‘Pawesome’ tips to help keep pets safe on July Fourth


'Pawesome' tips to help keep pets safe on July Fourth»Play Video
Charlie and Waffles of Snohomish. Photo courtesy YouNews contributor Victoria S.
SEATTLE, Wash. – Fourth of July fireworks routinely make July 5th one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters across the country.

That’s why Seattle-based Pet Hub is declaring all of July “National Lost Pet Prevention Month.”

Dogs and cats frightened by fireworks often escape yards in the course of the evening. Some even manage to slip out through doors or open windows.

“Make sure your pet has an external I.D. tag,” says Pet Hub’s Lorien Clemens. “It’s the number one way lost pets get home quickly.”

Pet Hub’s mission is to help reunite lost pets with rightful owners. Pet Hub’s digital I.D. tag can store an owner’s name, address, and phone number. It can even include information on the pet’s medications and personality. The tag can be read by a smartphone, putting important information right at the finger tips of those who find a missing pet.

But even a traditional tag with a simple name and current phone number is better than nothing, Clemens says, adding that microchips are also good, as long as contact information is kept current.

Owners can also help pets adjust by planning ahead for the day. Create a safe space in your home, perhaps in an interior room or on a lower floor, that allows your pet to feel sheltered from the loud noises. For crate-trained pets, their kennel may be their safe spot. For others, it may be a closet or on the couch next to their owner.

For families planning to go out for the night, consider asking a friend or relative to pet-sit.

Exercise early in the day can also help by burning off some energy and helping your pet relax.

“Take them to the lake or the park,” Clemens says. “Throw things around. Get them exhausted and they won’t even care it’s the fourth.”

Understanding Labels & Loopholes


humanely-raised-vealWhat is the difference between Certified Humane and American Humane Certified? What’s the difference between free-range and cage-free?

Unfortunately, consumers who care about animals are being misled by deceptive marketing schemes.

Producers have learned that if a label contains buzzwords such as “happy,” “free,” “humane,” or “animal welfare,” concerned customers will often buy their products (with higher prices) without actually understanding their practices.

The result is a confusing proliferation of packaging labels pertaining to farmed animal welfare. But what do these labels really mean?

To start, it’s important to know that there is no legal definition of “humane.”1

Under USDA-approved welfare labels, farms and producers decide independently what practices they will call “humane.” The USDA merely verifies that the company follows its own arbitrary standards.

Some private humane certification labels require third-party auditors to verify compliance with their standards, but even among these programs the term “humane” is not consistently defined or enforced.

Piglet restrained for scalpel castration

For example, Animal Welfare Approved does not allow debeaking, but considers castration and ear notching without pain relief “humane.”

On the other hand, American Humane Certified permits debeaking, but does not allow ear notching and requires anesthesia for castration of some animals.

Furthermore, not only do terms like “humane” and “free-range” mean different things to different producers; they also mean different things depending on the kind of animal.

For instance, while free-range beef cows must have spent some time on pasture, free-range chickens commonly spend their entire lives crammed inside windowless sheds with thousands of other birds.


Pigs can be confined in manure-laden barns like this one and still be sold as free-range pork. Image: freerangefraud.com

The term “free-range” is not regulated by the USDA, except for use on chickens and turkeys raised for meat (which only requires “access” to outdoors).

Its use for cows and pigs is neither regulated nor enforced.

Often, free-range labels refer to animals packed into warehouse-style sheds with no access to the outdoors.

This is far from the rolling pasture that the term “free-range” conjures in most people’s minds.

All that is required for free-range labeling of poultry is that the birds have “access” to the outdoors for an unspecified amount of time.

Thousands of birds may be confined inside a warehouse facility with a single exit the size of a cat door, and the door may be opened for a few minutes. This still qualifies as free-range.2

The layers of excrement and urine in which these birds are forced to stand, day after day, cause severe flesh and eye burns, and fill the air with so much ammonia that many birds suffer from respiratory disorders.

Conditions on many free-range operations are so bad that most birds are not even aware of outdoor access, or they are too crowded, ill, or weak to move that far.

Debeaking is standard procedure on free-range poultry farms. Free-range claims on eggs are completely unregulated.


Under misleading welfare labels, confinement operations like this one sell their eggs as “cage-free.” Photo: Sally Ryan, New York Times

Cage-free labels refer to hens used for eggs and mean only that the chickens are not in cages.

Cage-free egg-laying hens are typically crowded into windowless sheds or warehouse facilities, with thousands of birds on the floor and on stacked wire platforms, with little or no access to the outdoors and no room to perform natural behaviors.

The ammonia laden air is so noxious that hens commonly suffer respiratory disorders, severe flesh and eye burns, and even blindness.

Debeaking is routine and permitted. There is no third-party auditing.


Cage-free labels should only appear on egg packages, as egg-laying hens are the only farmed animals kept in cages. (Veal calves and breeding sows are confined in crates.)

When cage-free labels appear on chicken or turkey meats (as shown in this photo of Harvest Land chicken meat), consumers are being deliberately misled.

Even on factory farms, chickens and turkeys raised for meat are not kept in cages, but are severely confined indoors inside massive sheds.


Typical feedlot.

