Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are We Seeing a Pattern? Yet Another Factory Farm Fire in Manitoba...

Two hundred pigs died in the latest factory farm fire in Manitoba. The fire happened yesterday. Firefighters were called out to a farm that housed 1600 pigs. Two hundred sows died in the inferno. Just the other day, I blogged about the infamous "horror farm" in Manitoba, where hundreds of pigs starved to death after being neglected for a prolonged period. Shortly after the appalling discovery of countless pigs who had starved to death, the "horror farm" burned to the ground. Then came yesterday's fire, which caused $300,000 in damages. The farm is "salvageable," according to observers. (Source)

Readers of this blog might also recall my Blog Entry of May 29 about my column in The Waterloo Region Record on the rash of factory farm fires across Canada. At the time I wrote that column, the end of May, 78,466 animals had perished in factory farm fires just since January 1, 2010. That figure has already skyrocketed, especially with the 32,000 broiler hens who perished in a factory farm fire in Abbotsford, British Columbia. Why haven't these factory farm fires caused more outrage? These animals are dying the most violent deaths imaginable. This ghastly state of affairs has to change, or else Canada will develop a reputation as a country that treats its animals horribly.

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Laugh! :D

This is a hilarious scene of Sacha Baron Cohen's outrageous character Ali G. Check it out! Ali G interviews animal rights activists and a woman with a hedgehog. It is so damn funny, like everything else Sacha Baron Cohen does. He asks all kinds of stupid questions, and I know that some sensitive souls might not like his "mouse in the microwave" comments, but the key to remaining committed for the long term to a set of ideals such as veganism or animal rights is to have a good sense of humor.

Incidentally, all of the Ali G episodes - which also includes the alter egos Borat and Bruno - are every bit as funny as this clip. Whenever I'm feeling depressed, I put Ali G in the DVD player and guess what? It cheers me right up...

Winning the Struggle... One Convert at a Time

This is a wonderfully reflective video by actor John Schneider. John was the star of The Dukes of Hazzard in the late 1970s and he still acts in movies regularly and has appeared in several episodes of the new 90210. Like me before I discovered the truth and became a vegan, Schneider thought vegans and animal rights activists were on the extreme fringe. Now he's rethinking that position. Like so many new converts to the cause, Schneider's eyes were opened by the powerful, tragic and thought-provoking documentary Earthlings. This film has converted countless individuals to animal rights and veganism. It didn't convert me - I was won over by the time I watched it. As you probably know by now, the film that moved me to this point was the HBO documentary Death on a Factory Farm. But we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the makers of Earthlings for bringing so many folks over to our side.

I am including this video of John Schneider's reflections because it is deeply touching and it gives me hope.

If he can be won over - hell, if I can be won over - our movement has hope. We're growing. We're on the move. We're winning struggle after struggle. And history is on our side. There are so many reasons to be hopeful - not fake, "whistling in the dark/don't worry be happy" hope, but genuinely hopeful.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Please Take 1 Minute Out of Your Day to Help These Abused Pigs

All it takes is one minute. One minute to help animals who need your help. Please visit this URL:

I beg you to take a moment to sign this petition and let the authorities in Manitoba know that the horrifying abuse of thousands of pigs at a farm in Notre Dame de Lourdes, which resulted in the unspeakably awful deaths of well over 600, will not be tolerated. (See my Blog entry here on the subject.)

The very barn that became a ghastly pig torture chamber burned last Wednesday in a fire, not long after authorities raided it and found hundreds of dead pigs and countless others suffering. Luckily, the authorities saved 2000 of the beautiful creatures.

Our animal friends need our help right now. These are extraordinary creatures who all - each and every one - deserve to live much better lives than the awful existences they have lived up until this point.

Time to punish the offenders. And punish them hard.

Even though this case is an extreme form of animal abuse, we should not lose sight of the violence inherent in the factory farm system. Combating awful cases of abuse such as this one should be our Number One priority. The poor pigs who suffered so terribly deserve justice.

Surely, this is a cause around which omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and anyone else with a healthy respect for the sanctity of life can rally.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Vegan Pizza: A Slice of Heaven!

This weekend, I ate pizza for the first time since last year.

