Animal Welfare

 

 

HUMANITY HAS ACCEPTED A SYSTEM OF NORMALIZED VIOLENCE

 

How humans treat each other obviously says a lot about our nature. Given our political, racial and social climate, it’s clear we are not all that civilized. How we treat the animals of our planet is equally important to how we treat our fellow humans and this says a lot about us too. As mentioned on my environmental page Everything and everyone in our world is interconnected. Watch this video about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone Park actually changed the flow of rivers if you don’t believe it. Another such amazing video shows how even plants in Alaska rely on the life cycle of salmon for their survival. How we treat the animals impacts directly on us as well as the planet. The vast majority (99%) of animals killed in the world are factory-raised livestock for food. Chickens, cows, pigs and sheep account for the vast majority of livestock, but this long list also includes guinea pigs, dogs, rabbits, minks, ducks, salmon and trout. Sport hunting, poaching and die-off from human expansion is also a significant source of species loss. Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, it occurs at a natural “background” rate of 1 to 5 species per year. We’re now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens of species going extinct every day. It’s estimated that human activity causes the extinction of 1 species every 20 minutes. The destruction of wild habitat for farming, logging and development has resulted in what many scientists consider the 6th mass extinction of life to occur in the Earth’s 4-billion-year history. About 50% of the Earth’s animals are thought to have been lost in the last 50 years alone. Palm tree plantations for generation of palm oil, used massively in processed foods, are a great example of the impact our agricultural practices have on animals. Palm tree plantations are responsible for the bulk of rain forest destruction in Borneo and Sumatra. This has led to the destruction of the native orangutan’s habitat leading to their endangered status. Although palm plantations also exist in Brazil and Malaysia and there is significant rain forest destruction there, those locations do no impact on orangutans but still lead to significant destruction.

Humans account for about 36% of the biomass of all mammals on the planet. Domesticated livestock account for 60 percent, and wild mammals for only 4%. This is in stark contrast to even 100 years ago when humans and domesticated animals accounted for only a small fraction of the mammalian population. Farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) recently revealed that from 1970 to 2014, the average size of the wildlife population has decreased by 60%. The giraffe population has decreased by 40% in the last 15 years alone due to poaching and habitat loss. Marine mammal biomass has decreased 5x due to commercial whaling and other exploitative hunting practices. Fish biomass has also fallen around 15%.

Although it’s clear that the healthiest diet is a plant-based one, you don’t have to be vegan (100% animal product free) to be healthy as long as you keep animal products to less than 10% of your diet and stick to organic, ethical sources and avoid all dairy products (we did not evolve consuming dairy not to mention the fact that we don’t need mother’s milk after infancy). This amounts to 1-2 meals a week that may contain a serving meat (a serving the size of a deck of cards). I do think that we evolved eating some meat but it was much cleaner (no chemicals), leaner (<10% fat vs today’s >35% fat meats) and we ate considerably less than what modern man consumes which is 85% more today than it was 100 years ago. Our ancestors were more “gatherer-hunters” than “hunter-gatherers”. 

However, we simply do not need meat for protein and milk for calcium and stronger bones but this message has been repeated to us so often that we accept it as gospel. It’s advertised to our kids in school, some products even given out for free, and promoted in all of our media. Our misguided obsession with meat and dairy consumption has led to a system of cruel and unsustainable factory farming and industrial agriculture to feed it resulting in considerable animal abuse not to mention a tremendous unsustainable impact on our environment. Factory farming and animal agriculture contribute more to greenhouse gases and climate change than the pollution and carbon footprint of all modes of transportation worldwide combined! Simply substituting beans for red meat would result in a reduction of half the greenhouse gas emission called for by the Paris Accord. If we don’t need to eat animal products to be healthy, should we be eating animal products since it would be merely to satisfy our selfish appetite? This is a link to a National Review article on the ethics of cruelty to animals through factory farming.

Despite what anyone thinks, all animals think and feel. They have emotions and can be happy or terribly sad. They feel physical and emotional pain. They grieve for their loved ones and rejoice when they are with friends they recognize, even from other species. They are pure and live just to live. They eat to survive and do not destroy what they do not need. The ONLY animals on the planet who suffer chronic diseases and obesity are humans and the animals and pets we “care” for.

We can learn a lot from animals. 10 Important Life Lessons We Can Learn From Animals  is a great article highlighting some important points about animals.

More than 50% the U.S. grain and nearly 40% of world grain is fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans. We grow enough grain to feed a population of 10 billion (the world population is 7.4 billion as of 2018). 25,000 people still die of hunger daily. That means more than 9.1 million people die of hunger every year completely unnecessarily. In addition to the tremendous waste, animal cruelty and human death and suffering that the animal agriculture industry causes, it is also extremely inefficient. You would think that for all that waste and suffering that there would be some cost savings but even that is not true. For every 1 calorie that chicken meat provides, it takes 8 calories to grow that chicken. The ratio is a staggering 34:1 for beef.

 

 

THE ARGUMENT AGAINST EATING ANIMALS

John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods Market, wrote a great book “The Whole Foods Diet” discussing the health, ethics and environmental impact of eating animal products. He has a rational way of looking at meat-eating. I’ve paraphrased it, and I added a 5th point myself, as follows:

  1. If you’re going to eat animals, the animal necessarily has to die and 99% of animals for human consumption are raised inhumanely on factory farms. Their lives are miserable.
  2. You don’t have to eat animal foods to be healthy. There is undeniable scientific evidence that the more plant-based your diet is, the healthier you will be.
  3. We eat animals primarily because we’ve learned to eat them. We were raised by our families and by our culture to eat them. We’ve grown to enjoy the taste because of it.
  4. Can you justify the inevitable death and the unavoidable suffering of these animals just to satisfy the pleasure of your palate?
  5. You can’t profess to care about animals and/or the environment while simultaneously continuing to eat animal products with every meal just because “you like it”. The animal agriculture industry is responsible for at least 25% of greenhouse gasses (more than all vehicles worldwide combined) and more oceanic pollution than all industrial sources combined. This system is also responsible for immeasurable animal suffering. Avoiding animal products is not just good for you, it’s also good for the planet and shows compassion for the animals.

99% of the animals killed in the world today die to satisfy our obsession with eating animal products. The vast majority of these animals live horribly sad and abusive lives and are slaughtered inhumanely. Baby chicks put alive into meat grinders if they are not the right sex (click and watch this if you have the stomach for it), collateral by-kill fish trapped in fishing nets, farm animals crammed into cages so tightly that they can’t even turn around… the list of examples of the abuse they endure is long. It’s all pretty hard to read about but it’s the way it is and we turn a blind eye and tolerate it. Unfortunately, we have separated the food on the plate from the process of how it got there and most people sadly don’t want to know. We also have conveniently decided that some animals are pets, and some we eat. This phenomenon is called “Carnism“. Watch this Ted Talk by Dr. Melanie Joy where she talks about this concept. Her book reference is below along with some more information about this concept. This idea of selective eating is very much cultural, habitual, cruel and hypocritical. Dogs are eaten in the Orient. That’s sad enough but to make it even worse, they are tortured before they are slaughtered because of a misguided notion that meat from a stressed dog is somehow healthier to eat. Horse meat is a delicacy in France and Canada. Dolphins are culled and slaughtered in Japan. Cows are revered in India however all other meat is usually acceptable. We can call it “cultural” but it’s really simply hypocritical.

The lives of factory raised animals are pretty sad. Puppy-mill owners and private citizens who treat dogs and cats this way are prosecuted and imprisoned but piglets are routinely killed on pig farms by smashing their heads against the concrete. Because this is considered “common agricultural practice” it does not fall under the animal cruelty laws and is not considered a crime. The same goes for practices like ripping out the beaks of chickens so they don’t “hurt themselves” and cutting and cauterizing cows tails to “minimize the risk of infection”. One can justify any kind of behavior. Why is that same judicial standard and compassion not extended to the abuse and mistreatment of other animals? Compassion must extend to all animals, not just our pets.

