Meat-Eating and Our Planet, Part 2 of 2: Climate Change

In my last essay I wrote about how raising animals for slaughter is not only brutally cruel but also threatens our environment. Today I will tell you about the effects of factory farming and animal slaughter on climate change.

One of the main ways in which farming animals to be eaten threatens our planet and its climate is through deforestation, the destruction of the Earth’s green forests. Forests are being cleared to create more open land for animal grazing and to grow feed crops for the animals to eat. The Amazon rainforest is disappearing at an alarming rate, and more than 90 percent of what has been cleared since 1970 is being used for raising animals to be eaten. Twenty percent of the Earth’s oxygen supply is created by the Amazon rainforest; as the rainforest disappears, so too does the oxygen we need to breathe. By reducing the Earth’s green cover, animal agriculture is also responsible for about 9% of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions globally. Greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide keep heat in the atmosphere. Global warming has led to catastrophic weather events, flooding, water shortages, and disturbed ecosystems.

Raising animals to be killed and eaten is also a significant source of other greenhouse gases. Grass-eating animals like cattle and sheep, for example, produce methane, which is a greenhouse gas about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The farming of animals is responsible for about 37% of human-caused methane emissions, and about 65% of human nitrous oxide emissions, mainly from manure.

Eating vegetables produces significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions.  For example, potatoes, rice, and broccoli produce approximately 3–5 times lower emissions than its equivalent in animal flesh. The reason is simple – it’s more efficient to grow a crop and eat it than to grow a crop, feed it to an animal as it builds up muscle mass, then kill and eat the animal.

Did you know that one-third of fossil fuel use in the U.S., through transportation, heating, lighting, and machinery, is associated with factory farming and meat production? The contribution of fossil fuel use to climate change is well established; wouldn’t it be great for the planet if we could cut fossil fuel use by one-third?

Raising animals for food causes immense suffering, consumes dwindling natural resources, and is making our planet less habitable in the process. Fortunately, there is a solution. Today it’s easier than ever to switch to an Earth-friendly vegan diet. You will likely see an improvement in your health, and your conscience will be lighter knowing that you are not participating in the suffering and slaughter of innocent animals, or in the despoiling of our Earth and its resources.

Click here for how to get a free vegan starter kit from PETA.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

Meat-Eating and Our Planet, Part 1 of 2: The Environment

I’ve been writing about the horrors and suffering that is inflicted upon animals raised for food. As Paul McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls everyone would be vegan.” Today I’d like to inform you about animal agriculture and the affects on the environment. If I can’t convince you to go vegan by describing the cruelty done to animals, maybe you’ll go vegan because of the environmental impact of meat-eating on our planet.
When land is used to raise animals instead of crops, precious water and soil are lost, trees are cut down to make land for grazing or factory-farming, and untreated animal waste pollutes rivers and streams. In fact, animal agriculture has such a devastating effect on all aspects of our environment that scientists list meat-eating as the second-biggest environmental hazard, after fossil-fuel vehicles, facing our planet.  Meat-eating and production have a serious negative impact on our climate as well. No wonder, when you consider facts like these:

It takes an enormous amount of water to grow crops just for animals to eat, hose down filthy factory farms,and give animals water to drink. A single cow used for milk can drink up to 50 gallons of water per day—or twice that amount in hot weather—and it takes 683 gallons of water to produce just one gallon of milk. And the poor dairy cows suffer in what the industry calls the “rape rack” being impregnated their entire lives, just to keep them giving milk, while their babies are taken away to be turned into veal.

Cows killed for meat must consume 16 pounds of vegetation in order to convert them into one pound of flesh. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef, while producing one pound of tofu only requires 244 gallons of water and only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat! Raising animals for food consumes more than half of all water used in the U.S. By going vegan, one person can save approximately 219,000 gallons of water a year.

Of all raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S., more than one-third are devoted to raising animals for food. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution in the U.S. Runoff from factory farms and livestock grazing pollutes our rivers and lakes. Animals raised for food in the U.S. produce many times more excrement than does the entire human population of the country.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), animals on U.S. factory farms produce about 500 million tons of manure each year. A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. With no animal sewage processing plants, it is most often stored in waste “lagoons” that fester with bacteria and viruses and contaminate the groundwater. Studies have shown that these lagoons also emit toxic airborne chemicals that can cause inflammatory, immune, irritation and neurochemical problems in humans.

Factory farms frequently dodge water pollution limits by spraying liquid manure into the air, creating mists that are carried away by the wind. People who live nearby are forced to inhale the toxins and pathogens from the sprayed manure. If you can smell a farm, it’s because you’re inhaling the airborne waste along with horrendous animal suffering.

Today it’s easier than ever to switch to an Earth-friendly vegan diet. You will likely see an improvement in your health, and your conscience will be lighter knowing that you are not eating or drinking animals who suffer their whole lives. You will be doing your part to help save our planet and its animals.
In Part Two, I will give you more facts regarding the impact of factory farms and slaughtering animals for food on our planet’s climate.
Click here for a link to PETA’s free vegan starter kit.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

Fur Is Only Beautiful on Animals

A mother searches through the forest for food. Her babies are back in the den, safe for now but hungry, and even though its cold she must leave them, if only for a while, to keep them fed. Spotting something in the brush she cautiously approaches for a better look.

