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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

A mouse is not a man—or a tool

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By Kathy Guillermo

There are two lessons to be learned from the startling new study reporting that decades of burn, sepsis and trauma experiments on mice have led nowhere: First, mice aren’t good stand-ins for humans. The second one I’ll get to in a minute.

The study, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, examined human cells and found that what happens to mice when they’re burned and infected isn’t the same as what happens to people. The time and resources spent using mice to try to figure out how to treat humans are “a heartbreaking loss of decades of research and billions of dollars,” according to National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins. Scientists now understand why all 150 drugs developed using these animals failed in human patients. The study’s lead author stated, “[Researchers] are so ingrained in trying to cure mice that they forget we are trying to cure humans.”

The cost to everyone—patients, taxpayers and mice—is enormous.

Here’s the second lesson: If scientists and their funders had taken the ethical course from the start—that is, if they had not harmed and killed some beings in an effort to help others—we might be much further along scientifically. As a nation, we’d be more progressive ethically, too.

Look at some of the burn studies now being conducted at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Mice, dogs, sheep and pigs are burned over as much as 40 percent of their bodies with a scorching-hot metal rod or the open flame of a Bunsen burner. The animals suffer for weeks before they are killed. In some of the experiments, animals are also forced to inhale smoke to injure the lining of their respiratory tract.

It’s tempting to say that now we know that the mice—and likely the dogs, pigs and sheep—suffered for nothing. They surely did. (And now, as PETA supporter Paul Harvey would have said, for the rest of the story: The university fired three supervisors and was fined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture after PETA provided evidence that the animals were denied adequate pain relief for their burns.)

Animals have suffered for decades in dead-end laboratory searches for cures for human ailments. The Food and Drug Administration has reported that 90 percent of drugs that test safe and effective in animals either fail to work in humans or harm them. A 90 percent failure rate should be unacceptable. It’s certainly ample evidence that animals, while they no doubt feel pain and want to lead their own lives, are nevertheless not biological replicas of humans. Recent landmark reports have even found that chimpanzees, humans’ closest genetic relatives, are terrible models of human ailments.

If animals had been left out of this scientific equation, would science be further along in its quest for drugs to treat burn and trauma patients? What avenue not pursued might have been the right path to helping people?

But even if experimenters had learned something useful, it would still be wrong to take a Bunsen burner to a tiny mouse. It is wrong to lay a red-hot metal bar against the body of a dog. It is wrong to take a blowtorch to the sensitive skin of a pig. It is wrong to poison, infect, manipulate and cut up animals in a laboratory.

We all owe the authors of this study a huge thank-you. They have proved once again that it is modern studies using human cells, not deadly experiments on animals, that will actually help people who have been badly burned. But now is a good time to learn the larger lesson: We can and must solve human problems without harming animals.

Kathy Guillermo is the senior vice president of Laboratory Investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

2011: A surprisingly good year for animals

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By Heather Moore

2011 was tough—when people weren’t bemoaning budget cuts, lining up outside job fairs or fretting over the stagnant housing market, they were listening to worrisome news about the war in Afghanistan, political shootings and natural disasters. But things weren’t all bad. There were signs of progress and reasons to be positive, especially when it comes to issues that impact animals. As we head into the new year, let’s reflect upon some of the things that made 2011 memorable for animals.

Eight of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including MetLife, Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial and U.S. Bank, stopped using glue traps after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explained that animals who get stuck in them often suffocate and die slowly. The Social Security Administration, Georgia Institute of Technology and Toronto District School Board—the fourth-largest school district in North America—also agreed to use more humane methods of rodent control.

While this is hardly revolutionary, it is indicative of a larger social movement to reform practices that harm animals. Many people are now less likely to accept activities that cause suffering—and it shows in our laws and business practices.

In 2011, West Hollywood became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur. City council members in Toronto and Irvine, Calif., banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. Rodeos and circuses that feature exotic animals were also prohibited in Irvine, and Fulton County—the most populous municipality in Georgia—banned the use of bullhooks, sharp steel-tipped devices that are commonly used to beat, jab or yank on elephants.

