Mercy For Animals' award-winning documentary, Fowl Play, has been accepted by Netflix, the popular mail order video rental service with more than 10 million subscribers. But in order for it to become available for rental and/or instant viewing, enough Netflix subscribers must add it to their queues.
If you are a Netflix subscriber, please help make this groundbreaking documentary about modern egg production available to millions of egg-consumers by adding it to your queue today! If you are not a Netflix subscriber, you can sign up for a FREE trial period here. Then just search for Fowl Play and queue it. (note: not Foul Play, the 1978 comedy with Chevy Chase)
Mercy For Animals' Fowl Play takes viewers on an unforgettable journey behind the closed doors of some of the country's largest egg production facilities and graphically illustrates the heartbreaking plight of laying hens -condemned to lives crowded inside file-drawer-sized cages.
Through touching interviews with animal rescuers, undercover investigators, veterinarians, and animal behaviorists, we hear powerful stories motivated by kindness and courage from the dedicated individuals who are fighting to save the modern day hen - perhaps the most abused and exploited animal on earth.
Earlier this month, Niki Gianni - recently turned 17 - was honored with the Young Animal Activist Award at the 2010 Animal Rights National Conference (ARNC) in Washington, D.C. The Award is presented each year by ARNC to a young person who has made an outstanding contribution to animal liberation before his or her 18th birthday. This year the Award was presented to Niki by MFA's Nathan Runkle, a past recipient of the Award himself. Other past recipients include major figures within the animal rights movement, including Paul Shapiro of The Humane Society of the United States.
Niki became inspired to help animals nearly ten years ago. Her family had planned a summer trip to Sea World, but upon discovering the numerous whales, dolphins and other marine animals captured and killed for its theme parks, her mother canceled the trip and brought Niki to see orca whales in the wild instead. Niki immediately became involved in working to stop cruelty to marine mammals, which "flourished into a desire to help all beings from goldfish to elephants to cows and everything in between." Niki went vegan in the eighth grade after viewing footage of factory farm cruelty and is now an active member of MFA's volunteer team. In 2008 she was presented with the Youth Activist of the Year Award from Mercy For Animals.
Niki is now looking forward to becoming a veterinary technician and wildlife rehabilitator after high school and still continues her campaign to stop cruelty to marine mammals - working to free captive dolphins and whales from theme parks across the globe.
With a colorful banner tempting people to enjoy free vegan samples, coupons and vegan ice cream generously donated by Turtle Mountain, the event was a huge success that left many people begging for more.
Whether it's frozen treats or mock meats, feed-ins are a great way to show people how easy and delicious vegan eating can be. As the saying goes, "The best way to win people's hearts is through their stomachs."
Interested in showing the delicious side of veganism to your community? Click here to find out how to get started.
A July 14 TIME article chronicles the animal rights movement's progression into mainstream culture in both the U.S. and abroad. Citing the passage of California's Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act - "Proposition 2" - in 2008 and the bill just signed by Governor Schwarzenegger prohibiting the sale of eggs from battery-caged hens, journalist Adam Cohen asserts that a "strong level of popular support" is behind the rapid growth and momentum of today's animal rights movement.
Cohen also cites the recent settlement between the Ohio Farm Bureau and The Humane Society of the United States, the national movement to limit the chaining of dogs outdoors and Hawaii's proposed ban on the sale of foie gras as further evidence that animal rights in the U.S. is on the upswing.
Cohen observes that the European Union is still far ahead of the U.S. in recognizing animal rights, and that the movement there continues to gain ground. The Spanish parliament, for example, passed a resolution two years ago urging that chimpanzees, gorillas and other nonhuman primates have the right not to be used in medical experiments and circuses. Switzerland has a 160-page animal-rights law with some of the world's stiffest rules for the treatment of animals, and in Zurich, animals are afforded legal representation.
The sixth annual Taking Action for Animals Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. from July 23 through July 26. The 2010 TAFA Conference will include workshops on a wide range of topics, including becoming a citizen lobbyist, fundraising for nonprofits and harnessing the media to communicate effectively for animals.
