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Archive for October 2010

Has your meat been molested?

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Every day, some of the most vulnerable females on Earth are confined against their will, denied the freedom to live as they please, sexually assaulted and even forcibly impregnated. As horrific as it sounds, we may be unwittingly funding and supporting this oppression—if we eat meat, eggs and dairy products.

PETA’s undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses have documented time after time that, in addition to the routine cruelty that occurs in these nightmarish facilities, workers often take their issues out on the animals imprisoned there by violently beating them, screaming at them and sexually assaulting them—sometimes in the animals’ terrifying last moments.

At a Hormel supplier’s farm in Iowa, for example, a supervisor (who was later convicted of livestock abuse) rammed a cane into a pig’s vagina and boasted that he had thrust gate rods into the anuses of pigs who frustrated him. At the same facility, another worker, who was also later convicted of livestock abuse, urged PETA’s investigator to beat a pig as if she had scared away a “voluptuous little f—ing girl.” The employee was also caught on video urging a supervisor to beat pigs and to expose his genitals to get them to move.

PETA documented similar horrific abuse at West Virginia’s Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., which bills itself as the “world’s leading poultry breeding company.” A worker was indicted for cruelty to animals after being caught on video pinning a female turkey to the ground and pretending to rape her. When interviewed by police, he reportedly admitted that he’d done the same thing to dozens of other turkeys. Eventually, the worker was convicted of related acts.

At a Butterball slaughterhouse in Arkansas, a PETA investigator witnessed a worker repeatedly sticking his finger into a turkey’s cloaca (vagina). Another worker mimed the rape of a bird whose legs and head he had crammed into the metal shackle that would carry her to her death.

Even under “normal” circumstances, factory farms treat animals—especially females—as nothing more than meat, milk and egg machines. Pig factory farm workers confine boars to tiny carts and parade them in front of sows so that other workers can look at and touch sows’ genitals to determine the best time to insert a tube of pig semen into them.

On egg farms, four to 10 hens are shoved into wire “battery” cages that are no bigger than a filing cabinet drawer. The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production, and periodically, for two weeks at a time, the hens’ calories are restricted to force their bodies into an extra laying cycle. After two years, “spent” hens are sent to slaughter, where many of them have their throats cut and are dumped into the scalding-hot water of feather-removal tanks while they are completely conscious.

On dairy farms, workers often forcibly restrain female cows so that an insemination instrument can be shoved into their vaginas. Cows are kept nearly constantly pregnant, and their calves are torn away from them within a day of birth so that the milk they produce for their babies can be used for humans instead. When their worn-out bodies are too spent to produce milk (usually decades short of their natural life span), they are sent to slaughter to be turned into cheap hamburger meat, soup or dog or cat food. Their female offspring replace them, and the cruel cycle continues.

The victims of this oppression may not look like us, but just like abused and exploited human women, they feel pain and fear, and they long for the freedom to live their lives as they choose. Those of us who want to end the exploitation of humans should also care about the exploitation of all beings—and do something to stop it. We can work toward a world that is more just and fair for females of all species simply by leaving meat, eggs and dairy products off our plates.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Don’t turn your back on feral cats

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By Alisa Mullins

National Feral Cat Day is this month, and I am reminded of a feral cat I knew years ago. When the cat first appeared on my front porch, he had long, silky fur. I started feeding him and trying to earn his trust. But as the months passed, he got into fights with other cats and developed enormous abscesses that refused to heal. Finally, after several unsuccessful attempts, I managed to trap the cat and whisk him to a vet. Sadly, the big, once-handsome cat tested positive for FIV, the feline equivalent of AIDS. The disease had ravaged his gums and teeth, most of which had fallen out. Even worse, an infection had spread from his gums to his heart, doing irreparable damage.

It was all over. The injection was painless, making this poor cat’s death more peaceful than much of his life had been.

Deadly infectious diseases such as feline AIDS are just some of the many dangers that feral cats face. These forgotten cats do not die of “old age.” They are attacked by other animals, are hit by cars and die of exposure or starvation. During winter months, automobile engine fans slice through cats who seek shelter under warm car hoods. If cats escape these perils, they may still fall prey to cruel people. PETA receives calls every day about stray and feral cats who are mutilated, shot, drowned, poisoned, beaten, set on fire or used by dogfighters as “bait.”

One feral cat helped recently by PETA’s cruelty caseworkers had what appeared to be a bloody red mustache that turned out to be a horrific chemical burn that had eaten away part of her upper jaw. Another feral—a kitten just 6 weeks old—was rescued with PETA’s help after being trapped for days in a storm drain. His left front leg was so mangled that it had to be amputated.

Even easily treatable conditions can be deadly for feral cats. Minor injuries can turn into raging infections and abscesses. Untreated upper respiratory infections cause cats’ eyes and noses to become so caked with mucus that the animals can barely see or breathe. PETA’s caseworkers have lost count of the number of feral cats they’ve seen with their ears scratched bloody as a result of desperate attempts to alleviate the pain and itching of ear mites. Some cats die of blood loss or anemia from worms and fleas. Two former ferals whom I trapped and tamed later suffered from repeated urinary tract infections, which can lead to blockage in male cats. I shudder to think of the painful, lingering deaths these cats would have suffered without treatment.

