A flamingo in an Illinois zoo had to be put down after a child threw a rock at it

This file photo shows a flamingo at a zoo in Duisburg, western Germany.

(CNN)A Miller Park Zoo flamingo was euthanized Monday after an elementary school student threw a rock inside the animal’s exhibit.

A representative from the Bloomington, Illinois zoo told CNN affiliate WMBD the rock broke the flamingo’s leg and caused injuries that led to it being put down.
The zoo said it’s working with the student’s family to make sure this is a learning experience, WMBD reported.
The greater flamingo exhibit at the zoo opened in June 2016, according to the city of Bloomington.
According to the University of Michigan, greater flamingos are found in the Middle East in countries like Iran, Turkey and Afghanistan, as well as in areas across west Africa, South America and throughout Europe. They’re often hunted across the Middle East and Africa and their eggs are often captured for profit.
They can live up to an average of 30 years, according to the university with those in captivity sometimes reaching 60 years old.
The zoo has both indoor and outdoor exhibits of animals including reindeer, the Sumatran tiger, river otters, red pandas, lemurs, bald eagles, gibbons and red wolves, according to its website.

How to Shift to a More Plant-Based Diet, Without the Guilt

Kathy Freston is a New York Times bestselling author four times over. Her books on healthy eating and conscious living include The LeanVeganist and Quantum Wellness. She considers herself a wellness activist and has appeared frequently on national television.

All this, and yet, she’s not strident or bossy. She wouldn’t dream of making me feel bad if I sprinkled parmesan on my pasta. She somehow understands that I can’t seem to give up my cow’s milk lattes.

“I’m a big believer in progress, not perfection,” says Freston. She offers easy, manageable ways to ease into a more plant-based diet. Freston takes a compassionate, no-guilt and shame-free approach to omnivores who try to reduce their meat consumption but who are maybe not on board the vegan train.

Leslie Crawford: You take an unusually gentle approach with people who aren’t vegetarians or vegans. Is this really an effective approach?

Kathy Freston: I realized that if someone lectured or shamed me, I’d probably reject the message and not have developed any of my own insights, whereas when I talk to people who are nonjudgmental, I’m an open receiver. So, I decided to share the message the way I like it to have done with me.

Your dog was instrumental in your conversion to becoming a vegetarian and then a vegan. Tell us about your “ah-ha!” moment.

I had received a pamphlet in the mail from some animal organization depicting a cow being dragged to slaughter. It hit me hard, and I didn’t know what to do with that. Later, I was playing with my dog Lhotse, and she was lying on her back and looking up at me. When I looked back at her, [I] suddenly imagined her being lined up for slaughter and considered how she’d feel. I thought, If I don’t want my dog to go to slaughter, why would I want any animal to go to slaughter? As you know, a dog is no better or worse than any animal.

You talk about how becoming vegan is a process. I think some people think it’s just too hard because they have to entirely change the way they eat in order to become one.

It’s a process for several reasons. One is that our culture has effectively numbed us to what’s happening to animals. We are told it’s normal, natural and necessary. From early childhood, we’ve been indoctrinated with the idea that it doesn’t matter how we treat farm animals. It takes a while to get over that indoctrination.

The second thing is that we like to eat what we like to eat. Certain habits and traditions are ingrained in us. For anyone who has a habit, it’s very hard to break it.

Finally, it’s about being resourceful. It takes a while to find your footing: what to make for dinner, how to shop, how to please your kids. All those things work in tandem. If you give yourself time and space to figure this out, anyone can do it.

I’m getting there, and this may sound silly, but I’m having trouble giving up cow’s milk lattes.

Try the 21-day rule. It’s easy to change a habit in that amount of time. So for 21 days, try soy milk or oat milk — whatever it is you want to use as a replacement. It might not be great the second or third day, but once you get in the habit of something, you can change.

We talked about how shaming people for eating meat doesn’t work. I’ve found that meat-eaters also try to shame vegetarians and vegans. Have you experienced this?

That happens all the time. I remember a dinner party with some VIP people. The host was serving meat and cheese, and I just quietly said, “No thank you. I’m good with what I have.” I’d already told the host I’m a vegan, so not to worry about getting an extra steak or fish. When I said “no thank you” to the third thing she offered, she told me, “You’re so boring!” I was so humiliated. The last thing I want to do is make a spectacle of myself.

