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

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

When I was little, I ate turkey with my family at Thanksgiving. But it alarmed and upset me to watch my mother prepare the turkey. I recognized it as a dead bird, and the sight of its pale, cold skin with little pimples where the feathers had been pulled out made me cringe, and watching my mother stuff the bird’s bloody organs with fistfuls of breadcrumbs into the gaping hole where its head used to be made me feel ill. It saddens me that, when the turkey was served, I was able to put those images out of my mind and dig in. Of course, I was a child then and didn’t know any better.

This Thanksgiving, some 40-50 million turkeys will be murdered and eaten. Millions more will be slaughtered a month later 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. They are fiercely protective of their young and will risk their lives to save their babies. Male turkeys, called toms, have beautiful feathers they love to show off. Toms at sanctuaries are known to follow busy human caretakers from chore to chore, puffing out their feathers in a blast of scalloped ruffles, patiently waiting to be noticed and admired.

Did you know that turkeys love to be petted? Turkeys make very affectionate animal friends. When they feel love and trust, 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.

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 who have survived to this point are boiled alive.

Festive? No. Can mutilation, torture, and death bespeak 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.

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

Tired of Isolation? For Billions of Animals, This Is Their Entire Existence

Shelter-in-place restrictions, closed businesses and public spaces, and reduced social interaction has found us confronting unfamiliar feelings of alienation and isolation. Many people are disoriented by the sense of being estranged from their own lives.

Weeks or months of isolation necessary to inhibit the spread of the COVID-19 virus can be uncomfortable, but we know this disruption in our lives is only temporary. Try to imagine, if you can, the depths of isolation our society routinely inflicts on so many of our fellow beings – the nonhuman animals we breed or capture for our exploitation. For the animals languishing on farms, in zoos, vivisection laboratories, aquariums, circuses, pet stores, breeding mills, kill shelters, alienation and loneliness is the very essence of their existence, and a permanent condition.

It is widely believed that COVID-19 jumped to humans via the animal flesh trade, which has led to a critical focus on wildlife and “wet” markets. Deservedly so, but we must not forget that factory farms and meat packing plants remain the largest sources of human zoonotic disease pandemics. A 2012 study mapping human diseases that come from animals found that “while zoonoses can be transmitted to people by either wild or domesticated animals, most human infections are acquired from the world’s 24 billion livestock, including pigs, poultry, cattle, goats, sheep and camels.”

The World Health Organization confirms that the greatest risk for zoonotic disease transmission occurs at the human-animal interface through direct or indirect human exposure to animals, their products (meat, milk, eggs, etc.) and/or their environments, while the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization notes that “seventy percent of the new diseases that have emerged in humans over recent decades are of animal origin and, in part, directly related to the human quest for more animal-sourced food.”

Just a decade ago, swine flu, an H1N1 influenza virus, jumped from farmed pigs to humans and infected nearly 61 million people in the U.S. alone, where it resulted in 12,469 deaths, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Worldwide, as many as 284,500 people were killed by the swine flu pandemic.

The infamous 1918 influenza pandemic was also caused by an H1N1 virus. Attributed to having developed from either a swine flu or avian flu virus on a pig or poultry farm (pre-dating factory farms, it should be noted), the pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people around the world.

All this is just the tip of the iceberg.

While pandemics are tragic, they are not inevitable. In the grand scheme of things, they are symptoms of a much deeper sickness with which we have infected not only ourselves, but whose toxic consequences can now be seen across the globe. Witness the burning of the Amazon rainforest to make room for ever more cattle ranching. See Australia, where the ceaseless bulldozing of koala habitat and the deliberate mass killing of kangaroos, both on behalf of the beef industry, kill far more of these animals every year than the recent wildfires. See, too, the unprecedented rates of species extinction resulting from habitat loss, whose number one driver is animal agriculture; the climate crisis to which meat and dairy production contribute more greenhouse gas emissions than all global transport combined, leading to devastating droughts, floods, fires, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events.

This sickness is not the scale of our killing but in the mentality that views animals not as fellow beings but as resources to be farmed and consumed. Humans have thrown out the order of nature and taken it upon themselves to decide where animals will live, if they may reproduce and how and when, if the children they bear will ever see their mothers, when or if they may be allowed to socialize with their own species. What, when, and how much they will eat, what mutilations they will be subjected to, and, to a great extent, when and how they will die.

