Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Inspiring Video from the Saints at Edgar's Mission

Have you ever heard of Edgar's Mission? It's a wonderful farm sanctuary in Australia. They've been doing great work to help animals for years. More than 300 animals live at Edgar's Mission, which consists of 60 breathtaking acres in Victoria, Australia.

If you get a chance, check out Edgar's Mission's Website Here.

The video posted here shows volunteers with Edgar's Mission doing what they do best: Saving lives. They're saving the life of calf named Buddy. Buddy is indeed fortunate to be alive. He wouldn't be if it weren't for the heroic work of Edgar's Mission. I'm glad he made it. The world is a better place with Buddy in it.

Here's the story that Edgar's Mission posted on Facebook:

Yesterday evening, as the sun began to set the call came in- a calf had been sighted lying perilously close to traffic on the side of the highway. Reports told us the calf was unable to stand and was barely able to lift its head. Swinging in to action, our first hint of trouble came in the sight of flashing police lights and fast moving traffic, both of which caused our hearts to sink. Pulling our rescue vehicle to the curb, we caught our first glimpse of the bloodied and pitiful looking ‘Buddy’ who was caught not between a rock and a hard place but between a steep embankment and busy major highway. One bystander reported the calf had sustained two untreatable broken legs, however the full extent of his injuries was still unknown, although it was evident Buddy had fallen from a fast moving stock crate. Buddy was also much larger than we had anticipated. And if we needed any more to dampen our spirits, it soon came in the words, ‘The guy with a rifle is on the way.’ But we heard no fat lady singing and nor did Buddy, the fact that he had miraculously clung to life this long told us he wasn’t giving up without a fight. And neither would we. Pleading for a chance to save a life, the greatest lifeline Buddy could ever receive was thrown as our wish was granted. 
Thank you Edgar's Mission! You make the world a better place.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A Town in Texas That Loves its Chickens (in a good way!!)

The town of Bastrop, Texas (pop. 7,218), has become a huge chicken sanctuary!

No kidding! And from watching this video, the folks in town are fiercely protective of their Poultry Population!

They even have Chicken Crossing Signs in town!

"This is one animal loving community," says Kay Garcia McAnally, a city councilwoman from the town. "But they're especially proud of their chickens."

People will even run out into the middle of the street and motion to cars to slow down so they don't run over the local chickens. Townsfolk mourned the loss of one of their roosters when he got hit by a car.

Don't mess with the chickens of Bastrop, Texas. They are loved. In a good way!


For the record: I'm thrilled to hear about the new Stem Cell/Petri Dish "Frankenburgers." If there's a chance these uber-costly hamburgers might one day plummet in price and take the place of millions and millions slaughtered cows, then I say hallelujah! Bring it on!

The unveiling of Frankenburger ("It's alive! It's alive!") this past Monday in London, England, proved to be a world event. It got loads of press from around the world.

The lab-grown delicacy turned out to be a moderate hit. You'd think for $400,000 to produce one of these, it would be the best meal in the history of the human race. Unfortunately, Frankenburger seems to suffer from an "image problem."

Meat eaters still seem to be somewhat grossed out by the idea of eating something grown in a lab (sadly, few have any qualms whatsoever with the mass murder of innocent, sentient beings).

Vegetarians who've weighed in are more of a mixed lot. I've read a few online say they'd eat it, if given the chance.

I have no desire to try one of these things, chiefly because I loathe the idea of having flesh in my mouth. Eating meat - whether it's from a lab or a slaughtered animal - now seems completely unfathomable to me. I can honestly that since I gave up chicken, pork, steak, etc. etc, I haven't looked back.

Still, I wish Frankenburger every success. I support it 100%. It beats the hell out of the alternative. I'm sure the poor, terrified cows facing imminent death in slaughterhouses around the world would prefer to live their lives in freedom and bliss while human beings feast on Frankenburgers.

No animal, after all, wants to die to become a meal for hungry humans.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pigs the Way Pigs Are Meant to Live!

Here is a pair of heartwarming videos that show a different way that pigs can live. Instead of being emptied out of long trucks into slaughterhouses, they can live the good life of freedom like these beautiful pigs swimming in the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas.

Two things about this video are apparent: 1) Pigs love their freedom, the sparkling water, and the fresh air as much as we human beings do. 2) There is a wonderful, magical way that humans and pigs interact in this video that shows us a different way of these two species relating to each other.

