Animal Rights Activists Rescue Over 200 Animals from Slaughter

JANUARY 17, 2020 BY 


The News

During the 2019 Kaporos, an annual ritual slaughter that takes place in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, several teams of animal rights activists in New York City rescued 211 chickens who were hours away from being killed in makeshift slaughterhouses erected in Hasidic Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.  The rescues were organized by the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION).

The activists brought the chickens to a triage center where they provided them with food, water and, in some cases, acute medical care, before transporting them to farm animal sanctuaries around the country. Eight chickens were taken to veterinarians for emergency surgery due to broken wings and other life-threatening injuries.

Jill Carnegie with the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos transports a rescue to the triage site.

Jill Carnegie, the Campaign Strategist for the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos and an organizer of the rescues, said that the number of chickens who activists rescued was determined by the space available in farm animal sanctuaries: “We spent several months securing quality homes for the chickens. Since Cornish Cross birds are some of the most genetically-altered animals, they require specialized care. Each year, we can only rescue the number of chickens we can confirm homes for to avoid a potentially catastrophic scenario; we put in many hours of placement work so that we can save as many lives as possible. We wish we could have saved more.”

Activists estimate that over 100,000 chickens are trucked into the city and stored in crates on the street for up to several days with no food or water

With an estimated 300,000 Hasidic Jews in New York City, activists believe that well over 100,000 chickens are used and killed each year. During Kaporos in 2019, thousands of chickens died of hunger, thirst, sickness and heat exhaustion in the crates where they were being stored before the ritual even began.

During Kaporos, hundreds of activists provide watermelon and water to thousands of chickens stacked in crates on the streets of Crown Heights, Williamsburg and Borough Park in Brooklyn, New York

During Kaporos, practitioners swing six-week old chickens around their heads while reciting a prayer to symbolically transfer their sins to the animal.  The vast majority of the chickens are then killed in open-air slaughterhouses, leaving the streets contaminated with their blood, body parts, feces and feathers.  In 2015, an attorney suing the City on behalf of area residents hired a toxicologist to test the contaminants. In his report, Dr. Michael McCabe concluded that Kaporos “constitutes a dangerous condition and poses a significant public health hazard.”

Mayor de Blasio’s Health Commissioners have refused to address a toxicology report that outlines the risk posed by the mass slaughter of over 100,000 animals on public streets during Kaporos.

Advocates have, on multiple occasions, sent the toxicology report to Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the head of Infectious Disease Control at the NYC Department of Health, and to Drs. Oxiris Barbot and Mary Bassett, the City’s current and former health commissioners.  Activists speculate that they have refused to acknowledge the correspondence because they could be liable if and when a disease outbreak does occur. Nora Constance Marino Esq., the attorney, argued the case to the State’s highest court — Court of Appeals. In their ruling in 2018, the six judges wrote that city agencies have discretion with respect to the laws they choose to enforce.

During Kaporos, over 100,000 chickens are slaughtered on public streets in residential neighborhoods in Brooklyn, exposing area residents to E. coli, campylobacter and many other pathogens and toxins

In recent years, resistance to the use of live chickens has been building in the Hasidic Jewish communities. In discussions with animal protection advocates, many Kaporos practitioners have acknowledged that the mass commercialization of the ritual has led to systemic abuses that violate “Tza’ar ba’alei chayim,” a Jewish commandment that bans causing animals unnecessary suffering.

“As long as this cruel ritual slaughter takes place, we will continue rescuing as many of the victims as we can before they are slaughtered,” said Jill Carnegie. “One day, the use of live animals for the ritual will come to an end, either because the Department of Health decides to enforce its own laws in order to prevent the spread of an infectious disease or, more likely, because a disease outbreak occurs.”

Germany, France push to end male chick ‘shredding’ in European Union

France and Germany are calling for an end to male chick culling.
 France and Germany are calling for an end to male chick culling. Canadian Press
Descrease article font size


Increase article font size


Germany and France are teaming up to push for the end of male chick shredding in the European Union by the end of 2021.

Agriculture ministers Julia Klöckner of Germany and Didier Guillaume of France announced their plans to help press this issue further during a Monday meeting in Germany.

“It’s time to end the shredding of chicks. France and Germany should be the European motor to advance on this issue,” Guillaume said, according to France24.

Shredding refers to the act of killing male chicks shortly after they hatch. This practice occurs in many poultry businesses because male chicks don’t produce eggs and generate less meat than their female counterparts.

READ MORE: New York City passes bill banning sale of foie gras [2019]

The two European countries hope to bring together industry groups, companies, researchers and campaign groups to “share scientific knowledge” and “implement alternative methods,” France24 reports.


“We welcome this scheme and the fact that non-governmental organizations are involved, but we expect clear regulatory commitments,” Agathe Gignoux of CIWF, a French NGO, said.

In 2009, the Associated Press reported U.S. egg producers euthanize 200 million male chicks per year. According to AP, Chicago-based animal rights organization Mercy for Animals videotaped male chicks being ground up alive while undercover in Iowa hatchery Hy-Line North America that same year.

The same practice appears to occur in Canada, too, though the Canadian government has announced recent changes in an effort to minimize this waste.

Jean-Michel Laurin, president and CEO of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, told Global News that the industry has been working towards eliminating the euthanizing of male chicks.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a cold scary trip’: Tabby cat travels more than 80 km hiding in truck engine

“This requires a great deal of research, which has been occurring worldwide and includes Canadian-based research which has been active for about 10 years,” he said. “Currently, stakeholders in Canadian industry have made significant investments to bring us beyond the research trial phase.”

“Our industry is committed to continually improving practices. Farmers, hatcheries and others in the supply chain have demonstrated, over generations, their desire to improve and to respond to change.”


He added that the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders lists several methods to euthanize day-old chicks and emphasizes that in all circumstances, the termination of life must be instantaneous.

Toronto Chick-fil-A launch draws customers and demonstrators

Toronto Chick-fil-A launch draws customers and demonstrators

In 2018, then-Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced an $844,000 investment would go towards developing an electronic scan to determine a bird’s sex and fertility of eggs prior to hatching, Poultry World reported.

This would mean male eggs could be sold before hatching, which would increase capacity and efficiency of Canadian hatcheries and ultimately end male chick culling.

“The Canadian egg industry is driving our economy and creating good jobs,” he said in a statement. “The government of Canada is produce [sic] to support the Egg Farmers of Ontario for this first-of-its-kind study that will make Canada a world leader in animal welfare.

“This investment will help pilot a solution that will be welcomed in Canada and around the world and will keep the egg industry strong and growing.”

READ MORE: London animal rights activist ‘targeted’ by aggressive driver due to bumper stickers

The Canadian egg industry contributes over $1 billion a year to the national economy and employs more than 17,000 people.

Plane crashes & slaughterhouses: who suffers more?

Plane crashes & slaughterhouses: who suffers more?

(Beth Clifton collage)

Helpless in a cage

by Karen Davis,  Ph.D.,  president,  United Poultry Concerns

On January 8,  2020,  passenger flight 752, headed from the Iranian capital of Tehran to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev,  was shot down by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, killing all 176 occupants,  including 167 passengers. The jet continued flying for several minutes before turning back toward the airport.

Reported The New York Times,  “The plane,  which by then had stopped transmitting its signal,  flew toward the airport ablaze before it exploded and crashed quickly.”  (1)

One can only imagine being strapped in a plane that is about to crash,  being,  in the final moments before death,  a conscious individual,  helpless in a cage.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Is the terror of the chickens any less?