That was a while ago. Now I just think, “Oh my goodness,” but I don’t get upset. I don’t like to get into arguments.

Any other tips for moving over to a more plant-based diet?

This is a movement about kindness. If you come from that place, the changes stick. But if you force yourself and hate it, it won’t stick. We are looking for long-term change.

Once you take the pressure off, you can lean into changing. My intention was to become someone who no longer eats animals. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I grew up eating meat three times a day. But I allowed myself to become curious and went to see what I could find at the grocery store. All of this creates momentum, and I just leaned into it.

Plus, nowadays, there are so many plant-based meats — so many great products to choose from.

Many parents, including me, struggle with trying to raise kids vegetarian or vegan. Advice?

Find what a child actually likes rather than forcing something. Sometimes it’s Gardein chicken fingers or a vegan burger or [vegan] cheese. I’m a big lover of smoothies, and you do want to get good nutrition. You can put in frozen broccoli, blueberries, protein powder. But don’t worry about being uber-healthy right away. Start by finding some things they like and build from there.

Consider taking them to a farm animal sanctuary. There are great books to have on hand: Dr. Joel Fuhrman wrote one called Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right. Your books Sprig the Rescue Pig and Gwen the Rescue Henare wonderful. Brava! I can’t wait to see them in every kid’s hands.


Here’s further advice from Freston taken from her own writings:

Practice tolerance: That’s how you can change hearts and minds, and how you can change your own eating habits, too.

Lean into plant-based eating: Take it a step at a time. For example, you could start by abstaining from eating small animals such as chickens and fish, then cutting all large animals (cows and pigs) from your diet.

It’s also okay to be vegan-ish: So you eat cheese now and then, but you have cut out all other animal products. Allow yourself these small things, and applaud what you’ve already done.

Eat consciously: Conscious eating is being aware of where your food came from. Consider the 9.47 billion land animals who suffered and were killed for food in 2017. Think: 10 steps before it got to me, what did this single animal experience? It helps to think small as well because the vast number of animals slaughtered for our food can be so unfathomable. Think of that one chicken, that one animal. What did that creature experience on her way to my dinner plate? Am I all right with that just so I can have my chicken sandwich?

What Parents Need to Know About Factory Animal Farms


What Parents Need to Know About Factory Animal Farms
By Ketura Persellin

You probably care a lot about how your fruits and vegetables are grown. You
may not think as much about where your family’s animal protein comes from,
but the conditions in which most meat, poultry and even dairy is produced
may give you and your kids pause — even those most likely to clamor for yet
another burger or hot dog.

Americans eat a lot of meat and poultry — 27 billion pounds of beef were
produced last year alone, most of it in “factory farms
All those animals produce lots of manure — quite literally tons of it. The
775 animal operations in the Maumee Basin of Western Lake Erie alone
produce 5.5 million tons of manure each year. The coastal plain of North
Carolina has 1,500 factory farms that produce as much as 4 billion gallons
of wet swine waste and 400,000 tons of dry poultry waste.

The mountains of waste smell terrible, but the stench is far from the worst
problem it creates. Bacteria
such as from hog feces
can get into the homes and lawns of neighbors and endanger their physical
and mental health. And the problem is getting worse
From 2005 to 2018, the amount of manure produced in the Maumee Basin rose
by more than 40 percent.

All that waste has to go somewhere. Manure from large-scale animal farms
runs off into groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams. It pollutes drinking
water, hurts air quality and triggers tremendous stress for local
residents. That may be one reason life expectancy
North Carolina communities near hog farms is particularly low, even after
adjusting for other socioeconomic factors.

Kids may love poop jokes, but the production and consumption of animal
protein is no laughing matter. You and your children might find the
conditions the animals that you eat are raised in outrageous and disgusting
— perhaps enough to drive even the most enthusiastic carnivore into the
ranks of committed vegans. The animals live in crowded, dirty conditions
often infested with flies and rodents. The water they drink or that’s used
to wash down the facility can get contaminated with any number of these

Here are a few other things to consider – and point out to the kids when
they clamor for yet another burger, hot dog or order of chicken McNuggets:

– Not all meat is produced in a factory farm. By buying certain kinds of
meat, you can avoid supporting a great deal of the harm of factory farms.
Look <https://www.ewg.org/research/labeldecoder/> for grass-fed,
pasture-raised or “free range” meat in lean cuts that have no antibiotics
or hormones and are certified organic. Check out EWG’s label decoder
<https://www.ewg.org/research/labeldecoder/> for help.

