Antibiotic Resistance Starts on the Farm, but Marginalized Communities Pay the Price

ByDevatha P. Nair May 26, 2021

https://sentientmedia.org/antibiotic-resistance-starts-on-factory-farms-but-marginalized-communities-pay-the-price/

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Animal Farmers Respond to the Rise of Plant-Based Meat

There are a few counties in the central plains of North Carolina that can easily be mistaken for the hog capital of the world. Housing over 40 percent of the state’s hog population of 9 million, hogs outnumber people 29 to one. These counties are home to numerous concentrated animal feeding operations—called CAFOs or factory farms—that make North Carolina the second-biggest pork producer in the United States. 

Not coincidentally, this distinction comes at the cost of the residents who live in the vicinity of factory farms within these counties, who are predominantly African American, Native American, and Latino. With per capita incomes and education levels well below the national average, the proliferation of factory farms within low-income minority communities has raised valid concerns of environmental injustice. In a 2017 review of North Carolina’s meat industry, the Environmental Protection Agency cited a “linear relationship between race/ethnicity and density of hogs” in these counties and their disproportionate impact on communities of color.

The health impacts that accompany factory farms are life-altering to the communities that live within a 3-mile radius of these intensive operations. In addition to being plagued by the sounds of shrieking, miserable animals, the smell of feces and urine, and poor air quality, residents often complain of stomach aches, headaches, higher rates of nausea, watery eyes, along with feelings of anxiety and depression from the constant assault on their senses. A recent investigative study by the World Animal Protection (WAP) group emphasizes that the physical and mental ailments of area residents are only the tip of the iceberg: there are more significant and far-reaching impacts on the global community as a direct result of practices on factory farms. The report is referring to the widespread use of antibiotics on factory farms that have led to the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which is a cause for grave global concern.

Animals are the main unit of production on factory farms. To protect their product, farmers enlist the help of antibiotic drugs, which are used to prevent the onset and spread of disease among stressed animals. This is more commonly known as the prophylactic or subtherapeutic use of antibiotics. While the use of antibiotics on animals with no preexisting illness may appear to be for the welfare of farmed animals, the liberal use of antibiotics is aimed at maximizing profits by fattening the animals within short periods and maintaining them with some resemblance of health while being kept in overcrowded, unhygienic, and ill-maintained facilities. 

This practice  has been so successful that 75 percent of antimicrobials in the U.S. are marketed to animal farms. However, this indiscriminate use of antibiotics has resulted in many bacteria that have grown resistant to life-saving antibiotic drugs, which are often the last line of defense for humans fighting bacterial infections. The alarming growth of resistant bacteria—called superbugs—has compelled several global organizations to act, with the World Health Organization (WHO) listing superbugs and drug-resistant microbes as one among the top ten global threats to human health, along with climate change and global pandemics. 

How antibiotic resistance works

The WHO acknowledges that the indiscriminate use of antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease in factory farms has contributed significantly to the emergence and propagation of superbugs to human and non-human animal populations. As a matter of global urgency, they have listed a series of drugs that are critically and highly important to human health. With their highly adept survival mechanisms, bacteria that developed resistant genes to specific antibiotics—called antibiotic-resistant genes or ARG—are not only able to outsmart the antibiotic drugs but are also able to pass on the resistance genes from one species to another. The presence of ARG in bacteria is an indication of the growing antibiotic resistance in the organism. 

The WAP group has been closely following and reporting on the link between factory farms and the alarming growth of superbugs and ARG over the past few years. In December 2018, as part of a global investigation, the group tested pork samples from stores in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States for the presence of bacteria resistant to specific antibiotics. E. coliSalmonellaEnterococcus, and Listeria were found in 94 percent of the 160 pork samples tested. While 41 of the 51 bacteria isolated from the pork samples were resistant to at least one class of medically important antibiotics, 21 bacteria were resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics. 

In their most recent report published in April 2021, the group has detailed disturbing findings from a study in October 2020, in which 45 water samples and 45 soil samples were taken across eight sites, both upstream and downstream from factory farms in North Carolina, and tested for the presence of ARG. The communities that live near these sites have complained for over three decades of both, the detrimental impact that the factory farms have had on their health and the associated lack of justice and action that have accompanied their complaints.

