Category Archives: Animals

Leather from plants

Fique plants

It’s the latest thing. They can now  make vegan leather from plants.

First of all what is vegan leather? Vegan leather is an ethical and cruelty-free fabric that mimics the look and feel of genuine leather. Vegan leather is also referred to as faux leather, polyester leather, or pleather. While genuine leather is made from animal hides, vegan leather is usually made from two synthetic plastic-based materials: polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane. While this avoids the cruelty of using animal hides, the plastic-based materials are not biodegradable, so they may contribute to landfills and plastic pollution.

But now there are companies making vegan leather from plants. One company uses cactus. This cruelty-free material allows the brand to cut down on water-use. Another company uses the fique plant, grown in Colombia. The plant has long been used to make fibers and other materials and now can be used for vegan leather.

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Do dairy and eggs result in animal suffering?

The following is an excerpt from our book “Say No to Meat“, a book to guide the new vegetarian on ditching meat and going veg! Written in question and answer format, it addresses key issues along with practical and social aspects of being a vegetarian.

Will consuming eggs and dairy still result in animal suffering?

Those who have cut out meat but still consume eggs and dairy products because they do not directly kill the animal are well intentioned. At one time, it was not that hard on an animal to supply eggs or milk, but with factory farming that is no longer the case. Unfortunately these days, dairy and egg production cause a lot of animal suffering. The objective of a dairy or egg farmer is to produce as much milk or as many eggs as possible for the least possible cost, so farmers give very little thought to caring for the animals, except to ensure that they continue to produce. Dairy cows and egg-laying chickens have miserable lives and end up in the slaughterhouse just like their meat-producing relatives.

In order to keep producing milk, dairy cows are forced to give birth as frequently as possible, but their calves are taken away from them shortly after birth, so that the milk they produce is available for human use. Often they are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is designed to produce an abnormally high volume of milk. Many develop mastitis, a painful infection of the udders, and lameness. When their milk production wanes after about three or four years, they are sent to slaughter.

The baby calves produced in this process are either raised to produce milk themselves if they are female, or sometimes raised for veal if they are male. These poor animals are deliberately fed a diet that puts them in danger of becoming anemic and kept in small crates to prevent their muscles developing. This creates the kind of pale, soft meat prized as veal.

So the lives of dairy- and egg-producing animals are full of suffering and end in slaughter, in much the same way as those of the meat-producing animals. With so many delicious alternatives available, causing this much pain to animals is just not necessary.

Covid-19 harms both workers and animals

Slaughterhouses kill more than just animals. Meatpacking plants, along with prisons, have become the nation’s leading hot spots for the spread of COVID-19 infections.

Thousands of meatpacking workers have fallen ill, many have died. Virus outbreaks at meatpacking plants have lead to the virus spreading more widely in surrounding communities, said Nicholas Christakis, director of Yale University’s Human Nature Lab and a specialist in how contagion travels through social networks.

While we wrote back in June 2020 about Covid 19 spreading in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, we now know so much more about how the virus spreads in these places. Slaughterhouses and meat processing plants are favorable environments for SARS-CoV-2 transmission. The virus thrives in lower temperatures and in very high or very low relative humidity. Metallic surfaces retain live viruses. Aerosols, densely combining dust, feathers, and feces, are produced in the plants, and intense water use carries materials extensively over surfaces. Workers must speak loudly or shout over the noise, releasing more droplets and spreading them further. Workplaces are crowded, and social distancing is difficult. The plight of the slaughterhouse workers was already dire, but this just puts another layer on their hardship.

The pandemic has also led to a massive increase in animal suffering. When the pandemic first hit, slaughterhouses across the nation were forced to close. Gruesome stories emerged of the mass killing of millions of chickens and pigs that could no longer be brought to market. Chickens sometimes had to be gassed or smothered with a foam in which they slowly suffocate. Among other methods, ready-for-market pigs, with cognitive abilities similar to dogs, that couldn’t be sold were killed by a method known as ventilation shutdown, in which the airways to a barn are closed off and steam is introduced. A whistleblower’s video shows thousands of pigs dying as they were slowly suffocated and roasted to death overnight.

Although the pandemic has focused attention on these incidents, they represent a tiny fraction of the daily abuses heaped on farmed animals. The billions of animals slaughtered every year in the United States are intelligent, sensitive beings capable of feeling a range of emotions. They are driven to raise their own young and form complex social communities, both impossible under the conditions of modern farming. Instead, they live short, painful, disease-ridden lives. Chickens, which make up over 90% of the animals slaughtered every year, suffer the worst. Their deaths are subject to effectively no federal regulation, meaning the birds are frequently frozen, boiled, drowned or suffocated to death.

Avoiding the consumption of meat, including chicken, would help alleviate many of these problems. By reducing the demand for meat, fewer workers would have to work in such awful conditions, and many fewer animals would be sent to the slaughterhouse.

A perfect storm created Covid-19

The COVID 19 pandemic seems to have arisen from a perfect storm. Eating animals, wearing their fur, keeping wild animals in zoos, and having an unnatural relationship with nature have created the perfect storm. With human to human transmission, that storm has become a hurricane.

