Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ohio Farm Board, HSUS Reach Compromise

Despite a last-minute push by The Humane Society of the United States to collect enough signatures, its animal-welfare initiative will not be on Ohio's ballot in November.

The HSUS has worked out a compromise with the Ohio Farm Bureau, heading off what would have been a contentious election battle.

Both sides are claiming victory, spinning the compromise as more than it is.

An e-mail from Gene Baur, the president of Farm Sanctuary, which worked with The HSUS on this campaign, said "the animals won!" and that "agribusiness in Ohio is committed to change for farm animals." While Ohio animal ag did make concessions, they don't care any more about the animals today than they did yesterday.

The compromise includes the following:
  • A ban on veal crates, to be phased out within six years.
  • A ban on new gestation crates in the state after December 31, 2010. Existing facilities are grandfathered, but must cease use of these crates within 15 years.
  • A permanent moratorium on permits for new battery cage facilities in place immediately.
  • A ban on the transport of downed cows and calves for slaughter.
  • A ban on strangulation and other forms of on farm killing that are not included in euthanasia standards as outlined by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
  • Enactment of legislation establishing felony-level penalties for cock fighters.
  • Enactment of legislation cracking down on puppy mills.
  • Enactment of a ban on the acquisition of dangerous exotic animals as pets, such as primates, bears, lions, tigers, large constricting and venomous snakes, crocodiles, and alligators.
While some of these measures sound good -- Baur's been fighting for federal downed-cow legislation for decades -- I don't know how the bans will be put into place. I don't know if Ohio's new Livestock Care Standards Board can implement bans themselves or if the state legislature has to vote on them.

The legislature will have to vote on at least the last three items, and the compromise is not legally binding.

Animal ag's response
If Farm Sanctuary and The HSUS are guilty of spinning the compromise, then animal agribusiness (in the form of good ol' David Martosko) is dizzying itself.

Martosko's press release accuses The HSUS of "slink[ing] away in [a] face-saving move."
[HSUS's Wayne] Pacelle secured only a few weak promises from Governor Strickland concerning animal-welfare measures that had nothing to do with the reasons the group gave for coming into the Buckeye State.
But that's not completely true. Ohio initiative's Web site detailed the issues The HSUS wanted to see changed.
Extreme confinement in tiny cages for months on end: Tens of thousands of veal calves, 170,000 breeding pigs, and approximately 27 million egg-laying hens in Ohio are confined in cages and crates so restrictive the animals can barely move an inch for virtually their whole lives. Many don't even have enough room to stretch their limbs or turn around.

Allowing "downer cows" to enter the human food chain: Allowing sick and injured animals into the food supply threatens public health and food safety. Cows too sick or injured to stand or walk on their own to slaughter should be humanely euthanized, not inhumanely dragged or pushed while being shocked and beaten onto the kill floor to be used for human consumption.

Inhumane methods of euthanasia for sick and injured animals: In Ohio, a factory farmer was videotaped killing sick pigs by hanging them execution-style from a tractor, leaving them to writhe in the air for minutes on end. He was acquitted of cruelty for the hangings, a verdict Ohio's agribusiness community hailed as a "huge victory," because Ohio has no law specifically requiring humane farm animal euthanasia method.
But, Martosko notes, the moratorium on battery cages could be lifted at any time, and the veal industry had already announced a phaseout of veal crates by 2017.

Martosko quotes himself in his press release.
"HSUS's press release listing its animal agriculture 'gains' is laughable. It's just a restatement of current law and an acknowledgement of the way livestock practices are already evolving."
These practices are evolving because of The HSUS. Animal ag doesn't want them. That's why they've spent millions trying to defeat ballot initiatives like the one Ohioans would have voted on in November.

Today was the final day The HSUS could turn in its 500,000 signatures to get the measure on the ballot. But if animal ag doesn't live up to its end of the deal, The HSUS can try again during another election. Although are we to wait 15 years to see if gestation crates are gone?



Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Vegan Who Promotes Animal Ag?

I'm baffled by a piece I read today by a vegan named Ryan Andrews, and I'm hoping someone could enlighten me as to why he would have written it.

It's basically a PR piece for animal agribusiness.

Now I don't know Ryan Andrews, although a Google search shows that he's pretty involved in the vegan community. He's on the board of advisors for Support Vegans in the Prison System, has worked with the Vegetarian Resource Group and has a blog called "Ask Ryan" for the Vegetarian Society of Colorado.

I hesitate to criticize anyone working on behalf of animals, but the piece he wrote just boggles my mind.

He wrote about his tour of Magnum Feedyard, a feedlot in Wiggins, Colo. He calls it both a family farm and a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation -- aka "factory farm"), and I don't care what it is. Animals on family farms end up slaughtered just like those on factory farms do.

