April 2012 Archives

chickens-norco12.jpgIn 2008, Californians approved Proposition 2, a measure to outlaw some of the cruelest factory farming practices, including the cramming of baby calves, breeding pigs and egg-laying hens into cages so small they can't even turn around, stretch their limbs or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives. Proving that the public cares about animal welfare issues, Prop 2 was the most popular citizen-driven ballot initiative in California's history.

Predictably, the factory farming industry spent millions of dollars trying to defeat this measure and to keep animals jam-packed in tiny, filthy cages. Not surprisingly, Norco Ranch, the largest egg factory farm in California, with more than 8 million birds stuffed inside barren battery cages, was one of the largest funders of the campaign against Prop 2.

And now, proving he has as little regard for the California people as he does for chickens, William Cramer, the former president of Norco Ranch, has filed a lawsuit challenging the voter-approved measure to ban battery cages. Cramer claims that providing hens with enough room to lie down, stand up and fully extend their wings is "more expensive" and that the seven-year phase-in allowance in Prop 2 is not "sufficient notice" for egg farmers to transition to alternative systems.

Less than a month before California voters overwhelmingly decided to give egg-laying hens at least enough room to spread their wings, Mercy For Animals exposed the wretched conditions at Norco Ranch, generated national media exposure to the plight of laying hens and garnered mainstream support for Prop 2.

During the investigation at Norco Ranch, MFA documented:

  • Birds confined in tiny wire cages so small they couldn't walk, perch, fully stretch their wings, or engage in other basic behaviors
  • Sick birds neglected to die on top of dead piles--denied veterinary care or proper attention
  • Workers killing birds by grabbing their necks and swinging them around in circles--an attempt to break their necks which often resulted in prolonged deaths for the animals
  • Hens suffering from bloody open wounds and untreated infections
  • Dead hens left to decompose in cages with birds still laying eggs for human consumption
  • Birds trapped in the wire of their cages or under the feeding trays without access to food or water
Watch the undercover video footage here:


Time and again, the factory farming industry has proven to be unconcerned with the suffering of animals and oblivious to the will of the American people. The good news is that choosing to remove eggs from your diet is a powerful way to stand up against this cruel, corrupt and clueless industry. Visit ChooseVeg.com for more information.

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Last week, over 1,200 people from across the country were exposed to the true horrors of factory farming, as MFA volunteers in Ohio, New York, and Chicago, held "Paid-Per-View" events at high schools, college campuses, and Earth Day festivals. Teens and adults alike viewed a short version of MFA's hard-hitting documentary Farm to Fridge and learned the truth about the cruelty that takes place behind the closed doors of modern day factory farms. In exchange, they received a dollar.

PPVChicago.jpgIMG_1106.JPGMost viewers were deeply moved by the film, and many exclaimed their desire to go vegetarian on the spot. Thanks to VegFund, an organization that provides financial backing for Paid-Per-View events and other grassroots outreach activities, more and more people are making the switch to a kind and compassionate vegetarian diet.

PPVEDNY.jpgPPVNYGF.jpgInspired? Check out our step-by-step instructions on setting up your own Paid-Per-View event.

Click here to order MFA's Vegetarian Starter Kits.

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mad_cow_disease.jpgOn the heels of the USDA's announcement that it may allow chicken slaughterhouses to self regulate - a dangerous measure that could lead to a colossal disease epidemic in the United States - the USDA has just confirmed a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as "Mad Cow Disease," in California.

BSE is a fatal neurodegenerative disease in cows that causes a spongy degeneration in the brain and spinal cord. The United States saw outbreaks of BSE in 2003 and 2006. Canada, the largest agricultural trading partner of the U.S., has had 19 cases since 2011. In Britain, there have been a staggering 184,000 cases of BSE since 1987.

The disease is transmitted through contaminated feed, and can be spread to humans who consume infected carcasses - potentially causing dementia or death.

John Clifford, the USDA's chief veterinarian, states that it is possible for a diseased animal to be sent into the food supply.

In a public statement, MFA's Executive Director Nathan Runkle says, "As frightening as it is to learn that Mad Cow Disease is in the United States, it only adds to serious health risks already associated with meat consumption, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, E. coli, salmonella and other deadly diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans each year."

