Monday, September 28, 2009

Slain Pig Grabs Attention of Media, Police

Tens of millions of pigs are murdered each year in the United States. The police don't care. It's not considered animal cruelty. There's no reward for the apprehension of the murderers.

It's simply agribusiness as usual.

So I have very little sympathy for a teenager whose 4-H pig was found stabbed in her back yard Sept. 22 near Salinas, Calif. Babe, a 5-month-old, 240-pound pig, was to be shown at the San Benito County Fair this week.
"The pig was being raised to be slaughtered, but not this way," [the teen's mother, Kathleen Phillips] said. "This was malicious."
Babe's throat had been slit -- the accepted procedure for killing pigs in slaughterhouses -- and she'd been stabbed 15 times.

Even though 14-year-old Keeley raised Babe, getting her when she was 50 pounds, she still viewed her as food instead of as a unique, caring being.
"Why would someone do that? [...] I understand people can't afford food, but they didn't take anything."
The Monterey County Sheriff's Office is investigating the murder and said the perpetrator(s) would likely face a felony animal-cruelty charge. The Phillips family has offered a $1,000 reward for their conviction.

Meanwhile, hundreds of pigs will be murdered today while the media, law enforcement and average citizens remain silent -- and complicit.

(Photo of two pigs, unrelated to the news story, courtesy of Susie Coston of Farm Sanctuary.)




Fettuccine Alfredo No Longer 'Heart Attack on a Plate'

Even as a teenager, I knew that fettuccine Alfredo was called "heart attack on a plate."

So I started to reduce my consumption of it. On the few occasions I still ordered it, I felt guilty. (And, of course, when I became vegan, I no longer ate it.)

Thanks to Nikki of "Generation V," though, I can now eat the dish without worrying that my arteries are clogging.

My boyfriend and I had low expectations for it as I fixed it Saturday. We weren't sure what to expect, as the creaminess was now supposed to come from cashews instead of cream and butter. But we were both pleasantly surprised.

In fact, I still can't get over how healthy the vegan version of fettuccine Alfredo is. The only "bad" ingredient is salt, and you could use less or omit it all together. Check out Nikki's post for the recipe.

Not only is this dish good for you, but it's also simple to make. Just cook the pasta like you normally do, and mix all of the other ingredients -- cashews, pine nuts, lemon juice, thyme, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and water -- in a blender ... and you're done!

Next time I make this, which will likely be soon, I'm going to toss in some steamed broccoli and cauliflower.

Non-vegans like to focus on the foods that vegans give up -- which really isn't that many considering the numerous foods we discover. But with this recipe for Alfredo sauce, I can once again eat a food that I had virtually given up long before I became vegan.

(Image courtesy of "Generation V." Like Nikki's version, I used a pasta other than fettuccine simply because that's what I had on hand.)



Friday, September 25, 2009

Utah County Restricts Protests at Fur Farms

In response to a planned demonstration at a fur farm, a Utah county has drafted legislation restricting where activists can protest.

The Salt Lake Animal Advocacy Movement has said it plans to march down a street in the city of Morgan at noon Nov. 28 and then hold a vigil and demonstration at a fur farm, possibly in Morgan County, that evening.

According to FinalNail.com, a Web site that lists animal-exploitation businesses throughout the United States, Morgan is home to 15-20 fur farms.

Morgan County Attorney Jann Farris drafted an ordinance that would have prohibited activists from protesting within 100 feet of a residence. (Many fur farmers live on their farms.) But council members requested that distance be changed to "within 1,000 feet."

According to the draft, protests cause undue harm to people, in this case the fur farmers.
Residents should "enjoy a feeling of well-being, tranquility, privacy and enjoy freedom from being a captive audience to unwanted speech in their home. The practice of targeted picketing causes emotional disturbance and distress that has the potential to incite breaches of the peace."
Unfortunately, neither the "farmers" nor the council members care about the mink, foxes and other animals whose daily lives are filled with fear, emotional turmoil and imprisonment.
"We don’t have near enough hard-working people in this country. (Morgan mink farmers) are very good at what they do. They stay within the law and take abuse that is unfair," Councilman Rodney Haslam said. "Whatever we can do to protect them, we need to do it."
A similar ordinance went into effect in July in Salt Lake City. "Aimed at animal-rights groups, particularly members of the Utah Primate Freedom Project, who show up to protest near the homes of some University of Utah researchers," it prohibits protesters from gathering within 100 feet of a "targeted residence."