COVID 19 is a zoonosis. Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can spread between animals and people. The flu and Ebola are also zoonoses. While scientist are still trying to understand the origin of the virus, it appears that it originated in bats. Bats are eaten in China and so are pangolins. The virus could have infected people directly or through intermediate animals, possibly pangolins or a combination of both. It begs the question, what are we doing eating these animals? Is it worth the amount it is costing us and the rest of humanity?

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The importance of animal sanctuaries

Farm animal sanctuaries are safe havens for farm animals who have endured the victimization of factory farming. Very few animals trapped in factory farms and our food system ever experience freedom, but sanctuaries offer an island of kindness for a few in this sea of severe harshness.

Farm animal sanctuaries are incredibly serene and beautiful non profit organizations that offer a happy life for farm animals. Animals at farm sanctuaries may no longer financially benefit the animal agriculture industry, but they offer companionship and laughs and deserve to live a good life no matter what.

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Catching Coronavirus from Mink

People have been catching the coronavirus from mink, animals raised to make fur coats. Here’s yet another reason to not buy fur coats as we head into the holiday season! More than 200 cases of coronavirus appear to be linked to sick minks on fur farms in Denmark, according to new data released last Thursday by the country’s public health agency. Worse, there’s worry that the strain of the virus in the mink might make the vaccine ineffective.

Danish officials said that they now want to cull all 15 million mink at the country’s roughly 1,200 fur farms as a precautionary step to protect people from contracting the virus. Mink on at least 220 fur farms in Denmark have already tested positive for the coronavirus.

We may be at risk here too. The United States, too, has confirmed that minks have contracted coronavirus on fur farms in Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan, although so far there is no evidence that the minks are making humans sick in the U.S. “These investigations are ongoing, and we will release data once available,” says Jasmine Reed, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson.

When people catch a disease such as the coronavirus from animals, it’s called zoonosis. While we’re on the subject, it is important to note as we go into flu season that influenza, the flu, is also a zoonosis, one that is spread from chickens and pigs. Since these diseases come from keeping animals in close confinement, the way to prevent such diseases is to stop confining animals.

Besides the risk to human health, raising mink is very harsh on the animals themselves.  On fur factory farms around the world, millions of rabbits, foxes, mink and other wild animals spend their entire lives in cramped cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors—only to be crudely gassed or electrocuted at the end.

Many vegetarians extend their choices to what they wear on their body as well as what is consumed as food. There are many good artificial furs, and there’s really no reason why anyone should choose to wear animal fur.

Ten Top Reasons To Skip The Turkey On Thanksgiving

We’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to join the growing number of people who’ll skip the turkey this Thanksgiving. There are lots of good reasons to find better and healthier ways to celebrate one of our favorite holidays. Turkey has the same disadvantages as other kinds of meat. To help you along, here are our top ten reasons to skip the bird this year. Remember that what we say about turkey is true of other holiday favorites such as ham as well. Read more

Grass-Fed Beef – bad for us and for the planet

Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.

Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own. Read more

A new way to farm without killing animals

Jay Wilde was born into the family farm with an environmentally-minded father who never engaged with business-like intensive farming such as the usage of artificial fertilizers and herbicides.  He inherited a dairy farm in England in 2011, so initially he produced dairy goods, before moving onto organic beef.  But in 2017, he and his wife Katja could no longer bear to send the cows to the slaughterhouse for what must be a terrifying death.  They made headlines by rehoming the cows at an animal sanctuary, and the UK Vegan Society worked with him to switch to alternative farming practices.  

Jay is now working with Refarm’d, an organization that works to give animal farmers a new business model that doesn’t benefit from the exploitation of animals.  They helped him to make a smooth shift into a booming market that is the plant milk industry, enabling him to keep his farm with the remaining 17 retired cows.  Jay and Katja Wilde spent time finessing their business model so that they could ensure producing oat milk was sustainable and profitable, while providing themselves with a cruelty-free source of income. While they had initially started producing organic vegetables, they found that a project producing oat milk was the ideal complement.

Geraldine Starke, CEO of Refarm’d, pointed out that the dairy industry is struggling, and this mostly affects farmers who don’t have a say on the price they sell the milk and therefore often sell for less than production costs, leaving them struggling to make it work.  “I believe to help our farmers, we need to help them get out of this system. And that’s what we are trying to do at Refarm’d,” she said. 

Seeing the need for change, more and more farmers from around the world are getting in touch with the organization. Under Refarm’d model, farmers continue feeding the population by providing a healthy and fresh, handmade product, made with local ingredients to customers local to them. The production costs are low and they help the farm over time to optimize their global costs so that farmers earn a better life with less effort. This shows a way for what the future of farming could look like.

Do animals feel pain?

Farm AnimalsDo animals feel pain?  Of course they do!  Just ask yourself this question: if animals can’t feel pain, then why do researchers test pain medication on them?  Then ask yourself another question: if animals don’t feel pain, then why do they scream or wince when they are hurt? Of course they feel pain and are capable of suffering.

Famous Anthropologist Jane Goodall says that “…farm animals are treated as mere things, yet they are living beings capable of suffering pain and fear.” The Veterinary Merck Manual, perhaps the most standard reference in animal science and veterinary practice, states, “Based on what is known to date, all vertebrates, and some invertebrates, experience pain in response to actual or potential tissue damage.” Read more

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