When thousands of gallons of manure are sprayed onto fields eight feet from your kitchen window, the strong smell and taste of manure and ammonia contaminate your drinking water and lingers in the air for days afterward, ensuring that no children are playing outside and there are no barbeques with family and friends. Within a short time, the aerosolized manure builds up on the exterior of your house and across your property, attracting clouds of insects, especially flies. However, testing for ARG in water and soil samples in the vicinity of factory farms has not been prioritized to date. Alarmingly, the WAP report found that all 90 samples tested returned a positive result for at least one ARG, with resistance to tetracyclines identified in 89 out of 90 samples, and 23 out of 90 samples had one or more ARG to antibiotics identified by WHO as critically and highly important, such as cephalosporins and penicillin. 

“The implications of antibiotic resistance throughout the environment near large factory farms are extremely concerning,” says Cameron Harsh, Farming Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection U.S. “The contamination of waterways and air puts nearby communities at high risk. Drug residues and resistant bacteria do not obey the boundaries of the farm operation. They are carried away via the waste stored in lagoons or sprayed on fields, on insects, rodents, and other wildlife, on farmworkers headed home to their families, and on the animals processed for our food, potentially spreading resistance to other bacteria as they persist and travel.”

Because the same antibiotics used to mask poor animal welfare practices—such as the lack of hygiene and overcrowding on farms—can also be used as growth enhancers on factory farms, there is an ever-greater incentive to use antibiotics to speed up operations while enhancing the quality of meat. For example, the use of antibiotics can facilitate the growth of a pig to his slaughter weight of 250-280 pounds in less than 6 months, which is a mere fraction of his natural 15 to 20-year lifespan. 

An inconvenient by-product of treating animals as meat production units with artificially short lifespans is the sheer amount of animal waste generated on factory farms. More than 2 billion tons of animal waste, which consists of both solid and liquid waste, is generated on animal farms each year, and storing and maintaining animal waste until it can be more easily displaced is challenging. Animal waste in factory farms is often stored in poorly engineered tanks and massive, open-air cesspools (misleadingly called lagoons) while awaiting treatment and disposal. These ill-maintained, gigantic tanks—some as large as seven acres and totaling anywhere between 20 to 45 million gallons of waste—often leak and spill into the adjacent water bodies and the groundwater.

When the fecal mixture is sprayed as manure on food crops, they enter the soil, the groundwater, adjacent waterways, and the air. As farmed animals discharge up to 70 percent of the antibiotics they are fed via urine and feces, factory farms’ biological waste is heavily concentrated with active antibiotic drugs that enter the environment in multiple ways. It is the antibiotics that have inadvertently entered the environment—be it the air, soil, water, or food streams—that pose a grave risk of producing antibiotic-resistant bacteria or superbugs.

The superbugs know no boundaries and invariably end up infecting humans and other non-human animals, setting off a cascade of detrimental events. Each year, 700,000 human deaths worldwide are attributed to antibiotic-resistant infections and more than 10 million people are projected to die annually from treatment-resistant bacteria by 2050. In the U.S., antibiotic-resistant bacteria claim a life every 15 minutes, with 35,000 deaths and more than 2.8 million infections reported annually.

What happens on factory farms doesn’t always stay on factory farms

The World Animal Protection report summarizes their findings by pointing out that both enhancing the standards for animal welfare practices and the dependence on antibiotics in factory farming operations must be addressed in tandem to see any meaningful reduction in antibiotic use in our food systems. It is only by eliminating the worst animal abuse practices in factory farming such as cage confinement, painful physical alterations, weaning animals from their mothers too young, and using high growth breeds that tangible reductions in total antibiotics used in farmed animals can be achieved.      

Developing stronger antibiotics and novel waste treatment technologies cannot be the long-term solution towards eradicating superbugs while the factory farms continue to rely relentlessly on antibiotics without addressing cruel practices currently employed to maximize profits and meet the demand for animal protein. Both governmental and intergovernmental organizations, along with financial investors in the food industry can be more proactive in setting the standards for animal welfare, establishing checks and balances for implementing the animal welfare policies in farms while simultaneously monitoring, enforcing, and reporting accurately on the use and consumption of antibiotics in factory farms. The report also suggests that financial stakeholders in the food industry consider increasing the proportion of plant-based protein in their investment portfolio to support an average global reduction in meat production and consumption of 50 percent by 2040. 