Cows raised for beef eat grass for at least the first six months of life, then most are shipped to crowded, barren feedlots and fattened (“finished”) on grain to reach slaughter weight more quickly.

Some producers market feedlot-finished beef as higher priced grass-fed beef even though their cows are intensively confined for the last year or more of life.

USDA certified grass-fed animals must have access to pasture from early Spring to late Fall, but may otherwise be confined to pens or sheds.

All of the standard mutilations including castration, dehorning, and branding are permitted without pain relief under generic and USDA grass-fed labels. Hormones and antibiotics are also allowed.

Humanely Raised

The term “humanely raised” is not regulated or verified, meaning animals can be raised in confinement and mutilated without painkiller.3

Unfortunately, virtually any producer can slap a “humanely raised” label on their animal product, which renders the term nearly meaningless. Even on higher welfare farms, the term is often used deceptively.

Niman Ranch is a useful example, considered by many to be a model of humane pig farming. Their website shows images of happily roaming pigs, and their pork labels read, “Humanely raised on sustainable farms.” The labels also say, “Raised outdoors or in deeply bedded pens.”

That “or” is a loophole that means that Niman Ranch could get away with confining up to 100% of their pigs indoors. According to one writer, they currently confine around 75% of their pigs in warehouse-style barns with straw floors.

The welfare of pigs not given access to the outdoors is markedly lower than that of grazing pigs, yet Niman Ranch enjoys the celebrated reputation of a “pastured pork” operation.

Humane Dairy & Happy Cows

Real cheese from Happy Cows label
Happy Cow Creamery label
Laughing Cow label

Despite all the feel-good labels to the contrary, happy dairy cows are a myth. The basis of all dairy production is sexual violation and the destruction of motherhood.

These are not overstatements. It is a matter of fact that in order to produce milk, female cows must be impregnated (usually via invasive artificial insemination), carry their babies for nine months (like humans), and give birth.

Also inherent to dairy production is the separation of calves from their mothers in order for humans to take their milk.

This breaking of the mother-calf bond happens on small farms, humane label farms, and factory farms alike. According to the USDA, 97% of dairy calves are permanently removed from their mothers within just the first 12 hours of birth.4

Many humane label farms remove the calves in the first hour, claiming that the longer mother and calf are permitted to bond, the more stressful the separation.

Most calves spend their first 2 to 3 months of life in constant confinement in cramped, individual hutches, and never know the nurturing or warmth of their mother’s care.

Regardless of farm type, male calves of dairy cows are sold to be killed for veal or cheap beef.

When they are no longer optimally productive, dairy cows are slaughtered for cheap beef, usually around five years of age.

See also:

  • Learn more about “humane” dairy at our Happy Cows? page.
  • Our Practices page for detailed explanations of standard procedures.

Specific Packaging Labels

Certified Organic

USDA Organic label

For animal products, the organic label mainly distinguishes animals raised without hormones and antibiotics, which are prohibited under organic standards. Animal feed must also be organic.

Animals must have “access” to the outdoors, with cows, sheep and goats given some access to pasture, but the amount, duration, and quality of outdoor access is undefined.

Organic standards do not provide protection against routine mutilations, severe confinement, rough handling, long transport, or brutal slaughter of animals. Tail-docking, dehorning, debeaking, and castration without painkiller are all permitted.

American Grass-Fed Certified

American Grassfed label

While the USDA’s grass-fed label allows for confinement of animals, American Grassfed Certification requires continuous access to pasture and a diet of 100 percent forage. Hormones and antibiotics are also prohibited.

However, routine mutilations such as castration, tail docking, branding and dehorning are all permitted without pain relief.

No standards are in place regarding the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, or animals at slaughter.

American Humane Certified

American Humane Certified label

One of the worst certified labels. Access to the outdoors is not required for any animals, and indoor space requirements are the lowest of all the main humane certification programs.

AHC is the only third-party audited welfare program to permit cage confinement of egg hens. The killing of male chicks, debeaking, and tail docking without pain relief are permitted.

Some standards extend to the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, and animals at slaughter.

Animal Welfare Approved

Animal Welfare Approved label

The Animal Welfare Approved certification is a program of the Animal Welfare Institute. They claim to have “the most rigorous standards for farm animal welfare currently in use by any United States organization.”

As proof of this claim, their website includes a useful chart comparing the various practices and provisions of each certified humane label. While there is bias in favor of AWA in the chart and guide, we include them here for reference.

The AWI boasts that the AWA is the only USDA-approved third-party certification program, but as with other humane labels, egregious cruelties are still permitted.

On the upside, animals have “access” to the outdoors and are able to engage in “some” natural behaviors. No cages or crates may be used, and growth hormones and antibiotics are prohibited. Debeaking is also not allowed.

However, the killing of male chicks born to egg-laying hens is permitted, as are other painful mutilations performed without painkiller, including ear notching and castration.

Standards include breeding, transport, and slaughter of animals.

Certified Humane

Certified Humane label

There is no requirement for outdoor access for birds used for meat, egg-laying hens, or pigs. However, minimum space allowances and indoor environmental enrichments are stipulated.

Feedlots are permitted for beef cattle. Killing of male chicks born to egg-laying hens is allowed.

