Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Horrific Brutality at Minnesota's Christensen Farms as Pork Producers Circle Wagons Around Extreme Abuse

Mercy for Animals has exposed yet another case of extreme brutality, this time at Christensen Farms in Hanska, Minnesota. Christensen is a pork supplier for WalmartBob (The Price is Right) Barker narrates the powerful Mercy For Animals video exposing the horrific conditions inside the Hanska facility. WARNING: THE VIDEO IS VERY GRAPHIC AND DIFFICULT TO WATCH.

Despite a recent post in which I said these types of violent videos leave me shaken and upset, I still watch them because I think it's crucial for animal rights advocates to know what we're up against.

And believe me, friends, this is as awful as it gets.

Not surprisingly, the Pork Racket is circling the wagons around this execrable horror show of savagery and abuse. David Preisler of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association (MPAA) insisted that Christensen is a humane producer, that it treats its pigs well, that it provides "quality pig care." To quote Preisler:
"Christensen Farms has a long history of commitment to high-quality animal care and the adoption of animal husbandry practices that enhance pig well-being." (Source
Reading Preisler's comments, I can't help but remember the words of the immortal Chico Marx: "Who are you going to believe? Me or your own eyes?"

If one believes the Mercy for Animals video posted above is authentic, which I do, then the Pork Bosses had better go back and consult with a dictionary about the definition of "humane," "quality" and  "standards."

How many more exposures like this one is it going to take? How many more pigs have to be live their short lives in pain and misery, only to be murdered and consumed by human beings?

Defenders of this sort of violence like to say that the abuses in the Mercy for Animals video represent a "worst-case scenario," and not all pork producers are so brutal and uncaring and violent.

The end result in all of these factories of death, whether they practice "humane" methods or not, is mass murder. We need to spread the message that pigs are not our property. They are not our meat. They are not our ham, our pork, our bacon. They are individual beings, who have as much right to live their lives as we do. Murdering them is a crime as heinous as killing a human being, whether that murder occurs in a place that embraces "humane" treatment or an outfit like Christensen, that is clearly engaging in the worst forms of abuse imaginable before stealing the life away from these poor beings.

Beware of Bogus Repented Bullfighter Photo

Last week, I posted a photo making the rounds on Facebook. It shows a bullfighter sitting down in the middle of an arena and bowing his head while a bull looks on. It purports to show bullfighter Alvaro Munera having a crisis of conscience right before a bullfight and demonstrating remorse by lowering his head, as if weeping or showing shame. A fellow animal rights activist from the UK, Jaysee Costa, submitted the following comment about the photo, worth posting as a warning for those of you who see it:

ATTENTION: This photo circulating with a "thinking" bullfighter in front of a dying bull, claimed to be of the repented bullfighter Alvaro Munera, is not of him. This is a photo of a "normal" bullfighter striking a theatrical pose to show how relaxed he is in the proximity of the bull, and trying to elevate his cruel activity into an "Art", imitating sculptures and painting (in this case, probably Rodin's thinker). They do this often. Alvaro Munera does exist, and he is indeed a repented Colombian ex-bullfighter that become animal protectionist (I have met him several times). 
But the photo circulating is not of him, and he did not "turn" during a bullfight, but months after a bull left him paraplegic and had to travel to the USA for rehabilitation, where he discovered for the first time opposition to bullfighting. So the photo is not him, and the story that he "turned" during a bullfight is also false.  
So, Alvaro is indeed a repented Colombian bullfighter turned animal protectionist, and he is not the only one, but we should stop the circulation of the photo (since it is not him) and the story that he repented during a bullfight, since this is damaging the anti-bullfighting movement because the bullfighting industry is using this to claim that the movement is demagogic, and to even try to prove that Alvaro does not exist (or he was not a proper bullfighter) on the basis that the photo is of another bullfighter.  
Please do not distribute either a link of a blog of an English amateur bullfighter (and writer) who is supposedly "exposing" the falsity of the photo in question, because by doing so you are promoting his blog which blatantly glorifies bullfighting. So, if you can, spread this message about (without the photo, or the link of the English bullfighter) letting people know the truth without spreading further damage. 

I appreciate Costa submitting this comment. So many bogus photos are circulating around Facebook, as well as a number of false or misattributed quotes or information ripped out of context. I immediately removed the photo because it's not real. Even a brief amount of research confirms what Costa says is right. There are enough horrific abuses of animals, and enough instances of inspiring heroism by animal rights activists, that we don't need to post anything bogus. I thank Costa for submitting this excellent comment.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taking it All In, One Animal at a Time

If you're a believer in Animal Rights and Veganism, like me, then chances are you probably came to these beliefs as a result of your sensitivity.