 

 

SOME GENERAL STATISTICS

  • More animals raised for food die every day than humans were killed by every conflict in human history combined.
  • 70 billion farm animals are raised for food in the world each year.
  • 65% of them (worldwide) are raised on factory farms in inhumane, unsanitary conditions. 
  • Factory farms (as opposed to smaller, more humane farms) in the US raise 99.9% of chickens, 97% of laying hens, 99% of turkeys, 95% of pigs, and 78% of cattle.
  • 9% of these animals (about 9 billion) die of disease or stress-related conditions before even making it to the slaughterhouse.
  • The number of pigs raised for food each year:10 million in the UK.110 million in the US.300 million in Europe (excluding UK).
    • 680 million in China.
  • 60 BILLION animals are killed yearly for food worldwide. In the US, 10 billion die. This includes:
    • 9 Billion Chickens (that’s over a million per hour).
    • 115 Million Pigs.
    • 35 Million cattle.
  • The ratio of farm animals killed for consumption to the number of dogs and cats euthanized in shelters is 3000:1.
  • There are NO federal laws protecting farm animals from abuse like there are protecting dogs and cats.
  • Although there is a weakly enforced federal “Humane Slaughter Act” which prevents cruelty during the slaughter process, this law does not apply to any poultry and oddly, rabbits are included in the “poultry” category. This act was approved in 1958 and specifically mentions only cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep and swine.
  • The agricultural and factory farm industries are so powerful that in some states, it is illegal to stand on public land (like the sidewalk or street) and take a photograph or video of a slaughterhouse or farm. These are call AgGag, or Agricultural Gag laws. These facilities and companies don’t want any press making them look bad, even if it is the truth. Some states also have “food disparagement” laws which forbid public criticism of the food industry.
  • United States farm law requires most animals but not birds or fish to be rendered “insensible to pain” before being slaughtered. This is ridiculous since ALL creatures experience pain and suffering.
  • 75% of the animals on the endangered species list are there because of farming or ranching.
  • An average person living in a developed country who is not a vegetarian or vegan will consume approximately 7,000 animals during his or her lifetime.
  • Of the 29 million tons of antibiotics produced, 24 million (82%) is fed to livestock, mostly as a preventative measure and growth stimulant. This is the main cause of drug resistance accounting for more than 30,000 deaths annually and hundreds of thousands of illness as at a cost of 2.1 trillion annually. The rate of these infections increases at  a rate of 20% a year!

 

 

STATISTICS ON FACTORY FARMING

  • 90% of the worlds edible fish stocks are fully exploited and dangerously over-fished.
  • 50% of the general ocean fish population is already depleted.
  • 70% of fish oil comes from Peruvian Anchovies. They put a 1-year moratorium on anchovy harvesting because there was a risk of “100% depletion”. That’s a technical way of saying “over-fished to extinction”.
  • 1/3rd of the world’s fresh water and usable land mass is used for raising livestock for human consumption.
  • 96% of pigs were raised on factory farms as of 2006. It was only 30% in 1992.
  • 97% of chickens are contaminated with E. Coli as well as many viruses.
  • Americans eat 1 million chickens an hour.
  • 70% of the fat in salmon is saturated fat (the bad kind).
  • ALL open water fish are contaminated with mercury, PCBs and other environmental contaminants. Farmed fish are worse, treated with antibiotics and raised in unsanitary and stressful conditions feeding on their own waste.
  • Fish on fish farms are fed 5 lbs. of wild-caught fish to produce 1 lb. of farmed fish flesh.
  • ¼ of wild caught fish go towards farm grown fish feed.
  • It takes 120 fresh fish made into fish food to raise just one farm raised salmon.
  • 80% of antibiotics used in US are used on animals raised for food. The vast majority of those antibiotics are not used to treat infection but either to prevent them or, more commonly, as a growth stimulant. Because of this significant exposure, 30% of animal farm workers are colonized (meaning it is always in and on their bodies) with MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus), the “flesh-eating bacteria”.
  • Bacteria resistant to ALL antibiotics have recently been found on pig farms. Infections with this bacterium is 50% lethal in humans.
  • 70% of grain grown in US is fed to animals on feedlots.
  • It takes 16 lbs. of grain to produce 1 lb of meat.
  • Factory farm jobs are the most dangerous jobs in the US. More dangerous than being a policeman or fireman!

 

 

5 Farm Animals That Are Probably Smarter Than Your Dog

(from One Green Planet)

People love their pets. Dogs and cats, parrots and horses. Most want to treat their pets with the kindness and respect they truly deserve. Farm animals, unfortunately, rarely get treated in this manner. Although they are just as smart, adorable and loving as their dog and cat counterparts, they are still categorized as a “commodity.” Once we acknowledge the how amazing these animals truly are, it becomes harder to justify the ways we abuse them. While it might be uncomfortable to challenge the idea that farm animals are food, when we know what we do about their intelligence and abilities, don’t we owe it them to share the truth?

If you knew that farm animals were as intelligent as your children or pets, would you stop eating meat? If you answered “yes,” then it might be time to do so. From pigs to cows, sheep to chickens, farm animals are all much smarter than we’ve ever given them credit for. Pigs learn their names and can do tricks like a dog. Cows, goats, and chickens all have incredibly complex social constructs, and they have best friends just like we do.

  1. PIGS are highly intelligent and are one of only a few species that can recognize themselves in a mirror, a test of self-awareness. Human children don’t pass this test until around age two! Dogs and cats do not pass the test ever. Not only do pigs recognize themselves, but they also show an understanding of how mirrors work, and can use the reflections to find food. Pigs are also known to play games. They like to play with toys, such a balls, and are prone to getting bored if they aren’t provided with enough stimulation.
  2. COWS have extremely good memories. Not only do they recognize faces, both animal and human, they will remember faces even after a long period of time. They can recognize up to 70 different other cows. Cows also remember where to find the best grazing spots and directions to their favorite watering hole. Cows form strong bonds and friendships with other cows and will even select a “cow clique,” and hang out with only their best friends. Cows have a social hierarchy among the members of their herd. There is typically one cow who is the “boss” and dictates the behavior of her followers. If a cow doesn’t want to listen to this head cow, they are isolated from the herd (just like high school). And when a new cow is introduced to the herd, she has to network and build relationships with other members of the herd before she is fully accepted. Cows are very attached to their young. When dairy cows give birth, their calves are often removed within hours of birth and cows get very stressed, sometimes chasing after their young (watch
  3. CHICKENS have proven that they aren’t necessarily “bird-brained.” Like pigs, chickens can learn to do puzzles and play games. Chickens are quite affectionate and are amazing mothers, taking care of their babies long before they have hatched. It has been found that they “talk” and “purr” to the eggs during incubation. When the chicks hatch, hens are even more loving. They defend their babies from predators, show empathy for their chicks teaching their young everything they need to know including what is safe to eat and what to avoid. They also teach them about the social hierarchy, or “pecking order”. Baby chicks show signs of intelligence right from the beginning. They are known to show object permanence, the ability to understand an object exists, even when they can’t see it. Chicks develop this ability when they are around two days old, while it takes human babies six months to learn this skill.
  4. SHEEP have gained the reputation of being unintelligent followers who don’t ask questions however, this is just not true! Sheep are also capable of recognizing all kinds of faces. They recognize sheep in their flock and are aware when these sheep are missing. They can recognize “bully” sheep, and get distressed when they come around. These sheep can even recognize the person who cares for them and the sheepdog that herds them! If the appearance of another individual is altered, the sheep have no problem still identifying who it is, and they can keep track of over 50 different sheep faces! If you make a sheep mad, chances are they are going to remember you and that event for over two years!
  5. GOATS never cease to make us smile with their sheer enthusiasm for life. It turns out that goats aren’t only adorable, but they are incredibly good at problem and puzzle solving, including those designed to test primates. They’re determination plus aptitude for challenges allows them to apply these problem-solving skills to help them get to food other animals wouldn’t be able to reach. Goats in Morocco, for example, are known to climb trees to reach the tastiest branches.

 

 

