that the food industry needed to be more transparent about its cruelty-free ingredients and processes, Planted Foods made this quote literal by building an enormous glasshouse around their production in the heart of their Switzerland-based factory.

A slaughterhouse worker

Slaughterhouses are often miles away from urban centers, guarded by impenetrable walls and perplexing laws. To date, the primary means of drawing attention to the non-transparency of the industry has been through activists sneaking out footage of terrible conditions experienced by animals and practices the slaughterhouse workers endure.

Planted’s Co-Founder Pascal Bieri says, “Unlike the animal meat industry, we have nothing to hide.” Open, airy, and entirely transparent, their factory and ethos is a sharp contrast to the efforts of meat manufacturers to hide the harshness of their production processes from consumers.

The problems with wool

Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes. Wool is neither ecofriendly or animal friendly! Wool production is a significant driver of biodiversity loss, according to a new report, and is worsening global warming. Experts recommend replacing the animal product in favor of vegan alternatives.

Wool producers have been pushing the narrative that wool production is “natural, traditional, and sustainable.” One industry player, Woolmark, which represents 60,000 Australian wool growers, even refers to wool as “a friend to the environment.”

Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity says that claim is nonsense. “The industry has been pulling the wool over our eyes for decades, claiming that wool is a sustainable fiber,” Feldstein said in a statement. “Wool clothing comes with a heavy price tag of greenhouse gas emissions, land use, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Nothing about wool is sustainable.”

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Cruelty to turkeys

Another instance of horrific cruelty has been caught on video. Thanksgiving is a holiday that turkeys are anything but thankful for. Every year 300 million turkeys are raised and slaughtered for food, and 46 million of those will be eaten on Thanksgiving alone.

Being slaughtered is bad enough and, as some have often said, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarian.” But worse things can happen than slaughter: deliberate animal cruelty. The abuse, uncovered and caught on video, at Plainfield farms is so horrific that we won’t go into specific details but you can take our word for it that it was not only cruel in the extreme, but it was sadistic as some of the workers seem to actually enjoy it. Not only were some turkeys tortured, but there were instances of sexual abuse.

Plainville Farms boasts on their website that “humane treatment is the heart of our business.” Humane? Some people consider this consumer fraud.

What can we do about it? Perhaps one of the most powerful things you can do is stop eating turkeys. With Thanksgiving coming up soon, we recommend the many turkey substitutes that are now widely available. That’s how we can all make a difference.

Animal Rights activist wins prize

Peter Singer

Animal rights activist and philosopher Peter Singer has won a well deserved prize of $1 million. The 2021 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture was awarded to Professor Singer for being an influential thinker whose practical ethics provided a framework for animal rights, effective altruism, and the global eradication of poverty.

Singer became one of the most influential people in the growth of the compassion for animals movement when he wrote the book, Animal Liberation in 1975. Since then he has been a proponent of animal rights and vegetarianism not only amongst the public but in academic circles as well.

In Animal Liberation, Singer argued that the pain and suffering inflicted by the current treatment of animals in food production and research is morally indefensible. Singer went beyond argument to direct action. He co-founded the Australian Federation of Animal Societies, now Animals Australia, the country’s largest and most effective advocate for animals. Working globally, he became a major intellectual force in the modern animal rights movement and related campaigns against factory farming and in favor of vegetarianism.

Singer explains that ”More than 50 years ago, I learned that many of the animals whose flesh I was then eating were condemned to miserable lives crowded into the dim sheds of factory farms. I became a vegetarian and wrote Animal Liberation, which in turn contributed to the rise of the modern animal rights movement. Factory farming remains a horror, ruthlessly exploiting tens of billions of land animals every year, and vast numbers of fish, too. Animal production is also a major contributor to climate change, and adds to the risk of pandemics. So I plan to donate more than a third of the money to organizations combating factory farming.”

We are glad that Singer has been given this recognition. We should all also be mindful that the younger animal rights activists stand on the shoulders of those who went before them. We hope his work continues to serve as an inspiration in the years to come.

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