The governor of Tennessee has vetoed the state's ag-gag bill, SB 1248/HB 1191, which would have required that photographs and videos of animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours. In general, "ag-gag laws" are dangerous because they protect the animal abusers and punish whistleblowers who are trying to expose animal cruelty.
As reported by Will Potter of Green is the New Red, prosecutors have dropped the charges against a woman who was the first ag-gag defendant. "Ag-gag" laws are designed to stop activists from documenting cruelty against farmed animals with photos, video and audio recordings. Although the laws vary from state to state, they tend to infringe on free speech and freedom of the press, and would apply equally to employees and journalists attempting to document unsafe work conditions, sexual harrassment, food safety violations, and other illegal activity.
In February of 2013, Amy Meyer was on a public street in Draper City, Utah, when she recorded a video of an incapacitated cow being carried around by a tractor at the Dale Smith Meatpacking Company. The manager called the police, who allowed her to leave after she explained that she was on the public easement and not on the slaughterhouse's property. She later learned that she was being charged under the state's new ag-gag law, which prohibits shooting video of an agricultural operation while trespassing. Just 24 hours after Potter broke the news and public outrage erupted on April 29, the Draper City prosecutor dismissed the charges. If convicted, Meyer, who was represented by an attorney paid by PETA, faced up to six months in prison.
The prosecutor based the dismissal on the fact that Meyer was not trespassing and the fact that this was obvious from her video footage.
Although the charges were dropped, Meyer's case demonstrates the danger of ag-gag laws. Focus shifts from the animal cruelty to whether or not the person shooting the video was standing in the public easement. These laws are intended to help big ag cover up their crimes and misdeeds.
In the animal protection movement, Mother's Day is a time to focus on dairy cows and veal, and Liberation BC has come up with the cow ribbon as a way to get the word out. Rebecca Gindin-Clarke, Research and Information Director for Liberation BC, says, "The campaign exists to bring attention to all of the mothers of the dairy industry who lose child after child so that humans can take their milk." Pin it on your purse or your lapel, and every time someone asks why you're wearing a cow ribbon, you have a chance to tell people about the cruelty of the dairy and veal industry.
The dairy industry is built on the practice of taking babies away from their mothers. The cows must go through pregnancy and birth to maximize their milk production. What happens to all those baby cows?About half of the female calves will grow up to replace their mothers in the dairy, but the other half and nearly all the male calves are slaughtered for veal.
After two cycles of pregnancy, birth and milking, the adult females are considered spent and are sent to slaughter at the age of four or five years. The cows have been bred to produce outrageous amounts of milk. In the past, cows produced 16 pounds of milk per day - just enough to feed a calf. But thanks to selective breeding, hormones, and an unnatural diet, cows today produce 50 pounds of milk per day. When they go to slaughter, about 10% are "downed" - so weak they cannot stand.
After 8-16 weeks of this torture, the calves are slaughtered for veal.
Images of downer cow and veal crates courtesy of Farm Sanctuary
Portrayals of animal exploitation usually either depict the animals as willing participants in their own exploitation, or encourage the viewer to laugh at the animals' plight. Check out these ten examples.
The photo above shows male chicks on a conveyor belt, heading toward their death. Perhaps into a garbage bag to suffocate to death. Perhaps to a grinding machine, like the one at the Hy-Line Hatchery in Iowa, where Mercy for Animals shot undercover footage of male chicks being ground up alive. Male chicks are not profitable to egg farmers because they will not lay eggs. After they are killed, they may be turned into fertilizer or pet food. Years ago, I heard about a hatchery that sent their male chicks to a fur farm, to be fed to minks.
The majority of the females live only to spend their short lives crammed into battery cages, until their egg production drops and they are killed for being unprofitable.
This cruelty is just another example of how factory farming is cruel to animals, but the solution is not cage-free eggs because 1) the cage-free facilities also buy their baby chicks from hatcheries that kill male chicks; 2) cage-free farms still confine the animals and still slaughter the chickens when their egg production drops; and most importantly, 3) no matter how "humanely" the chickens are treated, breeding, buying, selling and keeping chickens for our own purposes violates their right to be free of human use and exploitation.
The solution is veganism.
Photo courtesy of Mercy for Animals
I found this fish hook and lead sinker on a New Jersey beach a few days ago, reminding me of the hazards of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle. It also reminded me of how animals suffer and die because of our pollution, including fishing tackle and nets that hang around in the ocean, continuing to harm and kill marine life for decades. Or centuries, in the case of nylon nets.
Speaking of lead ammunition, California is poised to be the first state to ban lead ammunition for hunting. The state has already banned lead shot for hunting big game and coyotes in the California condor's range.
In March of 2013, thirty scientists signed a Consensus Statement on the effects of lead ammunition on the environment, which concludes:
Based on overwhelming evidence for the toxic effects of lead in humans and wildlife, even at very low exposure levels, convincing data that the discharge of lead-based ammunition into the environment poses significant risks of lead exposure to humans and wildlife, and the availability of non-lead alternative products for hunting . . . we support reducing and eventually eliminating the introduction of lead into the environment from lead-based ammunition.