Given the vast consortium of stakeholders in the food industry, their profit margins, and the inevitable resistance that will be encountered in implementing any reforms that reduce profits within the current paradigms, it is easy to overlook the principal stakeholder—sentient beings—whose short life and welfare are at the center of this paradigm. What cannot be as easily ignored are the clear and far-reaching impacts of the ill-conceived, profit-driven practice of overusing antibiotics on farmed animals. The antibiotic use that enables the mistreatment of pigs has now crossed the ill-kept barriers of factory farms and seeped into communities via leaky lagoons, contaminated groundwater, and polluted air and soil ecosystems, resulting in the alarming rise of ARG in bacteria. The greed-driven practices on factory farms can no longer be dismissed as geographically isolated, “one-off” instances of environmental racism or poor animal welfare. If unchecked, ARG will continue to spread globally with devastating consequences to both human and non-human animals.Read More

How Airlines Enable Animal Suffering

Air Pollution From Factory Farms Is Killing Us

The Link Between Antibiotic Resistance and Factory Farming

Plant-based or vegan? Here’s the difference between the terms, according to experts

Kaitlin ReillyMon, November 8, 2021, 6:00 AM·3 min read

Vegan burger with beetroot cutlet, sweet potato sauce and guacamole.
What’s the difference between a “plant-based” diet and a “vegan” diet? (Photo: Getty)

Most people agree that you really can’t go wrong with incorporating more plants into your diet. Yet when it comes to the term “plant-based” to describe one’s eating habits, many people are unsure about its official definition. Is it the same thing as “going vegan”? Does it mean eliminating all animal and animal-derived products from your plate?

The word “vegan,” on the other hand, was created by Donald Watson in 1944 as a way to describe vegetarians who did not consume dairy. The intention of the word wasto connect it with the larger animal rights movement: Watson, who founded The Vegan Society alongside Elsie Shrigley, sought to eliminate animal suffering for the benefit of humans as best as possible.

The term “plant-based” sought to eliminate any social and political associations. According to Eater, it was first coined in 1980 by biochemist Thomas Colin Campbell, as a way to describe his animal-free diet in more neutral terms.

The philosophy behind these ways of eating is what differentiates “plant-based” eating from a vegan diet. A plant-based diet is more about one’s individual health, while a vegan diet is about harm reduction of animals. While many vegans do believe their diets are healthier than diets rich in animal products, that’s not the primary driver of the diet.

Video: McDonald’s debuts plant-based burger in the U.S. Ad: 0:08 0:14  Paulina Porizkova snaps a sexy bikini moment while on vacation: ‘I couldn’t resist posing’https://s.yimg.com/rx/vrm/builds/36185336/xdomain-vpaid.html?id=2

“If someone calls themselves a vegan, it means not just that they eat not only plant-based food, but there’s an ethical component that goes along with it,” says Ashley Byrne, Director of Outreach and Communications at PETA. “They see it as a whole lifestyle of not using products that use animals or exploit animals. You’re more likely to see someone call themselves plant-based if they’re just eating plant-based foods, but not eating a completely vegan lifestyle. If someone is calling themselves vegan, they’re likely applying that broadly to other areas of their lives.”

While people who call themselves vegan tend to stick to habits that reduce animal harm across all areas of their life, not all plant-based dieters have identical habits. Some who say they are plant-based eaters may even occasionally fold animal products into their diet, according to Lauren McNeill, a registered dietitian who focuses on plant-based nutrition.

“A plant-based diet can mean different things to different people, so there isn’t one hard and fast definition,” McNeill explains. “Some people define a plant-based diet as a brand of a vegan diet, where you eat mostly whole, plant-based foods like legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Others consider a plant-based diet to mean eating mostly vegan, but occasionally including some animal based foods.”

For Byrne, the labels we put on an animal-free, or even mostly animal-free diet, is less important than its overall impact.

“The words we use to describe our diets don’t matter nearly as much as the act of leaving animals off of our plates,” she explains. “Whether you call lifestyle vegan or plant-based, the impact is still the same for our health, for the environment, and certainly for the animals, who benefit from us choosing oat milk and pea-protein nuggets regardless of what label we slap on them.”

Cher turns attention to mall gorilla after freeing ‘world’s loneliest elephant’

Singer calls for release of Bua Noi, who has spent almost all her life at zoo in Bangkok shopping centre

Bua Noi looks through the bars of her cage at Pata zoo, on the top floor of a shopping centre.