It was vegan pizza. I bought it at a wonderful joint called Valentino's in Kitchener. I topped mine with artichoke hearts, two kinds of onions, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes.

Oh my God. Where's Michael Landon when you need him? This truly was a Highway to Heaven episode...

If you're a vegan and you haven't had a vegan pizza yet, please, please do yourself a favor: Go out and try one right away.

Friends, I was going through some major pizza withdrawals. I know that not all vegan food rivals omnivore food on the Delicious Scale. For instance, I recently watched a crazy clip of Bruce Friedrich from People for the Ethical Treatment going on Fox News right before Thanksgiving 2009 and touting Tofurky, the legendary tofu-based imitation turkey. A right-wing radio talk show guy Mike Gallagher, fresh from devouring a fast food burger, verbally jousted with Friedrich over tofurky. I admired Friedrich for fighting the good fight. But, dude, I wasn't buying his sales pitch for tofurky.

I used to love turkey so much that I'm not even going to bother with tofurky. I have it on good authority (from my companion) that tofurky is a little iffy. Come on, Bruce! I know you mean well, man! But don't ask me to believe that tofurky is every bit as good as turkey. If you believe that B.S., I've got some land in Okefenokee Swamp I wanna sell you. Some omnivore foods simply aren't meant to be imitated by plant-based wannabes.

But this vegan pizza... I mean to tell you: It was out of this world.

Maybe it tasted so good because I was going through serious pizza withdrawals. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Valentino's just makes damn good pizzas. Or maybe I shoulda given vegan pizza a try long ago. Like vegan hot dogs, vegan pizza is truly as good as the real thing.

Incidentally, my companion loved it, too. I am still - to quote Katrina and the Waves - Walkin' on Sunshine. That vegan pizza kicks ass. Try it, if you haven't. If you don't have a vegan pizza joint in town, go buy the fixin's from the store and cook one up tomorrow.

It is quite amazing, the power of the almighty vegan pizza...

People Making a Difference: Kudos to our British Brothers & Sisters!

Our brothers and sisters are fighting the good fight in England. They're well organized, passionate about their cause and their efforts are bearing wonderful fruit. They are an inspiration to other animal rights activists around the world. They are waging a battle against the factory farm system. And it appears they are winning great victories. We should take note of their efforts. These men and women are truly making a difference for the better.

The New Zealand Herald notes the latest developments:

Plans for three large-scale units in England have encountered fierce resistance from campaigners who say they would cause extra noise, smell and disruption and cause more stress and disease for animals.

Animal welfare organisations fear the proposals are signs that a new intensive system of agriculture could soon replace the UK's patchwork of small livestock farms.

In the past three months, plans have been brought forward for an 8,000-cow dairy farm at Nocton in Lincolnshire and a 3,000-cow unit at South Witham, also Lincolnshire. Both have been withdrawn following fierce opposition.

There is also growing opposition to a 2,500-pig sow farm located at Foston in Derbyshire. The Foston pig farm, according to the animal welfare group Viva, will be the largest intensive factory farming pig farm in the UK. Like all huge factory farm operations, the Foston farm will place pigs in dark, disorienting and cramped places, where they have barely enough room for their piglets.

But the struggle against factory farms in the UK has been a resounding success. And animal rights activists are keeping their marching shoes on to protest the future creation of such gargantuan enterprises. Groups like Viva, Compassion in World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) are at the forefront of the struggle. Most of these activists do not want to eliminate farming. As Suzi Morris, the director of WSPA, put it:

It's all being driven by economies of scale. We have been importing a lot of milk and the UK dairy industry has been undermined and conventional dairy farmers have been going out of business. We believe that animals should be farmed for food but we don't agree there can be any justification, economic or otherwise, for the commoditisation of animals and their housing in such large units. (Source)

In an ideal world, everybody would go vegan. But it's not an ideal world. And farming is a key part of most economies. I am elated to see so many of these huge factory farm enterprises stopped dead in their tracks before even having a chance to take off. The UK activists are offering a model to the rest of the world on how to resist these giant farming enterprises.