"The USDA is playing Russian roulette with public health," states Michael Hansen, staff scientist at Consumers Union. He says this new case of Mad Cow Disease in the U.S. shows a need to boost transparency in animal agriculture. Unfortunately, agribusiness interests are doing everything in their power to limit surveillance, from laws making it a crime to photograph or film factory farms to proposals that would drastically cut inspection of slaughterhouses.

In 2011, squalid conditions at slaughterhouses and factory farms led to over 100 recalls of beef, poultry and eggs. MFA investigations have exposed rampant filth, unsanitary conditions, disease - birds with cantaloupe-sized tumors, open wounds and infections - and sick animals making their way into the human food supply.

Americans can avoid the many deadly health threats posed by consuming animal products by adopting a healthy and compassionate vegetarian diet.

After all, there is no such thing as mad tofu disease.

For delicious recipes and tips on transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, visit ChooseVeg.com.

Click here for your free Vegetarian Starter Kit.

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chicken1.jpgBurger King, the world's second-largest burger chain, announced its plans to switch to 100% cage-free eggs and stop purchases of gestation-crated pork by 2017.

Burger King joins the growing number of food providers who have also made progress in phasing out certain cruel confinement systems, including McDonald's, Wolfgang Puck, and Chipotle.

On modern day factory farms, battery-caged hens are crammed tightly inside tiny barren cages, where they're unable to spread their wings or see natural sunlight. Gestation-crated pigs are forced to spend their entire lives locked in cruel confinement systems, never allowed to breathe fresh air or engage in any natural behaviors.

While Mercy For Animals applauds Burger King for taking this very important step to lessen the suffering of farmed animals, the best thing consumers can do to prevent unnecessary suffering is to adopt a kind and compassionate vegan lifestyle. For delicious recipes and instructional cooking videos, visit ChooseVeg.com.

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Windy City commuters are getting a crash course in compassionate eating thanks to MFA's new pro-vegetarian mobile. Rolling out onto the streets this week, the vehicle is wrapped in images of adorable pairs of animals - a puppy and a piglet, a cow and a dog, and a chick and a kitten - who ask the question, "Why Love One but Eat the Other?" The question is accompanied by an urgent call to "Choose Compassion. Choose Vegetarian."

AMM2.jpgAMM1.jpgThe eye-catching vehicle is viewed thousands of times every day, encouraging consumers to open their hearts and minds to helping farmed animals and exploring cruelty-free cuisine. The traffic-stopping display is already proving effective, with pedestrians and drivers alike snapping pictures to share with friends and family, and giving our drivers supportive thumbs up.

amm4.jpgAMM3.jpgMFA has run similar pro-vegetarian billboard and transit ad campaigns nationwide. To make a tax-deductible donation to support future ads, click here.

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EAP-PigAbuse.pngLast week, the international animal protection organization Animal Equality released shocking undercover video footage from its recent investigation into Britain's third-largest pork supplier, East Anglian Pig Company, revealing the abhorrent but standard abuses pigs raised for food are forced to endure.

Animal Equality's undercover investigator worked from December 2011 to January 2012, at two different sites, for a total of 29 days. The Sunday Mirror newspaper reports that "footage from Little Thorn shows a worker killing a pig with an iron bar" and that "another is seen lifting a sick piglet high above his head before smashing it against a lorry to kill it."

The investigation uncovered shocking cruelty, including:

  • dead or dying piglets, suffering from abrasions and ulcerative lesions, left to languish without veterinary care;
  • mother sows confined to barren metal crates barely larger than their own bodies, unable to turn around or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives;
  • and workers violently killing pigs by slamming their heads against the concrete floor or bashing their heads in with iron rods. 
Watch the undercover investigation here:

MFA's investigations into pig farms in the United States have revealed similar cruelties, including footage taken at Iowa Select Farms, the nation's fourth-largest pork producer, and Pennsylvania's Country View Family Farms. Sadly, the extreme cruelty documented at these factory farms is standard and largely acceptable within the pork industry.
As a civilized society, it is our moral obligation to prevent needless cruelty to pigs and other farmed animals. As consumers, we can choose compassion over cruelty every time we sit down to eat. Visit ChooseVeg.com for delicious recipes and tips on transitioning to a kind and compassionate vegetarian diet.

