Archive for the Animal Welfare Category

The Dirty Six

Posted in Animal Welfare, Industrialized Farming on August 21, 2009 by Powered By Produce

In just one hour in the US, more than 1 million animals are killed for food. Before their slaughter, they endure a life of abuse. Considering that nearly 10 billion animals each year are treated as production units rather than social, intelligent animals, this is the gravest animal welfare problem in the country.

The Humane Society of the United States has identified the six worst animal practices in agribusiness:

1. Battery Cages
In the US, 95% of egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages: small wire enclosures stacked several tiers high, extending down long rows, inside windowless warehouses. These cages offer less space per hen than the area of a single piece of paper. The birds are so cramped that they are unable to spread their wings. While many countries are banning these abusive battery cages, the US still overcrowds 300 million hens in these cruel enclosures.

2. Fast Growth of Birds
More than 9 out of 10 land animals killed for human consumption in the US are chickens. About 9 billion are slaughtered each year. The chicken industry’s use of growth-promoting antibiotics has produced birds whose bodies struggle to function and are on the verge of structural collapse. (To put their growth rate into perspective, the University of Arkansas reports that if humans grew as fast as today’s chickens, we’d weigh 349 pounds by our second birthday.) Ninety percent of chickens have detectable leg problems and structural deformities. More than 25% suffer from chronic pain due to bone disease.

3. Forced Feeding for Foie Gras
French for “fatty liver,” the delicacy known as pate de foie gras is produced from the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose. Two to three times a day for several weeks, the birds are force-fed enormous quantities of food through a long pipe thrust down their throats to their stomachs. This deliberate overfeeding causes the birds’ livers to swell to as much as ten times their normal size. This impairs liver function, expands their abdomens, and makes movements as simple as standing or walking difficult and painful. Several European countries have banned the force-feeding of birds for foie gras.

4. Gestation Crates and Veal Crates
During their 4-month pregnancies, 60-70% of female pigs in the US are kept in gestation crates: individual metal stalls so small and narrow that the animals can’t even turn around or move more than one step forward or backward. Similarly, calves raised for veal are confined in restrictive crates, generally chained by the neck, that prohibit them from turning around. This takes an enormous mental and physical toll on the animals. Both of these practices are being phased out in the EU because of their abusive, inhumane nature, but they are still in use in the US.

5. Long-Distance Transport
Billions of animals endure the rigors of transport around the country. Overcrowded onto trucks that do not provide any protection from very hot and very cold weather, animals travel days without food, water, or rest. The conditions are so stressful that in-transit death is considered common.

6. Electric Stunning of Birds
At the slaughter plant, birds are moved off trucks, dumped from transport crates onto conveyors, and hung upside down by their legs in shackles. Their heads pass though electrified baths of water, intended to immobilize them before their throats are slit. From beginning to end, the entire process is filled with pain & suffering. Federal regulations do not require that birds be rendered insensible before they are slaughtered. The shackling of their legs causes pain, increased in those already suffering from leg disorders (see #2) or broken bones. Electric stunning has been found to be ineffective in consistently inducing unconsciousness.

You Can Help
Don’t support the cruelties endured by these animals.
-Refine your diet by eliminating the most abusive animal products.
-Reduce your consumption of animal products
-Replace animal products in your diet with vegetarian options
-Only consume animal products that are locally and humanely raised (try your local farmers’ market)
Breakfast: English muffin with jelly
Lunch: Veggie sub from Quizno’s
Dinner: Cheeseless pizza loaded with spinach, mushrooms, onion, bell peppers, olives, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and garlic


Meet Your Meat: Pigs

Posted in Animal Welfare, Meet Your Meat on August 10, 2009 by Powered By Produce

Back to the basics this week: Meet your meat.

Pigs are often compared to dogs because they are affectionate, loyal, and intelligent. Most people are not familiar with pigs because 97% of pigs in the United States today are on factory farms. People would be surprised to learn that pigs dream, recognize names, play video games better than some primates, and lead social lives of the same complexity as primates. In fact, according to Dr. Donald Broom, Cambridge University professor and former scientific advisor to the Council of Europe, “[Pigs] have the cognative ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than] three-year-olds.” Learn more about the intelligence of pigs.

Pigs on today’s farms are denied all of their instincts. Mother pigs (sows) spend the majority of their lives in individual “gestation crates” which are two feet wide, too small for them to even turn around. According to a March 2004 article in the Des Moines Register, “A pregnant sow’s biological need to build a nest before having her litter is so great that some sows confined in modern hog buildings will rub their snouts raw on the concrete floor while trying to satisfy the drive.”

This deprived environment causes neurotic coping behaviors such as continual bar biting, obsessive pressing on water bottles, and sham chewing (chewing nothing). One slaughterhouse investigator wrote, “what will remain with me forever is the sound of desperate pigs banging their heads against immovable doors and their constant and repeated biting at the prison bars that held them captive. This, I now know, is a sign of mental collapse.”