CRACK! CRUNCH! With the speed and force of hundreds of pounds of spring-loaded pressure, the six-inch steel jaws of a leg-hold trap snap shut, shattering the bones in her foot making her unable to escape the horror. The mother howls in dire pain and fear. The trap is anchored to the ground by a short chain and metal spike, so she can’t even drag herself away. She is trapped and will never see her babies again.

The fur farmer will eventually go into the woods and check his traps and if she is still alive, dash out her brains with a club – a bullet, after all, would damage the pelt and that’s the last thing a fur trapper wants; he must preserve the pelt so that women and men can wear these murdered animals as a fashion statement. But hours or days may pass, and she slowly dies in agony from exposure, dehydration, or blood loss. Knowing her babies wait back in the den, she tries to chew off her own leg to get to them. If she is successful, she will die anyway. Without their mother, her babies will soon die, too. A family will be cruelly killed so that someone, somewhere may have a pair of fur-lined gloves, a jacket or a decorative muff.

I urge you to take a minute and watch this video by fellow animal advocate Bill Maher. Isn’t it time we stopped thinking that fur (and feathers) are hip fashion statements, and see them for what they are, the remains of an animal, killed for human vanity?

People admiring a fur coat or fur-trimmed garment in a store window or glossy magazine are likely unaware that animals like mink, fox, coyote, beaver, rabbits and raccoons are clubbed, electrocuted, and even skinned alive for their fur. Anal and genital electrocution is a common and agonizing method of slaughtering fur-bearing animals. To accomplish this, fur farmers stick an electric probe in the mouth and anus of a living, suffering fox or other animal. Try to imagine the terror felt by these poor animals. When the farmer turns on the electric current, the animal seizes uncontrollably until it dies an excruciating death. Fur farmers favor this method because the animals are electrocuted from the inside out, limiting damage to the animal’s pelt. New York is presently the only state in which this ghastly practice is illegal.

Eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s “harvest” comes from animals held captive on factory farms, where they are crammed into severely crowded, filthy wire cages, and often skinned alive. Mink are known to go insane inside these tiny wire cages; many undercover animal activists have filmed the poor creatures going round and round in circles for hours on end, making high-pitched screeching noises.

One billion rabbits are slaughtered each year so that their fur can be used for trim in clothing, craft items, or for lures in fly-fishing.

One-third of all fur sold in the US comes from animals killed in steel-jaw traps, such as the one described above. The fur farmers set out these traps in the woods. The heavy steel traps slam shut on an animal’s limb, shattering the bone, which causes excruciating pain and leaves the animal stuck and starving, sometimes for days.

The huge conibear trap crushes an animal’s neck by applying 90 pounds of pressure per square inch, leaving the animal to suffer for up to eight minutes while he or she slowly strangles to death. These sadistic traps are set not only on land, but are also positioned at the bottom of shallow ponds to kill beavers who swim by building their homes or collecting aquatic plants to feed their families.

In China, more than two million cats and hundreds of thousands of dogs are bludgeoned, hanged, or bled to death, or simply skinned alive for their fur, which is then exported to the US.

I beg of you, if you or anyone you know still wears fur or fur trim, please let them know about how cruel the fur industry is. Faux fur is a compassionate and cruelty-free alternative for all seasons. Compassion: now that’s a hip fashion statement!

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

Are Fish Intelligent?

“Sealab 2020” was an animated series produced by Hanna-Barbera, the same studio that produced classic cartoons such as “The Flintstones,” “Yogi Bear,” “The Jetsons,” and “Scooby-Doo,” I voiced several cartoon characters for Hanna-Barbera; in “Sealab 2020” I played Sali Murphy, daughter of Captain Michael Murphy, commander of Sealab, a research base constructed on the Challenger Sea Mount, an underwater mountain, in the year 2020, then 48 years in the future. Sealab was home to 250 men, women, and children, and was dedicated to the study and protection of marine life.

The series, produced in 1972-1973, was ahead of its time in developing stories around the destructive effects on sea life, marine mammals, and the environment of human activities such as commercial fishing, shipping, oil spills, and dumping of radioactive waste. At the time, I had no idea of the extent to which humans were – and are – trashing the oceans and causing harm to the living things in it. Most people don’t have much feeling for fish, but when you do some research you learn that they are highly intelligent creatures. Even before I became vegan, I never liked to eat fish after I witnessed a fish being pulled from its ocean home. I saw the sharp metal hook in its mouth, and the fish flapping around on the deck of the boat in panic and agony as it suffocated to death.

As an adult, I learned that fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do. Yet billions of fish die every year in nets, hooks, and on long lines.

According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.” In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.”

Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds from buzzes and clicks to yelps and sobs. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight, and help with courtship.

While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to those of mammals. The researchers concluded that “fish do have the capacity for pain perception and suffering.”

Hooked fish struggle out of fear and intense physical pain. Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders can rupture because of the sudden change in pressure.

The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually.

Commercial fishers use factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing every fish and marine mammal in their path. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets.