It is because these terrible fates await most feral cats that PETA believes that trap, neuter, return (TNR) programs are not usually in the cats’ best interests. TNR may prevent future generations of cats from suffering the hardships of life on the streets, but they fail to address the misery experienced by cats trying to eke out an existence in alleys and behind Dumpsters.

Advocates of TNR argue that feral cats are just as deserving of our consideration as other felines. They are absolutely right. And it is precisely because we would never encourage anyone to abandon their own cat in a parking lot or at the end of a rural road that we should not advocate the same for feral cats.

The only real solution to the feral cat problem currently plaguing communities across the country is to aggressively promote spaying and neutering. Feral cat colonies don’t spring out of nowhere—they are the direct result of irresponsible people who abandon or allow their unaltered cats to roam outside. That is why it is vital to promote the spaying and neutering of all cats, not just ferals.

No cat, whether feral or not, should be abandoned and forced to endure the harsh conditions of homelessness.

Alisa Mullins shares her home with several rescued cats, including two former ferals. She is a research specialist for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 22, 2010 at 5:16 pm

Don’t just buy pink this month—eat green too

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By Heather Moore

Does the nation seem to have a pink tint to it these days? It’s not your vision—it’s National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and companies are bombarding the market with pink products. Everything from scouring pads and pepper spray to handbags and handguns are being sold in pink, ostensibly to benefit breast cancer charities. (I’m guessing the sales pitch for the pink rifle is “guns don’t kill people, breast cancer kills people.”)

Some companies might have good intentions, but many are just “pinkwashing”—passing themselves off as crusaders in the fight against breast cancer while still peddling dangerous or unhealthy products that can actually contribute to the disease. Earlier this year, KFC even sold its Kentucky Grilled Chicken, which is known to contain carcinogens, in pretty pink buckets.

It’s important to raise awareness of breast cancer, but it’s time to tone down the pink. When it comes to winning the war on breast cancer, eating “green”—and encouraging others to do the same—is more effective than buying pink.

Numerous studies have shown that women who eat mostly fruits, vegetables and soy foods are much less likely to develop breast cancer than women who eat meat, eggs and dairy products. National Cancer Institute researchers have found that women who eat meat every day are nearly four times more likely to get breast cancer than those who don’t.

Other leading researchers in both America and Asia concur that women who eat a typical Western diet—high in meat, fat and sugar—have a higher risk of breast cancer than women who eat a typical Asian diet, which is high in soy and vegetables. Renowned nutrition expert Dr. Dean Ornish reports, “In Japan and other countries where the consumption of animal fat is much lower, breast cancer is rare.”

Eating fatty foods, animal protein and heavily processed foods can boost one’s risk of breast cancer (and other diseases), while eating plant-based foods can lower it. Vegan foods are typically low in saturated fat and high in fiber and phytochemicals, which knock out carcinogens and fight inflammation. Going vegan can even help women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer beat the disease: One of my best friends went vegan after having a mastectomy 17 years ago, and she has been cancer-free ever since.

Studies also show that vegans are nine times less likely to be obese than meat-eaters are, and maintaining a healthy weight is key to preventing breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a devastating disease, no matter how you color it. One in eight women in the U.S. will develop it, and each year, more than 40,000 women will die from it. But pinkwashing and meat-eating only hamper women’s chances of recovering from the disease—or preventing it in the first place. If you must buy a “pink product” this month, The Pink Ribbon Diet: A Revolutionary New Weight Loss Plan to Lower Your Breast Cancer Risk, a cookbook that emphasizes plant-based, Mediterranean-style meals, is a good pick.

We won’t win the war on breast cancer just by looking at it through rose-colored glasses. We have to take responsibility for our own health by adopting healthy habits such as exercising regularly, getting regular mammograms and making smarter choices about what we eat. So whenever you see pink this month, consider it a reminder to eat green.

 Heather Moore is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 12, 2010 at 7:40 pm

One animal laboratory closed, 1100 to go

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By Kathy Guillermo

Most words describing life for animals in laboratories are inadequate. They can’t begin to convey the actual experience. So try this: Imagine you’re Jamie Lee Curtis in the 1978 film Halloween or any of the victims in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre series or one of the humans in Night of the Living Dead. Think of the fright you know just by vicariously feeling what it would be like if you were unable to escape a zombie or a crazed man with a knife. Think of Ms. Curtis’s panicked character Laurie Strode banging on the neighbor’s door, hoping for rescue, as her murderous brother comes closer and closer.

Now imagine that it’s real.

That’s everyday life for animals in laboratories: the heart-pounding terror of being trapped, unable to escape, as someone with a weapon—a scalpel or electric-shock device or a bottle of chemicals—approaches. Studies show that animals’ hearts race in fear when a laboratory worker simply enters the room.

There’s no happy ending for animals. They can’t leave the theater or sound stage and go home. The man or woman approaching means death—murder for the animals, the end of life—in virtually every case.

