On the heels of what is believed to be the first-ever felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history, another Butterball employee, Rueben Mendoza, has pled guilty today and was convicted of felony identity theft and misdemeanor cruelty to animals. He received a consolidated sentence of a minimum of 8 months, and a maximum of 19 months, in state prison.
Both convictions stem from hidden-camera video secretly shot at a North Carolina Butterball factory farm by an undercover investigator with Mercy For Animals. Mendoza, along with several other Butterball employees, was documented violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, forcefully throwing turkeys, and bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars.
Mercy For Animals commends the Hoke County Sheriff's Department for its swift and decisive action in this important case. The cases against the other Butterball employees caught on video abusing animals are still pending.
Watch the undercover video that led to the cruelty convictions here:
While it is important to hold individual animal abusers accountable for their crimes, the ultimate responsibility in this case is with the Butterball Corporation for allowing a culture of cruelty and neglect to fester at its factory farms.
As MFA works with law enforcement to bring justice for farmed animals, the best thing consumers can do to reject cruelty to animals is to ditch Butterball turkey, and all animal products, by adopting a healthy and compassionate vegan diet.
Mercy For Animals has penned an open letter to Joshua Shelton, the man accused of accidentally killing 70,000 slaughter-bound chickens, asking him to repent by going vegetarian in order to help end the needless suffering and purposeful killing of billions of factory-farmed animals each year.
On Tuesday, August 28, Shelton was arrested and charged with trespassing, burglary, destruction of property, and cruelty to animals after, in a drunken stupor, he shut off the ventilation system at a chicken factory farm in Delmar, Maryland. The factory farm owner reportedly told investigators that without constant ventilation, the tens of thousands of chickens crammed into the farm's three tiny sheds would have been suffocated by toxic waste fumes in a matter of minutes.
In the letter sent directly to Shelton, who is being held at the Wicomico County Department of Corrections in Salisbury, Maryland, MFA's Executive Director Nathan Runkle writes:
"You may find it sobering to learn that every year in the United States more than 8 billion chickens are crammed by the thousands into ammonia-laden sheds full of carbon dioxide, methane, excretory fumes, and lung-destroying dust and dander. The high ammonia levels cause painful skin and respiratory problems for the birds, and as you discovered, without constant ventilation these toxic fumes can kill tens of thousands of animals in a matter of minutes."
The letter continues:
"While the deaths of these 70,000 chickens were unintentional and are certainly tragic, you may take heart in knowing that you can help end the intentional misery and death forced upon billions of chickens each year by the factory farming industry by simply choosing vegetarian alternatives to poultry products."
Along with the letter, Mercy For Animals sent Shelton a free Vegetarian Starter Kit filled with helpful tips, recipes, and advice the group says will help him get started on a "cruelty-free journey of reconciliation."
As the summer of 2012 comes to a close, compassionate Americans from coast to coast are gearing up for a fun-filled Labor Day celebration. What better way to end the summer and also celebrate our values than by throwing a cruelty-free extravaganza? Whether you are hosting or attending a BBQ, consider serving or bringing some of the many tasty vegan foods that are widely available on the mainstream market. Check out these helpful tips:
Scrumptious Sides - Don't forget to make up some of everyone's favorite summer side dishes. Creamy potato salads or egg-less salads can be made with an egg- and dairy-free mayonnaise like Vegenaise, and Summer Vegetables and Tofu can be grilled up by seasoning and placing them on skewers or wrapping in aluminum foil.
Dairy-Free Delights - What better way to end the Labor Day feast than with some cool, refreshing SO Delicious PD Cherry Nirvana or Creamy Vanilla dairy-free ice creams? And make sure to have plenty of fresh, in-season fruits to toss in for an extra special treat.
"Leading water scientists have issued one of the sternest warnings yet about global food supplies, saying that the world's population may have to switch almost completely to a vegetarian diet over the next 40 years to avoid catastrophic shortages," according to a new article in the Guardian.
Researchers at the Stockholm International Water Institute report that "there will not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if we follow current trends and changes towards diets common in western nations." These researchers confirm that adopting a vegetarian diet is a vital way to conserve the water supply to grow more food, since "animal protein-rich food consumes five to 10 times more water than a vegetarian diet." With most Americans eating at least 12 ounces of meat a day, the problem is truly monumental.
Luckily, making the switch to a plant-based lifestyle is easy and delicious. Visit ChooseVeg.com for tips and recipes to help you get started on a path toward a more compassionate and sustainable future.