Longline fishing, in which 40 miles of monofilament fishing line dangles thousands of enormous, individually metal baited hooks to catch tuna and swordfish, drowns thousands of turtles and birds every year. Because of the fishing industry’s indiscriminate practices, the population of the world’s large predatory fish, such as swordfish and marlin, has declined by 90 percent since the advent of industrialized fishing.

Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark… has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.

Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat, and cholesterol,

What can you do? Never buy or eat fish. Grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide all the essential amino acids you need. Vegetarian products like mock lobster, shrimp, and crab have all the taste of the “real thing” with none of the cruelty or contaminants. Omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease, can be found in flaxseeds, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Recipes for fabulous, healthy, and animal-friendly vegetarian dishes, including faux fish sticks and sushi, can be found at VegCooking.com.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

Poaching: Illegal, Immoral, and Driving Many Species to Extinction

photograph by Pamelyn Ferdin

A few years ago, I visited Uganda, where I had the extraordinary experience of viewing incredible animals in their natural state. I saw infant chimpanzees sitting on their mothers’ backs, and older chimps playing games with each other. I watched majestic male elephants lumber past me to stand by mother elephants and their babies. My party drifted on a river in small boats past hippos, the third largest land mammals in the world, shy and sweet but very territorial. I was excited to see “tree lions,” who actually climb trees in the heat of the afternoon to nap among the branches, and I’ll never forget the sight of all those beautiful giraffes feeding on the tops of the tallest trees on the savanna.

But I think what stood out most for me were the mountain gorillas. We had to climb straight up a mountainside, cutting our way through the thick vegetation with machetes, with little more than the hope of seeing one. After about two and a half hours of climbing in the sweltering heat, one of the guides turned to us with one finger over his lips and pointing to an opening in the leaves. There they were! Not one, not two, but an entire family of mountain gorillas, numbering about ten. They were going about their business, resting, eating, and staring back at us, completely unafraid. I watched as one mountain gorilla gave another some of the food he was holding in his hands. I witnessed a tiny baby gorilla nursing at her mother’s breast, and another baby clinging to its mother’s back. Two large male gorillas pounded their chests every once in awhile, not to threaten us, just to let everyone know who was in charge. I approached as close as I could to watch the mother and baby nuzzle and groom each other and play games. After about half an hour of watching us watch them, the largest male gorilla pounded his chest and disappeared back into the forest as the rest of the extended family followed. Elephants, hippos, and gorillas are vegan, you know, so if anyone still thinks you need to eat meat for size and strength, just take a look at those guys!

It breaks my heart to know that, due to poaching, fewer than 900 mountain gorillas are left on this planet. When most people think of wildlife poaching, they think about exotic animals on distant continents, but poaching and its consequences extend far beyond forests and savannas of Africa or the wilds of Asia right into your own community and even into your own home.

Poaching, the criminal hunting and killing of animals for profit, is sadly on the rise worldwide. There are many species around the world that are poached, some right here in the United States. Their mutilated corpses are used in various and ridiculous ways, often for luxury or pseudo-medicinal purposes. Here are some of the most common victims of poaching:

Elephants: Elephants are poached for their ivory, which is carved into jewelry, utensils, religious figurines, and trinkets. Elephants are often chased into hastily-dug pits or poisoned, and their faces and tusks cut off while they are still alive. Approximately 70% of illegal ivory ends up in China, where it is sold on the street for up to $1,000 a pound. Conservationists estimate that between 30,000 and 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory. At that rate, elephants will be extinct in 20 years.

Tigers: Tiger claws, teeth, and whiskers are believed by the superstitious to provide good luck and protective powers. Some superstitious cultures believe their bones and eyes have medicinal value. In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup is believed to boost virility. Let’s put it this way: if you think eating a tiger penis is going to cure your problems in that department, there’s a lot more wrong with you than what you’re worried about. Tiger skins are used to make coats and handbags. Fewer than 3,500 tigers are left in the wild; like elephants and rhinos, tigers are being poached to extinction.

Rhinoceros: The most expensive items in the world are gold, platinum, and rhino horn, with rhino horn topping the list. Rhino horn can sell for nearly $30,000 a pound; gold, by comparison, is worth about $22,000 a pound. Their horns are believed to have aphrodisiac properties and are widely used in traditional medicines. Like elephants, they are driven into traps too steep to climb out of, killed, and their horns sawed off. Since 1960, the black rhino population has decreased by 97.6% due to poaching.

Tibetan Antelopes: They are poached for their fur, which is commonly used as a light wool, and is in great demand world-wide. 20,000 Chirus, as they are called, are killed each year.

Big-horned sheep: Killed for their antlers, which can fetch $20,000 on the black market.

Bears: North American black bears are slaughtered for their gall bladders and bile, another pseudo-medicinal ingredient. A black bear’s gall bladder can fetch more than $3,000 in Asia.

Gorillas: They are poached for their meat, captured for collections, and killed for trophies such as their hands, feet, skins, and skulls. Kidnapped baby gorillas, like the beautiful baby I saw in Uganda, bring $40,000 on the black market.

Lions: Another species fast disappearing, poached as trophies to prove an insecure human’s man(or woman)hood. It is estimated that 30% to 50% of Africa’s lion population has been illegally killed over the last 20 years. Last summer three poachers who broke into a South African game preserve to stalk and kill rhinos were attacked and eaten by lions, to which I say, justice was served. A few more news stories like that one might put a serious dent in poaching. I’m rooting for the lions.