What can it mean that, in a society obsessed with personal identity and freedom, we have erased the very concepts of identity, liberty, autonomy, and consent from entire populations of sentient individuals. We give little or no thought to the moral implications of the indignity and debasement we inflict on them for our own profit and pleasure. To degrade any individual, much less entire species, to the lifelong status of property, captive, and commodity, is the grossest devaluing of life, and the ultimate alienation.

Farmed animals are the innocent victims of our arrogant and ignorant species. They do not “live” as we know and value the word; they endure an existence. They are powerless, brought into the world by violation on an industrial scale for the sole purpose of gratifying human indulgence.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We can thrive without causing this devastating harm.

It is no coincidence that our systematic destruction of animal lives is also destroying our own. As I write this, U.S. slaughterhouses and meat processing plants have been identified as the largest hotspot for coronavirus infection in the country. Instead of shutting them down to stop the spread of this killer virus, an executive order is forcing them to stay open to supply our society’s fetish for flesh. Headlines fan the fears of “mass meat shortage” that threaten to starve us all. News flash: it won’t. There are more than enough things to eat that aren’t hacked off the corpses of animals.

Our culture is in a state of addiction. It is pathological. And it is wrecking our planet, which ought to be incidental to the immorality of force-breeding billions of sentient individuals into captivity, reproductive subjugation, and slaughter. Lives are not commodities; beings are not property.

Until we divest from this poisonous sense of entitlement, this blood-soaked stupor of violence, exploitation, and consumption, our species is doomed.

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

Cage-Free, Free Range, Organic: All Labels for Suffering and Murder

Every time you buy a carton of eggs – conventional, free-range, cage-free, organic, “certified humanely raised,” or whatever label is put on them – you are paying for the murder of hundreds of millions of baby chicks, 200 million each year in the United States alone. They are thrown in a dumpster and left to die, tossed in garbage bags and suffocated, or more commonly, ground up alive in industrial meat grinders. Why does this happen, you ask?  Wouldn’t it be more profitable to let them grow up and kill them for meat?

Actually, no. It takes a lot of food, shelter and water to raise a chick into a full-grown chicken. Male chickens simply will not grow as big or as fast as female chickens. They also don’t lay eggs. To egg farmers, male chickens are a liability that eat into profits, so they cut their losses early and “humanely euthanize” (i.e. grind up) baby chicks that are only a day old.

Though the males die a relatively quick death, the females will live their entire lives crammed six to a cage so small they can’t stand up or turn around. Chickens are treated as egg-laying machines with no regard for their basic biological and behavioral needs. They are “debeaked,” meaning their beaks are nearly cut off so they can’t peck at each other. Many are put through periods of starvation to force them to molt, which will boost their egg-laying productivity. These hens’ natural life span of 15-20 years is cut drastically short, living only one to two years before they are slaughtered when their productivity declines. Their bodies are so wasted and emaciated that their meat is only able to be used in soups and pet food.

Do you see the phrase “cage-free eggs” and imagine they come from hens wandering free in a sunny barnyard? Think again. “Cage-free” chickens are kept not six to a small cage but packed in giant warehouses. They are still debeaked and still sent to the slaughterhouse when their egg-laying productivity declines.

The label “free-range eggs” sounds much better, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s simply another marketing ploy. In the words of the USDA, “free-range” birds are “raised in heated and air-cooled growing houses with access to the outdoors.” That “outdoor area” is typically a small covered porch or patio with a cement floor, accessed through a small, hard-to-find door. There is nothing “cruelty-free” about getting to spend a few minutes a day on a crowded cement patio where the sunlight never reaches. Once again, the chickens are debeaked, forced to live in their own waste, fed the same antibiotic and arsenic-laden feed that other chickens eat, and are still slaughtered in ways that will make your blood turn cold. Remember: free-range chickens are far from free, and they don’t live on a range.

Organic eggs come from chickens that are fed a certified organic, vegetarian diet (though chickens’ natural diet is not strictly vegetarian). There is still no barnyard or pasture, no space to roam free, and often no sunlight, and the living conditions are still far from cruelty-free. USDA regulations permit egg farmers to confine their hens 24 hours a day if they feel that the weather is too harsh, that there may be a disease outbreak, or to protect soil and water from being contaminated by all of the waste inherent in the keeping of thousands of chickens. There are no clear regulations on any of these factors, and because they are left completely to the farmer’s discretion, are almost never regulated or enforced in any way.