MATERNAL BONDS – A FEW SURPRISING ANIMALS

  1. BROWN BEARS. Male brown bears often kill cubs fathered by another male of the same species, in order to mate with more females, increasing their progeny. One-third of brown bear cubs die during mating season with 90% of those deaths being from a male bear looking to mate. Female brown bears have adapted to raising their cubs closer to humans, keeping scared males away. This act of using a “human shield” gives the cubs a greater chance of survival
  2. LIONS. Lionesses run the world of big cats. They make up the majority of the pride, hunt for the males, and take care of their cubs. During mating season, multiple female members of the pride will give birth at the same time and nurse their cubs for up to 2 years. Like some other species, lionesses will care for other females’ cubs in the pride, but not just to babysit; lactating moms will let any of the pride’s offspring nurse from them. It takes a village!
  3. PIGS are not only incredibly smart, emotive, and very chatty, they’re also great mothers. Pigs have dozens of distinctive grunts, including specific ones to call their piglets, the human equivalent of names! Piglets learn to recognize their mothers’ voices after only two weeks. Like many human mothers, pigs build strong relationships with their babies and get anxious when separated from them. When nursing, mother pigs have even been known to sing to their piglets
  4. ELEPHANTS endure 22 months of pregnancy and give birth to 200-pound babies and female elephants stay with their mothers their entire lives. The largest land mammal on the earth has one of the strongest bonds between her calf. The herds they live in are matriarchal, often consisting of mothers, sisters, and calves and led by an elder female. Mother elephants select several relatives as “babysitters” for their calves so they can enjoy eating in peace, every mother’s dream. The phenomenon called “allomothering,” sisters, aunts and any other females will help care for the baby, giving mom a much-needed break.
  5. ORCAS. Like elephants, orcas have a long gestation period lasting 17 months. Similarly, their calves, but both male and female, stay with them their entire lives. While male orcas will mate with females from other pods, they always return to their original pods where their mother orcas coddle their sons. Orca mothers continue to help grown sons fight off predators and find food long into adulthood. Many males often die one year after their mothers do. This extended involvement in their offspring’s life is one of the reasons orcas are one of the few species of animals, including humans and pilot whales, to have extended post-menopausal life.
  6. CHICKENS. Like pigs, chickens have many vocalizations, including specific calls for alerting their flock when predators are nearby, and chicks can let their mothers know when they’re uncomfortable. While that’s impressive, mother hens use their vocalizations to do something sweeter; mother hens chirp to their chicks before they’re born. What’s more, the chicks chirp back inside the eggs. Incredible mothers, chickens have even been videotaped shielding their babies from the rain.
  7. OPOSSUM moms are better than a minivan. Known for giving birth to large litters, they can have as many as 15 babies clutching to moms fur. When the babies are younger, they live in their mom’s pouch and then switch to her back for a ride as they grow up.
  8. POLAR BEAR moms sacrifice their lifestyle and freedom gaining over 200 pounds and spending 9 months holed up in a tiny den in preparation for birth where she then goes 4-8 months without eating. She gives birth while in the den in isolation. When Spring arrives around March, she leads her cubs out to the ice to hunt seals. This is the beginning of a two-and-a-half year period where the cubs stick closely by her side.
  9. ORANGUTANS‘ unbreakable, nurturing bond lasts decades. But this bond isn’t just when they are young. As orangutans grow, they learn everything from foraging to nest-building from their mothers. They spend 6-7 years with mom, but even after they move out of the nest, female orangutans will often “visit” their mothers until they reach the age of 15 or 16.
  10. EMPEROR PENGUINS  literally walk 50 miles for their babies. After she lays an egg, an emperor penguin mom will walk 50 miles, in the most incredibly cold and windy conditions, to the ocean to catch fish and then return to regurgitate that fish to the hatched chick. The male, who has been keeping the chick warm while mom was away, passes the chick back to the feet of the female, who keeps him tucked close to her body to avoid the cold, which can kill a chick in just two minutes. Penguin moms have also been observed grieving for her young chick. Because they only lay one egg each year, the chicks are incredibly valuable to penguin moms.
  11. OCTOPUS moms will starve herself for her babies. For most animals, just one baby to raise is enough. For octopuses, 200,000 is the mark to hit. In one of the astounding examples of altruism in the animal kingdom, she lays eggs just once, and guards the clutch ferociously. She cares for the eggs for one month, never leaving, not even for food. They have even been observed eating their own tentacles, rather than leaving their offspring. The eggs hatch and float away, while the mom will often die, starved or too weak to defend against predators.
  12. ALLIGATORS carry her babies in her giant jaws. The inside of an alligator’s mouth is not where an animal wants to be, unless you’re an alligator hatchling. That’s exactly where you want to be. She carries the babies in her mouth to protect them from predators like herons and skunks. She will stay with her babies for about a year, coming to protect them whenever they call out, and even providing free rides.

Inter-species Adoption. Biologically, it doesn’t make much sense for animals to adopt the young of other species, but there are many examples of it in the animal world! One example of animals adopting offspring from another species is an infant marmoset adopted by a Capuchin group in 2004. The infant had two Capuchin adopted mothers and was tolerated by the rest of the group. In 2019, a bottle-nose dolphin was spotted with her biological calf and adopted whale calf. He rarely left his adopted mother’s side and even took on some bottle-nose dolphin behavior like surfing, jumping, and socializing with other males. Dolphins have been known to kidnap calves of other species!

 

COWS AND CATTLE

Modern cattle are descendants of the wild ox, also known as Aurochs, which used to roam most of the world. They have been extinct since the 17th century and were domesticated starting around 10,000 years ago. Today, their descendants are represented by over 1000 breeds of cattle. In the 1800’s, dairy cows produced about 1000 liters of milk annually. Through selective breeding and forced pregnancy and lactation, that average is now 10,000 liters a year.

As we have co-existed with cattle and our reliance, along with our close co-existence with them increased, we started sharing diseases with them as well. There are 15 cattle diseases with zoonotic (diseases passed between different species) potential in the United States, some of which are more common than others. They include anthrax, brucellosis, cryptosporidiosis, dermatophilosis, Escherichia coli, giardiasis, leptospirosis, listeriosis, pseudo-cowpox, Q fever, rabies, ringworm, salmonellosis, and even tuberculosis. It is no surprise that vaccines were first started with cows as well. Smallpox vaccine, the first successful vaccine to be developed, was introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796. He followed up his observation that milkmaids who had previously caught cowpox did not later catch smallpox by showing that inoculated cowpox protected against smallpox. The name “vaccine” itself is derived from the word for cow. “Vache” is a cow in French. “Vaccanus” is a cow in Latin. Vacca is a cow in Spanish. For more information about our history and the evolution of cows, click this link: OUR HISTORY WITH COWS

Although they can live for 20 years, most cows are slaughtered long before that, usually around 6 years of age. They can start giving birth at 2-3 years and they are forced to do so as soon as is possible. They are intelligent creatures with a hierarchical social structure and they communicate by touch, smell, vocalization and body language, just like any other mammal. They can distinguish and identify up to 70 different other cows. They cry for their offspring just like we do also.

Dairy cows must remain pregnant to produce milk. They are kept in a pregnant state for 75% of their lives. As soon as their milk production drops off, they are immediately sold for slaughter, usually by 6 years of age.  The living conditions, torture and abuse they endure is pretty sad but most people don’t know about it or sadly, they don’t want to know. Some of the physical procedures they endure often with no anesthesia or pain medications afterwards include: 

  • De-budding – removal of their horns using chemical or electrical burning.
  • Teat removal – extra nipples are common and are usually just cut off with scissors and cauterized (burned).
  • Tail docking – the cutting of their tail either with a hot iron, crushing or banding. This is done because of the false belief that it is more hygienic for them.
  • Castration – done as early as 8 days old. Usually performed surgically by removing the testicles or by crushing the spermatic cord.

Dairy cows are kept in very tight, enclosed cages from the day they are born until the time they are sold for slaughter. This is a short document outlining The Life of Dairy Cows.

Cows are gentle animals who are affectionate, emotional and intelligent. Mahatma Gandhi described a cow as “a poem of compassion.” Cows are certainly deserving of our compassion as well as our understanding and respect. Here are some of their well identified characteristics:

  • COWS ARE SMART. The idea that cows are dumb is a myth. Cows are actually very intelligent, curious and able to think critically and solve problems. Cows learn associations and use past experiences to determine their future actions. Faced with a challenge, cows get very excited with elevated heart rates and brainwaves.  They even jump in the air as if they are yelling, “I did it!”. Watch this video to see this joyous behavior.
  • COWS REMEMBER EVERYTHING. Cows have great memories and are very good at remembering and recognizing faces (as many as 70 different ones) even after long periods of time. Cows also have good spatial memory. They can remember where things are located such as food, water, shelter, best grazing spots and most importantly, the location of their babies.
  • COWS ARE HIGHLY EMOTIONAL even demonstrating mood swings. They are unhappy when the weather is bad and practically smiling when it’s sunny outside. Like humans, cows seek pleasure and love to play. When let outside after being cooped up for too long, cows run, prance and jump with joy. Sometimes cows just want to be left alone, isolating themselves from others. Cows can be moody and sensitive. They may dislike certain individuals and can hold a grudge for years against other cows and people who have crossed them.
  • COWS FORM CLOSE FRIENDSHIPS choosing to spend much of their time with just a few preferred individuals. They even have best friends and when separated from them, their stress levels increase. Cows help each other, learn from each other and make decisions based on compassion and altruism. They even form grooming partnerships where they can do each other’s hair.
  • COWS CAN BE POPULAR having a social hierarchy and there is often one cow in the herd who is seen as the “boss” and who dictates behavior to the rest of the cows. Any cows that don’t follow the leader will become isolated from the herd. When new cows are introduced to a well-established herd, she will have to network and build relationships until she is accepted into the pack.
  • COWS LOVE THEIR BABIES having strong maternal bonds and are attentive, protective and loving parents. When allowed, a mother cow may nurse her calf for as long as three years. The mother-child bond continues after weaning and they remain close to each other for life. There is also a sense of maternal community as other cows in the herd will help nurture calves if necessary. When their calves are removed, even if within a few hours of birth, cows will cry out and bellow for them for as long as 2 weeks.
  • COWS GRIEVE DEEPLY. When a calf is taken away, the mother will cry and bellow for hours, even days, and fall into a deep depression. Mother cows will search for their babies, visibly distressed, just as the calves cry for their mother.
  • COWS SAY MORE THAN “MOO”. They do “moo” to communicate but they also use different body positions, direct bodily contact, gestures and facial expressions. Cows also mimic each other’s actions. If one cow gets up from eating and starts walking across the field, other cows may get up and follow.
  • ARE AFFECTIONATE AND FORGIVING. Cows love to be petted, stroked and scratched behind the ears. They are loving and welcome interactions with kind people. Even cows who have been mistreated or abused in the past can heal over time, forgive and learn to trust people again.

Read the full article about cows here.