Isn't this a much nobler way of treating pigs than sending them by the thousands, millions and ultimately billions to early, violent deaths?

I sure think so. So do they!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bearing Witness: We Will Not Forget You

Image courtesy Guelph Pig Save.
"Now and then a visitor wept, to be sure; but this slaughtering machine ran on, visitors or no visitors. It was like some horrible crime committed in a dungeon, all unseen and unheeded, buried out of sight and of memory."
- Upton Sinclair, The Jungle (1906)

Bearing witness is the act of seeing something, and then going on to provide evidence for - or memories of - what you saw. It can be a tremendously difficult act, especially when you are witnessing something that involves the suffering of human beings or animals. 

This morning I went with my companion to bear witness at a slaughterhouse. Conestoga Meat Packers in nearby Woolwich, Ontario, is - in its own words - "a processor of premium quality, fresh pork." The company, tucked away in the midst of endless cornfields, with farms as neighbours, provides many jobs in this area, and they have a well-deserved reputation for treating pigs as humanely as a slaughterhouse possibly can. 

These are not the violent, animal-beating thugs you see in shocking undercover exposés of slaughterhouses. By all accounts, the men and women who work at Conestoga are conscientious and caring workers, who move the pigs through as quickly and efficiently as possible, and stun the animals with the inhalation of CO2 before the killing actually occurs.

The process is professional and quick and by the book. It is safe to say that this is how the very best slaughterhouses in North America operate.

Even when slaughterhouses adhere to the strictest of regulations, as this one does, they are factories of death. Make no mistake about it: There is no such thing as "humane slaughter." I experienced the deeper meaning of this profound truth this morning, when I joined my comrades in bearing witness.

My companion and I arrived early in the morning, before 7 a.m. We were the first witnesses there. We found ourselves in the middle of Ontario farm country. We parked on a side road, hidden in a sea of corn stalks, and walked up the road a little ways to get to the production facility. 

We reached the tall chain link fence surrounding the complex and the pair of entrances where the trucks came through. Signs warned that security cameras watched the area around the gates. When we got there, workers were busily emptying a truck and pig squeals rang out across the otherwise serene farmland.

Since my companion planned to write about the morning event for the newspaper where she works, she went off to find for the organizers. I stayed by the entrance and listened to the cries of the animals and the loud, metallic thumping of pig feet thundering on the floor of the vented livestock trailer. 

The sadness I felt standing alone at that gate, listening to those shrieks of terror, proved almost more than I could bear. Yet I remained there, determined to hear it, absorb it, and feel it as deeply as I could.

The activists from Guelph Pig Save soon arrived. They broke out the signs. "We Deserve Respect" (above a pig's picture), "I Am Someone" (same), "We Love You & We're Sorry," "Respect All Life," and "Pigs Are Friends - Pigs Are NOT Food." Eventually, we were joined by the tireless and heroic Anita Krajnc of Toronto Pig Save, who has always been a huge source of inspiration for me. Our numbers would soon grow to just over twenty. 

Before I go any further, let me say that the men and women who came out to bear witness this morning are some of the finest, most courageous, sincere and dedicated people I've ever had the good fortune of meeting. Many are young. They believe in what they're doing right down to the bottom of their hearts and the marrow of their bones. They are all, to a person, humble and regard each another as kindred spirits in the struggle to end the madness that happens inside of these slaughterhouse walls. 

I greeted organizers with warm handshakes. Normally, I am shy and tend to be aloof in social settings. In the presence of these saintly folks, however, I found myself opening up, talking, sharing. Men and women who were veterans of these morning gatherings still got choked up and teary eyed. 

"You have to let yourself feel it," one of the organizers told me. "Never stop feeling it, never stop taking it all in. Always let it make you sad. Don't try to get past the pain or the sorrow. If that's what you're feeling, you're feeling the right thing." 

Truck backing into Conestoga Meat Packers.
Sometime around quarter past seven, we heard the roar of a diesel engine. Another truck arrived, hauling a massive cargo of squealing, stressed-out passengers on their final trip. As it moved past me, so close I could touch it, I saw their eyes and snouts and trembling bodies. Right as the truck passed me, a little frog jumped around the grass. As luck would have it, the frog - like me - occupied a place on the food chain that meant she would be spared from mass murder today. 