Bua Noi looks through the bars of her cage at Pata zoo, on the top floor of a shopping centre. Photograph: Rungroj Yongrit/EPARebecca Ratcliffe South-east Asia correspondentFri 11 Dec 2020 04.26 EST

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/11/cher-mall-gorilla-world-loneliest-elephant-bua-noi-bangkok

After freeing the “world’s loneliest elephant” from a life of misery in a Pakistani zoo, the singer Cher has turned her attention to the plight of another animal: a gorilla who has spent the last three decades at the top of a Bangkok shopping mall.

Bua Noi was brought to Thailand in 1988, and has spent almost all her life in an enclosure at Pata zoo, a private zoo that has long been criticised by animal welfare campaigners.

Cher has joined those calling for the gorilla’s release, and has written to Thailand’s environment minister, Varawut Silpa-archa, to express “deep concern” over Bua Noi’s living conditions, and those of other primates.

Campaigners say the animals have little stimulation and are confined in unnatural enclosures at the zoo, which is on the top floors of a department store. Bua Noi’s mate died more than a decade ago, according to the Bangkok Post.

Free the Wild, a charity co-founded by Cher, has offered to fund the transfer of the gorilla to a sanctuary in the Republic of the Congo that would be “a home of peace and dignity where she could live out her life in a natural environment and companionship with other species”.

Cher interacts with Kaavan, an elephant transported from Pakistan to Cambodia, at the sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey Province earlier this month.
Cher interacts with Kaavan, an elephant transported from Pakistan to Cambodia, at the sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey Province earlier this month. Photograph: Reuters

Other animals at the zoo, including orangutans, bonobo and a gibbon, had been offered a home with the Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand, Cher said in her letter to Varawut.Advertisement

Writing on Twitter, she called upon the “good people of Bangkok” to help her “stop the torturing of innocent animals”. “It Is a Sin. Please Help Me Bring Peace to these Animals. &Free Them From Pata Zoo … Shopping Mall,” she said.

The owner of the zoo, Kanit Sermsirimongkol, could not be reached for comment on Friday but has previously rejected claims that the animals are poorly treated.

Last week, Cher travelled to a sanctuary in Cambodia after a successful campaign to relocate Kaavan, described as the “world’s loneliest elephant”, from a zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan. Animal rights groups had expressed alarm at the care and conditions at the zoo.

Kaavan had been found to be severely dehydrated, while his keepers were accused last year of stealing his food. Wild boars had also been found to be breaking into his enclosure and stealing his bread and fruit. Kaavan had no companions, despite elephants being sociable animals.

He is now living in a wildlife sanctuary in Oddar Meanchey province, north-west Cambodia, where he will live with about 600 other elephants.

‘She’s an angel and she was giving thirsty pigs water’ — Hamilton woman killed while protesting outside slaughterhouse

A woman killed during an animal rights protest in front of a Burlington slaughterhouse is being remembered as a compassionate person who just wanted to give water to thirsty pigs on a scorching hot day.

Regan Russell, who was identified as the victim in a release by Animal Justice, was struck by a transport truck that was hauling pigs through the gates of Fearmans Pork meat processing facility at Appleby Line and Harvester Road around 10:20 a.m. on Friday.

The truck with its cargo of squealing pigs remained at the scene for several hours as police blocked off the area and began their investigation.

Halton police are investigating a fatal incident at the Fearmans Pork meat processing facility in Burlington Friday (June 19) after a protester was struck and killed by a transport truck.

An officer was observed removing a sign that read, “Animals need protection under the law” and a large yellow and white water bottle could be seen on the ground beside the gate.

Burlington resident Martin Foebel, who was having his breakfast across the street from the plant in the Wendy’s parking lot when the incident happened, described what he saw.

“The truck was there for about four or five minutes. The protesters were there. Then they walked away from the truck when they were done,” said Foebel.

“Then I saw a woman in the front there … I assume the truck driver thought he was clear to go and didn’t see that last protester.”

Around 10 protesters who had been engaged in a regularly scheduled animal rights vigil at the plant remained on the scene following the crash.

Animal Advocates Mourn Tragic Death at Fearmans Pork Slaughterhouse in Burlington

Protester dead in Burlington after being struck by transport truck at pig slaughterhouse

Halton Regional Police are investigating a pedestrian fatality in Burlington Friday after a protester was reportedly struck and killed by a transport truck outside the slaughterhouse.

The incident occurred outside the Fearmans Pork meat processing facility at Appleby Line and Harvester Road.

There are reports the protester — a woman — was trying to feed the pigs inside the transport truck while it was still moving when she was struck and killed.

Animal rights protesters have a long history of protesting at Fearmans.

