In Memory of Animal Rights Activist Shimon Shuchat

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Shimon Shuchat, a 22-year-old animal rights activist from Brooklyn, died on Tuesday, July 28th. In spite of being so young, Shimon was one of the most wise, humble, ethical, empathetic and hard-working activists in New York City. He was also extraordinarily smart. No tribute, including this one, could do justice to Shimon.

Animal rights activist Shimon Shuchat

Shimon’s story is different than most. He was raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish home in Brooklyn. According to his Uncle Golan, he learned how to read when he was two years old, and he showed unusual signs of empathy when he was a little boy. For instance, he somehow figured out that a leather jacket was made from a cow, and he asked his parents why people would wear that. When he was a teenager, he came across animal cruelty videos that shook him to the core. He became an atheist, and he made the decision to chart his own course in life.

Leaving the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is not easy for anyone, especially a teenager, but Shimon found the courage to transfer from his yeshiva, which was familiar, to secular high school, where he didn’t know anyone. He also immersed himself in the NYC animal rights community, participating in multiple events every week. Ironically, among the first acts of cruelty that he protested was Kaporos, a ritual animal sacrifice performed by the very community in which he was raised.

Shimon Shuchat bears witness to chickens languishing in transport crates

Throughout his childhood, Shimon had a close relationship with his father, Velvel. According to Shimon’s relatives, “Velvel validated and loved Shimon, and always supported him. He would frequently take him on trips, despite tight finances, often using Greyhound buses to bring him to different states to visit animals. Velvel advocated for Shimon when his yeshiva was unprepared to answer Shimon’s difficult questions. His father always lovingly took the time to listen and support Shimon in any way he could.” His extended family said that Shimon “is a shining light and a blessing to this world, and may his memory also be for a blessing.”

In 2015, Shimon was accepted to Cornell, and he brought NYC-style activism to a reserved animal rights club on campus. After college, he returned to NYC and worked in the animal rights movement until he passed away. He talked about going to law school one day.

Animal rights activists Shimon Shuchat and Rina Deych

Shimon was a quiet, shy, and anxious person, but, according to his fellow activists, he stepped far outside of his comfort zone in order to advocate for the animals. Rina Deych, an activist in NYC who mentored Shimon when he joined the movement, fondly recalls a Kaporos protest during which she offered Shimon a bullhorn to lead the chants. “He shyly refused,” Rina said, “But when he didn’t like the accent I used to pronounce a Hebrew phrase, he grabbed the megaphone from me and led the chants for the duration of the protest. His willingness to prioritize the animals over his anxiety demonstrated just how committed and compassionate he was.”

Shimon Shuchat advocating for captive animals and showing his support for LGBTQ equality

His colleague Nadia Schilling, who also served as a mentor to Shimon, said, “Shimon’s work for animals was unmatched by any person I’ve ever worked within the animal rights movement. It’s easy to lose hope and feel defeated in this line of work, but I honestly believed that, with Shimon by my side, we could make this world a better place.”

Shimon Shuchat participates in an Direct Action Everywhere disruption at Whole Foods, protesting the Company’s “humane meat” advertising.

Unaware of Shimon’s anxiety, Nadia asked him to testify in front of the NYC Council in support of legislation to ban the sale of ban foie gras. “He intentionally waited until after he delivered his remarks to confess that public speaking exasperated his anxiety. He knew I wouldn’t have asked if I had been aware of his fear, and he didn’t want to let down me or the animals. That’s how selfless he was.”

Shimon set the bar high for his activist colleagues with his impeccable work ethic and selflessness. He was singularly focused on reducing animal suffering, and he had no interest in the material world or even the basic comforts that most of us take for granted. One summer during college, Shimon asked if he could do an internship with TheirTurn. “I was reluctant because he was so serious and had such high standards, but I wanted to support him,” said Donny Moss. “He worked so efficiently that he completed his assignments more quickly than I could create them. If I didn’t force him to take a break for lunch by putting the food on top of his keyboard, then he would not have eaten.”

Shimon Shuchat phone banking for Voters for Animal Rights (VFAR) in support of the NYC bill to ban the use of wild animals in circuses

Shimon’s asceticism was stunning at times. “One day, while running an errand, Shimon and I walked into Insomnia Cookie, which had just added a vegan cookie to its menu. When I offered to buy him one, Shimon asked me to donate the amount of money I would have spent on the cookie to PETA. Even after explaining that I could buy him a cookie AND make a contribution to PETA, I practically had to use force to get him to eat the cookie, which I knew that he secretly wanted.”

Shimon Shuchat advocating for the use of coins instead of live chickens during a religious ritual called Kaporos

Shimon was painfully humble for someone who contributed so much. “People like Shimon, who work so hard behind the scenes with no public recognition, are the pillars of our movement,” said Nadia.