I recently read and reviewed a book -- "Operation Bite Back" -- about Rod Coronado, an animal-rights activist who targeted fur farms and university research facilities, sometimes committing illegal acts. But the Salt Lake Animal Advocacy Movement followed legal procedures by alerting officials to their desire to protest. Still, their actions were followed by legislation to restrict their legal freedom of speech.

It seems that if legislators don't want further property crimes to occur, they shouldn't impede legal protests.

(Photo courtesy of "Animal Writings.")



Crying 'Fowl' Over Depiction of Turkeys

A neighborhood in New Jersey is being "terrorized" by wild turkeys.

At least that's how an NBC affiliate has described it.
A group of wild turkeys is wreaking havoc in a Cherry Hill, N.J. neighborhood. The large birds attacked a mother and child Thursday afternoon. NBC Philadelphia photojournalist Bruce Ryan had to step in and help scare the turkeys away.
Journalists don't typically insert themselves into a situation; they merely record it. So the turkeys must have been on the verge of pecking the child's eyes out. Wow -- Ryan's one courageous man. See for yourself.



Actually the turkeys hadn't even touched the boy or his mother when Ryan said, "Now I got 'em attacking a kid. They're attacking a kid right now. [...] I'm gonna go help 'em."

The mother was smiling and taking her sweet time to remove herself and her son from the situation. Off camera we can hear screams, but judging from Ryan's response beforehand, I'd bet he and the woman were being a bit dramatic.

These birds were likely scared, removed from wherever they had been living. If they actually did attack anyone, I'd like to think it was due to anger that had been building in the species for more than 200 years.

This November please spare a turkey his life. Have a vegetarian (or vegan) Thanksgiving.

(Video courtesy of nbcphiladelphia.com.)



Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Real Animal Lovers Don't Support Murder of Animals

This post was first published Sept. 16 on the "Animal Rights" blog at Change.org. In case you missed it, here it is.

A site for online vet-tech schools Monday [Sept. 14] released a list of the "top 50 blogs for animal lovers."

As one might expect, the list featured two blogs from The Humane Society of the United States and one from the ASPCA.

Surprisingly, though, the compilation also consisted of animal-rights blogs, including this one -- Congratulations, Stephanie! -- and a category devoted to vegan blogs.

But curiously sites that support the murder of animals also made the list of "blogs for animal lovers." One is a blog devoted to agricultural law. The others are listed in the "Farm Animals" category.

"Farm Policy" keeps farmers, including those in animal agribusiness, apprised of happenings in Washington, D.C., and "Animal Welfare Approved" spreads the myth that animals can by humanely slaughtered. "Advocates for Agriculture" is written by a man who makes his living raising and killing cows. Troy Hadrick regularly criticizes animal-rights activists.

In a post Monday [Sept. 14] about a principal in Great Britain who wants to kill Marcus, a sheep the students raised, Hadrick's response reveals how coldly he views animals.
Let's remember that the kids weren't going to have to witness the harvest of the animal, they just want to raffle off the meat to help fund their program. The success of life depends on death and when are [sic] kids are shielded from this law of nature, we do them a disservice.
I don't know the rationale for including these anti-animal sites in a list of blogs for animal lovers. Perhaps it's due to our society's split in how we treat dogs and cats versus how we treat cows, chickens and pigs.

Or maybe the choice of this vet-tech site is due to how the American Veterinary Medical Association, in particular, views animals. One would assume that the well-being of all animals would be the goal of the AVMA. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Indeed this group supports the confinement and slaughter of farmed animals.

Like the AVMA, the creators of the "top 50 blogs" list need to re-examine what it means to be an animal lover.

(Photo courtesy of animal lover Renee Dippel of Illinois. Here she hugs a sheep during a recent visit to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y.)