 

PIGS ARE MISUNDERSTOOD

100 million pigs are raised and slaughtered annually in the US. Not only are pigs killed for food, but also for high school and medical school science classes where fetuses are commonly dissected. Torturing them is also commonly done, especially in the south in such blood sports as “hog baiting” where dogs are unleashed on pigs and they are mauled to death.

Pigs are commonly thought of as dirty, stupid animals but nothing could be farther from the truth. They are very curious and intelligent and have the equivalent mental capacity of a 3-year-old human, far more intelligent than dogs. They are vocal, recognize each other as well as their offspring, even years after being separated for many years. They even recognize and react to humans, both ones they like and ones they do not, again even after many years of separation. They are loyal. They love to play. They form complex social units with a structured hierarchy. Mother pigs sing to their young when they are feeding. As mentioned above, they are the only animal able to recognize itself in a mirror, a sign of “self-awareness”. They are also able to use a mirrors reflection to localize food.

There are many phrases in the American vernacular that are associated with the misconceptions about pigs. These phrases propagate these misconceptions, in the same way that previously commonly used words and phrases referring to humans are no longer used because they are no longer “politically correct”. Here are a few examples:

Filthy Pig”. Pigs are actually quite clean and will refuse to poop or pee anywhere near their food. They designate a special place in their pens for excrement. As far as rolling in the mud, there are actually very good and practical reasons for that.

Sweat like a pig”. They lack functional sweat glands, so this characterization is also completely inaccurate. They roll in water and mud since the evaporative process helps to keep them cool. In addition, the mud acts as a sunscreen as well as a natural bug repellent.

Eat like a pig” or “Fat pig”. Actually, if left to their own devices, pigs do not overeat. They are great foragers but do not eat to excess, just like most other animals in the animal kingdom. In fact, the only animals on the planet who become obese and develop chronic diseases are humans and the animals/pets/agricultural animals we keep and “care for”. Pigs have been bred to become huge for increased mass and financial gain. Most commercially raised pigs get to slaughter weight, about 250 lbs., by 6 months of age! If they are left to continue to eat and grow, they become so massive that their legs break under the stress of their own weight. Pigs are fed various chemicals such as hormones and antibiotics to stimulate growth. There is an appropriately named food additive called Hogcrave which stimulates them to overeat.

Some other common phrases include “Capitalist pig”, “Self righteous pig”, “Squeal like a stuck pig”, “Bleed like a stuck pig”, “Road hog”, “Make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, “Male Chauvinist pig”, “Pig Out”, “Pig stye”, “Hog the limelight”. These phrases are all inaccurate, insulting and promote misconceptions which denigrate these wonderful animals.

 

 

FISH ARE JUST AS MISUNDERSTOOD

As you can surmise from some of the statistics mentioned above and on my Environment page, we have decimated the oceans not only from a pollution standpoint but also with respect to how we have killed the majority of the sea-life which occupy it. We make many assumptions about fish which are simply wrong. I suspect that in most cases, we really do know better but we just don’t want to know, just like with all other farm-raised animals. As long as it makes it to our plates, we don’t care how it got there. Here are a few common misconceptions:

  • We think they have only a 3 second memory but Sockeye Salmon recall every detail of their birth river.  Years later, they make their way back there when it’s their time to spawn.
  • We think they can’t smell but the American Eel can detect one millionth of a drop of home water in an Olympic sized pool.
  • We think they can’t hear but Koi will grow faster if the music of Mozart and Beethoven is played for them.
  • We think they can’t use tools but Trigger Fish will pick up stones and knock on the side of a tank to let you know that it’s feeding time.
  • We think they can’t feel pain but we evolved from the same common ancestors. A hook through a fish’s cheek will hurt a Cod just like it hurts you. Fish will avoid parts of their tanks where electric shocks have been introduced.

They have organized social structure, care for their young, feel emotions, communicate in various, unique ways and have every right to live as we do.

 

What A Fish Knows”  Johnathan Balcomb

Fish are much more intelligent, social and interactive than we realize

 

 

 

 

ANIMAL TESTING

Each year, more than 100 million animals, including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds, are killed in U.S. laboratories for biology lessons, medical training, scientific experimentation, as well as in chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics testing. There is a common belief that they don’t feel pain or emotions, especially fish, but this is completely wrong. They all feel physical and emotional pain the way we do.

As far as drug testing goes, each drug developed often results in the experimentation and inevitable deaths of tens of thousands of animals. They are forced to endure such things as inhaling toxic fumes, ingesting drug compounds and suffer various painful tests like topical applications leading to skin reactions and burning. Others are immobilized in restraint devices for hours. They are confined to barren cages, socially isolated, and psychologically traumatized. These thinking and feeling animals used in experiments are treated like nothing more than disposable laboratory equipment.

In addition to enduring drug testing, these animals are usually given the disease they are trying to treat. For example, if a drug is being tested to treat HIV, the animals, usually monkeys, are infected with the HIV virus. What is completely ridiculous is that monkeys are not affected by the HIV virus the way humans are so doing tests on them is much less applicable to humans. This is the case for many drugs. Animals simply are NOT small humans. Their anatomy and physiology are different and they respond both to disease and drugs differently. A classic example of this is how humans who take synthroid, a once-a day thyroid hormone replacement, can skip a day and it won’t impact on them or their hormone levels a bit. Dogs on the other hand, need to take synthroid twice a day because of how quickly their bodies metabolize it. Another example is aspirin, easily tolerated by humans but lethal in cats, even compensating for size differences.

Animals’ cells also respond to toxic stimuli differently. A classic and extremely sad example of this was how animals responded to tobacco smoke. Not a single animal model was able to reproduce the toxicity or cancer causing effects of smoke on their bodies the way tobacco affects humans. This is partly why it took so long for the government and society in general to accept that smoking was harmful. This idea was around for decades. Think of  the number of humans who died from smoking related diseases because of the false sense of security non-applicable animal testing provided.

The reality is that the majority of animal experiments do not contribute to improving human health, and the value of the role that animal experimentation plays in most medical advances is questionable. Drug failure rate in humans after successful animal testing is as high as 95% by some estimates. There is however a lot of money to be made in the drug-development industry. It costs nearly $2 Billion to develop a drug for human use. SOMEONE is making a lot of money.

Newer technologies, such as Organ-On Chip (Click here for more information), recreate actual human cells and organs without the need to torture and kill animals. Research combining artificial intelligence and heart-on-a-chip technology was recently profiled in the media. These technologies are more applicable to humans since actual human cells are used. Many more studies can be tested at a fraction of the time and cost compared with testing on animals.

 

 

HUMAN RIGHTS, RACISM, LEATHER AND ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

Although these issues may seem unrelated, they certainly are not. I mentioned at the top of this page that how humans treat each other says a lot about us. The world of industrial agriculture and animal production reveals a lot about how we treat both other humans and the animals. The vast majority of the crops we grow go to feed the animals we raise in horrible conditions to manufacture and provide the unhealthy foods most people eat. Furthermore, these unhealthy processed foods are marketed towards lower-income and in most cases minority populations. To make the foods cheap, many corners are cut and unsafe and unhealthy practices are used. Cheap labor is one of the major ways that the food industry keeps things cheap. The same goes for the leather industry which is horrific track record when it comes to looking out for the health of its workers. 8 of the top 10 lowest paying jobs are in the food industry with the top ones being on the production side.

Jobs on factory farms, which employ more than 500,000 workers in the US alone, are the most dangerous of all types of employment and have one of the highest turnover rates in America, exceeding 95 to 100% annually. These workers come from low-income families with approximately 72% of them being born outside the United States, 68% born in Mexico alone. 38% of farm workers do not speak any English and 48% do not have legal authorization to work in the United States with only 33% being U.S. citizens. For employees without legal authorization, the job is something they can easily obtain in order to provide for themselves and their families. However these dangerous jobs do not come without consequences. 

Workers on agricultural farms and in the animal/meat industry have some of the highest rates of injuries, infections, depression and PTSD, various chronic disease and cancer. More than a third of factory farm workers are infected with MRSA, the “flesh-eating” bacteria because of all the antibiotic exposure. Leather and textile/clothing workers are also subject to significant physical and mental abuse.

Slaughterhouse workers are “at-will” employees, meaning they can be fired at any time. As a result, very few workplace hazards are reported to supervisors for fear they will lose their jobs or be replaced by somebody else willing to do the grueling and dangerous work. Factory farms depend on these types of employees because they are thankful for the work and, as a result, unlikely to unionize and will endure horrible working conditions, long hours and accept very little pay. 

The longer the employees work at factory farms, the more likely they are to be injured. After 5 years, workers have a 50% probability of being injured on the job. Injuries range from contracting diseases from handling the animal carcasses to severe injuries from using the line equipment. During an average workday, employees inhale toxic fumes like ammonia and hydrogen sulfide along with a number of airborne bacteria and viruses. The air quality is so bad in these farms that 70% of farm workers experience some sort of respiratory issue. There are also long-term injuries to the employees’ hands, arms, shoulders and backs due to the physical and repetitive nature of the work.