Science is confirming what common sense has told us all along: animals are as "conscious and aware" as humans. According to Discovery News, an international group of prominent scientists has signed the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, stating that most animals are conscious in the same way humans are, and that "it's no longer something that we can ignore."
"The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states," conclude the scientists, and "convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors."
Among such conscious and sentient beings are billions of farmed animals who are just as intelligent as the dogs and cats we grew up with. Cows are extremely gentle and kind animals who form strong bonds with one another. Chickens show sophisticated social behavior and can recognize more than a hundred other chickens. In the words of Dr. Donald Broom, Cambridge University professor and former scientific advisor to the Council of Europe, "[Pigs] have the cognitive ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than] three-year-olds."
Ultimately, consumers have the power to spare animals from lives of unnecessary fear and suffering by switching to a compassionate vegan diet. Visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
Chicago is the proud home of Upton's Naturals, a natural foods manufacturer known for its tasty seitan twists on traditional sandwiches. In business since 2005, Upton's is committed to making delicious vegan products from real, simple ingredients. Its products are currently available in numerous stores and restaurants nationwide, and will be offered in many more this year. A conscious, vegan-owned company, Upton's Naturals is also a regular supporter of Mercy For Animals and contributor to Chicago's Vegan Chef Showdown. We recently sat down and talked with owner Dan Staackmann.
MFA: How was Upton's Naturals started?
DS: The idea for the company began in 2004, when I suggested to a friend of mine that we start a business together. We had both been vegan for a long time and we knew we wanted to do something with food. Neither of us had a background in business or cooking, so it was all learn as you go. We were able to find a shared commercial kitchen space that we used to develop the product and test the market. Then in 2005 we signed a lease for our own facility. Since it was easier to package seitan in bulk (and less expensive), we began selling to restaurants in Chicago. By 2006 we were confident that we had a product that was ready for retail, so we invested in the packaging and equipment and launched our Italian sausage-style and chorizo-style seitan.
MFA: "Upton's Naturals" - what inspired the name?
DS: Upton's was actually the suggestion of a friend. Not being a very good self-promoter, I definitely didn't want the company to be named after me, but I liked the idea of it being someone's name, even if that person was fictional. Upton fit the image we had in mind and we knew it was unique enough to never be confused with another seitan company.
MFA: What was the motivation for providing plant-based alternatives to meat products?
DS: As we always like to point out, seitan is its own thing and conveniently has a meaty texture. We've tried to season ours similarly to popular meat products to offer those who miss them the opportunity to enjoy those tastes. After all, nothing comes straight from a cow tasting like Italian sausage. We hope that more people will see how easy it is to be vegan--and that it's not about just eating salads. (However, it's important to eat salads too!)
MFA: Why seitan? What made you choose your current flavor varieties?
DS: After going vegan and discovering seitan, it quickly became one of my favorite foods. When the company began, there was only one national brand in stores and just a few restaurants made their own (at least in Chicago). It seemed like there were definitely more restaurants, and eventually stores, that could benefit from having a local source.
The Italian-style was our first successful creation and it was a happy accident after a failed attempt to produce a more traditional sausage. From there we just experimented with other flavors we liked and eventually developed a "traditional" as well.
MFA: You now offer pre-made sandwiches. Where did this idea come from?
DS: The wrap and sandwich line was a result of both consumer demand and our need to keep busy while slowly building the brand. Our best customer at the time, Chicago's South Loop Whole Foods, mentioned that they didn't have many good vegan prepared-food options although many customers asked for them frequently. At that time we were only in a handful of stores and were still working up to five days a week in production. We knew we couldn't add hundreds of stores overnight but could probably handle producing some simple sandwiches locally. This would also help keep our employees busy while we expanded the brand.
MFA: How long have you been vegan and what was your journey like?
DS: I've been vegan 20 years. I decided when I was 15 years old that enough was enough and dropped all animal-based foods from my diet. There wasn't any argument for veganism that I didn't agree with...from health, to animal rights, to environmental impact. It's been really amazing to see how the public's perception of veganism has changed and how many products have been added to the market. In the beginning, no one would know what you meant when you said, "I'm vegan," and you'd be lucky to get a cup of veggie chili and a hummus plate at only a handful of restaurants. Now, "vegan" is practically a household word, there are aisles full of vegan items, including meat and dairy alternatives at grocery stores, and most restaurants have at least a few good options.