Friday, September 18, 2009

"Operation Bite Back" a Must-Read for AR, Eco Activists

In the late 1980s and the '90s environmental and animal-rights activist Rod Coronado committed a series of direct actions, mostly targeting university research centers that housed wild animals like mink and coyotes.

Written by Dean Kuipers, a journalist who has followed the animal-rights and environmental movements for decades, "Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado's War to Save American Wilderness" details Coronado's path from saboteur to arsonist to peaceful Native American activist.

The book is a must-read for environmental and animal-rights activists. Regardless where one stands on the use of property destruction within the movements, activists should read the book to learn about the movements' histories and where they are heading -- especially with regard to the terrorism legislation that was created in 1992 in response to Coronado's work and which has since been added upon.

Of course, I don't believe that vandalism or arson should be considered terrorism.

Kuipers notes that the term "eco-terrorist" was coined in 1983 by "Ron Arnold, radical environmentalism's sworn and mortal enemy" who founded the wise-use movement, "a pro-industry backlash against environmental regulation."

Since that time animal-exploitation industries have gotten Congress to pass the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, in 1992, and the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, in 2006. And the 2001 PATRIOT Act targets environmentalists "by defining eco-terrorism as 'the use or threatened use of violence of a criminal nature against innocent victims or property by environmentally-oriented, subnational group for environmental-political reasons, or aimed at an audience beyond the target, often of a symbolic nature.'"

The book also refers to agent provocateurs, with FBI agents infiltrating groups and urging activists to commit crimes.

Most of "Operation Bite Back," though, deals with Coronado's life, his thoughts about animals and their suffering and his direct action.

The scenes of the direct actions -- breaking into and burning buildings -- are suspenseful, and I found myself rooting for Coronado. But after a while I felt he was getting out of control, taking unnecessary risks, becoming addicted to the actions.

And I kept tossing the notion of arson -- and burglary and theft -- back and forth, debating whether it helped or hurt the cause. That's one of the goals of the book, though: to get readers to think about it.

While Kuipers includes interviews from fur farmers and animal experimenters, "Operation Bite Back" is sympathetic to the environmental and animal-rights movements. As I was reading it, I felt odd knowing David Martosko had read this book. I wondered if he was disgusted by passages such as the following or if somewhere in his sarcastic, greedy body he has a heart.
Five of the six [coyotes] bolted for the hills, but one lingered, standing only a few feet outside the facility. It stood in the darkness looking nervously at Rod. He walked outside and tried to shoo it away, but it only leaped back a few steps and then stood its ground, insistent. Then Rod heard scratching from a part of the kennel he hadn't checked, and he realized there was one more. On the far side of the facility, he found a last occupant and cut it free, and as it bolted through the opened fence, the other wheeled, and together they disappeared into the dark ocean of grass.
(Image courtesy of Better World Books.)



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

HSUS Scrambles Campaign's Message

In a move that has me stunned, The Humane Society of the United States has launched an animal-welfare campaign using footage from a recent investigation at an egg-laying facility.

The HSUS is using Compassion Over Killing's video of cruelty to hens to urge the International House of Pancakes to use cage-free eggs.

When I first learned of this campaign, I assumed The HSUS was stealing COK's spotlight by releasing its own investigation one day after theirs. In actuality, though, COK evidently gave The HSUS permission to use its footage, which baffles me.

COK launched a strong campaign yesterday with its video of hens crowded into cages with decomposing corpses. Michael Foods, the egg-laying facility, supplies eggs to Dunkin' Donuts and many restaurant chains.

COK urged people to contact the doughnut chain and ask them to start making vegan doughnuts, thereby not using eggs or animals' milk. The Washington, D.C.-based animal-rights group also encouraged people to post the video's link on Dunkin' Donuts' Facebook page, and many did.

Today, though, while people are still posting that link, some are asking Dunkin' to start using cage-free eggs. I wonder if that has anything to do with the campaign The HSUS launched today.

To its credit COK was clear in its request to video viewers. The campaign's "Act Now" page says the following: "Compassion Over Killing is asking you to contact Dunkin' Donuts urging the company to stop using eggs & dairy!"