The poultry industry has abused and taken advantage of minority communities subjecting them to starvation wages, labor law violations and unsafe work conditions. A 2016 OXFAM report revealed that at the 4 largest poultry companies, workers are routinely denied bathroom breaks, forcing workers to soil themselves on the job or wear diapers in order to avoid retribution by supervisors. Government fines are so low and assembly line speeds are so fast that permanent crippling injuries are commonplace, but under-reported. The daily exposure to carnage and death also results in an extremely high rate of depression and PTSD.

The worst of it all is the number of people killed by this kind of work. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 20.2 deaths per 100,000 workers in 2012. That’s about 100 people a year. The CDC also reports that every day, about 167 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury. 5% of these injuries result in permanent impairment.

Most companies do not provide their workers healthcare coverage and many of these workers cannot find proper transportation or time off to even get to a doctor. Most workers are afraid of reporting these conditions because they want to keep their jobs and steady income. That income, at roughly $23,000 a year, barely keeps these employees at or above the poverty line.

Labor laws are also not taken too seriously in the factory farming industry. While no employees under 18 years old are “officially” hired, investigations have shown workers as young as 15-years-old employed by these farms.

Factory Farming and the Community

Factory farming doesn’t just hurt the people who work in the industry. It has much larger implications for the people who live near these facilities as well as our global environment.

More than 37% of methane emissions come directly from factory farms. Methane has a global warming potential 20x higher than carbon. The majority of our methane comes from cows and the waste they produce. Another common source of methane is actually rotting, wasted food crops like sugar cane.

On average, animals in the agriculture industry produce 130x more excrement than the entire human population combined. Eventually, all the waste that comes from factory farms has to go somewhere. And that somewhere can be straight onto and into us. This waste is stored in massive open-air cesspools and because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t regulate the air and water pollution created by factory farms, they are allowed to spray this waste on surrounding lands that are usually near people’s homes. The toxins and harmful gases released from this waste causes people to suffer from respiratory infections, headaches and can even cause blue-baby syndrome if it enters waterways. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria from livestock waste can be spread through the air.

There are many airborne diseases that come from factory farming, such as swine and avian flu.

Despite the pleadings local communities to get factory farms to stop polluting their air and water, nothing has been done to regulate their actions. Factory farms are usually located in low-income areas where residents can’t afford to move meaning they have no choice but to suffer the negative health impacts. All the runoff from the manure ponds these animal and dairy farms create directly pollute local water supplies, not to mention the air local communities breathe. The rates of various chronic diseases is significantly higher in these areas. Disease rates of workers in slaughterhouses is much higher than any other industry. Coming close are such industries as leather and clothing industries.

Meat, dairy and factory farming industries have devastated low-income and minority communities. Skin lesions, respiratory symptoms, higher infant mortality rates, increased cancer and other chronic disease rates are all present in these communities.

The toxic food products which result from industrial farming, are then marketed and sold to people in low-income and immigrant communities. They bear the brunt of the horrible health effects of these foods. It’s basically institutionalized racism. Poor people and people of color are being exploited to grow, raise and produce unhealthy food for other poor people and people of color .

The Leather/Clothing Industry. The process of tanning (preventing animal skins from decaying) involves vast amounts of toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. Chromium and cyanide runoff from these tanneries is considered the #1 threat to water pollution and ocean dead zones worldwide. Tannery workers are subjected to numerous workplace hazards. They have significantly increased rates of cancers such as lung, testicular, soft tissue sarcoma, bladder and blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. The CDC found that the incidence of leukemia in a county in Kentucky near a tannery was 5x the national average. In India, the leather industry is significantly worse. Deadly accidents are commonplace. Workers cleaning underground waste suffocate from the fumes. Workers getting caught and drowning in toxic sludge. Fevers, eye inflammation, rashes, cancers of numerous types.

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t just help your health, the environment and obviously the animals, it also helps protect human rights and your fellow-man.

MooShoes is one of a number of innovative companies making good-quality cruelty-free, vegan clothing.

 

 

MEATLESS MONDAYS and ONE MEATLESS MEAL A DAY

Given the amount of animal products consumed by humans, you would think that skipping meat, fish, dairy and eggs one day a week would not have much impact on the environment and the animals but, just like individuals recycling every day, it actually has a huge impact over time. For example, if every American skipped only one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the CO2 savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. Below are some other eye-opening statistics.

Over the course of a year, if you did not eat animal products 1 day a week, the following would occur:

  • One less burger a week would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 320 miles.
  • Eating meat-free with your family once a week would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for 5 weeks, or reducing everyone’s daily showers by 3 minutes from the water savings.
  • Skipping steak once a week with your family would be the equivalent of taking your car off the road for nearly 3 months.
  • If the entire U.S. did not eat meat or cheese for just one day a week, it would be the equivalent of not driving 91 billion miles, or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.

As a country eating vegetarian for one day, we would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months.
  • 5 billion pounds of crops that would otherwise be fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year.
  • 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico with plenty to spare.
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware.
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion.
  • 5 million tons of animal excrement, which would eliminate almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

Going animal-product free even one meal a day has significant ramifications as well. One person, changing to only one vegan meal a day would lead to a yearly water savings of over 200,000 gallons and would also save the amount of carbon it would take to drive from LA to NYC. For more information about One Meal a Day and the significant impact it can have, click here.

Another method of assessing the effects of a vegan diet is to use a vegan calculator. After one month, an individual who switched from a meat-based to a plant based diet would:

  • save 33 animals from death.
  • save 33,000 gallons of water otherwise used for animal food production.
  • would avoid the destruction of 900 square feet of forest.
  • would skip the creation of 600 pounds of CO2 gas.
  • would allow 1,200 pounds of grain used to feed animals for their consumption to be diverted to feed starving communities worldwide.

 

 

CARNISM

Eating animals is a choice, not a necessity. In meat-eating cultures around the world, people don’t think about why they eat certain animals but not others, or why they eat animals at all. To be healthy, eating meat is simply not necessary, therefore, it is a choice and choices are made based on beliefs. These beliefs are called carnism. This is the cultural ideology that conditions people to only eat certain animals and not others. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system. Because carnism is so ingrained in cultural upbringing it’s essentially invisible. It’s cultural, habitual, cruel and hypocritical. As mentioned above, dogs are tortured and eaten in the Orient. Horse meat is a delicacy in France and even Canada. Dolphins are culled and slaughtered in Japan. It goes on and on. In The US, we prosecute and imprison people who abuse dogs and cats yet it is perfectly legal to take a piglet on a farm by the legs and kill it by smashing its head into the concrete. It’s common “agricultural practice” so its legal.

Carnism is a dominant belief system. It is so widespread that its principles and practices are considered common sense or “the way things are”. Carnistic bias is built into the very foundations of society.

Carnism is also a violent belief system: it is organized around intensive, extensive, and unnecessary violence toward animals. Even the production of so-called humane meat, eggs, and dairy, a tiny percentage of the animal foods produced in the world today, exploits animals and involves brutality.

In short, carnism is a system of oppression. It is enabled by an unjust exercise of power that causes unnecessary harm to billions. As long as people are unaware of how carnism impacts them, they will be unable to make our food choices freely. Without awareness and understanding, there is no free choice.

This is a link for a more detailed description of Carnism.

 

 

POACHING and the FUR TRADE

The illegal poaching, trafficking and trading of wildlife, plants and animals is a global crisis, with many species being pushed towards extinction in the wild. An iconic example of this is the senseless killing of elephants and rhinos for their tusks and horns. Just to give you an idea of what is involved financially, rhinoceros horns are valued at $25-30 a pound or about $35,000 per horn. They are mostly in demand in the Orient where they are used in traditional medicinal ways but more and more, they are becoming a status symbol for the growing “Nouveau Rich”. Rhino numbers have been decimated. They numbered around 1 million in 2000. Now, there are fewer than 5000 rhinos left in the wild. Some of these animals are killed by local poor populations trying to survive but the vast majority are killed through organized crime operations.

For more information about poaching and efforts to stamp it out, please visit the United for Wildlife website. Another great site is the African Wildlife Foundation.

Here are some facts about the fur trade:

  • Almost 75,000,000 animals are killed annually for their fur.
  • 85% of the fur industry’s skins come from animals who were held captive on fur factory farms. They live crammed into severely crowded, filthy cages. Many are later beaten or electrocuted. Sometimes, they are even skinned alive.
  • Although most animals killed for their fur come from fur farms, millions of raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, beavers, and other fur-bearing animals are killed every year by trappers. The steel-jaw trap, which the is the most widely used trap. It’s been banned by the European Union and a growing number of U.S. states.
  • One billion rabbits are killed each year so that their fur can be used in clothing or for lures in fly fishing or trim on craft items like good luck charms like rabbits feet! Remember those!
  • Electrocuting fur-bearing animals anally and genitally is an agonizing slaughter method used frequently in order to limit damage to the fur. New York is the first state to have banned this inhumane practice.
  • There are no penalties for people who abuse animals on fur farms in China, the world’s largest fur exporter.
  • In China, there’s a thriving cat and dog fur industry. They are bludgeoned, hanged, and even skinned alive for their fur. which is often mislabeled and exported to unsuspecting consumers around the world.
  • There are no federal laws to protect animals on fur farms in the U.S.
  • Fur farms harm the environment. Millions of pounds of feces are produced annually by U.S. mink farms alone. One dangerous component of this waste is nearly 1,000 tons of phosphorus, which pollutes nearby rivers and streams. After an animal has been slaughtered, the skins are treated with toxic chemicals to keep them from rotting and decomposing in the buyer’s closet. The hazardous process of fur dressing is so problematic that the fur industry is now ranked as one of the world’s five worst industries for toxic-metal pollution.

