Monday, November 30, 2009

Chicken Council Balks at Consumer Reports Study

The National Chicken Council has taken issue with a Consumer Reports study of dangerous bacteria in the birds' carcasses.

The independent, nonprofit group found that two-thirds of the 382 carcasses tested "harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease."
Campylobacter was in 62 percent of the chickens, salmonella was in 14 percent, and both bacteria were in 9 percent. Only 34 percent of the birds were clear of both pathogens.
The chickens, which were tested at an outside lab, came from the top three chicken processors -- Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farms -- as well as "30 nonorganic store brands, nine organic store brands, and nine organic name brands."

Testing found that the most contaminated carcasses came from Tyson and Foster Farms. "More than 80 percent tested positive for one or both pathogens."

Not surprisingly the National Chicken Council disagrees with the findings, which will be published in January.
NCC also pointed to "a much more comprehensive survey" by USDA that found a lower prevalence of campylobacter and salmonella on raw chicken than reported by Consumer Reports.
Consumer Reports doesn't receive money from companies. The magazine and Web site contain no advertisements because it wants to maintain its objectivity. It doesn't want a conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the other hand, regulates the flesh industry. If chickens are found to have a high incidence of nasty bacteria, that makes the USDA look bad.

Which organization's findings would you trust?

Here's another question: Do you know how salmonella and campylobacter end up on the chickens at the grocery store?
The bacteria settle in their intestines, usually without harm, and the chickens contaminate their environment with infected feces. When the birds are slaughtered, intestinal bacteria can wind up on their carcasses.
Of course, intestines also contain feces. I'll let you do the math.

Unfortunately in Consumer Reports' recommendations of what people can do to help avoid ingesting salmonella and campylobacter, the Web site fails to mention the easiest, most obvious method: Go vegetarian.

If you have to worry about "one slipup and you're at risk," why consume that nastiness in the first place?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Turducken: When Killing 1 Animal Just Isn't Enough

I'd been feeling pretty stressed last week. I felt disgusted by how many people were going to unthinkingly, heartlessly eat the bodies of turkeys yesterday.

While part of me wished I could attend a vegan Thanksgiving dinner -- two of my friends were each hosting one -- I also felt that I should celebrate with family.

So Keith and I brought are own vegan food -- mashed potatoes and Gardein Tuscan "Chicken Breasts," with carrots and hummus for an appetizer.

I didn't watch as my uncle carved the turkey and I didn't see the platter of flesh being carried into the dining room. By the time Keith and I warmed up our plates, the flesh had already been passed around the table. Although it was in the center of the table in front of me, I was ok with it.

That is, until the guessing game started: What kind of meat were they eating? I didn't care what it was until I heard them say it was turducken, a combination of turkey, duck and chicken. Were they serious?! Unfortunately, yes. I was sickened.

One murdered turkey wasn't enough? My aunt had to purchase a murdered turkey, a murdered duck and a murdered chicken?

As she so graphically -- yet casually -- explained, a "turducken" is a chicken stuffed inside a duck stuffed inside a turkey. Could that possibly be more disgusting?

Yes. Also discussed was whether my aunt should have ordered the frankenmeat with wings and legs. They decided next time she would.

Keith thought they were joking about the "turducken." He'd heard of it but didn't think anyone actually ate it.

Although I love all animals and don't believe any should be killed for their flesh, I do have an affinity for ducks. Even before I became vegetarian and discovered animal rights, I loved ducks.

I'd go to a nearby town's riverwalk and watch the ducks paddle along the water's current. Each female duck was accompanied by a male. Such a sweet site!

So even if I weren't vegan, the notion of eating a duck would have appalled me and I would have eaten vegetarian at that Thanksgiving.

Although almost everyone agreed the mutant concoction tasted like turkey, they each liked it. My uncle couldn't wait till Monday to tell his office that he had "turducken" for Thanksgiving. Great. Spread the word, so three times as many animals can be killed for people's curious, savage taste buds.

I cringed even more when my other aunt fed her daughter that nastiness. Ironically her daughter had brought with her a quacking duck toy. So while she loves one duck, she's given another to eat, unaware of whom she is consuming.

Keith and I agreed that next Thanksgiving will be a completely vegan one for us.

(Photo of turkeys eating at Farm Sanctuary's 2005 "Celebration for the Turkeys" courtesy of Derek Goodwin.)