MFA: Do you have a favorite recipe?
DS: I usually keep it simple with Italian-style seitan on pizza or chorizo-style in tacos with avocado, but there are many recipes on our website.
MFA: What events do you typically participate in and why? What are your favorites?
DS: We travel the country attending vegetarian and vegan festivals to promote our company and try to support the communities that support us. It's important that these events happen and the more vendors that participate, the more people that attend and learn about going vegan.
It's hard to pick favorites, but some we've really enjoyed being a part of are Vida Vegan Con in Portland, Texas State Veggie Fair in Dallas, and Chicago VeganMania. And this year we had the honor of helping to sponsor the MFA Justice For All event in Hollywood.
MFA: You give a lot back to the community. Why do you feel that is so important?
DS: Being vegans ourselves, we think it's important to support groups that we believe in.
MFA: What's next for Upton's Naturals?
DS: We've spent the last few years increasing our distribution and plan to continue to expand. We have a few other surprises that we're working on and hope to share them with everyone by the beginning of 2013!
To learn more about choosing a compassionate vegetarian lifestyle, visit ChooseVeg.com. For your free Vegetarian Starter Kit, click here.
Mercy For Animals' undercover investigation at a Butterball turkey factory farm in Hoke County, North Carolina, has led to what is believed to be the first-ever felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history. Considering that poultry make up 8 out of the nearly 9 billion land animals raised and killed for food each year in the United States, this felony conviction sets a powerful legal precedent.
Brian Douglas, along with several other Butterball employees, was documented violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, forcefully throwing turkeys, and bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars. Douglas pled guilty to felony cruelty to animals on Tuesday, August 28 and will serve 30 days in jail, followed by 42 months of probation. The four other workers were also charged with cruelty to animals, and their cases are pending.
"Animals destined to enter the food supply for consumers, still deserve protection from completely senseless and totally unnecessary acts of cruelty," said Michael Hardin, Hoke County senior assistant district attorney, regarding the prosecution of the case. "Although, these animals are destined to be slaughtered, there is no justification for actions that amount to torture."
Watch the undercover investigation into Butterball here:
While the historic prosecution of this Butterball worker signals hope and meaningful legal progress for farmed animals, it is important to point out that the Butterball Corporation facilitated felony-level animal abuse by creating a culture of cruelty and neglect at its factory farms--an offense that goes far beyond the actions of a single rogue employee.
MFA will continue to press forward in its efforts to hold animal abusers accountable, and shine a spotlight on the cruel and corrupt practices of factory farms. Compassionate consumers, who wish to remove their financial support from industries that abuse animals, can help prevent the needless suffering of turkeys and other animals by adopting a compassionate vegan diet.
Hidden-camera video secretly shot at a North Carolina Butterball factory farm by an undercover investigator with Mercy For Animals has led to a criminal prosecution of a worker at the facility. Earlier today, Brian Douglas pled guilty to felonious cruelty to animals--a class H felony in North Carolina. Douglas, along with several other Butterball employees, was documented violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their wings and necks, forcefully throwing turkeys, and bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars.
Douglas will serve a sentence of 30 days imprisonment, followed by 6 months intensive probation and 36 months of supervised probation. Douglas was also ordered to pay $550 in fees and fines, and provide a DNA sample to the state, and will be subject to warrantless searches. Four other Butterball employees were also charged with cruelty to animals. Their cases are still pending.
The conviction and additional charges stem from an MFA undercover investigation at a Butterball turkey semen collection facility in Shannon, North Carolina, between November and December of 2011. The shocking undercover footage reveals:
Workers violently kicking and stomping on birds, dragging them by their fragile wings and necks, and maliciously throwing turkeys onto the ground or into transport trucks in full view of company management;
Employees bashing in the heads of live birds with metal bars, leaving many to slowly suffer and die from their injuries;
Turkeys covered in flies, living in their own waste, unable to access food or water and suffering from severe feather loss and necrotic (dead) muscles and skin;
Birds suffering from serious untreated illnesses and injuries, including open sores, infections, rotting eyes, and broken bones; and
Severely injured turkeys, unable to stand up or walk, left to die without any veterinary care, because treating sick or injured birds was too costly and time-consuming, as the farm manager explained to MFA's investigator.