Magnum houses 22,000 cows, all of whom will eventually be killed for their flesh.
When animals arrive at Magnum, they are usually 7 – 9 months of age, and receive four days of 100% grass feed to help maintain rumen health. Cattle are normally kept on the feedlot until around 12 to 15 months of age (180-200 days on feed), during this time they gain 500 to 600 pounds.
And then they're killed? Oh, did he forget to mention that? Well, he does later when he describes their quick transport to the slaughterhouse and then uses a euphemism to describe their murder.
Nearly every week, a truck picks up cattle and transports them to a meat packing plant. This is where cattle are harvested and the carcasses fabricated. It's important for the cattle to be transported quickly and calmly. The more stressed the animal, the lower quality the meat.
And that's that. Nice and tidy. No mess. Quick and painless.

Andrews also packs his piece full of information and statistics that no casual visitor -- even one pretty knowledgeable about animal rights would know. He cites sources at the end of the story, but the piece is too blatantly positive to strike me as true. I question his motivation for writing it. Check out his ending.
And, I have to say it. If my experience at Magnum is representative of other cattle farms, all those accounts of the dismal, depressing, disastrous cattle conditions seem to be exaggerated.

No, I'm not going to start eating meat again.

However, if I did eat meat, my visit to Magnum would have made me feel great about eating non-organic, non-grass-fed beef. Seriously. I can't imagine the quality of meat would be substantially better with organic and grass-fed. Nor can I imagine the living conditions would be substantially better for the cattle.

Now, to be clear, we don't require meat in our diet. And I don't think we should be using cows for food, doesn't matter if the cattle are kept on a feedlot or chilling in a waterbed listening to John Tesh. But that's my own value system and I'm well aware that 97% of people in the U.S. eat meat on a regular basis.

[...]

People want meat. And Magnum's feedlot system is dialed in. They're producing safe and cost-effective meat in, arguably, the most cattle-conscious way (short of opening up those pens and letting them run free). Rock on Magnum.
Rock on? Seriously? Hey, way to go, animal killers!

I hate how he basically apologizes for not eating meat. It's "my own value system"; you do whatever you want. And sure 97% of Americans eat meat, but shouldn't we be working to reduce that number? Instead he's telling meat-eaters it's ok. His being vegan lends a huge amount of credibility to animal ag -- so much so that David Martosko of the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom and other animal exploiters are tweeting the link to Andrews' story.

Rock on, Ryan Andrews. You've done the animals a great disservice.



Dog, Cat Expert Harms Farmed Animals

A Chicago pet expert has sided with animal agribusiness, publishing a piece titled "Endangered Species: U.S. Farmers" on his blog.

Steve Dale, who had his own weekly show on Chicago's WGN Radio -- which is how I came to know of him -- is a syndicated pet columnist and a dog and cat behavior consultant, according to his blog, "Steve Dale's Pet World."

"Endangered Species: U.S. Farmers" criticizes California's Prop 2 and the Ohio initiative that is likely to be on November's ballot -- both of which phase out the use of confining crates for calves, pregnant pigs and chickens used for their eggs.

It bothers me that a man who makes his living by advocating on behalf of dogs and cats hasn't made the connection to other species of animals. But what annoys me more is that he's actually giving publicity -- and swaying public opinion -- to the side of people who murder animals.

If Dale hasn't made the connection and wants to eat animals, fine. But don't give animal abusers a microphone. And certainly don't tell your many fans that it's ok to eat animals.

What's the difference between a dog and a pig, between a cat and a cow?

He ends his post with agribusiness's "Chicken Little" arguments.
Everyone wants U.S. farmers to treat farm animals humanely....[Rancher Trent] Loos says we're pretty much there already; others contend we need to do better. All agree, though, if we go too far - animals don't benefit, U.S. farms go away - and we import nearly all our food. Sound like that could never happen. Experts say 'we're on our way for that to happen now.' Do we really want to be dependent on other countries for our food. Not only will prices go up, but also huge concerns about food safety.
We already have huge concerns about food safety under the current conditions. At least once a month I read about animal flesh being recalled.

And if prices for animal flesh and secretions increase, then that'd mean fewer animals who are tortured and killed. Isn't that a good thing, Mr. Animal Lover?

One segment that won't disappear, though, is U.S. farmers. While people who imprison and kill animals like to consider themselves farmers, true farmers actually grow crops. And a population that's eating more plant foods is going to give them a bigger market.



Shady Illinois Butcher Supplied Flesh for Lion Burger

An Illinois butcher who served time in 2003 for selling the flesh of federally protected animals seems to be back to his old tricks.

Richard Czimer, whose Homer Glen shop I've passed countless times (and I may have even gone into once as a child), provided "lion meat" to an Arizona restaurant that's lion burgers to capitalize on the World Cup.

I put "lion meat" in quotes because no one, even Czimer himself apparently (although I don't believe him), knows much about its origins.
"This man buys and sells animals for the skin, and when I need something and he has ability to get it, I will bargain for the meat. It's a byproduct," he said.

And where does that mystery man get the lions? "I wouldn't have any idea," said Czimer, who operates a small retail store in addition to his wholesale business. "He has his sources, and I do not infringe on his business, just as he does not infringe on mine."
Sounds shady, doesn't it?