Ruby Roth is an author, illustrator and painter, residing in Los Angeles. Roth created her new illustrated book, That's Why We Don't Eat Animals, for elementary schoolaged children, exploring topics such as factory farming, overfishing and rainforest destruction in a manner that is truthful, yet age-appropriate. As Jane Goodall, primatologist, activist and UN Messenger of Peace says of Roth's latest book, "Farm animals have emotions similar to our pets and this is conveyed in Roth's enchanting illustrations. It will make children -and their parents - think."
The following interview is pulled from MFA's current issue of Compassionate Living magazine. Click here to read the full interview, then click here to become an MFA member and to receive the magazine.
CL: What inspired you to write an illustrated book for children about vegetarians?
RR: In 2003, I went vegan as a health experiment and it was like taking off a heavy jacket and starting to run. The more I learned about food, animals, climate change, and our food and health industries, the more my choice was validated. Fast forward, I was teaching art at an elementary school and the kids were all curious about my veganism. Little by little, and very matter-of-factly, I shared my reasons and they responded with incredible insight. Many kids wanted to go vegan, but there was no support system in their schools or homes. I looked, but couldn't find a book on the subject that wasn't based on a talking animal or vegetable, which I felt they were too smart for. So I decided to create the book myself.
CL: Your book is informative and honest, while not "too scary" for young children. How did you approach the text and illustrations in order to strike this balance?
RR: I wanted to provide factual, emotional ideas that children relate to. In my experience teaching, I found that children don't require the sugarcoating they usually get. They respond with great intelligence to facts and in turn, a powerful sense of self-empowerment. Although the book is written in simple, sweet language, it is in fact comprised of factual, ethological information. I wanted kids to identify the incredible similarities and differences between ourselves and animals - the idea being that both inspire wonder and compassion.
CL: What values do you hope to instill in children who read your book?
RR: This book is about valuing all life and feeling connected to animals and the planet. With this kind of conscious appreciation for all living beings, we're more likely to treat the planet and each other and ourselves with great care. Also, being that vegan children get little support in the world outside of their families, I want this book to inspire self-confidence, bravery, and a pride in self-determination. I want vegan kids to feel good about sticking up for what they believe in, regardless of what their peers are eating at birthday parties or in the school cafeteria.
CL: Do you feel that you have a social responsibility as a writer/artist?
RR: Yes, particularly in a poor economy when art and books are luxuries, I aim for my work to be not only practical, but political. But no matter what my career, I would feel a responsibility. Regardless of your profession, be it house cleaner, makeup artist, or lawyer, you have the capacity to be very effective by introducing social, environmental, or food responsibility within your field.
CL: What do you see in the future of veganism and animal rights?
RR: Following the civil rights movement, veganism is the next step for moral progress in our society. I think the movement will follow the same historical trajectory as all previous rights movements - through denial and anger, but finally acceptance. Most immediately, I envision the eradication of factory farms. Be it from the outside in, as a result of widespread education or from the inside out, as the result of widespread diseases like H1N1, I believe that factory farming will inevitably collapse. It is far too unsustainable not to reach that point eventually.
A July 11 New York Times editorial highlights gains made across the U.S. to end some of animal agribusiness' worst abuses. It also denounces the food industry and "fake consumer-advocacy groups" for resisting the enactment of minimal welfare standards for farmed animals.
Citing the landmark agreement reached in Ohio a few weeks ago, and the new egg bill just signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger, the editorial applauds the "consumers, animal rights advocates, farmers and legislators" whose efforts are slowly improving the lives of animals on industrial farms.
The Times also voices its vision for a future in which industrial confinement farms are seen as a "short-lived anomaly" in the history of farming. As the editorial declares, "[T]here is no justification, economic or otherwise, for the abusive practice of confining animals in spaces barely larger than the volume of their bodies."
Visitors to a Ferndale, Michigan Wendy's restaurant are being served some major food for thought - 48-feet-worth to be exact. A newly erected Mercy For Animals billboard outside the fast food giant challenges burger-munchers with the question, "Why love one but eat the other?" The ad, starring a wide-eyed puppy next to an adorable piglet, aims to get meat-eaters to consider why we call some animals friends, and others fast food.