(Consuela, a chicken, was dumped -- alive -- into a landfill and then rescued. Photographer: Robert Lughai. Watch a short video about her story.)

(Photo of a duck and her ducklings courtesy of Mountain View College.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Soul Vegetarian East Piles on the Yumminess

Anyone who assumes vegan food is going to taste gross should have been at Soul Vegetarian East on Sunday.

I attended a birthday celebration at this all-vegan restaurant on the South Side of Chicago, and the food was phenomenal.

On Sundays one meal is served to everyone. Called "The Dinner," I think the particulars of the meal change each week.

But we started with a salad with a choice of three dressings. The house specialty was something called "Prince," and it was fantastic! We also got wheat rolls with a hint of buttery flavor.

Our main course consisted of a heaping plate of chicken-fried steak with gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn and greens. I ate every bite and licked the plate -- via my finger -- afterward.

My friend's 73-year-old meat-eating mom couldn't believe how good the chicken-fried steak was. She asked, "Are you sure this place is all vegan?" more than once.

Not much of a dessert person, I ate my piece of apple pie right before I felt stuffed. All this -- plus tax and tip -- for only $15.

Cruelty-free, economical and freakin' delicious -- you can't beat it!

(Photo of our dinner courtesy of John White.)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gore Walks an Odd Environmental Walk

Former vice president and climate-change guru Al Gore skirted the issue of animal agribusiness during an hourlong discussion in Chicago this morning.

Chicago Public Radio's newsmagazine program "Eight Forty-Eight" today devoted its show to Gore and his new book, "Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Plan."

Though he said he "walks the walk" when asked about his lifestyle, he didn't mention meat consumption, even when given the perfect opportunity to do so.

A Chicago resident asked him this question:
"How do you reconcile your lifestyle and using the kind of energy you use [...] versus the campaign you have for the global warming?"
His answer:
"I walk the walk and don't simply talk the talk.
He went on to talk about installing new windows, lights, solar panels and geothermal heat pumps in his house.

But host Alison Cuddy asked him to recommend what the average person -- who can't afford solar panels and geothermal instruments -- can do to help ease climate change. She particularly mentioned high school students, who had submitted questions when told Gore would be on the program. What could a high school student do to help the cause?

That would have been the perfect time for Gore to tell listeners to reduce their consumption of meat. (Gore isn't vegan or vegetarian, so I would have been surprised to hear him recommend those options.) What an easy change a high school student could make! After all, animal agribusiness spews more greenhouse gases than does all forms of transportation combined.

Instead Gore talked more about installing energy-efficient windows and solar panels, things irrelevant to a teenager.

He didn't even mention one's eating habits when a caller specifically asked about factory farms. A caller from Chicago erroneously suggested "family farms" don't release methane gas. Gore's response was off-base.
"Factory farming and industrial agriculture is [sic] a very significant source of global-warming pollution. By taking animals off the land, we have made manure into a toxic waste because it's much more acidic and can't be used as fertilizer, and it threatens the air and water in the communities where it's located."
He went on to talk about soil quality, crop rotation and sustainable agriculture.

First, "family farms" are a euphemism. The people who support animal agribusiness and conventional (ie. non-organic) agriculture are families with farms. Although the phrase conjures idyllic images of rolling hills with happy cows, pigs and chickens who die of old age, that's not the reality.

Second, animal products are cheap because of the factory-farm system. If the system is changed, people would still need to reduce their consumption because the supply would be reduced and the prices would increase.

So why not make that recommendation right now? Yes, I'd rather Gore told people to go vegan or even vegetarian. But at the very least he could recommend reducing their consumption of animal products.

Gore may "walk to the walk" on environmentalism, but it's only to the beat of the recommendations he chooses to follow.

(Image courtesy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Elizabeth Kucinich Joins Staff of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

The wife of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, has joined the staff of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

Elizabeth Kucinich is the vegan-health group's new director of public affairs.

