Sunday, October 31, 2010

Forget Halloween! Standard U.S. Diet Oozes With Horror

Note: After I published this post last year, "Digging Through the Dirt" reader and animal activist Bea Elliott suggested I repost this every Halloween. Thanks, Bea!

For her children's Halloween party, my cousin is making ghoulish treats like "bat wings," "bloody fingers" and "dried scabs."

Her menu got me thinking: What could be more terror-filled than the standard American diet?

After all, the average U.S. diet has all the elements of a good horror film:

Blood and Guts -- Ah, blood and guts. The men in the audience tend to love these. The more gore, the better. With 10 billion land animals slaughtered each year (just in the U.S.), think of how much blood is spilled. Cows, pigs, chickens all hanging upside-down on the disassembly lines, their throats being slit, blood dripping onto the floors. It's a horror lover's dream.

And whether it's removing intestines from an animal, "clearing cow innards on the slaughter floor" or experiencing vomiting and diarrhea from eating feces-tainted meat, you gotta love the guts.

Knives -- For slitting an animal's throat, removing those intestines or chopping her body into pieces, knives are essential. Of course, sometimes overworked slaughterhouse employees end up cutting themselves. But the more blood, the better, right?

Chain Saws -- Chain saw massacres don't just occur in Texas. No, sirree. Slaughterhouse workers across the country cut the flesh from a cow's corpse using these fine instruments.

Fear -- The essential element of a horror film. Even if the murder occurs off-camera (arguably more frightening than on-camera slayings), the audience must feel a sense of fear, for it provides a rush -- albeit a safe one. The viewer is able to get his rocks off and return to a relatively safer reality when the credits roll.

Not so for farmed animals. They experience fear daily -- from suffering in cramped, overcrowded cages to being transported to slaughterhouses in frigid or sweltering temperatures to taking that walk to the kill floor. It's non-stop fear.

Blood-curdling Screams -- While I've seen many videos of agribusiness cruelty, I was unable to make it through one taken at a pig farm that supplies Hormel. The video began with a blood-curdling scream that sounded human.

Murder and Death -- So many ways, so little time. Although why kill quickly? The fun is in the torture, isn't it?

For example, here are some notes from my blog post about the Hormel video.
[W]e see someone beating a pig and then telling the undercover PETA investigator, "Don't be afraid to hurt 'em."

In the next scene an employee says, "When I get pissed or get hurt or the fuckin' bitch won't move, I grab one of those rods and jam it in her asshole."

In another scene "a worker slams piglets deemed 'runts' headfirst into the concrete floor in an attempt to kill them." These little babies lie in a bloody pile and twitch because they're not dead yet.
Of course, there are other ways to do it. One could improperly shoot a cow's head with a bolt gun and have her wake up and struggle as she's hanging upside-down getting her throat slit.

Or a chicken would be improperly stunned and boiled alive in the de-feathering tank. And let us not forget all those male baby chicks who can't produce eggs, so they are ground up alive in machines called macerators.

Mummies -- Not all horror movies contain mummies, of course. But they can be frightfully scary. Just take a look at this photo.

What's worse than being pursued by a mummy? Having to live with one. That's right -- chickens at a Dunkin' Donuts egg-laying facility were forced to live in overcrowded cages along with their dead, decomposing and sometimes mummified former cagemates.

Flesh Eaters -- Braaaains! Braaaains! What -- you don't eat brains? Oh, but you do eat legs, shoulders, breasts, hips, thighs, arms, butts -- even anuses. Now that's disgusting!

Zombies -- Yes, the average American is a zombie, sleepwalking through her meals, eating what she's been taught to eat, never questioning.

Leave the horror off your plates -- go vegan!

(Photo of slaughtered chickens courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.)
(Photo of murdered pigs courtesy of World News Network/Sweet Radoc.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Should Killing Animals Be a Constitutional Right?

Four states are set to vote next week on whether to make hunting and fishing constitutional rights.

Animal murderers in Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina feel threatened by the growing animal-rights movement and view these ballot initiatives as proactive measures to keep their killing lawful.
"They start with cats and dogs and the next thing you know, someone says it's inhumane to shoot a deer," ["said Steve Faris, a Democratic Arkansas state senator and the bill's lead sponsor there."]
Note to Faris: It is inhumane to shoot a deer. Whether it's a dog, a person or a deer, we all have the ability to feel the scorching pain of our flesh being ripped open.

Ironically national organizations like The Humane Society of the United States aren't fighting these proposals. There are several possible reasons for this: saving resources to push for other legislation, wanting to appease the National Rifle Association and/or not being overly concerned with hunting because its numbers have been declining for years.

Ten state constitutions already provide for the right to hunt and fish. Nine of those provisions were put in place after 1996.

Interestingly, in a piece in Psychology Today animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe writes that nature -- and more specifically the "wild" animals in it -- aren't as ferocious and out to get us as we think they are. He cites a book by a "veteran wildlife filmmaker" who "points out the relative rarity of predator-prey interactions in the wild."
"[I]f you see a bear feeding on a deer carcass in a film, it is almost certainly a tame bear searching for hidden jellybeans in the entrails of a deer's stomach."
And the Discovery Channel's Web site for "Man vs. Wild" has this disclaimer: "On some occasions, situations are presented to Bear [the show's host] so he can demonstrate survival techniques."