Perhaps more than anything, Shimon was empathetic. His uncle Golan said that he “felt things extraordinarily deeply” from a young age. One year during a Kaporos protest, Donny witnessed this firsthand when he found Shimon off to the side weeping. “In the face of so much cruelty and suffering, Shimon practically collapsed from a broken heart.”

While delivering his testimony at the foie gras hearing at City Hall, Shimon made a plea that should, perhaps, be his parting message to those he left behind. “Regardless of our ethnicity, race, religion, or political affiliation, we should be unanimous in opposing and condemning cruelty directed at animals, who are among our society’s most vulnerable members.”

Shimon Shuchat participates in an animal rights protest in NYC

Shimon’s father Velvel, Uncle Golan, Aunt Leah, Cousin Debbie, Rina, Nadia, Donny and others who cared about Shimon hope that Shimon, who made a lifetime of contributions in his short, 22 years, is resting in peace in a kinder place.  “Shimon was a shining light and blessing to this world,” according to his family, “May his memory also be for a blessing.”

Shimon Shuchat (bottom right) volunteers at Safe Haven, a sanctuary for rescued farm animals

Why we eat meat without guilt, but hate seeing animal slaughter

In her book ‘For A Moment of Taste’, former PETA CEO Poorva Joshipura writes about how categorising an animal as ‘food’ changes our view of it. Until we see it being killed.

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When I ate meat, if someone were to have asked me if I loved animals, I would have said an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ After all, I adored playing with dogs and cats I would come across, enjoyed feeding squirrels and birds with my grandmother and liked watching wildlife documentaries with my father. 

However, eating animals requires someone ripping them from their families and butchering them—this is something everyone knows, even if they do not know the details of how it is done, and I knew that much too. Yet, I ate meat anyway. What allowed me to do so? What might allow others to do the same?


Also read: Will more people turn to vegetarianism in a post-coronavirus world?


The Brazilian Supermarket Prank 

Scientists have been studying this conflict, between caring for animals and killing them to eat them. This phenomenon has been labelled ‘the meat paradox’ by University of Kent and Université Libre de Bruxelles researchers Steve Loughnan, Boyka Bratanova, and Elisa Puvia. 

And we generally do care for animals. That’s why countries have laws protecting animals, why societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs) and other animal protection groups exist, why there was such national outrage when tigress Avni was killed, why the global horror when Cecil the lion and later his son Xanda were killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, and it is likely why you are reading this book. In fact, many of us find what has to happen to animals to produce meat wrong, at least in principle, what little we may know about it, even if we eat meat. 

A prank that was set up at a supermarket in Brazil, in which a man pretending to be a butcher offered samples of free fresh pork sausages to the store’s customers, proves this point. Shoppers would visit the counter, eat and admire the pork. Then, the butcher would offer to make more, but to do so he would bring out a live piglet and put the animal in a machine that appeared to instantly grind her up and turn her into fresh meat. In reality, another prankster was sitting in the machine safely collecting each baby pig. Although customers had just readily eaten pork, they were aghast when they thought a live pig was about to be killed. One woman spat out pork from her mouth, others pleaded with the butcher not to kill the young pig and even tried to physically stop him from doing so. None of them picked up another piece of the free fresh pork that they had eagerly eaten before seeing the live pig. If you were one of the customers, what would you have done?



Ranking Species on Worthiness of Moral Concern 

While many of us are perturbed by the thought of slaughter of any animal, several studies found people who choose to eat animals are inclined to reject the thought that animals are capable of complex emotions and are likely to draw a further line between the emotional capacities of animals usually used for food (such as chickens) versus those who are not typically eaten by humans (like parrots). Both are birds, but the findings of these scientists indicate that people who eat meat are prone to believe parrots can feel more deeply than chickens, even though there’s no scientific support for such a view. Refusing to acknowledge animals, especially animals used for food, have the ability to experience deep emotions, appears to let many of us dismiss what happens to them in the production of food. 

Through studies conducted by Loughnan and his colleague Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland, the pair describes how vegetarians tend to compare with meat eaters in thinking about the mental faculties of animals when told they will be killed. Vegetarians did not alter their view of that animal’s acumen when told an animal, such as a lamb, was set for slaughter. When meat eaters were told the same thing, it was found that they generally reduced their view of the animal’s mental abilities. This, the researchers surmise, may be a ‘defensive way’ to allow us to consume animals without much guilt or remorse.

Another experiment shows merely categorizing an animal as ‘food’ effects how most people perceive the animal’s rights. In this study, researchers introduced a tree kangaroo to participants—an animal the participating individuals were not familiar with. They were given general information about tree kangaroos and then some were told that the animals were for eating while others were not. Those individuals who were told the species was food considerably regarded tree kangaroos as less deserving of concern than the other participants. 