And "a byproduct"? The lion(s), if indeed that's the only species of animal in these burgers (aside from the cows that are mixed in), was killed for his skin. Czimer is an accomplice, not an innocent bystander merely purchasing a byproduct.
[In 2003] Czimer admitted to purchasing the carcasses of 16 tigers, four lions, two mountain lions and one liger -- a tiger-lion hybrid -- which were skinned, butchered and sold as "lion meat," for a profit of more than $38,000.
What an unscrupulous, greedy man. (Although anyone who profits from the murder of any animal is a jag in my book.)

Czimer, who served a measly six months in 2003 for selling federally protected tigers and leopards between 1997 and 1998, also sells the flesh of black bears, kangaroos, ducks, deer, buffalo, camels, ostriches, alligators, llamas -- the list is practically endless -- at Czimer's Game and Sea Foods.

The supposed lion flesh in the most recent incident was sold to a one-man Phoenix, Ariz., distributor called Gourmet Imports-Wild Game. Owner Rick Worrilow then sold the flesh to Cameron Selogie, who is selling it at his Mesa restaurant, Il Vinaio.
Mr Selogie said he had explained to protesters that African lions are on the protected list, but not endangered.
Oh, well, that's ok then. Actually African lions are "classified as 'threatened' by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, an international protection agreement."

I've had it up to here with people who put profit ahead of animals' lives. I don't care if they're killing lions or pigs, tigers or chickens. It's wrong, and it needs to stop.

And, as an aside, how can one look at the image above and think it's ok for a beautiful, living creature to be killed for someone's taste buds?

(Image courtesy of CNN.)



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Plan Commission in Chicago Suburb Votes Down Puppy Mill Store

A Chicago suburb's plan commission has voted against giving a proposed puppy mill store a conditional-use permit.

Alex Gershbein plans to open Planet Pooch Boutique, a store that will sell puppies and offer grooming, in seven Chicago-area locations.

But the Glenview Plan Commission voted 4-1 yesterday not to allow the business to move into a shopping area called The Glen Town Center.
Commissioners took care to note that they based their decision to vote against this proposal strictly on the basis that Mr. Gershbein had not met the standards for a conditional use of the property.

They mentioned specifically that he had not addressed their concerns about the grooming salon and its possible interference with nearby businesses, although they listened intently to the concerns of activists and residents alike.
According to a spokesperson for The Puppy Mill Project, a charity that advocates against puppy mills, about 50 animal advocates turned out for the meeting.
"Most people wouldn't deliberately buy a puppy mill puppy. But that's what they're getting when they buy from pet stores," said Amy Parker, of Deerfield, IL. "No matter what the store tells you, mass commercial breeding is the only way to supply enough puppies to meet pet store demand."
Planet Pooch's Gershbein is also involved with Pawsh Puppies, another puppy mill store in the Chicago area that has been the target of animal activists. The landlord of his Halsted Street store in Chicago also attended the meeting and told the commission that Gershbein "had stopped paying him rent, owed him $44,000.00, and had finally vacated the premises only that morning, after he was threatened with eviction by the Cook County Sheriff's police."

Thanks to protests and organized groups like The Puppy Mill Project, it's only a matter of time before stores that sell animals will be considered as taboo and disgusting as cigarette smoking.

If you'd like to welcome a dog or cat into your family, please adopt from a shelter or a rescue organization. You'll find many wonderful animals at Petfinder.com.

(Catherina is a 2-year-old Maltese looking for her forever home.)



Thursday, June 17, 2010

Puppy-Mill Giant Joins Forces With Animal Agribusiness

The world's largest supplier of puppies to pet stores is hosting a regional animal-agribusiness meeting next week.

The topic? Those pesky animal advocates.

The Hunte Corporation, "the world’s largest distributor of purebred puppies to the pet industry," will host the Regional Missouri Farm Bureau Meeting on Thursday.

The title of the keynote presentation, given by a Missouri Farm Bureau employee, is "Understanding the Activists ... Wolves In Sheep's Clothing."

Andrew Hunte, the CEO of The Hunte Corporation, is urging anyone involved in animal exploitation to attend.
We believe that educating the public is extremely important and we want to do our part to ensure that people simply know the truth. If your livelihood involves pets, animals or livestock in an way, it is being directly threatened and I would encourage you to attend this important meeting."
It's ironic that Hunte simply wants people to know the truth. If people saw the parents of their pet-store puppy, they'd be horrified.

Dogs at puppy mills are bred as often as possible, they don't know what grass feels like, they don't play with other dogs or kids. They are simply machines used to churn out litters of puppies for profit -- while millions of other dogs are euthanized each year because they don't have homes.

And as miserable as these dogs' lives are, the lives of farmed animals are even worse.

While it'd seem to make sense for these two cruel industries to band together to fight people who actually care about animals -- be they dogs and cats or cows, pigs and chickens, etc. -- it's really a stupid move for animal ag. Even people who say they'd never go veg detest puppy mills.

