Free study guide and film for educators

Study guide and film FREE to teachers! Animal Place is proud to announce the creation of a curriculum unit on farmed animals for secondary teachers! The 50-page study guide accompanies our film, The Emotional World of Farm Animals, which has been aired nationally on PBS. The Emotional World of Farm Animals study guide cover
Geared for all ages, this study guide introduces students to the intelligence and emotional states of cattle, pigs, chickens, turkeys, goats and sheep.

If you are a teacher interested in receiving a FREE copy of our study guide AND PBS-aired film, The Emotional World of Farm Animals, please fill out the registration form.

Our thanks to the Glaser Progress Foundation & the Animal Welfare Trust for funding this project.

Film also available for purchase!

The film can be purchased on-line for $20.

Cooperatives Working Together to Kill Cows

I know I've been blogging a lot about the dairy industry these past few days. I promise I'll be blogging about other farmed animal and Animal Place related issues soon, but this article was brought to my attention. I had to post about it, it's just so creepy and Halloween is right around the corner, so it seemed appropriate.

Living in California, the largest dairy state, it's hard not to hear about the "plight" of dairy farmers. Feed prices are up. Milk prices for producers are down significantly. Farmers are left with decisions to make and who do they turn to when times are tough? Apparently, Cooperatives Working Together - a collection of dairy co-ops that get to benefit any time a down-and-out-of-luck dairy farm participates in their herd retirement program.

You heard that right, herd retirement. If you are a cynic when it comes to the language industry uses, you probably laughed darkly at that nice little term. If you are unfamiliar with the way agri-business spins and twists and confuses with language, then you might think herd retirement was synonymous with green pastures and nice, new cow sanctuary digs. Or maybe you do realize that herd retirement = slaughter. I mean, I know people generally like to consider a permanent retirement from the work place, but this is a bit of an extreme interpretation of the word.

If you're like this farmer, this is how hard the decision to retire your herd might be:
"He said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do," she said. "Luckily, my boys could do it."
Yes, it must have been downright tough-as-nails hard carting off 1,500 cows to slaughter. Lucky!! Someone else did it for this guy. Left out of the equation are the cows. You know the herd about to be retired? How do you suppose they felt being crowded into metal containers, transported miles to the nearest abattoir, unloaded, poked and prodded, shoved and pushed, forward motion to the man or woman who would punch a hole in their heads, cut their throats, butcher their bodies?

I am a compassionate person. But let's face facts, here: This family (and in all honesty, I wish them economic success w/o animals) has profited off of the exploitation and use of another species without their consent. These cows have had thousands of gallons of milk taken from them for people to drink, they have given birth to calves they've never nursed. This is their send-off gift of retirement? Well, it is just sooner than normal - all dairy cows are slaughtered, of course, even when they could live another decade.

Back to the Cooperatives Working Together (CWT). They even have a program where you can include all of the bred heifers in the herd. Bred heifers = pregnant. It does not matter if the cow is 45 days pregnant or full-term, nine-months pregnant - CWT will buy them for a flat fee of $700/cow. What happens to these pregnant cows? Their babies? Generally the cow is stunned and her throat cut. Inside her, the calf - if he is full-term - will struggle with her as she dies (for as she dies, so does he). The cow may then be cut open and her fully-conscious or, by then, dead calf removed from her womb. The calf may be used for research, his blood pumped from a still-beating heart to make use of their fetal blood serum. This is done without anesthesia. The calf might just have her throat cut as well (without a stunning blow to the head) and be processed alongside her mother. Mostly, the calves will be cut from their mother's body and their skin turned into soft leather. That last link has a video. It's graphic, you have been warned.

This year alone, CWT has paid for the slaughter of 225,000 cows. That's almost as many cows they've paid to kill since they formed in 2003. Around 55,000 cows are being killed per week - that's 7,850 cows a day or 327 cows every hour being slaughtered. Generally, around 2 million dairy cows are slaughtered annually, but at the current pace, another million - 3 million total - will be killed. 

So who benefits from the CWT? Certainly not the cows and calves - they're killed. The farmers who "retire" their herds? The money they get per hundredweight of their cows is hardly worth calling home about. It certainly won't help the farmer retire. They have to sell their entire herd to benefit from the CWT program and they can't use that money to buy more cows. Member groups certainly benefit. They're buying into a system that winnows down a diverse group of farmers to a small, more homogeneous group of farmers (those big co-ops, primarily). They certainly benefit from less competition. That does not seem like a good thing for anyone.

Help give cows a real retirement by supporting sanctuaries and vegan outreach groups. Reduce the amount of money you spend on animal products, choose alternatives, try veganism. These are meaningful ways to help animals.

Milking it

Sadie is special, at least to me. She is the face of the dairy industry, those beautiful cows who are bred and milked, bred and milked in a cycle of loss and separation. In her life, she gave birth to four calves, their fates intertwined with her own. Each calf was a marker of loss for Sadie, torn from her at birth. She did not nurse or groom them; she never watched from a distance as they frolicked in green pastures. There was never a time when she met grand-calves, the young of her own daughters.

Her sons, sweet and smart, gentle and curious, they are all dead now. Sold at auction for $5-15, raised and slaughtered for veal or cheap dairy beef. None of them made it past the age of two.

Some of her daughters are alive, no doubt. Others are dead, slaughtered and disassembled for what meager flesh humans can obtain from their overworked bodies.

She spent six years at a dairy farm. Six years of producing gallon after gallon of breast milk for another species. Every meaningful behavior, from reproductive choice to nursing her own young to choosing what and where to eat, all of them denied.

And when her production decreased, when an infection common to 50-70% of all dairy cows invaded her mammary glands - suddenly she was no longer a valuable commodity. She had never been seen as someone, an animal with interests of her very own, but as a something, a unit of production whose worth was measured in gallons.

She was sent to auction. That awful place where other sentient beings are paraded in front of humans, where they are watched from bleachers, where they piss and shit in fear, where they cry. And where they go unheard. She was purchased by a veterinary university and used as a teaching tool. Her mastitis was left untreated,  yet another chapter of exploitation.

Someone saw her as an individual and ached for her. They saw a sweet animal who was struggling to survive amidst poking and prodding and a painful medical condition. It was an orchestrated production of frustration trying to convince the university to release her to the sanctuary. But in the end, she arrived, shy and concerned, an udder that sank nearly to her knees, a sign of human cruelty, of every milk-drinker's complicity in her suffering.

I will be honest, Sadie is never going to like humans. It has taken me years to touch her, to scratch her face like a bovine friend would. She tolerates my presence because I am a known entity, a biped who has given her apples and massages and has yet to do anything to violate the tentative trust built.

Her mastitis took years to heal. Years. It was only through NOT MILKING her, through the painful removal of cup after cup of pus and infection did it heal. And it was only because her caregivers, people who wanted nothing more than for her to get better, had to confine her, force her to suffer even more indignities. She endured, unwillingly, and it pained us to watch.

Life for Sadie now is one of choices. Like where to graze or nap. Or what to do with herself at ten in the morning. Or whether she wants to hang out with the other cattle or lie in the compost pile on her own. When we take in male calves from the dairy industry, the unwanted by-products, she decides whether they get a facial grooming or a back grooming. There are still times when we take decisions away from her, like when she needs hoof trims or pain medication. We hope that these are minor inconveniences and her life is generally full of good, positive, enriching experiences. She deserves them.

Whatever your reason for being vegan or striving toward veganism - thank you.

Some more pictures from yesterday (click to see larger):

Kinder side of veal?

Humanely raised veal? Veal cast in a kinder light?

Today's Washington Post offers its readers a look into a kinder, gentler, more humane veal.

Wait a second, back up. Look at that language, how it muddies up the discussion right off the bat. Veal is not raised. There is no field of veal stalks reaching tendrils to the sun. Veal is the flesh of calves, specifically young male calves. It's calf meat or flesh.

Its producers argue that if male calves, an otherwise useless byproduct of the dairy industry, are not ethically raised for meat, they are sold to less-humane veal producers or destroyed.

Ouch. Let's be honest about who we are talking about. By-products are inanimate, they have no real moral value. They are things.