“Certified organic,” “free-range,” “cage-free,” “hormone-free,” “all natural,” “humanely raised and handled” — all of these labels are cynically designed to make consumers feel less guilty about buying a product that is always cruel. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated by meaningless labels, and stop paying for the suffering and slaughter of innocent animals.

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

Their Wet Market Is Our Factory Farm

This is a follow-up to my March 27 essay about the roots of COVID-19 and other deadly viruses in the abuse, slaughter, and eating of animals.

The writing has been on the wall for years. Animal agriculture, in all of its manifestations — from the disembowelment of pigs to the bloodthirsty “sport” of hunting — is a ticking time bomb. Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, I continue to be stunned by the lack of serious reporting on the source of the problem. Finally, after weeks of sparse coverage, we are beginning to see the issue come to light through figures that have captured the world’s attention, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who stated that “It boggles my mind how when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we don’t just shut it down. I don’t know what else has to happen to get us to appreciate that.”

Since the pandemic began, experts have commented on this connection between animal agriculture and disease outbreaks. What do they say?

“Zoonotic viruses almost always leap to humans directly from our livestock or from wildlife, the slaughter and hunting of which bring susceptible human hosts in particularly close contact with live animals and their infected tissues and fluids. Both farmed and caged wild animals create the perfect breeding ground for zoonotic diseases.” – Liz Specht, PhD, associate director of science and technology at the Good Food Institute. (Wired)

“We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it.” — David Quammen, science writer and author of “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic.” (New York Times)

“If we want to forestall the evolution of ever-newer, and possibly deadlier, human-adapted viruses, live animal markets must be permanently shut down. Until the Chinese government outlaws these markets, until factory farms housing millions of animals are eliminated, until we take the inevitable logic of disease evolution into account, novel, and potentially deadly, human diseases will continue to arise. Again. And again. And again.”  — Wendy Orent, an anthropologist specializing in health and pandemics, author of author of “Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World’s Most Dangerous Disease” and “Ticked: The Battle Over Lyme Disease in the South.”

“It’s [viral pandemics] about the way we are pushing into the last wild spaces on our planet. When we burn and plow into the Amazon rainforest so that we can have cheap land for ranching, when the last of the African bush gets converted to farms, when wild animals in China are hunted to extinction, human beings come into contact with wildlife populations that they have never come into contact with before…. So as long as we keep making our remote places less remote, the outbreaks are going to keep coming.” – Global health expert Alanna Shaikh. (TED)

Those are just a few. If humans are to survive on this planet, consideration must be given to the roots of the pathogens that threaten to wipe us all out. They’re out there, and they will find their way here. Unless we change the way we live with animals, no amount of soap and hand sanitizer is going to save us.

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

The Suffering and Slaughter Behind Those Wings and Nuggets

Humans, not nature, have engineered a domestic species – the chicken – from its wild counterpart in a way that so grotesquely robs them of all of the richness and complexity of their tropical rainforest lives and at the same time renders their bodies lethally obese within weeks of birth. Through genetic engineering, grotesque feeding methods, and massive doses of hormones, today’s chickens look nothing like they did a generation ago.

These gentle, clever birds are raised to be slaughtered at six to seven weeks old. Before they are sent to their gruesome deaths, they are grabbed by their legs and stuffed into crates packed so tight, they are forced to squat in their own waste for hours and even days. Most are sent on their way with fractured wings and legs, bruises, and open wounds.

In open trucks they ride, with no protection from the extremes of cold, heat, wind, rain and ice. Denied food and water, many of them arrive dead from heart failure, hypothermia, dehydration, starvation and heat stroke.

Once at their destination, the chickens who survived the journey are stuffed, head-first and fully conscious, into a metal cone called a “kill cone.” Pulled through the bottom opening, the chickens’ throats are slashed or their heads hacked off with an axe. Thrashing about in agony, the chickens soon – but not immediately – suffocate in their own blood. When you see a packaged chicken marked “humanely raised” in the grocery store, reflect upon this: the chicken industry calls the savage process of murder by kill cone, “humane.”