Sharks: Sharks are poached for their fins, which some cultures consider a delicacy. Once caught, the fins are hacked off, and the still-living shark dumped back into the sea where it will soon die. Poached manta rays and sea cucumbers are also considered delicacies by some.

Red and Pink Coral: This is the most valuable type of coral, known for its use in jewelry and decorations. Not only does this poaching effect coral population but it also effects the population of fish and other marine life who live in and on the reefs.

Blue Whale: Blue Whales have almost been hunted to extinction. They are poached for their blubber and oil, which are then used in candles and fuel. We have plenty of other options for light and energy these days; nobody needs to kill a whale to power outdated technology.

Two poachers under arrest!

Most poaching is done by organized crime syndicates who use high-powered technology and weaponry to hunt and kill animals without being detected. Poachers often prefer using poisoned arrows because there is not a telltale gunshot sound. A well-placed arrow can kill in 20 minutes; however, a misplaced arrow can leave an animal dying a lingering death from infection for up to a month. Poachers will often leave poison on the carcass of the prey to kill the vultures that might fly above and alert rangers.

Violent conflicts and ivory poaching are interconnected. Heavily armed militias and crime networks use ivory funds to finance terrorism and wars. Cash-starved terrorist organizations have turned to trading ivory, which the Elephant League has dubbed “the white gold of jihad.” The illegal wildlife trade nets $8 billion to $10 billion a year.

To combat poaching, in 2014 the United States banned the commercial sale of African elephant ivory. Shamefully, the ban was reversed in 2018 by a subsequent administration that cares little about protecting animals or stopping the criminal traffic in animal parts.

What can you do? Lobby your legislators to reinstate the ban and expand it to include poached animal products of every kind. Never buy ivory or coral products, whether new or used, or any other poached animal products, and boycott merchants who sell them. It’s only by making poaching less profitable that it can be reduced and the greed-fueled extinction of so many animal species reversed.

It’s the Year of the Pig! Let’s Make It a Compassionate One

2019 is the Year of the Pig. Who doesn’t love pigs? Pigs are super smart; when I was in nursery school my teacher had a pig who was trained to use the toilet. And sociable? Just ask Charlotte – or me, the voice of Fern in “Charlotte’s Web.” Did you say they’re dirty? Despite what you might think, pigs like to be clean – when they’re given the option. And cute? Most people love these smart, social, clean, and beautiful animals from childhood. So why do we kill 121 million of them every year?

Pigs “have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than] three-year-olds,” says Dr. Donald Broom, a Cambridge University professor and a former scientific adviser to the Council of Europe. Pigs can play video games, and when given the choice, they have indicated temperature preferences in their surroundings.

These facts should not come as a surprise to anyone who has spent time around these social, playful animals. Pigs, who can live into their teens, are protective of their young and form strong bonds with other pigs. Pigs are clean animals, but unable to sweat as humans do, they seek cool surfaces like mud to help regulate their body temperature.

Only pigs in movies spend their lives running across sprawling pastures and relaxing in the sun. On any given day in the U.S., there are more than 75 million pigs on factory farms, and 121 million are killed for food each year.

The majority of mother pigs (sows)—who account for more 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.—spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates. These crates are about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide—too small to allow the animals to even turn around. After giving birth to piglets, mother pigs are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are just wide enough for them to lie down and nurse their babies but not big enough for them to turn around or build nests for their young. The mother and babies suffer terribly from these conditions and it breaks my heart to think of them forced to live in their own excrement, unable even to turn around.

When the piglets reach about ten days old, they are taken from their mothers. I saw undercover video of mother pigs crying out for their stolen babies and piglets screaming in anxiety, fear, and desperation so anxious and scared looking at their mother. The sound the piglet makes is indistinguishable from the sound of a crying human infant, and it is a terrible thing to hear. Once her piglets are gone, the mother pig is impregnated again, and the cycle continues. In three or four years, the mother pig can no longer produce milk and is considered “used up,” and she is slaughtered. 

The piglets taken from their mothers are confined to pens and barns over the span of about six months, fed until they weigh upwards of 280 pounds and are ready to be slaughtered. In extremely crowded conditions, piglets are prone to stress-related behavior such as chewing on cage bars and even cannibalism. Male piglets are castrated without painkillers. In their distress, pigs will often bit one another’s tails, so farmers often chop off piglets’ tails and use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth—again without giving them any painkillers. For identification purposes, farmers also cut chunks out of the little ones’ ears. This intensive confinement produces so much stress- and boredom-related behavior, many pigs begin to chew on the cage bars.

When pigs are transported on trucks, piglets weighing up to 100 pounds are given no more than 2.4 square feet of space; they literally can’t move or even stand up. One study confirmed that vibrations like those made by a moving truck are “very aversive” to pigs. When pigs “were trained to press a switch panel to stop for 30 seconds vibration and noise in a transport simulator … the animals worked very hard to get the 30 seconds of rest.”