The American Zoological Association (AZA) announced that bullhooks will be forbidden at all AZA-accredited zoos by 2014. The Toronto Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send its remaining elephants to a facility that does not use bullhooks. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture slapped Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which routinely uses bullhooks to “discipline” captive elephants, with a $270,000 fine—the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history—for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Also in 2011, eight top advertising agencies pledged never again to feature great apes—who are often torn away from their mothers shortly after birth and beaten in order to force them to perform on cue—in their advertisements. Capital One pulled an ad featuring a chimpanzee and pledged not to use nonhuman primates in its advertisements again. The blockbuster film Rise of the Planet of the Apes featured CGI animation to create realistic-looking apes without exploiting and abusing animals.

U.S. Army officials announced that monkeys will no longer be used in a cruel chemical nerve-agent attack training course at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The University of Michigan, Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City and Naval Medical Center San Diego began using sophisticated simulators instead of live cats for intubation training. And the world’s largest tea-maker, Unilever—maker of Lipton and PG tips—stopped experimenting on pigs and other animals just so that it could make health claims about its tea.

Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign—local restaurants, schools, hospitals and businesses are now promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. The board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., also signed a “Meatless Mondays” resolution, and several more celebrities, including Russell Brand, Eliza Dushku and Ozzy Osbourne, went vegan in 2011. The Rev. Al Sharpton also ditched meat from his diet.

Many of these developments were brought about, at least in part, by PETA, but everyone can bring about change simply by resolving to be kinder, greener and healthier in the coming year. By taking simple steps such as buying cruelty-free products, choosing meatless meals, wearing animal-friendly fashions and enjoying animal-free entertainment, we can all help make 2012 even better than 2011.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

 

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.

Are we supporting violence in God’s name?

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By Bruce Friedrich

In his new book, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, Pope Benedict XVI boldly and rightly condemns violence that is carried out in God’s name. Yet even devout Christians try to excuse themselves of their role in the horrific violence that is carried out against some of God’s most vulnerable creatures—the animals we raise and kill for food—by claiming that God has given us permission to do whatever we want to them.

God’s granting to humans “dominion” over animals in Genesis 1:26 is often falsely cited as divine approval for torturing animals for the table. Most theologians recognize that the word translated as “dominion” is more accurately translated as “stewardship” and that the meaning of this text is that humans are supposed to be stewards and guardians, protecting and respecting the beings with whom we share the gift of creation.

But all the questions (or excuses) that are put forth in favor of eating animals don’t address the fundamental fact that eating God’s creatures causes needless violence and suffering and is inextricably linked to their abuse. If you are eating meat, you’re paying others to deny God’s animals their own natures and to abuse them. Even the very few organic and small farms abuse animals in ways that would be illegal if done to dogs or cats.

Pope Benedict XVI stated in an interview that the question of animal treatment is a crucial one for the faithful. By any measure, what happens to farmed animals today is anti-Christian. As His Holiness explained, “Hens live so packed together that they become just caricatures of birds.” Similar abuse occurs in all the farmed-animal industries. This “degrading of living creatures,” explains His Holiness, contradicts “the relationship of mutuality that comes across in the Bible.” Father John Dear, a Jesuit Priest from New Mexico, takes our responsibility to animals a step further, stating, “For the simple reasons that all animals are creatures beloved by God and that God created them with a capacity for pain and suffering, we should adopt a vegetarian diet.”

It doesn’t take much reflection to see that the Pope and Father Dear are right: God created humans and other animals out of flesh, blood and bone. We share the same five physiological senses and the ability to feel pain. God designed us this way. God designed pigs to root around in the soil for food and play with one another. God designed chickens to make nests, lay eggs, raise their chicks and establish communities (the “pecking order”).

Yet agribusiness today denies animals the fulfillment of their most fundamental needs. Agricultural scientists “play God” by manipulating animals to grow so quickly that their hearts, lungs and limbs can’t keep up, often causing heart attacks, lung failure or crippling leg deformities within weeks of birth. Chickens are crammed into cages by the hundreds of thousands, each with less space in which to live than a standard sheet of paper. During pregnancy, pigs are stuffed into tiny metal crates so small that they can’t even turn around. Forget rooting in the soil or laying their eggs in nests—these animals can barely move. The one natural thing they do get to experience is agony, and lots of it.

Scripture is full of calls for the faithful to be merciful, and Jesus’ message is one of love and compassion, yet there is nothing loving or compassionate about the industries that produce the farmed animals who are turned into meat. Christians have a choice: When we sit down to eat, we can support misery and violence or we can make choices that support mercy and compassion. The decision should be an easy one for us.

Bruce Friedrich is a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

April 14, 2011 at 6:21 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