Keep Me Hanging On

Start by doing what’s necessary;
then do what’s possible;
and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

– St. Francis of Assisi

This week has been especially disturbing to me in terms of farmed animal welfare. Two new undercover videos were released from Mercy For Animals (MFA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

The first, from MFA, shows dairy farm workers at an Idaho farm sexually molesting dairy cows. You can read about it and/or watch the video here.

The second, from HSUS, chronicles a practice in a Kentucky pig breeding factory of feeding ground up body parts of piglets back to the mothers. These piglets apparently die from severe diarrhea, so that is in there too. You can read about it and/or watch the video here.

What?? (sigh)

Meanwhile, I was also reminded this week of the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness which was signed in 2012 by a group of neuroscientists. It states that based many non-human animals have “neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors,” including all mammals and birds.

Interesting juxtaposition. We exploit and abuse animals. <—> They might be conscious like we are. Quite an implication for us.

Now I know that science competes with itself, so is the Declaration based on “sound” evidence? I don’t know.  But I know that it shows that there are people alive, now, who are discovering animal consciousness to be at the least a possibility.

Don’t you feel sometimes like your pets are self-aware or are connecting with you or other animals emotionally? Don’t you sense that they have true affection for their babies? That they fear? And love?

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Then why not a pig? Then why not a cow?

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It is hard for me to imagine any sound argument supporting our culture’s current treatment of our fellow creatures. Whether you base your reasons in the science, the spirituality, the indigenous traditions, or just the gut reaction you have to animals in pain, doesn’t something seem off? Doesn’t it seem like something should change for the good of our OWN species, let alone all the others? I’m not talking about “extreme” changes like a vegan world or animal rights being written into law…I’m pointing just to a basic respect for non-human animals. A humbling of ourselves to recognize the impact our choices have on them and to entertain the possibility that we, as a species, could treat them better.

I personally believe that our future survival really does depend on a change in consciousness. It requires an end of division and competition at the levels we suffer now and a new collaborative, cooperative civilization. Not just with each other, but with the Earth and its other inhabitants with whom we should be sharing this home. It is the hope of that civilization (brought about by necessity, compassion, and divine guidance) along with my own proactive efforts to propel change that keep me hanging on.

So hang on! To each pig crammed into a gestation crate, each elephant shackled in a concrete shed for our entertainment, each of you that feels like it’s too much to try and change….hang on. It might not be in my lifetime or yours, but I believe that things will change. Or, I should say, that they MUST.

In the meantime, go to those links, sign the petitions, get some more meat out of your diet, keep on improving your own choices to align with what you believe and FIND YOUR HOPE! There is always hope. Truly.

I think I might be a broken record when I’m writing about this. 🙂 And I’m guessing that I’m probably preaching to the choir. So be it. There’s too many reasons to keep writing.

