The Not-So-Sweet Story of Honey

Here’s a photo of me at seven with an armload of sweet tangerines picked from a tree in our backyard. We always had a nice crop of tangerines to enjoy, but there wouldn’t be fruit, flowers, or other plants without bees to pollinate them. Without plants to eat and refresh the earth’s oxygen supply, humans would perish. We owe our very survival to bees.

I’m often asked if vegans eat honey. The answer is no. Honey, like other animal products, is derived from exploitation and suffering.

A honeybee hive consists of tens of thousands of bees, each with his or her own mission that is determined by the bee’s sex and age as well as by the time of year. Each hive usually has one queen, hundreds of drones, and thousands of workers. Queens can live as long as seven years, while other bees have life spans ranging from a few weeks to six months.

Drones serve the queen, who is responsible for reproduction. She lays about 250,000 eggs each year, as many as one million over the course of her lifetime. Worker bees are responsible for feeding the brood, caring for the queen, building comb, foraging for nectar and pollen, and cleaning, ventilating, and guarding the hive. As the temperature drops in the winter, the bees cluster around the queen and her young, using their body heat to keep the temperature inside the hive steady at around 93 degrees Fahrenheit.

A Language All Their Own
Bees have a unique and complex form of communication based on sight, motion, and scent that scientists and scholars still don’t fully understand. Bees alert other members of their hive to food, new hive locations, and conditions (such as nectar supply) within their hive through intricate “dance” movements.

Studies have shown that bees are capable of abstract thinking as well as distinguishing their family members from other bees, using visual cues to map their travels, and locating previously used food sources even if their home has been moved. And, similar to the way smells can invoke powerful memories in for humans, they also trigger memories in bees, such as where the best food can be found.

Manipulating Nature
Profiting from honey requires human manipulation and exploitation of the insects’ desire to live and protect their hive. Humans have been consuming honey since about 15,000 B.C., but it wasn’t until very recently in human history that people have turned bees into factory-farmed animals. Like other factory-farmed animals, honeybees are victims of unnatural living conditions, genetic manipulation, and stressful transportation.

The familiar white box beehive has been around since the mid-1850s and was created so that beekeepers could move hives from place to place. As The New York Times describes it, bees have been “moved from shapes that accommodated their own geometry to flat-topped tenements, sentenced to life in file cabinets.”

Even though bees may prefer the nectar of one or more flowers or plants, it’s common beekeeping practice to place the artificial hives in fields where only one type of plant is available, leaving the bees no options in nectar gathering. In addition, when beekeepers drain hives of the honey the bees have made to feed themselves to sell it to humans, they give the hungry bees sugary syrups, like high-fructose corn syrup, to eat instead. Scientists have confirmed that this practice is causing bees to suffer from malnutrition.

When a new queen is about to be born, the old queen and half the hive leave their home and set up in a new place found by scouting worker bees. This “swarming,” as it’s known, can cause a decline in honey production. Beekeepers do inhumane things to prevent swarming, including clipping the wings of a new queen, killing and replacing an older queen after just one or two years, and confining a queen who is ready to initiate a swarm.

Queens are often forcibly taken from hives and artificially inseminated using drones, who are killed in the process. When beekeepers decide to move a queen to another colony, she is transported along with “bodyguard” bees, all of whom, if they survive the move, will be killed by bees in the new colony. Many bees are killed or have their wings and legs torn off by haphazard handling by beekeepers.

What You Can Do
Avoid honey, beeswax, propolis, royal jelly, and other products that come from the exploitation of bees. Vegan lip balms and candles are readily available. Agave nectar, rice syrup, molasses, sorghum, barley malt, maple syrup, and dried fruit or fruit concentrates can be used to replace honey in recipes. Sweet, delicious, and healthy meals and desserts can be enjoyed without the suffering of vitally important bees.

Peace for ALL the animals who 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.