Once pigs reach “market weight,” the industry refers to them as “hogs” and they are sent to slaughter. The animals are shipped from all over the U.S. and Canada to slaughterhouses. More than 1 million pigs die en route to slaughter each year. The transport vehicles are usually multideck trucks with steep ramps, and because Pigs are so frightened to get into these vehicles, workers use electric prods to force them to move up the ramp.  No federal laws regulate the voltage or use of electric prods on pigs, and a study showed that when electric prods were used, pigs “vocalized, lost their balance, and tr[ied] to jump out of the loading area.”

A typical slaughterhouse kills about 1,000 hogs per hour. The sheer number of animals killed makes it impossible for pigs’ deaths to be humane and painless. Because of improper stunning, many hogs are alive when they reach the scalding-hot water baths, which are intended to soften their skin and remove their hair. The U.S. Department of Agriculture documented 14 humane-slaughter violations at one processing plant, where inspectors found hogs who “were walking and squealing after being stunned [with a stun gun].”  The report found that the pigs at one federally inspected slaughter plant squealed 100 percent of the time “because electric prods were used to force pigs to jump on top of each other.”

The health statistics for humans have shown that consumption of pigs and other animals, can increase the risk of colorectal cancer, the third most common cancer in men and women, by as much as 30 percent. Researchers for the National Cancer Institute have found that eating pigs, or any meat, raises men’s risk of prostate cancer, while a study from Yale University reports that meat-based diets can cause stomach cancer and esophageal cancer as well as lymphoma. A study of more than 90,000 women concluded that “frequent consumption of bacon, hot dogs, and sausage was … associated with an increased risk of diabetes.”

Because stress, intensive confinement and living in excrement is conducive to the spread of disease, pigs on factory farms are fed antibiotics and sprayed with huge amounts of pesticides. The antibiotics and pesticides remain in their bodies and are passed along to people who eat them, creating serious health hazards for humans. Pigs and other factory-farmed animals are fed millions of pounds of antibiotics each year, and scientists believe that meat-eaters’ unwitting consumption of these drugs gives rise to strains of bacteria that are resistant to treatment.

Every year in the U.S., food poisoning sickens up to 48 million people and kills 3,000. Pig flesh and body parts are known carriers of food-borne pathogens, including E. coli, trichinella, listeria, salmonella, and tapeworms. One study of 256 pork samples taken from 36 different grocery stores found that up to 63 percent of the samples were contaminated with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reports that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.” Each farmed pig produces about 10 pounds of manure per day. As a result, many tons of waste end up in giant pits, polluting the air and groundwater.

Some restaurants have announced they will no longer buy pig products from farms that use gestation crates, and voters in Florida, Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio and Rhode Island have banned the use of gestation crates. In Canada, these crates will be phased out of use by 2024. But with or without gestation crates, the end result are millions of slaughtered pigs. The horrible suffering of these intelligent, sociable animals continues.

So I ask you to stop giving your money to pig farms and slaughterhouses. Celebrate the Year of the Pig by going vegan. Adopting a vegan diet means means eating for life— your life and those of animals.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

Are You Pescetarian? Here Are a Few Things You Must Know

In the Hanna-Barbera animated series, Sealab 2020, my character Sali lived in an underwater research station commanded by her father, Captain Murphy. Sali – and those who watched the show – learned about the ecology of the earth’s oceans and the interconnectedness of life on land and in the sea. Sali understood that aquatic animals were intelligent, social beings in the same way land animals are.

There are a lot of people who have stopped eating meat and dairy for health reasons as well as for the horrific cruelty and suffering the animals experience.  Many of these same people, however, still eat fish; they call themselves pescatarians. They believe that by eating sea animals like fish, they are not causing any suffering.

I’ve never understood why people think sea animals don’t feel pain. Maybe because they look so different from us land mammals, and they live underwater so we don’t see them as often. The only time many people see them is when their flesh is delivered on a plate.

Even before I was vegan I didn’t like eating sea animals. I had seen them on fishing boats when I was a young girl. I’d see them flopping around violently, their eyes open wide, their gills gasping for air. So, for all those pescatarians out there, here is some valuable information to educate you about the truth regarding fish and how science is proving they certainly feel pain.

Fishing: Aquatic agony

Like the animals many people share their homes with, fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do.

Fish can communicate, make tools, think, and feel pain

According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.”

In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.” According to Dr. Jens Krause of the University of Leeds, while some fish live in large hierarchical societies and others have smaller family units, all rely on these “social aggregations,” which “act as an information center where fish can exchange information with each other.”

Fish such as sharks, tuna and others have demonstrated intelligence, curiosity, playfulness, the ability to learn through trial and error, and the ability to maintain social networks.

Scientists have learned that fish feel pain and suffer like any other animal. They just don’t have the vocal cords to scream.  Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds—similar to buzzes and clicks. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight and help with courtship.

While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to mammals. Please take a minute or two to view this video.

Hooked fish struggle because of fear and physical pain

Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they begin to suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders rupture because of the sudden change in pressure;  their eyes bug out and since they can’t breathe outside the water, they flop around violently gasping until they succumb. If they are released or somehow escape back into the water, the hooks stay inside their mouths preventing them from feeding and die of starvation.

Today, many fish are raised on fish farms—crowded, waste-filled pools where they’re packed so tightly together they can barely move. At processing plants, they’re often skinned alive and cut into pieces while still fully conscious. Even wild-caught fish endure a miserable death, which can take up to half an hour as they slowly suffocate or are crushed beneath other fish.