Just one day later, though, The HSUS is sending mixed signals. Nowhere on its campaign page does it mention going vegan or asking IHOP to make vegan pancakes or French toast. The behemoth animal group makes this weak plea: "Tell IHOP to follow its competitors' lead and start switching away from battery-cage eggs."

To me, The HSUS is saying, "Ah, forget about going vegan and all that radical stuff. Just buy cage-free eggs." What kind of message is that to send -- especially just one day after COK released its vegan campaign?

Now, I'm not a fan of criticizing people or organizations that are trying to help animals. But The HSUS should have remained on the sidelines on this one (yeah, perhaps that's a subconscious Vick remark), and let COK run with the ball.

For those readers who don't know what's wrong with cage-free eggs, visit HumaneMyth.org. The hens -- whether they live in battery cages or in "cage-free" facilities -- all end up at the same cruel slaughterhouse after their egg production wanes.

(Image courtesy of HumaneMyth.org.)



Check out My Guest Post

Stephanie Ernst, the blogger for "Animal Rights" at Change.org, was kind enough to ask me to write a second guest post for her.

She published it this morning, so please check it out.

Thanks also to my friend Renee Dippel for letting me use one of her photos from a recent visit to Farm Sanctuary.



Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Yolk on Its Face, Egg Industry Tries to Buy Good PR

The egg industry is laying its hopes for good PR on Rachel Ray and Cookie Monster.

Jacques Klempf, the chairman of the American Egg Board, appeared on the chef's daytime talk show yesterday, as did the "Sesame Street" icon, to introduce the egg industry's newest public-relations stunt.

Given Mercy For Animals' recent undercover investigation that showed the public what happens to male chicks in the egg industry -- they're ground up alive -- and Compassion Over Killing's video, released today, showing mummified corpses of hens, it's not surprising that the egg industry has launched a feel-good campaign: the Good Egg Project.

Klempf told Ray's audience, "America's egg farmers are encouraging everybody to eat good and do good every day."

The phrase "eat good" is like nails on a chalkboard, but I digress.

During the segment Ray told Cookie Monster to eat "some protein-packed eggs." Never mind the cholesterol, saturated fat and animal cruelty that come with them.

One of the keys to marketing is to "get 'em young," and the egg industry is doing just that. It's using the Good Egg Project to sponsor "Sesame Street" this season.
"We're excited to help bring 'Sesame Street' to children," Mr. Klempf said. "Education is a key component of the Good Egg Project, and through this initiative we hope to share with kids and adults the story of an egg's journey from farm to table[.]"
I'm not so sure that's a good idea, though.

Children naturally care about animals, and showing them what happens at those "farms" may cause them to stop eating eggs.

That's what happened when 10-year-old Emma Burdett of Indiana read about the MFA investigation in the newspaper.
"When I showed her the story, she burst into tears. I didn't realize she'd react that way," [her mother] said.
Emma said "she doesn't intend to eat any more" eggs.

(Thanks to Erik of Vegan.com for alerting me to this story.)

(Photo of egg-laying hens crammed into a battery cage courtesy of Compassion Over Killing.)




Mummified Hens Discovered at Dunkin' Donuts Supplier

A Washington, D.C.-based animal-rights organization has released an undercover video of a facility that supplies eggs to Dunkin' Donuts.

The footage, shot by an investigator for Compassion Over Killing in August, shows hens who have been dead for so long in their cages that they've become mummified.

In the video a worker tells the investigator that mummified corpses aren't rare.
"There are some that are almost decomposed. Like a lot! Those are the ones that are flat on. Mummies."
Ned Buyukmihci, emeritus professor of veterinary medicine at the University of California, Davis, viewed the footage and agreed.
Many of these [birds] had been long dead as evidenced by their mummified state and sometimes being in pieces. This would take weeks to develop.

Minnesota-based Michael Foods follows the industry standard by housing its hens in battery cages so small that the birds can hardly move and cannot spread their wings. As we've seen with similar investigations, hens become trapped in the wire cages and cannot reach food or water. When they finally die, their cagemates step on their rotting corpses.

