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Archive for March 2012

Dairy farm abuses hard to swallow

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By Daphna Nachminovitch

A recent Washington Post article about safety concerns in the food industry revealed that the plants that process dairy products are inspected, on average, once every decade. You read that right: once every decade.

While the FDA, which regulates dairy plants, is under pressure to overhaul its inspection procedures, a new undercover investigation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) shows that more oversight is also needed on the farms themselves.

A PETA investigator spent three months working at a New York dairy farm that supplies Agri-Mark, which makes Cabot and McCadam cheeses. Cows on this farm were jabbed and struck, even in the udder, with poles and canes. Young calves bellowed and thrashed as workers burned their horn buds—without providing any pain relief—in order to stop their horns from growing. Such atrocities should make any caring person think twice about buying cow’s milk and cheese.

PETA’s investigator documented one farm manager as he repeatedly electro-shocked a cow in the face. The same man also jabbed another cow, who was unable to stand, in the ribs with a screwdriver and used a skid steer to drag her 25 feet.

Supervisors failed to provide veterinary care or euthanasia to cows who were suffering from bloody vaginal prolapses. One boss said “we do nothing” for such cows, and indeed, the animals’ exposed, pus- and manure-covered tissue was left untreated for months. He added that when a cow’s “whole uterus comes out” during calving, farm workers simply push it back in and hope that the animal lives “long enough for the beef truck to come get her.”

Another manager, a layperson, laughingly admitted that he had plunged a long needle into “the wrong organ” of one cow when trying to penetrate her stomach. Twelve days later, evidently not having recovered and no longer useful to the dairy farm, the cow was loaded onto a truck and sent to a slaughterhouse.

Some of the abuses that we documented are standard practice in the dairy industry. For example, workers wrapped tight bands around calves’ tails in order to cause the tissue to die and fall off, a cruel procedure that results in acute and chronic pain. Workers used “guns” to artificially inseminate cows and injected cows with bovine growth hormone, or BGH, to increase their milk production. BGH contributes to an extremely painful udder infection called “mastitis,” and cows tested positive for it almost daily.

PETA is calling for appropriate disciplinary action—including termination—against all workers who abused or neglected animals at this farm. We’re also asking Agri-Mark to implement a number of new polices immediately, including phasing out all forms of dehorning, such as the burning of horn buds on calves’ heads, and banning the use of electric-shock devices.

These changes will eliminate some of the most egregious forms of cruelty to cows on Agri-Mark member farms. But they won’t eliminate all of them.

As long as consumers continue to purchase dairy products instead of healthier options such as almond milk and soy cheese, animals will continue to suffer. Mother cows will continue to watch helplessly as their calves—whom they carry for nine months, just like us—are torn away from them again and again, which is acutely distressing to both cow and calf. They will continue to go lame from intense confinement and filthy surroundings. And they will continue to be trucked to slaughter and ground up for burgers and dog food when their worn-out bodies are no longer of any use to farmers.

If you find such cruelty hard to swallow, the solution is simple: Dump dairy from your diet.

Daphna Nachminovitch is the vice president of cruelty investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510.

 

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

March 22, 2012 at 8:41 pm

‘No-kill’ nightmare: When an animal ‘sanctuary’ isn’t

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By Dan Paden

Acquiring an animal means making a lifetime commitment. But what if illness, economic hardship or some other unforeseen circumstance forces you to give up a cherished animal companion? Many well-meaning people unwittingly turn to pseudo-sanctuaries that promise loving care for their animals, but as a new PETA undercover investigation reveals, giving animals away to strangers—even those who make big promises on polished websites and national TV and have celebrity endorsements—is never an acceptable option.

Caboodle Ranch, Inc., was a self-proclaimed “cat rescue sanctuary” in Florida that claimed to give cats “everything they will ever need to live a happy healthy life.” PETA’s investigation found that the “ranch” was essentially a one-person “no-kill” operation that subjected some 500 cats to filth, crowding and chronic neglect.

Cats at Caboodle were denied veterinary care for widespread upper-respiratory infections and other ailments. Obviously ill cats with green and brown discharge draining from their eyes, noses and mouths were allowed to spread infection to other cats. During the course of PETA’s investigation, some cats died of seemingly treatable conditions.

Some cats, like Lilly, whose iris protruded through a ruptured cornea, were left to suffer month after month. PETA’s investigator offered to take Lilly to a veterinarian, but Caboodle’s founder refused, apparently scared that he might “get in trouble” if a cat in Lilly’s condition were seen by others. Lilly eventually died after months of neglect.