As the wife of a politician, she knows more than many about the workings of Capitol Hill. For PCRM, she's been pushing legislation to include vegetarian options and a non-dairy form of milk in school lunches. Her attendance last month at an exhibit for the proposed Great Ape Protection Act, "which would phase out invasive medical research on chimpanzees," led to a story in The Washington Post.
"For me, it's a moral issue, about practicing good science and moving with the times."
Kucinich went vegan as a child, after her mother was diagnosed with Crohn's disease. Ironically her husband also has Crohn's. Dennis went vegan after meeting and falling in love with Elizabeth and noticed improved health.
In the book [...] "Courage to Survive," I talk about a bout with Crohn's disease that I had since I was a little kid. I didn't know until years later in life that dairy products had something to do with irritating that condition. And so when I switched diets – this was in 1995 – I started to achieve a level of health that I didn't have before.
In addition to animal-rights and human-rights work, Kucinich has a master's degree in international conflict analysis and met Dennis at a meeting on monetary policy.

PCRM hopes Kucinich will help the nonprofit organization raise its profile.

New (Short-Term?) Procedure for Comments

I want to mention a change to the comment section of "Digging Through the Dirt."

I prefer to have comments posted automatically, right after they are submitted. But recently I've been getting a lot of spam posts.

I'm not referring to people who disagree with what I write; I welcome those comments, just as I welcome comments from people who agree with me.

The spam comments, though, were advertisements for Viagra, etc. I've been deleting them after they posted, but I don't want my comment sections to have "Comment has been deleted by moderator" (or whatever it says) repeated all over the place -- because readers may think I've been deleting my critics.

So last Friday I set the comments to post only after I've approved them. Unfortunately I'm not sent an e-mail after someone posts, so I didn't realize I had six comments to authorize until I logged in to my blog this afternoon. Three of the six, by the way, were spam.

I apologize for this new procedure and hope it won't be this way for long. Thanks for your understanding!

(Image courtesy of

Friday, November 20, 2009

Giving Thanks for Pro-Veg Image

I love when veg*anism turns up in unexpected places.

Today I found it on my company's internal computer system.

Each week when the engineers update our internal system they include a picture on the home page, just for fun. It's typically about something that is happening that week or that happened in history during that week.

Last week's picture was of the "Sesame Street" gang because the children's show recently celebrated its 40th anniversary.

This week I was thrilled to discover that the engineers -- whom I don't know to be vegetarians and who work in another state -- chose the picture above.

I don't know if they remembered that last year I had asked them not to use a dead turkey for the Thanksgiving image. (They hadn't chosen a picture when I made my request.)

Regardless the picture of the three turkeys praising vegetarians made my day!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wisconsin's Last Greyhound Track to Close

After 19 years in operation Wisconsin's last greyhound racetrack has decided to close its doors.

Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha will go out of business at the end of this year.

It opened in 1990 and had been one of five greyhound tracks in the state, at one time.

Roy Berger, the track's executive vice president, cites Native American casinos and the poor economy for the need to shut Dairyland's doors, but greyhound racing has been in decline nationally for years.

The closure is great news for greyhounds. According to The Humane Society of the United States, in an effort to produce "winning" dogs, more greyhounds are bred each year than are used at tracks.
[As] a result, greyhounds are often destroyed using the least expensive methods, including gunshot. Reports of bludgeoning, abandonment, and starvation have also surfaced.
Life for the dogs who do race isn't much better.
Those greyhounds lucky enough to make it to a racetrack typically live in crates for 18-20 hours per day with exercise limited to only every fourth day or so when they race. Some are left muzzled almost constantly. The dogs are often fed raw meat from diseased livestock rejected by the USDA.
Some tracks use domestic rabbits and wild jackrabbits to train the dogs to run around the track.
One particular event known as "coursing" involves greyhounds chasing, terrorizing and eventually killing rabbits within fenced enclosures.
Massachusetts voters chose in November 2008 to ban greyhound racing, thereby shutting down the state's two remaining venues. About 25 greyhound tracks remain in the United States.

According to an e-mail I received, Dairyland is looking to adopt out its greyhounds. (The e-mail said 900 dogs, but that seems like an insanely large number.) Any dogs who don't get adopted will be euthanized. [See update #2.] If you'd like to adopt a greyhound, you can call the Dairyland Greyhound Adoption Office at (262) 612-8256.

Update 11/18/09: Something else I read said 500 dogs. Regardless, here are two greyhound rescues you can contact if you're interested in adopting or simply providing needed items. Greyhound Pets of America - Wisconsin and Greyhounds Only in Illinois.

Update 11/20/09: The dogs will not be euthanized. They will be cared for until they are adopted.

