Category Archives: Animals

Horse meat consumption needs to stop!

The sale of horse meat is controversial and it is banned in many countries.  Many people consider horses as pets, like cats and dogs, and can’t imagine eating them.  Here in the USA, slaughterhouses have long been banned from accepting horses, although it has still been legal to transport horses across the American borders for slaughter in Canada or Mexico.  We wrote previously about the introduction of a bill in Congress that would prohibit the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses.  The relevant bills (HR 3475/S 2037) have now been introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and are making slow progress through various committees.

Let’s hope these bills are passed soon, because horses suffer greatly when they are transported long distances with minimal rest periods. They may lose their balance and fall on these trips and many will be unable to stand up again. They may be trampled on by other animals and it’s not uncommon for horses to die during transport.

In France, a draft bill is also being introduced to finally see horse meat banned and give horses the same rights as companion animals like cats and dogs.  A number of French celebrities have signed an open letter urging support of this bill. The vast majority of French people do not eat horse meat and it’s increasingly controversial among the general public, but there are still “boucherie chevalines” (specialized horse butcher shops) operating in France.

Horse meat is also still consumed in European countries such as Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and some parts of Italy, as well as on a number of other continents, such as Asia (Kazakhstan, Mongolia, China, Japan), as well as Central and South America (Mexico and Argentina). Outside of Europe, Canada is one of the world’s biggest horse meat suppliers, although Canadians eat very little of the meat itself (except for a few areas in Quebec).  Unfortunately, the country exports both horse meat and live horses over long distances to Europe and Asia.

Like all animals raised for food, horses farmed for meat generally live in unpleasant and unnatural conditions.  They may be raised specifically for meat, or sent to slaughter after being retired from racing or pulling carriages, but either way they end up in large feedlots with thousands of others before being killed. Because they are going for meat, they don’t generally get veterinary care or hoof care. They frequently suffer from injuries and illnesses like hoof conditions and eye infections, and suffer from a lack of shelter in extreme weather conditions.

Let’s hope that legislation continues to make progress to ban the slaughter of these magnificent animals across the globe.  Of course we wish that the slaughter of all animals for food was prohibited.  Horses may be just the first step.

Memorial service for animals

We raise 60 billion farm animals each year, and catch two trillion fish for food, even though they are unhealthy to eat. It seems so unfair that they are killed for our consumption, and they don’t even get a funeral! The least we can do is give them a memorial service. That’s exactly what happened in London on July 2. The We Stand For The Animals memorial service is an annual event that shines a spotlight on the animals society turns away from.

The industries that exploit animals are often hidden from public view. They are crammed into huge barns or stockyards away from public view, and raised without much care for their welfare, and then they are transported to slaughterhouses. It’s often been said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarians. The memorial service is one method by which activists communicate this suffering to the public. As well as honoring and mourning the dead, the reality of industries of exploitation was also read out on a speaker by We Stand For The Animals founder Hannah Blake.

According to Blake, ““The memorial is an opportunity to pay our respects to non-humans worldwide and to give some of these individuals a ceremony that celebrates their lives.”   By communicating this message in such a public setting, it’s hoped that the participants will plant seeds in the minds of the public, most of whom would never have given a second thought to the cruelty of human treatment of animals raised or caught for us to eat.  

Funerals and memorial services are a new way for activists to get their message across. For instance, hundreds of people have held a high-altitude “funeral” for a Swiss glacier that has been lost to global warming. Climate activists dressed in black clothes climbed to 2,600 metres above sea level to pay their respects to the last remnants of the Pizol glacier in the Glarus Alps, east Switzerland.

When antibiotics stop working

This one actually scares me.  What if you had an infection and the antibiotic the doctor gave you to fight the bacteria didn’t work? This is known as antibiotic resistance and worldwide it’s resulting in more deaths than HIV and malaria combined. Closer to home, three million antibiotic resistant infections occur every year. What’s causing this growing problem? It’s farm animals, although it’s really not their fault, it’s the way they are raised.

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Banning factory farms?