For more information check out this site: The ugly truth about the fur industry.

 

 

CRUELTY FREE COSMETICS

Most cosmetics are tested on live animals who are then euthanized. As crazy as it sounds, it is much more expensive and less efficient to test on animals but companies refuse top stop doing it for reasons that are unclear. Most are simply stubborn and not willing to be dictated to. Some companies argue that some countries like China require animal testing but this is simply untrue. Hair care company Paul Mitchell has been cruelty-free throughout its entire existence and has no problem selling in China. Other well-known companies like Lush are also cruelty free. California presently has a bill in their legislature that would ban the sale or import of any cosmetics or personal hygiene products that were tested on animals. Here is a list of cruelty-free products: www.list-of-cruelty-free-brands. For more information on animal testing click here: www.humanesociety.org

In addition to the cruelty caused by animal testing, many often discarded animal parts are used in making cosmetics. For example, animal fat is rendered into tallow, a form of more stable fat mostly made up of triglycerides. Tallow is a key ingredient in lipstick and eye mascara. Keratin, from horn, hooves, feathers and hair is also used in hair care products, lotions, body washes and other cosmetic products. In addition, there are many environmental contaminants and chemicals in cosmetics. Many lipsticks have been shown to be contaminated with lead and skin care products include cancer causing chemicals used in sunscreens.

 

 

ANIMALS ABUSE AS ENTERTAINMENT

A “blood sport” is a category of sport or entertainment that involves bloodshed, either between humans, animals or both. Common examples using animals include combat “sports” such as cockfighting and dog-fighting, bull-fighting and even some forms of hunting and fishing. Activities characterized as blood sports, but involving only human participants, include the Ancient Roman gladiatorial games but modern versions of this still exists and includes boxing, mixed martial arts and wrestling. It’s one thing for willing humans to fight each other but it’s another to force unwilling innocent animals to do so.

Animal fighting has existed across the globe in many forms for centuries. Unfortunately, this callous and brutal form of entertainment still exists the United States. Today, animal fighting in the US centers around dogs, roosters, and pigs. Most forms of animal fighting are linked to illegal gambling and organized crime.

Dog Fighting Facts

  • Dog fighting, including even attending an event, is a felony in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Dog fighting generally occurs in one of two forms: pit fighting and street fighting.
  • Organized dog fighting or “pit fighting” places two dogs in an area from which they cannot escape. The fight ends when one dog is dead or can no longer continue the fight. Organized dog fighting operations use electric shock, treadmills, and other equipment to train dogs to fight.
  • Street fighting is a more informal form of fighting. It may occur in an empty parking lot or alleyway.
  • Today in the United States, the American Pit Bull Terrier is the most commonly exploited breed in dog fighting operations. Dogs exploited in fighting operations may have over-developed muscle mass, as a result of being tied to a treadmill, and closely cropped ears to prevent ears from being ripped off in a fight. These dogs may also display heavy scarring.
  • Dog fighting occurs in every state in the US in both rural and urban settings.

Cockfighting Facts

  • Cockfighting is illegal in all 50 states, and is a felony in most states.
  • Cockfighting is a forced fight between two roosters who are bred and conditioned to fight. Sharp blades are tied to the roosters’ legs and the two birds slash and peck each other until one is dead or unable to continue.
  • Roosters in cockfighting suffer gouged eyes, punctured lungs, torn flesh, and slow, painful deaths.
  • Cockfights occur throughout the United States and in many other countries.

Hog-Dog Fighting Facts

  • Hog-dog fighting is also known as “hog-dog rodeo” or “hog-dogging.”
  • It is illegal in some states, but enforcement of the state laws are lacking in many areas.
  • In a hog-dog fight, one or more dogs is goaded to fight a wild boar or pig. Often the tusks are cut from the hog to offer the dog the advantage.
  • Dogs, often Pit Bull Terriers and Catahoulas, are released to tear the ears and snout of the trapped pig, who has no chance of escape.
  • In some cases, a single pig may be subjected to several fights before at last being allowed to die.
  • Dogs bred for hog-dog fights may also suffer deplorable living conditions and serious injury.
  • The owner of the fastest attacking dog is rewarded with cash and prizes. Like other forms of animal fighting, betting occurs at hog-dog fights.
  • Hog-dog fighting mainly occurs in the southern United States.

 

Some other forms of animal cruelty in sport include:

  • Animal Racing. One could argue that racing is not cruel and the animals are kept in relative comfort. However, greyhounds and race horses who outlive their utility are usually destined for some very sad end. They are either killed, sold to a slaughter houses or donated for animal experiments. Although thought of as appalling in the US, horse meat is eaten in many countries, including Canada and France. With even minor injuries, these animals are often put down since the cost of care is greater than their earning potential. They are forced to breed, often in completely unnatural ways. There are various other forms of animal racing that are put on for human entertainment like pig, rabbit, frog, mouse, hamster, cow and even cockroach racing.
  • Zoos and Aquariums. Although they are not formal sporting facilities, the animals are often forced to perform. These facilities are double-edged swords. On the one hand, they provide an environment where the public can learn about and marvel at the wonder of animals, how they live and interact and how precious they are. Properly run facilities teach the public about the animals and our environment, highlighting the importance of preserving all life. Many have programs where they preserve species on the verge of becoming extinct. On the other hand, they keep these animals against their will, in some cases in pretty appalling conditions.
  • Bullfighting. This blood sport has probably been the subject of more protests from animal rights groups than any other. Thankfully, the protests have had their effect and even in some parts of Spain, it’s being made illegal and occurring with less frequency.
  • Circus Shows create unnatural, captive environments for animals. They are made to perform strange and unnatural acts. Whips, rods, hooks and even electric prods are used in the process of training and performing.
  • Hare Coursing. Thankfully this ‘sport’ is almost completely outlawed. It involves dogs chasing and eventually killing rabbits. If you enjoy watching animals chasing one another, watch the Discovery Channel!
  • Fox Hunting. In England, this consists of chasing down and actually killing the innocent fox. Elsewhere, it merely drives the terrified animal underground to its hole. The ‘pleasure’ is apparently in the chase.
  • Bear Shows. Bears in captivity were trained to fight, dance, ride bicycles and put on other types of entertainment for people. Then there is Bear Baiting or Bear Baying (trained dogs are released on a chained bear) another ingenious form of animal torture.
  • Rodeo Riding. This is still prevalent though several regulations in the interests of preventing animal cruelty are now in place. 
  • Orangutan Boxing. This bizarre form of entertainment is prevalent in Thailand. These naturally very gentle apes are put in a boxing ring with gloves on and are forced to fight.

 

Some historical examples of abusive animal blood sports are listed below.