Debeaking of hens and turkeys, tail docking of pigs, dehorning of goats without painkiller, and rubber ring castration without painkiller are all permitted.

Standards include the treatment of breeding animals, animals during transport, and animals at slaughter.

Global Animal Partnership

Global Animal Partnership label

GAP is a step-based rating program used by Whole Foods.

Producers receive one of six ratings, from Step 1 to Step 5+. Step 1 permits industrial style (factory farm) confinement of animals and merely prohibits crates and cages. Feedlots are allowed for beef cattle through Step 4. Debeaking and tail docking are permitted through Step 3.

Standards consider the treatment during transport, but not breeding or slaughter.

Process Verified

Process Verified label

Warning: this industry label is intentionally misleading.

The USDA currently allows producers enrolled in its Process Verified Program (PVP) to label their products “humanely raised.”

In reality, producers decide independently what practices they will call “humane,” and the USDA merely verifies that the company follows its own arbitrary standards.

Under such a scheme, industrial producers running large scale confinement operations can simply submit their current practices as “humane,” and display the “Process Verified” and “humanely raised” labels.

Read more about this marketing scheme here and here.

United Egg Producer Certified

United Egg Producers Certified label

Warning: this industry label is intentionally misleading.

UEPC permits battery cage confinement of egg-laying hens and other routine inhumane factory farm practices.

Hens in these barren cages have 67 square inches of cage space per bird (less than a sheet of paper), and cannot perform any of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging, or even spreading their wings. Debeaking is permitted and routine.

See also:

How Long Did They Think It Could Go On?

Jim Robertson-wolf-copyright

For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always thought, how long did they think they could get away with it? I guess I’ve always had a different perspective when it comes to the whole crazy industrialized world and the consequences of living so extremely against Nature as Americans have done for around a century or so.

Whenever I heard people talk of bombing Iraq or Iran (or whoever was the perceived target of the day) “back to the Stone Age,” I’d think, throw me into the briar patch, what’s wrong with that? Living like it was the Stone Age would be the best thing for the Earth and us all.

I spent nearly half my life like it was the Stone Age and never found myself wanting for more. Not only was the cabin where I lived in the mountains of the North Cascades without power, phone or running water, I didn’t have the urge to get a generator to see what I was missing out on.

Somehow I knew a gas-powered generator banging away for hours on end would be about as unnatural as you could get; I’d rather not have any power than have power produced so noisily. Such a foul assault on Mother Nature would have consequences down the line.

Perhaps it was because I studied physical anthropology rather than sociology; spent so much time backpacking—living out of a tent in National Parks and wilderness areas; and planting trees for work rather than cutting them down. But when some old rustic wilderness cabin came available to care take, I jumped at the chance. Never mind that I had to cut firewood for heat or that it was beyond the county plowed roads—I cross country skied to get around and chopped a hole in the ice on the river to water the horses. Sure, it was hard work, but it felt right.

1173835_594069293967592_2141908188_nBut whenever I’d have to be where cars were stuck bumper to bumper on the freeway, or witness rampant development, I’d think, how long do they think this can go on before Nature extracts her revenge? How long do people think they can jet-set between their houses and condos, or have specialty products flown or shipped in to their nearest Costco or Walmart, or turn even more moose or elk habitat into golf courses or strip malls or housing developments for an ever-burgeoning human population before Nature says, “Enough!” and retaliates?

Well, considering deadly heat waves like the recent one that hit India; the record flooding in Texas; California’s ongoing mega-drought; the 300+ tundra and forest fires raging across Alaska and the acidic dead zones in the Pacific and other oceans, it looks like the party’s winding down.

As John A. Livingston put it, “Human uniqueness is even more profound than we have been taught to believe and to proclaim.” As you may have guessed (and not to further burst any bubbles), Livingston didn’t mean “unique” in a good way. He meant something more like what Gary Yourofsky says here: “Humans are the scum of the earth. Pure parasites. There is only one species on this planet that can be removed from Earth – and with that removal – EVERY living being, sentient and insentient, will benefit. The animals would thrive. The rainforest, the woods, the mountains, the trees, the plants would thrive. The air and the oceans would become clean again. The earth itself would be born again.”


The Seal Army, The Seals Of Nam and Ricky Gervais condemns Namibia Seal Hunt


Subject: Ricky Gervais condemns Namibia Seal Hunt

On Wednesday 1 July 2015, the activist organization The Seals Of Nam partnered with social media experts from The Seal Army in a global outcry against the Namibian seal hunt. The online protest set social media ablaze with hash tags #Namibia and #sealhunt trending in 5th place on Twitter. At the latest count, over 13 000 tweets condemning the annual slaughter were sent, peaking at over 6 000 tweets per hour.

Ricky Gervais Namibia seal hunt

The “Tweet Storm” received a further boost when UK celebrity Ricky Gervais, known for his stance against cruelty to animals, joined in. Gervais posted links on both Facebook and Twitter with the comment “RIP the 80 000 seals to be savagely slaughtered in Namibia.”

Ricky Gervais Namibia Seal Hunt

This is not the first time The Seals Of Nam has garnered the attentions of A-list celebrities in their online campaign against the hunt. In a similar event held earlier this year, celebrity George Lopez also took to Twitter in reply to a tweet, asking what people could do to help with the cause.