Some of the organizers sprinted and kept pace with the truck as it headed toward the second entrance. They took pictures and poured water into the trailer's oval and rectangular openings. 

What I'll remember the most is the smell of the trailer going past me. It gave off the mixed scents of life, of living, breathing beings - their bodies, their feces and all of the odors made more pronounced by the body heat in that small, cramped space.

Once inside the parking lot, the truck looped around so it could back up to the loading bay. In order to do this, it had to pull a ways out of the first entrance, where I stood with several Guelph Pig Save witnesses. The big rig chugged right past me and hissed to a halt, bringing me face to face with the passengers inside. I reached out and petted their fur, touched their snouts, looked into frightened eyes, and apologized for the monstrous crime being committed by my species.

Grinding gears, the truck hissed again, its engine revved and it backed up to the pigs' final destination. It stopped at the loading dock and the driver killed the engine. After that, everything was quiet for a while. Eventually, those painful squeals resumed, along with the sound of countless feet thumping on the floor of that giant wheeled box and the ramp leading into the slaughterhouse.

The shrieks, the cries, each lacerating the heart and the soul, screaming and wailing in a way that made you realize they knew what dark fate awaited them. This was their final walk into the labyrinth of death. I curled my fingers around the chain link fence and listened to the shrill screeches. 

By this time, past 7:30, the sun bathes the farmland in a golden hue, and the soft, cool wind fans the corn stalks. And you notice something. The screaming has stopped. All you really hear at this point is the humming and hissing of machines. The pigs have gone silent, except for the occasional distant squeal that somehow penetrates that fortress wall.

The activists are here for each other every bit as much as they're here for the pigs. We talk. We exchange email addresses. We plan future events. A police car arrives and parks nearby for a while. The black and white circles, cruises past us, and stays put down the road, by a stop sign, watching our movements.

We hate to leave. Somehow, leaving feels like we're betraying those innocent beings that met their end here. But we have to go. We have no choice. We've got lives to live, jobs to go to, family and friends to see, appointments to meet. 
Car doors slam. Tires kick up dust. Soon, the gates where all of these wonderful, spirited men and women gathered fall silent once again, until the day shift personnel at Conestoga head for home.

Leaving the scene around 9 a.m., my companion and I held hands on the way to our car. We talked about what we've seen. The experience deepens our love for each other, watching something so unspeakably tragic together. We've both borne witness on that morning, and bearing witness with someone you love pulls you that much closer to her or him. We will never forget what we saw on the morning of August 7, 2013, for as long as we live. 

After I dropped her off at her house, I drove to my appointments at the university. I tried but could not take my mind off of those pigs. Oddly, as I drove, I began to think of the Hubble Telescope and the stunning images of space that it has given us.

 Believe it or not, the Hubble is connected to the pigs, as all things in the universe are connected to one another.

Since NASA first launched the powerful, state-of-the-art telescope into space in 1990, the Hubble has taught us how vast, how spectacular, how endless our universe is, through the vivid and breathtaking images of stars and nebulae and planets and other galaxies it has sent back.

It also reminds us of how tiny each one of us is in the ultimate scheme of it all.

Those pictures of distant celestial bodies, light years away, drive home an important point. Most of the universe is a cold and lifeless place. Our planet is one of the few tiny specks in the vastness where life has taken hold, multiplied, proliferated, changed, over billions of years.

There is something deeply mysterious about life, and that great mystery begins at conception. Human beings have a gestation period of 266 days, or 38 weeks. For pigs, being in the womb lasts 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days. In a cold and indifferent universe, each life ought to matter, and each human being and each pig should be born into a world full of care and kindness.

Instead, so many human beings are born into circumstances of indifference or violence, while pigs are systematically bred for slaughter. In an endless universe where we inhabit one of the precious few life-filled specks (the only one that scientists know of), shouldn't all sentient beings be regarded as precious?

Is it really worth committing murder, ending a life that is not ours to destroy, to consume bacon for breakfast, or pulled pork sandwiches for lunch, or ham for dinner? Bear in mind, the eating of pig flesh - or any other food made of animals - can be measured in minutes and brings only temporary satisfaction to the eater.

Are we going to be a species that continues to exercise such brute force to satisfy our basest of impulses?

Or are we going to evolve to the next stage of our development, cast off the consumption of animals forever, and live by a different, more meaningful set of ethics?