He is not a thing:

This animal you see above is not inanimate. He has wants of his own that often do not align with mine or yours. His personality is different from other cattle. He has emotions and intelligence. I am not using this picture as an attempt at appealing to emotion (but oh goodness, isn't he cute?). But when you see this calf, you do not see veal or a by-product, you see an individual, a breathing, feeling, moving animal.

Then there is the notion that gosh, people, if we do not start sending calves to pastures where they can be fattened and slaughtered in a less cruel manner, then we are guilty of sending them to horrible, evil, operations where animals cannot even turn around. Like most animals, a calf has an interest in life. Perhaps not an interest in pondering ethical matters, like us humans, but an equally valid interest in pursuing all the behaviors that keep him alive. He avoids things that cause him pain and fear. It does not matter if he is sent to a green pasture before he is killed or if he spends 20 weeks in a tiny crate before he is killed. He is killed. His life, which could extend for more than a decade, is denied him.

For what?

A beverage humans do not need in any manner, shape or form to survive. Dairy milk is not intrinsic to our survival. We are, in fact, the only species to consume the breast milk of another past weaning.

The article goes on:
For example, one common consumer complaint is that the animals are killed so young. But veal calves are in fact older than chickens, turkeys and pigs and about the same age as lambs when they are slaughtered.
Fear no more - calves raised for veal are older than other slaughtered animals! It's true, calves raised for rose veal are slaughtered when they are between 6-10 months of age, depending on the farm and location. Most are killed when they are 6-7 months of age. This is actually the same age as pigs and lambs (who are generally 5-7 months old) and definitively older than chickens raised for meat (who are a tragically young 6-weeks-old). Some turkeys are slaughtered at 6-mos-old, while most are around 4-mos old.

This begs the question: SO WHAT? That question deserves capitalization. There's a good post over at's Animal Rights about this very issue. The reality is that a six or ten month old calf is still a baby. Behaviorally he is a young animal. Physically he is immature. That he happens to be older than other young animals is hardly a winning argument for eating his flesh. Consumers! Please be smarter than that (I have faith you are, seriously). All animals on farms are killed before their normal lifespan.
Most important, dairy cows must give birth to provide milk. "If you consume dairy, you should eat veal."
This is irrefutable. But I have a different take on it. Instead of eating veal, stop drinking milk. You don't need it. It's made for a bovine baby. It is a non-essential nutrient. There are alternatives. You can get the added supplements and nutrients from other sources. Stop drinking milk, stop supporting veal. It really is that easy.

Because it all comes down to this:
"I think it's really tasty," said Bart Vandaele
Taste. Palate. Gustatory pleasure. I love food. Really, I do. There are so many variations of grains, so many varieties of vegetables and myriad fruit. There are nuts and legumes. The combinations are endless (statisticians may disagree). But can taste be a serious argument for raising animals for their flesh, milk or eggs? Can the fact that something is "tasty" excuse the commodification of another intelligent, emotional being? Can it excuse the separation of mother from calf the day he or she is born? Is the suffering and oppression of entire species' less important than liking how something tastes?

We cannot be that arrogant, that selfish. Can we?

Windy days, unimpressed animals, learn to save

In a move only described as Epic Fail, I managed to delete the incredibly amazing, provocative, insightful, WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE post I was writing. I cried a little.

Now you will have to settle for the following.

Here is Willy. He is a goat, as evidenced by his horns, beard and caprine-like appearance.

Today is a very windy day - you can tell by the fact that the palm tree is about to topple over. Just kidding. Or am I? You would have to be present for the picture to know for sure.

If you look closely, you can see Willy's beard dancing in the wind to its own drumbeat.

I tried to get Willy to do something a little more exciting than lying down. So he turned his head to the side. You are as excited as I am by that pose, aren't you? Yes, well, goats rarely do what you ask them to do. This is a good thing, because even when goats do as you ask, they do it in such a way as to make your life a little harder. Funnier. But harder. Like for example, one time I asked Jeffrey to get his own leaves from the tree. So he attempted to use me as a climbing device. This was painful AND funny (in hindsight).

Moving on to some other animals and their methods of wind protection. Did I mention it is windy today? Oh yes, the palm tree. Anyways, it's gusty. I feel as if I might blow away at a moment's notice, yet the animals are all unperturbed.

Bruce is the pig in front. You can read his story here. It's a tear jerker.

He is snoozing as he is wont to do and, if you had been there, you would have seen his ear would flap upwards due to an unruly burst of wind. It was cute, yet I failed to get a shot of it. I apologize.

Behind him is Nicholas. To be honest, I am grateful Nicholas wasn't acting as if the wind was the best thing since alfalfa. If so, he would have been up, kicking and bucking, most likely within a two-foot radius of me. In play, jest, haha, you are so funny! I like not getting injured by frolicking bovines, so Nicholas is absolutely gorgeous lying there in the green, green grass.

Hazel is the blurry pink pig in the very back. And there is not much else to report about her, except that she was being the most exciting animal in this shot. LOOK AT THAT HIND LEG ABOUT TO MOVE!

And then there were the chickens. Oh, chickens. Surely there would be rambunctious hens and cavorting turkeys. They would be testing their wings on the updrafts, soaring high. Just kidding, they don't do that sort of crazy stuff. I mean, they could if they wanted to. But they do not. Want to soar on the updrafts, that is.

Instead they want to do stuff like this:

You cannot get much more awesome than Diablo and his blowing mane of feathers. YOU CANNOT. I mean, you could try, but you would fail and you would feel embarrassed that you thought you could. Try to make sense of that statement. Diablo was the ONLY chicken out in the grass. His head-feathers were blowing stylishly in the wind, his comb and wattles bright red and quite an appropriate testament to his namesake El Diablo.

If this changed your life, then my epic fail of before was not in vain - PLEASE TELL ME IT CHANGED YOUR LIFE. Diablo will thank you.

Taylor the chicken, mourning her friends

Meet Taylor, the hen, my friend and confidante (on all things chicken, mainly). She is a singer, a crooner, a speaker on all subjects large and small. Who stole her nest box. Who is hanging out with Diablo the rooster when they were last seen with Newman. Who likes Ferdinand, even though he's kind of a jerk. Why Willow the turkey pecks at Joan Jett, the hen.

Everything is fair game.

Yesterday, Taylor sat on my lap. She trilled and grumbled at the rest of the birds. Here she was, on stage, ready to perform for all of her chicken peons. No one seemed to be paying much attention. She had mine, though. Eye contact, direct and forceful. A small connection. This was serious talk.

Arching her speckled neck, she reached up and tugged on a strand of hair, tug, yank, pull. Ouch! My yelp gave her pause and she cooed like a hen does to a miffed chick. It's a sweet sound, full of maternal love. When you hear this sound, do not keep up with your temper tantrum. A hen's maternal love lasts only so long, soon she will change her tone and reinforce her message with a swift peck to the head. I quickly got over the pain - she was giving me the "I will peck you if I have to" look. Mothers can be tough.

I have found Taylor's sweet spot. Reaching my fingers up, I scratch along both sides of her neck. Scratch, scratch, massage, scratch. Her eyes close, she makes these indescribably precious sounds. Happy! If she were a dog, she would be kicking her hind foot in wild abandon.

There is no denying Taylor's pleasure, no ignoring her contented sighs and clucks of appreciation. You do not need to be an expert on chickens to observe Taylor and see a being who thinks, feels, experiences the life around her.

The more you get to know another species, the harder it becomes to excuse their exploitation and abuse. Chickens are fascinating animals. Their world is sometimes unfathomable to me, but many times it's so obvious - friendship, trust, betrayal, hunger, love, altruism, fear, suffering, pain, joy. Their movements are not pointless reflexes, random responses to their environment. They think and plot and make decisions. Which makes their treatment on farms so painful. Nine billion. 

24,600,000 killed every day. By the time you have read this sentence outloud, nearly 2,000 chickens - with unique personalities like Taylor's - have been slaughtered in the United States alone. They are not protected by federal slaughter laws. Some states exclude them from state slaughter laws. This means they can be killed fully conscious, no stunning required.

