A Picture Worth 1,000 Words

slide1I found this on animalplace.org today and sent this to some meat eating friends. Rather than try and persuade them on the animal rights argument, I’ll try and ecological stance. The resistance I get baffles me since there are so many good reasons to stop eating animals and virtually NO good reasons to eat  them. Perhaps appealing to self-interest will get greater attention.

I will never understand why people hold onto customs wholesale (e.g. killing turkeys for Thanksgiving, or torturing and killing chickens for Kapporos), when they cause needless violence, when they could so easily amend them to embrace kindness and compassion. In the meantime, I’ll give thanks to those organizations that produce effective messages like this one. I figure if I I can ‘drip on’ my non-vegan friends with compelling messages like this, then maybe, just maybe eventually I’ll get through.

Thank you animalplace.org and Gotdrought.com.

Hunters are Cowards

When I ask people why they hunt and kill animals, I get answers that include “to eat”, “for sport”, “have fun with the guys”,  and/or “ecological necessity”.  If ever there is a shred of conscience present, the answer is followed up with the justification that they eat the animal they killed, as if that is acceptable.

No hunting is justifiable. There is no need to hunt for subsistence. Walk around any grocery store and there no shortage of food. When a counter-argument is offered, then another feeble excuse is offered: Animals kill each other in the wild, so it’s natural for humans to kill animals, too.

Yes, some animals do kill other animals, but plenty do not. There are many more animals that are vegetarian. The ones that are carnivores have no other options, but we have far more options that are healthier and don’t include killing. Humans are not carnivores because we have flat teeth, small mouths and we need to cook the meat first.

Calling hunting a sport is an insult to any sporting practice where real competition occurs. Killing an innocent animal that has no defense against weapons doesn’t take much skill. What it does take is an attitude of superiority over animals together with a ruthless, merciless streak of brutality. What could be fun about seeing an animal die? The hunter doesn’t think that the same animal may have babies that she was foraging for. Male or female, there is apparently no consideration given to the fact that they have the right to live in this world as much as we do.

Recently, a friend attempted to justify her boyfriend’s hunting as true sport because he killed animals with arrows. Apparently, there were a few times he actually shot turkeys right through the chest because of his accurate aim. When I asked what happened with his imperfect aims, she said that he and his buddies just followed the trail of blood until they found the suffering bird. Then they killed it up close. Chasing a terrified, wounded animal that is trying desperately to live is an activity that is diametrically opposite to any notion of fun.

Ecological necessity, ostensibly to control over-population,  is a  false argument. Leave nature alone and it will look after itself. Killing deer, for example, only causes the populations to have more babies, not less. Animals will breed more or less depending on the number of animals there are in existence in their species. It’s a sort of natural population control. Hunters upset this natural balance.

Lastly, I am always surprised when I hear people say that animals were put on this earth for us to eat. First of all, this is an anthropocentric claim. Humans are only part of the planet, not masters over it.  Secondly, no animal, person or thing was “put” here for our use. There is  voluminous research in fossil records to show that nothing was put on this planet by anyone or anything. We all evolved. And we all deserve to live here without fear of being killed by sadistic murderers. At least humans are protected by law. Animals should be too.

 

 

 

 

 

Give Thanks, Spare The Turkey

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect upon all the good things one has in life, but many people don’t realize that this custom hides a violence that must stop.

Eating turkey has become the accepted meal choice with little thought to the brutality that surrounds the bird’s life. There is often an assumption that turkeys lead normal lives on farms before their slaughter but the reality is far different.

Turkeys are jammed into long, windowless barracks that are so severely overcrowded that they develop skeletal deformities from their extreme confinement. Understandably they become aggressive with one another, but rather than give them space to move, industrial farmers cut off their toes and their beaks, all without anesthesia, causing excruciating pain and suffering.

They are forced to live in their own waste breathing ammonia fumes so strong it makes your eyes water. They develop respiratory diseases, ulcerated feet, blistered skin and burned eyes and throats.

Turkeys are genetically modified to grow big as fast as possible in order to yield the highest price. It would be the same as taking a six-pound human baby and turning her into 1,500 pounds in 18 weeks. Their bones are too weak to support their weight causing leg deformities and joint pain so extreme that they are often forced to walk on their wings just to reach food and water.