Many trout streams are so intensively fished that they are subject to catch-and-release regulations, requiring that all fish caught be released; the aquatic animals in these streams are likely to spend their short lives being repeatedly traumatized and injured.  Biologist Ralph Manns points out that fish such as bass are territorial, and once they are caught and released, these fish may be unable to find their homes and “be fated to wander aimlessly.”

Birds are killed as well as a result of fishing with hooks

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that discarded monofilament fishing line is the number one killer of adult brown pelicans, although one Audubon biologist says that “[p]retty much every type of water or shore bird can get caught up in fishing line …. We find dead cormorants, anhingas, herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills … you name it.” Ospreys sometimes use discarded fishing line in their nests, and both parents and their young have been found entangled in it or impaled on fishing hooks. Dolphins have also died from asphyxiation after choking on fish who had tackle still attached.

Commercial fishing

The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually, the aquaculture industry raises more than 700 million pounds per year, and another 5 billion pounds of seafood is imported.

Commercial fishers use vast factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing everyone in their path. These boats haul up tens of thousands of fish in one load, keeping the most profitable and dumping other animals (such as rays, dolphins, and crabs) back into the ocean. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Millions of tons of fish who are considered to be “undersized” are left to die on the decks or are tossed back into the ocean, where they usually die soon afterward.

Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets. These kinds of nets are believed to be responsible for the majority of incidents involving the accidental netting and death of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals over decades of use.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 71 cases of whale entanglement off the Coast of California in 2016, the highest total recorded in the area since NOAA started keeping records in 1982.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 80 percent of the world’s fish are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. One study conducted by 14 marine scientists concluded that continued overfishing of the world’s fish will cause “100% of species [to] collapse.”

Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark … has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.

Eating fish is hazardous to your health

Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat and especially cholesterol.

The flesh of fish (including shellfish) can accumulate extremely high levels of carcinogenic chemical residues, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), thousands of times higher than that of the water they live in. A study of the nation’s freshwater waterways concluded that one in four fish is contaminated with levels of mercury that exceed government standards for safety.

The New England Journal of Medicine asserts that fish “are the main if not the only source of methyl mercury,” which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems with motor skills, language, and attention span.

After an analysis of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on canned tuna, Consumer Reports cautioned that cans of tuna “especially white, tend to be high in mercury.”

So, when people you know say “I’m a pescatarian, I only eat fish,” you might want to point out that not only do fish feel pain, they suffer and die in agony like any other animal raised for food. You can also tell them that eating fish is completely unnecessary. You can get all the protein you need from a low-fat vegan diet (look at elephants!) Plus, there is zero cholesterol in a vegan diet. We human animals make more than enough cholesterol in our own livers, we certainly don’t need to ingest the cholesterol made in the livers of the animals being consumed.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

 

New California Law Takes Aim at Breeding Mills

Here’s a photo of me and Muttley, rescued from a municipal shelter in the nick of time, and a member of my family for ten years.

On January 1, 2019, California became the first state to prohibit pet stores from selling dogs, cats, and other mammals unless they were acquired from a shelter, rescue group, or public animal control agency. Under the new California law, pet store operators must be able to prove the origin for animals in their store or be fined $500 per animal.

Most animals sold in pet stores come from mass-breeding facilities that churn out hundreds of thousands of animals every year in deplorable conditions. At these “puppy mills,” “breeding stock” are artificially inseminated again and again to keep them permanently pregnant or nursing. Due to stress and physical exertion, their lives are often short. Their young are typically taken away at a very early age, packed into crates, and trucked or flown hundreds of miles – often without adequate food, water, or ventilation – to brokers, who then sell them to stores. Some of the animals don’t survive the grueling journey.

This is a serious and long overdue blow to those evil breeding mills. Animal advocacy groups have fought and uncovered horrific conditions at breeding mills for years, including those at Holmes Farm, a huge Pennsylvania animal mill that supplied PetSmart, Petco, and others. Undercover video taken there documented that animals were kept in stacked plastic bins, denied veterinary care, and routinely frozen alive and gassed by the dozens. Holmes Farm was raided by agents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is now under federal investigation.

Another good reason to put these breeders out of business? Purebred dogs and cats suffer from significantly higher rates of physical abnormalities and congenital defects. Over-breeding has saturated gene pools with those for deafness, heart ailments, and other physical disorders. The healthiest and most robust dogs and cats are mixed-breeds, or mutts, and they’re oh so cute besides. Every animal is beautiful in his or her own right, not just those with AKC-certified bloodlines!

California is the first to have such a law enacted statewide, but there are similar laws restricting pet store sales in towns and cities across the country. If where you live isn’t on the list, I urge you to contact your state and local legislators to push for similar legislation.