Labelling an animal ‘friend’ has an effect too, but an opposite one—doing so tends to increase our respect for the friend species. This labelling of animals as ‘friend’ versus ‘food’ and the psychological effect it has on how we then view them is surely what helped me, when I consider it in hindsight, to simultaneously love animals like dogs and cats and eat animals like cows, chickens and pigs.


Also read: A Dutch butcher is winning hearts by making plants taste just like meat


If this is the effect one study had on people’s minds, imagine the result of being told repeatedly, like we usually are from a young age, that certain animals are for ‘food’ by authority figures, like our parents, or members of our community or people we want to be accepted by, like our friends. What if these individuals would have instead categorized those same animals as ‘friend’? Would we have thought differently? 

Today there are many vegetarians and vegans in the United States, but in the ’80s and early ’90s, the repeated messaging to me as a youngster from most people was speciesist: Animals like cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and fish merely existed to be eaten and animals like dogs and cats are friends. In other words, particular species are worthier of respect than other animals just by way of being. Indeed, though I happily ate what I considered to be the ‘food’ members of the animal kingdom, I would have eaten my own foot before I ate a dog. If we are raised in a meat-eating family, or if our families engage in rituals or customs that involve killing or eating certain animals, something similar is usually the repeated messaging we hear too. 

This excerpt from A Moment of Taste by Poorva Joshipura has been published with permission from HarperCollins India.

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The idealistic life and violent death of Hamilton animal rights champion Regan Russell

By Jon WellsSpectator Reporter

Sun., Aug. 2, 2020timer12 min. read

On her last evening alive, on the cusp of summer, Regan Russell sat in her backyard under a towering maple worthy of the Garden of Eden.

This was off Locke Street South, around the corner from St. John the Evangelist church, where as a girl she had asked the minister if animals had souls, and why they were sacrificed to God in the Bible.

Russell felt a weariness, and also foreboding, at what lay ahead.

She planned to attend her latest animal rights protest the next morning, June 19, outside Fearmans Pork on Harvester Road in Burlington.

Activists call the weekly demonstrations “vigils,” at which they “bear witness” to pigs hauled in trucks for slaughter, talk to the animals through gaps in the ventilated trailers, and squirt water into their mouths, as drivers pause before entering the facility.

She felt despair about a law passed two days earlier in the Ontario legislature — Bill 156 — that she knew would make it harder, even dangerous, to fulfil her calling to advocate for the pigs’ living conditions and work toward stopping the killing of animals altogether.

In her backyard, Russell, who had recently turned 65, sipped a glass of wine and talked with her spouse Mark Powell.

She had been active in animal rights for 40 years.

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She cared for rabbits, raccoons and wounded squirrels; she protested at Marineland in Niagara and a sled dog breeding operation in Quebec.

She pushed the envelope in her activism and was arrested nearly a dozen times.

“Maybe it’s time for you to pass the torch to the younger generation,” Powell told her. “We can still support them any way we can.”

He was worried for her safety more than usual.

But he also knew there was no stopping her. All he could do was say his piece.

The next afternoon, a woman stood at his door.

“There’s been an accident,” she said, tears in her eyes.

“Slaughterhouse,” Powell said.

“Yes.”

“It’s not good, is it?”

“No.”

One of the trucks carrying pigs had hit and killed Russell.

Her body had been taken to hospital for an autopsy.

The ripple effect of her death was about to be felt far beyond Hamilton.

The 28-year-old driver of the truck has been charged with careless driving causing death by Halton Regional Police under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, and police say “there were no grounds to indicate this was an intentional act.” But questions remain about exactly what happened that morning.

The answer to the deeper question of why Regan Russell took her final breath standing athwart a truck loaded with farm animals, moments from their inevitable end, is both simple and complicated.


The notion that farm animals like pigs are sentient — that they feel pain, at least as acutely as a dog, cat or an infant child — is the philosophical bedrock on which activists stand.

And it’s not mere faith, suggests University of Guelph behavioural biologist Georgia Mason.

“Pigs are considered sentient by the European Union and the National Academy of Science, and every animal welfare research group in the world,” she says.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture recently issued a statement questioning animal sentience, adding: “We simply don’t know if animals are capable of reasoning and cognitive thought.”

But cognition — the ability to understand and acquire knowledge — is distinct from the ability to feel, and it’s a red herring to raise it, Mason says.

“Most recognize that animals are sentient, and it’s not the same as saying they have cognition like humans. It just means they have feelings.”

She says the issue of sentience is more controversial when considering animals such as reptiles, fish, and mammals in a developmental stage — including humans.

“There are questions about at what point a fetus becomes sentient.”