Compassion Over Killing has urged Dunkin' Donuts to produce vegan donuts. Currently all of the company's donuts are made from eggs, the result of the pain and suffering of hens.

Dunkin' Donuts has refused to sit down with COK representatives. Officials instead insisted that its egg suppliers "support our corporate guidelines related to animal welfare and meet or exceed the United Egg Producers guidelines."

The solution to this horror is simple: Go vegan.

Don't support industries whose practices conflict with your sense of decency.

(Image and video courtesy of Compassion Over Killing.)



Friday, September 11, 2009

Government to Press: No More 'Swine'

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is doing his best to get the media to start referring to the swine flu as "H1N1" -- even going so far as to have a press conference yesterday.

But I find it troubling that the U.S. government is attempting to tell the press what to do.
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan disagreed that it would be problematic for the media to drop the inaccurate name tag.

"There may be some bridging you have to do ... but I think that most of the American public has heard 'H1N1.' We have seen it written in your articles. We have heard it on the radio," she said. "So I don't think, unless there is massive amnesia out there, that people won't pick up on what you are trying to convey if you switch to the more appropriate nomenclature."
Ironically the story about Vilsack's press conference was reported in a Wall Street Journal blog post. The headline? "Tom Vilsack on the Trouble with 'Swine' Flu."

(Photo of rescued pigs living at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary courtesy of Jenny Brown.)



Beck on Path to Destroy Obama Administration

In less than one week conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck has caused two people in President Barack Obama's administration to lose their jobs.

The more recent is Yosi Sergant, who, until yesterday, was the communications director for the National Endowment for the Arts. He's been demoted.
At issue was an August conference call in which the NEA encouraged select artists to participate in an administration project dubbed "United We Serve" and led by the first lady.

Beck attacked Sergant and the NEA on his Fox News talk show, accusing the agency of propaganda efforts similar to those used by Nazi Germany.
On Sunday Obama's "green jobs" adviser, Van Jones, resigned.
In his statement, Jones was defiant. "On the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign against me," he said. "They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide."
Such distractions included a 2004 petition Jones had signed that questioned the government's involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
It's exceedingly unlikely that Beck will be satisfied by Jones' resignation, [the Huffington Post's Ryan Grim reported Sunday,] seeing in it evidence that he was correct in his assessment of Obama's supposed radical lieutenants. "Jones is the tip of the iceberg," Beck has said.
Indeed after Sergant's removal, Beck told his minions to "FIND EVERYTHING YOU CAN ON CASS SUNSTEIN, MARK LLOYD AND CAROL BROWNER."

You all know about Sunstein, as I've written three posts about him.

Lloyd is the chief diversity officer for the Federal Communications Commission. Browner is the administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. She's also been called the "climate czar" and the "energy czar."

Beck's followers have criticized the need for "czars," not realizing -- or not caring -- that past presidents have had them.

It amazes and frightens me that people watch Beck and believe his fear-mongering lies.

The following tweets sum up the stupidity and brain-washing of his followers:
Swish51: @Senate_GOPs Please stop Sunstein Confirmation! Republic in jeopardy

Swish51: @JimDeMint Stop Sunstein confirmation! Please talk to Gregg and Hatch! Protect our Republic!!!

togii1: Senators Hatch and Bennett both voted for Cass Sunstein yesterday. Nice that our Utah reps are doing their best to help destroy our republic

rdlittle: Do not forget mark Lloyd Cass sunstein and Valerie Jarrett. These people will destroy our Republic.
Where were these people -- and Beck -- when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were destroying civil liberties with the Patriot Act? Where were they when these Republicans sent young men and women to fight -- and die -- in Iraq for no reason at all (except oil)?

It's far time that Obama and his administration put their collective foot down and either fought back or ignored Beck. Their caving to him has to stop.

(Image courtesy of "OB Rag.")



Honor 9/11 Victims: Use 'Terrorists' Judiciously

As Americans remember what happened in our country eight years ago today, we can respect the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by not throwing around the word "terrorist."