The events’ declared purpose is to bear witness to the animals arriving for slaughter and reduce the disconnect people have with the food they have on their plate.

“This is so tragic, so heartbreaking,” said Geena Morrison, who has participated in pasts protests outside the plant. “I’m in tears.”

KFC, more Americans want to eat the plant-based ‘Kentucky Fried Miracle’

June 18, 2020 0 Comments

Last year, when KFC launched a new, plant-based chicken at one of its Atlanta locations, it sold out within five hours, with lines wrapped around the block to try it. According to the New York Times, sales of the plant-based boneless wings and nuggets in a single day equaled sales of its popular, animal-based popcorn chicken in an entire week, leading the company to declare it a “Kentucky Fried Miracle.”

KFC went on to test the plant-based chicken at an additional 70 locations in North Carolina and Tennessee in February 2020, again with great success. This is amazing, and it shows the scope of the large market that exists for meatless meat products all over the United States. So we have been hopeful that KFC will offer its meatless chicken at franchises nationwide.

The moment is just right for anyone looking to venture into plant-based foods, including plant-based meats, which are innovative, protein-packed foods that mimic the texture and taste of meat. With growing awareness of the benefits of eating more plant-based foods for animals, the planet and our health, so many people are reducing their reliance on animal products in favor of tasty plant-based alternatives. According to a 2019 Gallop poll, “[f]our in 10 Americans have personally tried plant-based meats.” And a 2020 Yale survey found that, “more than half of Americans (55%) say they are willing to eat more plant-based meat alternatives.”

Plant-based meats are so popular, in fact, that in March 2020, sales of such meats jumpedby an astounding 264%.

Many fast food chains like Burger King, Carl’s Jr., White Castle, Del Taco and Dunkin’ already offer plant-based options, with tremendous success. After launching the Impossible Burger, Jose Cil, who is the CEO of Restaurant Brands (the parent company of Burger King), noted that the offering was “one of the most successful product launchesin Burger King’s history.” After debuting a Beyond Meat breakfast sandwich at more than 9,000 Dunkin’ locations in 2019, Dunkin’ CEO David Hoffman said he was “happy with [Dunkin’s] first venture into” plant-based menu offerings, and said the company is discussing more plant-based options in the future.

KFC already has gotten a taste of this success, not just here in the United States but also globally. In April, the company debuted plant-based chicken nuggets at three locations in China and they were such a hit that they sold out at a Shanghai KFC within an hour of launching. KFC Canada partnered with Lightlife, a plant-based protein company, to make a fried “chicken” sandwich and plant-based “popcorn chicken,” which also sold out. In the United Kingdom, KFC sold one million plant-based chicken sandwiches throughout January 2020, which is the equivalent of one plant-based sandwich sold every three seconds.

We applaud KFC for its success with plant-based options and thank the company for its foresight in creating them. And today, we have one friendly request for the company: please launch these delicious meatless options nationwide so customers around the country can enjoy them.

Given the market for meatless meats today, which research shows extends well beyond vegans and vegetarians, this is a decision the company would not be likely to regret. You can lend your voice to continue such positive progress. Please click here to let KFC decision makers know just how much support exists for plant-based offerings.

A bear attacks a woman. She fights it off — with her laptop

(CNN)A Southern California teen had a rude awakening when an outdoor nap turned into a bear attack.

She survived by fighting the bear off with her only weapon — a laptop.
The 19-year old Sierra Madre woman fell asleep in backyard chair Monday evening, Fish and Wildlife Capt. Patrick Foy told CNN.
“She awoke to the sound of a bear approaching her,” Foy said. “It immediately attacked.”
The bear scratched the young woman’s arms and legs, but then it began to bite her leg. Her wounds were not life-threatening.[*And yet the bear life will be ended…]
“The only weapon she had was her laptop. She hit the bear with it and stunned it long enough to escape inside the house,” Foy said.
“She fought back vigorously, which is what you should do with any wildlife in California.”
Local police responded to the incident, followed soon by wildlife officers. Bear tracks nearby and a glimpse of a bear around midnight provided evidence corroborating her story.
“This was an unprovoked, aggressive attack,” Foy said. The woman did not have any food, and did not get between a bear and her cubs.
“It’s likely she was looked at as prey,” Foy speculated.
This is not the first time a sleeping person has been attacked in the area. Last year, a homeless man was attacked by a bear that was never caught.
DNA swabs were taken from the teenager’s wounds and analyzed by a forensics lab. Foy says that analysis provided wildlife officers with a full DNA profile by the next day.
Tuesday night, wildlife officials caught two bears in the immediate vicinity. Their DNA was analyzed, but neither matched the profile of the offending bear.
Both bears will be released in what Foy calls the ‘nearest suitable habitat.’
In this case, they’ll be taken into the Angeles National Forest – typically 25 miles or so away from where they were captured.
[*] The bear that attacked the woman has not yet been found. If or when it is, that bear will be euthanized. 
California is home to only black bears, even though some are brown. There are no wild grizzlies in the state.