Mercy For Animals' undercover video shows that the lives of turkeys in Butterball's factory farms are brutal and filled with fear, violence and prolonged suffering. Butterball's turkeys have been selectively bred to grow so large, so quickly, that many of them suffer from painful bone defects, hip joint lesions, crippling foot and leg deformities, and fatal heart attacks. Due to the company's lack of meaningful animal welfare policies, training or procedures, Butterball subjects countless turkeys to immeasurable cruelty and neglect each year.
"Butterball allowed a culture of cruelty and abuse to fester at its company-owned factory farms. This case graphically illustrates that the secret ingredient in Butterball turkey is criminal animal abuse," said MFA's Executive Director Nathan Runkle. "Before ending up in restaurants and grocery stores, turkeys killed for Butterball are routinely crowded into filthy warehouses, neglected to die from infected, bloody wounds, and thrown, kicked, and beaten by factory farm workers."
The best thing consumers can do to reject cruelty to farmed animals is to ditch Butterball turkey, and all animal products, by adopting a healthy and compassionate vegan diet.
Ever wonder what it would be like to intern with Mercy For Animals? We interviewed Kat O'Dea, who recently completed a three-month internship in our Dallas office, and asked her to give us the scoop.
Prior to interning with Mercy For Animals, Kat worked with her fellow students at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia, to spread awareness of the implications of using animals for food, experimentation, and entertainment. During her spare time in Texas, she enjoyed going to the all-vegan Spiral Diner, shopping at secondhand bookstores, and going on trips to Austin.
What first inspired you to become a vegan?
I was vegetarian for six years before switching to veganism. It's embarrassing to admit, but I thought that cows just naturally produced milk! When I found out that cows were forcibly impregnated over and over again, only to have their babies stolen so humans could profit from the milk, I knew I had to go vegan. I just couldn't participate in such an industry.
What is your favorite vegan/animal rights resource?
I really like the documentary Earthlings. It is by far the most powerful film I've ever seen. I wish I could make everyone in the world watch it. I also really like ChooseVeg.com. I often find myself using recipes from the site, and I always recommend it to friends and people I leaflet to because it gives a great overview of the benefits of a plant-based lifestyle.
Why did you choose to intern with MFA?
Mercy For Animals is a highly respected organization. Every time I see an interview or a video from MFA, I am blown away by the professionalism and how well-spoken everyone is. In my opinion, this makes Mercy For Animals a more effective organization, and I really wanted to be a part of that.
What did you like most about interning with MFA?
I really liked meeting other activists this summer. I met people who have devoted their lives to animal rights, and that is so impressive. I was very inspired by all the activists I met, and I certainly learned a lot about how to be more effective.
Can you offer any insight for others interested in becoming involved with animal rights activism?
Start by volunteering with local groups or animal shelters. So many groups need help, and it's a great way to meet other people in the animal rights community. I would also recommend going to vegetarian food festivals to meet people who are involved with some of the bigger animal rights organizations and learning a bit more about each group. You can also order literature through groups and leaflet in your hometown!
Inspired? Click here to learn about MFA's internship program and apply today for an exciting internship in one of our campaigns offices.
Hollywood stars are squealing mad over Walmart's treatment of pigs after MFA's undercover investigation exposed rampant cruelty to animals at a factory farm supplying pork to the retail giant.
In a letter fired off today to Walmart's CEO Mike Duke, on behalf of Mercy For Animals, Ryan Gosling, Kristen Bell, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Deschanel, Tom Morello, Kim Basinger, David Boreanaz, Ed Begley Jr., John Francis Daley, James Cromwell, Steve-O, and Loretta Swit wrote: "We implore you to help end the needless suffering of these animals by ending the sale of pork from producers who confine pigs in cages so small they can't even turn around for nearly their entire lives."
The appeal comes after hidden-camera video, shot at a Christensen Farms facility in Minnesota by an investigator with Mercy For Animals, revealed unconscionable cruelty. The footage shows pregnant pigs locked in tiny, filthy crates so small they couldn't turn around, walk, or lie down comfortably, pigs suffering from bloody open wounds, and workers castrating and cutting off the tails of conscious piglets without painkillers and bashing in the skulls of sick piglets by slamming them headfirst into the concrete.
The letter points out:
While Walmart tells its customers they can "Save Money, Live Better," the pork sold in your stores comes from pigs whose lives couldn't possibly be any worse. As world-renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Jonathan Balcombe puts it: "Gestation crates are unremitting hell on earth."