The numbers alone highlights their unbearable suffering. It is impossible to slaughter 24 million birds every day without stunning improperly, not fully killing birds before their still feeling bodies are dunked into electric baths or de-feathering machines. There are not 24 million slaughterhouses for each bird. They are killed by the tens of thousands in the few processing plants that exist solely to disassemble living, sentient animals.

Chickens are not dumb. They are not immune to pain. They are intelligent, emotional beings who can and do suffer. Their desires are not much different than yours - they want to live, seek out that which makes them happy, avoid pain, make friends, eat until they are full (and they like sugary sweets!), spend time with their family and loved ones.

We owe them. We have murdered them by the billions for decades. We owe them.

Please go vegan.

Backyard Poultry Position Statement

Collective Position Statement on Backyard Poultry
In the past year, shelters and sanctuaries in urban and suburban areas have witnessed a dramatic increase in the intake of chickens, particularly roosters. Hatcheries producing day-old chicks for shipment to feedstores and individuals are backlogged with orders. The desire to raise poultry can be linked to organic backyard farming as well as a desire to have direct access to food (eggs and, in some cases, meat).
As a coalition of animal sanctuaries concerned for the welfare of hens and roosters, we have created this position statement on the keeping and raising of chickens. All of us have received calls to take in hens and roosters who are a) no longer wanted; b) not the correct sex; c) not legally permissible. As organizations with limited resources and space, it is no longer feasible to take in even a small percentage of these sadly unwanted birds. Even with placement assistance, most of these chickens, particularly roosters, do not find permanent placement. This leaves municipal dog and cat shelters the task of taking in, housing, feeding, caring for, and inevitably killing healthy, adoptable chickens.

Problems associated with urban backyard flocks
Hatcheries are like puppy mills: When animals are reduced to commodities, their interests are pushed aside in favor of profit. Hatcheries that produce chicks for backyard flocks treat chickens and their offspring the way puppy mills treat breeding dogs and their puppies. As there are no legal requirements dictating how breeding hens and roosters are housed, they’re most likely crammed into small cages or sheds without outdoor access.

Shipping day-old chicks is cruel: Most chickens purchased are bought from hatcheries or feed stores (feedstore chicks originate from hatcheries). Hatcheries ship day-old birds through the postal service without any legal oversight. Young chickens are deprived of food and water for up to 72 hours and exposed to extreme temperatures. As Dr. Jean Cypher, a veterinarian specializing in avian medicine states, “A day-old chick can no more withstand three days in a dark crowded box than can any other newborn.” Other experts in avian medicine and behavior agree that transporting day-old chicks in boxes for the first 24-72 hours of life is cruel and medically detrimental to the birds. 

Chicken sexing is more art than science: Using data collected from sanctuaries and rescues that field calls daily about unwanted chickens, we estimate between 20-50% of purchased “hens” are actually roosters. Depending on breed, visually identifying a rooster can take weeks to months.
Roosters may be unwanted and are often illegal: Male chickens are generally unwanted for two reasons: They don’t produce eggs and they are rarely legal in urban or suburban settings. Hatcheries may use rooster chicks as packing material, regardless of whether they were ordered. Most incorporated or urban regions that do permit chickens allow only hens, not roosters. Unwanted roosters may be abandoned to the streets, slaughtered, or end up in a municipal shelter to be killed. Very few find their way into a permanent home or sanctuary.
Chickens attract rodents: Even the cleanest coop is attractive to rats and mice who enjoy the free bedding (straw and shavings) and food. Rodents are generally viewed as pests and their presence is unwanted by chicken owners and neighbors.
Lack of professional medical care: Avian medicine has made progress but there are few vets specialized in the treatment and care of birds. Veterinarians who do treat poultry are often expensive, with a veterinary visit sometimes starting at a minimum of $100.
Concerns with new ordinances allowing backyard poultry
Enforcement costs: Municipal shelters run on a tight budget dealing with animal cruelty cases, dangerous dog calls, and the normal day to day operation of their facilities. Adding an extra burden, like enforcing chicken licensing laws and related complaints, is unwise amidst current economic concerns.
Slaughter: The average chicken guardian is ill-equipped to “properly” stun and kill a chicken. Further, slaughtering can be traumatic for neighbors, including impressionable children. If chickens are to be permitted in urban areas, they must be protected from cruel mistreatment, including a ban on slaughtering them for consumption.
Roosters will be killed: Creating new ordinances permitting chickens creates a market for killing 50% of all chicks born in hatcheries. Urban and suburban areas considering chickens generally ban roosters, yet male chickens comprise half of all chicks born. Hatcheries mail roosters as packing material, and sexing of chickens is more art than science (see above). When residents purchase chicks from hatcheries or feedstores and end up with roosters, they will be put in the position of having to rehome the bird(s). Most roosters are not rehomed and end up abandoned or dumped at shelters, where most will be killed.
Suggestions if you are considering a backyard flock
Make sure it’s legal: If you live in an unincorporated area, contact your planning department and ask about the zoning requirements regarding poultry. If you live in an incorporated region, contact the city clerk for information on ordinances regarding chickens.
Adopt: Avoid the cruelties of the hatcheries by adopting birds already in existence who need homes. Check out for animals available at your local shelter. Visit or and contact a sanctuary near you about adopting birds. If they do not have birds, do not give up. Sanctuaries and shelters receive inquiries daily regarding animals needing homes – ask that you be contacted if a chicken becomes available who needs a home.
Do your research: Chickens can be wonderful companions. While they are relatively easy to maintain, they do have special needs. Be sure to research housing, predator proofing, diet, and medical needs. Some things to be aware of:
  • Some breeds of chickens are cold-sensitive: Hens and roosters with large single combs are prone to frostbite in cooler climates. Make sure adequate housing accommodates birds in both cool and hot temperatures.
  • Predator protection is vital: Chickens should be locked up at night in a safe enclosure that prevents access by all predators, including dogs, raccoons, aerial predators, rats, cats, wild canines, weasels, etc. During the day, animals should be housed in a fully-fenced enclosure or yard with proper protection from aerial, day-time predators and neighborhood dogs and, in the case of small bantams, large domestic free-roaming cats.
  • Veterinary care is critical: Avian medicine is still considered an “exotic” practice and, as such, is more expensive. A one-time visit may start at $100. Nevertheless, before considering housing chickens, it is imperative that they have access to veterinary care.
Supporting Organizations

Chester and Susie Pigs Graze - Yum!

Book Trailer: Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows

The book, Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy, Ph.D. will be available in January of 2010.

Sheep-tastic day at the sanctuary

In the past couple weeks, the sanctuary has received several inches of rain. It only takes a little moisture to inspire the grass to grow. Little shoots have popped up across the sanctuary grounds, transforming the landscape from brown-praririe grass to verdant green. We cannot wait for the grass to get lusher and taller - perfect picture-taking time for chickens!! And by we, I mean me, really.

The sheep were up on the hillside, aptly named Sheep Hill, nibbling away at the new shoots. I tried to get their attention for a face shot, but they all ignored me. I told them they were rude, at which point they all positioned their butts toward me. Thus, the only shots I got of Sheep Hill and the sheep grazing on it are all rear-end or side poses.

Which is fine, I guess. You do get to see the difference in tails with the sheep. Some of the sheep have their tails, while others have been rudely mutilated, their tails lopped off for no other reason than it is more profitable to remove body parts than practice good management and hygiene.

Amazing sheep fact: Sheep shouldn't have long tails. I don't mean we should cut them off, by any means. Just that the domestication process had some unintended (and tragically intended, in the case of wool) consequences. Wild sheep have normal, short tails that protect their rear-end without providing an ideal home for flies to lay their eggs. One side-effect of domestication is that most breeds of sheep have long tails. In breeds, like Merinos, where humans bred for folding skin for more wool, sheep can have problems with flies laying eggs in the folds of their skin and wool. The moist area under the tail can be a prime breeding spot for flies. We haven't had this problem, but we also monitor the sheep on a regular basis.