This morning, each of the men and women bearing witness at Conestoga Meat Packers provided a meaningful alternative to the way things are now. Each became, in his or her own way, a warm ray of light in the frigid vastness of space.

In the final analysis, we are all heading to the same place as those pigs. Do we as a species want to mark our fleeting existence by violently ending the lives of sentient beings lower on the food chain? Do we want to be the reason why those trucks pass through those gates full of terrified living beings, only to exit those same gates void of life?

Or do we wish to evolve into a more enlightened species that instinctively preserves life in a vast and cold and indifferent universe?

The decision is ours. Alas, we don't have long to make it.

Guelph Pig Save witnesses at the gate of Conestoga Meat Packers, August 7, 2013.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Few Videos of the Real Tardar Sauce (a.k.a., Grumpy Cat)

I adore these videos of Tardar Sauce (a.k.a., Grumpy Cat). She has become a worldwide sensation, and she is quite rightly described as the World's Most Famous Cat (at least for the moment).

If you're on Facebook, like me, you know that Grumpy Cat memes are a dime a dozen. A few of them are amusing (rarely laugh-out-loud funny, but amusing). Most are just juvenile and stupid. A few are even mildly offensive, although not being a member of the PC Police, I shrug those off and keep scrolling down the newsfeed.

Most of the Grumpy Cat memes show a grouchy, bitter cat spewing out caustic one-liners. These videos, however, show a very different kind of cat, one that's quiet and gentle and living a pleasant life.

It's great that Grumpy Cat has caused such a worldwide stir, but the online version is a caricature in the tradition of Archie Bunker, Oscar the Grouch and Scrooge. I suppose, for whatever reason, that's what the masses want now, and Tardar appears to be a big hit. But, being a hardcore cat lover, I hope this sweet little kitty is able to avoid some of the more negative pitfalls of being a global superstar.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Must-See Video About Circus Elephants with Alec Baldwin

This is a superb PETA video on animals in circuses, hosted and narrated by actor Alec Baldwin. There is an excellent interview in the video with a longtime veterinarian Dr. Mel Richardson, who has worked with elephants in circuses for over 40 years. Please have a look at this video. It's not very long and it's quite informative.

A Gore-Free Video That Says It All

Please show this to your friends and family who are meat eaters. It is a gore-free video. It shows a cow shedding tears over the horrific fate he is about to experience. I quote from the wonderful Facebook page Animal Rights Activist:

This 34 second footage clearly shows a beautiful, sweet cow shedding tears in the seconds before slaughter. There's no blood or guts in this film so if you eat meat, it's something you can watch. Animals have the same feelings and desires we do. They long for life and love their children. They know love and feel pain, suffering, sadness and terror... just like we do. Reconnect your heart to life and respect for everyone we share this planet with. It just makes no sense to savagely destroy an innocent creature for 20 minutes of taste bud pleasure. We hope you will watch and realize that no amount of personal pleasure is worth taking an innocent life over.

There is no reason to continue this brutality and violence. It is time to end the Dark Ages that animals have been subjected to for so long. The only way possible to bring an end to these tragedies is to go vegan. How many millions - ultimately billions - of cows and pigs and chickens have wept as their lives have been violently taken away from them? This is mass murder on a gargantuan scale. The question is: Are we going to allow it to continue? Or are we going to move on to the next phase of our evolution and insist on treating animals with respect and dignity, and not as commodities?

The decision rests with humanity.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Words of Wisdom

"I had never seen a slaughterhouse before. My blood ran cold. This didn't just turn me into a vegetarian. It turned me into a genuinely compassionate human being. I ultimately became vegan when I aw what happens to millions of chickens - their beak burned off, millions of tiny male chicks being hurled to their death into grinders, premature calves being deliberately induced and being killed by crushing to death. It is a so tiresome to hear the hideous lies and self delusion from those who profit from this ghastly trade. I am a vegan because I love life in all its forms."
- Philip Wollen

The Most Thrilling Thing on the Golf Channel Since it Went On the Air!

A three-legged alligator on the fairway? You heard it here first, folks!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Five Reasons for Animal Rights Activists to be Hopeful

It occurred to me that my post yesterday contained some pessimistic observations about the human race. Whenever this blog features despairing observations, I like to counter with a more hopeful follow-up. There are plenty of reasons why Animal Rights advocates should be hopeful.

Here are five!