Inside tiny gestation crates barely larger than their own bodies, these intelligent and social animals never get to walk, run, root in the soil, see the sun, breathe fresh air, or do nearly anything that comes naturally to them. Driven mad from boredom and stress, these poor animals have nothing to do, hour after hour, day after day, but bite the bars of their cages.
While all of the abuses shown in the video at WalmartCruelty.com are unconscionable, perhaps the worst form of torture forced on these innocent animals is the use of gestation crates. As you should know, gestation crates are considered so cruel that leading animal welfare experts condemn them, nine US states and the entire European Union have banned them, and nearly all of Walmart's competitors, including Costco, Safeway, Kroger, and Kmart, have started demanding their pork suppliers do away with them.
The letter concludes:
It's time for Walmart to quit dragging its feet and help put an end to one of the cruelest factory farming practices. As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart has the power--and the ethical responsibility--to ensure that the pork sold in its stores is not the product of egregious animal abuse.
Click here to send your own message to Walmart's CEO by signing MFA's petition demanding the retail giant do away with gestation crates.
Aramark and Campbell's are the latest businesses to commit to a 100% gestation crate-free supply chain policy, following similar recent announcements made by more than 20 companies, including McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Tim Hortons, Sonic, Compass
MFA hopes these most recent announcements will encourage other food distributers, including Walmart, Domino's, Target, Publix, Delhaize, Giant Eagle, and others, to make similar commitments to phase out gestation crates--one of the cruelest forms of animal abuse in existence--from their supply chains in the near future. In fact, MFA is calling on Walmart to commit to such a phaseout after an MFA undercover investigation revealed blatant abuse of mother pigs at one of Walmart's pork suppliers. Learn more, and take action, at WalmartCruelty.com. Follow the MFA campaign at WalmartCrueltyTour.com.
While eliminating gestation crates from the pork supply chain is a positive step in the right direction, it certainly doesn't make pork products cruelty-free. The best action you can take is to adopt a vegetarian diet, and encourage friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to do the same. For delicious, cruelty-free recipes, visit ChooseVeg.com. For your free Vegetarian Starter Kit, click here.
Compassion Over Killing has released shocking undercover video footage from its recent investigation at Central Valley Meat Company--a slaughterhouse in California and major meat supplier to the USDA's National School Lunch Program and other federal food initiatives. The startling video shows "spent" dairy cows being heinously tortured and then suffering prolonged and painful deaths. After viewing the gruesome footage, the USDA shut down the facility, citing "egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock." The investigation shows:
Downed cows, unable to walk to the kill floor, shot in the head two, three, even four times, and workers often walking away while the animals continue to struggle and kick
Some downed cows, who were still alive after being shot in the head, suffocated by workers who stood on their mouths and nostrils
Cows being tortured--repeatedly hit, jabbed, electrically shocked, and sprayed with hot water--in a narrow chute leading to the kill floor. One cow was electrically shocked over 40 times
Sick or injured cows being repeatedly shocked and workers pulling or lifting them by their tails in an attempt to force them to stand and walk
Botched stunning of animals prior to slaughter--many cows were thrashing, kicking, and clearly still breathing after being shot in the head. Yet these animals were moved through the slaughter process onto a conveyor belt and then hoisted upside down by one leg
Watch the video footage here:
Most of the animals slaughtered at Central Valley Meat are so-called "spent" cows who are no longer profitable to the dairy industry. Numerous investigations by Mercy For Animals at dairy facilities across the country, including Willet Dairy in New York, Conklin Dairy in Ohio, and E6 Cattle Co. in Texas, have exposed egregious animal abuse from the moment baby calves are born and ripped from their mothers' sides until they are so physically worn out from repeated pregnancies and constant milk production that they are sold for slaughter.
Although horrific cruelty and violence are standard practice in the dairy industry, caring consumers can help end the needless suffering of cows and other farmed animals by choosing any number of healthy and humane plant-based alternatives to milk, cheese, and ice cream. Visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
VegNews magazine has opened the polls for the highly awaited 2012 Veggie Awards - one of the magazine's most anticipated features. Here is your chance to vote for your favorite vegan people, places, and products. MFA is honored to be up for "Favorite Nonprofit Animal Organization."