– It’s not just livestock raised for meat that’s raised in
industrial-scale animal operations — dairy cows are too. So if you’re not a
fan of large-scale animal production, you’ll may want to change your dairy
consumption habits, too. Buying organic milk, cheese and other dairy
products will be better for your family’s health and for the environment.

– Crowded living conditions in factory farms make animals sick, which
has driven the overuse of antibiotics for livestock. This has led to the
development of strains of bacteria in animals and humans that are
resistant <https://www.ewg.org/research/superbugs/> to life-saving
medicine — the last thing most parents want.

– Manure runoff contains chemicals that algae feed on, such as nitrates
and phosphorus. They’re responsible for the toxic algae blooms that
pollute <https://www.ewg.org/interactive-maps/toxicalgalblooms/> many
lakes and rivers (and sometimes make them off limits for swimming and
fishing). If you’ve seen “Do Not Swim” signs recently at the beach or your
area lake, or greenish scum floating on the water’s surface, you’re often
looking at the direct consequence of industrial-scale animal production.

– Factory farms aren’t going away any time soon. The amount of red meat
and poultry consumed in the U.S. fell after the Great Recession of 2008 but
rebounded and was projected to reach 222.2 pounds
<https://www.globalagriculture.org/whats-new/news/en/32921.html> per
person per year in 2018. It’s expected to go up in the rest of the world,
too. Dairy consumption in this country is also on the rise. Your family can
do its part to avoid adding to the problem. For starters, consider going
meatless <https://www.meatlessmonday.com/> (and without dairy) once a

*If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they
went. (Will Rogers)*

*the wild, cruel beast is not behind the bars of the cage. he is in front
of it – axel munthe*

*”Never doubt that a small group of dedicated citizens can change the
world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead*

*Until every cage is empty. Until every animal is free*

US vegan food-maker Beyond Meat eyes $1bn valuation

A Beyond Meat burgerImage copyrightBEYOND MEAT

US plant-based meat-maker Beyond Meat is raising money by issuing shares which will value the firm at over $1bn in its stock market debut.

The firm, which made its UK launch in November, expects to offer 8.75 million shares priced between $19 and $21 each.

At the upper price range, the flotation would value the company at $1.2bn.

Beyond Meat says it wants to tap into the growing popularity of veganism and hopes to boost research and development and expand manufacturing facilities.

The company, which is backed by investors including US meat producer Tyson and Microsoft founder Bill gates, expects to receive gross proceeds of about $175m from the offering.

Its valuation makes it a so-called “unicorn firm”.

The term, coined by venture capital investor Aileen Lee, refers to privately owned tech start-ups valued at $1bn (£686m) or higher.

Originally named after the mythical creatures, because they were so rare, the number of such firms has rapidly increased and includes taxi-hailing app Uber, ride-sharing start-up Lyft and online scrapbook company Pinterest.

Beyond Meat’s Beyond Burger was originally due to be introduced into 350 Tesco stores last August, but was delayed by three months because of supply issues.

It has entered a crowded UK market with more suppliers moving into supermarkets, some of whom are producing their own-label vegan foods.

On its website, Beyond Meat says: “Why do you need an animal to create meat? Why can’t you build meat directly from plants? It turns out that you can. So we did.”

Chart showing the number of vegetarians and vegans in Great Britain in 2016.

Veganism is becoming more popular in Great Britain. Research conducted by the Vegan Society in 2016 estimated there were around 540,000 vegans across the country, compared with around 150,000 in 2006.

Supermarket chains in the UK are stocking more vegan options, with Waitrose starting a dedicated vegan section in more than 130 shops last year and Iceland reporting sales of its plant-based foods rising by 10% in a year.