The Namibian seal hunt is fast gaining international notoriety, with calls for a consumer boycott having a negative impact on tourism. The ripple effect is expected to be further impacted to include Namibian fisheries when The Seals of Nam release a cell-phone app later this month. The app has a barcode scanner and will tell European consumers the background of the fish and the relation to the Namibian seal hunt.

This app could have devastating effects, particularly since over 95% of Namibia’s fisheries harvest is exported to the EU where produce from the seal hunt is banned. Speaking on behalf of the organization, Pat Dickens said the ethical reasons of the app have been translated into European languages. A series of emails targeting fish mongers, restaurants, hotels and catering outfits will be sent out once the app is released.

The Namibian government claims the slaughter is a population management control measure necessary to protect dwindling fishing stocks. This claim is rubbished by Dickens who points to bribery, corruption, incompetence and mismanagement of the resource.

Namibia is the only country in the world to slaughter seal cubs still on the teat. The slaughter is regarded by scientists as the cruelest massacre of animals on earth and amounts to the largest slaughter of wildlife in Africa.

Hollywood’s long history of animal cruelty


“Luck’s” horse injury-related cancellation shows how far the film industry has come in treating non-human stars

When HBO’s “Luck” was canceled after a third horse died during production, it was natural to ask what was going on. Were animals being abused? Were people being careless?

The truth was nothing was that simple or savage. Apparently the horses were being treated well, with greater care than actual working racehorses. The third horse was reportedly in good health and high spirits the day it died. It was in such spirits that it reared up as horses sometimes do. This time it fell over backward, and landed on its head. Just an accident. All you can blame is the fragile frame of the thoroughbred horse, which was created for racing.

But that didn’t keep the show from being canceled – or critics from speaking out. Even before the third horse death, PETA charged that “two dead horses in a handful of episodes exemplify the dark side of using animals in television, movies, and ads.” Like all filming in the U.S., “Luck” was shot under supervision of the American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit, the people who certify that “No animal was harmed in the making” of a film or TV show. (That’s a statement about animal welfare, not animal rights. If you don’t think animals should be filmed for entertainment at all, you’re not going to like AHA. Founded in 1877, it also promotes the welfare of children.)

Moreover, this latest incident shows just how much the treatment of animals has changed in Hollywood since the motion picture industry began.

The early days were rough. Take Thomas Edison’s elephant electrocution as a starting point. Topsy, like the producers of “Luck,” was charged with causing three deaths. The third was a cruel trainer who tried to feed her a lighted cigarette. Naturally, she killed him. Edison electrocuted Topsy with alternating current to show how dangerous it was, part of his feud with Nicola Tesla, and released “Electrocuting an Elephant” (1903). This seems unfair and crass to most people today, but the idea was to find the most merciful way to kill Topsy.

Beginning in the 1920s the motion-picture industry boomed, developing new genres as it went. In those days you could do almost anything to an animal (or an actor, for that matter). As many as 100 horses died in the making of the 1926 version of “Ben Hur.” Early Hollywood was an anarchic world, with upstart production companies launching grandiose projects on every side. Filmmakers did whatever struck them as a great idea.

With the advent of sound in 1927 profits took off. The studio system arose, concentrating filmmaking in a handful of dictatorially efficient corporations employing thousands and turning out movies at a tremendous rate. Animal actors were part of the process. Dramas, comedies, adventure stories, musicals, biographies – all would use animals, but the genre that used the most was the western.

The popularity of westerns was particularly hard on horses. Westerns were a staple in ’20s and ’30s Hollywood, and then boomed in the 1940s. In the early days, people were more familiar with horses, more attuned to the dangers of a runaway team, or the dangers of a horse and rider falling. Directors showed lots of falls. They used pitfalls, or tripwires to make horses fall, and there were also some stunt horses, who would fall at a signal. Trained horses jumped through windows or through flames. They leapt over wagons. They rampaged through saloons. All this was at the regular cost of injury or death.

Sometimes individual horses became known, and they were protected because of their fame, and because the actors loved them. Western star William S. Hart had a famous pinto, Fritz. Beautifully trained, Fritz would fall on command, lie down to act as a shield in a gunfight, even play scenes with a monkey. “Singer Jim McKee” (1924) had a scene in which Hart rode Fritz off a cliff into a gorge, but the actor didn’t want to risk Fritz, or a stunt horse, so a fake Fritz was constructed. Hart was filmed galloping to the edge on Fritz, at which point, on cue, the horse did a fall to one side. Then he was led away and replaced by the fake Fritz, held up with wire. When the wires were cut, the two toppled into the gorge. Hart was “badly shaken” by the fall, wrote Petrine Day Mitchum in “Hollywood Hoofbeats,” but once edited, the footage of falling man and “horse” was chillingly spectacular – so much so that the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Organization, aka the Hays Office, called Hart in to explain why he had been so cruel to Fritz.

Fritz was one of the exceptions to the rule. Most Hollywood horses were less famous, less recognizable, and often disposable. In 1939 two horses were killed in the filming of “Northwest Mounted Police” and two more in “Jesse James.” The horses in “Jesse James” were wearing movie blinkers with eyes painted on them. Unable to see, the horses had no idea they were running off a 75-foot cliff over white water until it was too late. The footage was impressive, the stuntman was well-paid, and the horses were dead.

