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Archive for November 2011

This Thanksgiving, meet a turkey named Fern

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By Jennifer O’Connor

Some years ago, when I interned at a sanctuary for farmed animals, I’d sit in the barn, and a turkey named Fern would back up into my lap and demand to be petted. When I’d stop, she’d look over her shoulder imploringly as if to say, “More, please.” I always think of Fern this time of year, when supermarket bins are filled with the frozen bodies of her relatives. If people got a chance to know these interesting and personable birds, I believe they’d balk at baking and eating their wings, legs and breasts.

Turkeys on farmed-animal sanctuaries quickly prove themselves to be intelligent and industrious, as well as outgoing at times and shy at others, much like human children. As I sat in the barn watching them, the birds’ distinct personalities were immediately clear.  Some, bold and hilarious, would walk right up and look me square in the eye as if to challenge my right to invade their space. Others, like a coy debutante, would peer over their shoulders, aloof but not wanting to miss anything exciting. Many, like Fern, would actually purr when being petted.

In a game of “one does not belong,” one wild turkey integrated herself into the rescued flock. Her plumage was iridescent and she stood out like a beacon. Her robust health contrasted painfully with the crippled legs, mutilated beaks and unnatural white feathers of those around her who had been saved from slaughter. Even though the rescued birds were safe and tenderly cared for, their hideous past had left them physically and emotionally scarred for life.

Like other birds, turkeys thrive in fresh air and sunshine and spend most of their time taking dust baths and scratching in the dirt hunting for tasty treats. They “gossip” with friends and shelter their babies under outstretched wings. On factory farms, turkeys are crammed by the tens of thousands into massive warehouses where there is barely enough room to take a breath much less move around.

Factory-farmed birds live in a thick stew of their own waste. Part of their beak and the ends of their toes are painfully cut off to keep them from injuring one another in the extremely crowded and stressful conditions. Some develop congestive heart disease, enlarged livers and other illnesses. Their unnatural forced weight gain often cripples them since their legs cannot support their oversized bodies.

In slaughterhouses, terrified turkeys are hung upside-down and their heads are dragged through an electrified “stunning tank,” which immobilizes but does not kill them. Many turkeys flail and fight to save themselves and manage to dodge the tank, so they are still conscious when their throats are cut. And if the knife wielder fails to cut the birds’ throats properly—and given the thousands going down the line every hour, that’s exceedingly common—the animals end up getting scalded to death in the tanks of boiling water used to remove their feathers.

This Thanksgiving, please take a moment to reflect: Can the fleeting pleasure of a meal justify the immeasurable pain and suffering of a bird who didn’t want to die?  Give turkeys like Fern a reason to purr. Stuff yourself with mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie and other goodies and leave the birds alone.

Jennifer O’Connor is a staff writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

November 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Drivers, beware: Deer-car collisions increase during hunting season

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By Paula Moore

November is the peak month for collisions between cars and deer, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Insurance groups estimate that about one in every 100 drivers will be involved in a deer-vehicle collision at some point in his or her life. A fatal crash late last month in Indiana illustrates how heartbreaking such encounters can be. Seven people—including four children—were killed after their minivan hit a deer and was subsequently struck by a semi-trailer.

While hunters invariably point to such tragedies as justification for killing even more deer, the blame for deer-vehicle collisions falls at least partly on their own shoulders.

Pennsylvania-based Erie Insurance, which has analyzed deer-vehicle collision data in the state for more than a decade, found that the opening day and opening Saturday of deer hunting season are “[t]wo of the most dangerous days to drive.” According to the Missouri Insurance Information Service, increased deer activity associated with hunting is a “major factor” in the rise in deer-vehicle collisions in the last three months of the year. With more people (hunters) in the woods, deer are spooked out of wooded areas—often out onto the road.