The ad reaches tens of thousands potential Wendy's customers each day, encouraging each of them to ditch cruelty and "Choose Vegetarian."
Mercy For Animals' Vegetarian Dining Campaign aims to make going and staying veg easy, convenient and delicious! By working with restaurateurs to expand their cruelty-free options and creating online and print resources that map out vegetarian-friendly establishments by region, MFA is transforming the way Americans eat.
A joint project between MFA and Compassionate Action for Animals, VegGuide.org is a powerful online resource filled with over 11,000 listings and reviews of veg-friendly restaurants from around the globe. This regionally organized, user-operated site allows savvy diners to tip-off others in their community about new and exciting veg-dining options around town.
In addition to promoting restaurants that already cater to vegans, Mercy For Animals works with food providers to expand their cruelty-free fare. Our Vegetarian Resource Guide for Restaurants is a valuable tool for restaurateurs seeking to increase their plant-based offerings. MFA has been exceedingly successful in increasing the number of mainstream eateries catering to the vegan community.
Through the efforts of Matt Rice, Mercy For Animals' New York Campaign Coordinator, pizza lovers in Manhattan can now enjoy an uber-cheesy vegan pie from Saluggi's in Tribeca. The pizzeria agreed to test-run Daiya Cheese in April and the overwhelming number of vegan cheese orders has kept Daiya a staple at this longtime New York City haunt.
Down in Texas, vegans are going crazy for Sol's Nieto Mexican Grill in Dallas, where an order of vegan nachos means a healthy portion of house-cut tortilla chips loaded with pinto beans, grilled veggies and Daiya Cheddar. All vegetarian dishes can be made vegan by subbing Daiya for dairy, opening-up a whopping variety of veggie options now suitable for vegans. "This is a big win," says Eddie Garza, MFA's Texas Campaign Coordinator, "Sol's has been a veggie fave in Dallas for years--the addition of Daiya to their menu could be a gateway for vegetarians to finally take the plunge into a completely cruelty-free diet." We couldn't agree more.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines, which are updated every five years, inform food-related public policy in the U.S. and serve as a model for a healthy diet.
The Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans reported this year that Americans should "shift food intake to a more plant-based diet that emphasizes vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds." At first it would seem that the committee had taken a huge step forward in its new recommendations. However, it took two huge steps back when it advocated increased dairy and seafood consumption in the same report.
The report seems to discount the 30 to 50 million lactose-intolerant Americans, as well as the link between dairy products and increased risk of osteoporosis and certain cancers. As there are plant-based sources of calcium that do not pose such health risks and are appropriate for all Americans, the dietary guidelines should promote these calcium sources and encourage a shift away from dairy products.
In addition to encouraging Americans to increase their consumption of seafood, the committee recommends that Americans meet their protein needs by continuing to consume lean meats, poultry and eggs. Americans need not consume any animal products to meet their need for protein. As plant-based protein sources abound and are lower in fat and free of the cholesterol found in animal products, dietary guidelines meant to promote health should naturally emphasize these.
Many organizations recognize the health benefits of a plant-based diet, including the Mayo Clinic and the American Dietetic Association. The USDA and HHS should also recognize the healthy, plant-based alternatives to dairy, eggs, meat and seafood.
We have a chance to influence the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by submitting written comments to the USDA and HHS before Thursday, July 15. Please take action now by contacting the USDA and HHS and urging them to emphasize plant-based sources of calcium and protein in the new dietary guidelines.
In an effort to provide compelling visuals and interactive media to empower animal advocates, educate the public, and expose the injustices of animal exploitation, Mark Middleton, the mind behind AnimalVisuals.org, recently released Farm Rescue, a game on Facebook where people can rescue virtual hens from battery cages, while spreading the word about the plights of real egg-laying hens to their friends and family.
Filled with interesting facts about chickens, cute animated graphics and tips on what people can do to help end the needless suffering of real chickens trapped in battery cages, Farm Rescue is not only a fantastic tool for animal advocates, it is a whole lot of fun too! Mark was gracious enough to talk with MFA about his newest project and what we can expect next from AnimalVisuals.org, and here is what he had to say:
MFA: What inspired you to create the Farm Rescue game on Facebook?