In considering such circumstances, is it impertinent to compare this experience with that of chickens (any animals) hanging face down on a slaughter line as they move toward a large rotating knife that will cut their throats?

Is the terror of the chickens any less palpable in those final moments than the terror of the airline passengers hurled helplessly toward their own deaths?

Even granting the terror the chickens must be feeling,  there are those who are outraged by the very idea of comparing anything a chicken might feel with the feelings of a human being,  for the simple reason that,  no matter what,  the feelings and nature of humans are considered “superior to” and vastly “more important than” those of any other sentient species – a view not shared by Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson,  as he made clear in a recent essay,  nor by me. (2)

(Beth Clifton photo )

“Superior suffering”

Probably,  if questioned,  few people,  even those who grant that other animals can form lasting emotional relationships amongst themselves,  would concede that their experiences could equal the range and depth of human social and familial experience.

In the following discussion,  I address the question of “superior suffering” by focusing on an aircraft catastrophe that took place nearly twenty years ago in American skies.  My suggestion at the time––that slaughterhouse chickens could suffer as much as human beings in situations involving the utmost pain and fear in the victims––evoked a controversy that continues to this day as to “who suffers more.” (3)

(Faye McBride photo)

September 11, 2001 – The worst suffering ever?

For many Americans,  the worst, most unjust suffering to befall anyone happened on September 11,  2001.  Mark Slouka, in his essay “A Year Later,”  in Harper’s Magazine, puzzled over “how it was possible for a man’s faith to sail over Auschwitz,  say,  only to founder on the World Trade Center.”

How was it that so many intelligent people he knew,  who had lived through the 20th century and knew something about history,  actually insisted “that everything is different now,”  as a result of 9/11,  as though,  Slouka marveled, “only our sorrow would weigh in the record”?  (3)

People who said they would never be the same again seldom said that about other people’s and other nations’ calamities.

In saying that the world as a result of the 9/11 attack was “different now,”  they didn’t mean that “before the 9/11 attack I was blind,  but now I see the suffering that is going on and that has been going on all around me,  to which I might be a contributor, God forbid.”  No, they meant that an incomparable and superior outrage had occurred. It happened to Americans. It happened to them.

(Beth Clifton collage)

I dissent

Following the 9/11 attack,  I published a letter in 2001 that raised consternation.  Without seeking to diminish the horror of 9/11,  I wrote that the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attack arguably did not suffer more terrible deaths than animals in slaughterhouses suffer every day.  (4)

Using chickens as an example, I observed that in addition to the much larger number of chickens who were killed on 9/11, and the horrible deaths they endured in the slaughter plants that day,  and every day,  one had to account for the misery of their lives leading up to their deaths,  including in the terror attack they suffered hours or days before they were killed,  blandly described as “chicken catching.”

(Beth Clifton photo)

We have a plethora of palliatives

I compared all this to the relatively satisfying lives of the majority of human victims of 9/11 prior to the attack,  adding that we humans have a plethora of palliatives,  ranging from proclaiming ourselves heroes and plotting revenge against our enemies to the consolation of family and friends and the relief of painkilling drugs and alcoholic beverages.

Moreover,  whereas people can make some sense of their own tragedy,  being members of the species that inflicted it,  chickens by contrast have no cognitive insulation,  no compensation for their suffering,  and thus no psychological relief.

The fact that they are forced to live in systems that reflect our dispositions,  not theirs,  and that these systems are inimical to their nature,  as revealed by their behavior,  physical breakdowns,  and other indicators,  shows that they are suffering in ways that equal and could even surpass anything we have known.

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Not speciesist” to superiorize human suffering – Peter Singer

I wrote my rebuttal in response to comments by philosopher Peter Singer, who in a review of Joan Dunayer’s book,  Animal Equality:  Language and Liberation,  challenged her contention that we should use equally strong words for human and nonhuman suffering or death.  (6, 7)

Singer wrote:  “Reading this suggestion just a few days after the killing of several thousand people at the World Trade Centre,  I have to demur.  It is not speciesist to think that this event was a greater tragedy than the killing of several million chickens,  which no doubt also occurred on September 11,  as it occurs on every working day in the United States.

“There are reasons,” Singer wrote,  for thinking that “the deaths of beings with family ties as close as those between the people killed at the World Trade Center and their loved ones are more tragic than the deaths of beings without those ties;  and there is more that could be said about the kind of loss that death is to beings who have a high degree of self-awareness,  and a vivid sense of their own existence over time.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Tragedy” versus raw suffering

There are reasons for contesting this statement of assumed superiority of the human suffering over that of the chickens in slaughterhouses, starting with the fact that it is not lofty “tragedy” that is at issue,  but raw suffering.

Moreover, there is evidence that the highly social chicken,  endowed with a “complex nervous system designed to form a multitude of memories and to make complex decisions,”  as avian expert Lesley J. Rogers put it in her book The Development of Brain and Behaviour in the Chicken,  has both self-awareness and a sense of personal existence over time.

Not only have we humans broken these birds’ ties with their own mothers,  families,  and the natural world,  but who are we to say that chickens living together in the miserable chicken houses could not have formed ties?

(Beth Clifton photo)

Chickens form close personal attachments

The chickens at United Poultry Concerns (the sanctuary I run) form close personal attachments.  Even chickens exploiters admit that they do.

Rogers,  quoted above,  pointed out that studies of birds,  including chickens, “throw the fallacies of previous assumptions about the inferiority of avian cognition into sharp relief.”

It is reasonable to assume that animals in systems designed to exploit them suffer even more,  in certain respects,  than do humans who are similarly exploited,  comparable to the way that a cognitively challenged person might experience dimensions of suffering in being rough-handled,  imprisoned,  and shouted at , that elude individuals capable of conceptualizing the experience.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Suffering with conceptualization

Indeed,  one who is capable of conceptualizing one’s own suffering may be unable to grasp what it feels like to suffer without being able to conceptualize it; of being in a condition that could add to,  rather than reduce, the suffering.

It is in this quite different sense from what is usually meant,  when we are told it is “meaningless” to compare the suffering of a chicken with that of a human being,  that the claim resonates.

Biologist Marian Stamp Dawkins says that other animal species “may suffer in states that no human has ever dreamed of or experienced.”

Humpty, Ronald, & UPC

Humpty Dumpty, Ronald McDonald, & United Poultry Concerns battery cage display.  (Merritt Clifton collage)

Cognitive distance from animal suffering

But even if it could be proven that chickens and other nonhuman animals suffer less than humans condemned to similar situations,  this would not mean that nonhuman animals do not suffer profoundly,  nor does it provide justification for harming them.

Our cognitive distance from nonhuman animal suffering constitutes neither an argument nor evidence as to who suffers more under horrific circumstances, humans or nonhumans.

Even for animal advocates, words like “slaughter,”  “cages,”  “debeaking,”  “forced molting” and the like can cause us to forget that what have become routine matters in our minds – like “the killing of several million chickens that occurs on every single working day in the United States,”  in Peter Singer’s reality-blunting phrase––is a fresh experience for each bird who is forced to endure what these words signify.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Cognitive distance can be reduced

That said, our cognitive distance can be reduced.  Vicarious suffering is possible with respect to the members of not just one’s own species,  but also to other animal species,  to whom we are linked through evolution. .

Reams of data are not necessary. We need only enlist our basic human intelligence to imagine,  for example,  how a grazing land animal, such as a sheep, must feel in being forcibly herded onto a huge,  ugly ship and freighted from Australia to Saudi Arabia or Iraq,  jammed in a filthy pen while floating sea-sickeningly in the Persian Gulf on the way to being slaughtered.

John Woolman & friend.