Under AB711, hunters throughout the state would be provided with nontoxic ammunition "at no or reduced charge."
While animal rights advocates are concerned about the environmental effects of lead ammunition and lead fishing tackle, we oppose all hunting and fishing regardless of whether the ammunition and tackle contain lead. While I'm glad they're going to get rid of lead ammunition, I can't get behind this bill because of the ammunition handout.
Image ©Doris Lin 2013, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Harvard Medical School announced this week that they will close their primate research laboratory in 2015. Four monkeys died at the Southborough, MA facility between 2010 and 2012, and the lab was cited for animal welfare violations. However, Jeffrey Flier, dean of the medical school, told the Boston Globe that closing the facility was "a strategic long-term decision," based on economics and not the recent animal welfare problems.
According to school officials, nearly 2,000 monkeys will be relocated - possibly to other research facilities - and none will be killed. While this means that these 2,000 primates may continue to be used as research subjects, no additional monkeys will be captured, bred or sold for this laboratory.
And appropriately, April 20-28, 2013 is World Week for Animals in Laboratories. A project of In Defense of Animals, WWAIL began in 1986 to spotlight the use of animals in laboratories and to speak out against animal experimentation.
You have until Friday, April 26 to comment on a U.S. Food and Drug Administration proposal to approve genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. The GE salmon would be the first genetically modified animal approved for human consumption in the U.S.
Regardless of how you feel about genetically modified plant foods, a genetically engineered animal brings up a whole new host of ethical concerns, in addition to concerns about the impact on the environment and human health. Nonprofit groups also question the science and benefits of GE salmon.
What You Can Do: Tell the FDA to reject genetically engineered salmon for human consumption:
Docket # FDA2011N0899
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
If you're short on time, you can use this webform from Food and Water Watch.
Image ©Doris Lin 2013, licensed to About.com, Inc.
With Earth Day coming up on April 22, it's time to examine the environmental reasons to go vegan.
Most people are familiar with the animal rights arguments for veganism: Buying animal products supports abuse, slaughter and exploitation of sentient creatures. But many people are unaware of the devastating environmental impact of animal agriculture on the environment.
Animal agriculture is terribly inefficient because it requires growing grains to be fed to animals, instead of feeding those grains to people directly. Those additional crops mean that there is more land, water, pesticides, fertilizer, fuel, and pollution involved in animal agriculture than in producing vegan food. According to the United Nations, cattle rearing produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. And that's just cattle.
As if clubbing seals to sell their skins were not bad enough, there isn't even a demand for these pelts. HarpSeals.org explains that the hunt is subsidized by the local government:
Last year, with world markets almost entirely closed to seal pelts and other seal products, the provincial government of Newfoundland, Canada took CAN$3.6 million of Newfoundland tax money and allocated it to a foreign company, Carino, which is based in Norway, in order to entice the company to buy pelts from sealers. As a result about 70,000 seal pups were bludgeoned and shot to death solely to stockpile their pelts (adding to large, existing stockpiles). This year, again the Newfoundland government is allocating the same amount of tax money to Carino thus ensuring tens of thousands more seal pups will be killed...for nothing.
The Canadian government is blaming the seals for the decline in the cod population, and say that the seal hunt is an "experiment" to try to help the cod population recover. Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare explains the problem with this "experiment":
Think of all the variables that are in play in this experiment. There are the cod, the grey seals -- and every other animal in the ocean. Animals that may feed on cod, or on grey seals, or on whatever cod and grey seals feed on, or on whatever those animals and plants may feed on. Then there are the environmental variables: ocean currents carrying the cod's preferred food, pollution, disease, climate change. That web is incredibly complex and intricate, and if any of those variables are altered -- and it's certain that one or more will be -- then the "experiment" is for naught.
From an animal rights perspective, this is yet another tragic example of a group of predatory animals being killed because humans are the only ones who should be able to kill and eat other animals. Other examples: Killing sea lions to save salmon; killing wolves and bears to save caribou, killing wolves to save elk, and killing wolves to save cattle.
What you can do: Different organizations have different approaches to this issue, and are calling for various actions:
- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has a webform that you can use to urge Canadian officials to call off the seal hunt.
- HarpSeals.org continues to call for a boycott of Canadian seafood. Even if you are already vegan or vegetarian, you can urge restaurants and supermarkets to boycott Canadian seafood. Some activists oppose this boycott because the implication is that it's OK to eat fish, scallops and prawns from other countries. (Read "What's Wrong with Eating Fish?"
- Harpseals.org also has a webform that you can use to contact officials to ask them to cancel the seal hunt.
- Friends of Animals United NY/NJ is organizing a protest at the Canadian consulate on Friday, April 12th, 2013 from 2pm to 5pm, at 1251 Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave) @ the corner of 50th St, New York, NY. More information is available on the FAUN Meetup page and Facebook page.
- Humane Society International has a webform to urge the Canadian minister of trade to drop Canada's challenge to the European Union's ban on seal products. Learn more about the EU ban here.