Mark: Sometime last year I learned that some of the most popular social games on platforms like Facebook and iPhone were farming games. The goal of these games was to earn money to buy things by growing crops and maintaining herds of animals, and many of them are based on the "Old McDonald's farm" stereotype of farms where animals roam around in the yard and are happy. In some of the games, you can "harvest" the animals without even killing them, which somewhat reinforces the denial that most people have about what really happens to animals on farms. We can deny it, but the truth is that all animals on farms are eventually killed, and in most cases their lives are filled with profound suffering. I thought that an educational parody of these games might be able to reach a lot of people with the message that animals on farms suffer terrible pain and indignities, specifically egg-laying hens.
MFA: Why did you choose to focus on egg-laying hens?
Mark: More animals die per human-edible calorie gained from eggs than for any other food except for chicken meat, and the intensive confinement of chickens in battery cages probably causes more suffering than any other factory farming practice. I believe that putting an end to battery-cage confinement is an extremely urgent priority in the protection of animals, and that it is a goal that is within reach in our lifetime. I also think that convincing people to leave behind eggs might be easier than asking people to leave behind some other animal-derived ingredients, because eggs are easily replaced in almost any recipe with healthier and cheaper alternatives.
MFA: Are you planning to add other types of farmed animals to the game?
Mark: I had originally planned to have calves rescued from veal crates and pigs rescued from gestation crates, but the game took me longer than expected and I ran out of time. At some point I would love to come back and add more species. Creating the chickens for the game was very time-consuming, because I had to animate all of their behaviors, like perching, nesting, dustbathing, exercising, and exploring, and then program them to respond to user commands and interact with their environment. At this point, my hope is that upon learning about how intensive confinement prevents chickens from behaving normally, players will be inspired to learn about how other species are exploited on farms and harmed by confinement.
MFA: I like the educational component of the game where players must correctly answer questions about chicken intelligence and behavior to earn money and buy improvements for their sanctuary. How many different questions are there?
Mark: Right now there are 99 active questions, but this number might change. I'm taking suggestions for everything in the game. If anyone thinks of a great question or action people can take, they can send it to me.
MFA: What is your favorite question in the game?
Mark: I think my favorite is the question about which animals a mother hen will fight to protect her eggs. The options are: eagles, rattlesnakes, and foxes, and the correct answer is "all of the above." Any human mother will probably tell you that she would do anything or fight anyone to protect her child. This is something humans have in common with chickens. Calling someone a "chicken" should really be a compliment. I think the fact that it isn't meant that way reveals how deeply misunderstood chickens are. Chickens are actually extremely courageous and intelligent beings.
MFA: Farm Rescue gives people the opportunity to "Take Action" to help save real chickens by sponsoring the care of a chicken at a farmed animal sanctuary and spreading the word to their friends and family about the plights of egg-laying hens. Viewers also have the opportunity to watch Mercy For Animals' undercover investigation of a Quality Egg farm in Maine. If you could get people to do one thing to help abused and neglected egg-laying hens, what would it be?
Mark: I believe the most effective thing that anyone can do to help egg-laying hens is to stop buying eggs and products that contain eggs. Once that's done, they can invite their friends, family, and coworkers to do the same. Leaving behind eggs is a great first step for anyone who is interested in making a dietary adjustment in order to help animals. I believe eggs are a pretty easy thing to leave behind, and they are very high on the list in terms of animal suffering and death. For every egg purchased, a chicken suffers 32 miserable hours in a battery cage. For anyone considering making this change, I think it's important to understand that it's not an all-or-nothing prospect. If the idea of passing on a slice of your nephew's egg-containing birthday cake seems too daunting, consider removing only whole eggs from your diet for now. If you stop buying dozens of eggs at the store, that makes a huge difference. If you're the one bringing a cake to share, you can bring a great vegan cake, and let everyone know. They might be surprised to find out how easy and delicious egg-free cakes and other goodies can be.