The belief that animals deserve rights in line with humans was popularized 45 years ago in the book “Animal Liberation” by Australian philosopher Peter Singer.

He argued that if one accepts that unequal treatment between humans due to differences in race, gender or intelligence is immoral, then so too is poor treatment of animals, who are physically different from people, but “morally equal.”

It would be “speciesism” to think otherwise, he wrote, and: “We have to speak up on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Regan Russell read the book in her early 20s. Its message found a hungry mind and open heart.

And then, in 1977, she read about the seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, that had attracted international attention including a visit from French film star Brigitte Bardot, who condemned “Canadian assassins” clubbing the animals.

Russell had always loved animals but now the spark was lit.

She was living in Winnipeg at the time and made a sign and stood on a street corner.

“I thought, I’ll make a sign and protest and it will all stop,” she said to a journalist in a documentary. “I thought, when everyone knows, how could it possibly continue?”

Russell was idealistic, driven, and just getting started.

She grew up in west Hamilton in the 1960s. Bill and Pat Russell named their first of two children after one of the daughters in Shakespeare’s “King Lear” — a rare name for a girl then.

Bill, a music teacher at Regan’s elementary school, took a political science degree at McMaster University on the side, during the ascendance of feminism and civil rights.

There was always lots of conversation around the dinner table.

Regan read on subjects from Socrates to Gandhi and Roman history, but did not attend college or university after graduating from Westdale high school.

She married at 19, and when her husband’s job took him out west, she followed, and worked modelling for Eaton’s. (She refused to model fur, and was ultimately arrested at a fur protest in a department store in Toronto, along with her father.)

The “Animal Liberation” book is a gateway for many activists; a “moral shock” according to Emily Gaarder, an anthropologist at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, who wrote a book about the predominance of women in the animal rights movement.

But, she adds, there are other influences, as well.

Russell married twice before meeting Mark Powell in 2001. They knew each other as kids; she was six years older and had taught him Sunday school at church.

She chose to never have children. Powell says she talked of her fear that she would never develop a strong enough connection with a child.

Instead, he says, she directed her nurturing instinct toward animals.

One of Powell’s two sons from his first marriage called Russell, his stepmother, “Snow White,” after watching her talking to animals.

Ideology is another influence on activists. Gaarder says women emboldened to vigorously advance their cause are “political thinkers making political choices.”


That was true for Anita Krajnc, who joined Russell at many animal rights protests.

Krajnc earned several university degrees including a doctorate in political science.

Into her 20s, Krajnc says she was still a meat eater who “salivated at pig roasts.” She converted to veganism after reading “The Sexual Politics of Meat,” but an incident in her early 40s flipped a switch to her calling.

She lived near a slaughterhouse in Toronto and one day, walking her dog, she came across pigs on a truck. Later that year, she helped found Toronto Pig Save.

“I never took action until I saw the pigs,” she says. “I couldn’t believe how scared and sad they were. It looked like they were in a dungeon. A pig looked at me, and I promised him three vigils a week. And we kept that promise.”

In 2015, Krajnc was charged with criminal mischief for giving water to pigs. She was found not guilty, with Regan Russell offering moral support in the courtroom.

The pair campaigned against Bill 156, the Security from Trespass and Protecting Food Safety Act. Activists believe it is a draconian “ag-gag” measure that will prevent them from exposing inhumane animal treatment.

While the vigils at Fearmans are held just outside the property, at other times, including last summer, Russell and fellow activists entered the grounds to give water to pigs, as workers yelled at them to leave.

In other incidents in Ontario, members of the group “Direct Action Everywhere” have broken into animal breeding barns to retrieve ducks and pigs.

Supporters of the bill say that when activists give water to pigs or trespass on private property, it creates dangerous situations for workers and farmers and is potentially harmful to the food supply.

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Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, told The Spectator the bill will not prohibit demonstrations, “but it will be illegal to interact with livestock. It’s dangerous when they put things in the trucks, whether it is water or something else.”

He says the bill won’t prevent whistle-blowing, and if anyone at a farm or meat processing plant “sees something inappropriate, we want it reported. I have no tolerance for animal cruelty.”

Activists believe that not only are pigs and other animals mistreated prior to killing, but that eating meat is wrong.

Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice, says the food system needs to “undergo a massive shift away from eating animals and toward eating plants, to spare billions of animals from unimaginable suffering, to tackle the climate crisis, and because eating animals is a serious risk to public health.”

In an email to The Spectator, she added: “Most people are shocked to learn animal welfare on farms is almost completely unregulated in Canada, and the government doesn’t inspect or monitor the conditions the animals like pigs are kept in … The industry gets to police itself; the figurative fox is guarding the literal henhouse.”