Cats are fastidiously clean animals, but at Caboodle they were forced to use filthy, fly-covered litterboxes. Maggots gathered in cats’ food bowls and covered medications and food kept in a refrigerator inside a dilapidated trailer teeming with cockroaches. Cats frequently escaped the ranch, putting the surrounding community’s animals at risk of disease. Prompted by PETA’s evidence, officials seized Caboodle’s animals, and its founder and operator faces cruelty-to-animals charges.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this case is that it is not an isolated incident. In 2011, a PETA investigation revealed often fatal neglect of disabled, elderly and ailing animals at Angel’s Gate, a self-proclaimed animal “hospice and rehabilitation center” in New York. Our investigator documented that animals were allowed to suffer, sometimes for weeks, without veterinary care. Paralyzed animals dragged themselves around until they developed bloody ulcers. Other animals developed urine scald after being left in diapers for days. Angel’s Gate’s founder was recently arrested and charged with cruelty to animals.

In another case, in South Carolina, some 300 cats were kept caged, most for 24 hours a day, in an unventilated storage facility crammed with stacks of crates and carriers. PETA’s investigator found that the operator of this hellhole, Sacred Vision Animal Sanctuary, knowingly deprived suffering cats of veterinary care—including those plagued with seizures, diabetes and wounds infected down to the bone. When Sacred Vision’s owner was asked if sick animals could be taken to a veterinarian for help at no cost to her, she refused, instead attempting to doctor the suffering animals on her own. The cats in that case were seized by authorities, and the owner, who was in the midst of sending about 30 of her cats to Caboodle as authorities closed in on her, now faces cruelty charges.

Our animals count on us to do what’s best for them at all times. Unfortunately, there will always be purported “rescues” and “sanctuaries” that deceive people into giving them unwanted animals, who are often left to languish and die, terrified and alone. PETA’s files are full of letters from people grief-stricken over having left animals at these hellholes.

If you truly have no choice but to part with your animals because of circumstances beyond your control, try to enlist trusted friends and family to care for them temporarily until your situation improves. If no other suitable arrangement can be made, taking animals to a well-run open-admission shelter is the kindest option.

Whatever you do, never, under any circumstances, simply hand off unwanted or sick animals to a smooth-talking stranger and hope for the best. The animal companions you love so dearly will pay for it with their lives. And you will be left with a broken heart full of regret.

Dan Paden is a senior research associate for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA); 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

March 16, 2012 at 7:14 pm

The Iditarod: 1,150 miserable miles

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By Jennifer O’Connor

Right now, if you’re reading this in the comfort of your armchair or a cozy kitchen nook, please give a moment’s thought to the dogs who are running through blinding snowstorms, subzero temperatures and howling winds in Alaska’s Iditarod. Some will likely not survive. The Iditarod is a life-and-death contest—but only for the four-legged participants.

Dogs routinely pay with their lives in this race. Since no records were kept in the early days of this event, it’s impossible to know the exact death toll, but more than 140 dogs are recorded as having perished. That’s not including the countless dogs who are killed when breeders decide that they aren’t fast enough.

The Iditarod’s 1,150-mile course means that dogs run more than 100 miles a day for almost two weeks straight. Their feet become bruised, bloodied, cut by ice and just plain worn out because of the vast distances they cover. Many dogs pull muscles, incur stress fractures or become sick with diarrhea, dehydration, intestinal viruses or bleeding stomach ulcers. Dogs have frozen to death and died from inhaling their own vomit. Sled dog myopathy—being run to death—has claimed many lives.

“Overdriving” or “overworking” an animal is considered a violation of cruelty-to-animals laws in most states—but not in Alaska. There are no race regulations that prohibit whipping a dog, and The Speed Mushing Manual recommends whipping as an effective way to get dogs to run faster.

Mushers ride, eat and sleep (and until it was banned, chilled out smoking pot) while the dogs pull and pull and pull. The official Iditarod rules require that the dogs be given a total of only 40 hours of rest—even though the race can take up to two weeks. Rule 42 of the official Iditarod guidelines states that some deaths may be considered “unpreventable.” According to the rule’s offensive euphemism, dogs don’t “die”—they “expire.”

Dogs love to run, but even the most high-energy dog wouldn’t choose to run 100 miles day after day. Iditarod organizers downplay the dogs’ suffering and work to hide abuse from the public. Even when mushers are caught beating dogs, as musher Ramy Brooks was in 2007, they barely receive a slap on the wrist. One of Brooks’ dogs later died, but rather than banning this bully for life, the Iditarod committee allowed Brooks to race again.

Life for dogs off the trail is equally grim. Most kennels keep dozens of dogs who live on short chains, with only overturned barrels or dilapidated doghouses for shelter. Their world is a 6-foot diameter of mud, ice, feces and urine. Slow runners are discarded like defective equipment. There have been many cases in which chained dogs have been abandoned and left to starve to death. Others have been shot, stabbed and bludgeoned to death.

Iditarod mushers brag about their “accomplishment,” but there’s no glory when someone else does all the work. And there’s no honor in running dogs to death.

Jennifer O’Connor is an animals-in-entertainment campaign writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

March 7, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Entertainment

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