(Photo courtesy of Fast Action Greyhound Club.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Game Gives Kids Distorted Glimpse of Dairy

Yesterday I wrote about "Virtual Walking the Pens," a computer simulation game in which people are "caregivers" for pigs in a facility with unusually uncramped space.

Another game, this one designed for children, puts an idyllic spin on dairy farms.

"Operation: Dairy" allows kids to learn about the lives of cows, exploited for their milk, as the kids explore hilly pastures.

In a voice-over read by a boy, we are told that each cow is given enough water to fill a bathtub each day. Not very environmentally friendly -- although the game says farmers do care about the environment.
Farmers recycle many things on their farms to help the environment, including water and cow manure. Farmers can use cow manure to fertilize their crops.
E. coli, anyone?

We're also told what the cows eat. No mention of chicken feces, though. Maybe that's only for the cows exploited for their flesh.

This male child also tells players that cows like to be milked.
Cows have a lot of milk to give -- up to 200 glasses a day. Cows like to be milked. They're calm and content while being milked. [...] The cows' teats are cleaned and then dried. The milker is connected and gently squeezes out the milk.
Of course, the boy doing the voice-over has no idea how it would feel to have a machine hooked to one's teats or breasts. And those "200 glasses a day" are milk that was created for the cow's baby, not for people.

Cows are also part of the "circle of life," we learn. They eat plants that grew from the sun's energy and transform the plants into calcium. Vegans, though, know that people can get calcium from directly eating plants. We skip the middlemen -- and the saturated fat.

What piece of agribusiness propaganda would be complete without a mention of "family farms"? We're told 99% of dairy farms are "family farms," where people live along with their cows. Of course, the game doesn't mention what happens when the cows' milk production wanes.

As expected, the game also doesn't mention what happens when a cow gives birth to a male calf.

(Photo courtesy of

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pig Video Too 'Disturbing' for Fox News

An anonymous commenter on this blog last week didn't believe that animal abuse was the norm in agribusiness.
Do you know how hard you PETA nuts have to dig to find a farm that treats their animals like shit?
I, of course, countered that he or she was wrong.
Anonymous, obviously animal advocates don't have to dig very hard. It seems like every month or so a new video is released that shows people in agribusiness abusing animals.
In further support of my argument, Fox News today has aired an undercover video taken at a pig farm in Pennsylvania.

An investigator for Mercy For Animals recorded the footage, which shows "employees picking up baby pigs and tossing them like footballs," during his (or her) three-month stint at the "farm" earlier this year.
The video starts by showing CVFF employees picking up baby pigs by their ears and hind legs and throwing them between employees.
The employees aren't doing this out of spite or for fun; they're simply doing their jobs. But it reveals how those in agribusiness view animals -- as objects, not as living, feeling beings.
Additional scenes from the video show injured pigs going uncared for, pregnant hogs being kept in very small pens, with several portions of the video so disturbing that Fox News will not show.
This is Fox News we're talking about. This company loves sensationalism, but parts of the video disturb even them.

According to Mercy For Animals, here is what the video shows:
  • Workers grabbing piglets by their fragile ears or legs and throwing them across the room and slamming them into transport carts.
  • Workers tattooing sows by repeatedly driving sharp metal spikes into their flesh.
  • Sows with untreated rectal prolapses and deep, infected sores and scrapes from constant rubbing against the bars of their stalls.
  • Workers cutting off piglets' tails with dull pliers and castrating them by ripping out their testes with their bare hands - all without anesthesia.
  • Thousands of pregnant pigs confined in two-feet wide metal stalls so small that they could only take one step forward or backward and could not turn around or lie down comfortably.
  • Injured, sick and runt piglets being tossed into overcrowded gassing kill carts, slowly suffocating from CO2.
  • Workers firing steel rods into sows' heads, sometimes as many as four separate times, before the sows fell and died.
No caring, compassionate person could watch just two minutes of that video and decide they want to continue supporting such a cruel industry.

The pig-breeding facility, owned by Country View Family Farms, is one of the nation's largest and "operates more than 100 pig farms across Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana."

'Pig farm' simulation

Pfizer Animal Health has created a video game of sorts about "pig farming."

In the computer simulation "Virtual Walking the Pens," you get to be the owner -- the game calls it "caregiver" -- of your very own factory farm -- or "family farm," as those in agribusiness prefer to call them. You're in charge of 2,400 pigs from "wean to finish." (I guess that's a euphemism for "from birth to murdered.")

