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On Mother’s Day, don’t forget animal moms

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By Jeff Mackey

If you’re like most people, you’ll no doubt treat your mom to brunch or dinner on Mother’s Day. But this year, while you are saluting your own mom, please honor all mothers by celebrating with a meal that doesn’t include meat, eggs or dairy products. Some of the best mothers in the world are found in the animal kingdom, yet few animal moms on today’s farms are ever allowed to nurture their babies as nature intended.

For mother cows and their calves, for example, it’s love at first sight. The first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Their attachment and affection for each other is so deep that both mother and baby become extremely distressed if they are forced apart. Mother cows bellow in vain and their calves wail inconsolably; they cry out for each other for days. Some mother cows have even been known to escape their enclosures and travel for miles searching for their babies.

Sadly, such pitiful scenes are common on dairy farms. Mother cows are allowed to bond with and care for their calves for only a few hours before the babies are torn away so that we can have the milk that was meant to nourish them. Wide-eyed and terrified, the calves are desperate to suckle but instead are given a bottle of milk “replacer” and a short life in a veal crate (for males) or a life just like that of their sad mothers (for females). Meanwhile, the mother cows will soon be impregnated again, only to endure the same heartbreak nine months later.

If allowed, mother hens would turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to the chicks inside, who chirp back from within their shells. Once hatched, the chicks are shielded from predators by their protective mother’s wings.

Yet 90 percent of our eggs come from hens who are treated like virtual laying machines. They are crammed together in wire cages where they never see the light of day and don’t even have enough room to spread a single wing. The stench of ammonia and feces hangs heavy in the air. Female chicks will follow their mothers into a lifetime of intensive confinement and constant egg production. Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry and will be tossed into trash bags to suffocate or thrown into high-speed grinders while they are still alive.

Pigs are also devoted mothers, who, if allowed, would spend days preparing a nest of leaves or straw before giving birth. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother’s voice, and mother pigs “sing” to their young while nursing. The piglets would stay with their doting mothers for about 15 weeks.

On factory farms, however, most sows are confined to metal crates in which they are unable to lie down comfortably, much less turn around to nurse their piglets naturally. Many sows develop raw, painful sores from the bars.

The piglets are torn from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks—months before weaning would naturally occur—and spend their entire lives in extremely crowded pens on slabs of filthy concrete. The mother pigs are impregnated again and again until their bodies wear out and they are sent to slaughter.

As parents, we are compelled to love, shelter, feed, nurture and protect our children from harm. Why, then, do we ignore the very same innate needs in animals? Every time we pour milk on our cereal or fry up an egg, we are paying a farmer to tear a mother animal away from her beloved baby. This Mother’s Day, please remember that all mothers love their babies, and enjoy the day with a humane vegan meal.

Jeff Mackey is a blog writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

This Easter, choose eggs that are green, not mean

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

The White House recently announced that its annual Easter Egg Roll event will feature “green” eggs. They’ll come in a variety of pastel colors, but they’ll all be “green” because they’ll be made from Forest Stewardship Council–certified hardwood and packaged in environmentally friendly materials. Not only are these eggs better for the environment, they’re also better for chickens. Everyone who celebrates Easter can follow the White House’s lead and be green, not mean, by choosing faux eggs instead of chicken eggs this spring.

For hens who are forced to lay eggs, Easter is nothing to celebrate. Most of the eggs that Americans dye and decorate for the holiday come from chickens who are confined to filthy factory farm sheds containing row upon row of tiny, multitiered wire cages. These hens spend their lives crammed into cages with four to 10 other birds. Each bird’s average living space is smaller than a letter-sized sheet of paper. Hens on egg factory farms never breathe fresh air, feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or engage in any of their natural behaviors. They can’t even stretch a single wing.

The birds are crammed so closely together that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The stench of ammonia from the accumulated feces under the birds saturates the air and burns the birds’ feathers. Disease runs rampant in the filthy, cramped sheds. Many birds die, and the survivors are often forced to live with their dead and dying cagemates, who are sometimes left to rot.

Due to extreme crowding, stress and boredom, the miserable hens peck at the only thing available: each other. Farm workers “solve” this problem by slicing off a portion of each hen’s sensitive beak with a hot blade—without giving the birds any painkillers. Many birds, unable to eat because of the pain, die from dehydration and weakened immune systems.

The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production. Periodically, the hens’ calorie intake is restricted for two weeks at a time in order to force their bodies into an extra laying cycle. When hens are “spent” and their egg production drops at about two years of age, they’re sent to slaughter, where their throats are cut open while they’re still conscious.

Meanwhile, male chicks are considered worthless to the egg industry because they don’t produce eggs and are too small to profitably be used for their flesh. So every year, millions of male birds are thrown into macerators and ground up alive or tossed into trash bags to slowly suffocate.

Luckily, kids don’t care whether their Easter eggs came from a chicken. Having fun and spending time with family and friends is what matters, and neither of these requires real eggs.

Most craft stores sell paper or wooden eggs that are perfect for painting or decorating with crayons, stickers, glitter or markers. They are mess-free and won’t crack if dropped, and kids can display them for as long as they’d like because, unlike real eggs, they won’t rot. For kids who are dying to dye something, making tie-dyed T-shirts is always a hit.

Brightly colored plastic eggs are ideal for Easter egg hunts. They can be filled with candy, small toys, coins, stickers, love notes or any other small surprise you can imagine. They are inexpensive, can be reused year after year and are much more exciting for kids to find than a hard-boiled egg.

Real eggs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. This Easter, why not follow the First Family’s lead and have a first-class Easter celebration—without harming hens.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

April 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm

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