Part of their success has been using populist arguments to their advantage - siding with the small farmer over the impersonal giant factory farm. It's working in the UK. Here in North America, where we have many factory farms and they are fairly well entrenched, that argument is a harder sell. But it is important, nonetheless, that we learn lessons from the struggle in the UK and take heart. Our side is making gains. Each day, animal rights activists have something good to show for their efforts. We're gaining traction. Our ends are noble. Our fight won't end until the life of every animal is respected.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Horror in Manitoba

In Manitoba, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is investigating a horrifying case of "severe neglect" at a farm (pictured above) in Notre Dame de Lourdes (southwest of Winnipeg).

The scene was straight out of a horror film. The owner of the farm, Martin Grenier, left 2,700 pigs in a barn without feed, water or proper ventilation.

Five hundred pigs died. Authorities were forced to euthanize another 160. The remaining 2,000 were placed in the custody of the chief veterinarian.

Grenier had plenty of food and water to provide for the pigs. Apparently, he simply couldn't be bothered to take proper care of his animals.

Even by factory farm standards, this is ghastly treatment. What is to be done to Grenier? Historically, these sorts of horrific cases of animal abuse have gone unpunished. At the most, the abusers get a slap on the wrist. Rarely are they banned from owning animals in the future. Most of the time, the Martin Greniers of the world get away with it.

Twyla Francois, the wonderful head of Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals, spoke out forcefully against the horrible treatment of these pigs. And farmers in the area are troubled by the terrible discovery on the Grenier farm. As a farmer who lives nearby put it, "We are all wondering how this could be? We don't even know how a person could ever think of doing that." (Source: See the Video of the Story here.)

The real test comes when authorities decide how to punish Grenier. Is he going to get away with it, as so many animal abusers have in the past? Or, for once in the long and sorry history of human mistreatment of animals, is the perpetrator going to receive an appropriate punishment?

We shall see.

(Thanks to Twyla Francois for bringing this to my attention.)

Words of Wisdom

I love this wonderful sentiment found on a pin popular among Animal Rights activists.

"Nothing tastes as good as life feels." How true it is! What a profound statement, when you think about it.

Life is mysterious, beautiful, sacred and - above all - fleeting. For animals and for humans. We must learn to treat all life with awe and respect.

The alternative is unthinkable.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Two Tragedies Involving the Treatment of Chickens and Eggs

Chickens are beautiful animals. They're smart. They know math (more math than a fair number of human beings). They bond with their parents, brothers and sisters, and offspring. And each one is special and has a unique way of doing things.

Chickens also experience the worst treatment of any factory farm animals.

Above, I have posted a video by Mercy For Animals (MFA) showing the treatment of chickens at Ohio Fresh Eggs in Croton, Ohio. It is gory. It is heartbreaking. It shows chickens experiencing the worst treatment imaginable. And it is Standard Operating Procedure in chicken farms across the country.

It is sad to see these beautiful animals being violently de-beaked. It is sadder to see them bleeding and hurt and developing terrible sores from their ghastly treatment. But the saddest thing of all is the look of resignation on their faces. They are the living dead. They've given up on life. They are so used to being packed in together like so many ruthlessly exploited commodities.

My friends, it is so, so painful to watch.

If you don't believe this is how chickens are treated in farm after farm after farm across North America, do yourself a favor: Watch MFA's video investigation of the Weaver Brothers Egg Farm in Ohio. Or watch this video by East Bay Animal Advocates of a California Egg Farm. Watch this video by Compassion Over Killing shot at multiple egg farms. Watch this Associated Press video on the horrible treatment of baby chicks.

I could go on and on and on. You get the picture.

By the way, last month I wrote a column for The Waterloo Region Record about factory farm fires that generated angry letters to the editor and a counterpoint column. Interestingly, not a single one of these people who didn't like me pointing out how ghastly and immoral it is that tens of thousands of animals die horrific deaths in factory fires each year in Canada offered a direct challenge to my assertions.

When confronted with the truth, foes of animal rights seldom challenge the truth. More typically, they lash out at the messenger or try to portray animal rights advocates as nut cases or enemies of farmers. It's a load of garbage. And it's a fallacy. We're not the enemies of farmers. We are opposed to anyone who abuses and mistreats animals. And we are determined to use our voices to help the voiceless, no matter what the cost.