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A66B7FFF-C7FB-4255-AB2D-B98FC1625301.jpgEach day in the United States, 23 million chickens are killed for food with minimal government inspection. Most birds are crammed by the thousands in squalid sheds, where they are unable to move around freely or engage in any natural behaviors for their entire miserable lives. The horrific methods used to mass produce chickens have led to severe environmental destruction and health risks, including outbreaks of E. coli and salmonella poisoning. In 2011, the filthy conditions on modern factory farms and slaughterhouses prompted over 100 recalls of poultry, beef and eggs - the highest number in a decade. As if these statistics weren't disturbing enough, the USDA has proposed a new frightful measure that would allow poultry slaughterhouses to self regulate.

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Under the new policy, 1,000 USDA inspectors would be relieved from duty, allowing these facilities to nearly double their processing speed from 90 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute, thereby saving them 250 million dollars per year. In an already broken and unsafe system, the true cost of this backwards move by government officials could be a colossal disease epidemic in the United States.

Mercy For Animals has conducted over a dozen undercover investigations on factory farms, hatcheries, and slaughterhouses. Each time our investigators enter these facilities, they document horrific animal abuse, unsanitary conditions, and sick animals making their way into the food supply. Clearly, animal agribusiness is already lacking in safety and oversight. Allowing this industry to inspect itself will only serve to intensify an already destructive system that endangers animals, the environment, and human health.

The best thing consumers can do to protect their health is to choose a kind and compassionate vegetarian diet. For delicious recipes and tips on making the transition, visit ChooseVeg.com.

Click here for your free Vegetarian Starter Kit.

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ht_kreider_farms_mummified_nt_120412_wg.jpgFollowing a recent undercover investigation exposing indefensible cruelty at Kreider Farms' factory egg farms, Kreider has made contradictory claims in its attempts to defend the abuse captured on video and featured in the New York Times.

The investigation revealed severe overcrowding of birds, dead hens whose bodies were mummified or rotting in cages with hens still laying eggs for human consumption, birds whose wings or heads had become caught in cage wire and were therefore unable to access food or water, and a thick layer of dead flies on barn floors, none of which the company refutes.

Unable to defend this cruelty, Kreider has made false and contradictory claims regarding other aspects of the investigation that indicate its unwillingness to be truthful about the conditions on its farms. For example, while Kreider Farms initially denied claims of salmonella at its facilities in an interview with ABC News, it acknowledged to the New York Times that "three barns had tested positive for salmonella" and to Pennsylvania TV news station WGAL that "one of the buildings did test positive for salmonella." ABC later reported that an FDA spokesperson confirmed that two of the eight samples taken at Kreider Farms in January tested positive for salmonella.

Kreider also initially alleged that the investigation did not take place at its facilities, telling Time magazine that "there is no evidence that HSUS footage was taken inside Kreider Farms," and maintaining this position despite video supplied by ABC News showing workers wearing uniforms with Kreider Farms' logo. Yet, according to ABC affiliate WPVI, Kreider claimed that the video was selectively edited in that it "was shot primarily in its older style chicken houses," thereby acknowledging that the film was taken at its facilities.

Before the investigation, Kreider Farms was one of the few egg farms in the country that actively opposed HR 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012, a bill that would require improved conditions for hens; however, following the national outcry over the investigation, Kreider has changed its untenable stance.

Over and over again, agribusiness has revealed the despicable lengths to which it will go to suppress consumer awareness about the horrific mistreatment of animals on farms. We can all take action to help animals by urging Congress to pass HR 3798 and by adopting a cruelty-free, healthy, and delicious vegan diet.

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Laura.jpgEver wonder what it would be like to intern with Mercy For Animals? We interviewed Laura Doersam, an animal activist from Germany who recently completed an internship in our New York campaigns office, and asked her to give us the scoop.

Prior to interning with Mercy For Animals, Laura was an avid promoter of vegetarianism at her university in Marburg, Germany, educating fellow students about the cruelties of factory farming through grassroots activism. During her free time in New York City, Laura enjoyed shopping at Brooklyn thrift stores, lounging in Central Park, exploring the NYC vegan food scene, and making new friends.

What first inspired you to become a vegan?

I never really liked eating meat because I didn't like the idea of eating animals. When I learned about the cruelties in the dairy and egg industries, I could no longer support those businesses either.

laura1.JPGWhat is your favorite vegan/animal rights resource?