Hunting also increases deer populations—which increases the likelihood that deer-car collisions will occur. While several studies have suggested that sterilization programs may provide an effective, long-term solution to controlling deer populations, hunting just makes the problem worse. It’s been shown, for example, that in hunted populations, does are more likely to have twins rather than single fawns and are more likely to reproduce at a younger age. Immediately following a hunt, there’s less competition for food. The surviving deer are better nourished, which can lead to a higher reproductive rate and lower neonatal mortality.

The state agencies responsible for wildlife “management” know this, of course, but they’re primarily run by hunters, who hardly have the animals’ best interests in mind. So, instead of setting up sterilization programs, they destroy the deer’s homes by clear-cutting to increase the amount of vegetation for the deer to eat—further increasing their population. Such programs help to ensure that there are plenty of animals for hunters to kill (not to mention plenty of revenue from the sale of hunting licenses).

Simple, nonlethal methods can reduce the risk of deer-vehicle collisions. A team of scientists from the University of Alberta found that simply placing warning signs in hotspots where deer are known to cross roads can reduce collisions by 34 percent. Other communities are experimenting with roadside sensors that trigger lights and whistles as cars approach to scare deer away and with laser beams that sound alarms to alert motorists to the presence of deer.

Drivers should also slow down and watch the road carefully—especially during hunting season. Scan the side of the road for wildlife and use high-beam headlights at night when there is no oncoming traffic. Also be aware that deer tend to travel in groups, so if you see one deer, slow down and watch for more. In many deer-vehicle accidents, the driver slowed down for one deer, then sped up and hit another one.

Hunters like to say that killing deer is the only way to prevent traffic collisions with them, but it’s not. When hunting season turns deer territories into a war zone, it’s no wonder that the animals panic and run—often right out onto our roadways.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

November 17, 2011 at 8:51 pm

The meat industry endangers motorists and animals alike

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By Dan Paden

Out along highways and rural roads throughout the U.S., you’ll see tractor-trailers loaded with pigs—or cattle, turkeys or chickens—taking the animals to their fate. Most of us prefer not to think of the gruesome end that these animals face. But scenes of slaughter play out along these same roads again and again as the trucks overturn. Recently, a truck loaded with cattle overturned on Interstate 74 in Illinois after the driver reportedly fell asleep at the wheel. At least two other motorists struck the terrified animals as they tried to run away.

In many of these cases, critically injured animals are left to lie on the roadside for hours without veterinary care. Try to imagine the horror of surviving a serious car crash only to be left to suffer in agony before either being loaded back onto a truck to be taken the rest of the way to the slaughterhouse or having a bolt put through your head (which may or may not kill you, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association). Shockingly, PETA has uncovered evidence that the meat industry has failed to take even basic steps to prevent these chaotic wrecks—putting both humans and animals in harm’s way.

Consider the case of Jonathan Leggett, a former truck driver for Smithfield Foods. In June 2010, Leggett crashed on a ramp leading off Interstate 95 south of Richmond, Virginia, while hauling 80 pigs for Smithfield subsidiary Murphy-Brown, LLC. Approximately 46 pigs were killed. This time, no humans were injured. According to public records, Leggett was cited for reckless driving and failure to maintain control.

Just three months before the June wreck, Leggett had rear-ended an SUV and crashed while hauling cattle in North Carolina. The SUV’s driver was taken to a hospital, and 35 cattle were killed. Leggett was cited for failure to reduce speed and for improper passing.

The previous summer, Leggett had been fined for traveling 56 mph in a 35 mph zone. A month before that, he had been fined for failing to obey a traffic signal. Earlier in 2009, he had paid $91 to clear up a tinted-windshield infraction. And so on, back to 2002, when officers found him operating an overweight vehicle in Fauquier County, Virginia.

The pork giant apparently lacked the initiative, the personnel or the 30 minutes that it took PETA to discover all this in public records. In late October, another driver, William Orville Barnett, was issued a summons for reckless driving in Suffolk, Virginia, after he overturned a trailer containing nearly 200 pigs headed for Smithfield; 47 pigs were killed. Easily found records show that Barnett allegedly violated federal transportation safety laws twice last year.