“That is an inaccurate statement,” counters Cameron Newbigging, a spokesperson with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, who says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency enforces regulations for the humane transport and slaughter of animals, and “provincial inspectors go onto farms where irregularities are suspected or complaints are received.”

What constitutes humane treatment is spelled out in Ontario’s Provincial Animal Welfare Services Act passed in 2019, and the federal Health of Animals Act.

One example is regulations for herding animals. Activists lament the use of electric prods to force pigs off trucks; the regulations say prods are permitted on pigs at least three months old, so long as “it is not applied to a sensitive area including the belly and the anal, genital and facial regions of the animal.”

Another regulation is that pigs and other animals cannot be trucked when the shipping time is longer than 12 hours.

Sofina Foods, owner of Fearmans Pork since 2012, said in a statement to The Spectator that its pigs come from farms within a three-hour radius of the plant, “well below the travel time permitted and recommended by regulators.”

For Regan Russell and other activists, the point of opposing Bill 156 was to ensure they remain free to comfort farm animals, and keep a close eye on transport and killing techniques in the industry.

On her Facebook page on June 18, Russell called the bill “evil.”


The protest on June 19 was different than the routine vigils. In addition to bearing witness, it was intended to draw attention to the bill.

That morning, just after 10 a.m., one of the trucks hauling pigs stopped on Harvester Road before it reached the gates of Fearmans.

Activists waited on the sidewalk for their chance to give water to the pigs.

Enforcement under the new law had not yet come into effect; they could still interact with the animals as usual.

Activists say that in the past, drivers have mostly co-operated with the vigils, but occasionally have confronted protesters.

Krajnc, who was not present that day, says she was told by witnesses the truck idled further away from activists than usual, disrupting traffic, “and creating a sense of chaos.”

At the same time, she said, Russell stood apart from the others, in the driveway closer to the gates of the property, and at some point the truck started to move again.

A news release from Pig Save Toronto says Russell “tried to jump from the path of the truck before it plowed into her.” Halton police said in a news release that it was not an “intentional act.”

video documentary about Russell, posted on the Pig Save Facebook page, says she was hit and dragged by the truck and her body mangled underneath.

“One of our activists has been killed,” says a man filming the aftermath on his phone. “Jesus Christ. It finally f—ing happened.”

Within days, animal rights activists held tributes in Russell’s honour, from Argentina to the U.K. and Italy, and in Germany, where protesters hung a banner on a slaughterhouse in Berlin bearing Russell’s likeness.

In Los Angeles, actor Joaquin Phoenix held a sign at a rally that read “Save Pigs 4 Regan,” and said in a statement: “Regan Russell spent the final moments of her life providing comfort to pigs who had never experienced the touch of a kind hand.”

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) announced it had acquired two six-week old pigs from a farm in Iowa, and took the rare step of naming them after an activist: One is named Regan and the other, Russell. They will live in an animal sanctuary in upstate New York.

A march was held in Toronto, where activists called on the province to implement “Regan’s Law,” a bill of rights to protect farm animals.

Powell was among the speakers.

“It is a horrible, life-changing tragedy, for everyone she knew and touched,” he says.

One of her oldest friends, Katherine Wightman, who Russell met through modelling in Winnipeg, says Regan used to talk about being ready to die for her cause.

“She died a martyr,” says Wightman. “She could have worked until she was 100 and never accomplished what this tragic death has.”

Russell’s death has become one of those moral shocks: her face a symbol, her alliterative name a rally cry.


At a pig vigil held three weeks after the incident, flowers from a tribute to her remained hanging on a fence outside Fearmans, having wilted and dried in the heat.

About 18 activists were there, and for some it was their first time.

Nancy Robertson drove 40 minutes from Cambridge where she works as a nurse, wearing a shirt with Russell’s likeness on it.

“(Russell) opened my eyes to doing more for the animals, being in public, having a united front and speaking up for them … Seeing the animals in distress deeply affected me. I’ve never seen one up close before. We would never treat a dog or cat or human that way.”

Jessie Watkinson drove an hour to attend, also inspired by Russell. She cried after offering water to the pigs.

“They were too hot and exhausted to even drink. You connect with one, they look at you, and in that two minutes you show them the compassion. I just wish we could do more.”

At her final protest, Russell had taken her turn spraying water into the mouths of the pigs. And she held a sign that read: “The truth should never be illegal.”

After she was killed, pigs in the truck that hit her were herded onto another, while police officers investigated.

There had been so much commotion in the moment: blood, sirens, and screams from an activist recorded on a phone: “No! No!”

If what Regan Russell believed to her core is true, that pigs feel and have perception beyond our understanding, then it was not just the humans who felt it deeply that morning: that something gentle and beautiful had been lost, on the road to slaughter.