Yesterday, a fire at a factory farm in Abbotsford, British Columbia killed 32,000 broiler chickens. Add that to the almost 80,000 animals who have already perished in farm fires in Canada since January 2010 and now you are looking at MORE THAN 100,000 ANIMALS WHO HAVE DIED IN FARM FIRES IN 2010 ALONE (and we're only in June, people). See the article on the Abbotsford fire here, complete with a video.

There will always be men and women who will do their damnedest to justify this sorry state of affairs. They are the heirs of the same inhumane worldview of the men and women who defended slavery in the 19th Century. History has left slavery's defender's in the dust. In time, History will do the same to those who seek to justify the terrible treatment of factory farm animals.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Column Celebrating the Men and Women Helping Animals in the Gulf Oil Spill

If you get a chance, please have a look at my column on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. It ran in the Waterloo Region Record and the Guelph Mercury. I'm including the link here to the Guelph Mercury because they posted it on their Website. My column celebrates the brave men and women from around the world who are volunteering to go down to the Gulf Coast to help the animals. Even though there are reasons to be profoundly discouraged, it is also heartening to see caring people out there doing everything they can to help in times of crisis. Check out the column - I think you'll like it.

Incidentally, in Salt Lake City, Utah, there was a fairly sizable oil spill the other day. A Chevron pipeline ruptured, spewing oil into one of the most beautiful creeks in the city, Red Butte Creek. The creek flows to Liberty Park (where there's a beloved pond) and the Jordan River. Both places are popular living spaces for animals. Now those poor oil-covered animals are turning up dead. As one local told the Salt Lake Tribune: "There's so much wildlife here. But that's not going to return in my lifetime. This is a terrible situation."

Once again, good people are taking action, rolling up their sleeves to help. But like those Good Samaritans helping with the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, these wonderful citizens seldom have anything to do with the big oil companies that caused these horrible disasters.

(NOTE: I've posted a video from KSL Television here that shows the awful impact of the oil spill in Salt Lake City...)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Global Vegan Diet Will Help Save the World - So says the United Nations

A recent report from the United Nation's International Panel of Sustainable Resource Management is calling for a global change to a vegan diet. Such a shift, if done on a worldwide scale, the report claims, will greatly reduce the disastrous impacts of climate change, world hunger and fuel shortages.

The report estimates that meat and dairy production account for 70 percent of the earth's freshwater consumption, 38 percent of land use and 19 percent of global greenhouse emissions. "A substantial reduction of impacts," says the report, "would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."

In a world rapidly moving toward a population of 9.1 billion (by 2050), a global vegan diet is one of the major changes that will help make such growth sustainable.

It will also improve life greatly for animals. Imagine what a Kafkaesque nightmare it will be for factory farm animals if the world's population reaches 9.1 billion but the world's inhabitants refuse to change their omnivore diets.

This U.N. report provides a glimmer of hope. Historically, the U.N. has made plenty of mistakes. It does not get everything right.

But on the issue of veganism, this report by the U.N. comes at the perfect time. Veganism is moving from the fringe to the mainstream. And we need all the help we can get to make veganism seem less extreme and more acceptable. This U.N. report can only help a great deal in that regard. (Source.)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finally... An Uplifting Video!

I know, I know. I post so many depressing videos on this Blog. It's time to shake it up a little and put something fun on here. I absolutely adore this video of a piglet named Bella and her joyous antics. She was rescued from a factory farm in Australia and raised in a loving home. She is fun-loving and full of life, and she's living the way all pigs are meant to live. It's an uplifting video, and it's set to Davy Jones singing "Girl" - which he sang on one of my favorite Brady Bunch episodes. Please watch it, if you get a chance. It will cheer you up... I promise. :)

And while you're at it, please visit to see the wonderful work our Australian brothers and sisters are doing in trying to save the pigs.

(Thanks to my friend Danny "Peacefulvegan" Nichols for sharing this joyous video with me!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

People Making a Difference: Fighting for Animal Rights - One Victory at a Time...

Great news from the wonderful saints at Mercy For Animals (MFA)! MFA has been fighting battles on numerous fronts to end animal cruelty. One of its most significant struggles has been to stop the cruelty at Quality Egg of New England. MFA conducted extensive undercover investigations of Quality Egg's plant in Maine. The footage shot by MFA investigators is deeply disturbing. I've posted it here. Have a look if you can stomach it. And please, please, please keep in mind that what you see here is Standard Operating Procedure in the egg industry.