Do Animals Think or Feel?

Research shows cows are bright and emotional and pigs are intelligent, emotional, and cognitively complex

“…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?” —Jeremy Bentham

An email about a report called OFA [Ontario Federation of Agriculture] submission to the Standing Committee on General Government regarding the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act (Bill 156), which contained a quotation emphatically stating, “We simply do not know if animals are capable of reasoning and cognitive thought,” shocked me. I immediately read through the report and lo and behold, the authors did make this unscientific and ludicrous claim. And, not surprisingly, there isn’t a single citation in the entire in-house report.

Here is the full quotation, because I don’t want people to think I’m fabricating what these thoroughly uninformed people wrote.

“The concept of ‘sentient beings’ refers to beings with the power to reason and think. The term also implies beings with an awareness of their surroundings who respond to sensations, have cognitive thoughts and have the capacity to perceive and experience life subjectively. Feeling is a subjective state, available only to the animal feeling it. As animals and humans are built and function differently, it is unfair to automatically attribute the sensations experienced by humans to be the same as those experienced by animals. Humans have the ability to communicate their experiences, and what they feel. Since animals cannot communicate with us, there’s a huge assumption by animal activists that animals have emotional responses and the ability to reason and think, in the same way that humans do. We simply do not know if animals are capable of reasoning and cognitive thought, therefore we cannot attribute human qualities of reasoning and cognitive thought on animals as the activists would like.” (My emphasis) —OFA [Ontario Federation of Agriculture] submission to the Standing Committee on General Government regarding the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act (Bill 156)

When I read this, I was shocked. It’s clearly anti-science given what we know about the cognitive and emotional lives of numerous diverse nonhuman animals (animals), including so-called “food animals.”And it’s also extremely misleading because humans shouldn’t be the templates against which nonhumans should be measured. Few people criticize studies of animal cognition and emotions because nonhumans don’t resemble or equal humans. There’s no reason they should.

People who know anything about the field of cognitive ethology (the comparative study of animal minds and what’s in them) pay careful attention to what other animals know and feel, capacities and adaptations that allow them to be card-carrying members of their speciesnot ours (or that of other nonhumans). Intelligence is a slippery concept and should not be used to assess suffering. Asking if chickens suffer less than pigs, or if pigs are as smart as dogs, is meaningless and idle speciesism.

In addition, the way in which people treat or mistreat other animals and how they feel about it isn’t a matter of how smart they are. Rather, nonhumans are sentient beings, and it’s a matter of how they suffer, not if they suffer. So-called dumb animals experience deep and prolonged suffering, and, in fact, they’re not really dumb!

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture claims we don’t know if nonhumans think, so therefore they don’t. Both are anti-science, defy reality, and are inane. Animal sentience and animal emotions matter very much; animal sentience is not science fiction, and the life of every single individual matters because they’re alive and have intrinsic or inherent value. They don’t matter because of what’s called their instrumental value—what they can do for us.

I wanted to know more about what was happening on the ground in Ontario, so I contacted Camille Labchuk, a lawyer and the Executive Director of Animal Justice. Here’s some of what she wrote. The Canadian province of Ontario is currently trying to ram through an ag-gag law in the midst of a pandemic. The bill would outlaw whistleblower exposés on farms and in slaughterhouses, and is fiercely opposed by animal advocacy organizations, consumer protection groups, civil libertarians, and journalists. Instead of acknowledging their own wrongdoing, the response from the powerful farming industry has been to lobby for so-called ag-gag laws that make it illegal to film and expose cruelty in the first place. The legislative hearings on Ontario’s ag-gag bill have given us a rare glimpse of the utter indifference that many farmers still have for animal suffering, and indeed their denial of basic science about the emotional and cognitive abilities of animals.