In any event, back to me and the sheep photography session. It went well, I suppose. There was not much activity from my perspective, although me clamoring up and down the hillside inspired some ire from a couple of the sheep.Here are a few of the shots with random commentary.

Remember, you can click on any of the photos for a LARGER version. 

Gwen, the amazing brown ewe

Gwen is actually part-muppet. She does not like to be told this, which is why she does not like to be touched or talked to or even looked at, really.

Gwen has been here since she was an itty-bitty. She came from a breeder who liked brown Merinos but didn't like caring for abandoned ones.

We hand-raised her, which is to say we bottle-fed her and hugged her and told her how pretty she was. Thus, we scarred her for life, leaving her unwilling to come near us.

When she is in a good mood, she will let us scratch her face. That is it. Mostly, she is not in a good mood. We have learned not to take great offense. After all, we have only ourselves to blame.

Lenny and mom

Lenny's butt is partially blocking his mother's head in the background. Rude kid, I tell you.

Lenny was born at the sanctuary. His mom, Virginia, was rescued from a slaughterhouse. She is a sensitive soul, having spent most of her life neglected and mistreated by humans.

Tragically, she has instilled this sense of disdain for humans into her son, Lenny. He sniffs hands and that's it. No petting, no googly eyes, no hugs. Nada. He'll give you the stink eye if you try anything funny.


Oh Aiden, you are truly the best un-sheep. In all the universe, and all those exo-planets they are discovering.

You can hug Aiden. You can scratch his head and his butt and even fluff the wool on his tail. You can pinch his nose very gently.

Aiden was abandoned by his mother, and I think this indicates a general inability to mother effectively on her part. Or perhaps she knew Aiden was special. He licked walls for a very long time. He still does, just to see if his palate has adjusted to include walls. He does not hang out with the sheep. When he sees us, he yells HAI! COME AND LOVE ME FOREVER!!! Literally, that's what he says. You don't have to believe me for it to be true.

He thinks he is a goat sometimes. The goats laugh at this preposterous notion and chase him off. He likes the pigs who like him back, except in the morning when produce is being fed (pigs don't like anybody then). Really, though, he's pretty much a strange little person with a thick coat and petite legs. I love him so. You do too, trust me. He is a loveable sheep.

Well, those are some of the sheep who call the sanctuary home. Etta, Simon, Sophie and Sam decided against making an appearance on Sheep Hill, due to the fact that apparently a straw-bed was way more cool. Silliness, according to the hill sheep and Aiden (who thinks everything the sheep do is rather silly). I do hope you enjoyed meeting them through the power of the internets.

7out of 8 pigs agree: mirrors are nifty tools

A recent study showed pigs using a mirror's reflection to access a bowl of food. This is amazing, because I have known some people (NOT ME, I'M TELLING YOU) who can't tell their left from right when looking in a mirror. But 7 out of 8 pigs who had previous experience with a mirror can!

The initial part of the study involved exposing pigs to a mirror. Pigs immediately investigated the shiny object, spending 20 minutes just, you know, staring at themselves. This is more time than *I* spend in front of a mirror in the morning, but less time than a previous foster cat would spend (she'd meow at herself for about 40-60 minutes daily, then wander off to meow at me). Each pig would turn his or her head at different angles, assessing their pros and cons from varying perspectives (or so I am presuming).

The second part of the study involved placing the mirror-exposed pigs in another room. This time, the mirror reflected an image of a bowl of food hidden behind a barrier. Although researchers claim the fan they used to disperse the scent was just to hide the source of food, I and all pigs on earth believe it was a torture-device scent from the depths of slor. In any event, 87% of the pigs correctly identified where the food was located. Nine out of 11 pigs who had no mirror experience were confused and frustrated by the mirror exercise. Two obviously kicked some serious mirror butt and found the food anyways. I have no words for the pig with mirror experience who didn't find the food - no one is saying she shamed her pig family, no one is saying she didn't.

So pigs are smart and vain, but not so vain as to care about extra streaks of color on their body. In another study, researchers tried to see if pigs were "self-aware" by applying marks of color on their body. Other species, like magpies, will furiously attempt to remove the offending color when they see it in a mirror. Pigs don't. This is because pigs often cover themselves in mud and thus do not care if you add an extra streak of color to their skin. Also, they are flamboyant creatures and probably think they're trend-setting with black or orange markings.Take that, Flower! You thought you were sooooo cool when you wore a daisy on your head. Yeah, well look at ME, I have a temporary celtic knot on my left shoulder. IN ORANGE! Ha. I think I have showed you who is the most awesomest of pigs. Me.

Or so I imagine.

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals. - Jonathan Safran Foer, New York Times

I ended up at Foer's New York Times article by way of this editorial which painted Foer's piece as an intensely anti-agricultural essay.

Foer's story probably resonates with many and my guess is that it exemplifies the struggle many vegetarians and vegans go through in their lives. He makes mistakes, consciously chooses a lifestyle that does not mesh with his true ethics and eventually finds himself in a position to create a story of compassion.

This offends the Animal Agricultural Alliance. A lot. So much so that they claim his piece contains some of the most negative stereotypes of modern agriculture. Like ever. Which is odd, because the article itself shies away from describing any actual practices of animal agriculture. De-beaking, gestation /battery/veal crates, castration without pain-relief, maternal deprivation, slaughter etc. ad naseum forever and ever. None of that is mentioned.

The article states a few things about animal agriculture (really, the bulk of the story is an essay on Foer's personal journey to vegetarianism, not about the cruelties inherent to animal agribusiness). In his seven page article, this is what Foer mentions about agriculture:
  • 99% of animals consumed in this country are produced by factory farms.
  • Animal agriculture is the No. 1 contributor to global warming
  • Animal agriculture is No. 2 or No. 3 cause of the most serious environmental problems (air/water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity)
That's it. In an article that is more than 3,500 words long, Foer devotes a paltry number to "facts" about animal agriculture. This isn't a treatise on the horrors of farming, by any stretch. It is a story shared with others, a personal testimony on why the author is vegetarian.

But let's look at the Animal Agricultural Alliance's concerns (first you must get past the initial ad hominem attack and attempt at discrediting Foer all together):
"Just as with Michael Pollan, an agricultural background is notably missing."
Having an agricultural background has little bearing on the ethics of raising animals for consumption. Arguably, *I* have an agricultural background, having worked on farms, milked cows, witnessed the slaughter of farmed animals, been taught by producers and received my education from one of the largest agricultural universities in the country. How would that qualify my opinion as inherently more valid than Foer's? There are beliefs people hold that have little to do with their educational background or personal experience. And there are facts, irrefutable in their starkness, that are available to anyone with a computer or access to a library - no agricultural background needed to access the database of the National Agricultural Statistics Service or the studies showing the problems with farming (both to the animals and to the environment). There are certainly gray areas and it is fair to point them out, to question the supposition and seek more evidence. None of that requires 50 years working at a poultry plant or 25 years slaughtering cattle.
"It's easy to slap a label on farms if you have never seen one with your own eyes."
Last time I checked, Foster Farms isn't inviting folks into their poultry sheds. Butterball isn't opening up their doors to their turkey barns. Smithfield does not welcome people into their sow sheds. Moark, Inc. isn't holding daily tours of their egg-laying farms. Harris Ranch, with its 60,000 head of "beef" cattle surrounds its facility with barbed wire fencing and attempts to arrest people who try to photograph the feedlot from the adjacent highway. The farms where most animals raised for consumption (meat, milk, eggs) live are not open to the public. The farms that are open to the public, those small family-run operations where animals have better living conditions, are not reflective of how most farmed animals are kept.

Besides, one does not need to see a poultry shed to be discomfitted by the idea of 50,000 chickens living in one shed or 150,000 hens confined in cages in one building. Pictures suffice and those pictures tell a story. The horror of that story is only painfully enhanced when people set foot on the typical egg farm or "broiler" facility. The sounds and scent stay with you.

The Alliance makes a fallacious supposition - that in order to label something as wrong or unethical, we need to experience that something. (In which case, I propose farmers spend a week living the life of the animals in their care).
There are nine states with anti-corporate farming laws, but six of them still rank in the top 10 for hog inventory. Actions taken against corporate farming haven't affected the number or size of farms in those states because family farms make up 98 percent of all farms in the U.S.
 There are several things erroneous with this statement.