More Information on COVID-19 and Pandemics

More information on COVID-19 and pandemics you may not know:

It’s easy for those of us in the Western world to shake our heads at the gruesome wildlife (wet) markets in China that are the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic now paralyzing the globe. But what’s more difficult is to be honest with ourselves about what kinds of pandemics may be brewing through our own practice of eating animals.

And while the new coronavirus, crippling as it is, might have a fatality rate (proportion of those infected who die) greater than four percent, this catastrophe may be just a dress rehearsal for an even more serious pandemic that could take a more gruesome toll, akin to the 1918 global flu pandemic, which originated in a Kansas slaughterhouse and killed 50 million people.

When that day comes, it’s very likely that such a virus will also have its origin in humanity’s seemingly insatiable desire to eat animals, wild or domestic. The atrocious conditions in which we raise animals today – crowding tens of thousands of animals wing-to-wing or snout-to-snout – serve as amplifiers for viral pandemics.

Indeed, the H1N1 swine flu outbreak of 2009 originated in a pig confinement operation in North Carolina. Factory farms like this cut pigs’ tails off without any anesthesia; thousands slowly die from blood loss. The pigs are stuffed into crates so small they can’t even turn around. Many die from thirst during transport in trucks packed so tightly that those who collapse or die are trampled by others who, in desperation, frantically seek escape.

And while the H5N1 bird flu outbreak in 1997 (case fatality rate: 60 percent) originated in a Chinese chicken factory farm, a similar bird flu in the U.S. just five years ago led American chicken farmers to kill tens of millions of their birds to contain the outbreak. And at this very moment, both India and China have announced bird flu outbreaks originating in chicken factories.

Chickens, like pigs, are tortured in factory farms, crammed so tightly into cages they peck at each other in despair and madness. To combat this, factory farmers mutilate the chickens with a machine that holds them by the head and slices off their beaks with a hot metal blade. As often as not, the blade cuts too close and millions of chickens starve to death.

But you can only play viral Russian roulette for so long, which is why public health experts concerned about zoonotic diseases have for years been ringing the alarm about the industrial farming of animals. Michael Greger, author of Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching, calls factory farming a “perfect storm environment” for infectious diseases. “If you actually want to create global pandemics,” he warns, “then build factory farms.”

A 2007 editorial in the American Journal of Public Health on the topic worried that our mass raising and slaughtering of animals for food could be the genesis of the next big global pandemic. Given the connection between industrial animal agriculture and pandemic risk, the editorial observed, “We need to change the way humans treat animals – most basically ceasing to eat them.”

Such a prescription in 2007 might have seemed off the radar as it would have appeared simply too unrealistic. Today, however, technological progress has made it easier to imagine taking the public health experts’ advice more seriously.

Yes, we humans may crave meat, but our concept of “meat” is now becoming far more diverse than in the past. Whereas “protein” was once synonymous with a hunk of flesh from a once-living animal’s body, today many Americans are embracing a type of plant protein that mimics the taste of flesh. There’s the success of plant-based meat alternatives, for example, which are now a popular part of fast food chains’ menus across the country. Many forward-thinking meat companies have even released their own plant-based meat alternative offerings, too. Today’s plant-based meats have all the taste and texture of anything you can find in animal form. You like burgers, sausages, chicken nuggets? There is an almost endless variety of delicious and easy to find meatless product out there. There are plenty of dairy and cheese alternatives too. Looking for something to do while you’re at home? Check them out and find the ones you like the best. You can also purchase through Amazon any number of vegan recipe books.

Whether the concern is climate change, antibiotic resistance, deforestation, animal welfare, or more, the benefits of leaving off the eating of animals and getting our protein source from a plant-based diet, is imperative.

As we hunker down and weather the corona storm now hitting the world, let us take some of our downtime to contemplate that we have the power to reduce the chance of the next pandemic. Wet markets in Asia and elsewhere MUST be shut down, but let’s not stop there. If we have the will to shut down our entire society for weeks on end, surely we have the will to change our diets.

No one NEEDS to eat animals, and together we can “do no harm” to our animal friends and stop inflicting deadly pandemics on ourselves.

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!

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!

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!

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!