Canada unfortunately has some of the worst animal protection laws in the Western world, and Ontario’s ag-gag bill is about to make a bad situation far worse. Governments do not regulate animal welfare conditions on farms, and farmers are typically exempt from general animal cruelty laws. Farmers engage in a variety of standard yet painful practices with impunity, such as slicing off chicken beaks and piglet tails without anesthesia. To make matters worse, there is no public inspection of animal facilities. With no legal standards to enforce, what would be the point? Instead, the farm industry is left to make up its own rules.

Most people have compassion for animals but are often unaware of how badly animals suffer on farms. When they learn the truth, their trust in the farming industry plummets, and they consider dietary changes to avoid contributing to suffering.

Where have all the science and scientists gone? 

As a scientist, I often wonder: Where have all the science and scientists gone, and why hasn’t every scientist spoken out against such trash. Why aren’t they outraged by OFA’s utter nonsense? And the OFA isn’t alone in putting forth such junk. In the United States, laboratory rats and mice and other fully sentient animals aren’t considered to be animals under the guidelines of the Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). No joke. The science that clearly shows these rodents are sentient beings continues to be totally ignored.1,2

To summarize, who (not what) we eat is a moral question and scientists must speak out. Concerning the notion of who we eat, Ms. Labchuk writes, “Of course, considering the ‘who’ is a massive public relations problem for farmers. The meat industry’s business model depends on ignoring their suffering by crowding chickens raised for meat into dark, windowless warehouses; stuffing egg-laying hens into tiny battery cages; and confining mother pigs in gestation crates so small that they can’t even turn around or play with their babies. Animals are trucked to slaughter when their short lives are over. The victims of the meat industry have few opportunities to experience positive emotional states, and experience significant pain and suffering.”

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s conceptualization of the cognitive and emotional lives of clearly sentient beings is pure fiction and should be read as such. Their misguided views support and will continue to perpetuate the extremely cruel and brutal treatment of “food animals” and ignore a wealth of scientific data. It’s high time to bridge the “knowledge translation gap” and use what we know to truly help other animals. The “knowledge translation gap” refers to the practice of ignoring tons of science showing that nonhumans are sentient beings and going ahead and causing intentional harm in human-oriented arenas.

How we treat these and other clearly sentient nonhumans isn’t necessarily a matter of rights. Rather, it’s a matter of decency and depends on using what we know—and have known for a long time—on the animals’ behalf. Indeed, we are obligated to do so.

References

Notes:

1) Here are some essays on the emotional lives of so-called “food animals.”

On World Day for Farmed Animals, Let’s Honor Who They Are.

Going “Cold Tofu” to End Factory Farming.

What Would a Mother “Food” Cow Tell Us About Her Children?

Cows: Science Shows They’re Bright and Emotional Individuals. (A new essay reviews the detailed science that demonstrates bovine sentience.)

Is an Unnamed Cow Less Sentient Than a Named Cow?

The Cow’s Nose Shows How They’re Feeling About Life.

Do Cows Moo “Get me the Hell out of Here” on Factory Farms?

The Emotional Lives of Cows: Ears Tell Us They’re Feeling OK.

Dead Cow Walking: The Case Against Born-Again Carnivorism.

Happy Cows: A Heart-Warming Video Offers an Important Lesson. (Watch rescued cows free to run gallop around with unmistakable joy and glee.)

Babe, Lettuce, and Tomato: Dead Pig Walking.

Pigs Are Intelligent, Emotional, and Cognitively Complex.

Are Pigs as Smart as Dogs and Does It Really Matter? (Intelligence is a slippery concept and should not be used to assess suffering.)

Why Sheep Matter: They’re Intelligent, Emotional, and Unique.

Sheep Discriminate Faces, So What’s In It For the Sheep?

The Rich Emotional Lives of Chimpanzees and Goats.

The World According to Intelligent and Emotional Chickens.

The Thanksgiving Day Massacre: A House of Horrors.

2) In the 2002 iteration of the United States Federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) we read, “Enacted January 23, 2002, Title X, Subtitle D of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act, changed the definition of ‘animal’ in the Animal Welfare Act, specifically excluding birds, rats of the genus Rattus, and mice of the genus Mus, bred for use in research.

HOW TO BEAT A VEGAN IN ANY ARGUMENT

: Your step-by-step guide to justify killing animals and destroying the planet.
Step 1: REMIND THEM THAT OUR ANCESTORS ATE MEAT- No vegan is aware of this, but one thing they are aware of is that if humans have been doing something for thousands of years, it must be acceptable. After all, there’s nothing worse than moral progress!