Don't pass up this opportunity to show your support for MFA's important work. Consider voting for:
Mercy For Animals for Favorite Nonprofit Animal Organization
ChooseVeg.com for Favorite Website
MFABlog.org for Favorite Blog (go ahead and type it in)
Need an extra incentive to vote? All voters will have a chance to win fabulous prize packages, including:
Vegan Caribbean Cruise, enjoying stops in Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, and Grand Cayman.
Vegan Ice Cream Party
$250 Shopping Spree at Alternative Outfitters
According to the rules, ballots must include identifying information and be at least 50% complete to qualify for prizes.
But you must hurry; the polls close August 31st at midnight. Click here to take the survey! Winners are announced in the November-December edition of VegNews.
Teaching students to have empathy for animals is one of the most effective, long-lasting, and meaningful ways to build a more compassionate world. With flexible programs that can be modified to fit the specific curricular needs and interests of any audience, MFA's humane education program has been cultivating kindness toward animals at high schools and college classrooms, conferences, community and religious organizations, and other venues around the country for years.
In addition to helping stimulate the moral development of our nation's youth, MFA's highly acclaimed humane education presentations encourage critical thinking about social justice issues and urge students of all ages to make more humane, sustainable, and healthy food choices. Focusing on topics ranging from how a plant-based diet can help prevent disease to the outlook for creating legal protections for farmed animals, MFA's presentations empower students to make a positive difference in their own lives, their local communities, and the world around them.
Learn more about MFA's Humane Education program and the wide variety of thought-provoking presentations available.
Request a speaker from Mercy For Animals for your classroom, place of worship, or civic group today.
Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that it would buy up to $170 million-worth of meat products to bail out the animal agriculture industry from drought-induced profit losses. Associated Press reports, "The USDA plans to buy up to $100 million of additional pork products, $50 million of chicken, $10 million of lamb and $10 million of catfish."
While the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is more than willing to rake in a federal giveaway of a hundred million dollars, it strongly opposes federal laws, such as the egg industry reform bill, that aim to improve the lives of animals on factory farms. The NPPC seems to support federal involvement only when it benefits its bottom line.
Further, the pork industry continues to use, and defend, inhumane practices that are simply out of step with the values of the majority of America's tax payers, such as confining pregnant pigs in gestation stalls so narrow the animals can't turn around, lie down comfortably, walk, or engage in basic natural behaviors.
The governmental program is choosing to bail out cruel factory farmers instead of looking out for the best interests of animals, the environment, or consumers.
A recent Mercy For Animals undercover investigation at a Walmart pork supplier revealed some of these cruel practices that the USDA-protected animal agriculture industry tries so hard to keep hidden from the American public.
At this Walmart pork supplier, pregnant pigs are confined to filthy, metal gestation crates barely larger than their bodies, and sick and injured pigs with severe, bleeding wounds or infections are left to suffer without veterinary care.
While MFA continues to expose the cruelties inherent in pork production, ultimately consumers hold the greatest power to end the needless suffering of animals by switching to a compassionate vegan diet. Visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
New research has found that egg consumption is nearly as harmful to heart health as smoking tobacco. The study found a correlation between the number of egg yolks consumed and thickened arteries; the correlation was nearly as high as the correlation between the amount of tobacco smoked and thickened arteries.
Researchers measured the carotid wall thickness (an indicator of heart health) and measured the smoking, diet, and exercise habits of over 1,200 participants. "We believe our study makes it imperative to reassess the role of egg yolks, and dietary cholesterol in general, as a risk factor for coronary heart disease," the study authors concluded.
As scientific research continues to show the harmful effects of egg consumption on human health, undercover investigations continue to expose the horrific abuses hens and other farmed animals endure. Fortunately, preventing cruelty, heart disease, and cancer is easy with a plant-based diet.
A new study citing the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that between 37 and 120 billion (midpoint around 80 billion) farmed fish were killed globally for food in 2010. An additional .45 to 1.0 trillion wild fish were caught for fish oil and to feed farmed fish. These shocking numbers add to the estimated .97 - 2.7 trillion fish that were caught in the wild each year between 1999 and 2007.
"The increasing global number of farmed fish slaughtered for food each year may already exceed the number of farmed mammals and birds reported by the FAO (63 billion in 2010)," the study reports. Just like cows, chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals, fish feel pain and can suffer.
In 2010, an MFA undercover investigation at a Texas fish slaughter facility revealed shocking cruelty, including workers cutting, slicing, skinning, suffocating, and dismembering live and fully conscious catfish - an excruciatingly painful practice harshly condemned by veterinarians.