Could a whole country ban factory farms? Last year, 38% of Swiss voters went to the polls to vote for an amendment to the federal constitution that would, in a global first, ban intensive, or “factory,” farming. While the amendment didn’t pass, it still represents a large portion a country’s population that wants factory farming to end. Years ago, this would have been almost unimaginable.  

The Swiss campaign dovetails with—and will perhaps provide ballast for—animal rights efforts elsewhere in the West. Recently, Spain became the first country in Europe to mandate video surveillance inside slaughterhouses in order to ensure they follow best practices. Last year the Dutch city of Haarlem became the first to ban advertisements for meat.

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Cow fakes sleep to avoid being milked

A cow in a 200-strong dairy herd on a farm in England didn’t feel like getting up to be milked one morning.  A farmhand tried to coax her up, knowing that she was faking being asleep.  It’s not surprising that the cow didn’t want to get up, since being a dairy cow is a miserable experience.  This particular cow had the name of Doris and was treated kindly by the farmhand, but most others don’t have it so lucky.

It’s unlikely that a typical farmed cow would be given a name – they are usually treated as milk factories. They are forcibly made pregnant via artificial insemination and then have their babies removed from them so that humans can consume their milk. They are selectively bred to produce significantly more milk than they naturally would, and as a result, they often develop a painful udder condition called mastitis.  A third of dairy cows suffer lameness as a result of being forced to stand on hard surfaces for long periods of time.  When a cow’s milk dries up, and her body finally wears out, she is sent to the slaughterhouse for meat.

Many people choose to give up meat, recognizing the harm that comes from killing the animals for our consumption.  But they don’t always stop to think about the suffering endured by dairy cows and egg laying hens in producing dairy and eggs for human consumption.  A vegan diet is the best way to avoid causing animal suffering.

Fast food begins to save animals

Two baby pigs nuzzling each other

Fast food restaurants are finally beginning to save some animals as they’ve taken up plant-based meat products on their menus – and the effect is massive. Restaurant chains’ use of meat alternatives in 2021 saved the equivalent of more than 700,000 animals lives – 212,000 pigs, 92,000 cows and 405,000 chickens, according to new research from World Animal Protection, a global animal welfare nonprofit organization,

Many in the veg and animal communities have been saying for a long time that saving the animals begins in your kitchen. Well now it begins in your fast food restaurant’s kitchen too. This is more than we could have even hoped for just a few years ago. All those veggie burgers and “chicken” nuggets are having a big effect on the animals.

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Custom-exempt cruelty

We’ve often talked about the abuse and the cruelty to farm animals at the nation’s mainstream slaughterhouses, but we haven’t talked much about the custom-exempt slaughterhouses. A custom-exempt slaughter facility is a slaughter facility that does not have a state or federal inspector on duty, which means that the meats from these facilities are not considered state or federally-inspected meats. Custom-exempt plants serve hunters who want to process wild animal carcasses; they also slaughter cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats for anyone who wants meat for themselves, their household, or nonpaying guests. The “exempt” signifies that these operations are excused from continuous inspection, unlike facilities subject to state and federal inspection where government officials are on the premises whenever slaughter is being conducted.

A petition delivered to the USDA recently on behalf of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) reported that the US Department of Agriculture consistently fails to review and respond to animal welfare violations at custom-exempt slaughter facilities, resulting in animals being beaten, held in deplorable conditions, and deprived of food and water for extended periods.

Dena Jones – Animal Welfare Institute

“AWI is unfortunately accustomed to uncovering and witnessing the most egregious forms of animal abuse; the treatment of custom slaughtered farm animals surely ranks among the worst,” said Dena Jones, AWI’s farm animal program director.

It calls on the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to thoroughly revise its directive pertaining to custom-exempt slaughter to better protect animals, avoid misleading the public, report suspected animal cruelty to state authorities, and close loopholes that allow facilities suspended for egregious humane handling violations to continue slaughtering animals under their custom status, among other recommendations.

Back in 2009, the FSIS instructed its personnel to apply the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act  (HMSA), which requires the humane treatment and handling of certain food animals at slaughter, to custom-exempt slaughter facilities. Despite that directive and two subsequent revisions, the AWI report concludes that the “FSIS does not apply the HMSA to custom-exempt slaughter in any meaningful way.”