This was the single biggest turning point in the history of Hollywood’s treatment of animals. Word about the deaths got out and there was a tremendous furor. In reaction to the outcry, the Hays Office worked with the AHA to write guidelines for animal performances. Starting in 1940, the AHA was granted access to sets. The Hays Office, well known for prissy extremes such as insisting that marital bedrooms feature twin beds and that Betty Boop dress more modestly, also banned apparent animal cruelty. Films were submitted to the office before release to get a certificate of approval and often changes were demanded before a certificate was issued.

In 1968 the Hays Code was dumped, mostly because it was ridiculous. Now you could have actors curse. You could ridicule the clergy. Married couples could be shown in the same bed. It was good news for the movies, but not for animal welfare. The end of the Hays Code contributed to the rise of the New Hollywood, a golden age of moviemaking. Younger filmmakers were creating realistic and daring movies, with more subtlety and less dependence on formula, contributing to a cinematic renaissance and a move toward realism and location shooting — and, sadly, more problems with animals.

More: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/02/hollywoods_long_history_of_animal_cruelty/

No One is Free While Others Are Oppressed


Written by Jace Kai

Congrats to gays in America- you’re now able to endure the plight of marriage and serve the flesh of tortured animals at your wedding like every other entitled American. So glad your ‘suffering’ is over. And before everyone gets all whiny pissy pants on me, let me remind all that since the dawn of this country and even before, every human being has had a far better life than that of the ones suffered by animals due to human interaction and cruelty, and while everyone is dancing around in their rainbow undies, animals are sinking deeper into hell. Every black, white, asian, hispanic, male, female, gay, straight, transgender, jewish, muslim, christian and atheist; every fat person, skinny person, healthy person, sick person, free citizen and even incarcerated prisoner has been able to live with far more rights and freedoms at their lowest than animals have ever had the luxury of at their highest. Even the most sadistic of serial killers in solitary confinement are able to turn around and move their own limbs should they wish to do so, but that is not the case for billions of innocent animals born into humanity’s evil grasp. We turn their skin into shoes that we walk through the mud with. We turn their fat into soap to wash our asses with. We turn their menstruation into breakfast to slowly clog our arteries. We turn their fur into ridiculous looking coats to keep us warm. We turn their newborn babies into nothing more than a midnight snack. Have lesbians ever had to endure being skinned alive and turned into jerky for some redneck trucker to snack on? I think not. Billions upon billions of animals are born into slavery every year. Billions of animals as loving and intelligent as any dog or human child are born into a world where they are raped and beaten and viciously killed within a fraction of their natural life. Billions of animals who never once know the warmth of sunshine on their face or the softness of grass under their feet. Billions of animals who have their babies stolen and beaten to death right before their very eyes, all to satisfy the stupidly ego driven blood lust of humanity. And yet every day there is still some human complaining about THEY don’t have enough rights. The world will stop what they’re doing to protest the waving a flag, or unite to march in a parade to wave more flags and still the stomping of the feet never ends. We’re living in a country that is actively making and vehemently enforcing new laws which protect animal abusers and criminalize the few people who risk their own safety to bring such crimes to light. We’re living in a country that promotes the continued slavery, torture and slaughter of billions of animals every year in order to keep it’s own people sick and unhealthy while destroying the land, sea and air we all need to survive. We’re living in a country that keeps it’s people stupid in order to make them more easily misled by every lie thrown at them, particularly in the dietary department. We’re living in a country where an individual smoking a plant gets thrown in jail for 10+ years but a corporation that brutally rapes and slaughters millions of animals every week gets government subsidies like they’re heroes. Humans are all about ‘me me me’ and never ‘them them them’, and it’s that ego that makes America, as well as every other country far more shit than sunshine. The death of eight humans turns the country upside down but the death of billions of animals is just ‘business as usual’. Has a life with the inability to legally say “I do” or cast a vote for your favorite crooked shitmouthed politician really been comparable to even ONE day of living in the sick hell that factory animals endure? It’s all about the human ego wanting whatever it can get its hands on and then when they do, they want something more, like a kid who constantly gets new toys then gets bored with it by the next day and cares nothing for those who’ve never and will never have any toys at all. Mind you, this has nothing to do with me being a straight white male either because like many people who actually give a damn like myself, my entire existence is pure shit from dusk till dawn, and that’s fine. I speak only for the animal rights, not for my own. Go ahead and take away my ‘right to vote’ , because I can’t think of the last time there was ever a candidate worth voting for and elections are as fixed as a carnival bottle game anyway – take away my ‘right to get married’, because monogamy is about as natural as a 10 pound GMO tomato and almost always ends up in divorce, resentment or just giving up & settling either through sheer laziness or ‘for the kids’ – but don’t blow this happy “love wins” victory smoke up my ass while the only living beings in this country that don’t belong behind bars are the overwhelming majority that are – the animals. Gay or straight, a person knows nothing of love or compassion while there’s a corpse on their plate and I will continue to have zero ‘respect’ for any person, of any race, of any gender, of any sexual orientation, that willingly contributes their money towards the evil human empire over the innocent animal kingdom. I’m sure the 10,000 pigs who were stabbed in the eye with a pitchfork since I started writing this statue give a good god damn that Joe & Bob can have that festive wedding they always wanted now, maybe even catered with their flesh. Any non-vegan holding up a sign for ‘gay rights’ or ‘feminist wawa’ or ‘save the environment’ needs to sit down and take a good look at just how good they have actually have it and maybe try putting a little more effort into being a voice the the voiceless first and foremost, because as Leo Tolstoy said, “As long as there are slaughter houses there will always be battlefields.” Even if caring about non-humans is too much to ask of most shitty humans, remember that factory farming is the number one polluter and destroyer of the environment, so when all the water is too filthy to drink and the air is too polluted to breathe and the land is too toxic to yield crops, don’t expect that ring on your finger to save you.

