Remember, Tuesday Is Soylent Green Day

As with Christmas, Thanksgiving has become a rather hedonistic holiday these days. You’d have to pin your ears back, with empty cornucopias held tightly against them, to hear even a faint reference to the giving of thanks through the din of loud chatter about seemingly more important things like football, where to get the best deals on Black Friday, or how to deep fry a turkey. But any thanks you heard would be to “the lord above,” rather than to the victims of the decadent feast.

Completely lost in the hype of “tradition” and “Turkey-day” is any mention of giving even a passing “thank you” to the birds who suffered more indignities than space would allow me to mention here. Indignities that include the fact that turkeys on factory farms receive less than three square feet of personal space. And after they hatch, their beaks are cut off—a standard practice for chickens as well. No anesthesia or painkiller is used for either species. This process, which is known as “debeaking”, has been compared to having the ends of your fingers sliced off. It deprives birds of one of their most important sources of sensory input.

A debeaked bird cannot eat properly or explore his or her environment fully, nor can they preen themselves or their flockmates.  They may also experience acute and chronic pain in their beak, head, and face. In addition to being debeaked, turkeys also have the ends of their toes and their snoods cut off, often with nothing more than a pair of scissors (and as with debeaking, performed without anesthesia).

According to Liberation BC, both chickens and turkeys on modern factory farms have been genetically engineered and pumped with antibiotics; as a result they grow much faster than ever before. For example, in the 1960’s, it took a turkey 32 weeks to reach slaughter size, but now it takes only 13-16 weeks. In the 1950’s, it took a chicken 84 days to reach five pounds. Today, it takes 45 days, meaning that they are not even old enough to cluck yet when they die.

And PETA adds, their unnaturally large size also causes many turkeys to die from organ failure or heart attacks before they are even 6 months old. According to an investigative report in the Wall Street Journal on the miserable conditions on turkey farms, “It’s common in a rearing house to find a dead bird surrounded by four others whose hearts failed after they watched the first one ‘fall back and go into convulsions, with its wings flapping wildly.

Factory farm operators walk through the shed to kill the slow-growing turkeys (so that they don’t eat any more food), such as those who fall ill because of the filthy conditions or become crippled under their own weight.

In Canada, turkeys and chickens can legally be transported for up to 36 hours without food, water, or rest, and there are no limits as to the length of the journey. They are transported in open-air crates, resulting in high mortality as the birds are exposed to all sorts of weather.  Each bird is worth so little, however, that it is cheaper overall for the industry to use open-air crates.  Every year in Canada, 2 million broiler chickens and 20,000 turkeys are already dead when they arrive at slaughterhouses.  An additional 8 million broiler chickens and 200,000 turkeys arrive so diseased or injured that they are considered “unfit for human consumption”.

The surviving birds are handled roughly at the slaughterhouse, where they are unloaded by forklift and dropped onto a conveyor belt. With thousands of birds to be processed every hour, there is no reason for employees to stop and pick up the individual birds who miss the belt and fall to the ground.

When it comes time to slaughter the birds, they are hung by their feet on a moving rail and dragged through the stunning tank, an electrified water bath meant to stun and immobilize them. These are often set lower than is necessary to truly render the birds unconscious out of concerns that high voltage might damage the carcass and therefore diminish its value.

They are then carried past the tank to have their throats cut either by a mechanical blade or a plant employee. Often, struggling birds are cut improperly. As a result they are moved, fully conscious, to the scalding tank, where they are boiled alive.  Estimates place the number of affected birds at about one in twenty; at any rate, this occurrence is so common that the industry has a term for it: “redskins.”   …

Clearly, nobody gives much in the way of thanks to the “most important guest” at the table (as a recent Safeway ad described the turkey carcasses they were selling). You’d be damned lucky to overhear even a cursory mention of the miserable existence their edible “guest” underwent prior to the killing and plucking process. There is scarcely a sign that the hundreds of millions of Americans who gorge on the bodies of 45 million turkeys each year give a whit about whether these amazing and impressive birds had—prior to “harvest”—a life that allowed even a modicum of the freedom they would have experienced before the grossly over-populated human world made them their food-slaves.

Appropriately, I watched the timeless 1970s movie Soylent Green last night. Set in 2022, the film opens with a slide show of earlier eras, back when the Earth was covered with forests and open fields, and there were only a few scattered settlements of people who travelled in horse-drawn wagons.

As the images pass quickly by, we see the first automobiles (tail pipes spewing toxic carbon gases), followed by a massive blacktop parking lot jam packed with Model Ts. The pictures begin to flash almost more rapidly than we can focus, but we catch glimpses of factories with smokestacks billowing and crowds of people barely able to

move without trampling one another. (Come to think of it, what we are witnessing looks a lot like the inside of an average modern-day poultry barn, where Thanksgiving turkeys are forced to live out their lives in intense confinement.)