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“Free-Range” and “Humanely Raised” are misleading labels meant to mollify the public. Most free-range farms offer outdoor pens, but in harsh weather, there is seldom adequate indoor space to escape freezing temperatures, sleet or snow. They are still de-beaked and de-toed, and are bred to become painfully overweight, developing congestive heart and lung diseases and enlarged livers.

When turkeys go to slaughter, they are still young, some only three months old. None ever see their first birthday, despite the fact that in nature they can live to beyond 20 years. Workers grab them by their feet upside down, violently jam them into crates and put them on trucks without food, water or any protection from the elements.

In the slaughtering plants, turkeys often have their throats slit while still conscious, hanging upside down. Those who miss the automated knife, and many do, are scalded to death in the de-feathering tank. There are no laws to protect them from this barbaric treatment.

There are significant human costs to eating turkey. At least three million Americans get sick from eating poultry every year. Over-use of antibiotics in factory farms leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant super-bugs.

Not only are PCBs, dioxins, arsenic and several cancer-casing poisons contained in animal feed, but it also includes the ground-up bodies of diseased turkeys. They are given arsenic to kill parasites and enhance their pink flesh color, becoming the biggest cause of arsenic in our food and water supply. Fresh turkey contains BPA, a plastic that is linked to hormonal disorders.

There are four good reasons to choose plant-based alternatives: they are healthy for humans, good for the environment, less expensive and kinder to animals. Let’s add kindness and compassion into our Thanksgiving by keeping turkeys off of our plates.

 

Success for MA Animals, But A Threat To Animals In The Rest Of The World

78%  of the voters in Massachusetts said  ‘Yes’ to eliminating cruel confinement of animals on factory farms. I was one of the volunteers who stood outside a polling station talking with voters before they cast their ballots. It is heartening to know that with all the money paid by agribusiness on false and misleading ads that said grocery costs would significantly increase with a ‘yes’ vote, voters were not fooled. Compassion won out.

Many of the people I spoke with said  “it’s a no-brainer”. In fact, they were surprised to learn that such cruelty exists. Some even said that they didn’t mind spending more on food if it would ease the suffering.

My concern now lies with the bigger picture of animals around the world, especially the ones that are going extinct because of poachers and hunters. This is where President-elect Trump comes in. His sons are notorious for killing many beautiful creatures for sport, with the full support of Donald.

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Animal protection organizations fight to put regulations in to stop this needless killing. The Obama administration banned trade in ivory. The National Park Service and the U.S. fish and Wildlife Service adopted rules to stop the shooting of wolves and grizzly bears from planes, trapping of grizzlies and other sickening inhumane methods of hunting on federal lands. If he supports his sons’ animal killing for fun, then he clearly does not respect the right of animals to live in a world where they belong. He is devoid of empathy.

I fervently hope I am wrong, but given his disrespect for women and minorities, and his narcissistic behaviors that reveal a gargantuan ego, I doubt that I am.

Cage-free is LESS EXPENSIVE

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Soon Massachusetts voters will be voting on their presidential picks. They will also have an option to vote for eliminating cruel confinement of farmed animals. One would think that any person with a conscience would vote ‘yes’ on this. But Big Ag (from Indiana and Iowa) and the oil tycoon, Forrest Lucas, have banded together to advertise lies about this important issue. Admittedly, it’s smart and will change minds.

They are saying that to get rid of the cages, it will result in significantly more costs to the consumer for their food. This is WRONG. A government funded Iowa State study showed that it costs 11 percent less not to use gestation crates. And the American Veal Association recommended “that the entire veal industry convert to the group housing methodology,” because of the economic feasibility of doing so.

In California, there was an avian influenza outbreak in 2015 that caused a temporary rise in California egg prices. Egg producers had to kill millions of laying hens across the country, dramatically restricting supply. Less than two years after instituting California’s similar hen protection law, prices have dropped below those seen before passage. In fact, the Kirkpatrick Foundation released a report in the summer of 2016 that found egg prices in California were below the national average.

