Tag Archives: factory farming

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.

Saving the animals step-by-step

Factory farming is cruel and has got to stop. However, saving the farm animals is often incremental work in progress as we work for the day when the animals are free.

When animals are raised in factory farm conditions, they are crammed into small spaces, and held in very unhygienic conditions such that diseases can run rampant. They are sometimes subject to horrific abuse. They are treated like machine parts with no regard to pain and suffering, and yet animals can feel pain just like we do.

But here’s a step in the right direction. The Supreme Court recently rejected a challenge by the North American Meat Institute to California’s Proposition 12, the strongest law in the world addressing farm animal confinement.

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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

Octopus – Don’t beat it, don’t eat it!

OctopusThere’s been quite the furor recently after a diver was seen last year punching an 80 pound Giant Pacific Octopus at Alki Cove 2 he caught in order to subdue it. He said he wanted to capture it and take it home, “to draw it for this art project, and eat it for meat.” Outrage followed and has continued for the past year.

Part of his response is in essence that the octopus was sort of free range, and that a factory farmed octopus would suffer more, saying “He suffered, of course, at the end but not nearly to the extent of factory farming.” This reminds us of the dodge often employed by some consumers of more traditionally eaten free-range meats: “there’s worse.” While there may or may not be worse, there’s definitely better, much better. Don’t eat meat or fish all!

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Interview with Gene Baur, Farm Sanctuary

Gene Bauer with SheepFarm Sanctuary is special. While there are a number of animal welfare groups out there, some of which go beyond cats, dogs and wildlife to include farm animals, there are very few which devote themselves solely to the farm animals.  Farm Sanctuary was founded in 1986 in response to the abuses of factory farming, and to encourage a new awareness and understanding about farm animals. Today, Farm Sanctuary is the nation’s largest and most effective farm animal rescue, protection and advocacy organization.  Starting at the sanctuary in a rural region of New York State, they have now established sanctuaries in Northern California and in the Los Angeles area. While the work is hard, their attitude remains so positive and warm. Vegetarians of Washington is proud to be a sponsor of their upcoming event, Walk for Farm Animals, and we just couldn’t resist the opportunity to interview their founder, Gene Baur:

How did you first get interested in the plight of farm animals?

I first learned about the plight of farm animals in high school (in the late 1970s), when my grandmother told me about the cruel treatment of calves raised for veal. Over time, I learned more about animal cruelty, the environmental waste involved, and the inefficiency of animal farming, and I became vegan in 1985.

What moved you to found Farm Sanctuary and what kind of work do you do there?

I founded Farm Sanctuary because I was appalled by the widespread harm caused by factory farming. Citizens unwittingly support this abusive system, and they can play a huge rule in correcting the problem by becoming more educated and mindful, and by making food choices that better align with their values and interests.

At our shelters, Farm Sanctuary currently cares for about 1000 animals. We host farm events and conduct tours so that people can meet cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, and other animals face-to-face, and to get to know them as living, feeling creatures. Through these encounters, they begin to see them as friends instead of food. We tell the animals’ stories, from their horrendous existences in factory farms to their healing and lives of peace and joy today at our sanctuaries. They are ambassadors for the billions of animals exploited by the food industry every year.

Tell us something about “Walk for Farm Animals”?

The Walk for Farm Animals comprises dozens of walk events in communities throughout North America. Citizens sign up to walk, and they reach out to their friends, family, and social networks to encourage people to support them. It’s a great way to introduce people to factory farming issues, to raise funds for Farm Sanctuary, and to get people thinking about the consequences of their food choices.

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

I wish people thought more about the fact that farm animals, like all animals, have feelings and complex emotional lives. They are similar in that way to cats and dogs even though we treat them very differently. And I wish more people understood that we can live very well by eating only plant-based foods and no animal products.

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

Yes, I see progress, and I am optimistic about the future. I believe we are in the midst of a food movement whereby factory farming practices are being challenged and, in some instances, outlawed. Most importantly, there is a broader public discussion taking place about the need to reform our broken food system. Consumers are beginning to think about the profound consequences of their food choices on their own health, and about the well-being of other animals and the planet. Farmer’s markets with local produce are spreading across the country, and, for the first time, the number of animals raised and slaughtered in the United States has started to decrease.

Our thanks go out to all the wonderful people at the Sanctuary for their dedication and compassion, and we know the animals thank them too. The Seattle Walk for Farm Animals event is coming up on September 21st and we have donated a prize for their ever popular raffle. Learn more about this worthy and fun event, and register to participate