1. In the Flushing section of New York's Queens borough, Public School 244 (pictured right) has gone vegan! All of its meals are now completely free of animal products. This occurred in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's noble attempts to make New York City a more health-conscious metropolis. And guess what? Apparently the switch has been a big hit with the kids! As one 9-year-old put it: "This is good. I'm enjoying that it didn't have a lot of salt in it." In addition to P.S. 244 going vegan, more than a thousand local schools - at Bloomberg's urging - have switched to whole grain breads and pastas and now have salad bars. (Source)

2. The number of vegans in the United States is on the rise! A study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group in 2012 found that the number of Americans identifying themselves as vegans was 2.5%, a sharp increase from the 1% of self-identifying vegans in 2009. In other words, in that three-year period, the number of vegans in the United States more than doubled! As I've said on this blog many times before: Our numbers are growing all the time! (Source)

3. On May 1, Vietnam Airlines stopped shipping primates for research purposes. "Even though Vietnam Airlines has never been in breach of international regulations governing the transportation of live animals," a V.A. statement said, "we decided to stop transporting primates destined for experimental purposes from May 1, 2013. The relevant operation manual shall be deployed system wide by Vietnam Airlines to ensure this decision." (Source)

4. Here in Canada, every major grocery chain in the country has now pledged to stop buying pork from farms that use gestation crates. This is a huge breakthrough victory that shows how much clout animal rights activists have in this country. As Twyla Francois of Mercy for Animals Canada quite rightly stated: "We are pleased that retailers have finally listened to their ethically-minded customers and are taking action to end the abusive practice of confining pigs in tiny metal crates so small the animals cannot even turn around, walk or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives." Moreover, restaurant chains such as McDonalds and Tim Horton's have also pledged to no longer purchase from farms that use gestation crates. (Source)

5. More encouraging news from Canada: In April, the General Court of the European Union, based in Luxembourg, upheld a three-year-old ban on seal products from Canada and Norway. This policy has inflicted tremendous damage on one of this country's most vicious rackets, our sorry equivalent of the Latin American cocaine trade. Despite the ban, this gruesome, vicious, bloodthirsty seal hunt continues. More than 70,000 seals were murdered in 2012, and that number jumped to 76,000 in this season. Dismayed by the E.U.'s decision, a representative from the Ottawa-based Seals and Sealing Network issued a statement: "It's bad news for the seal industry, but it's even worse news for other industries. If they're starting to ban products based on so-called moral issues, then who's next? Is it lobster because boil them? Beef? Pork?"


This Pretty Much Says It All...

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Of Film Footage and Animals

I'll never forget my family's first video camera. My dad purchased it 30 years ago from an electronics store in Salt Lake City called Stokes Brothers. When I got that thing, I went around shooting movies everywhere: in the backyard; at family picnics; in the basement rec room. You name it, I shot videos. Now I look back and watch them and they're documents of a happy time - of laughter, of family getting together, of memorable moments, of days long past but never forgotten.

Video cameras - or camcorders or movie cameras or whatever they're referred to in the parlance of the times - have been an extraordinary invention, used to capture histories both personal and on a grand scale. The 20th Century was the first "filmed" century - cameras existed from one end of the century to the other - and the film footage we have of those one hundred years is nothing short of incredible. Some of it, such as the 1945 Victory in Europe celebrations across America or the 1969 moon landing are incredibly inspiring. Other films, such as war footage, or the shooting of a Viet Cong prisoner during the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam, or the '89 Tiananmen Square protests, or the Rodney King beating, or the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

And then there is the issue of animals and videos. What will historians say 100 years from now about the movies we shot of animals? How will the ways in which we film animals be remembered?

The answer to that question depends on the films of animals that survive our times. Certainly, Hollywood has churned out lots of sentimental films, especially movies about dogs such as Lassie Come Home (1943) and Marley and Me (2008). Hollywood films about other species of animals also abound, including horses (The Black Stallion, Seabiscuit), cats (That Darn Cat, Harry and Tonto), pigs (Charlotte's Web, Babe). The list goes on and on.

But I'm not really talking about Hollywood films here. I'm talking about films used by animal rights activists that depict the treatment of animals in our society, often showing a darker side to how human beings interact with animals.