Piglets are taken from their mothers as young as 10 day old and are packed into overcrowed pens until they are sent off for breeding or fattening. Because they are not properly weaned from their mothers, they bite each other’s tails, searching for milk. To prevent this problem, piglets’ tails are cut off and the ends of their teeth are broken off, both without the use of pain killers.

Just like all other animals in CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), sick pigs are left untreated and either die from illness or are killed by “thumping” (slamming animal’s head against the floor until they die), drowning, or standing on their neck. According to a November 2002 article in the New York Times, “Sick pigs, being unproductive ‘production units’ are clubbed to death on the spot.” Approximately 100 million pigs are killed in the US each year. A Washington Post article reported that, “[hogs] are dunked in taks of hot water after they are stunned to soften the hides for skinning. As a result, a botched slaughter condemns some hogs to being scalded and drowned. Secret videotape from an Iowa pork plant shows hogs squealing and kicking as they are being lowered into the water.”

According to one slaughter plant worker, “After they left me, the hogs would go up a hundred-foot ramp to a tank where they’re dunked in 140° water…Water any hotter than that would take the meat right off their bones…There’s no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they’re still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time.”

Breakfast: Cereal with soy milk
Lunch: Falafel pita sandwich
Dinner: Went to a BBQ – veggie burger, pasta salad, cornbread, beans


Posted in Animal Welfare on July 2, 2009 by Powered By Produce

There is an unusual amount of cultural confusion around animals. Half of the dogs in America receive Christmas presents, yet few of us ever pause to consider the life of the pig (easily as intelligent as a dog) that becomes our Christmas ham. At the same time that many of us seem eager to expand the circle of our moral consideration to other species (saving wildlife, for example), in our factory farms we’re inflicting more suffering on more animals than at any other time in history.

It is impossible to deny that we owe animals that can feel pain moral consideration, but we have such a strong interest in convincing ourselves that our concern for animals does not require us to stop eating them.

According to the USDA, just under 10 BILLION animals, excluding aquatics, were killed in the US in 2003 through factory farming. The USDA does not track aquatic animals, but estimates that the number of slaughtered sea animals exceeds the number of slaughtered land animals.

Of the 10 billion killed animals, 868 million (8.7%) died due to disease, malnutrition, injury, suffocation, stress, culling (deliberately removing animals because of “undesirable” characteristics), or other factory farming ailments, before reaching slaughter. Egg-laying hens experience the highest rate of non-slaughter deaths, at a staggering 64%, due to the practice of deliberately suffocating all males at birth (because the males don’t lay eggs).

These are mind-boggling numbers, yet so few people make a conscious connection between the meat on their plate and the slaughterhouses. At your next meal, consider the suffering endured by the animal you are about to eat. And consider that you have a choice.

“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” -Paul McCartney

“I’m no shrinking violet. I played hockey until half of my teeth were knocked down my throat. And I’m extremely competitive on the tennis court… But that experience at the slaughterhouse overwhelmed me. When I walked out of there, I knew all the physiological, economic, and ecological arguments supporting vegetarianism, but it was the firsthand experience of man’s cruelty to animals that laid the real groundwork for my commitment to vegetarianism.” -Peter Burwash, champion tennis player

A veteran USDA meat inspector from Texas describes what he has seen: “Cattle dragged and choked… knocking ’em four, five, ten times. Every now and then when they’re stunned they come back to life, and they’re up there agonizing. They’re supposed to be re-stunned but sometimes they aren’t and they’ll go through the skinning process alive. I’ve worked in four large [slaughterhouses] and a bunch of small ones. They’re all the same. If people were to see this, they’d probably feel really bad about it. But in a packing house everybody gets so used to it that it doesn’t mean anything.” –Slaughterhouse, 1997
Breakfast: Bagel with “Better Than Cream Cheese,” a non-dairy cream cheese substitute
Lunch: Pasta with pesto
Dinner: Veggie pot pie

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

Posted in Animal Welfare, Industrialized Farming on June 24, 2009 by Powered By Produce

The only son of the founder of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream empire, John Robbins was groomed to follow in his father’s footsteps, but chose to walk away from Baskin-Robbins and the immense wealth it represented to “…pursue the deeper American Dream…the dream of a society at peace with its conscience because it respects and lives in harmony with all life forms. A dream of a society that is truly healthy, practicing a wise and compassionate stewardship of a balanced ecosystem.”

John Robbins’ many bestsellers include Healthy At 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. Widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on the dietary link with the environment and health, John’s work has been the subject of cover stories and feature articles throughout the national media. His life and work have also been featured in an hour long PBS special titled Diet For A New America.

John’s awards include the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, and the Peace Abbey’s Courage of Conscience Award.

His life is dedicated to creating an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on this planet.

Meet Your Meat: Cows

Posted in Animal Welfare, Meet Your Meat on June 12, 2009 by Powered By Produce

This video pretty much sums it up – please watch it:

The one thing the video leaves out is how we’ve even turned something as simple as feeding the cows into an act of abuse and cruelty. For more on what we feed our cows and how it makes them sick, see my posts Feeding Our Food (Part 1) and Feeding Our Food (Part 2).