First is the claim that Foer was talking about farms when he stated that "99% percent of the animals eaten in this country" are from factory farms. In fact, he was talking about the animals, not the farms themselves. A family farm is not defined by size - if I owned three broiler sheds with 50,000 birds per shed and I was the sole owner and my parents were the only shareholders, I am running a family farm. Fascinating! So even if 98% of all farms in this country are "family farms", the information is not only useless, it isn't the information Foer was discussing.

Second, the Alliance mentions the anti-corporate statutes found in nine states: Oklahoma, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. It's true, six are in the top ten (with the other three 11, 18 and 28th for hog inventory). Information is missing. Oklahoma, for example, exempts all livestock production from its anti-corporate statues. Minnesota exempts poultry producers. South Dakota's law, one of the stringest of the nine states, was ruled unconstiutional and is no longer enforced (the original anti-corporate law had many loopholes permitting corporate farms). All states have had mixed results with the number of farms increasing or decreasing, depending on class size. And the rules all define farms differently. For example, there is a "family-owned" farm in California that runs two egg-laying operations. One farm has 450,000 hens, the other 700,000. These two farms would be legal in all nine states with anti-corporate laws because it is a "family-run" operation with a small number of shareholders and only family members running the operation. It is fair to state that the definition, legally, of what constitutes a "family farm" is a far cry from the bucolic, small pastured-operations most people imagine. 

Or look at Iowa. There are about 8,300 pig farms in Iowa with 20 million pigs.
  • 15.4 million pigs live on 2,700 farms confining more than 2,000 pigs per farm.
  • 3.7 million pigs live on 2,500 farms with 500-1,999 pigs per farm.
  • 1 million pigs live on 3,100 farms that house 1-499 pigs per farm (of which 128,000 live on what most would consider a small farm of less than a 100 pigs).
Remember, family farm does not mean small. Any one of those 5,000+ pig operations could be a family farm.

And in Iowa's case, we have 77% of all pigs being raised on factory farms. If you define a factory farm as any farm with more than 500 pigs, that number jumps to 95.5% of pig flesh coming from factory farms (close to the number Foer suggested). 

The 99% number may not be accurate. But it does stem from the reality that 91% of animals killed in this country are chickens. The only profitable method of raising chickens commercially for sale in grocery stores or fast food restaurants is to confine tens of thousands of birds inside sheds and slaughter them at a young age. So it is a safe bet that 91% of animals consumed come from large farms (the chicken industry is vertically integrated with corporations owning hatcheries, the chickens, the feed and also running the processing plants. Farmers who contract with the large chicken companies may own the land, but they do not own the chickens or the chickens feed.) When you add in turkey operations, pig production facilities and the cattle feedlots, that percentage is certainly going to increase. It may be 95% and it may be 99%. It is not less than 91%, if you consider chickens alone.
Foer writes that modern farms are miserable for the environment, farmers, public health, biodiversity, rural communities, global poverty, and so on. There are many facts that help disprove this unfounded statement. For example, of the top ten pork-producing states, three are ranked in the top 10 with the lowest poverty rates. ᅠᅠ
And the Alliance is here to provide a fact for you! If I learned anything from my college statistics professors it was this: Correlation does not automatically mean causation. If I stomp my foot seconds before a hillside at the sanctuary tumbles to the earth, I do not say that my foot stomping caused the hillside to collapse (there are more likely reasons). The same is true of pork production. If I live in a pork producing state that also happens to have a low poverty rate, I don't look at those two statistics and decide raising pigs reduces poverty. Correlation does not mean causation. Being a high pork producing state does not mean your state has a low poverty rate. It's amusing in a strange way that the Alliance is touting this as fact.
Before pinning agriculture with the brunt of environmental criticism, look first to our own human waste disposal system.
Seriously? Now, I don't want to make any claims regarding the efficacy of our human waste disposal system, but it is mind-boggling that the Alliance would dare bring this up. We have an actual disposal system - human waste has to be processed and properly disposed of. There are few laws that protect our waterways from the waste produced by livestock. Farmers spray it on crops people eat, store it in lagoons that can overflow during floods and leech into groundwater, and the single primary factor for the large dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is agricultural run off from the Mississippi river. That is poop, people, and it ain't human. Ultimately, it comes down to this fact: There are ten billion land animals residing on farms in this country - to argue that human waste run-off is more likely to pollute or more deadly than livestock run-off from cropland irrigated with manure or lagoons is ludicrous, at best.
The moral decision to eat meat shouldn't be based on such irrational and emotional arguments but on the science that ensures that farm animals receive the best care possible throughout their lives.
This is a sinister argument that undercuts the valid emotional response to suffering. 

And science. Oh, science. How it is lauded and praised and our puny, personal feelings are maligned!What has science taught us about farmed animals? They feel pain - check. They can suffer emotional trauma - check. They can learn in similar ways as humans - checks. They have social preferences - check. They experience a flood of hormones similar to ones experienced by humans who are happy - check. They remember past events and modify their behavior for the present and future - check. They form bonds (evidenced as preferential treatment) with members of their own species and members of other species - check. They avoid harmful stimuli, including humans who have hurt them and seek out positive stimuli, including humans who have been kind to them - check. Their young exhibit stunted growth and abnormal behavior when deprived of maternal or appropriate social interaction at sensitive growth periods - check. They have difficulty learning and growing when overly stressed - check.

All these things that science has taught us about farmed animals points to a diverse, enriching life that is mutilated, minimized, oppressed, castrated, torn asunder in every meaningful way on a farm. They are physically traumatized through castration, dehorning, detoeing, debeaking, tail docking, ear notching, branding all without pain relief. They are denied social bonds through crates and cages and stalls. They either do not know their mothers, as on poultry and dairy farms, or their contact with their mother is significantly reduced, like on pig farms. Only lambs and calves raised for beef spend time with their mothers and several behavioral studies show that when separation after weaning occurs, both mother and offspring exhibit stress behaviors; pacing, crying, inappetance, disinterest in normal social interactions.

Let's conclude with a quote from Foer's piece:

To acknowledge that these things matter is not sentimental. It is a confrontation with the facts about animals and ourselves. We know these things matter.

On Michigan's animal welfare reforms

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law a bill that provides more room to protected species. In Michigan's case, defined species include pregnant sows, calves used for veal, hens producing eggs, turkeys, ducks, geese or guinea fowl. Producers have three years to provide enough room for calves in the veal industry to stand up, turn around, lie down and stretch their limbs. They have ten years to provide the same basic freedom of movement to the other protected species. Michigan has 10 million hens used to produce eggs, 100,000 sows used to produce pigs for consumption and, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service slaughters approximately 20,000 veal calves annually.
"Agribusiness would never be able to put up the kind of
money for a successful ballot campaign like [the Humane Society of the United States] can," said Michigan state Rep. Mike Simpson (D., Jackson), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and the bill's sponsor.
This is breaking news, people. Agribusiness is so poor they cannot compete with a $200 million dollar animal welfare charity. For example, the veal industry is practically on welfare with their $1.5 billion income. And according to the USDA's Agricultural Statistics Board, the value of egg production in the United States was $8.23 billion and turkey production $4.48 billion. Chicken production is around $28 billion. In Michigan alone, the value of egg production is $211,000,000. The production of pig flesh garnered producers $16 billion in gross income in 2008. In Michigan, the gross income for pig producers was about $255 million. None of these companies can pull together to fund a response to a ballot initiative?

Is Rep. Mike Simpson seriously proposing that multi-billion dollar industries cannot financially compete with one animal welfare organization?

Let us all be honest. Animal agriculture makes a hefty profit off of the exploitation and abuse of animals (both human and nonhuman). They can well afford to fight legislation and they can well afford to advertise extensively (as evidenced by the plethora of meat/dairy/egg based ads I'm exposed to when I have the misfortune of watching cable television with commercials).

In the end, while Michigan's law improves the living conditions of these animals, it does not improve their lives. From day one, they are treated as commodities without moral value. It does not matter if they are hens in the egg-laying industry or male calves on a dairy farm - the end result for them is all the same, slaughter at a young age.