Our Curse Laid on Chickens

John Woolman,  a New Jersey Quaker,  in the 18th century noted the despondency of chickens on a boat going from America to England and the poignancy of their hopeful response when they came close to land.  Behind them lay centuries of domestication,  preceded and paralleled by their vibrant,  autonomous life in the tropical forests.  Ahead lay a fate that premonition would have tried in vain to prevent from coming to pass.

There is no fate worse,  no suffering worse,  no injustice worse,  than what has befallen chickens in their encounter with human beings.

For chickens,  every torturing second of being alive in our grasp is as bad as it gets.  I therefore submit that the continuous,  unrelieved suffering of chickens and other intensively farmed animals compares in magnitude,  intensity, and injustice with the suffering of human beings in horrific plane crashes and similar episodes of massive violence.

Del Taco: Stop Supporting Animal Abuse

JAN 15, 2020 — 

… get Del Taco to improve the lives of the chickens suffering in its supply chain. Together we WILL create change #ForTheAnimals!

Let’s keep the momentum going by reaching out to Del Taco’s leadership team with the following 2 actions.

  1. Send an email.
    Click here to email The Humane League’s recent LinkedIn article to Muna Afghani, Del Taco’s Sr. Manager of Quality Assurance.

    *When possible, please draft your own unique email subject and body. The more authentic your message, the more effective and meaningful it will be to Del Taco.

    Subject: 2020 Business plans
    Body Sample:

    Dear Ms. Afghani,
    While I applaud Del Taco’s steps towards offering plant-based options at its restaurants, I am very disappointed that you have failed to address the fundamental problems in Del Taco’s chicken supply chain. Thus far, Del Taco has turned its back on the animal cruelty allowed in its supply chain. As a member of the leadership team, I hope you will step up your game in 2020 and adopt the Better Chicken Commitment.
    Sincerely, [NAME]

  2. Call a Del Taco employee, inquiring when the company will address the cruel and outdated practices allowed in its chicken supply chain.

    Call: (949) 462-7322, to be connected with a Del Taco employee. The program will tell you the name and title of the person before connecting you. *Please leave a voicemail if the staff member is not available.

    Sample Script: “Hi, my name is [NAME] and I am calling to express my concerns about the way chickens in Del Taco’s supply chain are treated. I recently saw this website – – and was upset to learn that you support such outdated and cruel practices. Several of your competitors have already committed to the Better Chicken Commitment. When can we expect Del Taco to follow suit?”

Thank you all so much for supporting this important campaign.

Urge Ridgeland, Wisconsin Officials to Stop Cruel Chicken Toss

Chicken being tossed from the roof of a building into a crowd of people.

From: Letter to Dunn County Officials, Ridgeland, Wisconsin

“The chickens being subjected to this extremely stressful and terrifying situation are not enjoying themselves. Such events teach children and others that it’s acceptable to use animals for any human purpose, regardless of how trivial and cruel. Our society needs to foster respect for the other creatures with whom we share this planet. The ‘chicken toss’ is antithetical to that aspiration. I urge you to use your influence to discontinue this use of animals that is unquestionably inhumane.”
– Nedim C. Buyukmihci, VMD, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Jan. 24, 2019.

United Poultry Concerns is joining Wisconsin-based Alliance for Animals and In Defense of Animals again this year in politely urging the village of Ridgeland in Dunn County, Wisconsin to cancel the “Chicken Toss” in February, most likely Saturday, Feb. 15, since it is always held on Saturday in mid-February.

The chicken toss consists of throwing many chickens, one or two at a time, up in the air from a roof. Crowds scramble to grab the birds as they fall to the ground. The chickens huddle together, freezing and fearful, in crates and bags, waiting to be thrown by participants who consider this cruel activity fun.

There is no similarity between a chicken being pulled from a container and thrown roughly up in the air from a roof in the midst of a screaming mob, and a chicken fluttering voluntarily to the ground from a perch in a quiet place.

Feb. 16, 2019 “Chicken Toss” Report

“Today, for the second year in a row, we drove up to the Ridgeland, WI Pioneer Days event. The big attraction is throwing sick, frostbitten, terrified chickens off of a roof into a sea of drunk, crazed and violent humans. The community bills this event as a family friendly traditional chicken ‘fly.’ As if all of these birds are willing participants for the amusement and delight of the children and their doting parents. Many activists came out this year from all over the Midwest and collectively we were able to rescue 29 of these abused but wonderful birds. Some are already on their way to good homes, or to the vet. We are working on finding homes for some of the others and many will stay here with us at Farm Bird Sanctuary.”
– Todd Wilson, Alliance for Animals


Ridgeland residents grabbing a chicken that was tossed into a crowd

Ridgeland residents grabbing a chicken that was tossed into a crowd

Ridgeland residents grabbing a chicken that was tossed into a crowd

Ridgeland residents grabbing a chicken that was tossed into a crowd


What Can I Do?

Please call these Dunn County officials, and politely urge them to prohibit the “chicken toss” this year. Whether you reach a live person or a recording, leave a brief, clear, and respectful message expressing your concern for the chickens: their fear and possible injury and the frigid weather.


See also: UPC letter to Dunn County, WI officials, Jan. 7, 2020

Thank you for taking action for these birds.
– United Poultry Concerns

Overlapping Oppression

Register Now for Our Conscious Eating Conference
Feb. 29, 2020!

Conscious Eating Conference

Can Oppression Be Unique and General?

By Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns

If we cannot imagine how chickens must feel being grabbed in the middle of the night by men who are cursing and yelling at them while pitching them into the crates in which they will travel to the next wave of human terror attacks at the slaughterhouse, then we should try to imagine ourselves placed helplessly in the hands of an overpowering extraterrestrial species, to whom our pleas for mercy sound like nothing more than mere noise to the master race in whose “superior” minds we are “only animals.”
– Karen Davis, The Holocaust and the Henmaid’s Tale

“The garbage dump is crammed with our heads and entrails.”
– Rooster narrator of “Cockadoodledoo” by Isaac Bashevis Singer


Month-old chickens in a commercial operation courtesy of the PEW Charitable Trust

Eternal Treblinka

Some people will say that treating creatures badly in order to eat them is a far cry from treating creatures badly simply because you hate them, but Charles Patterson notes in his book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, that the psychology of contempt for “inferior life” links the Nazi mentality to that which allows us to torture and kill billions of nonhuman animals and millions of human beings with no more concern for them and their suffering than Hannibal Lecter and Jame Gumb feel for their victims, apart from the pleasure they derive from the taste of their victims’ pain, in Thomas Harris’s book, The Silence of the Lambs. That book says that the plight of the lambs screaming in the slaughterhouses – the whole human enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and murder – “will not end, ever” (Harris, 366).

Eternal Treblinka reminds us of all those other slaughterhouses that were running alongside the human ones under the Nazis – “Around-the-clock killing and butchering” conducted at Treblinka, Auschwitz, in Dresden, and elsewhere (Patterson, 129). In their diaries and letters, Nazi officials note indifferently such things as “huge slaughter of chickens and pigs” (Patterson, 125), and they dote on their meals. One writes to his wife: “The sight of the dead – including women and children – is not very cheering. Once the cold weather sets in you’ll be getting a goose now and again. There are over 200 chattering around here, as well as cows, calves, pigs, hens and turkeys. We live like princes. Today, Sunday, we had roast goose (1/4 each). This evening we are having pigeon” (Patterson, 129).