Almost 3,000 people were killed when hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center, a field in Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.

To equate the acts of that day with the protests and direct action of environmentalists and animal advocates diminishes the horror of Sept. 11.

To equate those murderers with people who care about the environment and animals dilutes the word "terrorist" until it becomes anyone with whom someone disagrees.

Those who profit from the destruction of our planet and from the exploitation of animals love to call activists "terrorists." Ironically those people are the ones who terrorize -- both the environment and animals.

Yet even the Federal Bureau of Investigation refers of us as terrorists.
Together, eco-terrorists and animal rights extremists are one of the most serious domestic terrorism threats in the U.S. today.
Congress has even passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act -- despite the fact that animal advocates haven't killed a single person in the United States. What they have done is caused animal-exploiting corporations to lose money. Does that equate with killing 2,752 innocent people? Not one bit.

Don't disparage the memory of the Sept. 11 victims. Don't diminish the absolute horror of what happened on that day eight years ago. Don't refer to environmental and animal-rights activists as "terrorists."

(Image courtesy of "Circle of Compassion.")



Thursday, September 10, 2009

Senate Confirms Sunstein

The U.S. Senate this afternoon confirmed Cass Sunstein's nomination to be the "regulatory czar" of the Obama Administration.

By a vote of 57-40 Sunstein will now become the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, or the easier-to-say "regulatory czar."

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the "OIRA is a small but powerful office that reviews regulations and approves government forms and surveys that require the public to divulge information."

Supporters of animal agribusiness and hunting did what they could to prevent Sunstein's confirmation, including months of freezing the process. First Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia, put a hold on Sunstein, afraid that he would push for animal rights. Then, in July, right after Chambliss released his hold, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, picked it up.

The freeze melted yesterday when the Senate passed a cloture vote to end the debate.

Not surprisingly Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, voted no. She was named yesterday chairwoman of the Senate Agricultural Committee.

I'm happy that Sunstein got confirmed simply because animal-agribusiness people and hunters are so outraged and scared of this man. It's humorous really. Although I wish he would, he's not going to implement regulations on the killing of animals.

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.)



Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sunstein Freeze Ends; Ag Chairwoman Named

President Barack Obama's speech about healthcare reform wasn't the only news made in Washington, D.C., today.

The Senate finally lifted its freeze on Obama's pick for regulatory czar, no thanks to the new leader of the Senate Agricultural Committee.

After months of Republican senators -- first Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and then John Cornyn of Texas, in July -- blocking Cass Sunstein's confirmation as the leader of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Senate finally loosened its grip.

This afternoon that chamber passed a cloture vote, meaning the debate over Sunstein must end. There's no word yet on when a vote for confirmation will take place.

Big Ag and the National Rifle Association oppose Sunstein, and the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom has called him a "radical animal rights activist" because of papers he's published. In a 2002 paper he called for "extensive regulation of the use of animals in entertainment, scientific experiments, and agriculture."

Senate Agricultural Committee

Only two Democratic senators voted to keep Sunstein's nomination frozen -- James Webb of Virginia and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Lincoln today was named chairwoman of the Senate Agricultural Committee after former chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, stepped down to fill the chairman's seat on the Health Committee, vacated by the late Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.

So Lincoln had to make a good impression on her first day on the job. What better way to get in good with agribusiness than to vote against Sunstein?
Lincoln is "a great champion" for agriculture, said the 6 million-member American Farm Bureau Federation. The group said Lincoln understands the contributions of the farm sector to the U.S. economy and is "a good fighter for her beliefs."
In addition to playing a role in agribusiness, Lincoln may also have a large say in the proposed climate-change bill.
Lincoln, a conservative Democrat, also faces a tough reelection fight in 2010 that could dim the bill's prospects. Arkansas is home to several large agribusinesses including Tyson Foods. American Farm Bureau and several other agricultural associations vehemently oppose the climate legislation.
(Photo of Cass Sunstein courtesy of Politico.com. Photo of Sen. Blanche Lincoln also courtesy of Politico.com.)



Numerous Proposals Ail Healthcare Reform Plan

One major goal of President Barack Obama's address before the joint sessions of Congress tonight was to clear up confusion over his plan for healthcare reform.