Balcombe surmises that we perpetuate the myth that nature is uncaring because it makes us feel better.
I believe a major reason why we tout cruel nature is that it absolves us of guilt for being cruel ourselves; If nature is cruel and we are just another part of nature, then surely it is natural and defensible to be cruel, so the thinking goes. But how many species do you know that cage others and kill them before they grow to be adults, as we do to most of the animals destined for our dinner plates. What other animal conducts harmful experiments on other creatures before killing them? Only us.
Of course, there's no reason to hunt or to fish. We won't starve to death.

Faris, the Arkansas legislator, gave another false reason for the importance of keeping hunting and fishing legal: They're important to the state economy. But so was slavery. Arkansas can exist, more civilly, without them.

Incidentally if you get a kick out of the Darwin Awards (which highlight the dumb ways people manage to die) or are feeling a bit down about the slow but steady progress animal rights is making, set a Google alert for "hunting accidents." Reading about people getting killed by their own or a fellow hunter's gun can be downright uplifting.

I don't condone killing any type of animal -- whether they be non-human or human. But I'd rather a hunter kill himself than an innocent being with his gun.

(Image courtesy of

Monday, October 18, 2010

Farm Museum Displays Tools of Torture

While animal-rights activists want all forms of farmed-animal use abolished, some people -- those like Michael Pollan's slow-food followers -- only speak out against factory farming.

They believe that we should go back to the kind of farming that existed before farmers were told to "go big or get out." A time of more smaller farms, each with fewer animals.

Of course, those animals were still killed for their flesh or because they had outlived their profitability. But how were they treated before they were sent to the slaughterhouse? Did they live idyllic lives?

A recent trip through a "farm museum" in northern Illinois showed me just how well the animals were treated. The relics on the walls could easily have been hanging in the Tower of London. Just in time for Halloween, take a look at these torture devices.

Top of "cattle horn trimmer"
"Cattle horn trimmer"

"Hand carved shaft used to hang hog carcass for butchering"

"Hog mouth holder"
"Chicken catcher"

Milking machine

Milking machine used from 1944-1959

"Nose clamp to lead bull"
"Cow chain [to] prevent kicking"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Protecting the Innocent -- Both Animals and People

The headline in the suburban Chicago newspaper read "Man gets taste of hot dog vendor's mercy." But the vendor's mercy was misdirected.

Here's the gist of the story:

After hot-dog vendor Joe Hornbaker refused to testify against him, charges were dropped against a convicted drunken driver who allegedly went on a drunken "rampage" two months ago.

Scott B. Muller, 23, was arrested in August after allegedly jumping onto Hornbaker's van, punching its windshield and breaking a rearview mirror. Hornbaker refused to appear in court against Muller.

"'I've been that guy,' Hornbaker said with a laugh," referring to the young and drunk Muller.

It's sad that Hornbaker finds Muller's actions so funny.
Muller on May 4 was fined and placed on a year of court supervision, after pleading guilty to a charge of drunken driving in Naperville. He could have faced new penalties for violating the terms of that supervision had Hornbaker opted to pursue the vehicular damage complaint.
Clearly Muller didn't learn any lesson from that conviction for drunken driving.

While Hornbaker said Muller apologized to him and that the attack on his van is "water under the bridge," the rest of society shouldn't be so forgiving of a man who is a threat to anyone on the road. Drunken driving is attempted murder. While Muller wasn't driving (or at least wasn't charged with a DUI) in August, he was allegedly drunk.

The news story spun Hornbaker's actions as those of a nice, "laid-back" guy, but I view them as harmful to society. Muller clearly isn't mature enough to drink alcohol, and he needs help. He's not going to get it if people write him off as simply young and foolish.

Muller isn't the victim; the drivers who share the road with him are.

(I realize the above doesn't have anything to do with animal rights, but I feel very strongly about drunken driving.)

The other victims
It wouldn't have mattered what Hornbaker did for a living. My opinion of his actions wouldn't have changed. But since we're talking about victims -- and this is a blog about animal rights -- I do wish Hornbaker would consider showing mercy to the animals whose flesh he sells.

Pigs are kept in crates so small they can't turn around. Their piglets are taken from them shortly after birth. The runts are routinely pounded on concrete floors or walls to kill them. The others are castrated, the ends of their teeth cut off, their tails chopped off -- all without painkillers. When it's time for them to be slaughtered, they travel on crowded trucks in extreme heat or bitter cold, their skin sometimes sticking to the sides of the vehicle. They are often slaughtered while still conscious.

Here's another look at an undercover video Mercy For Animals released last year of a pig supplier:

It's our responsibility -- the responsibility of each of us -- to protect the innocent among us, whether they be animals or people.

(Image courtesy of U.S. Army Medical Department.)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Consumers Trust HSUS, PETA Over Agribusiness

It looks like the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom isn't as effective as David Martosko would like to believe.

After targeting People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for years and more recently focusing on The Humane Society of the United States -- in efforts to discredit both organizations -- the CCF isn't going to like the results of a new survey.

The study, commissioned by the pro-agribusiness Center for Food Integrity, found that most consumers are
twice as likely to believe the Humane Society of the United States and People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals over farm organizations when it comes to humane treatment of farm animals.
All that money animal ag is giving to the CCF, and these are the results? That's gotta hurt.
After HSUS and PETA, farm animal veterinarians, USDA and university experts ranked next, followed by state and national farm organizations and small livestock farmers. Large-scale livestock farmers ranked last in animal welfare credibility.
Charlie Arnot, the CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, theorized that the more an organization (or company) profits from animal ag, the less trustworthy it appears. Of course. For animal ag the bottom line is what matters, animals be damned.