As good news as the California law is for putting an end to breeding mills, it’s still not cause for celebration. Don’t forget that every time someone buys an animal from a pet store, they are condemning another in a shelter, waiting to be loved, to death. Pet store animals will be there until someone buys them, but shelter animals are given a only a brief window of opportunity to be adopted; those that aren’t are put to death. As Public Relations Director for New York’s Center for Animal Care and Control I witnessed beautiful, healthy dogs and cats held down, injected with an asphyxiating drug, and tossed into a refrigerated room to be taken away by garbage trucks. It’s heartbreaking and sickening. Make shelter animals your first choice in adoption, and, remember, always have your animal companions spayed or neutered.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

Unwrapping Animal Gifting

Here’s a photo of me with Arthur O’Connell and Monte Markham from a Christmas episode of the sitcom, “The Second Hundred Years.” In the 1967 episode I played a girl ashamed to admit she couldn’t go to a Christmas party because her single working mother couldn’t afford to buy her a party dress. In the end she is given the gift of a beautiful red velvet party dress, complete with white gloves and a wrap. I received a gift, too. After we filmed the episode, the dress, which had been custom-made for me by the wardrobe department, was given to me to keep. I was thrilled – I so loved that dress. That gift made me happy, but not all gifts turn out the way we intend. Today I know that some gifts people give out of the goodness of their heart result in the suffering and death of humans and non-human animals.

During the holiday gift-giving season, a popular choice for gift donations are programs that send live farm animals as “gifts,” ostensibly to help alleviate hunger and poverty in low-income countries. The reality is, animal gifting typically fails to help those groups, but actually cause harm. The most well-known soliciting organization, Heifer International, is one of the worst offenders. Heifer International would like you to think your donation gives a lift to impoverished peoples when it does just the opposite.  Here’s why:

MOST DAIRY ANIMAL RECIPIENTS ARE LACTOSE INTOLERANT AND HARMED BY DAIRY.

A typical dairy factory farm.

75% of the world is lactose-intolerant, and 90% of Asian and African populations are lactose intolerant. Increased dairy production is frequently touted as one of the greatest successes of animal gifting programs. But, in reality, dairy programs negatively affect the health, well-being, and productivity of people in lactose intolerant populations.

Consuming milk from other animals is also associated with allergies, asthma, and a host of autoimmune disorders. Most mammals, including humans, become lactose intolerant after weaning. Milk is very specifically created for infants, not adults. Furthermore, there is no need for humans to consume the milk of other animals. The resources used to produce dairy ought to be spent on alternatives that provide a higher quality and quantity of calories, protein and calcium.

While animal gifting programs seem to focus on small-scale farming, they have extremely large-scale implications that pave the way for factory farming, and exponentially increase consumption of meat, dairy and eggs throughout entire countries and beyond. For example, Heifer International is largely considered responsible for the kick-off of industrialized dairy in Japan after World War II. Heifer International boasts that their projects produced 3.6 million gallons of milk in one year in Uganda, and developed a national dairy program in Tanzania. These massive programs were developed despite the fact that 90% of Asian and African populations are lactose intolerant. Who is being helped here?

MORE FARMED ANIMALS DOES NOT EQUATE TO LESS HUNGER.

Zero-grazing animals frequently languish in confinement.

Pro-meat biases mean that sustainable plant crops that provide better nutrition and greater income are often overlooked.

In Ethiopia, over 40% of the population is considered hungry or starving, yet the country has 50 million cattle (one of the largest herds in the world), as well as almost 50 million sheep and goats, and 35 million chickens unnecessarily consuming food, land and water, Severe overgrazing has led to deforestation, soil erosion, and eventual desertification.

Instead of using precious food, water, topsoil, and massive amounts of land and energy to raise livestock, Ethiopia, for instance, could grow teff, an ancient and extremely nutritious grain grown in that country for the past 20,000 to 30,000 years. Teff is very high in protein, with an excellent amino acid profile, and is high in fiber and calcium – one cup of teff provides more calcium than a cup of milk – and is a rich source of boron, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Researchers have found that teff can be grown by farmers at a yield of 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per acre, with more sustainable growing techniques employed and no water irrigation. Teff has been shown to grow well in water-stressed areas and it is pest resistant.

 FARMED ANIMALS DO NOT JUST “LIVE OFF THE LAND.”

A starving cow scavenging trash during 2011 drought in Kenya.

While tempting to believe, farmed animals do not just “live off the land,” consuming only grass and scraps that don’t compete with human consumption. In response to criticism that promoting irresponsible animal agriculture in regions already plagued by desertification and drought, Heifer International and other organizations promote their animals’ “zero-grazing” requirements. “Zero-grazing” is simply a euphemism for “confined in filthy pens.”

Animal gifting organizations such as Heifer International promote inherently water-intensive animal farming, even in areas where water is scarce. Raising animals for food requires up to 10 times more water than growing crops for direct consumption. Additionally, in many arid communities, water is only available from a communal well or reservoir, in which case hydrating animals is a labor-intensive process for adults and children who must travel by foot and can only carry so much. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of animals die a slow death from dehydration.

ANIMAL GIFTING PROGRAMS MISLEAD THE PUBLIC.

Cows being transported to slaughter in southern India.

Many gifted animals suffer from confinement, neglect, malnutrition, and lack of protection from weather and temperature extremes. Animals also endure horrific slaughter processes and long-distance transport where they are literally forced to lie down and tied with heavy rope so they can’t get up and die miserable deaths during transport.

ANIMAL GIFTING ORGANIZATIONS ENGAGE IN QUESTIONABLE SPENDING.