To make it easier for the player, 24 pigs stand in for the actual 2,400.

The first thing I noticed when I watched the demo was how much space these pigs have to move around.

In Mercy For Animals' undercover video we see females confined to gestation crates while they are pregnant. These crates, which are so small the animals can't even turn around, are standard in the industry.

Even when pigs aren't pregnant or nursing (in similarly small farrowing crates) the pigs are crowded into their pens.

But in Pfizer's game the pigs have tons of space to walk around. If an actual facility had all that empty space, the owner would buy more pigs. Empty space means untapped profit.

Pfizer's game is just another example of how those in agribusiness don't want to see how they are actually treating animals.

(Undercover video courtesy of Mercy For Animals. Photo of factory pig farm courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Rings First Step in Eco-Friendly, Nontraditional Wedding

My fiance and I are incorporating eco-consciousness into our wedding plans.

So our first consideration was our rings.

I told Keith I didn't want a diamond. If you haven't seen the Leonardo DiCaprio film "Blood Diamond," check it out. Diamonds mined in Africa are being used to fund wars.
Across vast stretches of Africa, diamonds fuel war. Diamonds are so lucrative for predatory governments and marauding rebels that war has become a useful cover for hugely profitable smuggling enterprises. But for millions of Africans who happen to get in the way, diamonds are agents of terror.
And even so-called "conflict-free" diamonds still have to be mined from the earth.

I told Keith I'd prefer a vintage ring or one made by a local artist. In searching the Internet for handcrafted rings, we came upon the notion of wood rings -- rings made from wood.

When I read Kentucky artist Marlon Obando Solano's bio, I knew I'd feel comfortable with my money supporting his work. The Web site for his business, Naturaleza Organic Jewelry, details how important nature is to Solano and how sustainable his materials are.
My work honors nature through its design and process – all of my renewable materials are organic and metals are recycled.
Indeed, not only does he use renewable materials, but he gathers these materials -- seeds and wood -- from the forest floor in his native Nicaragua. No trees need to be cut down.

Furthermore, Solano uses organic sesame oil to preserve his jewelry. He doesn't use varnish or dyes.

For those people who say being "green" is too expensive: The combined cost of our rings is one-tenth the cost of a diamond engagement ring.

Keith and I ordered Asi Nambaro bands with a sterling-silver inner band. "Asi" refers to the off-set sterling-silver inlay in the wood. Nambaro is the type of wood. Indoors my ring looks brown, but in the sunlight the red of the wood appears.

I'm using my ring as both an engagement ring and a wedding band. It's surprising how ingrained our minds are to equate engagement rings with diamonds. Even though I absolutely didn't want a diamond, it's hard for me to see this ring as an engagement ring. But I think my mind will wrap itself around the idea soon enough -- probably after I show it to my friends and family.

As a vegan, I've learned that simply because something is tradition, it's not necessarily good or right.

So if you're in the market for a ring -- or any other type of jewelry -- check out Naturaleza Organic Jewelry and support an environmentally friendly artist.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Safe Food Shouldn't Require Hotlines, Tips

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is using social media to spread the word about food safety this holiday season.

When it comes to eating, "safety" isn't a word that jumps to mind. "Driving" and "safety"? Yes. "Playing sports" and "safety"? Possibly. But "food" and "safety"? I picture kitchen safety, like being careful when cutting food or when opening a steamer full of broccoli. (I had firsthand -- no pun intended -- experience with the latter last night.)

If a hotline needs to be set up so I don't sicken my Thanksgiving guests, perhaps I shouldn't be fixing that particular dish. But that's what the USDA has done. Its Meat and Poultry Hotline has special Thanksgiving hours. And Diane Van of the USDA's Food Safety Education Service will "answer questions about safe holiday food prep" on the USDA's Facebook page next week.

The department has also launched its "Turkey Tweets" campaign.
Every day until Friday, Nov. 27, the Food Safety and Inspection Service will send out a fresh turkey tip via Twitter, the popular instant messaging service. The tips help you prepare a successful and safe holiday meal.
A "safe holiday meal"?

If I don't cook my grains or veggies long enough or at the proper temperature, they'll turn out hard and possibly inedible. But they definitely won't make my guests ill.