Step 2: BECOME A PLANT RIGHTS ACTIVIST- Everyone knows that cutting the throat of live animals and cutting vegetables is the same thing. Vegans aren’t aware of the fact that plants feel pain too, and make sure to raise your voice whenever a vegan cuts a carrot.

Step 3: ASK THEM WHAT THEY’D DO IF THEY WERE STRANDED ON A DESERT ISLAND- Vegans routinely get stuck on desert islands and have to eat animals of desert for survival.

Step 4: REMIND THEM THAT EATING MEAT ISN’T ILLEGAL – If politicians think killing animals is okay, then it must be!

Step 5: SHOUT “UMM CHICKEN” REPEATEDLY- Vegans have never heard of this product. This will disorientate the vegan.

Step 6: POINT AT YOUR CANINE TEETH-
we know that if you have a body part capable of doing something, that means it’s okay to do whatever it/they can be used for. For consistency, make sure to sexually assault someone and then point at your penis when the police questions you why you did it.

Step 7: TELL THEM THAT WE NEED TO EAT ANIMAL PRODUCTS TO SURVIVE- Many vegans are unaware of the fact that they are actually dead, much like Bruce Willis’ character in ‘The Sixth Sense’.

Step 8: TELL THEM THAT MEAT IS TASTY- vegans aren’t aware of this, since none of them have ever eaten meat in their entire lives. Just tell them meat is yummy,they will definitely start killing animals for meat.

Step 9: TELL THEM VEGAN FOOD TASTES LIKE SHIT- It’s a well known fact that not a single one of the 20,000 edible plant species on earth or the spices and other products derived from them are even slightly appetising.

Step 10: REMIND THEM THAT THEY USE ELECTRICITY AND MOBILE PHONES- Being involved in a justice movement is hypocritical if you use electricity or mobile phones. Be sure to also tell racial equality campaigners, women rights and gay rights activists and anti child abuse campaigners that their cause is pointless for the same reason.

Step 11: CALL THEM PUSSY AND WEAK- we all know the one who cares for the weak and voiceless is pussy and weak by heart, tell them that killing the weakest animals remorselessly is what makes us strong.

Step 12: REMIND THEM THAT YOUR SITUATION IS JUST LIKE A LION’S – tell them you eat meat because you wanna be a lion! Let them know about that one time you stalked your prey down in a jungle with your canine teeth and flawless strength of your jaws and limbs to feed your family who was dying of hunger.

Step 13: MAKE THEM AWARE OF HOW YOU EATING MEAT AND ANIMAL PRODUCTS ACTUALLY BENEFITS THINGS- Finally, make the vegan aware of all the good eating meat, cheese, milk, eggs, fish, etc. does for animals, the environment, and other humans. Seeing as veganism helps none of those things, this will make the vegan realise which is the cause REALLY worth fighting for.

Step 14:- MAKE THEM AWARE THAT WE ARE OMNIVORES BECAUSE WE CAN MAKE WEAPONS TO HUNT ANIMALS- many vegans aren’t aware that even if we are not biologically and naturally capable of hunting animals, we can use weapons to kill them,so that makes us omnivores, for consistency make sure to kill your neighbour’s dog with a weapon and tell them that you did it because you are an omnivore.

STEP 15- LET THEM KNOW THE FARM ANIMALS ARE RAISED BY US SO ITS OK TO TAKE THEIR LIVES AWAY- for consistency kill your own children and tell the police that you did it because you brought them into existence, police will definitely understand you.

Step 16- TELL THEM ITS YOUR PERSONAL CHOICE – it’s a well known fact that its a personal choice to cut the throats of the animals just to eat them.

Step 17- TELL THEM VEGANS ARE ANNOYING AND THEY SHOULDN’T ACT AS IF THEY ARE SUPERIOR TO EVERYONE ELSE- Despite the fact that they do live by a higher ethical standard, they shouldn’t feel superior just because they don’t take lives of the animals. Let them know killing animals is what makes us superior.

Step 18- TELL THEM ITS THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST- Its a well known fact that the strong prey on the weak and nature is cruel, for consistency make sure to kill little kids and then tell the police “its survival of the fittest,the strong prey on the weak and tell them nature is cruel”.

Step 19- FINALLY SHUT THEM UP AND TELL THEM TO STOP FORCING THEIR BELIEFS DOWN YOUR THROAT- we all know that forcing knives against the Throats of animals is better than forcing our beliefs down someone’s throat who isn’t comfortable with hearing the truths.