MFA: Farm Rescue is just the latest release from Animal Visuals. You have also created a graph that illustrates the rate of slaughter of different farmed animals in the United States and a virtual factory egg farm that gives people an inside look at what hens experience inside a battery cage. Can you tell us more about the concept behind Animal Visuals? What are you hoping to achieve with these programs?
Mark: My original concept for Animal Visuals was to take animal rights philosophy and make it widely accessible in an easily digestible, visual format on the Web. A few years ago, I started trying to read all of the animal rights philosophy books that I could, and I found that some of them took a lot of effort to get through. I thought the arguments were very strong, but that there were probably only a small number of people who would ever be motivated to go out and make the effort to read these books and understand the arguments. In fact, most people would probably rather not hear the arguments at all. However, everyone likes watching short videos and animations on the Web. My original idea was to gain an audience for the philosophical arguments by removing that barrier of effort, and turning them into short, compelling animations. Most of what I've done so far has just been my attempts at attracting viewers to bits of information and resources about animal rights, but I hope to have some presentations about animal rights philosophy completed soon.
MFA: What can we expect next from Animal Visuals?
Mark: I've been promising an animation on the basic ethical argument for veganism for a long time. That's probably the next thing I'll release. I also have some short illustrated guides to various animal rights topics planned. In the meantime, anyone who wants to check out Farm Rescue can learn more at FarmRescueGame.com.
Since the passage of California's Proposition 2 - The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act - in 2008, animal advocates have worried that its ban on battery-cage egg production could be undermined by importing battery-cage eggs from other states. Thanks to the California state legislature and Governor Schwarzenegger, however, that will not be possible. On Tuesday, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill that requires all shelled (whole) eggs sold in California to come from hens able to stand up, fully extend their limbs, lie down and spread their wings without touching each other or the sides of their enclosures. This effectively requires cage-free conditions. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2015 - the same time that Proposition 2 takes effect.
The bill - A.B. 1437 - passed the California State Assembly by a vote of 65 to 9 and the Senate by a vote of 23 to 7. Assemblymember Jared Huffman coauthored the bill and spearheaded its passage in the Assembly, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez managed the bill in the Senate.
Proposition 2 passed in a landslide, with more votes than any citizen initiative in California history. MFA played an instrumental role in its passage, drawing further media attention to the debate with the release of two undercover investigations into California battery-cage egg farms - Gemperle Enterprises and Norco Ranch. Californians made it clear in 2008 that they were in favor of reducing farmed animal suffering and affording them modest animal welfare standards. In signing A.B. 1437, Governor Schwarzenegger has not only taken important action to protect animal welfare and food safety, but has honored the intent California voters when they passed Proposition 2.
While Proposition 2 and A.B. 1437 are great strides in the right direction, cage-free doesn't mean cruelty-free. "Cage-free" hens are subjected to many of the same abuses as caged hens, such as crowding by the thousands in filthy sheds and painful beak amputations without anesthesia. The only truly cruelty-free diet is a vegan diet, totally free of eggs
Jane Velez-Mitchell - a fierce force for animals - will dedicate an unprecedented full hour to animal rights this Monday on "Issues." The special, titled "Jane's Fight for Animal Rights" will air on CNN's Headline News Network on July 5th at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
Jane will be speaking with representatives from many major animal protection groups, such as the Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, Sea Shepherd, Farm Sanctuary and Mercy For Animals. The episode will feature MFA's Willet Dairy and Conklin Dairy Farms investigations, including interviews with Nathan Runkle and an MFA undercover investigator.
Topics to be covered include:
The Gulf oil spill and its impact on animals
The Ohio ballot initiative and nationwide movement to give farmed animals basic legal protections
The fight against a monkey-breeding facility in Puerto Rico
Nevada's wild horse round-up
Jane will also welcome special guests, Bob Barker, Pierce Brosnan and Jorja Fox of CSI.
Enthusiastic viewer response in the past has enabled Jane to continue her animal rights coverage, and we all want fantastic ratings on this upcoming special. So, please tune in this Monday and ask all of your friends and family to do the same!
If you TiVo or DVR the show and watch it within three days, the ratings still count! Your viewer comments also count, so click here to leave a comment right after the show, or even before the show to thank Jane for fighting the fight for animals.