In Eternal Treblinka, chickens and pigs shriek as they are being cursed and butchered. Nazis bear their souls in letters and diaries. We read the opposing testimony of Holocaust survivors and their descendants. A question raised over and over by those who became vegetarians rather than perpetuate the legacy of butchery in their own lives, is “How can ‘we’ do to ‘them’ what was done to ‘us’ and not even recognize it?” Because, says Albert Kaplan, “we have learned nothing from the Holocaust” (Patterson, 167). Kaplan tells of a visit he made in Israel to a kibbutz Holocaust museum near Haifa: “Around two hundred feet from the main entrance to the museum is an Auschwitz for animals from which emanates a horrible odor that envelops the museum. I mentioned it to the museum management. Their reaction was not surprising. ‘But they are only chickens’” (Patterson, 166).

Degradation of the Victim

Christa Blanke, a former Lutheran pastor in Germany and founder of the organization Animals’ Angels, cites a link between how we treat animals and Nazism. First we strip the animals of their dignity – “The degradation of the victim always precedes a murder” (Patterson, 228). But, we want to know, why do humans want to degrade and kill? Serial killer Ted Bundy said it wasn’t that he had no feelings of remorse for his victims, but that those feelings were weak and ephemeral compared to his rapacious emotions (Rule). Naturalist John Muir wrote that the people he knew enjoyed seeing the passenger pigeons fill the sky, but they liked shooting and eating them more – “Every shotgun was aimed at them” (Teale, 46).

Comfort with Cruelty

The Holocaust thus raises questions, and we long for answers. Why, asked Isaac Bashevis Singer, do we pretend animals don’t feel in order to justify our cruelty, but even more importantly, why do we want to be cruel to animals? Is comfort with cruelty, taking pleasure in cruelty, a trait we carry from our past in our genes? Why, when we have the technology to duplicate animal products, do people insist they have to have meat? Why do we praise technology for developing substitutes for cruder practices in other areas of life while balking at its use to end slaughterhouses, which technology can do?

“Just Chickens”

The Holocaust epitomized an attitude, the manifestation of a base will. It is the attitude that we can do whatever we please, however vicious, if we can get away with it, because “we” are superior, and “they,” whoever they are, are, so to speak, “just chickens.” Paradoxically, therefore, it is possible, indeed requisite, to make relevant and enlightening comparisons between the Holocaust and our base treatment of nonhuman animals. We can make comparisons while agreeing with philosopher, Brian Luke: “My opposition to the institutionalized exploitation of animals is not based on a comparison between human and animal treatment, but on a consideration of the abuse of animals in and of itself” (Luke, 81).

Paradoxically, while the words “Nazi” and “Holocaust” represent unique historical phenomena, they can transcend these phenomena to function more broadly. And a broader approach to the Holocaust would appear to hold more promise for a more enlightened and compassionate future than attempting to privatize the event to the extent that its only permissible reference is self-reference. A broader approach provides a more just apprehension of past and present atrocities, while connecting the Nazis and the Holocaust to the larger ethical challenges confronting humanity.

Identity or Exclusivity?

In A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present, Native American scholar Ward Churchill writes that the experience of the Jews under the Nazis is unique “only in the sense that all such phenomena exhibit unique characteristics. Genocide, as the Nazis practiced it, was never something suffered exclusively by the Jews, nor were the Nazis singularly guilty of its practice” (Churchill 1997, 35-36).

One of the many questions that emerge from the current debate about the use of the Holocaust to illuminate humankind’s relationship to billions of nonhuman animals is the extent to which the outrage of having one’s own suffering compared to that of others centers primarily on issues of identity and uniqueness or on issues of superiority and privilege. The ownership of superior and unique suffering has many claimants, but as Isaac Bashevis Singer observed speaking of chickens, there is no evidence that humans are more important than chickens (Shenker, 11).

The Fascist Within

There is no evidence, either, that human suffering, or Jewish suffering, is separate from all other suffering, or that it needs to be kept separate and superior in order to maintain its identity. But where, it may be asked, is the evidence that we humans have had enough of inflicting massive preventable suffering on one another and on the individuals of other species, given that we know suffering so well, and claim to abhor it? In Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, Charles Patterson concludes: “the sooner we put an end to our cruel and violent way of life, the better it will be for all of us – perpetrators, bystanders, and victims” (232). Who but the Nazi within us disagrees? If we are going to exterminate someone, let it be the fascist within.

Conference Information & Registration

“I Feel So Bad For Those Turkeys Hauled on Freezing Nights”

United Poultry Concerns <>
16 December 2019

The Letter to the Editor that follows this Introduction was written by Shane
Zoglman and published Nov. 20, 2019 by *The Dubois County Herald* in
Indiana, a
mid-Western state with a large poultry and egg industry. In granting
to UPC to share his letter with our readers, Shane added some information
his own evolution:

Howdy, sure, post away. For some history, back when I was a teenager, and
didn’t have any good examples or guidance in the form of grownups, I
for about 4 years on a chicken farm, that is, an egg farm, gathering eggs
the mega-sized houses, taking out the dead and crippled chickens and also
taking out the old ones, loading them on semis and putting the new young
in the cages.

I also did a few part time jobs of working for a farm where I helped load
turkeys into the semis. I have to say I didn’t think about the animals’
suffering, it just didn’t enter my mind. So I am someone who has seen both
sides and has changed a lot over the years. The thing I do not understand
people that never wake up. I think a big help in my waking up to animal
cruelty was stumbling onto the Shark Online YouTube channel years ago. I
been to a couple rodeos as a kid, but again, never was aware of the
cruelty as
I see it now after seeing their videos of rodeo cruelty.

These days I do not buy guns and ammo to kill animals with. I buy
to enjoy watching them with, and instead of putting effort into killing,
I put
effort and money into taking in animals that need a home as well as
trying to
spread some of the message in my own way that things need to change. –

Here is Shane’s letter in *The Dubois County Herald*, Nov. 20, 2019:

Protect turkeys in trucks from frigid temps
Dubois County Herald

November 20, 2019

To the editor:

Well it is wintertime in Dubois County again and once again the turkey
manufacturing industry has done nothing to alleviate the suffering of
being trucked down the highways at night in open cages, going 60-mph with no
protection from the horrific freezing cold.

The profiteers of the turkey manufacturing industry cannot be bothered to
a few bucks to lessen the cruelty they inflict on their product. After all,
healthy profit margin is what life is all about, right?

After their freezing cold, 18-wheeled torture trip, many of the turkeys are
thrown still alive into boiling hot water. Then they are sold and shipped to
China, where most turkeys “manufactured” in America end up. It’s so great
China gets the food and people in Dubois County get the pollution, the
stink and
the humanity-degrading, low-paying jobs of inflicting cruelty on animals
while a
few rich people at the top get the money.

What does it say that Dubois County has so many churches and so many
decorations and so many people that claim to be Christians and yet so much
unnecessary horrific animal cruelty and no complaint of it, or effort to do
anything to stop it?

You cannot look at humans in middle America and convince me that monsters
do not
exist. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

– Shane Zoglman

United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes
the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl.
Don’t just switch from beef to chicken. Go Vegan.

View this article online

Factory Farm Conditions Are Unhealthy for Animals and Bad for People, Too

In 2014, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, commissioned by the U.K. government and Wellcome Trust, estimated that 700,000 people around the world die each year due to drug-resistant infections. A follow-up report two years later showed no change in this estimate of casualties. Without action, that number could grow to 10 million per year by 2050. A leading cause of antibiotic resistance? The misuse and overuse of antibiotics on factory farms.

Flourishing antibiotic resistance is just one of the many public health crises produced by factory farming. Other problems include foodborne illness, flu epidemics, the fallout from poor air and water quality, and chronic disease. All of it can be traced to the current industrial approach to raising animals for food, which puts a premium on “high stocking density,” wherein productivity is measured by how many animals are crammed into a feeding facility.