I lectured about the public health dangers of industrial farming. But what I saw went beyond my fears

.. Visiting one was far worse than I imagined

APRIL 20, 2019 6:00PM (UTC)
Excerpted and adapted from “Our Symphony with Animals: On Health, Empathy and Our Shared Destinies” by Aysha Akhtar. Published by Pegasus Books. © Aysha Akhtar. Reprinted with permission.
I was giving a talk at a conference in Oklahoma about the public health dangers of industrial animal farming, or “factory farming” as it is commonly called. Each year, more than 64 billion animals are raised and killed for food globally. In the United States alone, 1 million animals are slaughtered every hour. Largely because of increased demand for cheap animal products, intensive animal operations have replaced most traditional farming practices world- wide. The transformation of animal agriculture is so dramatic that it has been dubbed the “livestock revolution.” This unprecedented change in the human relationship with animals has led to not only more animal suffering than ever before in human history but also to devastating harms to human health.

At the conference, I presented data showing how animal agriculture (and the resultant high consumption of animal products) causes more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector. It also pollutes our land and water and increases our risks of cancers, obesity, strokes, and infectious diseases like salmonella, E. coli, and bird flus. Throughout my presentation, a solemn-looking woman with short, auburn hair and glasses kept shaking her head in disagreement. When I ended my talk and opened the floor for questions, the woman went on the attack. She disputed everything I said. There are no environmental hazards, no infectious disease risks, no animal welfare problems.

“Have you ever visited one of these farms?” she demanded, with evident anger.

I told her I had not because these places are not open for the public’s viewing. But my data came from reputable studies published by institutions like the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The evidence is so strong, the American Public Health Association called for a moratorium on factory farms.

The woman, Jean Sander, was dean of the Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences. “You need to visit our farms,” she replied. “They are nothing like what you say.”

Three months later, I take Jean up on her offer. The farms are worse than anything I’ve read.

On a dismal morning in late November, I meet Dr. Sander at the parking lot of a Sonic fast food restaurant in Bristow, Oklahoma. After we greet each other and complain about the weather, I get into her car. We head out to visit an egg-laying farm about a half hour away. This farm is not the place Jean initially set up for my visit. She was originally going to take me to see a “broiler” farm, where chickens are produced for meat, which is contracted by Tyson Foods. The Tyson chicken facility is one of Oklahoma’s largest.

But a few days before my flight to Tulsa, the Tyson facility manager backed out. He informed Jean that an undercover investigation at a chicken facility in Tennessee recently caught the attention of news reporters. As a result, he was not letting any outsiders in his buildings. The undercover investigators videotaped farm employees beating sick chickens with spiked clubs. Like the Oklahoma facility, the one in Tennessee was also contracted by and supplied chickens to Tyson Foods.

The only reason I am being allowed in is because of Jean. Her affiliation with Oklahoma State University, one of the largest agricultural schools in the country, has placed Jean in a position to know many of the animal farm managers in Oklahoma. They view her as an ally. And thanks to my connection with Jean, they must have seen me as nonthreatening. Even so, it took months for Jean to find facilities that would open their doors to us.

Herbert Wendell walks up to us and shakes our hands with fervor. With his ruddy cheeks and cheerful welcome, he immediately reminds me of my father-in law. Herbert comes from a family of crop farmers and was the first to move into animal agriculture. In 1957, he bought one chicken that started his egg-laying business. Since then, the number of chickens has grown to about thirty thousand.

After a few minutes of greeting, Jean hands me a disposable coverall, pair of booties, and gloves. They are meant to keep us from inadvertently introducing infectious agents into the facility as part of a biocontainment plan—methods that clearly don’t work, given how often bird and swine flu epidemics sweep across industrial farms in the United States. Jean and I cover ourselves. We then follow Herbert and his granddaughter inside the nearest of the two animal sheds and . . . oh my god!

I hide my face so the others don’t see me gag. I’m worried I’ll offend Herbert if I vomit.

With great effort, I swallow the bile pooling at the back of my throat and straighten up. Slowly, my other senses kick in. Touch first. Flies land on my face. I swat ineffectually at my forehead, nose, ears. Next comes sound. Not the individual noises of calls, clucks, and squawks. But a roar. A singular shout.

Jean tells me that the standard of practice used to be to allow 54 square inches per bird in a cage. Now they’re moving to 60 to 65 square inches per bird as an animal welfare gesture. Sixty-five square inches is about two-thirds the dimension of a single sheet of letter-sized paper. A hen is forced to live her entire life in the space of my laptop screen, but this is considered, by the agricultural industry, as progress.