One of my favorite resources is ChooseVeg.com because of the many different topics it covers. You can find awesome and easy recipes there, as well as lots of helpful information on the health and environmental benefits of going vegan. Also, I really like Jonathan Safran Foer's book Eating Animals. It's well-researched, and gives readers an insight into many important topics concerning the meat industry, including its impact on the environment.

Why did you choose to intern with MFA?

I really like MFA's approach of promoting vegetarianism to the general meat-eating population. I think vegetarian leafleting is an incredible and easy way to reach people to make them think about where their food comes from. Additionally, I like that MFA staff and volunteers are really passionate about their work.

laura3.jpgWhat did you like most about interning with MFA?

I enjoyed everything about my internship! I loved leafleting and talking to the people, but I especially loved hosting "Paid-Per-View" events at festivals, as you can see change happening in people right away.

What is the key to your success as an activist?

I'm motivated by the positive feedback people give me during outreach events, especially when people tell me that they became vegetarian or vegan because of our work, proving that we really are saving lives!

Laura2.jpgCan you offer any insight for others interested in becoming involved with animal rights activism?

You can advocate for animals on many different levels. Getting involved with an established advocacy group is the best way to get your foot in the door. While interning with MFA, I not only got the chance to meet so many awesome and impressive activists, but I also got the chance to gain an insight into MFA's wonderful and multifaceted work. This internship will certainly help me with my activism in the future!

Inspired? Click here to learn about MFA's internship program and apply today for an exciting internship in one of our campaigns offices.

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earth.jpgWith Earth Day just around the corner, people from all over the world are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprints and minimize their impact on the planet. Recycling, taking shorter showers, using energy-efficient light bulbs, and riding public transportation are all great steps, but the single best thing we can do to help protect the environment is to switch to a healthy and humane vegan lifestyle.

According to the United Nations, animal agriculture is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." Meat, dairy, and eggs are responsible for more deadly greenhouse gases than all the cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and other forms of transportation in the world combined. Researchers at the University of Chicago say ditching meat in favor of plant-based alternatives is more effective at staving off climate change than switching from a gas-guzzling SUV to a fuel-efficient hybrid.

That's why Mercy For Animals' volunteers and supporters will be out in force promoting eco-friendly eating at Earth Day festivals and events in Chicago, New York City, Ohio, and Dallas. If you are in the area and you haven't already done so, sign up to help spread the word at one of these events. It is a fun and effective way to help animals and the planet!

If you don't live near an official MFA Earth Day event, you can still educate your community about the power our food choices have to save the world. Check out MFA's Campaign page for more information on holding your own leafleting event, hosting a "Paid-Per-View" station, or promoting compassionate and sustainable food choices to a popular local eatery. Order Another Inconvenient Truth brochures and raise awareness about the many environmental benefits of a plant-based diet in your community.

For more information on transitioning to an eco-friendly, vegan lifestyle, click here to receive your free Vegetarian Start Kit.

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ht_humane_society_jp_120412_wg.jpgA new undercover investigation at Kreider Farms - a factory egg farm in Pennsylvania - reveals horrific cruelty to egg-laying hens, including hens crammed inside barren battery cages even smaller than the industry standard, where they can barely move an inch for nearly their entire lives. In a New York Times opinion piece, Nicholas Kristof reports, "Somehow, fried eggs don't taste so good if you imagine the fetid barn in which they were laid."

Kristof notes that Kreider Farms is one of the few major egg producers in the United States that actively opposes the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (H.R. 3798) that would ban barren battery cages nationwide and reduce the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals every year.

This new investigation, conducted by The Humane Society of the United States, illustrates the need to enact the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (EPIA). If passed, EPIA would:

  • Require all egg farms in the country to replace barren battery cages with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of space, as well as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express more natural behaviors;
  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs: "eggs from caged hens," "eggs from cage-free hens," and "eggs from free-range hens." This undoubtedly would reduce the demand for eggs from hens kept in cages and inspire many people to explore vegan options;
  • Outlaw the practice of starving hens in order to shock their bodies into another laying cycle (every year, millions of egg-laying hens are denied access to any food for up to two weeks);
  • Reduce noxious ammonia levels in henhouses; and
  • Prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don't meet these requirements.
Please help ensure this landmark bill is passed by contacting your representatives in Congress and encouraging them to vote in favor of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012. Click here to take action.