Why I’m An Animal Rights Activist When There Is So Much Human Suffering In The World



by Tracey Narayani Glover

Before I was an animal rights activist, I was a budding human rights activist. While in law school, I helped victims of domestic violence obtain personal protection orders. I studied human rights and refugee law, participated in an asylum clinic, spent all my summer legal internships working with refugee organizations and focused primarily on helping women who were victims of gender-based persecution and violence such as honor crimes, forced genital mutilation, sex-trafficking, and rape.

My first client let me touch the shrapnel that was embedded under the skin in her knee after the Taliban had bombed her village in Afghanistan and killed most of her family. I also represented men when they were in need, like the gentle Congolese man who had been tortured, and had the marks on his body to prove it, because of dubious ties to the wrong political party.

Refugees and victims of gender based violence are an incredibly vulnerable and deserving group of humans. Many of them have no family, no country. Many live their lives in fear. Without the help of international aid groups and non-governmental organizations, they are at constant risk of exploitation, abuse, persecution, homelessness, and death. And yet, I have chosen to dedicate myself and my life to the animals.

I’m sure every animal activist has been challenged on this point: “How can you waste your time on animals when there are so many humans suffering?!” “Why don’t you start with the humans, and when all of our problems are fixed, then you can help animals?”

Of course this is the dominant mentality, based on a presumed superiority of humans, so much so that the slightest harm to a human is often seen to outweigh a tremendous harm to an animal. Given that the capacity to suffer is in no way limited to human beings, this bias in favor of humans is simple prejudice, favoring those we perceive as similar over those we perceive as different and therefore inferior, the hallmark of all discrimination and oppression.

For years I felt paralyzed as I looked out at the world with all of its suffering.

I desperately wanted to help but didn’t know how I could possibly choose between helping the people in third world countries living in extreme poverty, and the millions of children under the age of five dying every year from malnutrition, or the victims of ethnic and religious wars that so brutally claim the lives of innocents at any given time in modern history, genocides like that in Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, atrocities taking place right now in Libya, Syria and Yemen. Millions of mostly women and girls are bought and sold into the world of sex trafficking every year to endure unspeakable crimes. And then there are the animals being used for painful and often cruel experimentation in laboratories, the fur-bearing animals like the playful foxes who are killed by anal electrocution so as not to damage their fur or the Chinese raccoon dogs who are routinely skinned alive in order to make knock off UGG boots or for the cheap fur trim on our winter coats .[1]

But the number of all of these animals combined is a drop in the bucket compared to the 55 billion farmed animals we kill every year for food. Fifty five billion animals. The entire global human population is about 7 billion, and we kill 55 billion animals every year for food. Each and every one of those fifty five billion was an individual with the capacity to have bonded with family and friends and to have led a joyful life like the rescued pigs seen in this video but who instead led a life of intense misery and often sadistic exploitation before enduring the terror and pain of slaughter.

All of these human and nonhuman beings suffer terribly. All of them are worthy of our compassion. I have always wanted to help them all. I still do. But the reason I choose to dedicate the majority of my time to advocating for nonhuman animals rather than all of those deserving humans is that we as a society all basically agree on human rights.

When I say we as a society, I do not mean the moral outliers of the international community like members of ISIS, or those in our own society like rapists or serial killers, but those who represent the dominant ethic in the world community, the law abiding members of our society and the international community. And according to that dominant ethic, it is wrong to abuse woman and children. It is wrong to murder innocent men. When we see humans who are starving or being exploited, raped, kidnapped, murdered or tortured, we believe it is wrong. Most governmental bodies around the world, non-government organizations (NGOs), and individuals agree that it is wrong to cause intense physical or emotional pain and suffering to human beings. We criminalize such harm, and we punish those who commit these crimes.

The same cannot be said of animals, especially not farmed animals, whose abuse is accepted by the same moral community that rejects the abuse of humans.