Before tonight I couldn't understand how anyone would be confused.

And now I'm confused.

Obama put forth "three basic goals," none of which mentioned a public option. (This omission led to a flurry of obscenities directed to the president.)

Instead he back-stepped, as I had feared, and proposed an "insurance exchange" -- "a marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices" -- that wouldn't go into effect for four years. He also suggested limiting medical malpractice lawsuits.

He did this while sounding forceful.
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
But by introducing this new plan for an exchange and by reversing his position on malpractice lawsuits, he was like a parent who said, "No, you absolutely cannot take the car out tonight. ... Well, ok -- but be back by midnight!"

How can Obama maintain his power when, at the slightest scoffs from Republicans, he backs down?

The president did mention a public option, in passing.
But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear - it would only be an option for those who don't have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it.
It seems that Obama is throwing all sorts of ideas out there and hoping a few stick. But it's too late for that. The time for brainstorming has long passed. He needed to come out tonight, tell Congress exactly what he wanted and tell them to get to work.

I was also upset with the president's finger-pointing of currently uninsured people by emphasizing personal responsibility.
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those - particularly the young and healthy - who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. [...] The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money.
Irresponsible behavior? If he wants to talk about irresponsible behavior that costs us money, how about targeting smokers? How about targeting overweight meat-eaters? Or people who eat fast-food day in and day out? It's wrong to force people to buy into this insurance program -- especially when their choices will likely be between private insurance and ... private insurance.

I'd like to think that Obama has some grand scheme that I'm too far removed from D.C. to understand. But I don't hold out much hope for that.



Stressed Over Healthcare Reform

Opponents often accuse animal advocates of not caring about people. Of course, this isn't the case. Indeed the vast majority of us believe in gay, civil, women's -- and human -- rights.

That's why I've been stressed lately about the state of healthcare reform.

If I didn't care about people, I'd say "good riddance" to the 22,000 Americans who die each year because they lack good health insurance. Instead, though, I want Congress to pass real healthcare reform that includes a public option.

But President Barack Obama has me stressed out. I'd like to see him open a can of whoop-ass tonight during his speech to Congress, but I'm afraid I'll see more of the same back-stepping that I've heard from his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, and from Democratic members of Congress -- that the public option is a "valuable tool" but not necessary to pass reform.

I've long since grown tired of Obama trying to appease Republicans, to the detriment of the Progressives who voted him into office. The Republicans don't like Obama, they don't want him in office, and they want him to fail. They've gone from questioning his citizenship to criticizing his choice of mustard to feigning horror at the thought of him telling students to study hard. Obama can't win with Republicans, and it's time he stopped trying.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid the time to pass meaningful healthcare reform may have come and gone. With their lies of "death panels," the Republicans have succeeded in reducing support for the public option. Now Obama will have to try even harder to get the conservative, so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats on board.

Tonight I'd like to see Obama take a stand, to fight for Americans, but I'm afraid the swagger he had while campaigning will give way to a resigned shuffle.

I hope I'm wrong.



State's Horse Racing Gets Boost From Illinois Lawmakers

A new Illinois law may boost the state's horse-racing industry.

Residents will soon be able to bet on horse races over the Internet.
"Here's the way it will work: A person of legal age will need to set up an online account, using a credit card. Once that's done, they'll have access to races and can make a wager from a computer or a cell phone."
Mickey Ezzo of the Illinois Racing Board told Chicago Public Radio that he hopes this measure will appeal to people who don't frequent off-track betting sites and racetracks.

The state's horse-racing industry has been struggling because of competition from Illinois riverboat casinos.

Just as with the pig-flesh bailout for animal agribusiness, the government should not be coming to the aid of industries that are floundering. If people find it more convenient to gamble at a casino rather than a racetrack, then so be it.

Especially at a time when Illinois' government is facing major problems -- a deficit, budget cuts, leaders who won't work together -- devoting time and energy to aid an unnecessary, struggling industry doesn't make sense.

