Category Archives: Animals

Animals win court battle

Preparing to dehorn a steer

In 2018, Erin Wing worked for two months at a 1,000-cow dairy farm in a small town in Pennsylvania, where she was one of 10 employees who milked and fed the cows. But something set her apart from the other workers – unlike the other employees Wing wore a hidden camera, living a double life as an undercover investigator for Animal Outlook, an animal advocacy nonprofit.

Wing captured a variety of horrors on film. Some were inhumane but legal and not uncommon in the dairy industry. But she also documented acts of cruelty that seemed wholly gratuitous, like employees beating, stomping on, and kicking cows, and many others I won’t mention because they are so horrible.

“All told, we documented over 300 incidents that we believed violated Pennsylvania’s laws,” says Will Lowrey, an attorney with Animal Outlook. The Pennsylvania State Police opened an investigation, and over a year later it announced that the district attorney of Franklin County in Pennsylvania would not press charges against the farm as a corporation, its owner, or the 14 current and former employees.

The DA’s decision wasn’t surprising. Many undercover investigations that document cruelty to farmed animals don’t result in prosecution.  According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are no federal animal welfare laws regulating the treatment of the billions of “food animals” while they’re on the farm. Further, while all 50 states have cruelty statutes, most explicitly exempt common farming practices, no matter how abusive and cruel.

But some progress is being made. By getting laws passed, animal advocates have been able to ban or restrict the use of some customary farming practices, mostly cages and crates for hens and pigs, in 14 states. Due to a quirk in Pennsylvania’s legal code — the ability of private citizens to challenge government officials’ decision not to prosecute — Animal Outlook was able to circumvent that invisibility and set a new precedent for animal law. The organization’s initial petition was denied, so it appealed to Pennsylvania’s Superior Court.

Last month, in a precedent-setting decision, the court’s three-judge panel ruled that the lower court was required to order the Franklin County district attorney to prosecute Martin Farms for animal cruelty, including over common practices like dehorning without pain mitigation. Citing Dr. Holly Cheever, a veterinarian who reviewed the investigative footage, the decision went on to state that “the technique used by Martin Farms as shown in the video caused the calves to be ‘in agonizing pain, shown by their violent thrashing and bellowing.’” As an aside, there’s a lot of unacknowledged pain involved in the dairy industry.  See Do Animals Feel Pain?

The judge characterized the district attorney’s position on exempting dehorning without pain mitigation as “absurd,” creating a crack in the meat industry’s ironclad legal armor, which gives us hope for the future.

Heatwave kills cattle

The heatwave that gripped the country recently wreaked havoc in southwest Kansas, where temperatures reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit. Kansas is one of the US’ biggest cattle farming states, with a population of more than 6.5 million. As if being a farmed cow isn’t hard enough, thousands of cows died as cattle struggled to acclimatize to the sudden change in temperatures. Shocking footage of thousands of dead cows has emerged during the intense Kansas heatwave.

Heat stress is caused by a combination of high temperatures, humidity, and wind speed, and results in negative impacts on both animal welfare. It was early enough in the year that many of the cattle had not yet shed their winter coats making the heat stress even worse. As forecasts point to a warmer-than-average summer, and climate change turns up nighttime temperatures, heat stress among the state’s millions of cattle continues to be a growing concern. The amount of water cattle drink doubles from winter to summer. On a hot day, a 1,500-pound steer could drink up to 30 gallons — roughly enough to fill a bathtub.

Extreme heat doesn’t just impact farm animals, either. Last year, more than one billion of Canada’s marine animals, including mussels, snails, and clams, died in a heatwave. By cutting back on your consumption of animal products, you are saving these creatures from suffering in a changing climate, at the same time as reducing the emissions as a result of animal agriculture, which helps to reduce the severity of that change.

Vegan cosmetics market grows

Rabbit being tested.

It’s not just what goes into your body that matters. It’s also what goes on it. Many people want cosmetics and skin care products that are not tested on animals and have no animal derived ingredients and if you’re one of them you’re not alone.

Vantage Market Research’s recent analysis of the Global Vegan Cosmetics Market finds that an increase in the popularity of “veg trends”, the rising consumer consciousness towards the source of origin of cosmetic products, and the high prevalence of many skin problems coupled with the growing health concerns regarding the negative impact of petroleum-based cosmetic ingredients are expected to result in a large growth of the animal free cosmetics market.

The Global Market revenue was valued at $15.1 Billion in 2021 and is forecasted to reach $21.5 Billion by 2028. This parallels the large growth in plant based food products which is expected to grow to $162 billion in the next decade. Buying animal free cosmetic and skin care products can make a big difference to the animals who supply the ingredients and especially the animals these products are tested on.

Animals are still suffering and dying to test shampoo, mascara and other cosmetic products. Terrified rabbits, guinea pigs and other animals have these products forced down their throats and dripped into their eyes before they are killed.

Testing cosmetics on animals is not only cruel it’s also unnecessary, because companies can already create innovative products using thousands of ingredients that have a history of safe use and do not require any additional testing. Plus, modern testing methods (such as human cell-based tests and sophisticated computer models) have replaced outdated animal tests with new non-animal methods that are often faster, less expensive and more reliable. Many countries and some US states have already banned animal testing for cosmetics.

We can help end cosmetics testing on animals by buying products that are not tested on animals or have animal derived ingredients.

Boiled alive!

There are chickens literally being boiled to death in slaughterhouses. Slaughterhouses don’t have glass walls for a reason. It’s often been said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarians. But glass walls or not these stories need to be told.

Chickens are being boiled to death in slaughterhouses across the country, right under the noses of USDA inspectors. We’re absolutely appalled at the cruelty.

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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.

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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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