Even those of us who shower our dogs and cats with affection do so while sitting down to feast on a meal comprised of the body parts of equally sentient beings whose entire lives were spent in suffering. As a society, we still do not see what we’re doing to animals as wrong. While all animals in our society are still legally considered property, at least abusing dogs and cats is now a felony in all fifty states. However, what is felony cruelty if done to a dog or cat is perfectly legal if done to an animal we have designated as a food animal.[2]

We not only kill 10 billion land animals in the US every year for food, (55 billion globally) it would not be an exaggeration to say that we torture them for the duration of their short lives before we kill them. We confine them in tiny cages that drive them literally insane. [3] We take babies away from their mothers and murder them by the millions (e.g., we kill 260 million baby chicks every year because they are a “by-product” of the egg industry).[4] Dairy cows are impregnated on what the industry calls a “rape rack” in order to ensure the cow will continue to lactate and provide milk that will be denied to her baby, who will be taken away at birth. If that baby is female, she will become a dairy cow and like her mother, she too will be forcibly impregnated, and then after giving birth to four or five babies and milked so much the odds are she will suffer from a painful udder infection called mastitis, she will be slaughtered at a fraction of her natural lifespan when her body becomes too depleted to continue producing milk at the volume modern agribusiness demands. If the baby the dairy cow births is a male, he will either be killed on the spot, or turned into veal (i.e. confined all alone in a dark pen and fed an iron deficient diet to make him anemic because consumers prefer the taste and color of meat that comes from anemic babies). [5]

Nonhuman animals are conscious, intelligent, emotional beings.

If we have ever lived with a dog or cat, we probably know this from experience. If we need proof, we can ask the scientific community. In 2012, a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational and neuroscientists gathered at The University of Cambridge and declared that nonhuman animals are conscious — meaning they can think, feel, perceive, and respond to the world in much the same way as humans. [6]

It is hard to measure pain. Usually with humans we just ask them how much pain they feel and they tell us. But when they can’t tell us, we look for external signs of pain such as trying to get away from the source of pain, vocalizing (yelling, crying), grimacing or shaking to name a few. Nonhuman animals demonstrate all of these same signs. If we can bear not to look away, it is plain to see that the egg laying hens crammed into battery cages, or the sows confined to gestation creates so small that can’t turn around, or the dairy cows being dragged to slaughter because they are too lame to walk all suffer tremendously.

Just a few hundred years ago, Rene Descartes, the father of western philosophy, strapped living dogs to tables and cut them open without anesthesia believing that their howls were like the sounds made by machines, no more indicative of pain than was the screech made by the machine’s metal parts. Hard to imagine, that. And yet today even on so called humane farms, we routinely subject cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other farmed animals to mutilation without anesthesia.[7] If we think what Descartes did was wrong, how can we possibly condone what we do to farmed animals every single day? There is no reason to believe that a dog feels more pain than a pig or for that matter that a human feels more pain that a dog. Some, like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, think non humans may even feel pain more acutely than humans do. [8] In fact we are so certain that nonhuman animals do feel pain like humans do that we subject animals like mice to pain tests in labs in order to better understand human pain.[9]

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that at least a million chickens and turkeys are boiled alive every year because the production line is so fast that their throats haven’t been slit by the time they get to the tanks of scalding water into which they are dropped, only to be boiled alive.[10] More than 1 million pigs die in transport every year before they even get to the slaughterhouse.[11] They are packed in so tightly they cannot move, and can barely breathe. They die of suffocation, overheating, being trampled.

I became an animal rights advocate not because I don’t care about humanity, but because so few people care about the nonhuman animals.

The suffering of animals we use for experimentation, for fur, for our food is shocking to the conscience. Watch one undercover slaughterhouse video and we might think the vile cruelty we see is an anomaly. Watch hundreds and hundreds of these videos and we begin to realize that the disdain with which the workers treat the animals, kicking chickens like footballs,[12] kicking and stomping turkeys destined for Thanksgiving dinner,[13] slamming piglets onto the concrete floor and leaving them to die,[14] is not anomalous but is the norm.

The degree and scale of the suffering involved in animal agriculture in particular is beyond anything humanity has ever endured.

Polish-born Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer famously said “In relation to … [the animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” This refers of course to the Nazi concentration camp where close to a million Jews were exterminated in gas chambers. The first time I ever heard the comparison made between factory farming and the Holocaust was by someone who lost most of his family in the Holocaust and who himself is a survivor of it. Alex Hershaft is an animal rights pioneer who has said that his experience in the Holocaust not only contributed to his becoming a vegan and an animal rights activist, it is the cause of it. During a recent trip to Israel, he had this to say in an interview: “The Jewish Holocaust is a unique event in human history; and the best way to honor the Holocaust is to learn from it and to fight all forms of oppression. We may have been victorious in World War II, but the struggle against oppression and injustice is far from over. For me, the Holocaust isn’t a tool in the struggle, but an experience that shaped my personality and my values, made me who I am today, and drove me to fight all forms of oppression, including the oppression of the weakest creatures, the animals.” [15]

In his latest book, “The Most Good You Can Do,” one of the modern world’s pre-eminent philosophers of ethics, Peter Singer, argues that if we are interested in doing the most good we can do in the world, that is, in reducing the most suffering, there are three main areas that demand our attention. These are saving the environment, ending extreme poverty, and helping the nonhumans animals, especially farmed animals.

In addition to its importance for the nonhumans, vegan advocacy goes beyond helping nonhuman animals. Vegan advocacy seeks to raise consciousness and awareness about the ways in which we treat other beings. The animal rights movement does not just advocate for a select group of beings, it advocates for principles truly universal in their scope.

Animal rights advocates don’t just advocate for the rights of chimps or cows or fish. They advocate for a more compassionate world for all beings.