Jon Wells is a Hamilton-based reporter and feature writer for The Spectator. Reach him via email: jwells@thespec.com

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The idealistic life and violent death of Hamilton animal rights champion Regan Russell
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Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara are passionate about spreading knowledge about a vegan lifestyle

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New film The End of Medicine—created by award-winning British filmmaker Alex Lockwood and What the Health co-director Keegan Kuhn—aims to spotlight the role of animal agriculture in the rise of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19. 

by ANNA STAROSTINETSKAYA

AUGUST 1, 2020


https://thebeet.com/joaquin-phoenix-and-rooney-mara-to-produce-documentary-on-factory-farming/

Vegan actors and couple Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara have signed on as executive producers of new vegan documentary The End of Medicine. The new documentary, which began filming pre-COVID-19 in October 2019, is directed by Alex Lockwood (the award-winning British director behind 73 Cows and Test Subjects) and is produced by Keegan Kuhn (co-director of vegan documentaries What the Health and Cowspiracy). Through poignant interviews with world-renowned scientists, The End of Medicine aims to expose the culpability of the animal agriculture in creating massive public health threats such as antibiotic resistance, swine and bird flu, food-borne illness, MRSA, and, the current pandemic COVID-19, which is thought to have started at a wet animal market in Wuhan, China late last year.

“We hope that The End of Medicine is an eye-opening call to action and ignites a spark of willingness to change our habits. The science is irrefutable,” Phoenix and Mara said in a joint statement. “Modern animal agriculture will continue to make us sick if we don’t radically change our patterns of consumption.”

The feature-length documentary is expected to wrap production by the end of 2020.

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Breaking news: Parent company of Giant Food, Food Lion and Stop & Shop to eliminate cruel cages for egg-laying hens, mother pigs

July 31, 2020

Breaking news: Parent company of Giant Food, Food Lion and Stop & Shop to eliminate cruel cages for egg-laying hens, mother pigs

The company will also eliminate any pork produced through locking mother pigs in gestation crates from its supply chain. Photo by iStock.com

Ahold Delhaize, the company that owns some of the largest grocery chains in the United States, including Food Lion, Giant Food, the GIANT Company, Hannaford and Stop & Shop, has announced it will only sell eggs from cage-free chickens across all its stores by 2025 or sooner. The company will also eliminate any pork produced through locking mother pigs in gestation crates from its supply chain.

This is incredible news, coming as it does from what is the nation’s fourth-largest grocery retailer, with more than 2,000 locations. The company’s new animal welfare policy, which comes after dialogue with the Humane Society of the United States, eliminates two of the most heinous forms of intensive animal confinement in cages and crates. Cages used to confine egg-laying chickens are so small that the animals cannot express natural behaviors like running, exploring or even extending their wings. Each chicken is given less space than a sheet of paper on which to live. Gestation crates, used to confine mother pigs, are about the same width and length of the animal’s body, leaving them with no room to even turn around.

The announcement from Ahold Delhaize is the latest in a series of similar pledges that the HSUS, Humane Society International, and other animal protection organizations have secured from hundreds of major food companies over the last decade, including Kroger, Nestle and Unilever. With our Food Industry Scorecard, we are keeping track of the progress these companies are making toward achieving their cage-free goals.

In addition, we have helped secure the passage of a dozen state laws to end the cruel cage confinement of farm animals, including in Massachusetts where Ahold Delhaize is based.

While cage-free doesn’t equate to cruelty-free, thanks to the headway we’re making, tens of millions of animals will never know the misery of being locked in tiny cages for their entire lives. Let’s take a moment today to celebrate this incredible win for egg-laying hens and mother pigs even as we continue our work to dismantle the cruelty of cage confinement in the United States and abroad.

Truck Driver Who Ran Over Animal Advocate Escapes Criminal Charges




July 20, 2020

1

A transport truck driver has avoided criminal prosecution in connection with
the death of animal advocate Regan Russell. Regan was violently run over and
killed last month by a truck taking pigs to slaughter outside Fearmans Pork
slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario.

The Halton Police
<https://www.haltonpolice.ca/about/media/view_release.php?releaseID=6575>
announced that they laid one provincial Highway Traffic Act charge against
the 28-year old truck driver-careless driving causing death. The police did
not release the name of the truck driver, or the video of the incident.

Provincial charges are considered far less serious than criminal charges.
The provincial offence of careless driving causing death carries with it a
penalty of $2,000 to $50,000 and up to two years in jail, and no criminal
record. A comparable criminal offence, such as dangerous driving causing
death, would be punishable by large fines and up to 14 years in prison, plus
a criminal record.