Not cooking a dead turkey at the right temperature for the correct length of time can. People don't have the digestive tract that carnivores have. We can't stomach the bacteria of decomposing animals.

You can have a safe -- and compassionate -- Thanksgiving by not eating animal products. Check out this menu (with recipes) for a delicious, cruelty-free feast.

Pigs to Get Swine-Flu Vaccine

While high-risk people are struggling to get the swine-flu vaccine, Cargill plans to vaccinate 120,000 pigs next month.

According to a Nov. 3 Los Angeles Times story, vaccines for healthcare workers are in short supply.
Federal officials -- who list healthcare workers among those at greatest risk for H1N1 flu -- had promised California 6.2 million doses by now. But the state has received just 2.7 million doses due to manufacturing shortages, said Mike Sicilia, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Health. It is the same story nationwide, where only about 27 million of an expected 40 million doses are available.
Yet pigs who will be killed anyway are expected to receive the immunization.

Swine flu has shown up in pigs at the Minnesota State Fair this summer, as well as in Indiana earlier this month. But Mark Klein, Cargill's spokesperson, said the risk of pigs contracting the disease is small.
"I think the risk is low, but if [the vaccine's] available, why not use it?" Klein said.
Meanwhile, the risk to children, young adults and pregnant women is high. People in all 50 states have contracted the disease, and it's in "virtually every country," according to the World Health Organization.

On a personal note, even if I were part of a high-risk demographic, I'd likely refuse to get the vaccine. I don't think it's been tested long enough. But for people who do choose to get vaccinated, priority should be given to them, not to animals who will soon be killed for their flesh anyway.

There may be a difference between the human and pig vaccines, but energy and money should be devoted to aiding people, not helping agribusiness immunize its "inventory."

(Halloween photo courtesy of Tim Murphy.)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Veal Slaughterhouse Blames Investigator for Abuse

Bushway Packing Inc. is blaming an undercover investigator for some of the cruelty to baby cows secretly caught on tape.

After The Humane Society of the United States on Oct. 30 released video footage of abuse inside the Vermont slaughterhouse, the federal and state departments of agriculture closed the facility pending an investigation.

The undercover video shows "grisly footage of workers kicking, dragging and repeatedly stunning veal calves with electric prods."

In one instance captured on camera an employee swears and strikes "a calf that won't get up. The man then tells the calf, 'You're getting shocked.'"
When the calf fails to stand up, the man dribbles water on the head of the animal and begins poking it with the prod, first on the head and then on other parts of its body.
Peter Langrock, a lawyer for Bushway, claims the idea to put water on the calf was made by the undercover investigator.
To back up the videographer's claim [of innocence], the Humane Society released an uncut version of the water-sprinkling sequence to the Free Press on Friday. No instructions from the undercover investigator about putting water on the calf can be heard during the segment.
Obviously I think the lawyer and all parties related to Bushway are liars. This incident isn't the only act of cruelty depicted on the video. In fact, others involve a co-owner of the slaughterhouse, as well as a USDA inspector.

Although co-owner Frank Perretta claimed he was "absolutely not" aware of cruelty at Bushway, on the video "a voice identified as Perretta's joked to a worker as a calf collapsed after being stunned that it 'looks like you on Friday night.'"
In another scene, the slaughter plant's co-owner [...] is shown shocking downed calves with electric prods in futile attempts to force them to stand. Prodding one calf to stand up, he says to the animal, "There ain't nothing wrong with you, shit box."
Even the presence of a USDA inspector can't stop the abuse.
In one scene, a worker attempts to skin a calf who is still alive, directly in front of a USDA inspector. This government official tells the worker, on hidden camera, that if another USDA inspector saw this, the plant would be shut down, but he allows the abuse to continue.
Curiously Langrock doesn't understand why an investigator would target Bushway, a clean, modern facility. But abuse can occur anywhere regardless of aesthetics.

Bushway was also a producer of organic veal, so if you think "organic" means "humane," think again.

Even if you don't eat veal, if you do consume dairy products, you are supporting this kind of animal abuse.