But remember, consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless animal abuse by simply removing eggs from their diets and replacing them with cruelty-free vegan alternatives. After contacting your representatives in Congress, please visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more about making the switch to a healthy and compassionate vegan lifestyle.

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Compassionate teenagers or parents and teachers looking for a meaningful summer experience for their kids have a unique opportunity in Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp. YEA Camp is a week-long summer camp with sessions in northern California, Oregon, and New Jersey for teens who want to make a difference in their communities or society. Consistent with their message of social justice and sustainability, all of the food YEA Camp serves is vegan.

YEA1.jpgParticipants at YEA Camp choose a social issue that they care about, and with the support of fellow YEA campers, they develop their knowledge, ability, and confidence to make a bigger difference on that issue when they get home. They meet like-minded activist teens and experienced staff mentors, as well as learn valuable skills, such as running an effective school club, fundraising, using art and social media for advocacy, grassroots outreach, communicating effectively even with those who disagree, and more.

Many past campers have become aware of factory farm cruelty, as well as the deliciousness of vegan foods, and then chosen to work on farmed animal advocacy after camp. Others have sought out YEA Camp because of its vegan food. Former campers have successfully gotten veg options in their school cafeterias, started school animal rights clubs, interned with animal advocacy organizations, leafleted in their communities, and more. Many campers have focused on other important issues, such as gay rights, climate change, and addressing bullying in their schools, and have adopted a veg diet thanks to their exposure to it at YEA Camp.

To find out more about YEA Camp, including camper registration or application for staff positions this summer, visit YEACamp.org.

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With your help, Mercy For Animals could win a chance to get our pro-veg message plastered onto the Bay Area's public transportation system, BART, for free.

The Bay Area-based advocacy group The Coalition to Fight Factory Farming (CFFF) has entered the BART Clear Skies Contest, whereby the nonprofit organization that gets the most votes will win a free advertising campaign on BART. CFFF is currently in second place, and has said that if it wins, it will run Mercy For Animals' compelling pro-vegetarian advertisements.

whyloveonead.jpgchickenad.jpgpigad.jpgIf you are a California resident, taking a moment to vote for CFFF here, and then encouraging others to do so, could help millions of people see our powerful message of compassion for all animals.

CFFF offers free presentations about factory farming in the Bay Area, which you can request through its website, and makes its compelling presentations available online for anyone to use. For other ways you can get involved in spreading vegetarianism, please visit Mercy For Animals' online Action Center, where you can order a free Vegetarian Starter Kit, sign up to volunteer, and get active for animals in your community.

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VSL.jpgWith childhood obesity on the rise, we are in an uphill battle to protect our kids from a laundry list of preventable diseases. Sadly, a common place for children to pick up unhealthy food habits is at school, the very institution that should be promoting the core principles of healthy living.

That could all change for youth at one high school in Branford, Connecticut, where the cafeteria staff recently teamed up with professional vegetarian chefs from G-Zen Restaurant to serve up the school's first all-vegan lunch.

Students enjoyed vegan versions of classic dishes like lasagna, vegetable stir-fry, and veggie fried rice. "It tastes amazing!" said one of the students who sampled the cruelty-free grub.

Although this was a one-day affair, it was a step in the right direction for public school menu reform. Now, a slew of schools is following in Branford High School's footsteps and has expressed interest in working with Chartwells, the foodservice provider for Branford schools.

G-Zen proprietor Ami Beach Shadles said, "For us, it's a victory. Not only to do a [cooking] demo, but seeing schools offer it right in line with the other choices; at this age level, kids are actually making informed decisions."

Kudos to Branford High School's progressive dining service for promoting a healthy, compassionate vegetarian diet to America's youth. For delicious recipes and tips on transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle, visit ChooseVeg.com.

For a free Vegetarian Starter Kit, click here.

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Each time Mercy For Animals sends someone undercover into a factory farm, slaughterhouse, or hatchery, the investigator uncovers horrific cruelty to animals. These investigations have garnered widespread media attention, and have resulted in corporate reform and criminal prosecution of animal abusers, and have propelled legislative initiatives to protect farmed animals.

We caught up with MFA's former undercover investigator, Cody Carlson, whose work was recently featured in the Atlantic, to get the inside scoop about his undercover work.