Regan Russell was a member of the Animal Save Movement, and was at the
slaughterhouse on the day she was killed to document the condition of pigs
trucked to slaughter in sweltering heat, and to help provide water to them.
She was also there in protest of Bill 156, dangerous so-called “ag gag”
legislation
<https://www.animaljustice.ca/media-releases/ontario-passes-ag-gag-law-to-co
ver-up-animal-abuse-on-farms> passed two days earlier by the provincial
government. Bill 156 aims to cover up animal cruelty in the farming
industry, and interferes with the Charter-protected rights of citizens and
journalists to protest and document animal abuse at farms, slaughterhouses,
and in transport. Animal Justice intends to
<https://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/animal-justice-to-continue-the-fight-agai
nst-bill-156-in-court> challenge the constitutionality of Bill 156 in court.

Although the police did not lay criminal charges against the trucker, they
rarely extend this leniency to animal advocates. Law enforcement authorities
regularly give preferential, slap-on-the-wrist treatment to industries
responsible for animal suffering, while pursuing serious criminal
prosecutions against people who expose and take action to stop animal
cruelty.

For instance, advocates have gathered extensive footage depicting illegal
pig suffering in transport trucks outside Fearmans Pork, including pigs
suffering from heat exhaustion and frostbite, and pigs arriving injured,
dead, or dying. Federal authorities generally refuse to prosecute Fearmans
or truckers for this suffering. Yet in 2015, the Halton Police charged
Animal Save Movement founder Anita Krajnc with criminal mischief for giving
water to thirsty pigs trapped inside a truck outside Fearmans Slaughterhouse
on a sweltering day. She was
<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/judge-acquits-woman-in-pigs-w
ater-case/article34893404/> acquitted following a much-publicized trial.

Police also regularly lay trumped-up criminal charges against animal
advocates for acts that are not a criminal offence, such as going onto
private property to expose hidden animal suffering on meat and fur farms.
But law enforcement often goes easy on farmers responsible for abuse. Farms
and slaughterhouses caught on hidden camera viciously abusing animals have
never faced a single Criminal Code charge for animal cruelty in Ontario.
Authorities generally don’t bother to prosecute at all, even when there is
clear video evidence. On the rare occasions when charges are laid, they are
always less serious provincial charges.

Regan Russell’s family is also
<https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/regan-russell-1.5653593> calling
for a coroner’s inquest into her brutal death. A coroner’s inquest is
typically used to uncover broader, systemic issues responsible for a death.
In the case of Fearmans Pork, the slaughterhouse had for years refused to
negotiate a safety agreement with the Animal Save Movement to allow for safe
and peaceful protests, and truckers who created safety risks had never been
prosecuted.

Photo credit: Animal Save

https://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/truck-driver-who-ran-over-animal-advocate
escapes-criminal-charges

<https://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/truck-driver-who-ran-over-animal-advocate
-escapes-criminal-charges>

<https://www.animaljustice.ca/blog/truck-driver-who-ran-over-animal-advocate
-escapes-criminal-charges> Animal Justice – Truck Driver Who Ran Over Animal
Advocate Escapes Criminal Charges

A transport truck driver has avoided criminal prosecution in connection with
the death of animal advocate Regan Russell. Regan was violently run over and
killed last month by a truck taking pigs to slaughter outside Fearmans Pork
slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario. The Halton Police announced that they
laid one provincial Highway Traffic Act charge against.

http://www.animaljustice.ca <http://www.animaljustice.ca>

The Birth of a Bill, the Death of an Activist

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/07/18/birth-bill-death-activist

Saturday, July 18, 2020byToronto Star

Regan’s viewpoint, known as intersectionality, is the theory that all forms of oppression, discrimination, domination etc., intersect and influence each other.byFiona Roossien

 3 Comments

Regan Russell, the Toronto Pig Save activist who was killed by a truck carrying pigs to slaughter. (Photo: Agnes Cseke)

Regan Russell, the Toronto Pig Save activist who was killed by a truck carrying pigs to slaughter. (Photo: Agnes Cseke)

On June 19, a protester was killed. Perhaps her death was obscured by the din of headlines that Friday—it was Juneteenth, a day marking the end of slavery.

Protests against systemic racism catalyzed by the death of George Floyd juxtaposed with a Trump rally scheduled on the anniversary and in the location of the worst incident of racial violence in the U.S. Tensions were high.

Her name was Regan Russell and while participating in a scheduled vigil outside of Fearmans slaughterhouse in Burlington, she was run down by a transport truck carrying pigs on their way to slaughter.

In the news covering this event, and in conversations I’ve had with friends and family, it seems the significance of a protester being run down by the very thing she was protesting has been missed. It seems many wonder what she was doing there.

A local news story gives the following account from someone who witnessed the event from a distance: “Then I saw a woman … I assumed the truck driver thought he was clear to go and didn’t see that last protester.”