Oversight for the way factory farms operate and manage waste is minimal at best. No federal agency collects consistent and reliable information on the number, size and location of large-scale agricultural operations, nor the pollution they’re emitting. There are also no federal laws governing the conditions in which farm animals are raised, and most state anti-cruelty laws do not apply to farm animals.

For example, Texas, Iowa and Nebraska have excluded livestock from their animal cruelty statute and instead created specific legislation aimed at farm animal abuse that makes accepted or customary husbandry practices the animal welfare standard.

After New Jersey created similar legislation, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sued the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, claiming that “routine husbandry practices” was too vague. The New Jersey Society won, and as a result, the state’s Department of Agriculture has created more specific regulations.

In North Carolina, any person or organization can file a lawsuit if they suspect animal cruelty, even if that person does not have “possessory or ownership rights in an animal.” In this way, the state has “a civil remedy” for farm animal cruelty.

Still, the general lack of governmental oversight of factory farms results in cramped and filthy conditions, stressed-out animals and workers, and an ideal setup for the rampant spread of disease among animals, between animals and workers, and into the surrounding environment through animal waste.

Antibiotic Resistance

The problem: In 2017, nearly 11 million kilograms of antibiotics — including 5.6 million kilograms of medically important antibiotics — were sold in the U.S. for factory-farmed animals. Factory farms use antibiotics to make livestock grow faster and control the spread of disease in cramped and unhealthy living conditions. While antibiotics do kill some bacteria in animals, resistant bacteria can, and often do, survive and multiply, contaminating meat and animal products during slaughter and processing.

What it means for you: People can be exposed to antibiotic-resistant bacteria by handling or eating contaminated animal products, coming into contact with contaminated water or touching farm animals, which of course makes a farmworker’s job especially hazardous. Even if you don’t eat much meat or dairy, you’re vulnerable: Resistant pathogens can enter water streams through animal manure and contaminate irrigated produce.

Developments: The European Union has been much more aggressive than the U.S. in regulating antibiotic use on factory farms, banning the use of all antibiotics for growth promotion in 2006. But the U.S. is making some progress, too. Under new rules issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which went into effect in January 2017, antibiotics that are important for human medicine can no longer be used for growth promotion or feed efficiency in cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and other animals raised for food.

Additionally, 95 percent of medically important antibiotics used in animal water and feed for therapeutic purposes were reclassified so they can no longer be purchased over the counter, and a veterinarian would have to sign off for their use in animals. As a result, domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in factory farmed animals decreased by 43 percent from 2015 (the year of peak sales) through 2017, reports the FDA.

However, the agency still allows routine antibiotic use in factory farms for disease prevention in crowded and stressed animals, so these new rules aren’t nearly enough, says Matthew Wellington, antibiotics program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

“The FDA should implement ambitious reduction targets for antibiotic use in the meat industry, and ensure that these medicines are used to treat sick animals or control a verified disease outbreak, not for routine disease prevention,” Wellington said in a statement, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

National Resources Defense Council Senior Attorney Avinash Kar agrees. “Far more antibiotics important to humans still go to cows and pigs — usually when they’re not sick — than to people, putting the health of every single one of us in jeopardy.”

Water and Pollution

The problem: Livestock in this country produce between 3 and 20 times more waste than people in the U.S. produce, according to a 2005 report issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That’s as much as 1.2-1.37 billion tons of manure a year. Some estimates are even higher.

Manure can contain “pathogens such as E. coli, growth hormones, antibiotics, chemicals used as additives to the manure or to clean equipment, animal blood, silage leachate from corn feed, or copper sulfate used in footbaths for cows,” according to a 2010 report by the National Association of Local Boards of Health. Though sewage treatment plants are required for human waste, no such treatment facility exists for livestock waste.

Since this amount far exceeds what can be used as fertilizer, animal waste from factory farms typically enters massive, open-air waste lagoons, which spread airborne pathogens to people who live nearby. If animal waste is applied as fertilizer and exceeds the soil’s capacity for absorption, or if there is a leak or break in the manure storage or containment unit, the animal waste runs off into oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater.

Extreme weather increases the possibility of such breaks. Hurricane Florence, for example, flooded at least 50 hog lagoons when it struck the Carolinas last year, and satellite photos captured the damage.

Whether or not the manure is contained or spread as fertilizer, it can release many different types of harmful gases, including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide, as well as particulate matter comprised of fecal matter, feed materials, pollen, bacteria, fungi, skin cells and silicates, into the air.

What it means for you: Pathogens can cause diarrhea and severe illness or even death for those with weakened immune systems, and nitrates in drinking water have been connected to neural tube defects and limb deficiencies in newborns (among other things), as well as miscarriages and poor general health. For infants, it can mean blue baby syndrome and even death.

Gases like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide can cause dizziness, eye irritation, respiratory illness, nausea, sore throats, seizures, comas and death. Particulate matter in the air can lead to chronic bronchitis, chronic respiratory symptoms, declines in lung function and organic dust toxic syndrome. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that children raised in communities near factory farms are more likely to develop asthma or bronchitis, and that people who live near factory farms may experience mental health deterioration and increased sensitization to smells.

Developments: It is difficult to hold factory farms accountable for polluting surrounding air and water, largely for political reasons. The GOP-controlled Congress and the Trump administration excused big livestock farms from reporting air emissions, for instance, following a decade-long push for special treatment by the livestock industry.

The exemption indicates “further denial of the impact that these [emissions] are having, whether it’s on climate or whether it’s on public health,” says Carrie Apfel, an attorney for Earthjustice. In a 2017 report from the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, the agency admitted it has not found a good way to track emissions from factory farms and know whether the farms are complying with the Clean Air Act.

No federal agency even has reliable information on the number and locations of factory farms, which of course makes accountability even harder to establish.

Foodborne Illness

The problem: The United States has “shockingly high levels of foodborne illness,” according to an investigation jointly conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian, and unsanitary conditions at factory farms are a leading contributor.

Studying 47 meat plants across the U.S., investigators found that hygiene incidents occur at rates experts described as “deeply worrying.” One dataset covered 13 large red meat and poultry plants between 2015 and 2017 and found an average of more than 150 violations a week, and 15,000 violations over the entire period. Violations included unsanitary factory conditions and meat contaminated with blood, septicemic disease and feces.

“The rates at which outbreaks of infectious food poisoning occur in the U.S. are significantly higher than in the UK, or the EU,” Erik Millstone, a food safety expert at Sussex University told the Guardian.

Poor sanitary practices allow bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, which live in the intestinal tracts of infected livestock, to contaminate meat or animal products during slaughter or processing. Contamination occurs at higher rates on factory farms because crowded and unclean living conditions increase the likelihood of transmission between animals.

It also stresses out animals, which suppresses their immune response, making them more susceptible to disease. The grain-based diets used to fatten cattle can also quickly increase the risk of E. coli infection. In poultry, the practice of processing dead hens into “spent hen meal” to be fed to live hens has increased the spread of Salmonella.

What it means for you: According to the CDC, roughly 48 million people in the U.S. suffer from foodborne illnesses annually, with 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths each year. Salmonella accounts for approximately 11 percent of infections, and kills more people every year than any other bacterial foodborne illness.

Developments: In January 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the first major piece of federal legislation addressing food safety since 1938. FSMA grants the FDA new authority to regulate the way food is grown, harvested and processed, and new powers such as mandatory recall authority.