As we walk down the rows, I breathe through my mouth to somewhat ease the stench. The birds scurry and climb on top of one another to hide near the back of the cages. They’re terrified of us. I’m scared too. Scared that they will crush one another, which Herbert tells me, has happened. Up closer, I see raw, red exposed areas on most of the birds, where their feathers rubbed off against the wires entrapping them. I can’t imagine how painful that must be.

Since birds crowded like this commonly go mad and peck one another to death, these birds were debeaked, a practice whereby workers grab baby chicks in one hand and thrust their beaks between hot, steaming blades. Workers cut off anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of chicks’ beaks while they’re fully conscious. The industry calls this “trimming their beaks.” But slicing chickens’ beaks off with a heated blade or a scissor device, as is frequently done, is not like trimming your nails. Birds’ beaks are sensitive, highly innervated and able to feel pain and other sensations. It would be like having your toes cut off without anesthesia. Not only do chickens rely on their beaks for many functions, having their beaks severed causes them immense, acute, and, often, lifelong pain.

As we walk about, Herbert describes how the facility functions. Conveyer belts run along the span of the building, automatically collecting the eggs that fall under the chickens. Trenches alongside the cages hold feed pellets. It’s all mechanized. No human hand need ever touch a bird until the time of her death. This, then, is a chicken’s life. To huddle in a cage cowering on top of another for one and a half years until someone kills you.

Jean reminds me this is a small facility. Average-size farms house 100,000 birds. The largest may contain 200,000. I am so overwhelmed by the smell of filth and fear, I can’t fathom what those larger factories must be like.

Maggots. Hundreds, thousands of maggots squirming about the ground. I jump and lift my legs. Squashed maggots are stuck on the bottom of my bootie-covered sneakers. As I hop on each leg to inspect my feet, I slip.

And down I go.

When I look back at this moment, the image that comes to mind is a scene in the movie Poltergeist (the original, of course), when the earth beneath the haunted family’s house erupts and releases the screaming skeletons and gaping skulls buried beneath. In the downpour of a raging storm, the mother desperately tries to rescue her children trapped inside the house. As she runs into their backyard screaming for help, her foot slips along the edge of a large, muddy pit. She slides into a pool of death.

Qdoba’s Impossible Meat tacos and bowls are 100% meatless

All 730 Qdoba locations will offer Impossible Meat’s plant-based beef alternative.

Do you like the idea of a plant-based Impossible Burger, except you’re not a fan of burgers? Your best bet might be Qdoba. The Mexican food chain announced this weekthat its trial of Impossible Meat at a few of its Michigan locations was a major success, and it will expand to its 730 locations nationwide by the end of May.

It’s been an incredible month for Impossible Foods and its competitors in the plant-based meat industry.

Impossible Foods, which makes the Impossible Burger and other plant-based meat products, announced just two weeks ago it was partnering with Burger King to offer plant-based Whoppers. Early reviews — and sales — look good. Burger King joined White Castle, which sells Impossible Foods sliders, and Carl’s Jr., which sells burgers from Impossible Foods’ competitor Beyond Meat. Last week, Mexican food chain Del Taco announced it would sell Beyond Meat, too.

Now, Qdoba has joined them. The plant-based meat alternative is featured in two entrees — the Impossible Bowl and the Impossible Taco — or you can order it in anything else in place of beef.

The rise of plant-based foods is actually a big deal

There’s a lot wrong with our food system — from animal cruelty to antibiotic resistanceto its contributions to climate change. But people really like meat, and efforts to curb these problems by convincing people to switch away from meat haven’t worked well. There are about as many vegans and vegetarians as there were 20 years ago.

That’s where plant-based meat alternatives can step in. Products like veggie burgers, fake chicken, and soy and almond milk are growing in popularity and market share — and even better, they’re getting tastier and harder to distinguish from animal meat.

Beyond Meat founder Ethan Brown told my colleague Sigal Samuel that 93 percent of consumers who buy Beyond Meat also buy animal meat — and he’s fine with that. It’s a sign these products, far from being a just-for-vegans eccentricity, are going mainstream.