Heifer International spent more than $22 million for printing, distribution, processing, and other fundraising-related costs. That’s $22 million from donations that could have been spent on fighting hunger and poverty and promoting health and education.

THERE ARE BETTER FEEDING PROGRAMS AND GIFT DONATION PROGRAMS.

A Well Fed World sends 100% of your donation to four hand-picked groups with low overhead and proven successes in high-need areas. These hunger relief projects provide both immediate assistance and long-term community solutions that feed families without harming animals. They make it easy with one tax-letter, gift card and present (http://awfw.org/gifts/). You may also choose to give directly to these groups or choose from their grants list.

Three other organizations that do essential work and which I can personally vouch for are:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) (www.peta.org)

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (www.pcrm.org)

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (bestfriends.org)

I encourage you to visit their websites, learn about those organizations and their work, and make a donation if you can.

Thank you.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

For Turkeys and Those Who Care, Thanks-Grieving Day Nears

For me and others who care about animals, and for millions of turkeys, Thanksgiving Day is Thanks-GRIEVING Day.

When I was little, I, too, ate a turkey dinner at Thanksgiving. But I couldn’t bear to watch my mother prepare it. I recognized the turkey as a dead bird, and the sight of its pale, cold skin with little pimples where the feathers had been made me cringe and seeing my mother stuff its bloody organs along with breadcrumbs into the gaping hole where its head used to be made me feel ill. It saddens me that when the turkey came out of the oven, I was able to put those images out of my mind and eat it along with the rest of the family. I was a child then, but as an adult I know better.

This Thanksgiving, around 46 million turkeys will be murdered and eaten. A month later millions more will be slaughtered to celebrate a season dedicated to peace and good will. How sad and ironic.

Turkeys are beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive birds. Under natural conditions, turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their babies. Mother turkeys are fiercely protective of their young and will risk their lives to save their babies.

When trust has been established between a human and a turkey, they love to be petted for long periods of time. When receiving such affection, many turkeys make a sound that can only be described as “purring.” Turkeys rescued by sanctuaries, even those who have known great cruelty at human hands, will happily sit for hours having their tummy rubbed.

Male turkeys, called toms, love to feel noticed and admired. Toms at sanctuaries are known to follow busy human caretakers from chore to chore, standing off to the side, puffing out their exquisite feathers in a blast of scalloped ruffles, quietly and patiently anticipating the prospect for attention.

But few turkeys enjoy such loving, caring treatment, for most live excruciatingly painful lives at factory farms or on oxymoronically-named “humanely-raised” farms. On these farms, turkeys are artificially inseminated, the industry euphemism for being held upside down, struggling, while a syringe of semen is pushed into their vaginas. They and their offspring have been bred to grow so unnaturally fast and heavy that their bones are too weak to support their weight. They suffer from leg deformities, arthritis and joint pain almost from birth, resulting in lameness so severe that they are sometimes forced to walk on their wings to reach food and water.

Turkeys are packed by the thousands into long, windowless buildings, where they breathe ammonia fumes and irritating dust that lead them to develop respiratory diseases. Forced to live in their own urine and excrement, they develop grossly ulcerated feet, blistered breasts, and ammonia-burned eyes and throats.

Although turkeys have claws, under natural conditions and with proper living space, they will not use their claws against others, but subjected to overcrowding and brutal handling at turkey farms, stressed turkeys use their thick nails to defend themselves. Because of this, turkey farmers use shears to cut off – without anesthesia – not just the nails, but the first and second digits of the turkey’s toes so they will not grow back. Disregard what you may believe about “humane” farms or “free-range” turkeys; the same painful brutality is performed on those birds. The open wounds often get infected and swell, making it incredibly painful for the turkeys to walk. I’ve visited rescued turkeys at sanctuaries and seen for myself their terribly deformed feet and the swollen stumps of what used to be their toes.

The cruel practice of debeaking – done also on chicken farms – is performed while the turkeys are still chicks. Debeaking is done using sharp shears, a heated blade, or a high-voltage electrical current. Turkeys’ beaks are loaded with sensory receptors, much like human fingertips, and this painful procedure severs and exposes nerves. Some turkeys starve to death before they are able to eat again; others die of shock during the procedure. Not only are debeaked turkeys painfully mutilated, but as birds who use their beaks to preen, groom, peck and eat, those who survive the procedure suffer tremendously for being unable to do these natural activities.

Before a turkey arrives in your grocer’s freezer case, they are forced through several stations along a gruesome assembly line at the slaughterhouse. The process begins by shackling the birds by their feet before dragging them upside down through an electrified water bath designed to stun them. From there their throats are cut by an automated blade. But this assembly line of death moves so quickly that many of the turkeys are not properly stunned. Still flapping and writhing, they miss the blade, and remain alive as they and those before them are dropped into the scalding tank, designed to loosen their feathers for easy removal. Any turkeys still living are boiled alive.

None of this is at all festive, and none of it bespeaks thankfulness, home, or family. As compassionate people, can’t we reevaluate the systematic suffering and merciless killing of billions of animals in the name of tradition?

Now that you know the truth behind a Thanks-Grieving dinner, here’s a short, uplifting video about Hildy, a turkey rescued from a commercial farm who was lucky enough to live out her life with people who loved her: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSDCrL6eSvY&sns=em

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!