The FSMA “basically codified this principle that everybody responsible for producing food should be doing what the best science says is appropriate to prevent hazards and reduce the risk of illness,” according to Mike Taylor, co-chairman of Stop Foodborne Illness and a former deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the FDA. “So we’re moving in the right direction.”

However, almost a decade later, the FSMA is still being phased in, due to a shortage of trained food-inspectors and a lack of funding. “Congress has gotten about halfway to what it said was needed to successfully implement” the Act, Taylor said.

The Flu

The problem: Both the number and density of animals on factory farms increase the risk of new virulent pathogens, according to the U.S. Council for Agriculture, Science and Technology. In addition, transporting animals over long distances to processing facilities brings different influenza strains into contact with each other so they combine and spread quickly.

Pigs — susceptible to both avian and human flu viruses — can serve as ground zero for all sorts of new strains. Because of intensive pig farming practices, “the North American swine flu virus has jumped onto an evolutionary fast track, churning out variants every year,” according to a report published in the journal Science.

What it means for you: These viruses can become pandemics. In fact, viral geneticists link the genetic lineage of H1N1, a kind of swine flu, to a strain that emerged in 1998 in U.S. factory pig farms. The CDC has estimated that between 151,700 and 575,400 people worldwide died from the 2009 H1N1 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.

Breast, Prostate and Colon Cancer

The problem: Factory farms in the U.S. use hormones to stimulate growth in an estimated two-thirds of beef cattle. On dairy farms, around 54 percent of cows are injected with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a growth hormone that increases milk production.

What it means for you: The health effects of consuming animal products treated with these growth hormones is an ongoing international debate. Some studies have linked growth hormone residues in meat to reproductive issues and breast, prostate and colon cancer, and IGF-1, an insulin-like growth hormone, has been linked to colon and breast cancer. However, the FDA, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have independently found that dairy products and meat from cows treated with rBGH are safe for human consumption.

Because risk assessments vary, the EU, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel and Argentina have banned the use of rBGH as a precautionary measure. The EU has also banned the use of six hormones in cattle and imported beef.

Developments: U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines allow beef products to be labeled with “no hormones administered” and dairy products to be labeled “from cows not treated with rBST/rBGH” if the producer provides sufficient documentation that this is true. Consumers can use this information to make their own decisions about the risks associated with hormone-treated animal products.

What You Can Do

You can vote for local initiatives that establish health and welfare regulations for factory farms, but only a tiny number of states, including California and Massachusetts, are even putting relevant propositions on the ballot.

Another option is to support any of the nonprofits that are, in lieu of effective government action, taking these factory farms to task. The Environmental Working GroupEarthjustice and the Animal Legal Defense Fund are among those working hard to check the worst practices of these factory farms. Another good organization is the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, which works with local residents to fight the development of factory farms in their own backyards.

Buying humanely raised animal products from farms and farmers you trust is another way to push back against factory farming. Sadly, products from these smaller farms make up only a fraction of the total. In the U.S., roughly 99 percent of chickens, turkeys, eggs and pork, and 70 percent of cows, are raised on factory farms.

You can support lab-grown “clean” burgers, chicken and pork by buying it once it becomes widely available. Made from animal cells, the process completely spares the animal and eliminates the factory farm. “The resulting product is 100 percent real meat, but without the antibiotics, E. coliSalmonella, or waste contamination,” writes the Good Food Institute.

In the meantime, you can register your objection to factory farming by doing your bit to reduce demand for their products. In short, eat less meat and dairy, and more plant-based proteins.

More than $13 billion has been invested in plant-based meat, egg and dairy companies in 2017 and 2018 alone, according to the Good Food Institute, and Beyond Meat’s initial public offering debut in May marked the most successful one since the year 2000.

Lest you think that what you do on your own can’t possibly make a difference, consider one of the major drivers behind all this new investment: consumers are demanding change.

“Shifting consumer values have created a favorable market for alternatives to animal-based foods, and we have already seen fast-paced growth in this space across retail and foodservice markets,” says Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute.

This article was produced as part of a partnership between Stone Pier Press and Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. An earlier version appeared on Stone Pier Press.

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

The amount of pain and suffering these animals endure is incalculable.

Posted Oct 02, 2019

Over 150 million animals are killed for food around the world every day—just on land. That comes out to 56 billion land animals killed per year in the U.S. alone. Including wild-caught and farmed fishes, we get a daily total closer to 3 billion animals killed.” 

October 2 is World Day for Farmed Animals. On the website for the annual recognition of what these billions of nonhuman animal (animal) beings go through at the hands of humans before they’re brutally killed for unnecessary meals we read:

“Each year, an estimated 70 billion cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and other sentient land-based animals are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated and macerated in the world’s factory farms. Then they are brutally slaughtered for our dinner table. Countless aquatic animals are caught and suffocated by vast trawler nets, so we can have our fish fillet or tuna fish salad.”

When fishes and other water animals are thrown into the equation—billions of these sentient beings also are farmed animals—the number easily swells to trillions of animal beings killed each year on food farms and in the wild.

Slaughtering sentience: How much pain per pound do these animals suffer?

“…the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer? Why should the law refuse its protection to any sensitive being?… The time will come when humanity will extend its mantle over everything which breathes…”  —Jeremy Bentham

It’s a sad fact that the amount of pain and suffering these animals endure before they’re killed truly is incalculable. So-called “food animals,” including fishes and other aquatic animals, are intelligent and sentient, feeling beings. (See “It’s Time to Stop Pretending Fishes Don’t Feel Pain.”) When someone eats animals and animal products, they’re consuming a good deal of pain and suffering. While many people are led to believe that consuming dairy is OK, because the animals are kept alive, dairy animals also deeply suffer when they’re used and abused as “milk machines.” (See “The Scary Facts of Dairy Violate the Five Freedoms” and “The Mistreatment of Female ‘Food Cows’ Includes Sexual Abuse.”)

It’s also important to recognize that “being smart” really isn’t a factor in how much animals, including humans, suffer. It’s what they feel that’s important. (See, for example, “Are Pigs as Smart as Dogs and Does It Really Matter?” and references therein.) A young girl once asked me if so-called “food animals” suffer like her companion dog suffers when he’s in pain. When I said, “Yes, they do,” she blanched and almost started crying.

At another talk I was asked, “How much pain per pound do these animals suffer?” and I said that it was really impossible to calculate any meaningful number, but it’s a good question to get discussions going about what these animal beings endure in their relatively short and horrific lives.

Those who choose to eat other animals and animal products also endure a good deal of cognitive dissonance. On many occasions, I hear people lament something like, “Oh, I know they suffer, but I really like my _____.” You can fill in the blank with meat, beef, pork, bacon, chicken, fish, lobster, and so on. (See “‘Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak'”: The self-serving resolution of the ‘meat paradox.‘”)

I often hear people say that farmed animals aren’t treated all that bad and that there are regulations and laws that adequately protect them. However, it’s a fact that the regulations and laws that supposedly protect farmed animals are incredibly weak and weakly enforced, and egregious violations are very common.

Far too much lip service is given to protecting these amazing and fascinating animals. And it’s because people—including those who use them and eat them—know that there is incredible and inexcusable suffering among the trillions of food animals who wind up in humans’ mouths that regulations and laws exist in the first place. If these animals didn’t suffer, there would be no reason to protect them. Current regulations allow for more than 1,100 pigs to be slaughtered per hour.