221603_1707082083289_1425173787_31518900_1894498_n.jpgHow did you first learn about factory farming?

In my teens, I read a book about the famous McLibel trial in England--where McDonald's sued two UK activists for distributing leaflets that criticized McDonald's support for factory farming. I remember being shocked--not just to learn the truth about where my food came from, but also at how successful these industries had been at keeping people like me from finding out. I went vegetarian then and there. A few years later, I was at a punk show where I saw "Meet Your Meat" playing at one of the band's merchandise tables. Actually seeing what was happening on these factory farms had an even bigger impact on me. I went vegan and started leafleting at my college campus.

How did you get started as an undercover investigator?

Shortly after college, I was a researcher at a corporate investigations firm in New York. One night, I saw a Mercy For Animals' investigation of a battery-cage egg farm on the news. The next morning, I wrote to MFA to offer help with background research in future investigations. When Nathan Runkle called me back to suggest that I instead come on board as an undercover agent, I had a hard time saying no. I was nervous, obviously, but it sounded so much more rewarding than what I was doing at the time.

What was daily life like as an undercover investigator?

It was more challenging than anything else I will ever experience. The physical labor, constant emotional heartbreak, and psychological somersaults of living undercover come together to keep you constantly gasping for air, just hoping to make it another day until the investigation is over. If it wasn't for the wellspring of support coming from Nathan, other investigators, and the rest of the MFA gang, I don't know what I would have done.

Thumbnail image for 269890_1864081248170_1425173787_31675514_1948012_n.jpgWhat was the most challenging aspect of being an undercover investigator?

As an animal lover, it's just so difficult to witness such unspeakable cruelty day in, day out. Every day, I watched countless animals get abusively handled, maimed, and neglected, and there was very little I could do to help without blowing my cover.

Still, I tried to do whatever I could. In my role as a new and perhaps naive employee, I'd report abusive workers and animals in need of veterinary care to management, but they always told me they were aware of the issue and it was just part of the business. One manager even went so far as to forbid me from freeing egg-laying hens that had become trapped in their cages, saying it was a distraction from my duties. The amount of suffering going on in these places is so extreme and so senseless, it boggles the mind.

How do you feel about the "Ag-Gag" laws that have passed in Iowa and Utah?

Well, obviously, I'm concerned that something I used to do to try to make the world a better place can now land me in jail. At the same time, it's vindicating, since it proves that these investigations have been effective.

But these laws have a much greater impact on society than simply criminalizing a few investigators. They're designed to keep Americans in the dark about where their food comes from and to thwart the ongoing progress of the animal protection movements. That's bad for consumers, and it's terrible for farmed animals.

Even if you don't care about animals, these laws are still a menace to democracy. They're flagrantly unconstitutional; their entire purpose is to prevent journalistic scrutiny, which puts them directly at odds with the First Amendment. Also, they were drafted and implemented at the behest of wealthy trade groups that donated generously to the politicians who supported them. To me, that raises some serious concerns about the integrity of the democratic process.

The bright side is, since they were proposed two years ago, our investigations have been all over the media, and new investigations continue to result in felony cruelty charges, indicating that local prosecutors are still interested in going after the real criminals. Now that two of these laws have passed, I have every confidence that groups like MFA are going to challenge them in court. If they're successful, that will be a major victory for the movement.

Thumbnail image for 429373_2720363654695_1425173787_32204900_406318000_n.jpgWhat kind of effect do you think undercover investigations into factory farms have had on the American public and the animal protection movement?

So much has changed for the better since I got involved in 2008, and I have no doubt that undercover investigations have been empowering people to make this happen. Above all, plant-based eating is booming; the number of vegans has doubled in the last few years alone. Also, states have passed desperately needed laws like California's Proposition 2. Even better, a federal bill that may soon become the first federal law to protect animals during their lives on factory farms is currently before Congress with bipartisan support. On the corporate level, major foodservice companies like McDonald's are turning their backs on some of the cruelest practices while adding more and more vegan options. It's obvious that compassion for farmed animals is an idea whose time has come.

Now that you're finished with undercover investigations, what have you taken away from it? What has changed about your life and how you communicate with others on this issue?