I'm pleased to report, Blog Pals, that it seems MFA's efforts are paying off.

As MFA's founder Nathan Runkle writes:
On Monday, June 7, 2010, as part of a landmark civil settlement announced in Lewiston, Maine District Court, Quality Egg of New England (QENE), the largest egg producer in New England, pleaded guilty to 10 civil counts of cruelty to animals, and agreed to pay over $130,000 in fines and restitutions, as well as hand over authority to the state of Maine to conduct announced inspections of the factory farm for the next five years. (Source)
What a great victory! MFA has done so much tremendous work - and it's all so, so important. Please visit their Website to see some of the other wonderful things they're doing to help end animal cruelty. This is another perfect example of great people who are making a difference.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

From the "Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself" Department: Please Read Christina Pirello's Wonderful Column at The Huffington Post

It is crucial for vegans to go mainstream. Time to bust out of our little fringe bunkers. Time to abandon the militant rhetoric and angry self-righteousness. Time to reach out to our omnivore friends and family members with compassion and kindness. Being judgmental? Doesn't work. Adopting abrasive rhetoric? Doesn't work. Getting in people's faces? Doesn't work.

What does work? Reaching out, showing people that living vegan is liberating and enjoyable, and - most importantly (are you ready for this?) - listening. An effective vegan has to be a good listener. Listen to omnivores. Listen to other ideas, especially the ideas that you dislike. Take it all in. Process it. Think it over. Reevaluate your ideas. And guess what will happen? You'll come back even stronger in your commitment.

One of the most eloquent and thoughtful arguments for why we need to go mainstream comes from Christina Pirello, a best-selling, well-known vegan chef based in Philadelphia. Christina wrote an extraordinary column on The Huffington Post. It should be mandatory reading for all vegans. The headline? "Let's Break the Vegan Stigma."

A highlight:
The philosophy of catching more bees with honey (vegan pun intended) would draw people to learn more about these lifestyles. If we are peaceful, attractive, inviting and open to all we meet, do we not stand a much better chance of them hearing what we have to say and thereby affecting greater change? Seriously, who wants to be scolded? And who wants to scold? It's exhausting to be so self-righteous -- for the scolder and those who must endure it.
Amen! This is the best argument for getting rid of the Us-Versus-Them Mentality of Some Elements of the Vegan Movement that I have ever read. I definitely couldn't have said it better myself.

Please read it.

Why We Need to Watch Troubling Animal Abuse Videos - Over and Over and Over

I regret to say that it is becoming pretty routine for me to post videos of the shocking treatment of animals on this Blog. This video is not only not an exception, it is deeply disturbing - as bad, if not worse, than the video footage of the abuse at Conklin Dairy Farms.

This video footage is of the horrific treatment of chicks at a hatchery in Santa Cruz, California. The footage was filmed by the group Compassion Over Killing (COK). COK sent an undercover person into the Cal-Cruz Hatcheries plant to film the ghastly treatment of chicks, which is standard operating procedure in the poultry industry.

COK's website outlined some of the abuses their investigator uncovered, including:

  • A chick drowning in a bucket of liquid waste
  • Birds entangled in machinery, their dead bodies mangled, decapitated, or missing limbs
  • Sick or severely injured birds left to suffer for hours
  • Unwanted hatchlings dumped down the egg shell disposal chute, then sprayed with a high-pressure hose
  • Birds thrown five to six feet across the room into buckets where they often languished for hours

Why post these videos? Why post them day after day, week after week, month after month? I certainly don't need to see them. I've already been converted. I'm firmly in the vegan camp and I have no plans to leave it. Ever.

So why do I watch these videos over and over again?

Because it is not good enough - it is never good enough - to have a general sense of "what is happening." I could say to myself, "Hey, I already know what's going on. I don't need to watch this video to know."

But make no mistake, my friends: As long as animals are being abused, as long they're being scalded and trampled, skinned and gutted, tossed in grinders and hung up by the neck, kicked and beaten, and made to live in dark, cold, cramped conditions without ever seeing the outside world where they were meant to live, IT IS OUR BUSINESS. And we owe it to them to watch every minute of their suffering that we can.