Love to you all. The world needs you!

~~~S Wave~~~

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How to Watch a Factory Farm Video in 12 Steps

Dear courageous world-changers,

I have to ration the number of animal abuse videos I watch. I physically, mentally, and emotionally can only take so much. But there IS much…almost every week there is a new video coming out from groups like Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, PETA, and HSUS evidencing the horrifying horrifying (did I mention, horrifying?) things that go on behind closed CAFO doors (that’s Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) and slaughterhouses not to mention circuses, fur farms, “science” labs, and backyard butchers.

Today there was another video that came out from the Humane Society of the United States. Although some of the reports call it “shocking,” I’d say it’s unfortunately par for the course. Initially, I acknowledged it but did not watch it. I had second thoughts though as I remembered the recent proliferation of “ag gag” bills entering state legislations and in some instances, passing. These bills muzzle undercover investigators who obtain employment in settings known for animal abuse. The investigators are the people who witness the abuse for sometimes months on end in order to gather footage convincing enough to ignite significant change.  I am in awe of their bravery, but pro-ag lobbyists and legislatures would like to close the blinds on what goes on and allow non-transparency to reign. Ag gag bills have already passed in Iowa and Missouri. Of these bills, Nathan Runkle, executive director of Mercy for Animals said:

“This flawed and misdirected legislation could set a dangerous precedent nationwide by throwing shut the doors to industrial factory farms and allowing animal abuse, environmental violations, and food contamination issues to flourish undetected, unchallenged, and unaddressed.”

Now more than ever the public needs to know about the ugly side of factory farming…before there are no more videos to show us. So, in the spirit of honoring what these investigators have done for us and to pay my respects to the millions of animals that are suffering at this very moment, I watched the latest video. The video is from the inside of a pig breeding “farm” called Wyoming Premium Farms. This facility is owned by Denver-based Itoham America Inc. and supplies pigs for Tyson Foods…the world’s second largest meat processor and a common brand in your community’s grocery store. The video shows piglets being kicked like soccer balls and spun in the air by their legs. Its shows sows being beaten away from their piglets. In one mindboggling snippet a worker bounces on the back of a sow who is refusing to move because her leg is broken.

*sigh*

Even writing those things is making me dizzy. Nothing gets me vicserally reactive like these videos. My hands were shaking from just this 2 minutes of video. Maybe this description of the footage is sufficient for you. Sometimes the written descriptions are all I need…or can handle. But maybe you want to watch it. Maybe this will be the FIRST undercover footage you’ve seen like this. If so, I thought I’d give you a brief tutorial to prep you for the experience.

Here are the 12 steps I realized I take to get through these videos. Maybe one day I can cut it down to 7 or 8.

1. Get a Kleenex.

2. Mute my computer. The sounds are terrifying. If I want to, I can watch it later with sound. This way I distress my senses one at a time instead of all at once.

3. Take three deep breaths, thanking God for the courage to watch and the compassion to react.

4. Either cover my eyes with my hands leaving a thin slit I can look through OR find a benign spot on my screen where I can look so that I only capture the worst images with my peripheral. 

5. Start the video.

6. As I watch, don’t forget to breathe.

7. When there is writing on the screen, read it.

8. From time to time look at the time bar, reminding myself that it’s almost done.

9. When the video is done, close my eyes and take more deep breaths until my body calms down. Cry if I need to but not for too long before moving onto step 10.

10. Say a prayer of gratitude for the animals that die in these conditions and offer an invitation for the wisdom to know how to change it.

11. Make a pact with myself that I won’t forget what I saw and that my life with be part of the change.

12. DO SOMETHING!! Change what I eat, change what I wear, sign a petition, plant a tree, buy a bumper sticker, tell someone what I saw, websearch for more information, read a book, listen to a podcast, write this post, go to a protest, cry, pray, yell, believe….

Okay, that all may seem a little melodramatic. I hear that. But I work well with lists and I cope better with an action plan. I hope that you won’t need all these steps, but use them if you do.

So my challenge for you today is to watch the video. But before I wrap this up and give you the link, I have one more thing to say. I have a friend who used to stop me short with, “Don’t tell me why you’re vegan. If I know why, then I’ll probably not want to eat meat anymore.”  I think the time for allowing ourselves this luxury of blissful ignorance has lapsed. We now need to know…for our own future…or our kids’ futures. The treatment of these animals on factory farms is not just an animal rights issue. These facilities are polluting our air, poisoning our water, producing chemicalized and diseased meat that we then feed to our families. And I’m just going to throw it out there because I don’t know much about the science behind what I’m about to say, but I believe that the energy of terror, fear, and pain that these animals are submerged in for their ENTIRE lives must somehow be passed along to those of us who put their flesh in our mouths. And it’s not that animal welfare is the most important cause out there…it’s that they are ALL connected! Human rights, civiil rights, animal rights, food rights, environmental rights, workers’ rights…they are connected. If you have abuse, suppression, violence and exploitation in any of these realms, it reaches out and contaminates the others through our ideologies, our leniencies, and our desensitization. So why not just jump in somewhere and see what kind of impact you can make? Do something small right where you are and your ripple effect will begin!

