Category Archives: Animals

Kiss a Cow at New Farm Sanctuary

Skiss a cowix months ago, Tracy Murphy met Albert, a day old calf, at a Western New York auction house and knew she had to take him home. Shivering, barely able to walk, Albert had just been separated from his mother and faced slaughter. “He was crying for his mother, and it was the saddest thing I ever saw,” Murphy recalled. “I knew I had to get him out of that situation. I brought him home and the vet came out the next day and said he had a 50/50 chance of living. But he’s doing great now. He’s absolutely the most beautiful steer. He’s friendly, loves hugs, and has known only love here.” And so another farm animal sanctuary began.

Murphy founded the nonprofit sanctuary, Asha, in Newfane, New York, to rescue “farmed” animals and give them a safe and nurturing environment. “Asha” stands for Acres of Sanctuary and Hope for Animals. Asha is also a big promoter of animal-friendly veg diets. “Kiss a cow” refers to the music composed and performed by Dan Crow at their grand opening. From what we can tell no-one actually kissed the cows or the many other farm animals there. But then who knows? After all, we don’t like to kiss and tell!

Vegetarians of Washington is happy to see the continuing growth of the farm animal sanctuary movement that saves the animals, increases public awareness of their plight, and so enthusiastically promotes vegetarian diets. Keep up the good work Tracy.

Slaughterhouse Hotline

TelephoneA new hotline (1-888-209-7177) was just launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) so that workers can more safely document the abuse of animals.

As the old saying goes, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians.” The slaughterhouse operators know this better than anyone, which is why they have pushed “ag-gag” laws through in a handful of key states.  These ag-gag laws prevent the documenting of abuse by criminalizing undercover investigations of agricultural facilities. We have previously reported on the plight of both farm animals and workers in the nation’s slaughterhouses. While horrible conditions persist, the public is kept in the dark.

The bleak conditions endured by animals on factory farms are often made worse by overt violence and neglect,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the HSUS. “Pigs are often beaten. Chickens are stomped on. Lame cows are left for dead. We want whistleblowers to know that help is just a phone call away.

To tackle this problem, the HSUS established a hotline for reporting cruelty and neglect on factory farms, at livestock auctions, and in slaughterhouses. This will empower employees at those facilities who have witnessed cruelty or other unlawful acts.

The HSUS offers whistleblowers a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who have committed acts of cruelty to farm animals. Hotline callers will be assured anonymity if they desire it. The HSUS will work with the United Farm Workers to distribute information about the hotline to workers at factory farms, slaughterhouses and livestock auctions.

We applaud the HSUS for their new program and all those who have the courage to call it. Of course, the best way to end the harsh conditions and frank abuse in animal agriculture is simply to go vegetarian- a move the HSUS enthusiastically endorses.

Ebola is caused by Bushmeat!

BushmeatIt turns out that Ebola is yet another epidemic disease, along with influenza, and resistant bacteria, which we get by consuming and/or producing meat. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that 75 percent of all new and emerging infectious diseases in humans come from animal origins.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola virus is transmitted to humans from wild animals and is then spread between humans. WHO states that it is believed that fruit bats are the original Ebola virus hosts, but the virus is introduced to humans through close contact with bodily fluids of infected animals including fruit bats, monkeys, chimpanzees, gorillas, antelope, and porcupines. These kinds of wild meats are known as bushmeat and are consumed in western Africa – the site of the Ebola outbreak and epidemic which has so far claimed almost 5,000 lives.

Despite the fact that the governments of West Africa have banned the bushmeat trade, in response to the Ebola outbreak, people continue to buy, sell, and eat bushmeat as a staple in their diet. Neither the ban on bushmeat, nor the spread of Ebola, has stopped people from consuming a food they have been eating forever.

If you think you’re safe from the infected meat here in the United States, think again. It is illegal to import bushmeat into the U.S., but it has been found and confiscated at JFK International Airport in New York and other U.S. ports of entry. Millions of dollars of bush meat are smuggled into the U.S. every year, and the majority comes from West Africa. A similar problem is faced by European authorities as well. For instance, authorities estimate that every year almost 3 million pounds of bushmeat makes its way illegally into Great Britain alone. While news reports have focused on Ebola being transmitted from people who have travelled from Africa, relatively little notice has been taken of all the bushmeat being shipped into the US and other countries.

While brave doctors and other health workers are doing everything they can to save those already with the disease, and to keep human to human transmission from happening, the only way to prevent these outbreaks from ever starting is by giving up the practice of eating bushmeat. While we have mostly written about disease from factory-farmed meat due to crowded and harsh animal agriculture, wild meats are not really any better. We suggest that those Paleo Diet enthusiasts who promote eating wild meat take note. The only solution to meat-borne diseases is the vegetarian solution.

New Slaughterhouse rules make things worse

SlaughterhouseJust when we thought the slaughterhouses couldn’t get any worse for workers, consumers and animals alike, new rules are coming out of Washington DC that will make the whole situation worse than ever.