When dairy cows give birth to male calves, the males are confined to "veal crates" and slaughtered shortly thereafter. Their flesh was also used in hot dogs.
The meat derived from the calves' slaughter was shipped to Atlantic Veal and Lamb Inc., in Brooklyn, N.Y., and ended up in hot dogs and processed meat products.
Think about this image, from the undercover investigator, the next time you reach for milk, cheese or ice cream. (There are plenty of yummy vegan alternatives.)
"The images I have of them following me, bawling and trying to grab my shirt sleeves to nurse are troubling," he said. "I still can't comprehend how desensitized to suffering one would need to be in order to harm these calves the way the workers and co-owner of the plant did."

(Video courtesy of The HSUS.)

Friday, November 6, 2009

'Bones' Features Factory Farm, Slaughterhouse Footage

The TV show "Bones" regularly includes subtle animal-advocacy messages.

But last night's episode featured actual footage of chickens in factory farms, courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.

While the Internet contains far more graphic footage than was seen on "Bones," I applaud the show -- and its vegan actor/producer Emily Deschanel -- for including it. This footage was likely the first many audience members have been exposed to.

We saw baby chicks getting their beaks seared off, hundreds of chickens crowded into a "cage-free" or "free-range" facility and chickens being hooked upside down to the conveyor at a slaughterhouse.

And, in case some viewers weren't moved by these images, a photo of a cute pig was passed around. Hopefully it caused some in the audience to realize who they are eating when they consume bacon or other pig-flesh products.

And hopefully a few chickens will be spared and seeds of compassion planted in many more minds.

You can view the episode for free at or at

(Rudy Tootie Fresh and Fruity -- his nickname -- lives at Farm Sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Susie Coston.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Electorate Votes Against Animals, Equality

I'm 0-for-3 in the races I cared most about this past Election Day.

I wasn't surprised that Issue 2 -- the creation of the so-called Livestock Care Standards Board -- passed in Ohio. Animal agribusiness had held rallies throughout the state in an effort to win approval for the measure, which will put them in charge of farmed-animal care.

At an Ohio fair someone actually wrote "Yes for 2" on his cow. (See photo.) This image shows us that animal ags don't value their animals as individuals. If they did, they would realize that cows wouldn't support an initiative that treats them as property, that clamps machines to their udders, that steals their babies and confines them to crates so small they can't turn around, and that murders their babies when they are only weeks old.

No, animal ags instead view animals as objects, inventory, live stock. They are only as valuable as the price they get for their soon-to-be dead bodies.

The Humane Society of the United States will likely fight for a ballot initiative next year, which could ban gestation and veal crates and battery cages.

In a race indirectly related to animals, Chris Christie was elected governor of New Jersey. Christie was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey at the time that the SHAC 7 -- a group of people who used a Web site to advocate for the closure of an animal-torture ("research") facility -- were prosecuted as "terrorists."

In a decision that surprised me, Maine voters overturned a recent law that had legalized same-sex marriage in that state. "NoOn1" had been a trending topic on Twitter yesterday, so I assumed the measure to ban same-sex marriage wouldn't pass. Sadly it did.

Election Day yesterday was not a good one for animals or for equality.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Dark Side of Cute Puppies

It's the age-old dilemma: How does one make puppies cuter than they already are?

Furry Babies, a chain of Illinois pet stores, found a solution: Put them in baby cribs.

I would have walked right by the store at my local mall, unaware of its existence, had it not been for my fiance, Keith. He grabbed my hand tighter and eased me in the opposite direction.

When I saw the three cribs and the puppies inside them, though, I was disgusted and marched inside.

As I looked around, determining which customers were there out of curiosity and which were actual, potential buyers, I noticed a sign on the wall, offering free financing up to $1,200 with no credit checks.

Despite the wish to distinguish itself from a pet store -- "Furry Babies, Inc. is an upscale puppy boutique, not just a pet store" -- that's exactly what Furry Babies is.

The company doesn't care if the dogs go to caring homes or even if the buyers can afford them. Can't afford to take care of a living, breathing, feeling being? That's ok -- just use the installment plan!

A couple people walked out after watching two puppies wrestle each other in a crib. But a couple with a young boy looked like potential buyers. So I told them if they wanted a dog, they should get one from a shelter. They were very receptive to my suggestion, and I told them about two nearby humane societies, as well as

The woman said her son wanted a dog for Christmas. With the holidays approaching and more people shopping at the mall, I wonder how many puppies will be purchased at Furry Babies -- and how many wonderful shelter dogs will be killed in return.

(Photo of a German shepherd puppy in a crib at Furry Babies in Joliet.)