I have a theory that most proponents of Animal Rights and Veganism are extremely sensitive people. Even the ones who seem dogmatic, or who rely too excessively on guilt-tripping, or who come across as too self-righteous, even a lot of those people are extremely sensitive, although they may not seem like it.

Unfortunately, this sensitivity - this heightened awareness of the suffering of others - comes with a price. The price is that we, the ones who feel an empathic rapport with the sufferers, tend to internalize everything we see or hear.

When Lennox the dog was euthanized the other day in Belfast, Ireland, who among us didn't feel the pain of his loss? Here was a dog who had a forever family and a forever home, yet he was killed by the authorities because of the type of dog he is.

Meantime, countless animals who never generate headlines are being euthanized every day. A Facebook friend of mine, who regularly posts pictures of cats for adoption at area shelters (especially ones up for adoption in the New York City area) spent all afternoon and evening (well into late at night) yesterday posting the pictures of cats who had been euthanized at the New York shelter. Without exaggeration, I'd say that by the end of the day there must have been about sixty to seventy pictures of these cats posted, for hours and hours, on my Facebook newsfeed.

Snowball (rest in peace)
Each cat appeared to be scared or vulnerable or upset in some way. They were all colors, all shapes, all sizes. Young and old. Male and female. Every kind of cat you can imagine. All of them were assigned names by the shelter: Bootsie, Wee Wee, Oscar, Dottie, Venicia, Amelia, Felix, Snowball.

Snowball (pictured here) was gray and white, a male cat. He appears somewhat disoriented. He was fifteen years old, so compared to the other cats (many of them a year old or under), he had lived a relatively long life. He was roughly in his 80s in human years. But what an awful way to go, even for a senior citizen:  alone, unwanted, with your remains mixed with the other remains of countless other cats euthanized the same day.

All cats deserve to be loved. All cats deserve a forever home. Yet these poor cats met a quiet and premature death when a needle full of fluid ended their lives.

I'm the kind of person who goes slightly crazy when I see these pictures. I go slightly crazy when I see videos of factory farm animals being slaughtered, or lab animals being tested, or seals getting clubbed, or pigs or sheep being taken aboard planes or ships and hauled off to other countries to be slaughtered in places that have even fewer regulations than Europe and North America. All of the bad news gives me the shakes. I start feeling fidgety. I have a hard time focusing.

And I definitely feel ashamed of my species.

When I disappear from blogging for a while, often it's because when it comes to animals, so much of the news is bad. And it's not just that the news is bad; it's that I internalize all of it. I take it all as deeply as I can. It gives me nightmares and makes daily tasks difficult to do.

Human beings, when you think about it, have gargantuan, sweeping and monstrous crimes to answer for. A friend of mine once said that the few Beethovens, Shakespeares and Van Goghs we've produced aren't worth the suffering humans have caused.

And yet, here we are, in the driver's seat, at the top of the food chain. And no matter how much the conscientious protest, this is the bitter reality of our world.

We can point to victories in recent years in the fight against cruelty and exploitation. But compared to the catalogue of mass murder, the victories are minor.

This post may sound like a rant, but it's not intended to be one. It is more a way of reaching out and telling the world how I feel each time I learn about the suffering of my fellow sentient beings. Being a vegan isn't enough. Donating money to great causes isn't enough. Leafleting and protesting aren't enough. And it is true that small numbers of people can bring about changes (to paraphrase Margaret Mead), but those changes are small compared to the monstrous cruelty that exists.

A.J. Muste, peace activist
But, in the last analysis, what else can we do but stand up for what our consciences tell us is right? It is an existential decision. It reminds me of when the aging anti-Vietnam war activist A.J. Muste (1885-1967) used to picket the White House during the early stages of the war. Muste, who was in his eighties by the mid-1960s and had spent his life fighting for peace and social justice, walked back and forth with a sign, day in, day out. Sometimes he was with a small crowd of kindred spirits. Often, he was alone. At one point, the uniformed guard came out and said, "Why even bother? What you're doing is not going to change the policies of this government." To which Muste replied: "I'm not trying to change the policies of this government. I just don't want the policies of this government to change me."

That may not seem like enough.

But if you think about it, it's all we've really got.

There. I feel better. Thank you for hearing me out!