Under the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” rule, a processing line could run at 170 carcasses per minute, and only one inspector- employed by the company that owns the processing plant- would be required to be on duty.  The new rules do not even mandate training for these company inspectors, whereas USDA inspectors undergo extensive training to allow them to fulfill these tasks under the current inspection system.

“These rules essentially privatize poultry inspection, and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

With most meat inspectors replaced by untrained slaughterhouse employees, and the kill rate increased to almost 3 chickens a second, it is virtually impossible to do any reliable testing.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says that this proposed rule would provide the framework for action to provide public health-based inspection in all establishments that slaughter amenable poultry species,” according to the rule’s official summary. However, reduced inspections make contamination with disease-causing bacteria all the more likely.

With the kill rate higher, worker stress is likely to get worse. Working in a slaughterhouse is already one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in the country, as we’ve explained in a previous posting.

Last but surely not least, a higher kill rate is very likely to make matters even worse for the chickens. Many people are surprised to learn that unlike the very minimal legal protection that cows have, chickens have no laws to prevent cruelty at all. As the saying goes, if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians!

The situation is so bad that 68 Members of Congress have signed and sent a letter sent to the USDA demanding rules that meaningfully protect all involved.  The letter urges the USDA to “withdraw the proposed rule until the agency has thoroughly addressed its impact on the public, workers, and animals and adherence to good commercial practices.”

We can only hope that the USDA reconsiders the new rules. In the meantime there’s something you can do. Year after year the slaughterhouses continue to get worse and worse. The best solution to this problem is the vegetarian solution. By following a healthy diet composed of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes and nuts, you’ll be reducing the demand for chickens until, someday, there won’t be a need for any of them to be killed.

Farm Animals have their say

Our Farm bookcoverThis story about farm animals is different from most of the others, not only because it has a happy ending, but whereas most stories about the plight of the farm animals are written by people, this story was written by the animals themselves.

We’ve often admired the excellent work done by Farm Sanctuary in New York and its founder Gene Baur. However, we wondered what the animals thought about being saved from the slaughterhouse and taken to live at Farm Sanctuary.

To get their perspective on things we turned to a wonderful new book, Our Farm by the animals of Farm Sanctuary. In this delightful book, we can read what life looks like from the animals’ point of view. We can also hear the animals say thank you in a poem:

Thank Youby Hilda, a sheep

Thank you to the wind that blows,

Thank you to the moonbeams that shine,

Thank you to the field of wheat,

and to the soft grass below,

Thank you to the sunflowers that sway,

Thank you to the sky above,

Thank you to the kind hearts and hands that brought me to my new home.

Hilda the sheep teaches that all the animals want are the simple things in life, and how much good can be done by kind hearts and hands.

Our Farm, beautifully illustrated, is gentle and sensitive enough to teach children about farm animals and insightful enough for adults to gain a new and deeper appreciation for all the lives a vegetarian diet will save.

For those adults who would like to learn more about the harsh realities facing farm animals in the slaughterhouses that a vegetarian diet would prevent, see out of sight slaughter and for the realities facing the workers, see forgotten casualties.

More Countries Ban Foie Gras – the indelicate delicacy!

GeeseWe are happy to report that India has just joined the growing honor roll of countries which have banned foie gras, or swollen goose, and sometimes duck, liver.

The initiative for the ban got started in 2012 by animal welfare organizations complaining to their government, and documenting the awful conditions that geese and ducks endure while being force fed in order to swell their livers. India has also taken the extra step of not only banning the production of foie gras, but also banning its importation.

Other countries banning the production of foie gras under various laws and regulations include the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Israel, Turkey and Argentina. Unfortunately, countries that still produce it include Canada, China, Bulgaria, Spain, Hungary, and of course, France.

Closer to home, the city of Chicago has also banned foie gras, as has the entire state of California, where it has successfully survived several court challenges and now may be headed for the Supreme Court.

Producing foie gras is considered to be particularly harsh by animal welfare groups, as well as unhealthy by health groups. For anyone who still wants foie gras, we’re happy to say that there are now animal-product-free foie gras analogues, such as the very popular White Truffle Country Pate, made by our home-town company, Field Roast, and there’s also Elianni’s Vegan Pate. Both are available at local veg-friendly grocery stores, or by mail order through several online veg mail order companies. Some of the local vegetarian restaurants also feature an indulgent vegetarian pate. Or, if you like to cook, try this recipe!

Learn more about the California Foie Gras ban here.

Fish have feelings too!

Fish in netWhile many people accept the fact that farm animals such as cows can suffer and feel pain, they don’t seem to understand that the same is true of fish. 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.” Scientists have recently found pain receptors in fish, leaving little doubt that they do, in fact, feel pain. That means that fish such as tuna and salmon can feel pain just as farm animals do. Read more

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