Thursday's speech is supposedly "extremely in-depth and exposes the alarming agendas, motives and tactics of some of America's most radical animal rights groups."

And by "radical animal rights groups," I'm guessing they mean The Humane Society of the United States, which any animal-rights activist will tell you is nowhere near radical. Many would even hesitate to call it an "animal rights group." Nevertheless, the people whose livelihoods depend on animal exploitation fear The HSUS.

As far as the "alarming agendas, motives and tactics" used by animal activists, they're really quite simple and not at all alarming. We want to end animal exploitation, suffering, murder -- that sort of thing.

We have one motive: We care about animals. The motive of puppy mill operators and those in animal agribusiness, of course, is money. They sell animals and the products of animals for profit.

Our tactics are simple, too. We educate others to the suffering of animals, whether they be dogs in puppy mills or cows on dairy farms.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Don't Be Deceived by HumaneWatch

It's sad to see that some animal-rights activists have bought in to HumaneWatch's deception.

It's also easy to see how they've been duped.

HumaneWatch is a bogus Web site created by Rick Berman and David Martosko of the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom. It even has a Facebook page and runs ads on Facebook that hide the CCF's anti-animal/pro-corporate stance.

What animal lover could find fault with a photograph of a cute puppy (right) followed by this copy?
Love animals? You'll love HumaneWatch too. You'll help us keep national "humane society" groups HONEST.
But if animal lovers knew who funds HumaneWatch and the CCF, they'd never agree to join such a group.

The CCF is funded in part by animal agribusiness, and Martosko relishes calling animal activists "wackos" and "nuts."

As I've noted before, the goal of the CCF is to discredit The Humane Society of the United States, to make it less powerful. The CCF doesn't care about dogs and cats in local humane shelters. That's just a ploy. What the CCF does care about is preventing The HSUS from passing ballot initiatives that will hurt the CCF's animal-agribusiness clients.

Sure, it's good to have oversight of organizations, whether they be billion-dollar corporations (like BP) or charitable groups. However, the CCF is obviously the wrong entity to be doing the so-called monitoring.

For more information about what HumaneWatch really is, check out this video created by an HSUS supporter, without input from The HSUS.

Don't be taken in by the cuddly puppy in their ad or by the animal-friendly sound of "HumaneWatch." The people behind it are heartless, greedy businessmen whose lack of a conscience allows them to go to great lengths in their deception.

(Top photo: David Martosko illustrates just how much he cares about animals.)



Friday, June 11, 2010

Profits Over Puppies

While caring about farmed animals hasn't yet gone mainstream, caring about dogs and cats has been mainstream for quite a while.

So it's surprising that a pet-store owner -- or as Jennifer Nicole Hack, Examiner.com's Chicago dog-training blogger, calls them, "puppy mill shops" -- is expanding his facilities.

Laurence Portnoy owns Pawsh Puppies in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood and in Northbrook. But Hack says Northbrook Court mall isn't renewing his lease, likely due to protests there. Unfortunately, some stripmall owners are giving him space.
Sadly, the puppy peddlers have plans to open multiple locations. Chicago is a humane, dog loving city[.] All these stores will be boycotted by animal loving residents in the area.
His new venture is called Planet Pooch, with "puppy mill shops" in Lincoln Park, Schaumburg, Naperville and Orland Park.

Hopefully the original Planet Pooch, a pair of doggy daycare centers in California, can sue Portnoy for infringing on their name. I spoke with the receptionist at one location who said she hadn't heard about a Chicagoland Planet Pooch.

For those who don't yet know how pet stores get their puppies, they get them from puppymills where female dogs are impregnated as often as possible. Their puppies are taken from them and sold to pet stores, which then sell them for tens of hundreds of dollars to unsuspecting people.

Please, if you care about dogs and cats, adopt them from a shelter or from a rescue organization.

A Rescue or a Business?

Most rescue organizations are reputable and have a dog's best interest in mind. Unfortunately, every so often one pops up that appears a bit shady.

I came across one of those today. Someone began following me on Twitter, so I glanced at that person's tweets. The majority of her (or his) tweets were linked to eBay Classifieds pages that advertised puppies for "adoption" from Posh Puppies Rescue and Adoption Center.

Two things raised a red flag for me.

First, I've never known a rescue to have so many purebred puppies. Sure, purebred puppies can be found at rescues, but not in the numbers that this organization has them.

Second, while I don't know anything about eBay Classifieds, a "classifieds" section, to me, implies people are selling stuff.

Posh Puppies' Web site says their puppies are leftovers from pet stores.
These darling, precious babies are given 2 chances to be sold~if they are not sold, they are returned to the commercial kennel to await their fate.
Most of the time, they are destroyed~many at only 12 weeks of age because their "shelf life", as it's called, has expired.
It sounds like a nice thing that this woman, Helen M. Martin, is doing.