Before I got involved with MFA, I definitely had strong feelings about the way farmed animals were being treated, but would never have identified as an activist. After everything I've seen, however, it's become impossible not to be. As soon as I retired from investigations, I started doing vegan outreach and volunteering for legislative campaigns. Soon after, I enrolled in law school, where I've helped file a multi-billion dollar antitrust suit against the dairy industry and brought civil charges against an extremely cruel poultry hatchery. Sometimes I'm surprised at the dramatic turn my life has taken from the corporate job I had four years ago, but after seeing what I've seen, I can't imagine doing anything else.

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Pink-Slime-Debate.JPEG-03232.jpgAfter sales for "lean beef" rapidly declined due to extensive media exposure of "pink slime" and the resulting consumer backlash, AFA Foods, a ground beef processor, filed for bankruptcy.

AFA Foods' interim CEO Ron Allen said in court papers, "Ongoing media attention has called into question the wholesomeness" of the beef, and has "dramatically reduced the demand for all ground beef products."

The slime is produced when beef scraps and cow connective tissue are treated with ammonium hydroxide to kill pathogens.

While the presence of pink slime in meat is disconcerting to many consumers, this is just the most recent item added to the beef industry's growing laundry list of rotten offenses. Cows raised for beef are routinely dehorned and inflicted with third-degree burns (hot-iron branding), without any painkillers. Additionally, cows in feedlots are crowded by the thousands, creating the perfect breeding ground for disease―including antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

Thankfully, we can all protect animals and our health by transitioning to a healthy and compassionate vegetarian diet. Visit ChooseVeg.com for a host of simple recipes and tips on making the switch.

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Last weekend, thousands of festival-goers gathered in Central Texas to celebrate and learn more about vegetarianism at Austin's first-ever Texas VegFest, an uber-successful veg-foodie event that indicates plant-based eating is a growing trend. The Texas VegFest comes on the heels of Dallas' Second Annual Texas State Veggie Fair, held in October.

MFA_TVF1.jpgThe festival featured inspiring speakers like Robert Cheeke and Dr. Micheal Greger, cooking demonstrations by the Post Punk Kitchen's Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, live music, and incredible vegan food, including vegan mac 'n cheese from Mac'n Food Truck, which had traveled all the way to Austin from Miami.

TVF2.jpgMercy For Animals was thrilled to sponsor the inaugural Texas VegFest and meet so many compassionate people from all over Texas interested in spreading the word about the benefits of plant-based eating.
TVF3.jpgMissed us at the Texas VegFest? Visit MFA at these upcoming vegetarian food festivals:

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file_4_2.jpgEaster is well-known as a day of gift-filled baskets, family dinners, and heaps of yummy candy.

Easter activities often include egg hunts, decorating egg shells, and baking egg-laden desserts. Consequently, it's also one of the busiest seasons for factory egg farmers, who confine mother hens in cages so tightly, they're unable to walk freely, spread their wings, or engage in any natural behaviors.

Thankfully, we can choose to celebrate Easter without causing suffering. Here are some ways to make your Easter extra-sweet with vegan versions of your holiday favorites!

For more menu ideas, cooking tips, instructional videos, and hundreds of vegan recipes, visit ChooseVeg.com.

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Last week, nearly 80 Mercy For Animals supporters from all over New York City kicked off the spring season by bonding with rescued animals on a beautiful sunny day at Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS). CAS is a dedicated haven for farmed animals saved from cruelty and neglect.

IMG_3139.jpgVolunteers were excited to visit with the resident cows, turkeys, goats, horses, chickens, and pigs, but were also hard at work gardening, cleaning out stalls, and preparing sanctuary grounds for the upcoming busy season. Our gracious host, Kathy Stevens, founder and director of CAS, was delighted to have such an enthusiastic group helping out at the sanctuary.

IMG_3161.JPG"We painted fences, planted herbs, and helped to build new chicken coups," said MFA intern Laura Doersam. "It was also really nice that we could meet so many animals face to face, and hear Kathy tell their stories."

IMG_3153.jpgOf the many charming animals was a sweet pig named Franklin, who was rescued from a "dead pile" as a piglet, and brought to CAS for nursing. Franklin was shy at first, but after spending a summer away at "Animal Camp" with a misfit cow and a misfit horse, he returned to the sanctuary far more relaxed and confident.