Example 1: Recently, there were two big developments around the issue of filmed animal footage that are worth noting. The first occurred on April 22 when U.S. District Court Judge Sim Lake in Texas decided that so-called "animal crush videos" - showing the torture and killing of animals - are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Judge Lake dismissed charges against Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice, who allegedly made films showing all kinds of animals - chickens, puppies, mice and kittens - being tortured to death. Judge Lake conceded "the acts depicted in animal crush videos are disturbing and horrid," yet they are "still considered protected speech."(Source)

Example 2: Salt Lake City, Utah. My hometown. In February, Amy Meyer, standing on public property, used the video camera on her cell phone to film the brutal treatment of cows at a slaughterhouse in Draper Utah. She was charged for committing a crime under Utah's new Ag-Gag laws. Thankfully, the case was dismissed when Meyer received a lot of nationwide attention. At the time she was charged, in late April, Meyer issued the following statement:

I visited the Smith Meatpacking Slaughterhouse in Draper, Utah because I have heard numerous reports that any bystander standing on the public thoroughfare could witness the horror of cows struggling for their lives as they were led to their violent deaths. What I saw was upsetting, to say the least. Cows being led inside the building struggled to turn around once they smelled and heard the misery that awaited them inside. I saw piles of horns scattered around the property and flesh being spewed from a chute on the side of the building. I also witnessed what I believe to be a clear act of cruelty to animals – a live cow who appeared to be sick or injured being carried away from the building in a tractor, as though she were nothing more than rubble. At all times while I documented this cruelty, I remained on public property. I never once crossed the barbed wire fence that exists to demarcate private and public property. I told this to the police who were on the scene.  I am shocked and disappointed that I am being prosecuted by Draper City simply for standing on public property and documenting horrific animal abuse while those who perpetrated these acts are free to continue maiming and killing animals. It is my understanding that the Mayor of Draper co-owns this slaughterhouse.  
Amy Meyer (Source)

I am convinced the only reason Amy Meyer's case was dismissed was because she was getting lots of nationwide attention. Had she been sentenced to jail time, she would have become a martyr for the anti-Ag-Gag Movement.

But take a good look at these two cases. One in Texas, the other in Utah. What do they say about our species? Taken together, they are a damning indictment of the human race. On the one hand, filming the torture of animals for some sort of perverse thrill or pleasure is protected under the United States Constitution. On the other hand, filming the horrific treatment of animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms is prohibited by Ag-Gag laws, which - shockingly - are not regarded as violations of the First Amendment.

There are dangerous and potentially very horrifying precedents being set here. Both of them show a callous - one might even use the word "psychotic" or "evil" - disregard for the well being of animals. The message that these cases convey is abundantly clear: The lives of animals do not matter. Worse, in destroying their lives, it is perfectly acceptable to torture them to death in unbelievably horrific ways, the way a serial killer might torture a human being to death. If that torture is being captured on film to educate and mobilize people to act to change this treatment, then filming is banned. By contrast, if that torture is being filmed to satisfy the twisted fetish of sick, perverted, psychotic individuals, then filming such scenes is perfectly acceptable.

The time has come to get militant about animal rights. No more fucking around (excuse the foul language). War has been declared, not by animal rights activists, but by the institutions that are put in place to justify, sanction and use coercion to maintain the mass murder of these beings. Make no mistake: We are living in times that will be remembered in history books as the Dark Ages for Animals.

But this does not need to be the case. Imagine creating the kind of society where the videos and films we shoot of animals show beings living happy, blissful lives. Such videos and films do exist! Look at any film shot inside of a farm sanctuary and you'll see happy animals, living the way animals are meant to live. Leave it to human beings, who have shown us the worst sort of depravity imaginable, to also teach us the noblest ways imaginable to treat our fellow sentient beings.

Therein lies the contradictions, the paradoxes, of our species. We are the most brutal and violent of all animals, yet we have the potential within us to be the kindest and gentlest of all animals. Remember when you were five or six or seven or eight, and you used to visit the petting zoo, and you loved animals and you could never dream of hurting these wonderful personalities?

We need to reclaim that beauty and that innocence. The price of not reclaiming it was revealed in late April, when a judge ruled that filming torture for pleasure was OK, while a few states over, around the same time, a city laid criminal charges against a heroic individual filming animal torture in order to end it.