  • Goose-Pulling was among the more awful animal blood sports that was popular in the Netherlands, Belgium, England, and North America between the 17th and 19th centuries. It originated in 12th century Spain. The sport involved securing a live goose onto a pole stretched above a road. The goose’s head was greased and the objective of the game was to grab its head and pull it off its body while galloping on horseback. The participant who succeeded in pulling of the goose’s head became known as the “noble hero of the day.”
  • Monkey Baiting. Popular in 18th and 19th century England, this blood-sport involved a dog fighting a monkey. To the surprise of many spectators, the monkeys often won such fights due to their dexterity and unique fighting style. One such champion monkey was named Jacco Macacco. He fought in monkey-baiting matches in London in the early 1820’s and defeated 14 dogs before he had his jaw torn off by a fierce dog named Puss and died not long after the match.
  • Bear-Baiting was particularly popular in 16th and 17th century England. The sport involved chaining a bear to a stake either by its leg or by its neck. Dogs were then unleashed into the pit to torment the wild animal. Henry VIII was particularly fond of this cruel sport, as was Queen Elizabeth I, who went so far as to overrule Parliament’s decision to ban bear-baiting on Sundays. This is still reported to occur in some places.
  • Bear-Whipping. Whipping a blind bear was another popular pastime enjoyed in 16th and 17th century England. This involved a small group of men whipping a blind bear mercilessly. The violent spectacle often took place in arenas called Bear Gardens or Bear Pits.
  • Octopus-Wrestling. This bizarre sport was popular in the early 20th century, especially on the West Coast of the United States. As the name suggests, the sport involved the participants wrestling with an octopus and then dragging it up to the surface. The team or the individual that wrestled the biggest octopus won. The sport was taken so seriously that in the 1960’s, a World Octopus Wrestling Championship was held yearly in Puget Sound, Washington.
  • Cock-Throwing was popular in 17th and 18th century England, cock-throwing involved tying a cock to a post and then throwing specially weighted sticks at it until the helpless bird died. In 17th century, cock-throwing was banned in Bristol by Puritan officials which resulted in violent riots. Cock-throwing began to lose its popularity when the public grew increasingly concerned with animal welfare.
  • Badger-Baiting was popular from the Middle Ages until the 19th century. It usually took place in the back gardens of taverns, where owners encouraged these bloody spectacles because they increased beer sales. In some cases, the tail of the badger was nailed to the ground. The badger was then baited either until it died from the injuries caused by the dogs or from tail gangrene. The dogs were also often injured so badly that they had to be euthanized as well.
  • Drawing The Badger. A variation on badger-baiting, drawing the badger became a popular sport in the early 20th century. The sport involved placing a badger inside a box that looked like its den. A dog was then pushed into the box and was almost immediately seized by the badger. Drawing the badger was basically a way to test dogs. Inexperienced dogs were often brutally mauled by the badgers and in some cases even killed.
  • Fox-Tossing. The rules of fox-tossing, one of the animal blood sports popular among 17th and 18th century European aristocracy, were simple: teams of two stood in a small courtyard holding each end of a sling sheet. As foxes were released into the courtyard, each team focused hard on tossing the fox into the air with their sling. The team that tossed the fox the highest, as high as 25 feet, would win. The fox usually died from the fall.
  • Lion-Baiting was first recorded at the court of King James I of England in 1610. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the public grew outraged enough that the abuse was quickly raised in the Parliament of United Kingdom and the sport was soon banned.
  • Pato, also known as Juego del Pato, is an Argentinian game that is played on horseback. The game combines elements of polo and basketball and is still popular to this day. However, some forget that the early version of the sport was played with a duck instead of a ball, hence the name of the game: “Pato” (duck).
  • Rat-Baiting was popular in 19th century Britain. Spectators of this blood sport would bet on how long it would take a dog to kill all the rats in an enclosed area.
  • Donkey-Baiting was a common sight in Victorian England. However, it never really took off like some other animal blood sports due to the mild nature of donkeys, who, in most cases, refused to fight the dogs.
  • Duck-Baiting, popular in early 19th century England, involved constraining the wings of ducks and then releasing them into a pond. With their wings immobilized, the ducks were able to float atop the water but were unable to fly away. Dogs were then released into the pond and a water battle between the dog and the duck ensued. It is said that Charles II was particularly fond of duck-baiting. The sport declined in the late 19th century due to public alarm over the rowdy crowds.

What You Can Do To Combat Animal Fighting

  • If you suspect animal fighting, contact local law enforcement as soon as possible.
  • Support legislation in your state that places stricter penalties on animal fighting.
  • Do not attend entertainment events that combine animals with gambling activity. This includes horse and dog racing events.

 

 

 

MAN-MADE LIVESTOCK INFECTIONS

The World Health Organization recently stated that what threatens human existence the most is not climate change, overpopulation or even food scarcity, it’s a pandemic from a drug resistant organism. These infections are man-made in that they come primarily from the animal agricultural industry because of the horrible, overcrowded conditions and the overuse of antibiotics. 80% of the antibiotics used worldwide is in the livestock industry, not to treat but to prevent infections. They also act as a growth stimulant. Because of these conditions, antibiotic resistant super-bugs flourish. We already have numerous microbes which are resistant to all known antibiotics and these infections have a 90% human death rate. Farm workers are colonized (already infected) with MRSA (methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus – the “flesh-eating bacteria”) at a rate of 30%. Massive numbers of animals are killed each year in order to control such out breaks. Here are some examples:

  • In 2001 in the UK there was an outbreak of Hand/Foot/Mouth disease, a viral infection which primarily affects animals and which rarely gets transmitted to humans. It is not dangerous to us. Rather than inoculate the animals (which costs money) and because of fear of the impact of global market sales, 6-10 million potentially affected cows, pigs and sheep were slaughtered, put in huge pits and burned. The vast majority of these animals were perfectly healthy.
  • In 2003, there was an outbreak of Avian Influenza which resulted in 1 human death worldwide but 30 million birds were killed as a preventive measure. This infection is 100% man-made since we created the environment for this virus to flourish.
  • In 2015, another Avian Flu outbreak, this time in the US, resulted in 43 million birds being killed in various states. Not one person died from this outbreak.

Click here for a lot more about zoonotic infections (human diseases which originated in animals).

 

 

FOOD WASTE and ANIMAL AGRICULTURE

The largest contributor to landfills is actually food waste and livestock accounts for the greatest amount of waste in the food sector. One of the issues involved in food waste is all the unnecessary death that the food industry creates. Ethical issues aside, we voluntarily generate enormous amounts of death and waste. Some examples include:

  • The statistics in the previous section about the infectious outbreaks is not just sad because if the man-made infections themselves but it generated a tremendous amount of death and waste.
  • Worldwide, 60 billion farm animals are slaughtered annually for food. 10 billion in the US alone.
  • 40% of the fish killed annually is “by-kill”, animals killed by accident by getting caught in nets or fishing lines. This accounts for 38 tons of dead fish and other sea life. The conservative estimates are that this many sea creatures perish as by-kill:300,000 small whales and dolphins.250,000 endangered turtles.300 sea birds, some of which are endangered like albatross.
    • 50 million sharks. This is in addition to the 100 million caught intentionally for food or trophy!
    • Trolling for shrimp generates 10 lbs. of by-kill for every 1 lb. of shrimp caught.

 

 

BEES, BEE PRODUCTS & WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT

Although we traditionally think of bees as primarily pollinators and producers of honey, they also produce other very important products beneficial to human health. These include Royal Jelly and Propolis.

Propolis or “bee glue” is a resinous mixture that honey bees produce by mixing saliva and beeswax with exudate gathered from tree buds, sap flows, or other botanical sources. It is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive. Propolis is used for small gaps (approximately 6 millimeters (0.24 in) or less), while larger spaces are usually filled with beeswax. Its color varies depending on its botanical source, with dark brown as the most common. Propolis is sticky at and above 20 °C (68 °F), while at lower temperatures, it becomes hard and brittle.

While foraging, worker bees primarily harvest pollen and nectar, while also collecting water and tree resin necessary for the production of propolis. The chemical composition and nature of propolis depend on environmental conditions and harvested resources.

For centuries, beekeepers assumed that bees sealed the beehive with propolis to protect the colony from the elements such as rain and cold winter drafts. However, 20th century research has revealed that bees not only survive, but also thrive, with increased ventilation during the winter months throughout most temperate regions of the world.

Propolis’ properties may include:

  • Maintenance of the physical health of the hive, provided by anti-bacterial/viral/parasitic properties as well as anti-inflammatory properties, all of which can be transferred to humans when consumed.
  • Helps control allergies because they contain small amounts of pollen, stimulating our immune response (just like allergy shots or drops do) and by decreasing inflammation.
  • It contains valuable probiotics and has purported immune-boosting properties.
  • It reinforces the structural stability and provide thermal insulation to the hive.
  • It reduces vibrations in the hive.
  • make the hive more defensible by narrowing the existing entrance (in wild colonies) to a single “choke point” and by sealing holes. A hive will have a propolis reserve (as much as 1 lb.) for emergency patch jobs
  • Prevents diseases and parasites from entering the hive, and inhibits fungal and bacterial growth.
  • Mitigates putrefaction within the hive. Bees usually carry waste out of and away from the hive. However, if a small lizard or mouse finds its way into the hive and dies there, bees may be unable to carry it out through the hive entrance. In that case, they seal the carcass in propolis, essentially mummifying it, making it odorless and harmless.

Purported medicinal uses:

Propolis has been used in traditional medicine, especially traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). There is insufficient evidence to rate the effectiveness of propolis for any condition according to Western medicine. It was used topically on wounds during the Boer War.  The Incas would drink it to reduce fever. Propolis is under preliminary research for the potential development of new drugs associated with control of Candida albicans and immunomodulatory effects.

Other uses:

  • Propolis is used by some string instrument makers (violin, viola, cello and bass) as a varnish ingredient.
  • Some workers use it to seal the surface of newly made bridges. Propolis was purportedly used by Antonio Stradivari in the varnish of his instruments.
  • Propolis is used by some chewing gum manufacturers to make propolis gum.
  • Car wax. Propolis is used to bring about a chemical reaction to convert fats and oils into automobile wax during application

HONEY and POLLEN. Pollen is collected by the bees, mixed with enzymes, bunched into little balls which are carried on their hind legs back to the hive where it is used as the main protein source for the hive. Pollen is very nutrient dense. It has more protein per weight than any other animal source. It’s natures multivitamin. It’s high in minerals and vitamins, broad spectrum amino acids (BCAAs) and is highly enzymatic. Pollen increases endurance by increasing hemoglobin values in red blood cells increasing oxygen carrying capacity.