With the surge of consumer and restaurant interest in plant-based foods has come a surge in investment from titans of the meat industry. Last fall, Perdue Farms announced it was looking into its own plant-based products. Tyson Foods announced in February it was launching a plant-based product line. Since 2016, Tyson has also made investments in plant-based and lab-grown meat research and operations, putting money into the cell-based meat startups Memphis Meats and Future Meat Technologies Ltd. and in the plant-based meat startup Beyond Meat.

It’ll probably be a long time before these alternatives can replicate the experience of a steak — though engineers are hard at work on it. In the meantime, they’re finding their niche with burgers and ground beef. Restaurants and consumers, going by the recent surge of interest, are increasingly getting on board.


The Kellogg’s-owned veggie brand debuts a vegan “Cheezeburger” to kick off its journey to becoming 100-percent vegan in the next three years.


Vegetarian brand MorningStar Farms—a subsidiary of the Kellogg Company—will transition to becoming a fully vegan company by 2021. According to the brand, the move will spare 300 million egg whites annually and its fully vegan line will be available to 25,000 restaurants and eating establishments within K-12 schools, universities, and hospitals nationwide. To celebrate its transformation, the brand will unveil a vegan Cheezeburger (its vegan Meat Lovers quarter-pound burger topped with plant-based cheddar cheese) during the upcoming trade show Natural Products Expo West. “This is a very exciting opportunity for us. By making this change, MorningStar Farms favorites can be enjoyed by even more people at home and on-the-go who strive to add plant-based proteins to their plate,” Mel Cash, Head of Global Marketing, Plant Based Protein at Kellogg Company, said. “This will also help us further our commitment to a greener world by helping to reduce the water waste, land usage, and carbon emissions associated with egg production.” Last year, MorningStar Farms removed all animal products from its “Chik’N” line—which includes Buffalo Wings, Chik’N Nuggets, Buffalo Chik Patties, and Original Chik Patties. Currently, the brand’s portfolio is 50-percent vegan with plans to increase its vegan offerings to comprise 65 percent of its product line by the end of 2019.

Letter: Mandatory trap checks needed in MT

    •  https://missoulian.com/opinion/letters/mandatory-trap-checks-needed-in-mt/article_916d9166-c08c-5bc7-811e-72007a5158fe.html

According to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, trappers should check their traps at least once every day.

The American Society of Mammalogists states, “Snares or foot-hold traps should be checked a least daily, but more frequent depending upon target species, the potential for capture of non-target species, and environmental conditions. Frequent checking of traps is the most effective means of minimizing mortality or injury to animals in live traps.”

Montana has no mandatory trap check time. Trapped animals can suffer for days, even weeks, injured and exposed to the elements. Only bobcat trap sets in designated lynx protection zones and traps set for wolves require checking every 48 hours.

“The longer that animal is in a trap, the more likely you have foot injury, shoulder sprains, vascular damage, neural damage,” said Carter Niemeyer, a retired wildlife biologist.

Thirty six states have 24-hour/daily trap checks in their trapping regulations. House Bill 287 requires daily trap checks and allows for exceptions if a trapper cannot tend to the traps. HB287 helps end prolonged suffering of trapped animals and gives the trap-released non-targets, i.e. raptors, mountain lions, grizzly, deer, lynx and beloved pets a chance to survive.

Trapping is a bipartisan issue.

KC York,


A proposed bill will make animal cruelty a federal felony

One of more than 60 dogs in a suspected cruelty case in Jefferson County Arkansas in 2016.

(CNN)Two lawmakers — a Democrat and a Republican — have proposed a bill that will make animal cruelty a federal felony.

Congressman Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan, both from Florida, think the PACT Act will close a gap that’s existed for years.
But the PACT Act — which stands for Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture — will broaden the scope of prosecutors.
For instance, right now, all 50 states have laws in their books against animal cruelty on the state level. But what if the animals being tortured cross state lines?
If the bill passes, authorities can go after the wrongdoers because they have federal jurisdiction. They can also prosecute criminals if the cruelty occurs on federal property.
“This is commonsense, bipartisan legislation to bring some compassion to our animal laws,” Rep. Deutch said. “We’ve acted in the past to stop the horrific trend of animal abuse videos; now it’s time to make the underlying acts of cruelty a crime as well.”
Under the PACT Act, a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, and impaling animals and sexually exploiting them.
The bill has been endorsed by the National Sheriffs Association and the Fraternal Order of Police. Those convicted under the PACT Act would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.