But after I asked my animal-advocacy friends on Facebook if they were familiar with this "rescue," one of them (thanks, Tracie!) pointed out the "adoption" price of several of the puppies: $395, $450, even $695! All of which are much higher than any legitimate rescue organization I've seen.

According to its Web site, Posh Puppies is a 501(c)(3) charity, as most other rescues are. But I find it hard to believe Posh Puppies' first priority isn't to make a profit.

If you want to adopt a dog or a cat, check out Petfinder.com. It's worth noting that Posh Puppies is not on that site.

Update (6/23/10): It's unclear whether Laurence Portnoy is involved with Planet Pooch. However, Alex Gershbein of Pawsh Puppies is.

(Rowdy, a 5-year-old Cairn terrier, can be adopted through Cairn Rescue USA, one of many reputable rescue organizations.)



Public Hunting of Deer Removed From Options -- At Least for Now

The Will County Board yesterday sent the issue of reducing the number of deer in Will County (IL) forest preserves back to committee.

But they took the shotgun-hunting option off the table -- at least for now.

The board wants the operations committee of the Forest Preserve District of Will County to look into other methods to control the deer population. Allowing sharpshooters to kill about 400 female deer is still an option.
But Elizabeth Krzak, a New Lenox veterinarian, argued that killing deer is not the answer. "Immediately after the population is culled, it flourishes because there is less competition," Krzak said.

The surviving does respond to the increased food by delivering twins and triplets in the spring instead of single fawns, she said. Krzak suggested birth control as an alternative.
But Marcy DeMauro, the executive director for the forest preserve district, said state law doesn't allow for contraceptive vaccinations for white-tailed deer.

Diane Seiler, D-Lockport, wondered if there were a more humane way to reduce the deer population than by using sharpshooters.

While the board opted not to pursue public hunting, Will County Board Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort, left the idea open, saying he may reintroduce it after more discussion in committee, according to Jeff Ruhe, an anti-hunting advocate from Beecher who attended the meeting. Moustis also leads the forest preserve's operations committee.

Ruhe also noted that forest preserve president Cory Singer, R-Frankfort, "promised to push for hunting and made a long speech supporting it."

These guys are really jonesing for their buddies to be able to kill some deer.
[I]f the group decided to reduce the number of deer through the use of marksmen, perhaps some of the environmentally conscious local hunters would volunteer to help with that project, Moustis said.
Oh, the altruism.

But at least public hunting is off the table for now.

(Photo courtesy of PrairieWildlife.net.)



Monday, June 7, 2010

Promotion of Veal on Columbus Day Adds to Insult

The marketing arm of the Cattlemen's Beef Board plans to promote veal consumption for Columbus Day this year.

The move is part of a campaign by the Beef Checkoff Program (you need to register to gain access) aimed at Americans of Italian descent.
The Beef Checkoff Program's veal retail marketing team announced a promotion slated for this fall that will aim to position veal as the dish for Columbus Day, as turkey is the dish for Thanksgiving.
Although one of my great-grandfathers emigrated from Italy, my family never celebrated Columbus Day. I don't know how popular this campaign will be, but it's sad and inappropriate for a number of reasons.

First, of course, is the suffering that calves experience so that people can eat "veal." I put "veal" in quotes because it's really just a euphemism for the flesh of a baby cow.

In the dairy industry male calves -- which are worthless to milk producers -- are taken from their mothers shortly after birth and confined in veal crates so small they can't stretch their limbs. The crates inhibit muscle growth, to ensure tender meat. The calves are fed a diet low in iron, causing them to become anemic, so that their flesh will remain pale. They are killed after 12-23 weeks, and their flesh sold as veal.

This marketing campaign is ironic because of how Christopher Columbus and fellow white men for centuries afterward treated the native peoples they encountered.

I'm reading Howard Zinn’s "A People's History of the United States," and it's incredible how these European explorers and settlers regarded fellow human beings. In Columbus' log he wrote about how easy it would be to turn the native peoples into slaves.
Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:

["]They . . . brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned . . . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features . . . .They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane . . . They would make fine servants . . . .With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.["]

These Arawaks of the Bahama Islands were much like Indians on the mainland, who were remarkable (European observers were to say again and again) for their hospitality, their belief in sharing.
Later, of course, the white settlers would enslave Africans. While human slavery still exists, it's uncommon in this country. But widespread slavery in the United States does still exist -- in the form of animal agribusiness, among other industries.

Because we think of ourselves as exceptional, we view "the other" as inferior. Descendents of native peoples and of African slaves are still regarded as inferior in this country, in general. And animals are treated as such, too. They exist for our purposes; they have no value except that which we bestow upon them, usually in the form of dollars. It's all about what we can get from them -- their flesh, their milk, their eggs -- just as it was for Columbus. What could he get from the native peoples?
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, on the first Island which I found, I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.
He was in search of gold. Today those in animal agribusiness are looking for dollars, and they imprison and torture billions of animals each year to get it.