Of course we support these laws and oppose the efforts of agribusiness to make it harder for welfare improvement to occur (as is the developing case in Ohio). We do not, however, think these are laws that benefit animals the most. Animals will still be slaughtered for consumption. Hens will still be debeaked, piglets still castrated without pain relief, sows still deprived of normal maternal bonding with her offspring. Their lives will still be miserable and their deaths still frightening and mind-numbing. Until we stop consuming animals (or their milk and eggs), these welfare laws are only improving animals' conditions of oppression, not releasing them from unwilling servitude as purveyors of flesh, milk or eggs.

Number of Animals Killed to Produce One Million Calories

Animal Visuals, maintained by Mark Middleton, creates powerful visual graphics to help all of us better understand the world nonhuman animals on farms endure.

People are such visual creatures, a species of doubting Thomas' that must apparently see proof to believe the truth.

Some have argued, often with a serious expression, that vegans manage to kill more animals (or similar number of animals) because of crop harvesting and tilling that kills wildlife. Their argument follows that veganism is not as compassionate a diet as once implied and perhaps, we should just eat pigs and cows and be done with it. Certainly anyone who is vegan for ethical reasons would find that logic a bit unsound. (Admittedly, I laughed when it was seriously suggested, which I guess is generally frowned upon when the person is sitting right in front of you arguing their point in earnest).

Anyway, Animal Visuals took on the large task of ascertaining whether this argument was true. Did vegans contribute to more suffering because of the wildlife who certainly do die during the harvesting of crops? Should we just eat meat, eggs and drink milk because it harms the wildlife and environment less? Balderdash!

Using as much information as is currently accessible regarding estimated number of animals killed during the harvesting of crops for human consumption and the number of animals killed for human consumption (along with the secondary killing of animals during the harvesting of crops to feed livestock), Animal Visuals created a graph of the number of animals killed to produce one million calories.

See for yourself:

As you can see, the number of animals killed during the harvesting of crops is highest on land used to feed "beef" cattle, followed by chickens in the meat industry, pigs in the pork industry, hens in the egg-industry, dairy cows in the milk industry. At the end of the pack is vegetables, grains and fruits raised for human consumption.

When you add in the slaughter of the cattle, pigs and chickens, the disparity becomes even more glaring. To produce one million usable calories to maintain a standard american diet nearly 400 million cattle, pigs, egg-laying hens, chickens, and wildlife must die. To produce one million usable calories to sustain a vegan diet 5.93 million wild animals die.

To be certain, it is tragic that nearly 6 million wild animals die during the harvesting of grains, vegetables and fruit. There is no question that those deaths are sad and heart-breaking, as much as it is sad and heart-breaking for a piglet, lamb or chicken to die for human consumption.

But there is also no question that the magnitude of death is fantastically larger if we are discussing animal agriculture than if we are discussing the crops needed to sustain a vegan's diet. Sixty-seven times larger, to be precise. That is, on an omnivorous diet, you are creating a market for 67 times more dead animals than if you selected a vegan diet. And since this study did not include turkeys, that number can only be larger (270 million are slaughtered annually, raised similarly to chickens and fed more than chickens).

I think we can put to rest the inane notion that a vegan diet somehow contributes to more death and suffering than a diet that is results in the death of 10 billion animals for consumption and an additional 65 million during the harvesting of the crops fed to those animals.

We can do better. We must do better. And the easiest way to do better is to transition to veganism. Purity, in the sense that no sentient being is harmed, is an impossibility in almost any society. That should not stop all of us from significantly reducing the negative and harmful impact we have upon other species.

Teacup Pigs and Piglets - An unfortunate trend

In the mid-1980's Keith Connell, a director at a Canadian zoo, decided to import eighteen potbellied pigs into Canada. Two died en route. The remaining sixteen entered Canada and the United States, intended as stock for other zoos. Instead, they became the first founding stock for current potbellied pig populations. A few years later, Keith Leavitt imported another round of potbellied pigs (who differed in color than Connell's) from Europe.

Almost all American potbellied pigs can trace their ancestry to these two parent lines.

Potbellied pigs are small, by farming standards. Sometimes called "miniature pigs", their weights range from 80-200 lbs. Morbidly obese potbellied pigs may weigh more. Pigs raised for their meat often top out at 800 lbs and can exceed 1,000 lbs (though that is less common, healthy adult "farm" pigs weigh between 500-800lbs). Unlike modern production pigs who can reach full size in a year, potbellied pigs do not reach their full size for 3-5 years, misleading people into believing they will remain small.

While potbellied pigs are intelligent, clean animals, their upsurge in popularity spelled disaster for the pigs themselves. Shelters soon had to deal with an influx of unwanted potbellied pigs. Cities and counties either created laws to permit the animals or forced pig guardians to give up their pigs. Finding a veterinarian was (and still is) difficult - dog and cat vets were unused to the special needs of porcines. And people who thought potbellied pigs required nothing more than food and water soon learned they required a lot more than that - pigs are rooters and can easily damage a backyard and garden with their sturdy noses. It turns out potbellied pigs make for good companions in very limited circumstances.

As if the potbellied pig craze wasn't bad enough, enter the teacup pig. A creepy term no doubt riding on the coat-tails of the "teacup" "insert dog breed name" craze.

Started in the UK on a farm that is more interested in parading around a menagerie of baby animals than doing anything useful for all animals, the Pennywell Miniature Pig (PMP) is a hodge-podge of different pig breeds. The small pigs' creators are not very clear on what breeds comprise the tiny porcine. And it is all the more strange, because finding a picture of an adult Pennywell Miniature Pig is like finding a needle in the proverbial haystack.

Physically, they are different in some ways to potbellied pigs - they have shorter snouts, more upturned noses, a straighter back and their drooping bellies are less pronounced than in your standard potbellied pig. Their coloration is more in line with breeds like the Kune Kune, a rare New Zealand breed of pig who can reach sizes up to 400 lbs (primarily intact boars).

If you know even a little about genetics, you know that cross-breeding different sizes and types of animals can lead to interesting results. For example, when you cross a Labrador Retriever with a Poodle to produce the faddish Labradoodle, you end up with puppies with a curly coat (Poodle) and puppies with a straight coat (Labs) - that is, you do not end up with a consistent physical "type" of puppy (unlike if you crossed two purebred Labs).

The same can be said of the Pennywell Miniature Pig. Since there appear to be so few adults in existence, or at least on public display, there is no guarantee that the pig, when he reaches full size at 3-5 years, will be the size of a Spaniel (50-60 lbs) or the size of a Kune Kune (100-400lbs).

Even more telling is this statement: "After several false pregnancies the miniature pig gave birth to her brood at Pennywell Farm."

Not being able to reproduce normally is not a good sign. It indicates there may be underlying genetic problems exacerbated by inbreeding, intense line-breeding or just a lack of concern about their breeding program (as it applies to animal health).

Now, there is no doubt these are cute pigs. Who doesn't find a piglet in a coffee mug adorable? But the sad truth is that this is a fad. Fads are never in the best interest of the animals. They flood the market with the desired good, in this case an actual living, animal, without any care for the consequences. Right now, the fad is limited to people who can afford to pay $800-$1,500 for these animals. But unscrupulous breeders, seeing how "cool" and trendy these engaging animals are, will no doubt seize the opportunity to make some money.

Pigs are not easy to place. There are not a low of homes available to them, no matter their size. We certainly hope teacup piglets do not become mainstream, that folks interested in welcoming a pig into their lives do the necessary research and always, always, always adopt. They are intelligent, fun, wonderful companion animals, but their special care, longevity and medical needs often exceed the expectations of even the greatest of homes. You can learn more about the care requirements for pot bellied pigs at the California Pot Bellied Pig Association.

Meatpacking: "The Speed Kills You"

Every day I think of them, the nameless billions who face death in fear. Ten billion every year in this country, 320 every second of every day. It's unfathomable, really.