Ironically, being seen is an important goal of the vigils held by animal rights groups at slaughterhouses—one way to create more visibility in an industry that would prefer to keep its practices hidden. And Regan was unignorable.

But she was also there that day to protest Bill 156—a new ag-gag law that had been passed two days earlier. Criticized as unconstitutional, Bill 156 is handcrafted to stifle damning evidence of the cruelty that is endemic to animal agriculture, with provisions that are distinctly anti-whistle-blower and anti-free-speech.

Like its counterpart, Bill 27 in Alberta, Bill 156 represents the influence of a powerful farming lobby desperately trying to limit exposure of something that can harm their bottom line — visibility into how the animal agriculture industry works. These sections don’t serve to protect the animals or reinforce biosecurity; they serve the sole purpose of controlling information.

The day before she died, Regan wrote on social media: “Bill 156 has passed. Now anytime an animal is suffering on a farm in Ontario, no one, not even an employee, has the right to expose it. This decision is evil. Animal ag is evil. Cancel animal agriculture.”

I’m so sorry that you didn’t get a chance to meet Regan Russell yourself. You would have loved her. I only hope that, in clearing up some of the questions about vigils, I can do her justice.

Regan didn’t look like what I suppose you’d expect a vegan to look like. At 65, Regan still possessed the qualities that decades earlier had made her a model — that is to say, her outer beauty was undeniable. But on the inside — well, that was truly special. She was funny and fast-witted, kind and patient.

She vibrated on a high frequency, if you are familiar with the concept. She was cynical, in a wise way, yet optimistic enough to try to make a difference. For 40 years, she had tried to make a difference. A week prior to her death, she had marched at a Black Lives Matter rally.

You see, Regan’s viewpoint, known as intersectionality, is the theory that all forms of oppression, discrimination, domination etc., intersect and influence each other. One of the signs she frequently brought to vigils read: “If you were in this truck, we’d be here for you too.” And you know what? She would have.

Personally speaking, up until two years ago, I wouldn’t have considered being an activist myself, despite being vegan for several years. It was my then 10-year old son — frustrated because he had been forbidden to talk about animal agriculture at school, who begged me and his dad, also vegan, to take him to a vigil. It became our church. Every Sunday morning we went to bear witness at Fearmans — sometimes with just a handful of people, sometimes in a group of 20 or more. Regan was almost always there too.

This leads me to an important point about Regan’s experience — as an activist, and specifically attending vigils at Fearmans, which she had done for years. This translates to hundreds of vigils, stopping thousands of transport trucks, bearing witness to the final moments of hundreds of thousands of pigs.

Regan understood the risks — after all, rogue aggressive drivers had been encountered in the past. In fact, this issue was the impetus for a petition created by Toronto Pig Save on change.org urging Michael Latifi, the CEO of Fearmans/Sofina Foods Inc., to create​ ​a safety agreement allowing activists to safely protest. Although the request has been ignored to date, other efforts had been made by both Toronto Pig Save and another activist group, New Wave Activism, to liaise with police, work with security and establish rapport with drivers.

Safety protocol is reviewed regularly with the group. Every vigil is timed. Roles are assigned to protestors to improve safety. Regan had one of those roles that day — standing at the entrance, just on the other side of the pedestrian sidewalk, with her now iconic bright neon sign that read ALL ANIMALS NEED PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

Although, thanks to the newly passed Bill 156, the ability to legally protect animals would soon be more difficult. It is a bill that exemplifies prioritization of commerce over our rights as Canadians and specifically seeks to punish animal activists. This reality was certainly top-of-mind for Regan and the other activists there that day — as much as it was likely on the radar of those who profit from animal agriculture.

As you can imagine, losing Regan has been a devastating loss to the activism community, to Toronto Pig Save and New Wave Activism and to the many individuals who Regan touched with her beauty, wisdom and compassion. Personally, there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t cried a tear or two hundred — for the loss of a friend, and the loss of innocence, as I see for the first time just how unforgiving the machine we stand against can be.

And in the wake of Regan’s death, we are emboldened to articulate our demands in her name:

Justice for Regan Russell; the creation of a universal safety protocol for all future vigils; the repeal of Bill 156; greater visibility into farms where animals are kept and slaughterhouses via 24/7 video; monitoring that can be accessed by the public; the conversion of Fearmans Pork into an exclusively plant-based facility focused on the manufacture of plant protein; and the defunding of animal agriculture.

On the captivity, Regan said: “They say we’re breaking the law by storming? How do you think women got the right (to vote)? How do you think slavery was abolished? People stood up and broke the laws! Because they’re stupid laws.”

Let’s stand up to this stupid law.

Fiona Roossien wrote this article on behalf of Toronto Pig Save.