As an animal protection worker, I want the meat industry to prevent these wrecks for the sake of animals. One can’t smell the aftermath of five of these crashes, see debilitated survivors be electro-shocked and dragged by their ears and hear those who are the worst off have bolts driven into their brains without grasping the urgency with which meat-industry officials should be acting to prevent crashes.

But even those who are reading this over a bacon or sausage breakfast should be concerned about the motorists who share our nation’s highways and narrow, rural roads, often in low light, with these trucks and the civic responders who wade into these dangerous scenes.

Children and animals differ in important ways, of course, but we would not stand for a school district hiring a school-bus driver who had just crashed a bus, killing a few dozen kids, and had a long record of reckless driving. At the very least, the meat industry must prohibit employing, in any fashion, drivers who have repeated driving-related offenses or are found to have been at fault, ever, in any crash.

It’s a cruel irony that the final road leading to one of Smithfield’s slaughterhouses is Virginia State Route 666. But the rest of our nation’s roads don’t have to be hell for animals and people alike.

Dan Paden is a senior research associate with PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Fall’s hottest trend? Hint: It’s not fur

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By Paula Moore

Folks in West Hollywood, California, are well known for their support of forward-looking legislation, so it didn’t come as any surprise when the WeHo City Council unanimously voted to ban sales of apparel made from animal fur last month. If the ordinance gets final approval, West Hollywood will become the first city in the U.S. that’s officially fur-free.

WeHo’s decision is just another nail in the fur industry’s coffin. Kind people around the world are recognizing that there’s nothing glamorous about the way animals suffer and die for fur. “The fur trend in the U.S. is toward fake,” says Amy Lechner, an analyst with Pell Research, which estimates that sales of faux fur will increase by 30 percent over the next two years.  

Lawmakers and trendmakers alike are responding to this growing anti-fur sentiment.

Earlier this year, the European Parliament approved a new regulation requiring that all clothing containing fur or leather be clearly marked with labels stating, “Non-textile parts of animal origin.” Explains EP member Eva-Britt Svensson of Sweden, “Consumers must have the information to be able to ethically opt out of fur products and the cruel conditions in which they are often produced.” 

Fashion icons as diverse as Michele Obama, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Lady Gaga have all publicly sworn off fur. So has Oprah Winfrey. In the October issue of O magazine, editor in chief Susan Casey describes the “aha moment” that led Winfrey to stop wearing fur 20 years ago. While looking at a sable cape in her closet, Winfrey had “a visceral sense of how many four-leggeds had been used in its creation, bred specifically to be killed.” Like Oprah, O magazine is fur-free.  

Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Vivienne Westwood and Ralph Lauren are just a few of the top designers who refuse to use real fur in their collections. High-end design houses such as Prada and Chanel are increasingly offering faux-fur options—Karl Lagerfeld even based Chanel’s Fall 2010 collection around fake fur. Faux-fur vests and other accessories are bestsellers on HSN.

While previous generations may have worn real fur without considering its impact on animals and the environment, today’s consumers can’t claim not to know what happens before animals are turned into capes and coats. Just this month, newspapers around the world ran shocking stories about raccoon dogs—a canine species native to Asia—who are being skinned alive in China to create knock-off versions of Uggs.

PETA’s affiliate PETA Asia-Pacific investigated fur farms and markets in China and found that raccoon dogs are beaten with steel pipes and left to die slowly as they writhe in agony in full view of other animals. Rabbits’ necks are broken while the animals are still conscious and able to feel pain. On fur farms, animals live in barren wire cages—exposed to all weather extremes—as frozen piles of waste accumulate below them. Many animals frantically pace and turn in circles in their cages.

West Hollywood councilmember John D’Amico, who sponsored WeHo’s fur ban, predicts that “the impact will be heard from here to Fifth Avenue. People will talk about what a fur ban means in a new way.” While we wait to see if other progressive cities will follow WeHo’s lead, we can all take a stand against an industry that confines animals to cramped cages, violently beats them and rips the skin off their bodies—by banning fur from our closets.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

 

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

November 2, 2011 at 4:49 pm