Chickens are naturally friendly, loving animals. They love to cuddle and bond with humans, care deeply for their young, enjoy taking dust baths to keep clean, and are among the smartest of birds. How is it then that we can love parakeets, cockatoos, and other pet birds who live in our homes while visiting such suffering and violence upon their cousins? Humans have an amazing tolerance for even the most unspeakable cruelty as long as it is results in batter-dipped body parts in a cardboard bucket.

Please take a few minutes to watch this video about Sally, a beautiful and sweet hen who came from a Chicago slaughterhouse and who is now, thanks to her brave rescuers, living out her life at Georgia’s Place Bird Sanctuary. Some images are graphic, but the story will touch your heart.

Peace to all of the animals with whom we share this planet.

Fresh Milk from Contented Cows? Think Again

As a child actress and model, I was photographed in all sorts of poses, including a few like this one – eating a bowl of cereal and milk.  Of course, I had no idea then how cruel the dairy industry is or what goes on at dairy farms. Thank goodness I know now.

We’re so used to drinking cows’ milk we never think about what dairy cows and their offspring endure for people to pour milk on their cereal. Did you know that human animals are the only species on earth who drink the milk of another species? And did you know every animal in the animal kingdom stops drinking milk after they’re weened, except for – you got it – human animals.

Although the dairy industry would rather you didn’t know and tries to hide this fact, lactose intolerance is a natural and common condition among humane. Lactose intolerance affects approximately 95 percent of Asian-Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Latin Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms include gastrointestinal cramping, diarrhea, and flatulence, and occur because the lactose intolerant do not have the lactase enzyme to digest the lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk.

The dairy industry would like you to believe that dairy cows graze contentedly in green pastures before being led into a rustic red barn to be milked. Nothing could be further from the truth.   The reality in today’s world find thousands of cows packed tightly together in nightmarish factory farms, hooked up to painful and frightening machines.

Dairy cows are, of course, female, and, like all mammals, produce milk after giving birth to nourish their calves. To keep cows producing milk, it is necessary to force them to remain constantly pregnant. Dairy farmers achieve this by artificially impregnating their cows again and again on so-called “rape racks.”

A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are typically killed after about five years because their bodies wear out from constantly being pregnant or lactating. A dairy industry study found that by the time they are killed, nearly 50 percent of cows have painful mastitis – grossly enlarged and misshapen udders – and are typically lame and infected from standing in intensive confinement on concrete floors and in filth.

If that weren’t cruel enough, do you know what happens to all those calves brought into the world in order to keep their mothers producing milk? First, calves are torn away from their mothers within 24 hours of their birth. This is traumatic for both mother and calf; mother cows can be heard crying out for their calves for days. Female calves will live short and cruel lives just as their mothers do, but a different fate waits in store for the males. Most male calves of dairy cows are shipped to barren feedlots where they will be fattened and slaughtered for beef. Those are the “lucky” ones.

A “city” of veal calf crates, each with a single pitiful abused calf, at a factory farm.

Some male calves are turned over to the veal industry. These calves, beginning at a day or two old, are kept 24/7 in tiny crates, a chain around their neck to prevent them from moving about or even turning around. The muscles of calves who cannot move atrophy and remain tender. To make their flesh white, the calves are fed a diet lacking in iron and any real nutritional value. Veal calves typically suffer from anemia, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Frightened, sick, and isolated from other calves, these poor animals are slaughtered after a few short months, and their flesh stripped and sold. That tender, pale veal neatly packaged in the meat case of your local supermarket is the end product of a short, sad, and brutal life.

Those who refuse to eat veal because of the cruelty involved ought to be aware that drinking cows’ milk or buying dairy products – butter, cheese, ice cream etc. – are still supporting the veal industry with their wallets.

The good news is that removing dairy products from your diet is easier than ever. Today, there are many cruelty-free vegan alternatives at your supermarket, such as soy, rice, oat, almond, coconut, and pecan milks and ice creams, tasty vegetable-based spreads, and delicious cheeses for cooking and eating. Please try them – they’re great!

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

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 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!

Every Glass of Milk or Slice of Cheese Supports the Veal Industry

As a child actress and model, I was photographed in all sorts of poses, including a few like this one – eating a bowl of cereal and milk.  Of course, I had no idea then how cruel the dairy industry is or what goes on at dairy farms. Thank goodness I know now.

We’re so used to drinking cows’ milk we never think about what dairy cows and their offspring endure for people to pour milk on their cereal. Did you know that human animals are the only species on earth who drink the milk of another species? And did you know every animal in the animal kingdom stops drinking milk after they’re weened, except for – you got it – human animals.

