Category Archives: Animals

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

Senate against Horsemeat

HorseGood News! The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted in favor of a provision that would prevent any efforts to resume the slaughtering of horses for human consumption on U.S. soil.

The bipartisan amendment to the agriculture appropriations bill, offered by Senators Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and approved by the committee 18-12, disallows spending by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2015 on inspections at prospective horse slaughter plants. If there are no government inspections of the horse slaughterhouses then there can be no sales under the law.  The bill also passed Congress, and President’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year also included a provision to block these inspections. Commenting on the new law, House Representative Moran says “The American public has made clear they oppose horse slaughter, and today’s vote reflects the will of the people.”

A similar spending prohibition in the 2014 omnibus spending bill halted aggressive attempts by horse slaughter proponents to open plants in New Mexico, Iowa and Missouri.

Michael Markarian, chief program and policy officer of The Humane Society of the United States, hailed the successful bill protecting horses and says “The American people will never accept the idea of cruelly slaughtering our horses to be served up on dinner…plates. Horses are not raised for food, and they are typically dosed with a variety of drugs not appropriate for human consumption.”

From the vegetarian point of view, laws such as this, along with the new vegetarian caucus in Congress, gives us reason to hope for more good work ahead.

New NW Advocate for Animals – an interview with Rachel Huff-Wagenborg

Humane League logoRachel Huff-WagenborgHow did you first get interested in the plight of animals and of farm animals in particular?

I have gravitated towards helping animals for as long as I can remember, especially feeling a drive to rescue and save injured, abandoned and neglected animals.  Undercover footage of factory farms opened my eyes to the cruelty farmed animals endure and I immediately stopped consuming animal flesh.  As I learned more about the condition of animals used for dairy and eggs, I eliminated those items from my diet as well.  The same for eschewing leather, fur, wool and honey, my behavior changed as I learned more.  My journey to be vegan has been a path of progression. The urge to protect animals is the driving force behind every choice I make.

What moved you to work with The Humane League?

The Humane League’s vision of seeing a world where animals are treated with respect and compassion really appealed to me.  I have worked with companion animals in shelters and through internships with HSUS, I was able to work on projects about marine animals, equines, animals in research and blood “sports.”  Even so, the magnitude of suffering on factory farms far outweighs all other animal suffering, over 9 billion land animals are killed for food in the US each year!  This was an area where I felt I could make a difference for a lot of animals.  I was impressed to learn The Humane League is certified “Best” by Independent Charities of America, and rated as one of the two most cost-effective animal protection charities in the world by Animal Charity Evaluators.

Tell us something about what The Humane League does?

The Humane League advocates for farmed animals, promotes a vegetarian diet and works to end the suffering of as many animals as possible.  The methods of advocacy we employ are researched and tested for efficacy through our research division, Humane League Labs.  The three pillars of our work are outreach, education, and campaigns.  Our humane education program offers free presentations about factory farming and the impacts on animals, health and the environment.  I provide these presentations to high schools and colleges in the greater Seattle area.  Outreach efforts include distributing free vegetarian starter guides in news racks around the city, handing out booklets on factory farming and veg eating at universities, concerts and events, and tabling with vegetarian information at festivals.  While we work on a variety of campaigns, my current focus is bringing Meatless Mondays to Seattle Public Schools – this program would spare 25,000 animals a year. I’d also love to see the City of Seattle adopt a Meatless Monday resolution, which aligns with the city’s climate action plan where reducing meat consumption is already encouraged.  Numerous other cities have already adopted similar resolutions, to include South Miami County, FL; Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Boone, NC; Oakland, CA; and Philadelphia, PA!

What are some of the things you wished people knew more about or understood better about farm animals?

I wish people knew that these incredible sentient beings are unique, with distinct personalities who have the ability to experience pain and pleasure, and they have a desire to live – like we do.  Pigs have dreams, chickens can count to ten, and fish rub against each other to relieve stress.  Like dogs and cats, farmed animals are intelligent and emotional creatures that deserve our moral consideration and protection.  I encourage people to spend time at farm sanctuaries and develop our innate bond with animals.

Do you see progress, are you optimistic about the future?

Yes! I am optimistic about the future and I’m seeing progress.  Sometimes the progress seems too slow or too small given the enormous challenges ahead, but I appreciate it is still movement in the right direction.  I’m inspired by the next generation of animal advocates who are seeking professional training to become more effective for animals and the number of students pursuing humane education and careers that will benefit animals.  I’m watching this movement become an unstoppable force!

Anything else?

The Seattle office of The Humane League opened in January of this year, if we haven’t met, I hope we get to meet soon! http://www.thehumaneleague.com/  rachelhw@thehumaneleague.com 206.708.3292

Veal Heartbreak – from farm to slaughterhouse

Veal calvesPerhaps the most heartbreaking farm animal practice is the raising of veal. Despite substantial public opposition, hundreds of thousands of calves raised for veal are intensively confined in individual crates too narrow for them even to turn around. Tethered by their necks to further restrict their movement, they’re virtually immobilized for their entire 16 week-long lives. Read more

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