Columbus isn't worthy of celebration, and to eat the flesh of animals only adds insult to the day.



Chicken Facility Gets Slap on Wrist in 'Landmark' Settlement

New England's largest egg supplier has reached a settlement in an animal-cruelty case.

In April of last year I wrote a blog post about a Mercy For Animals' undercover investigation into Maine Contract Farming LLC (although MFA is now calling it Quality Egg of New England).

Titled "Video Reveals Rotting Corpses, Chickens Kicked into Manure Pits at Egg Facility," the post documented the abuse that MFA found in its six-week probe.
The video not only revealed rotting corpses but also workers throwing chickens into trash cans to die and whipping birds around by their necks to kill them.
In a subsequent post, I wrote about the conditions that Maine Department of Agriculture employees found when it visited the facility.
The Maine Department of Agriculture workers, responding to the undercover investigation by Chicago-based Mercy For Animals, "felt burning in the nose and eyes, coughing, tightness of breath, and they sought medical attention for ammonia exposure."

These were the symptoms felt by people, obviously much larger than chickens, who were in the factory-farm facility for a matter of hours -- and who were likely wearing protective clothing and masks.

Now think about the chickens who have to live in these conditions their entire lives. They are much smaller than people, so ammonia fumes will affect them much sooner and more severely. There is no escape for them, no doctor to look after them.
Care to guess what Maine Contract Farming's punishment is?
[The company] admitted to 10 civil counts of animal cruelty for not providing hens with adquate shelter and food during a brief time in early 2009. The agreement involves 10 of the farm's five million hens.
The company also has to pay $25,000 in fines, $100,000 to the state and court costs.

But 5 million hens?! Even the most ardent animal lover wouldn’t be able to ensure the health and well-being of 5 million hens. The punishment is a joke."

What's even more pathetic is that this is viewed as a "landmark settlement."
"We believe that this is a landmark settlement," Mercy for Animals [founder] Nathan Runkle told MPBN's Susan Sharon. "This should send a very clear message to the egg industry that animal abuse will not be tolerated, and we believe that the state is trying to do the best things to prevent further cruelty to animals."
I disagree that this sends an anti-abuse message to the egg industry. What's sad is that this meager punishment is viewed as a precedent. It just shows us how low of a priority punishing farmed-animal abuse has been.



Media Outlets Pull CCF's Smear Story

It appears two more television news stations have discovered the truth about the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom and have removed their stories critical of The Humane Society of the United States.

Hawaiian station KHON-2 last week and Wichita station KSN-TV on Friday aired reports about how The HSUS supposedly misleads the public into thinking our donations go to local animal shelters. The story was spoon-fed to them by David Martosko of the CCF.

But after being contacted by The HSUS, the Hawaiian station removed the story from its Web site. It appears the Wichita station has followed suit, as no hint of the story can be found on its Web site.

If this sounds familiar, it's because the same thing happened with a Georgia news station in May 2009.

As I noted after Atlanta station WSB-TV pulled its story, "news organizations don't typically cave to threats of lawsuits. They have lawyers, and they also have the First Amendment. So I have to think that the people at WSB are doubting the validity of the story they aired."

I was right. In fact, less than a month ago the general manager at WSB-TV sent Rick Berman, the creator of the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom, a letter chastising him for continuing to use the piece.
Station manager Hoffman wrote that "we [at WSB-TV] have had the opportunity to learn more about HSUS." He noted, "we believe that you have misrepresented the Broadcast as supporting your contention that HSUS actively misleads the public in its advertising. WSB-TV has no evidence of that nor do we believe it to be true." Hoffman also reminded Berman that "we immediately corrected an error in our original Broadcast regarding HSUS and Katrina relief efforts in our next news program."
I have no doubt that the CCF will continue feeding this story to news stations in more states. But sooner or later media outlets will get wise to their duplicitous ways.

Meanwhile, the National Federation of Humane Societies has sided with The HSUS.
After catching wind of the campaign, the National Federation of Humane Societies — a comprehensive trade federation that represents the animal welfare industry — sent Berman a letter regarding the situation, stating the claims by the CCF were "inaccurate based on our collective experiences.”
It calls on Berman to identify his corporate funders and urges him "to cease your smear campaign against HSUS that negatively impacts the efforts of our members to improve the lives of animals in their local communities."

Update (6/7/10): Well, that didn't take long. A station in Augusta, Ga., and one in Connecticut also have smear on their Web sites. They look like blog posts, though. I don't see any video. I'm guessing in a matter of days these, too, will be pulled.

(Image courtesy of The Dog Files.)



Friday, June 4, 2010

Turning Guilt Into Action

As hard as it is to watch videos of farmed animals being abused, I can do it because I feel empowered, not helpless. By eating vegan, I have the ability not to contribute to that industry.

But it's harder for me to view photographs of the animal victims of the BP oil spill.

I feel helpless and guilty because I know I contribute to their pain. I live in the Chicago suburbs, where public transportation often isn't an option. While I drive a sensible car, my commute to and from work is a long one.