Inspired? Keep an eye on Mercy For Animals' events page for upcoming opportunities to help farmed animals in your area.

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BatteryCagedHens_1.jpgThe use of barren battery cages is perhaps the cruelest form of institutionalized animal abuse in existence. In fact, these cages are so cruel they have been condemned by animal welfare experts worldwide, banned in the entire European Union, as well as in California and Michigan, and shunned by major food retailers, including Wolfgang Puck and Whole Foods.

Fortunately, Congress is now considering a landmark, precedent-setting federal bill - the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (H.R. 3798) - that would ban barren battery cages nationwide and reduce the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals every year in the United States. Please help ensure this important bill passes by contacting your representatives in Congress today.

Here is a glimpse inside a typical battery-cage egg facility:

Despite widespread opposition to these cages, the vast majority of eggs in the United States - nearly 95% - still come from hens confined for nearly their entire lives to barren battery cages so small they are unable to fully stretch their wings, walk, run, perch, dust bathe, roost, or engage in most other natural behaviors.

However, if passed, the newly introduced Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 (EPIA) would:

  • Require all egg farms in the country to replace barren battery cages with new, enriched colony housing systems that provide each egg-laying hen nearly double the amount of space, as well as perches, nesting boxes, and scratching areas, that will allow hens to express more natural behaviors;
  • Mandate labeling on all egg cartons nationwide to inform consumers of the method used to produce the eggs: "eggs from caged hens," "eggs from cage-free hens," and "eggs from free-range hens." This undoubtedly would reduce the demand for eggs from hens kept in cages and inspire many people to explore vegan options;
  • Outlaw the practice of starving hens in order to shock their bodies into another laying cycle (every year, millions of egg-laying hens are denied access to any food for up to two weeks);
  • Reduce noxious ammonia levels in henhouses; and
  • Prohibit the transport and sale of eggs and egg products nationwide that don't meet these requirements.
Most of the provisions of the bill would take effect immediately, but the EPIA sets specific phase-in periods requiring egg producers nationwide to expand the space given to egg-laying hens every six years until reaching the final minimum space requirement for birds within no more than 18 years.

Although this is a precedent-setting bill that could become the first federal law to protect chickens raised for food in the history of the United States, and the first federal law to protect farmed animals of any species in more than 30 years, it will not end all of the needless cruelty and violence inherent in egg production - including the standard industry practices of painfully cutting off the tips of birds' beaks with a hot blade and tossing live male chicks into giant grinding machines or into trash bags to be slowly suffocated to death.

However, this bill could help reduce the suffering of hundreds of millions of animals who currently receive no legal protection from even the most egregious abuses, including in states in which there is virtually no hope of ever passing laws to help egg-laying hens or other farmed animals. In major egg-producing states like Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana and Pennsylvania, voter-initiated ballot measures are not allowed, and there is no pathway for concerned citizens to ban cruel battery cages or pass other laws to protect farmed animals.

To make matters worse, legislators aligned with agribusiness in some of these states are trying to outlaw undercover investigations and make it even more difficult to help animals suffering on factory farms. This federal Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012 will help all 280 million egg-laying hens in the U.S., regardless of the political landscape in each state.

That this bill could set an important precedent for animal welfare in this country is perhaps most powerfully illustrated by the fact that it is so adamantly opposed by powerful agribusiness groups and lobbyists. In a recent letter to Congress, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council and several other factory farm groups wrote: "Our gravest concern is that this precedent could leach into all corners of animal farming."

These groups see the writing on the wall. When the cruelest egg farming practices are outlawed, it is only a matter of time before the cruelest practices of the meat and dairy industries are banned as well.

As the New York Times editorialized, "It's well past time to create a national standard that promotes more humane conditions everywhere. Yet the American Farm Bureau Federation, a trade group for farmers, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association oppose the bill. They seem to fear that common sense and a humane regard for the well-being of farm animals will spread to their own industries."

Please help ensure this landmark bill is passed by contacting your representatives in Congress and encouraging them to vote in favor of the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendment of 2012. Click here to take action.

But remember, consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless animal abuse by simply removing eggs from their diets and replacing them with cruelty-free vegan alternatives. After contacting your representatives in Congress, please visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more about making the switch to a healthy and compassionate vegan lifestyle.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2012 is the previous archive.

May 2012 is the next archive.

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