They bring awareness to structures of power that are oppressive and based on exploitation, that harm nonhuman animals, humans, and the environment. Veganism is rooted in the concept of ahimsa, a Sanskrit word meaning non-harm to all sentient beings as well as the living environment. It is a movement that above all values the reduction of suffering, and calls on us all to bring more awareness into the ways in which we relate with all beings, the nonhumans as well as humans. Fundamentally, vegans advocate for the values that all social justice movements uphold. They focus on the nonhumans, but what they are really advocating for is a society in which no sentient being is used as a means to another’s end. They are fighting for the elimination of all forms of prejudice and oppression. They work to build a world where no sentient being is discriminated against based on morally irrelevant qualities, where all beings are valued and respected, where none are enslaved or tortured, where all beings are allowed the freedom to thrive and pursue their own innate potential for happiness and joy. As long as our society is built on a foundation of brutality, oppression and exploitation of billions of sentient beings, how can we ever hope to have true justice or compassion within human society?

Being an animal rights activists is not about limiting our compassion to nonhumans, it’s about extending our circle of compassion to include all beings who can suffer.

In the world we live, there is no comparison to the enormity of the suffering endured by the nonhuman animals, especially those enslaved by the meat, dairy, and egg industries. I am an animal advocate because the screams of billions of animals remain unheard. I am an animal advocate because no being should suffer, and the suffering of nonhuman animals is so intense, so constant, so massive, and so widespread. I am an animal advocate because humanity is still in denial that it is our own daily choices that are responsible for the immense suffering of a truly unfathomable number of conscious, emotional, sentient beings. I am an animal advocate quite simply because it is the animals who need me the most.

[1] “Inside the Chinese fur farms which breed ‘raccoon dogs’ in tiny cages and skin them alive to make luxury coats sold in the West” Dan Bloom, The Daily Mail, Feb. 14 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2867219/Inside-Chinese-fur-farms-breed-raccoon-dogs-tiny-cages-skin-alive-make-luxury-coats-sold-West.html

[2] http://aldf.org/resources/advocating-for-animals/farmed-animals-and-the-law/

[3] http://woodstocksanctuary.org/learn-3/factory-farmed-animals/pigs/

[4] https://arcforallsentientbeings.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/vegans-are-so-extreme-or-what-could-possibly-be-wrong-with-eggs-and-dairy-part-i/

[5] http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/veal.html

[6] http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

[7] “Deciphering “Humane” Labels & Loopholes”, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, http://woodstocksanctuary.org/learn-3/the-humane-farming-myth/humane-free-range/

[8] http://boingboing.net/2011/06/30/richard-dawkins-on-v.html

[9] “Behavioral Measures of Pain Thresholds” Michael S. Minett, Kathryn Quick, John N. Wood, Current Protocols in Mouse Biology, Sept. 2011, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9780470942390.mo110116/abstract

[10] “USDA plan to speed up poultry-processing lines could increase risk of bird abuse,” Washington Post, Kimberly Kindy, Oct. 29, 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/usda-plan-to-speed-up-poultry-processing-lines-could-increase-risk-of-bird-abuse/2013/10/29/aeeffe1e-3b2e-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html

[11] “Research Looks at Transport Losses,” Feedstuffs Apr. 17 2006.

[12] “Chick-fil-A Suppliers Caught Torturing Animals On Hidden Camera By Mercy For Animals” Nov. 19, 2014 http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/chick-fil-a-suppliers-caught-torturing-animals-on-hidden-camera-by-mercy-for-animals-283166311.html

[13] http://www.butterballabuse.com/readmore.php

[14] http://pigcruelty.mercyforanimals.org/

[15] http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4655781,00.html

What More Can We Say to Hunters?

Yesterday a loyal reader sent the following comment in response to my post, Top Ten Retorts to Hunter Fallacies: “Trying to talk with people who won’t listen takes us nowhere. They are going to hunt and their mythology and ideology that excuse the killing are the voices they hear.”

Well, I agree—I’ve known that for a long time now. The fact is I never really write anything in hopes of changing hunters or talking them out of their blood sport.

I know that killing animals is too much in their blood (so to speak) to expect them to change for the better. As if to prove this point, a typical hunter tried (unsuccessfully) to leave this comment to a post about a man shooting and killing his grandson in a hunting accident. It started out like so many others, with “You people…” (a dead giveaway that it’s going to be from a hunter, and therefore unworthy of approval): “…are fucking idiots. This grandfather is suffering the worst tragedy of his natural life, and you people make it into a gun control issue. How do you think you all are able to go out and eat a steak dinner, or a chicken wrap, or any other meat product? Animals were put on earth to feed humans, period. Get your heads out of your asses, morons!!!”

If killing their own grandsons is not reason enough for them to swear off hunting, I don’t know what else to say to them.

Call it preaching to the choir, but the things I write, like the Top Ten Retorts to Hunter Fallacies are in fact either to inform or entertain my fellow advocates.

Not that they need to be educated. But the magnanimous few occasionally may need affirmation or a ready list of replies to the same old, worn out hunter dogma that have a little more thought behind them than, “Get your heads out of your asses, morons!”

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2015. All Rights Reserved