I could boycott BP, but what good would that do? Oil companies all destroy our planet.

No, I need to make changes closer to home. Even though I recycle and try to conserve energy, I know I'm not doing enough. Although I'm vegan -- a diet that helps the planet immensely -- there is more that I could, that I should, do. Like when I transitioned from an omnivorous diet to a plant-based one, I simply have to learn about alternatives to my current lifestyle, and I need to develop the mind-set to stick to it.

One of my friends unplugs her microwave each time she's done using it. I'm going to do that, too. It's a little thing, but it can't hurt.

As for my commute, changes are in the works for that.

Do you have any tips for lessening one's dependence on oil?

(This poor thing is an oil-covered bird. Courtesy of The Washington Post.)



Thursday, June 3, 2010

Outrageous Responses to Animal Abuse

In the past week we've seen two undercover videos of animals being abused in agribusiness.

Some of the responses from the industry would be hilarious if animals' lives weren't at stake.

Compassion Over Killing yesterday released footage of ducklings being scaled alive, mangled in machines and washed down a garbage-disposal-like contraption.

Brian Collins, the owner of Cal-Cruz Hatcheries in California, was unsympathetic to the ducklings' plight.
"Some [ducklings/chicks] do get lost, and I'm not saying it's OK," Collins said. "But put it in perspective; it's a very small percentage. And it's a consumer-driven market. We have to keep the costs low."
Note to non-vegans: If you want to end the abuse, don't financially support it.

He went on to blame the animal-agribusiness system.
"If there is some industry standard I'm missing, educate me, or design something better," Collins said.
That's like saying, "Hey, if you know a way to get my dog to behave, let me know. Otherwise I'm gonna continue to kick him."

The craziest response to an undercover video came Tuesday in response to Mercy For Animals' investigation of Conklin Dairy Farms in Ohio.

Susan Crowell, an editor at "Farm and Dairy," suggested that perhaps Billy Joe Gregg, the man seen abusing cows on much of the video, had been working for Mercy For Animals. That perhaps MFA, an organization that fights against animal abuse, had paid this man to abuse cows and calves. Ooook.

So perhaps Mercy For Animals also paid Gary Conklin, the farm's owner, to abuse cows, too? He's seen on the video kicking a sick cow in the neck.

As odd as her suspicion is, her thoughts got even more outrageous. Her husband soothed her -- she was supposedly distraught at the animal abuse -- by putting the cruelty into perspective: What about the children?!

My God, that's true! Who is looking out for the children of this country?

Yes, that's right: Instead of trying to protect animals, Mercy For Animals should be fighting child abuse. Because, God knows, no one cares about children.

Crowell cites three instances of child abuse that all occurred in private homes.
Where are the undercover videos, where are all these well-funded activists, [Crowell's husband] asked, when it comes to children instead of animals?

[...]

We all have a responsibility to work together to prevent child abuse and neglect. Who will speak up for our future?

There are hundreds of worthy causes in this world, and we don't have to choose just one to fight for. The beautiful thing about helping animals is that you can do it at every meal. You have to eat anyway, right? So eat vegan when you take breaks from your undercover work documenting child abuse in people's homes.

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



Proposal for Deer Hunting Advances; Other Species May Be Next

A committee of the Forest Preserve District of Will County yesterday approved a plan to allow shotgun hunters and sharpshooters to murder deer.

Despite residents' concerns, the operations committee voted 5-3 to send the measure to the full board for a vote June 10.
"I don't think there's any kind of control when you're talking about hunting," said Nancy Dollarhide of New Lenox. She warned of "opening a Pandora's box" in which hunters would begin to see the forest preserves as open areas for their sport.
And she's right.
[S]ome [board] members spoke enthusiastically of starting new programs for a segment of outdoors lovers otherwise left out of the preserves.
I hate when hunters are referred to as "outdoors lovers." People who love the outdoors, who love nature, don't destroy it. These people simply get their rocks off by killing innocent animals. They'd do it indoors if they could. Hell, some have even done it over the Internet.

Furthermore, no one is excluded from forest preserves. It's true that people can't bring their bows or guns in, but if they're really "outdoors lovers," they wouldn't need to.

This is just a euphemism for cruel people wanting to kill even more animals.

But all along the reason for allowing hunting has been because there are too many deer in the preserves. Now they're adding another reason, the true reason: My hunting friends and I want to kill animals closer to our homes. We don't want to have to drive to Southern Illinois.

Forest preserve board President Cory Singer, R-Frankfort, who seems to be the orchestrator of the hunting proposal, yesterday "made lengthy remarks about the safety of similar hunting programs and the appeal it would have in Will County."

He also said that "other forest preserve districts have developed deer management programs that include hunting." He said, "We are not pioneers on this."

But no other forest preserve districts in Illinois allow hunting. If hunters get their wish, though, deer hunting in Will County preserves will be just the beginning.

(Courtesy of Vegan Angel.)