(Photo: Protesters and a horse-racing supporter argue in 2008 outside the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority's headquarters in Lexington. Credit: Jenn Ackerman/Lexington Herald-Leader)



Thursday, September 3, 2009

Big Ag Whines, Begs for Money

For as much as those in agribusiness like to think of themselves as tough men, as the mighty people "feeding the world," they sure are whiny little bastards.

They're still up in arms over Bryan Walsh's Time cover story that criticized conventional animal ag. And they've asked the federal government to bail out the pig-flesh industry.

Now they want our government to pay them not to till their fields.
The concept: When crops are planted without tilling, the soil holds more carbon, which means less goes up into the atmosphere.
Therefore, in theory, farmers will be something to help ease climate change -- ironically something they don't believe is a big deal.

The real reason this plan was proposed is because those in agribusiness oppose the climate-change bill. This measure -- getting paid for doing less work -- may help to get them on board.

But they also get paid to grow crops for ethanol, something they can't do if they don't till.
There's a possible conflict brewing here, though. Federal law and the energy bill encourage farmers to remove crop residue — the remains of the previous season's crop — to make ethanol.

"That's a no-no," [Rattan Lal, soil scientist at Ohio State University,] says. "The moment you take the crop residue away the benefit of no-till farming on erosion control, water conservation and on carbon sequestration will not be realized."
Of course, if those in agribusiness actually cared about the environment, they would speak out against animal agribusiness, as that industry accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the transportation industry. But they won't because animal ag is the biggest purchaser of corn and soybeans.

Also ironic is agribusiness's appeals for aid from the government. The majority of Americans also want the government's help -- in the form of an overhauled healthcare system. But those in Big Ag criticize that plan as (shiver) socialism.

(Image courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States.)



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Video Exposes Egg Industry's Tiniest Victims

A Chicago-based animal rights group has released undercover footage of the grisly treatment of chicks at the world's largest egg-laying breed hatchery.

Mercy For Animals' undercover video, shot at Hy-Line International in Spencer, Iowa, shows the tiniest victims of the egg industry: male and female chicks.

Because male chicks cannot produce eggs and don't grow fast enough or large enough to make their flesh profitable, they are worthless to the egg industry and therefore killed.

The video shows employees called "sexers" roughly separating the male chicks from the females as the conveyor belt rushes past. Think "I Love Lucy" but with living, feeling day-old chicks instead of chocolate.

The male chicks then proceed down another conveyor belt and are dumped into a machine, called a macerator, that grinds the chicks alive.

This is what 150,000 male chicks experience each day in the facility.



The video also shows just-hatched chicks being dumped onto a conveyor belt to separate them from their shells. One chick fell from the sorting machine and was left to die on the concrete floor, surrounded by eggshells. Another missed the sorter and was scalded with hot water meant to clean the tray he was in. He, too, was left to die on the floor.

The female chicks are placed in a rotating machine that delivers them to a laser that sears off part of their sensitive beak. This is done so that when the hens are crowded into battery cages, they don't peck each other to death.

This investigation is different from others in that most of what is shown is perfectly legal.
[T]he company also noted that "instantaneous euthanasia" -- a reference to killing of male chicks by the grinder -- is a standard practice supported by the animal veterinary and scientific community.
Regarding the chicks dying on the concrete floor, though, Hy-Line, through a statement, said the video "appears to show an inappropriate action and violation of our animal welfare policies." However, like other companies outed by undercover investigations, it cast blame on the infiltrator.
Hy-Line said in a statement it has started an investigation "of the entire situation," adding that it would have helped their investigation "had we been aware of the potential violation immediately after it occurred."
Of course, we already know the outcome: One or two peons will be fired, maybe even a manager. But the sick, twisted treatment of these animals will continue.

Please ... if you care about animals, go vegan. You can help stop this cruelty.

"Hatchery Horrors: The Egg Industry's Tiniest Victims" was shot over two weeks in May and June.

Note: You may experience technical difficulties while watching the video.

(Photo of mom and baby -- something you'll never seen in a hatchery -- courtesy of HumaneMyth.org.)
(Video courtesy of Mercy For Animals.)