Okay, are you ready to try my 12 step program?

Here is the video. It starts right away so you may want to pause it as you get prepared. I’m proud of you for watching it. You can do it! Let me know if you need to talk afterwards.  I  love you.

http://video.humanesociety.org/

Which Little Piggy Goes to Market?

UPDATE: In January the Supreme Court overturned California’s law for the humane treatment of downed hogs (and other animals) being slaughtered for human consumption. Meanwhile, Gary Ackerman (D-NY) has again proposed a bill to Congress that would put in place stricter federal legislation regarding downed animals. His proposal would permanently forbid downed animals from entering our food supply and allow them humane euthanization.

 

The other night, I planned on attending a lecture at the UCLA campus on the topic of Farmed Animals and the Law. The speaker was Compassion Over Killing’s General Counsel Cheryl Leahy. The topic interested me in light of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling regarding California’s slaughter methods for farmed animals. This case is being closely watched by animal rights groups and California citizens concerned about what goes on in their state. The story of the case goes like this…

In 2008 California passed legislation called the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). One important change that the HMSA brought to California food production was that downed pigs (and other livestock) could not be assigned into the slaughter line. A “downed” pig (or goat, or sheep, or cow) is one that is so sick or injured that it is non-ambulatory. According to federal standards, although these animals can’t walk they can still be included in our food systems. Of course a non-ambulatory animal must be dragged, forklifted or torturously “prompted” in order to get them to the final line.  The US government has said NO to putting downed cattle into our food. California residents decided that wasn’t enough. They have said NO to downed pigs, sheep, and other livestock as well.  They decided that no downer animals can be added to the food system and must be euthanized on the spot. This puts pressure (rightfully so!) on transport procedures, daily care, and veterinary care standards.

Now the pork industry is arguing that California cannot require slaughterhouses to adopt euthanasia procedures since there is no federal law mandating it. The case, National Meat Association vs. Harris, has gone to the Supreme Court. Arguments have been made and it is expected that a decision will be delivered in the next few months.  This case raises questions not only of animal welfare, but also of states’ rights.  In fact, this is the first time in my adult life when I feel like I grasp what is meant by states’ rights. As a resident of California, it pisses me off that the federal government might come in and crush the efforts that this state has made toward more humane food production. Perhaps I wouldn’t be if I didn’t unwaveringly believe that the pork industry lobbyists are playing puppeteer in this scenario in order to protect their bottom line no matter the suffering that upholds it.

Ultimately, I don’t want anyone to eat a pig. But millions—oh, let me be specific…one hundred thirteen million—pigs are killed each year in the United States by the huge pork industries (of which there are just 4 main players, go figure) in horrific conditions after living their short lives in crammed enclosures and terrifying transport trailers. Every small step, every bit of compassion that these exploited animals can receive is worth hoping for and fighting for.

I was eager to hear what Cheryl Leahy expected the outcome of this case to be. Alas, Los Angeles traffic got the better of me. As I sat on Wilshire, just a mile away from campus yet going nowhere, I came to my own prediction that California has a slim chance of winning this case. I’m not trying to sound pessimistic, but realistic. Lobbyists for the meat and dairy industries are so powerful that it makes for a David and Goliath battle every time someone goes up against them.  In the Occupy Wall Street declaration and manifesto, one grievance against corporations is that they, “have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.” Bingo. But there’s a second “Bingo.” And that is in OWS’s concluding remarks where they incite citizens to “create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.”

This brings me to the question that many of posts will most likely end with: What can I do? First of all, I will certainly post an update on the case as soon as I hear of it. Second, I will continue to NOT eat meat as long as the status quo system of factory farming and CAFO’s is as grotesque and amoral as I believe them it to be. Third, I will continue to encourage others to do the same. And who knows…it might just be time to write another petition!

Stay tuned…