Animal agriculture exploits all animals. The most obvious are the ones butchered for human consumption - the cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens, turkeys, goats, ducks. And if producers are willing to tear asunder the bonds between mother and child (on dairy farms and swine facilities), reduce sentient beings to production units, marvel at marbling and prime cuts, it is unsurprising they would treat humans that way as well. The exploitation committed by multi-billion dollar corporations knows no bounds.

Obviously we focus on the animals, because the amount of cruelty perpetrated against them is monumental. But we care about humans as well, which is why we promote veganism - it is a diet of compassion and kindness for all life, people included.

Recently, Nebraska Appleseed published a document called "The Speed Kills You - The Voice of Nebraska's Meatpacking Workers". Nebraska Appleseed conducted an interview of 455 meatpacking employees from five communities within the state of Nebraska.

Here's some of what they found:

Processing lines are too fast
Think about this for a moment: Your job is to make upwards of 20,000 - twenty thousand - cutting motions during your shift. I remember playing tennis as a child. Swinging the racket was tiresome, an hour session of practice left me sore and uncomfortable for days. Even when my skills improved, there were still days when my elbow and shoulder felt strained and sensitive. Doing something similar for 8-12 hours a day is not just unappealing, it's unhealthy. All those cutting motions lead to tendon and nerve damage, causing musculature disorders that are debilitating and often irreversible.

This is unsurprising when you consider the slaughterhouse and its assembly of whole animals hacked into component parts. For example, at Tyson Food Inc's slaughter plant in Kansas, 5,700 cattle are killed daily. In an Alabama slaughterhouse, 100,000 "broiler" chickens are killed daily. Do the math. That is an enormous number of animals killed daily, nay hourly. The gruesome image of mutilated animals aside, having to cut up the bodies is dangerous in the short term (acute injuries) and in the long term (chronic, prolonged disorders) for the workers.

In the report, 73% of workers stated that the assembly line speed had increased since the last year (2006-2007) and 94% said that the number of staff remained the same or decreased. In this country, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not regulate line speed, even though they are the oversight organization for implementing protocols and rules governing worker safety.

Working in a processing plant is dangerous

This goes without saying, really. Employees are dealing with animals uninterested in dying (some of them are very large), their dead bodies, and all the sharp and dangerous equipment used to butcher. Half of survey respondants stated that safety standards had declined in the past year. The meatpacking industry has one of the highest rates of turnover in all professions - more than 100%. It seems few people can endure the long-term stress and horror of the processing facility.

In 2008, the Charlotte Observer published a good investigative report on the slaughterhouse industry called the Cruelest Cuts. The journalists found that poultry plants often mask injuries or under-report them. For example, a House of Raeford processing plant in South Carolina claimed to have no injuries within a 5-yr period, a statistical improbability, according to experts. Poultry plants underreport the types of injuries, especially those that are chronic, like carpal tunnel syndrome or other musculo-skeletal disorders. While poultry producers claim a ten year reduction in injuries, both the Nebraska study and the investigation done by the Charlotte Observer paint a different picture. Not only are some injuries crossed out of the injury log, but employers are only required to report the most significant (deadly or disfiguring) injuries to OSHA. The system is set up to fail employees - it's an honor system, with no legal requirement to present injury logs consistently to OSHA or any other oversight committee.

So while industry spokespersons, like those representing the American Meat Institute, use US Bureau of Labor Statistics to claim that reported injuries and illnesses for fell nearly 8 percent in a year, their argument is disingenuous at best. Especially when the statistics are garnered from the injury logs created and monitored by upper management at processing facilities. Fox guarding the henhouse much?

If you cared to know, using the statistics provided by the industry and reported to the Bureau of Labor, you are more likely to be injured working in the toy department of a store than making 20,000 repetitive cuts with a sharp knife in a poultry processing plant. This defies logic.

Processing plant workers live in a culture of fear
91% of meatpacking plant workers are aware they have rights, like the right to medical care, the right to worker's compensation, the right to choosing your own doctor, and the right to unionize. But only 30% felt those rights made any difference. That is, even though they knew they *had* rights (available to them regardless of citizenship status, by the way), it did not matter - their rights would not be honored in any meaningful manner.

For example, take the right to unionize. It's a state and federal right. 2/3 of meatpacking employees in Nebraska do not belong to a union and part of the reason is how the legal right to unionize is presented to them by their bosses. 97% of workers surveyed at a non-unionized plant reported that their employer portrayed unions as incredibly negative, entities wanting to steal their hard-earned money and attempting to put them out of a job. According to one respondent, "If someone wants to talk about the union, they'll call the police."

Or worker's compensation, another legal right that is not contingent upon whether the person in question is a legal citizen or not. Only 44% of employees in the Nebraska plants knew about workers' compensation. 62% of those surveyed experienced an injury in the previous year and 83% reported that injury to a supervisor - 99% were told to just ice it. Because, as you know, icing your completely torn up, damaged tendons and muscles will magically fix the problem. Half of these workers ended up seeing a doctor, while another 14% ended up in the hospital. Only 16% ended up seeing their own doctor or choosing their own doctor. This means they ended up in the hands of meatpacking plant doctors and nurses who may not have had the best interest of their patients in mind. Only 50% of those injured received medical coverage from their employer. If you got injured, you had a 50/50 chance of paying out of pocket for something your employer should, by all rights, be funding. Those who had to stay at work for more than seven days did not receive wage compensation from their employer. That's illegal.

In the Observer's investigation, between 25-75% of all meatpacking plant employees are undocumented. Former employees of a poultry plant stated that they preferred undocumented workers who were more likely to endure oppressive treatment (like not being allowed to use the restroom during their shift, being verbally assaulted, etc) out of fear than documented workers. Animal agribusiness (and other agricultural entities) use this fear to deny medical coverage, encourage longer work shifts, and discourage workers from partaking of their legal right to unionize. No matter where you stand on the immigration debate, it is inexcusable in any modern society to treat people in such substandard ways that they may be disfigured, killed or permanently disabled because of their employment.

Meatpacking is a dirty, disgusting job. It exists because of an over-reliance on meat, dairy and eggs as our primary source of protein and other nutrients. Our desire for inexpensive products produced quickly spells disaster for both nonhumans and humans alike. The tragedy for the animals occurs at day one - their lives are bleak, at best, horrifying at worst. Their end is one more indignity, one more cruel treatment in a litany of abusive injustices. And for the humans who will earn less than $25,000 carving up the billions of bodies, their job is heartbreaking and achingly frustrating. Their undocumented status makes them more likely to take on jobs where they will be denied their basic rights as a human citizen in this country. Their desire to eke out a living means they will work long hours doing jobs most people would quit after an hour. Some become desensitized to the violence in front of them, others become so sensitized they are traumatized for years.

I wanted to write about this because animal agriculture is hurtful to us all. We deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. None of us, cow or human, should be reduced to parts and "cutting ability". These human workers are as ignored and forgotten as the animals they kill to fill the bellies of people who, if faced with an actual slaughterhouse, would faint from the blood, the horror, the outrage of what we do to these sentient, beautiful creatures. While the workers are not slaughtered by the droves, they are oppressed and mistreated, put into positions where they are injured and disfigured, forced to endure humiliation and verbal/physical assaults. They are part of this cycle of cruelty.

No law can fix this problem. No specially formed committee can stop the violence and oppression. Not when people want cheap food. Not when producers will do whatever they can to increase speed and output. Not when cattle and chickens are seen as commodities and their slaughterers as tools of the trade.

Fixing the problem is easy to say, harder to implement on a global scale. But I'll go ahead and say it: Stop being part of the oppression and cruelty. Stop eating meat. Stop drinking milk. Stop eating eggs. Choose a plant-based diet and a vegan lifestyle. And do so in a way that honors fairly the workers who harvest your fruits and vegetables as well. You can only win by transitioning over to a vegan diet and you'll be making a statement that how animals - human and nonhuman - are perceived matters to you. That you don't just care, you go beyond the words and rhetoric and into action - you're doing something.

Art for the Animals

We mentioned at the end of September that Sheila Tajima had created beautiful paintings to help the animals at the sanctuary. She has done a few more paintings that we wanted to share with you.