What does this say about our species?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Must-See Video: Father Frank Mann's Conversion to Veganism

Do yourself a favour: Check out Father Frank Mann reflecting on why he converted to veganism. It's one of the most eloquent and moving testimonies I've ever heard. And it shows what many of us have believed all along: That veganism and animal rights are an essential part of our spirituality and ability to feel empathy with all living beings.

Please check it out, and share it with others you know. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

An Incredible (and Short) Must-See Film!

This film - from Mercy for Animals - is extraordinary and short. Please have a look. It poses a question that many people are afraid to ask: Where does my food come from? The mini-film is an extraordinary mixture of pathos and humor. I've always thought the movement needs more humor, but we should never lose sight of the tragedy all around us. This commercial is the perfect blend of the two. Please watch it if you get a chance.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Should be Mandatory Viewing: Bearing Witness by Toronto Cow Save

This is heartbreaking video shot by the wonderful activists in Toronto who organized Toronto Pig Save. It should be mandatory viewing. Thank you to the brave and inspiring Anita Krajnc for bringing it to my attention. Bless you Anita and all the activists with Toronto Cow Save!

Please watch it. It does not show gore, only terrified cows on their way to death. 

And please, please, please - if you haven't already, please go Vegan!

If you already have, right on! You're a kindred spirit.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Horrors of Broiler Chicken Factory Farms

If you get a moment, please - please - read Leah Graces' troubling article "Why We Haven't Seen Inside a Broiler Chicken Farm in a Decade" in Food Safety News. It is a must-read for those of us who are concerned about the fate of factory-farmed animals, especially chickens, who live in the worst conditions imaginable and are killed by the billions around the world each year. Early in the article, Graces quotes New Yorker writer Michael Spencer, who visited a broiler chicken factory farm back in 2003. At the time Spencer 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 thirty thousand chickens sitting silently on the floor in front of me. They didn’t move, didn’t cluck. They were almost like statues of chickens, living in nearly total darkness, and they would spend every minute of their six-week lives that way.
According to Graces, ever since Spencer's article, animal rights activists not been able to penetrate the dark and secretive world of broiler chicken factory farms. As Graces notes:
Most photos and video from factory farms come from undercover investigators who manage to get hired to work within the farm and then secretly gather images for an external organization.  This is next to impossible in a broiler factory farm.   There is hardly a ‘job’ involved in raising broilers in factory farms anymore. Often there are only one or two people, usually the farm owners, overseeing multiple houses, each house filled with tens of thousands of birds.
This article is essential reading because it sheds light on a world we so seldom see. Broiler hens live short lives full of despair, horror and anxiety. With states across America toughening Ag-Gag laws, and with laws such as the Orwellian-esque Animal Facilities Protection Act and the Federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act making it a felony (and act of terrorism) for a person to enter an "animal facility" (read: slaughterhouse, factory farm, fur farm, etc. etc.) under false pretenses, the Animal Murdering Machine has moved into high gear to prevent the public from seeing what happens inside of these ultra-violent charnel houses.

The way to combat such abuses is to increase our awareness, to bring these institutions out of the darkness, and to shed light on the horrors that exist within the walls. This is what Leah Graces has done, and she is to be commended.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Must-See Video: PIG VISION - The Journey of Two Brothers

This video should be mandatory viewing, especially among anyone that eats pork and other pig products. This is one more appalling chapter in a very, very long book full of atrocities that humans commit on a daily basis against animals. This video shows us two different paths that pigs can follow: the factory farm system, with all of its horrors and violence and murder, and the life of a pig at a loving rescue sanctuary.

Please watch it. Even if you think you know what's going to happen, the video will surprise you with its combination of beauty and tragedy.

And if you haven't already, please go vegan.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Some videos are so powerful, they need no commentary...

... such as this one. Please watch. Please share. And please do your best to stay away from dairy, for the reasons explained here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Great Advice on Maintaining a Healthy Vegan Diet

Here is chef and health counselor Alex Jamieson, who has so many great ideas about maintaining a healthy vegan diet. In this video, she gives terrific vegan tips, talks about her vegan cookbooks and mentions some of her favorite vegan recipes.

If you aren't familiar with Jamieson's work, check out here Website here. She was a health advisor to Morgan (Super Size Me!) Spurlock when he was trying to detoxify from his horrifying all-McDonald's diet. As she mentions in this video, the key to success with the vegan diet is variety. She mentions an excellent point - how easy it is for vegans to eat unhealthy processed foods (and how hard it is for those vegans to lose weight).