The price increase that may result, at most, would be 1 to 2 cents an egg. But that would be far outweighed by the costs of salmonella outbreaks that occur every year. In fact, 142,000 Americans contract salmonella from eggs. Imagine those medical costs.

The irony inherent in the argument for eating animal products is that they are unhealthy. But that isn’t mentioned because it is a side issue to the confinement topic.

I feel for people who live at or below the poverty level. I have had to make my own way in life without any monetary help from others. If I was poor now, I would pay that extra 1 to 2 cents per egg, if I didn’t care about ingesting cholesterol. Fortunately, my choice of a plant-based diet precludes me having to make that choice. Not only am I healthier for it, but I have a good conscience.

 

 

 

 

KUDOS TO BEFAIRBEVEGAN

From August 8 to September 4 this summer, Befairbevegan held a poster campaign in one of the highest traffic areas of the world – Times Square and the Javitz Center in New York. Their moving billboards and street posters poignantly illustrated the faces and feelings of the animals that we use for human consumption, experimentation and entertainment. ‘Different But Equal’ and ‘Like Us’ were themes displayed with beautiful pictures of animals. Short but powerful messages accompanied the images telling viewers that these sentient beings value their lives as much as we do, and that they feel joy, pain and fear death. I was deeply touched by these pictures.  Many others were, too.

To see the all of the pictures, go to Befairbevegan campaign.

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It is difficult to measure the effectiveness of such a campaign, but it is my fervent hope that it caused people to seriously question their meat eating habits. At the very least, it shows that there are many people who feel it is morally wrong.

One of the most challenging parts of begin an animal advocate/activist is communicating with people who don’t want to know. This campaign puts the message of human caused animal suffering in people’s faces so that they cannot stick their head in the sand so easily. I have no doubt that there were many people who continued to eat animals after they saw the posters, conveniently compartmentalizing their compassion. And I also know that many people started thinking more empathically toward animals afterward.

Continued messaging will get through. According to the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a tipping point for changing opinions and beliefs in a society occurs at 10%. In other words, a minority opinion can become a prevailing belief in a society when 10% of the population shares that belief.

A positive trend reported in several journals is that more and more millenials are embracing plant-based diets. Protests against slaughterhouses and animal cruelty are occurring around the world (Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Paris, Ireland, England, Iran, Korea, to name a few), which gives me hope that we’re getting to the 10%.

Some like-minded colleagues and I are going to replicate this campaign in Connecticut with permission and help from the folks at Befairbevegan. We are now in the throes of learning how to raise money to do this. Wish us luck.

 

 

Tyson’s Lobbying Efforts to Continue Animal Cruelty

On five previous occasions, Tyson Foods has been caught kicking, stomping and suffocating chickens in their plants. Each time, they apologize, say they will fire the employees who engaged in the cruelty, and then it happens all over again. Now they are stooping to a new low.

This November, after much efforts by many people concerned about animal cruelty (see last blog), Question 3 is being put on the ballot in Massachusetts giving voters an chance to end extreme confinement. But Tyson’s is attempting to stop this measure.

Right now they are lobbying Congress to prevent legislation that provides basic protections for poultry farmers. September 30 is a deadline for finalizing annual spending bills and Tyson Food lobbyists are working tirelessly to pass what is known as the “GIPSA Rider” (USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers, and Stockyards Administration).  If successful, this rider will block the USDA from enacting farmer protection rules that were implemented in 2011 and continue to be blocked by the industry.

Tyson is highly profitable, yet many contract poultry farmers lose money each year, with 71% of small farmers living below the poverty line. This past year, journalist Nicholas Kristof wrote an exposé in The New York Times shedding light on the fact that the poultry industry is unjust for farmers, extremely inhumane for birds, and dangerous for the environment and human health.

Lobbying costs a lot of money and it is effective. It sometimes feel that consumers are at the mercy of these animals abusers, but we have power, too. We can stop Tyson’s in their tracks by boycotting their products.  If you feel as strongly as I do about these conscience-less bullies, please tell everyone you know to boycott them. With social media, we can reach a lot of people and take back our power.