Animal welfare: if you want cheap knitwear, it’s the sheep that may suffer


Secretly filmed footage of a group of sheep shearers working on a farm makes for shocking viewing. Animals are kicked, stamped on and punched in the face. The abuse, uncovered by an animal rights group, is difficult to watch.

Broadcast by Channel 4 News, the footage was filmed by PETA Asiaduring summer wool shearing, when teams of contractors are typically paid “per sheep sheared”.

It goes without saying that animal cruelty and mishandling is unethical, and sheep farmers are understandably keen to stress that the footage is not representative of British sheep farming practises. But beyond the indefensible actions of some individuals lies a wider issue. In low margin industries, such as wool, there are limited incentives to invest in people with a high level of skill – or respect for animals.

Consumer demand for cheap clothing is part of the problem. Apart from what is used for carpets, mattresses and one or two other artisan sectors of the industry, the generally low price of wool makes it hard for farmers to prioritise processes like shearing. To do so is neither profitable nor productive.

The market for wool is particularly stringent. What was once a thriving component of the sheep farming industry is now a mere byproduct of the more profitable lamb market. Yes, wool commodity prices have increased over the last decade and there have been some niche successes in, for example, rare breed wool such as Herdwick fleece from the UK’s Lake District.

But for many farmers, wool production provides only a small fraction of their overall income. In terms of the invested effort in cleaning, processing and packing shorn fleeces, it is almost certainly loss making.

The sheep shearing scandal revealed by PETA comes at a time when there has been a sharpening focus on animal welfare issues. There have been policy pledges made by the UK’s environment secretary, Michael Gove, to bring animals into the political spotlight, for example by prohibiting sales of puppies and kittens in pet shops.

But these pledges may do little to reassure a public that takes a serious interest in animal health and that has seen myriad recent “scandals” in relation to contamination (horse meat), disease (foot and mouth, BSE, bird flu) and the ethics of animal treatment.

Animal ethics

Research shows that a large majority of people who work with animals do so because they find human-animal contact rewarding in some way. For some, it’s the prospect of improving the well-being of animals as a veterinary surgeon, or as a volunteer in a rescue shelter. For others, like farmers, the reward comes from interacting with animals as part of a particular way of life.

Even those employed in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants have been observed to display a generally unemotional “blankness” rather than outright violence when it comes to handling animals. It seems instead that acts of violence and cruelty are restricted to a minority, and research has shed light on the psychological links between animal violence and other forms of social dysfunction, such as domestic abuse. For most, animal work is either positively rewarding or routinely unemotional.

What is significant is that a minority of unregulated and probably unobserved individuals are allowed to engage in acts of cruelty that most would find repugnant and deeply upsetting. In the sheep farming industry, where farmers are working to tight profit margins in tough conditions, there is so little slack in the system that – at times like shearing – speed can be valued over other concerns.

It is this low margin, high speed culture which makes it more likely that self-employed contractors like shearing gangs will seek to cut corners or lose patience with their charges and react with violence.

There are no simple solutions to such problems. But continuing to expose and discuss animal cruelty is an important step in ensuring it remains on the agricultural and political agenda – and that it permeates the consciousness of consumers, too.

Consumer demand for wool is a driver of the price the farmer receives and, as the seasons change and magazine editors publicise jumpers and cardigans for the autumn and winter, now is a good time to raise awareness of the issue.

A happy Herdwick. Shutterstock

Greater regulation and surveillance is needed in the shearing industry to ensure rogue practitioners are prevented from finding work. Beyond that, however, sheep farmers also need to be able to secure greater returns for wool in order to maximise the care they take in its production. It needs to be worth their while to hire people who are paid fairly for the time they take to do the job well.

It can be done. In the UK, Herdwick sheep were once maligned for their particularly wiry wool. Their products have now been successfully rebranded as the breed’s longstanding connection to the beautiful Lake District has added a premium to their fleeces, now prized for their quality and durability in the production of mattresses, carpets and tweeds. Other farmers may well be able to follow their lead, providing greater opportunities for generating new value in this most ancient of commodities.