Denial is our worst enemy. The more heavily armed we are as advocates for the animals, the more effective we'll be at tearing down the wall of denial.

Congratulations to Compassion Over Killing for making a difference. At first, the news coming out of Santa Cruz was discouraging. The stark and violent video footage of chicks drowning, quivering on factory floors, getting ground up by machinery, being smashed alive, and just about every other horrible way of dying you can imagine, failed to sway the proper authorities. In late April, the District Attorney's office in Santa Cruz decided not to take action against Cal-Cruz Hatcheries for violating the state's animal animal protection laws.

But somebody else took action, someone with the courage to stand up against this horrendous violence. The Santa Cruz County Animal Services Authority impounded 88 sick and weak ducklings from the production facility and brought them into protective custody. Many were too sick and frail and ended up dying. But more than two dozen of these beautiful creatures, pictured here, were given another chance at life.

Life is sacred and profound. But the food production industry has made a mockery of the sanctity of life by treating animals as mere commodities.

If everybody went vegan, Cal-Cruz Hatcheries would shut down tomorrow and this madness would stop. The best way to curtail supply is to end demand. Switching to a cruelty-free diet is a first step in the right direction. What happened at Cal-Cruz Hatcheries is not an isolated example. It is Standard Operating Procedure in the poultry industry.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

From the "Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder" File: Remembering a Pooch Named Ellie

She was judged "The World's Ugliest Dog" in Animal Planet's 2009 "World Ugliest Dog Pageant." (Did you know such a thing existed???)

Her name is Ellie. She's pictured above. And she passed away the other day at age 17. (Source)

I don't know about you, but I see nothing ugly about this Chinese Crested Hairless, who hails from the small town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. In fact, I think she was downright cute! With her bulging eyes, wild wisps and big pink tongue constantly sticking out the corner of her mouth, Ellie was a favorite at dog shows across the country. She also made lots of appearances at Humane Society fundraisers.

Farewell, Ellie. We will miss you! But Ellie's name lives on. I think it's simply wonderful that the mayor of Pigeon Forge has honored Ellie's fundraising abilities (Ellie's appearances have raised more than $100,000 for her hometown over the years) by designating November 12 as Miss Ellie Day. How cool is that??

Another major loss was the death of actress Rue McClanahan (Blanche from TV's Golden Girls) at age 76. Rue was a vegetarian most of her life, a gentle soul who loved all animals, and one of the earliest card-carrying members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). She was also a supporter of Farm Sanctuary (so was Golden Girls co-star Bea Arthur; and of course, one of the other Golden Girls, Betty White, is a legendary animal advocate). McClanahan used her Hollywood clout to stick up for the animals.

Rue will be sorely missed.

Not only was she a talented actress, but she was also a person who made a huge difference.

One of the Best Articles I've Ever Read - "Zero Pain Tolerance"

Please, please, please take a few minutes - it really won't last more than a few minutes - out of your busy day to read Keegan K.'s amazing Blog Entry titled "Zero Pain Tolerance." This is exactly the kind of Blog Entry - and the kind of philosophy - I have been trying to articulate ever since I started this Blog. But, alas, I cannot state it as beautifully as he does. Please have a look. He covers a lot of ground in this entry. The insights are profound and flawlessly stated. The conclusion is one I embrace wholeheartedly. There are so many things we have in common with non-human animals, but two of the most significant are captured in this Blog Entry: 1) the mysterious power of mortality - each of us experiences only a short drop from the womb to the tomb; 2) and the experience of pain and suffering. Have a look. Go on. Take in the author's words. Think carefully about what he writes. Wrestle with the implications. The ability of the human mind to absorb new ideas and grapple with them is, after all, one of the most extraordinary qualities of our species.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Tearing Down the Wall of Denial, One Brick at a Time...

Jeez, I hate writing about sad things so often. You probably don't believe this, but I do have a sense of humour. I do laugh at things. I don't just focus on downer issues.

But part of the purpose of this Blog is to tear down, brick by brick, the Wall of Denial that so many people build up around themselves when it comes to the suffering of animals (unfortunately, this Wall of Denial often obscures the suffering of human beings as well).

One of the worst examples of this denial are those people who do not spay and neuter their pets. Granted, there's no way around the fact that there will always be a certain number of feral cats out there whose population is, at best, difficult to control.