The portrait of Nate sold for $62!

Little Lenny

Lenny's mother was rescued from a slaughterhouse while pregnant. He was born on the hillsides of Animal Place.

This September he turned one!

The art is 12x6" and is signed by the author.

You can bid here.

Awesome Aiden

 Aiden looks so beautiful in this portrait!

He was abandoned after birth, left alone in a stormy field. He'll be turning three in January. He loves people, preferring them to other sheep.

The painting is 10x8" on artboard, signed by the author.

You can bid here.

 Susie - "Oh Sweet Susie"

Susie is one of the sweetest pigs at the sanctuary. She always has a moment to take with you, ambling over with her beautiful sway and gentle grunts.

The medium is oil, the size 6x6". It is signed by the author.

There are 2 days left to bid here.

There's still time to bid on Sadie & Summer's "Cow Kisses" - one day left!
Summer and Sadie, two of the sweetest bovines to ever walk the earth. Sadie never got a chance to nurse her own babies when she lived in a dairy farm, they were all taken from her at birth. Summer never knew his own mom. Now they both find comfort in one another - Sadie will groom Summer, while Summer does his best to copy all the things Sadie does.

The medium is oil, the size is 8"x10". It is signed by the artist.

You can bid on the Summer & Sadie (Cow Kisses) painting here.

Please bid and help make a difference in the lives of Summer, Sadie, Lenny, Aiden, Suside and all the animals at the sanctuary. In exchange, enjoy a colorful and beautiful tribute to the animals who make Animal Place home.

Also, visit Sheila's blog here. We cannot thank her enough for this generous donation.

On being afraid for Sadie

We've all met them. They have woven their story into our own. Their light becomes a beacon of our own, a shining we want to be near. Sometimes they reciprocate, attracted to our own flicker. Sometimes they tolerate us, bumping against our circle but not interested in entering. I've heard some call them their "heart" companions, these precious beings who force their way into some portion of our hearts. Their presence is weighty, a mass with feelings that sometimes spill out unpredictably.

Such is the case with Sadie.

I have not felt such a strong attachment to an animal at the sanctuary. Do not get me wrong, I love them all. Some I adore in different ways - for their stoicism, their playfullness, their joy, even their anger. I'm never indifferent to any sanctuary denizen - there are just some animals who I want to protect, nurture and be around more than others.

Sadie is special. People don't always see it when they meet her. She is a middle-aged Holstein cow, maybe 10 or 11 years old. Her life has never been easy. Never. Born on a dairy farm, she never knew her mom and she was denied the basics of motherhood - nursing her own young - for years. Her tail had been docked, leaving her defenseless against flies. My best guess is she gave birth to 3-5 calves. Maybe a few are still alive, living on a farm somewhere until they too are sent to auction. When Sadie ended headed for slaughter, she was purchased by a veterinary school and used as a training tool. A tool. Such a nasty word but it encompasses how she was viewed - a device to teach students rectal exams and finding veins. Her identification was an ear tag, nothing more.

She suffered from mastitis, a painful infection that engorged her udder with pus. It hurt, yet she trudged on, enduring the weeks of poking and prodding by students. In a cruel irony, she was never treated by the vet hospital, her mastitis was permitted to continue before she ended up at the sanctuary (and we had to take her back to that same hospital for mastitis treatment). At the age of 7, Sadie broke her left rear stifle when she slipped in the chute at the veterinary clinic, leaving her with a permanent, disfigured left rear leg.

Things did not look up when she arrived at Animal Place. We could not tell her that the daily, highly invasive mastitis treatment was meant to heal. She got into her routine of entering a make-shift chute, eating some fresh fruit, and having pus scooped from her udder. It had to hurt, such an uncomfortable indignity. I fed her apples every day. I promised her to be a source of good things - no touching, not a lot of talking, just apple after delicious apple. Our relationship was strictly one-sided - I adored her, loved her beautiful face, her stilted gait, her dedication to the crushing of red and green apples. She did not feel the same way about me - I provided her apples, that was good, but I was not her friend, not a bovine, not someone she could trust.

It hurt, this rejection. But stopping was never an option. If all she ever let me do was feed her apples, that would be fine. Just being near her calm, gentle presence was enough of a gift.

And then one day, her world once again spiraled out of control. She was pregnant. No one at the vet hospital had caught her near full-term pregnancy. We do not deal with births frequently and had no clue what ailed her. Her baby, a boy, died. She groomed him when his limp body fell to the ground. Oh how I cried for her, her loss, her missed chance to be a real mother. All this for a glass of milk. It seemed so unfair.

I kept my promise. Sadie only received good things. When she wanted to be left alone, I honored that. When she wanted a brushing, I reveled in grooming her. When she tolerated me massaging her sore leg, I'd push our boundaries and try to scratch her neck or touch her face. Back off, she'd sometimes say. But other times, she'd stand still, lower her head, and let me scratch in upward strokes her neck - the bovine way to groom a friend (they do it with their prickly tongues, I use my hand). For the rest of the day, I wore a goofy grin, so pleased with the progress.

This took years, folks. Years. And it isn't like we'll ever be best friends forever (still my great dream, of course). She loves cows, the real ones with four legs and alfalfa-smelling breath, the ones who know her moods in an instant. She likes me when she likes me and ignores me when she wants to be left alone.

She started losing weight a couple weeks ago. Her limp became more pronounced and she was knuckling over - her injured hoof would flip forward onto her ankle instead of back onto the bottom of her foot. She did not want to be touched. Even being brushed annoyed her. Something was wrong. Her blood tests returned normal, leaving us wondering what could be affecting her. We isolated her and offered food. Oh how she ate! Flake after flake of hay, bucket after bucket of produce. Perhaps she was being bullied away from the food or couldn't reach the best food in a quick amount of time, because of her leg. We're still not sure what the reason is for her decline.

But it has me afraid. Sadie has known nothing but heartache and suffering. She was exploited for years, and we desperately want the years of freedom and sanctuary to be longer, to be what she remembers most. This is the downside of opening up your heart to another living being, one who's life is generally far shorter than your own. It hurts to see them suffering, aches to be incapable of providing them relief. All we can do is make life comfortable and as enjoyable as possible. We'll get to the bottom of this - we have to.

Yesterday, Sadie was isolated in a pasture so she could receive ad lib food. She had been staring mournfully out at the other cattle. For hours, she stood and stared, as if willing her body to transplant itself from the pasture to the barnyard where her friends lay in straw. I watched her and felt that little Sadie-spot in my heart cry, so hurt at her emotional suffering. I headed out to the pasture where she stood, without any offering of food. We had set up straw pile for her bed and put out some hay which she had been ignoring for the better part of the day. Her shade where she stood was diminishing, being replaced by sun and heat. She needed to be in the shade, laying in a bed of straw, nibbling on hay.

I called to her. Sadie! Lo and behold, she turned her head and gazed back. Turning her body, her back legs shifting uncomfortably, she stared at me. I melted a little - perfect, perfect, perfect cow. Telling her she was a perfect, perfect, perfect cow, I willed her over to me, to the hay and straw. Until it is replaced by another, no moment left me speechless, so full of unparalleled joy as when Sadie stared me in the eyes and walked to me. She's never done this, chosen to come, it's always the other way around. But yesterday she did. For whatever reason, whatever thought propelled her closer to a human - well, I thank that thought. She sniffed me over, then dug into the hay. After every bite, she'd lift her head and drool on me, sticking her nose right in front of my face, breathing in my scent, exhaling hers. Conjuring up every ounce of self-restraint, I did not hug her. Hardest thing I've done in awhile.

So I'm afraid for Sadie. Afraid of the unknown thing that ails her. Afraid she won't have a set of great years. Afraid I won't be with her when she dies*, afraid she won't have her cattle friends with her when she dies. Afraid of many things that are silly and useless but plague me nonetheless. All those fears, I'm working at pushing them aside, balling them up, kicking them to the curb. Sadie is here. She is in the now, doing her best to forget the past. SHE KISSED ME WITH HER NOSE. A good thing, I think.

*Which she isn't going to do, by the way. She's living another 30,000 bazillion years.