Although the dairy industry would rather you didn’t know and tries to hide this fact, lactose intolerance is a natural and common condition among humane. Lactose intolerance affects approximately 95 percent of Asian-Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Latin Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms include gastrointestinal cramping, diarrhea, and flatulence, and occur because the lactose intolerant do not have the lactase enzyme to digest the lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk.

The dairy industry would like you to believe that dairy cows graze contentedly in green pastures before being led into a rustic red barn to be milked. Nothing could be further from the truth.   The reality in today’s world find thousands of cows packed tightly together in nightmarish factory farms, hooked up to painful and frightening machines.

Dairy cows are, of course, female, and, like all mammals, produce milk after giving birth to nourish their calves. To keep cows producing milk, it is necessary to force them to remain constantly pregnant. Dairy farmers achieve this by artificially impregnating their cows again and again on so-called “rape racks.”

A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are typically killed after about five years because their bodies wear out from constantly being pregnant or lactating. A dairy industry study found that by the time they are killed, nearly 50 percent of cows have painful mastitis – grossly enlarged and misshapen udders – and are typically lame and infected from standing in intensive confinement on concrete floors and in filth.

If that weren’t cruel enough, do you know what happens to all those calves brought into the world in order to keep their mothers producing milk? First, calves are torn away from their mothers within 24 hours of their birth. This is traumatic for both mother and calf; mother cows can be heard crying out for their calves for days. Female calves will live short and cruel lives just as their mothers do, but a different fate waits in store for the males. Most male calves of dairy cows are shipped to barren feedlots where they will be fattened and slaughtered for beef. Those are the “lucky” ones.

A “city” of veal calves, each imprisoned in his own tiny crate at a factory farm.

Some male calves are turned over to the veal industry. These calves, beginning at a day or two old, are kept 24/7 in tiny crates, a chain around their neck to prevent them from moving about or even turning around. The muscles of calves who cannot move atrophy and remain tender. To make their flesh white, the calves are fed a diet lacking in iron and any real nutritional value. Veal calves typically suffer from anemia, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Frightened, sick, and isolated from other calves, these poor animals are slaughtered after a few short months, and their flesh stripped and sold. That tender, pale veal neatly packaged in the meat case of your local supermarket is the end product of a short, sad, and brutal life.

Those who refuse to eat veal because of the cruelty involved ought to be aware that drinking cows’ milk or buying dairy products – butter, cheese, ice cream etc. – are still supporting the veal industry with their wallets.

The good news is that removing dairy products from your diet is easier than ever. Today, there are many cruelty-free vegan alternatives at your supermarket, such as soy, rice, oat, almond, coconut, and pecan milks and ice creams, tasty vegetable-based spreads, and delicious cheeses for cooking and eating. Please try them – they’re great!

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

The Cruelty of Egg Farming

In the movie “The Beguiled,” starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, I played Amy, a tender-hearted girl who loves and nurtures animals. Early in the movie Amy is seen tending to a wounded crow. The crow, whose wing has been injured, is tied to the railing of a balcony so he can’t fly away until he has fully recovered. “I love ya, Mr. Crow,” Amy says as she tries to comfort the struggling bird, “but until your wings are mended, it’s for your own good.” The scene foreshadows the plight of Eastwood’s character, McB, as he recovers from his injuries in the boarding school.

When I think about birds now I think about the horrific abuse birds – chickens, ducks, and others – endure on egg-laying farms. Egg farms continually breed birds so they have a fresh supply of hens to lay eggs. After two years spending their lives in horribly cramped conditions inside huge warehouses, the hens stop laying enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed and are shipped to the slaughterhouse.

If chicks in the hatchery turn out to be males (who, of course, don’t lay eggs), they’re considered useless by-products. Those poor baby birds are tossed ALIVE, cheeping pitifully for their mothers, into the trash, or thrown ALIVE into rendering machines to be ground up and used as feed for other animals.

Female chicks have part of their beaks painfully cut off while fully conscious, because egg-laying hens are forced to live in such crowded conditions they peck at each other. This is why I don’t eat eggs, or any other animals for that matter. Birds such as “broiler” chickens and egg-laying hens are made to live such miserable and painful lives that I simply cannot ethically eat their abused corpses.

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