But there are also a lot of people who don't spay and neuter. And the Wall of Denial protects them from seeing the results. Some people understand what's at stake and they're doing a great job of spaying and neutering their pets. But we need to change the "throw-away" ethos that pervades our society. We throw away everything. Old magazines. Old computers. Old TVs. Unfortunately, people and animals also get discarded. Time to tear down that Wall of Denial and show what happens - what really happens - when a life, human or animal, is tossed out, like yesterday's trash.

Well, here's a hole I'm punching into that wall. Animal shelters, as I've said on this Blog before, are constantly euthanizing cats and dogs who can't find homes.

I've discussed the Toronto Humane Society at length in the past, so I'll pick a different one. How about one in the States? Yesterday, the Raleigh County Animal Shelter in Beckley, West Virginia, received 35 cats in one day. As the local newspaper, The Register Herald, reported, "Almost all of them - and about 10 more - were euthanized that day. Shelter officials say extremely rampant overbreeding has the cat section at capacity and there is not enough room for the scores of cats coming in every day."

I know I'm sounding repetitive, but the men and women who euthanize these cats are the unsung heroes and heroines of society. They do it because they love the animals. And they only do it when the shelters are out of room and the animals can't find homes.

Jim Kearney, the adoption counselor at the Raleigh County Animal Shelter, mentioned the toll that euthanasia takes on the men and women who have to carry it out:
It’s overwhelming. Some of these are beautiful animals. It’s very sad. It’s very hard. All we end up doing all day long is taking cats back to be euthanized. There’s no alternative. We tell everyone that, if they leave a cat here, it will probably be euthanized today. There is no room for it.
How many pet owners who refuse to spay and neuter ever see the results of their irresponsibility? How many of them understand what happens on a daily basis inside of these shelters? How many know the pain, the suffering, these cats endure in their final moments? Why is the public so afraid to see the bodies of the cats piling up to be sent off and cremated? Because it's distasteful? It's the truth. And more people need to confront the truth rather than denying its very existence.

If more people could see - and feel - the tragedy of abandoned pets, then a lot of lives would probably be saved.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Another Beautiful Photograph...

... of cows the way they were meant to live.

"Very little of the great cruelty shown by men can really be attributed to cruel instinct. Most of it comes from thoughtlessness or inherited habit. The roots of cruelty, therefore, are not so much strong as widespread. But the time must come when inhumanity protected by custom and thoughtlessness will succumb before humanity championed by thought. Let us work that this time may come."

- Albert Schweitzer

A Few Updates on Recent Events

With so much going on in the world today, it is hard to keep up with all of the major developments. Believe it or not, I obsess about human beings as much as I do animals. And sometimes, I wish this Blog also contained posts about humans (well, I should say, posts about humans who aren't a) harming animals; or b) helping animals) and the trials and tribulations they face. At some point, I may convert this Blog to an Animal Rights & Human Rights Blog. But I also don't want to dilute the animal rights and vegan message.

Dilemmas, dilemmas, dilemmas! What to do?

For the time being, I'll keep the focus on animal rights and veganism. But you, my friends out there in the Blogosphere, should know that I care every bit as much about the fate of humanity as I do the fate of animals.

That said, there are two important developments in the North American animal world that I've been following closely. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has actually made me lose lots and lots of sleep. I have congratulated the media - over and over again - for providing such fantastic coverage of this tragedy. Most media outlets - Internet-based, television-based and print-based - have been doing a spectacular job of covering this massive tragedy. Journalists deserve our thanks and respect.

I've read many powerful articles on the oil spill. In particular, a photo essay in the recent Huffington Post this morning moved me very deeply. Have a look if you get a chance.

Another major event going on right now is the controversy surrounding allegations (and film) of abuse at the Conklin Dairy Farm in Union County, Ohio. The video footage of cows and calves being beaten, kicked, stabbed and punched by workers has triggered a nationwide outcry against animal abuse.