 

 

 

Let’s Put an End to Extreme Confinement

1,000 volunteers mobilized in a period of six weeks to gather signatures for the issue of ending extreme confinement for egg-laying hens. The government said that if we got 35,000 signatures, which meant that we’d have to get 65,000 to allow for vetting, then it would be put on the ballot.

Every single signature had to be validated. That means that electronic petitions were not acceptable. Each person who signed had to be a voter and their addresses were checked. The only way to get that information was to ask, face to face. I was one of those people who drove up to Massachusetts when I could, standing outside of Walmart and gas stations, to get the signatures. Every person I spoke with happily signed. Most people do have compassion.

batthens05_300_1We crushed the numbers. We got 133,000 signatures. Now it is on the November ballot.

I came across an article this morning with some folks saying that because cage-free conditions would mean an extra 1 to 2 cents per egg, they disagreed with it. I’m astounded. One person’s justification was that they are poor.

The irony is that eating eggs is very unhealthy. There’s a humungous amount of research that shows that the cholesterol in eggs are a significant contributor to heart problems, and many other diseases (Read Michael Greger’s How Not to Die for 100 pages of references on this). The cost of medical care far outweighs the 24 cents they would pay buying a dozen eggs.

It is surprising that despite a lack of longer term thinking, many people hold onto old habits of eating regardless of their harmful effects. We have so many affordable choices available to us, but there are some people who stubbornly defend their old ways even if it means inflicting life-long harm to innocent beings.

As a relatively new vegan, I can assure you that I don’t miss eggs. Yes, I get lots of protein without them, and my cholesterol is back in the normal range, too. To those voters in Massachusetts, I ask you to please let your conscience be your guide. You won’t lose anything and you’ll help us reduce the needless suffering of innocent hens.

 

 

Government Bailouts to Agribusiness with YOUR Money

America was incensed when investment bankers held their hands out for the government bailout funds, and then paid themselves handsomely in personal bonuses from that money. There is still anger today about it as only one criminal charge was laid, despite deliberate and obvious fraud.

Well, a week ago there was another government bailout that few people know about made with taxpayers money. In a news release (#0181.16) the USDA announced that they would purchase approximately 11 million pounds of cheese from private companies for $20M, the highest surplus in 30 years. Why is there a surplus? Because people are learning that the dairy industry is selling products laced with antibiotics and growth hormones, (because of their severe abuse of animals causing pain, suffering and illness), and high cholesterol and saturated fats. People are choosing healthier and kinder alternatives.

To soften this ludicrous gesture, the USDA says it will give the food to food banks and pantries for good nutrition. If it was truly to increase health, it would be a laudable move, but it isn’t.  Plant-based meals are healthy. Cheese, milk and related dairy products clearly are not.

Perhaps the USDA should remind itself that we live in a capitalist system where suppliers meet consumer demand. When that demand changes, suppliers move with it or go out of business. Propping up companies like this only weakens our economy.

The recipients of this money are the factory farmers who deny animals the right to breathe fresh air, see sunlight, tend to their young and confine them so rightly they cannot even stretch their limbs for their whole lives. I strongly object to my money being used like this.  If you agree, http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?contentid=2016/08/0181.xml&navid=NEWS_RELEASE&navtype=RT&parentnav=LATEST_RELEASES&edeployment_action=retrievecontent  

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Endangered Species Act

I met with my Congressman, Jim Himes, today to talk about the dangerous riders being added to this bill that has protected 99% of species from becoming extinct. Such riders include allowing sportsmen (now that’s a euphemism) to shoot swimming caribou from motorboats and grizzly bears from planes. It isn’t for subsistence. It’s for trophy hunting. Taking an innocent, defenseless animal’s life for fun.  Females are often shot and their babies are then left to die. Yeah, that’s a sport. Disgusting.

Luckly, Congressman Himes is a compassionate man. We are lucky to have him in office. I was honored to talk with him about this and encouraged that he is easy and open to talk with.

90% of the U.S. population is in favor of the Endangered Species Act. What they don’t know is that over the past five years there has been a 600% increase in legislative attacks on it because trophy hunters and their ilk who don’t respect life. Animal advocates need to speak up against these hunters so that our opinion is heard loudly. Contacting your politicians is easy to do. As a voter, your opinion matters.

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