I'm one of those vegans who pops a few too many Oreos and potato chips. I could stand to lay off that stuff for a little while. I plan to follow Jamieson's advice in the weeks and months ahead. By eating more natural foods ("whole foods," as she calls them), we will all feel better, lose weight, and really gain great benefits from a vegan diet.

Check out this video if you get a chance!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Check it Out: Steve-O Speaks Out Against Factory Farming

Wonderful Steve-O, of Jackass fame (one of my guilty pleasures over the years), narrates a Farm Sanctuary video that looks absolutely extraordinary. It is the story of a pig, cow and chicken who manage to escape the horrors of factory farms. While I haven't seen it yet, I've watched plenty of other Farm Sanctuary videos, and I love the work they do.

In this interview with vegan and animal rights supporter Jane Velez-Mitchell, Steve-O discusses his efforts to humanize the three stars of the film. "Whenever you can even give one of these animals a name, I think you're doing something pretty major," he tells the Velez-Mitchell. "People don't want to think of their meal as a living thing that has a name or a personality or anything like that. By talking about just one pig, you really get through to people in a special way."

Check out this brief interview, if you get a chance. It's short and it's exciting to see such a high-profile figure speaking out for the animals. Go Steve-O!!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Sadism of Foie Gras

Apologists for Foie Gras - one of the most sadistic foods ever concocted in the long, tragic, violence-filled history of the (in)Human Race - insist the French delicacy made from the livers of duck and geese who were force fed during their short, awful existences, is actually not that cruel.

If you get a chance, have a look at this short video featuring Janet Street-Porter, a British journalist and media personality who is a correspondent on Chef Gordon Ramsay's The F-Word. Here, Street-Porter goes to a foie gras farm in France to witness the ultra-violent way that foie gras birds are treated.

It turns out that Street-Porter chuckles a fair number of times during the video. She is renowned for her odd mannerisms, like acting light-hearted about pretty heavy-duty stuff. But it is clear that she is laughing out of an intense sense of discomfort, and by the end of the video, she makes it clear - in no uncertain terms - that she is going to stay the hell away from this god-awful "food."

We also see an enlarged foie gras liver. It's all the proof you need to know that this "delicacy" is yet another example of the human race at its most depraved, no small feat for a species that wrote the book on the sadism.

Words of Wisdom from Gary Francione

Words of wisdom from Gary Francione, who has been a source of so much wisdom over the years. He is absolutely right. The key is to link Animal Rights and Human Rights. One without the other is meaningless. The violence used against animals comes from the same place as violence used against humans. It is rooted in an objectification of both, the dangerous tendency to see them as means to ends, or commodities, or the "other."

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

5 Reasons to be Hopeful at the Start of 2013

With the start of a new year, there are ample reasons for animal rights advocates to be discouraged. Yet there are also reasons to be hopeful. Here are five:

1. As of midnight on January 1, 2013, Israel has banned the import and sale of all cosmetics and cleaning products that have been tested on animals. (Source)

2. Last month, firefighters in Boynton Beach, Florida, saved four rabbits from the inside of a burning house. One of the rabbits was suffering from smoke inhalation, so one of the heroic rescuers used an oxygen mask to help restore the animal's breathing. (See the image above.) (Source)

3. At the Barry Room, a popular restaurant serving the House of Lords in London, England, foie gras - the horrendously cruel delicacy made from the liver of force-fed ducks and geese - has been removed from the menu following protests by animal rights activists. (Source)

4. Here in Canada, the provincial environmental ministry in Ontario is launching a probe into mass animal burial sites near Marineland, which - along with the sustained protests against cruelty at that theme park over the past several months - will continue to shed negative light on the Niagara Falls tourist attraction. According to former Marineland staffers, the park has been burying huge numbers of animals - more than a thousand in four mass graves - without any public scrutiny. The graves are located close to the Welland River, which connects with the Niagara River. (Source)

5. Mexico City has strengthened its laws so that now people found guilty of animal cruelty will be made to serve up to two years in prison and a $500 fine if the animal is injured, or four years in prison and a $2000 fine if the animal is killed. These represent some of the strictest animal protection laws in this hemisphere. (Source)

The world presents us with ample evidence to be deeply pessimistic. Here are five reasons to keep fighting the good fight. It pays off. It may not seem like it, but it does.