The unimaginable treatment of these animals is enough to make me quit meat, but on top of that, I am flat out disguted by the fact that the beef we buy comes from sick, diseased, unhealthy animals that are raised in manure up to their ankles. I mean, that’s just gross.
Breakfast: English Muffin with spray butter, which blatently violates my advice to Eat Food
Lunch: Microwavable brown rice & veggie bowl
Dinner: Pasta with zucchini, tomato, garlic, fresh parsley, pine nuts, and olive oil

Meet Your Meat: Chickens and Turkeys

Posted in Animal Welfare, Meet Your Meat on June 3, 2009 by Powered By Produce

Chickens and turkeys are by far the most abused animals on the planet. They are crammed into dark, windowless, overcrowded sheds with as many as 40,000 birds per shed. These sheds are filthy with excrement and reek of ammonia.

A writer for The New Yorker visited a chicken shed and wrote, “I was almost knocked to the ground by the overpowering smell of feces and ammonia. My eyes burned and so did my lungs, and I could neither see nor breathe…. There must have been 30,000 chickens sitting silently on the floor in front of me… living in nearly total darkness, and they would spend every minute of their lives that way.”

These conditions cause the chickens and turkeys to develop chronic respiratory diseases, bronchitis, weakened immune systems, “ammonia burn” a painful eye infection, and open, untreated, infected sores and wounds.

(Yes, turkeys and chickens like this are processed for slaughter… mmm.)

Not only is the floor of the shed covered in excrement, but it is also littered with dead bird corpses. The birds that don’t die from diseases cause by filth, or heart attacks caused by the gross weight gain, can die from starvation. Because chickens and turkeys are genetically manipulated and fed huge quantities of antibiotics to promote abnormally fast and large growth, often their legs cripple under their immense weight. The crippled animals can not stand or walk to get food or water. By the age of 6 weeks, 90% of broiler chickens are so obese they can not walk.

Chickens and turkeys are handled very violently. They are roughly grabbed by their legs, necks, wings, and slung into crates, or slammed onto the ground. They are kicked, and stomped on, then left to suffer with broken legs or wings.

Plus, birds are exempt from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, so they have no federal legal protections. At slaughter, chickens and turkeys are shackled upside down by their fragile legs. Their throats are slit while they are still fully conscious, they are then immersed into a pot of scalding water to remove the feathers. Many are still alive when they are scalded to death. Every year, 9 billion (with a ‘b’) chickens and 300 million turkeys are killed for food in the US.

If you eat chicken and turkey, you can watch this:


Breakfast: Fruit leather and string cheese.

Lunch: Veggie Delight sub from Subway.

Dinner: Stir Fry. Just toss in ANY veggies you like (squash, zucchini, broccoli, bell peppers, onion, tomoato, water chestnuts, spinach, those little corn things, even pineapple, just to name a few) and add soy sauce, or teriyaki sauce, or any type of marinade, it doesn’t even have to be Asian, just something you like!

Downed Cows

Posted in Animal Welfare, Health on May 27, 2009 by Powered By Produce

In February 2008, the USDA ordered the largest beef recall in US history – 143 million pounds of beef. The recall came 3 weeks after the Humane Society exposed the cattle abuse at a plant that supplies meat to 36 states and over 100,000 schools. Unfortunately, the recall included beef dated back to February 2006, so most had already been consumed. But, why would eating abused beef even effect our health?

Because the most common form of cattle abuse is forcing “downed” cows to stand for slaughter. It is against USDA regulations to slaughter an animal that can not stand on its own because the inability of the animal to stand indicates an unhealthy animal and downer animals have a higher likelihood of E. coli and Mad Cow Disease. But the slaughterhouses do not want to lose money on these sick animals, so they kick them, ram them with forklifts, jab them in the eyes, and shock them with electric prods, to try to force them to stand.

The exposed incident in February of 2008, unfortunately, is representative of a rampant practice in the industry. Not only is this routine cruel, but it is also dangerous to our health. As the meat industry has consolidated, larger plants process more animals than ever before. Plus, old dairy cattle (used for ground beef) are more prone to disease, and one sick cow can contaminate thousands of pounds of hamburger. A contamination in a single plant can effect consumers all across the country.

As the number of contamination outbreaks has increased, our animal health and food safety inspection system has declined. In a nutshell, there are not enough inspectors, and the inspectors are not equipped with adequate detection technology. The USDA has a lack of protection for whistleblower inspectors and slaughterhouse employees, and even has a history of disciplining whistleblowers. And, perhaps most detrimental to our health, the USDA relies on the meat processors, instead of federal inspectors, to control the sampling of meat products to detect contamination.
Breakfast: none
Lunch: Panini with mushrooms, spinach, tomato, onion, and hummus
Dinner: Veggie dogs (leftovers from Memorial Day weekend BBQs)
PS – Love this!