Wednesday, June 2, 2010

U.N. Panel Urges Shift to Plant-Based Diet

A United Nations panel has recommended people switch to a plant-based diet if we want to reverse the environmental destruction of our planet.

The report, "Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials," lists our use of fossil fuels and our type of diet as the top two ways to change the environment.
Current patterns of production and consumption of both fossil fuels and food are draining freshwater supplies; triggering losses of economically-important ecosystems such as forests; intensifying disease and death rates and raising levels of pollution to unsustainable levels.
The writers of the report realize how sensitive people are when it comes to their meat and dairy.
"Some tough choices are signaled in this report, but it may prove even more challenging for everyone if the current paths continue into the coming decades," added Mr. [Achim] Steiner.
Steiner is the executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme, which hosts the panel that produced the report.
"The Panel have reviewed all the available science and conclude that two broad areas are currently having a disproportionately high impact on people and the planet's life support systems—these are energy in the form of fossil fuels and agriculture, especially the raising of livestock for meat and dairy products," he said.
The report found that animals in agribusiness are fed half of all the world's crops. It concluded that "a substantial reduction of [environmental] impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products."

Now if you think the world can't change, just focus on the United States. We have a voracious population, and we drive many of the trends in the rest of the world. Think about how much good we Americans could do if more of us ate plant-based diets. This U.N. report is just another reason it's so important to go vegan.



Abuse of Chicks, Ducklings All in a Day's Work

Compassion Over Killing released its undercover video, documenting cruelty at a hatchery in Santa Cruz, Calif., today.

Although the footage was shot at the Cal-Cruz Hatcheries in January 2009 and 88 ducklings were confiscated because of abuse, the district attorney decided this past April not to prosecute anyone at the facility. And, unfortunately, I can see why. The horrendous, painful abuse that the chicks and ducklings suffer is the norm in animal agribusiness. And as cruel and inhumane as it is, if it's the norm, it's legal.



The actions shown in this video are very much like those seen in Mercy For Animals' undercover video of the Hy-Line International hatchery in Spencer, Iowa, which they filmed in May and June of last year.

The newborns -- some still in shells -- are considered objects, inventory. They're sorted like one would sort apples.

The Compassion Over Killing video, though, shows an "egg chute" in which injured birds are disposed. Think of spraying your kitchen sink to get scraps down your garbage disposal. That's exactly what they do to innocent, scared chicks and ducklings.

Although Cal-Cruz Hatcheries no longer breeds ducklings, I'm sure nothing else has changed. Why should it? The daily abuse they commit is perfectly legal.



Eight Swans-a-Swimming

Since we're on the subject of birds, I wanted to share with you the beautiful sight that greets me now as I walk into work.

My building's property-management company rents swans to keep geese away from the pond outside. Obviously I don't support renting animals, but it is the lesser of two evils. I wouldn't want geese shot or poisoned because they're mussying up the lawn.

So two swans live at my building in the warmer weather. When I returned from Memorial Day weekend yesterday, I discovered that the female swan had recently given birth to six cute babies. The family was swimming in the pond as I made my way across the enclosed bridge above it.

It's so neat to watch the mom teach her little ones. Yesterday when a co-worker and I went out to take pictures, five of the babies waddled into the water where their parents were. But one stayed behind on some rocks. One of the parents walked into the rocks, got down low and waddled into the water. The baby followed.

This morning a piece of seaweed was hanging off the mother's bill. She wiggled her tail feathers, and a baby swam up, pulled the seaweed and ate it.

Two women stood on the lower, outside bridge and took pictures. Men passed by and stared and smiled at the babies.

In general, people really do care about animals. Most just haven't made the connection between animals and the animal products they consume.



The Ugly Abuse of Ducklings

A Washington, D.C.-based animal-advocacy organization is scheduled to hold a press conference today to release an undercover video documenting abuse at a California hatchery.

An investigator with Compassion Over Killing in January 2009 captured mistreatment of ducklings at Cal-Cruz Hatchery in Live Oak, Calif. The abuse was so severe that the Santa Cruz County Animal Services Authority confiscated 88 of the birds last year.
Of the 88 ducklings confiscated in May 2009, 40 were on the verge of dying and had to be euthanized, [said Lynn Miller, interim manager of Animal Services].

"They were dehydrated. Some had burns, hypothermia, were covered in feces and malnourished," he said. "Some were beyond salvaging."
I don't know why it's taken so long for the video to be made public. I can only assume that investigations by Animal Services and by the district attorney's office have taken this long.
The video was turned over to county Animal Services officials in February 2009 and a separate investigation was conducted by local authorities that turned up corroborating evidence of abused ducklings.
Animal Services gave a report to the district attorney's office, but it declined to prosecute.

The hatchery no longer produces ducklings. Instead they've shifted their focus to chickens.

Are ducklings and chicks so different? If the people at this hatchery mistreated one type of bird, wouldn't they mistreat another?

(Photo courtesy of Robin Robertson.)