Honey has a lower glycemic index than regular sugar. It’s also full of nutrients, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory drugs and enzymes, especially if raw. It can help with sleep by causing a much slower insulin production which allows the amino acid tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier where it’s converted into serotonin and then melatonin. It also helps maintain glycogen stores in the liver. If glycogen stores are depleted, it signals a crisis search for fuel which wakes you up at night. A tsp of honey (especially with apple cider vinegar) can be helpful.

ROYAL JELLY. Royal jelly (RJ) is a honey bee secretion that is used in the nutrition of larvae, as well as adult queens. It is secreted from the glands in the throat of nurse bees and fed to all larvae in the colony, regardless of sex or caste. All babies are fed royal jelly for the first 3 days of life and then they are transitioned to a diet of pollen and honey. The queen, continues to eat the royal jelly exclusively. To produce a queen, the larvae are put into the different cells. There is one cell that is made larger for the queen. The queen lays up to 1500 eggs a day. The rest do not have reproductive organs. She lives 3-5 years as opposed to regular bees who only live 6-8 weeks, during foraging season. It’s known as an anti-aging agent, hormonal stabilizer and fertility agent in traditional Chinese medicine. In Western medicine it has been shown to improve spatial reasoning. It’s a powerful brain tonic. RJ contains the only naturally occurring acetylcholine, a brain neurotransmitter responsible for the brain-body connection. RJ also contains 2 fatty acids, 10 HDA and AMP N1 Oxide which act as catalysts for neurogenesis. They promote brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF1) which helps prevent premature brain aging. It’s great for concussion recovery remedy.

SOME GENERAL BEE FACTS:

  • The “Organic” label on honey means nothing since bees can forage for up to 5 miles away from their hive, much farther than the organic label requires. The pollen and sap can be contaminated with pesticides and herbicides from plants which are contaminated themselves.
  • Bees do produce a huge surplus of product, both honey and propolis. Big honey companies will remove too much honey however and replace it with sugar water since the bees need to eat something. This is not the same however and actually acidifies the hive.
  • Bees are naturally docile. They sting only when threatened. They don’t like overpowering fragrances like perfumes and dark colors are through of as predatory. They die when they sting humans because they have a barbed stinger which gets stuck in our skin and rips out their abdomen. They can sting other creatures and live because of the nature of the skin.  They communicate through pheromones and sense when you are afraid.
  • They are our #1 pollinators. Without them, we die! For more on pollination, click here.

A great source for healthy, ethical bee products is beekeepersnaturals.com

 

 

BEES and ETHICS

Bees are fascinating, intelligent and communicative animals. Many vegans are against consuming honey because bees are abused and killed on a pretty massive scale in the industry. Practices like clipping the queen bee’s wings, artificial insemination and mass killing of hives, even by burning them with the bees inside, are common practice in the industry. Many bees die while being transported to places to assist in pollinating and growing such products as almonds and avocados, which some hard-core vegans also refuse to eat. As mentioned on the Environmental page, bees are one of our main pollinators and their numbers are on the decline. When the bees die, we die. It’s as simple as that. The honey that the bees produce is for their use. They eat it and as mentioned above, use it to build their hives. There are many alternatives to honey, if you want something sweet. Natural products like agave, from cactus plants, and maple syrup are just as good and are cruelty-free.

We might not think of bees’ welfare when we buy honey, in the way we might think of hens’ welfare when we buy a box of eggs. But bee-keeping practices lie on a spectrum between industrial-scale bee-keeping and bee conservation. Regular removal of honey from hives can contribute to declining honey bee populations, especially if the honey comes from a business driven by profit.

And even an organic approach to honey production, which involves sustainable agricultural practice and better animal welfare, often fails to put bee welfare before human desires. Growing movements such as ‘natural’ and ‘balanced bee-keeping’ promotes a bee-centered approach to hive management. This emphasizes bee welfare, and encourages the natural behavior of bees. Honey is only taken when plentiful and appropriate.

If we want to encourage a more sustainable approach to bee-keeping, we need to think of honey in a different way – a special occasion treat or natural remedy.

As shoppers, we have a couple of choices. Besides the bigger brands, there are hundreds of small-scale honey producers in the UK. It hasn’t been possible to include all of these in the report, but Ethical Consumer recommends we look out for:

  • Local honey Buy from a known source (ideally organic or uncultivated land), where the honey is produced by individual bee-keepers who practice balanced bee-keeping. Read Ethical Consumer’s honey guide for tips on what questions you can ask, to be sure they take bee welfare issues seriously.
  • Ethical honey The guide recommends Equal Exchange organic Fairtrade honey as the Best Buy. Next best is Tropical Forest’s Fairtrade and organic honey.

 

 

EGGS and ETHICS

The average American eats 250 eggs/year. That does not include the eggs contained in processed foods. The US produces 76 billion eggs annually. There is 1 egg-laying chicken for every American, about 290 million.

Some people feel that eggs are cruelty-free since the chickens are not killed. This is a very erroneous notion. Not only do many chickens die during their egg-laying years (which is about 2 years and they are eventually all killed), but they live miserable, tortured lives.

As with many other foods, we do not think about what eggs are and where they come from. They are the product of chicken menstruation. Under natural conditions, if an egg is not fertilized, it drops, usually breaks and rots away. Today, we raise chickens in a way to make all the eggs unfertilized and we put great stresses on the chickens to keep producing eggs and forcing them to continuously molt (a rest-state when they shed and renew their skin and feathers) resulting in constant egg-laying state, and theoretically higher quality eggs.

An egg-laying chicken’s life starts at a hatchery where within 1-2 days of birth, the female chicks are separated from the male chicks which are useless to the egg industry. The male chicks (about 50% of all the chicks) are either thrown alive directly into garbage bags for disposal or more commonly, they are slid down a chute into a macerator where they are ground live and converted into garbage or sold for feed (click and watch this if you have the stomach for it). Poultry is not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act and this type of animal disposal is perfectly legal. By the way, rabbits are considered “poultry” and are also not protected by this law.

Chickens live their entire lives in a space the size of a file drawer, often shared with as many as 11 other chickens. These are called “battery cages” and this extreme crowding practice has been outlawed in many countries. They have no room to move or stretch out their wings. These cages are stacked one on top of another and the feces and urine drop on the chickens below. To limit the chickens injuring each other in these crowded cages, they have the tips of their beaks cut off without anesthesia using a searing hot blade. This is extremely painful and many chickens die from dehydration or malnutrition because it becomes too painful to eat or drink as they are healing.

In 1966, distorting red contact lenses were invented by engineer Randy Wise. This eased the stress of chickens who were not used to their stressful living conditions and, as a result, they pecked and cannibalized themselves. The lenses also resulted in egg-laying chickens to lay more eggs because they were more relaxed. Because these lenses were considered “burdensome” for farmers, automated de-beakers, which very painfully burned off the ends of the beaks, were developed and accepted as standard industry norm.

After a hen has been producing eggs for several months, she becomes increasingly likely to “molt” at which time egg production stops. The rest from egg laying allows the hen to restore its plumage condition by shedding old feathers and growing new ones. The hen’s reproductive tract is rejuvenated, allowing it to increase its rate of egg production and produce higher quality eggs when it returns to lay. Under natural day lengths, molting tends to coincide with the change in season so that hens molt in the fall after they cease egg production due to declining day lengths. However, if artificial lighting is provided, a hen may molt at any time of year. This is partly why egg-laying chickens are kept indoors without sunlight their entire lives. One cruel way that chickens are forced to lay eggs continuously rather than in a more natural rhythm is to starve them. This creates extreme stress which artificially causes them to molt so they are ready to lay eggs faster. They can be starved for as long as 14 days! This practice has also been banned in many countries but not the US.

After about 2 years of forced egg laying, the chickens’ bodies become so weakened, malnourished and depleted of calcium, they can no longer lay sell-able eggs and they are sent for slaughter, again not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act. In many cases, they are decapitated alive while being suspended by their legs, just like the chickens raised for meat. Their meat is often of poorer quality and is used for “second tier” products like canned soups or feed for other animals. This grade of chicken meat is also used in kids schools lunch programs!

The “free range” label means absolutely nothing as well. The term is not regulated and is used to sell more chickens. The only requirement is that the chicken have the ability to leave the coop. Most never do since all their food is kept indoors.

 

 

REFERENCES

 

Mercy For Animals. org Animal welfare site.

Wold Wildlife Fund

Environment and animal farming – good primer on environmental issues.

Facts about farm animals – basic information about animal welfare.

“Do Animals Think and Feel?”  TED Ex Lecture by Sy Montgomery, a Naturalist.

Fish Count Estimates

How The Fish Oil Industry Kills Dolphins and Whales

 

 

Cowspiracy  Documentary movie about animal cruelty and the impact of animal agriculture on the environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism”  Malanie Joy, PhD

Discusses the notion that some animals are OK to eat but some are not.

 

 

 

What A Fish Knows”  Johnathan Balcomb

Fish are much more intelligent, social and interactive than we realize

 

 

 

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