Even with iconic animal welfarist Dr. Temple Grandin’s work to help farmed food animals along, the amount of pain and suffering farmed food animals endure is reprehensible, and, of course, avoidable. Only an extremely tiny percentage of these sentient beings may, in fact, benefit, as they trod along her so-called “stairway to heaven” on their way to the killing floor while hearing, seeing, and smelling the slaughter of others. Their lives before their death sentence are actualized—right after birth, as they mature, and when they’re shipped to slaughterhouses as if they’re unfeeling objects—and are inarguably, brutally horrific. (See “Stairways to Heaven, Temples of Doom, and Humane-Washing” and “My Beef With Temple Grandin: Seemingly Humane Isn’t Enough.”)

The language we use to refer to other animals really matters. On World Day for Farmed Animals, let’s honor all nonhumans who are used for food. It’s really a matter of who we eat, rather than what we eat, when it comes to the sentient nonhumans who wind up in our mouths. A few years ago, after I gave a talk and asked people to consider who they are choosing to eat rather than what they were eating, I learned that five people changed their meal plans because the word who made them realize “they were eating pain and suffering.”

Asking people to change their meal plans isn’t some sort of “radical animal rights” move, as some claim it to be. In fact, it’s all about decency. It’s about showing respect and compassion and honoring who these individuals really are: namely, deeply feeling sentient beings. We need a Golden Rule for how we treat other animals based on decency. Silence isn’t golden; it’s deadly.

It’s high time to phase out food animals and animal products once and for all. All of these animal beings need all the help they can get and then some. World Day for Farmed Animals is a perfect time to honor and to respect who these fascinating beings truly are.


The Companies Behind the Burning of the Amazon

The burning of the Amazon and the darkening of skies from Sao Paulo, Brazil, to Santa Cruz, Bolivia, have captured the world’s conscience. Much of the blame for the fires has rightly fallen on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for directly encouraging the burning of forests and the seizure of Indigenous Peoples’ lands.

But the incentive for the destruction comes from large-scale international meat and soy animal feed companies like JBS and Cargill, and the global brands like Stop & Shop, Costco, McDonald’s, Walmart/Asda, and Sysco that buy from them and sell to the public. It is these companies that are creating the international demand that finances the fires and deforestation.

The transnational nature of their impact can be seen in the current crisis. Their destruction is not confined to Brazil. Just over the border, in the Bolivian Amazon, 2.5 million acres have burned, largely to clear land for new cattle and soy animal feed plantations, in just a few weeks. Paraguay is experiencing similar devastation.

Logs burn at sunset in Bolivia. Photo Credit: 2017, Jim Wickens/Ecostorm

New maps and analysis from Mighty Earth, based on data from NASA, CONAB, and Imazon and released here for the first time, show which companies are most closely linked to the burning:


Both domestic and international demand for beef and leather has fueled the rapid expansion of the cattle industry into the Amazon. From 1993 to 2013, the cattle herd in the Amazon expanded by almost 200%  reaching 60 million head of cattle. While deforestation for cattle had been reduced thanks to both private sector and government action, the new wave of deforestation this year shows that the large international beef and leather companies and their customers and financiers continue to create markets for deforestation-based cattle.

The effects of this demand can be seen in the clustering of deforestation near slaughterhouses and roads that have access to slaughterhouses. The company most exposed to deforestation risk in the maps above is JBS,  both Brazil’s largest meatpacker, and the world’s largest meat company. JBS, like other major Brazilian meatpackers signed the 2009 Cattle Moratorium, pledging not to buy beef from cattle connected to deforestation. However,  investigations by government and NGOs have repeatedly found serious violations by JBS, including through laundering cattle.

These scandals reached their apotheosis with the Cold Meat (Carne Fria) scandal in 2017, in which the Brazilian government enforcement agencies produced extensive evidence showing that JBS was sourcing cattle from protected areas.  This and other investigations found that JBS violated both government and its own policies by buying laundered cattle that had been raised in areas linked to deforestation and then transported to “clean ranches” to evade the requirements. The two brothers who control the company were imprisoned for their role in corruption scandals in Brazil.

Aerial cattle field and forest edge. Photo credit: Jim Wickens/Ecosotrm


Soy supply chains work differently from cattle, and that is reflected in the maps above. Much of the current wave of deforestation has happened close to BR-163. Big soy farmers routinely transport their soy down Highway BR-163 to Cargill’s major port at Santarem, where it is put on ships and sent around the world to be fed to livestock in Europe, China, and elsewhere. There are similar dynamics around other highways on the map. Cargill, Bunge and other leading soy traders have participated in the Amazon Soy Moratorium in Brazil for the last dozen years, in which they committed to cease sourcing from suppliers who engaged in deforestation for soy. Overall, the Soy Moratorium has been a major success, virtually eliminating deforestation for soy.

However, the Soy Moratorium contained two major loopholes. First, the big soy traders can continue to purchase soy from farmers who engage in large-scale deforestation, as long as the deforestation is for crops other than soy. The location of the deforestation close to BR-163 suggests that farmers are exploiting this loophole to continue deforestation even as they sell soy to major traders like Cargill and Bunge. The location of the deforestation close to BR-163 suggests that farmers are exploiting this loophole to continue deforestation even as they sell soy to major traders like Cargill and Bunge.

Second, the Soy Moratorium only applies to the Brazilian Amazon. Major soy traders have continued to drive deforestation in the Bolivian Amazon Basin, the Brazilian Cerrado, and the Gran Chaco of Argentina and Paraguay, creating a major incentive for the rapid deforestation in Bolivia in the last several weeks. Mighty Earth’s reports The Ultimate Mystery Meat and Still At It showed Cargill’s extensive links to deforestation in the Bolivian Amazon basin, and its repeated refusal to take action against key suppliers even when confronted with repeated evidence. And as much attention as the Amazon is getting, Brazil’s half a billion acre, highly biodiverse forest-savannah mosaic known as the Cerrado has been even more deforested. While 80% of the Amazon is still intact, cattle, soy and agriculture interests have destroyed more than half of the Cerrado, putting this ecosystem at even greater risk. Mighty Earth found that in the Cerrado, where deforestation has continued, two companies were primarily responsible for driving deforestation, Cargill and Bunge.

Cargill is the largest trader of soy from Brazil and the world’s largest food and agriculture company. Mighty Earth’s July 2019 report The Worst Company in the World profiled Cargill’s extensive deforestation in South America and elsewhere around the world, building on previous investigations in Bolivia, Brazilian Cerrado, Paraguay, and Argentina.

Although Bunge is a bigger player in the Cerrado, across South America – in Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina, Mighty Earth’s previous analyses of deforestation linked to soy animal feed in South America found Cargill most closely associated with deforestation. The company has refused to discontinue suppliers Mighty Earth found engaged in deforestation after evidence was shared with them, and has bitterly resisted efforts to expand successful industry-wide platforms for monitoring and policing deforestation to South America outside the Brazilian Amazon.

Table top mountains in the Brazilian Cerrado reduced to soy cultivation. Photo credit; Jim Wickens/Ecostorm

Sign for a Cargill silo in Bolivia reads ‘We buy soy’. Cargill is the biggest privately-held company in the U.S., and while it might not be a household name, people consume its products every day. Photo credit: Jim Wickens/Ecostorm

Five years ago, companies including Cargill, Unilever, and Yum Brands stood on stage at the Climate Summit in New York and proclaimed their commitment to removing deforestation from their supply chains by 2020. So too has the Consumer Goods Forum, whose members include Walmart, Mars and Danone.

They have yet to deliver on this commitment.

Now, with one year until their deadline and the Amazon in flames, it is far past time to act.

These companies must take responsibility for the impacts of their products. They must eliminate the market incentives that promote this reckless environmental destruction.