Let’s hope that the FSIS take action on this critical gap in their oversight of these facilities.

Animal activists expose pig farm cruelty

Secret photos and videos of animals being abused on farms has been a standard tactic used by animal rights and welfare groups. The latest shock comes from the Excelsior hog farm near Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada.  Reader discretion is advised.

Camera footage captured workers shocking pigs in the face with electric prods, repeatedly hitting and kicking the animals, and cutting off the tails and testicles of screaming piglets with no pain relief. It also showed mother pigs languishing in gestation crates next to dead and dying piglets, as well as older pigs with hernias, tumors, and various lacerations.

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Ten compassionate reasons to skip the turkey

Almost 50 million turkeys are eaten every Thanksgiving. Wouldn’t it be better if we had a Thanksgiving the turkeys could be thankful for too? We think so. To help you have a Turkey Thankful Thanksgiving, we put together 10 reasons to skip the turkey this year.

  1. Turkeys form strong bonds with their flock mates and even with humans and other animals. However, turkeys are bred at rapid rates for human consumption and never get to experience love and freedom like she does. Commercial turkeys never get the opportunity to spread their wings, run around in the grass, or be treated kindly. These birds are forced to live in dark, overcrowded buildings where they are often mistreated and ultimately slaughtered.
  2. Turkeys are kept in poor conditions . Conditions inside factory farms are so cramped, stressful, and filthy that birds often succumb to stress or their injuries and die before reaching the kill floor. Infections are common since thousands of birds are packed into one common living space without proper care.
  3. Turkey meat recalls. Turkey meat product recalls are not uncommon. They spread bacteria because they are forced to live in their own excrement inside bacteria filled buildings. These conditions increase the transmission of bacterial infections, which in turn contaminate the turkey products that humans consume.
  4. Inhumane slaughter methods. Over 200 million turkeys are slaughtered each year in the United States, and 99 percent of them are raised on factory farms. Inside these farms, which are large industrialized buildings, up to 10,000 turkeys are crammed into a single barn. As if the psychological damage of being kept in a stressful environment is not enough, turkeys are slaughtered in horrific ways.
  5. Dismal working conditions on turkey farms. In industrial agriculture, expectations are high to work quickly. When production speeds are increased, animals are not the only ones who are injured. The physical and mental health of workers is often compromised. Being a slaughterhouse worker is considered by some to be the most dangerous job in America.
  6. Health risks of eating turkey. We have been writing about the dangers of consuming meat but somehow turkey is still considered a “healthy choice.” It’s not a healthy choice.
  7. Turkeys are loving mothers. Turkeys form immediate bonds with their young, much like humans. Once their eggs are soon to be hatched, mother turkeys will not leave the nest under any circumstances. When the babies are born, turkey moms keep them close by under their wings until they are old enough to forage on their own.
  8. Turkey production is bad for the environment. Turkey farms, like other factory farms, produce a lot of pollution including water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  9. It’s a hungry world. Turkeys, like other farm animals, are food factories in reverse. The return only a fraction of the protein and calories fed to them as meat. Many people in the world have food insecurity. We can waste food by feeding them to animals.
  10. Delicious Turkey Alternatives ARE Great. Plant-based turkey alternatives have grown over the past few years. Plant-based turkey brands like Tofurky, Gardein, Quorn, and Field Roast can be found in many grocery stores.

While a lot of attention is given to other farm animals such as cows, pigs and chickens, turkeys are often left out. Yet we raise 270 million turkeys each year. It’s great to skip the turkey for Thanksgiving. Even better would be to skip the turkey year round. Let’s make this Thanksgiving a new beginning for skipping eating turkey year round.

Let’s stop the flu

It’s flu season and many are choosing to get the flu vaccine. This choice is generally a good idea but should be made only after consulting your doctor. The vaccine is about 40% effective in preventing you from getting influenza. While getting the vaccine might keep you from getting the flu or lessen the severity it doesn’t stop the disease from occurring in the first place. Wouldn’t it be better to keep the disease from ever happening in the first place than relying on a partially effective vaccine to protect us? We think so and have written an article published in Juniper Online Journal of Public Health. We can actually stop the flu from developing thus preventing many people from getting sick or dying.

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