Apparently, the owner of this outfit, Gary Conklin, is afraid because of the public backlash this event has caused. And within the protest community, moderate animal welfare proponents have been butting heads with militant activists. The debates on Facebook have been fierce, pitting people who want to tinker with the system to improve it (e.g., passing stronger anti-abuse laws) against people who want to tear the system down completely. Leading the charge among the militants has been Gary Yourofsky, a veteran animal liberationist who recently wrote on his Blog:

I am asking everyone who cares about justice and injustice to bring bolt cutters, bats, crowbars, pitchforks, hammers and wrenches to help destroy every piece of equipment the farm has, and tear down the sheds. (Source)
The police are taking threats from the radicals seriously. Over the past few days, 150 police have been guarding the area around the farm and the roads leading up to it. (Source)

Already, Conklin employee Billy Joe Gregg Jr. - the Lieutenant William Calley of this whole mess - has been in court to face 12 counts of animal cruelty. Conklin himself has sought to distance himself from the cruelty. As he said in a statement:
Our family takes the care of our cows and calves very seriously. The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable. (Source)
Strange, then, that Conklin himself is seeing in the video kicking a cow over and over again.

The animal welfare advocates are calling on Conklin to be shut down as a result of the terrible treatment of cows and calves.

Punishing Conklin and his employees for this gratuitous brutality is a step in the right direction. But it is naive to assume that it will solve the problem. As I've said here many times, the factory farm system is, by its very nature, inherently violent. I'd guess - though I have no way of verifying this - that most workers in the dairy industry do not abuse cows and calves in the manner shown in the video. I could be wrong. And obviously I have no hard evidence to prove that guess.

But the dairy workers who refrain from violence do so in spite of the nature of the system. Bear in mind, this is an assembly line that keeps cows in a permanent state of pregnancy, whisks babies away to be turned into veal, and murders the cows when they can no longer serve milk.

Certainly, AT THE VERY LEAST, all of these dreadful sins are on a par with beating, kicking, punching and stabbing cows and calves and snapping their tails. Some people - like me - would even argue that the sins of day-to-day Standard Operating Procedure are even worse than anything we saw in the videos shot at Conklin Dairy Farms.

So punish the abusers. But use this terrible moment as an opportunity to ask the deeper and more troubling questions about the factory farm system.

Where the hell does PETA get these ideas? And why didn't I think of this???

Have you heard the latest? This is too good to ignore!

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants to lease the infamous Amityville Horror house on Long Island (which gained fame in the 1979 film The Amityville Horror) and convert it into - get this - "a slaughterhouse of horrors."

Who the hell at PETA comes up with these ideas?

And why the hell didn't I - a longtime horror movie fan (you'd never guess that I like all those blood and guts movies from my peacenik-esque posts on this Blog) - think of it?????

A PETA letter spelled out the organization's position on this matter:
The supernatural haunting that some people believe occurred in this building is legendary, but many people don't realize that if they are eating meat, eggs, and dairy products, they are getting their food from real-life horror houses - factory farms and slaughterhouses. (Source)

As Kevin Spacey's character Jack Vincennes said in L.A. Confidential: "Subtle." The PETA letter went on to say:
In our horror house, the sound of slaughterhouse blades whirring while animals scream for their lives would play over loudspeakers. Visitors would be able to see animatronic hens struggling for space inside tiny battery cages and lifelike "fish" gasping for air as they slowly suffocate on the deck of a fishing boat.
I don't remember any of this stuff in Disneyland's Haunted House.

No word yet on whether PETA is actually going to be able to lease the house. It would be really cool if they did. On the other hand, who would pay to go in such a ghastly haunted house? As I've said countless times in this Blog, the biggest enemy of animal advocates is denial. And I'm sure there won't be long lines of hardcore omnivores standing in line to see PETA's "slaughterhouse of horrors."

But you never know. The house became famous in 1974 after one of its inhabitants, Ronald De Feo, snapped and murdered his mother, father, two brothers and two sisters. Since then, allegations of paranormal activities inside the house (as well as allegations of over-imaginative attention seekers living inside the house) have dogged the place.

So fans of the paranormal who also happen to be omnivores might end up checking out the PETA house of horrors just to walk through the legendary Amityville House.

The Amityville Horror House (right) is now up for sale for $1.5 million. (Source) I guess we'll have to wait and see if PETA's creative attempt to scare the bejesus out of omnivores comes to pass.

Dude, whatever happens, I'm staying tuned!