A rare exception occurred last month following the release of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) undercover investigation of a North Carolina laboratory called Professional Laboratory and Research Services (PLRS). PLRS was paid by large pharmaceutical companies to test flea, tick and companion-animal products on dogs and cats. For these animals, this is bad enough. It means being doused with or force-fed chemicals that will likely cause sickness or death.

But PETA’s investigator documented the kind of treatment that decent people hope never occurs in laboratories. Look at the video evidence at PETA.org. Laboratory workers scream death wishes and curses at cowering dogs; drag them, kick them and lift them by their ears; fling cats into cages, calling them “motherf—ers”; and deny veterinary care to dogs who have rotten teeth and whose legs are covered with sores.

PETA’s 70-page complaint to the U.S. Department of Agriculture led to the laboratory’s closure just a week later. Nearly 200 dogs and more than 50 cats have been gently and lovingly taken in by animal shelters. Animals, some of whom were imprisoned at PLRS for years, who’ve never walked on grass or up steps and who’ve never known affection—except what PETA’s investigator could give them—will go to good homes.

This is a wonderful ending to a tragic case. But I also think of all the dogs and cats who died at PLRS in the 20 years before PETA got there. And I think of all the animals—of all species—who live in terror, with no escape, and eventually die in the more than 1,100 animal laboratories in the U.S.

It’s wrong, no matter what the goal is, to do this to other beings. We wouldn’t do it to children, who are also defenseless. We wouldn’t do it other adult humans. We should not do it to animals. Experiments on animals can never be justified in a progressive and decent society like ours. PLRS, bad as it was, is not the only animal laboratory that should go out of business. The doors of every place where animals are treated as if their lives are of no consequence—and as if their suffering is less important than ours—should close forever.

Kathy Guillermo is the vice president of Laboratory Investigations for PETA and the author of Monkey Business: The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement. She can be reached c/o PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

A fate worse than death

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By Ingrid E. Newkirk

First, there was the jaw-dropping story of a British woman who was caught on camera tossing an affectionate cat into an outdoor trash bin. Then, it was an Eastern European girl slinging crying puppies into a fast-moving stream. Now, right here in America, some people have imprisoned a dog inside a box barely bigger than his own body. The box has solid sides, and the dog can only see out if he jumps up and peers over them. He has been locked in the box for months. To add to the mental torture, the dog has worn his teeth down to the nubs from biting at his prison, so his owners occasionally take him out of the box to drill painful holes vertically into his teeth in order to irrigate them. And right there by the side of the box, the dog’s keepers also manually extract sperm from him and use it to breed other dogs to sell. There’s more, but the abuse I’ve already described is enough to make any decent person sick. 

Take a look at Google Maps and you can look down into the container and see the dog lying there.

Why, you may ask, aren’t these people in jail? How is it that the local humane society has not swooped in and seized the dog?

Oh, I’m sorry. Did I write “dog”? I meant to write “killer whale.” And the people perpetrating this horror are SeaWorld executives. So why exactly does swapping one intelligent animal for another or swapping an average Joe for rich business executives lessen the horror of this orca’s ordeal or the injustice of the situation? Answer: It doesn’t.

Tilikum is the killer whale. He killed a human being—for the third time—earlier this year. Perhaps there’s a reason why killer whales are called “killer” whales. Tilikum didn’t give his keeper, Dawn Brancheau, a little playful toss or misjudge and hold her under water just a second too long for her to survive. He shook her like a rag doll, slammed her into the side of the pool, stopped her from surfacing and tore her body apart. My bet is that he knew exactly what he was doing. Having seen how he is kept and knowing where he came from, it’s not hard to comprehend the depth of his anger and frustration.

Tilikum is 32 years old. When he was just 2 years old, he was caught by marine “cowboys” who kidnap dolphins and orcas to sell to amusement parks. He was taken from his family, his pod, in the open waters off Iceland, and he’s lived in a cement pool ever since, unable to use his echolocation, unable to swim away, to travel the oceans, to hear or see his relatives. He is “trained” to eat what he’s given and do what he’s told.  He is also trained to roll over, which allows trainers to masturbate him with a gloved hand and collect his semen in a container. His semen is frozen for later use or used immediately to inseminate female orcas at one of SeaWorld’s parks so as to provide additional animals to use in shows.

Life in a tiny concrete tank is no life at all for these animals, as evidenced by the recent death of Tilikum’s 12-year-old son at SeaWorld San Diego. Twelve! This orca would likely have lived to be 50 or 60 in the open sea, his rightful home.

After the third human being lost her life to Tilikum, SeaWorld reduced his meager “world” even further. Tilly is now relegated mostly, if not solely, to the “F pool,” a solid-sided concrete pool that measures just 36 feet long and 25 feet wide. Tilikum is 22½ feet long with a big wide orca girth. He weighs more than 12,000 pounds. So he has to scrunch just to turn around. And once turned, there he is again, nose against the other wall. He has been condemned to hang in place in the water indefinitely.

PETA is calling on the local humane society and the state’s attorney to free Tilly. After all, cruelty to animals, whether to a dog or to an orca, is illegal in all states.

Ingrid E. Newkirk is the president and founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 4, 2010 at 8:23 pm