The Consumer Goods Forum and companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, and Ahold Delhaize – which owns Stop & Shop as well as Hannaford, Food Lion, Pea Pod, and Giant supermarkets – cannot continue to look the other way while the Amazon burns. They should instead source only from suppliers and regions that show evidence of eliminating deforestation. Not in another ten years. Not in five years. Not in one year. Now. Today.

The chart below shows the largest customers of the slaughterhouses and soy animal feed traders most associated with cattle and soy deforestation, respectively.


Several brands stand out for their contracts and relationships with the suppliers most responsible for deforestation.

Ahold Delhaize: The Netherlands-based supermarket powerhouse owns the brands Stop & Shop, Giant, Food Lion, and Hannaford in the United States and Albert Heijn, Delhaize, Etos, Albert, Alfa-Beta, and others across Europe. While consistently touting its sustainability commitments, Ahold continues selling its customers products from some of the worst companies in the world. With knowledge of Cargill’s ongoing child labor issues and its role in deforestation across South America, Ahold has simultaneously pushed Cargill to do a better job even while launching a joint venture partnership with them to provide the store-branded meat to Stop & Shop stores. In addition, Ahold Delhaize conducted business worth a whopping $113 million with JBS in 2019 through food sales and other partnerships.

As egregious as Ahold Delhaize’s actions are, they are not alone:

McDonald’s: McDonald’s is probably Cargill’s largest and most important customer. McDonald’s restaurants are essentially storefronts for Cargill. Cargill not only provides chicken and beef to McDonald’s, they prepare and freeze the burgers and McNuggets, which McDonald’s simply reheats and serves.

Sysco: With $55 billion in annual revenue, Sysco is the world’s largest distributor of food products to restaurants, healthcare facilities, universities, hotels, and inns. Despite claiming that they will “protect the planet by advancing sustainable agriculture practices, reducing our carbon footprint and diverting waste from landfill, in order to protect and preserve the environment for future generations,” they have honored Cargill as their most valued supplier of pork and beef and did $525 million worth of business with JBS in 2019 through sales and other partnerships.

Costco: Both JBS and Cargill list Costco as one of their top customers. Popular with families and small business owners, it ranks as the world’s third largest retailer. Costco states that it “has a responsibility to source its products in a way that is respectful to the environment and to the people associated with that environment.” According to their website, “Our goal is to help provide a net positive impact for communities in commodity-producing landscapes, by doing our part to help reduce the loss of natural forests and other natural ecosystems, which include native and/or intact grasslands, peatlands, savannahs, and wetland.” Nevertheless, according to Bloomberg, Costco conducted $1.43 billion worth of business with JBS in 2019.

Burger King/Restaurant Brands International: Burger King’s practice of selling meat linked to Cargill and other forest destroyers has earned the fast food giant a ‘zero’ on the Union of Concerned Scientists deforestation scorecard. Burger King has asked Cargill to stop destroying forests in their supply chain…but the deadline isn’t until 2030. It is also a significant customer of JBS. Burger King is part of the Restaurant Brands International (RBI) chain that also includes Tim Horton’s and Popeye’s.

Nestle: Based in Switzerland, Nestle is the largest food and beverage company in the world. Nestle was among the first companies to make zero-deforestation commitments, but only started actually monitoring its supply chains nine years later in 2019 – and only for palm oil, not for soy or pulp/paper. Recently certifying 77 percent of its supply chain as deforestation-free, Nestle continues to buy from Cargill for its pet food subsidiary, Nestle Purina Petcare. Bloomberg data also shows Nestle as one of Marfrig’s top customers.

Carrefour: The French company Carrefour is one of the world’s largest supermarket chains, the majority owner of the largest supermarket chains in Brazil, and at risk for cattle-driven deforestation. It has significant supply chain links to Cargill and JBS. Carrefour has committed to eliminating deforestation from its products by 2020, but the policy does not apply to processed or frozen beef products—which means that only around half of Carrefour’s beef distribution in Brazil is covered by its zero-deforestation policy.  According to Chain Reaction Research, 35 percent of the beef and beef products it sampled came from slaughterhouses located within the Legal Amazon including a 2.3 percent from high-risk slaughterhouses.

Casino: Casino, which owns Pão de Açúcar, is a French supermarket giant that prizes its reputation for sustainability in its home country. But as the second-largest supermarket chain in Brazil, it continues to purchase from Cargill, Bunge, and Brazil’s major cattle suppliers.

Walmart: Arkansas-based corporation Walmart is the single-largest company in the world by revenue, and also the largest private employer. Walmart also has a major presence in the UK, through its wholly-owned subsidiary ASDA. Walmart’s stated policy is “as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum, we supported the resolution to achieve zero net deforestation in our supply chain by 2020,encourage our suppliers of [beef, soy, palm oil, pulp and paper] products to work to source products produced with zero net deforestation. We ask suppliers to avoid ancient and endangered forests, to encourage conservation solutions, and to increase recycled content.” Nevertheless, Walmart conducted business with JBS worth $1.68bn in 2018 and remains a leading customer of Cargill meats and other products.

E. Leclerc: E.Leclerc is a French retail chain, with more than 600 locations in France and more than 120 stores outside of the country. Of the supermarket chains in France, Leclerc has perhaps the least robust sustainability policies. A recent report by SherpaFrance Nature Environment and Mighty Earth shows Leclerc failing on soy sustainability measures across the board. The company refuses to join industry calls to protect the endangered Cerrado, has not fulfilled legal obligations to disclose its sources, and has neither develop an alert mechanism to identify risk or follow up on deforestation alerts provided by others.  E.Leclerc’s latest sustainability report makes no commitments on meat sourcing, or any other commodity but palm oil.

By night forest fires can be seen for miles, tearing through Brazil’s Cerrado ecosystems. Photo credit: 2017, Jim Wickens/Ecostorm

A Preventable Disaster

While the rate of burning has increased dramatically in the last several months in response to Bolsonaro’s policies, these companies have been driving deforestation for years across South America. In many cases, they have bitterly resisted efforts to create systems that would allow for agriculture to expand without deforestation.

Bolsonaro’s mobilization of the army to fight the fires may help in the short term, as will Bolivian president Evo Morales’ new willingness to accept international help to fight fires. But as long as these international companies are creating a market for beef, pork, and chicken that is indifferent to deforestation, this type of environmental disaster is likely to continue.

After years of remarkably successful conservation initiatives that cut Brazil’s deforestation rate by two-thirds, Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro has reopened the doors to rampant destruction as a favor to the agribusiness lobby that backs him. That industry is accountable for the atmosphere of lawlessness, deforestation, fires, and the murder of Indigenous peoples that followed. According to data released by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon in July 2019 increased 278 percent over the previous July. Bolsonaro responded to this news by firing the head of the INPE.

The recent fires are the latest example of the cattle and soy industries trying to take advantage of a culture of impunity in both Brazil and Bolivia. Since January 2019, more than 74,000 fires have broken out across Brazil – an 85 percent increase from the same point in 2018. In Bolivia, 2.5 million acres have burned in two weeks.

These are not wildfires. Nearly all are the result of intentional land clearing attempts undertaken by ranchers and industrial soy farmers feeding global markets and international companies. In fact, on August 10, farmers in the Amazon held a “Day of Fire” to show their support for Bolsonaro’s policies.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, these fires, which are large enough to see their effects from space, pose a significant threat to the “lungs” of the planet, one of the world’s last best defenses against climate change.

The deforestation crisis in Brazil and Bolivia wouldn’t be happening without companies like Cargill, Bunge, and JBS and their customers – companies like Stop & Shop, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Sysco – who create the market demand that finances the destruction.