The first scene of action takes place in a cramped little New York City apartment, the dwelling of the film’s two main characters, Thorn, a semi-corrupt detective, and his elderly room-mate and research partner, Sol, who is constantly going on about the good old days—a world that Thorn can’t possibly envision or relate to.

They are among the lucky few; most people sleep on the stairways or in the hallways or anywhere they can find shelter from the oppressive heat caused by an out of control greenhouse effect. We overhear a program on their worn out old TV which is an interview with the governor of New York, touting a new food product called “Soylent Green,” ostensibly made from the ocean’s plankton. (Everyone in that day and age knows that the land is used up, but they’re told the oceans can still provide for them).

Food in this depressing, human-ravaged world comes in the form of color-coded wafers, distributed under strict government supervision. Hordes of people stand in line for their ration of Soylent yellow or blue made from soy, or other high protein plants grown behind the fortress-walls of heavily guarded farms.

Signs remind the throng that “Tuesday is Soylent Green day.”

The multitudes are exceptionally unruly on Tuesday. Brimming with anticipation, they can’t wait to obtain a ration of the special new product. When they get out of hand, “scoops” (garbage trucks fitted with backhoe-like buckets on the front) are called in to scoop them up and haul them off…

Spoiler Alert:

To make a long story short, by the end of the film, Thorn learns that the oceans are dead and the actual ingredients of Soylent Green are something a bit harder to stomach than plankton. In the final scene, a mortally-wounded Thorn is carried away on a stretcher as he desperately tries to tell skeptical onlookers, “Soylent Green is People!” “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing, they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food!”

Could it ever happen? Could the human race ever stoop so low? If the scenario seems too hard to swallow­, consider this: the conditions animals are forced to endure on today’s factory farms would have seemed unimaginable to people living a hundred years ago.

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This Christmas, Show the Hunters that You Care

Judging by the frost on the grass and the ice on the birdbath, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. This year, your gifts can make a statement—they can show the hunters that you care.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean you should show hunters that you care about them—no, quite the opposite—I mean you can show the hunters that you care about wildlife. And what better way than purchasing a pro-wildlife/anti-hunting book, like Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport?

There’s a common misconception that hunters are the only ones who “care” about wild animals. For example, when I brought some of my framed wildlife photos (such as the trumpeter swan seen here) to a small-town art gallery, the owner said, “Well, you might be able to sell them to a hunter…” My first reaction was an under-the breath “What the hell?” quickly followed by a resolute, “Never mind, I’m not hanging them here.”

I don’t know if it’s a sign of the self-absorbed, economocentric times we live in, but it seems Black Friday is garnering more attention than Thanksgiving these days. Across the country, you’ll find headlines like, “2 seriously hurt as driver plows through crowd of shoppers,” “Massachusetts bargain hunter took home TV, left tot” or “Earlier Black Friday kicks off shopping season.”

That last article reports: “This year’s Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who’d rather shop instead.” I’m guessing (hoping, really) that readers of this blog fall into still another category altogether.

The article goes on to say: “Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday because of retail folklore that it’s when merchants turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That created two separate waves of shoppers.

Lori Chandler, 54, and her husband, Sam, 55, were a part of the early group. By the time they reached the Wal-Mart in Greenville, S.C. early Friday, they had already hit several stores, including Target and Best Buy. In fact, they had been shopping since midnight.

‘It’s a tradition,’ Lori said as she looked at some toys she bought for her four grandchildren….”

I’m sure you get the idea.

You’re probably not the type to camp out in front of Wal-Mart for the best deals on Asian sweatshop-produced, future landfill-clogging plastic trinkets, or you wouldn’t be here reading this post. But don’t worry, you won’t have to stand in line and risk being “plowed through” by some crazed shopper driving a Humvee or lose your “tot” in a crowded superstore while attempting to purchase Exposing the Big Game. You can order copies online from the comfort of your own home. If you’re not a fan of Amazon or Barnes and Noble, feel free to email me at exposingthebiggame@gmail.com for signed copies sent directly to your doorstep. Or you can ask your local “brick and mortar” bookstore (which is more than likely on the verge of going out of business) to order in a copy or copies for you. And of course, Exposing the Big Game is also available in e-book form.

There are around a butcher’s dozen new pro-hunting books on the market this year, while Exposing the Big Game is the only anti-hunting book to come out in decades, and the only one still in print. Don’t let the hunters think you’re indifferent about this issue. Together we can put an end to the absurd misconception that they’re the only ones interested in wildlife. While we don’t have the kind of financial support that the hunting industry gets from the NRA or the Safari Club, here’s our chance to show them that we’re the ones with the passion!