Thankfully, knowledgeable consumers can easily help prevent needless cruelty to animals by transitioning to a sustainable plant-based diet.
Good news for cows! The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF)--a trade organization that represents most of the dairy marketing cooperatives in the United States--has voted to officially oppose the cruel practice of tail docking cattle. While MFA applauds the NMPF for taking a stand against tail docking, we are disappointed that the trade group recommends a 10-year phase-out period for a practice that would cost the industry nothing to end immediately.
Tail docking cattle is among the most disturbing practices MFA's undercover investigator captured on film at Willet Dairy, the largest dairy operation in New York. A worker uses a bladed clamp to slice off the ends of calves' tails, severing nerves, skin, and vertebrae--all without the use of anesthesia. The calves' legs buckle from the pain, as they stagger and stumble to the ground. The worker then applies a smoking cautery device to the amputations.
The practice is opposed by industry representatives, scientists, and animal welfare experts, including the conservative American Veterinary Medical Association, which says tail docking is an acutely painful procedure that serves no benefit for animals or dairy workers and can cause chronic, lifelong suffering for animals.
In 2009, California--the largest dairy-producing state--banned the practice of tail docking cattle, followed by Ohio in 2011. And thanks to countless MFA supporters who responded to our action alerts, Rhode Island became the third state to ban tail docking in June of this year.
Following MFA's investigation at Willet Dairy in New York, the company voluntarily agreed to stop tail docking cattle and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal proposed a ban on tail docking of cattle in the entire state. The investigation also resulted in a criminal animal cruelty conviction against a longtime Willet employee, and prompted Leprino Foods--a major cheese distributer to Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Papa John's--to drop Willet as a dairy supplier.
Watch MFA's Willet Dairy investigation video here:
While MFA continues to expose the cruelties inherent in dairy production, ultimately consumers hold the greatest power to end the needless suffering of animals by switching to humane vegetarian alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs. Visit ChooseVeg.com to learn more.
According to the New York Times, Tyson Foods, the nation's largest meat company, reported a huge drop in net income for the last quarter. Tyson attributes this drop in profits to lower consumer demand for chicken and beef, as well as to debt-related charges. The company has lowered its expectation of full-year profits by $1 billion due to the lower demand for meat.
This August, animal rights activist and entertainer Katya Lidsky is hitting the Big Apple to perform her funny and poignant one-woman play, I'm Sorry - a powerful, hour-long dramedy about "how a people-pleasing apologist became an animal-loving activist." An accomplished actress and comedienne, Katya works on a number of fronts to creatively advocate for animals. We recently spoke with Katya to find out more about her inspiring show.
MFA: How did you first get involved with animal advocacy?
Katya Lidsky: I've always been an animal lover. I grew up on the border of Texas and when we'd go across the border to Mexico, I was always so upset by all the stray dogs I'd see. I'd try to feed them or beg my parents for us to take them home. But I really became an advocate when I began volunteering at the South LA Animal Shelter in 2007. That's when I began to see that the plight of animals was so much more than I imagined.
MFA: At what age did you go vegan, and was it an overnight switch or a gradual transition?
Katya Lidsky: I went vegan about two years ago, and it was a gradual transition. I'd been vegetarian for many years. I became a vegetarian because someone happened to send me a video and said, "You gotta see this." Just like that, I stopped eating animals period. A few years ago I had a long discussion with a dear friend and fellow activist about the dairy industry, and I knew nothing could ever taste good enough to erase the knowledge of suffering.
MFA: Your play I'm Sorry tells the story of a person's journey from people-pleasing apologist to animal activist. How does this compare to your own personal journey?
Katya Lidsky: Almost every single thing in this play is based on my life and is true, so it definitely compares. I've been a people-pleaser my whole life - never wanting to rock the boat, always making sure everyone was happy. For me, becoming an activist was more than just taking a stand; it was saying, "I don't care if this makes you unhappy or if you don't agree or like me." It has been the most challenging, liberating, and altering experience of my life. I wrote I'm Sorry because I wanted to share that part of my story in the hopes that other apologists might be inspired to find their own voice to help animals.
MFA: What inspired you to write and perform this show?
Katya Lidsky: I just had to write it. One day my husband came home and I told him I was either going to write this show or do something extreme because I just couldn't sit on my hands knowing how many animals were miserable at the moment. He encouraged me to write the show, and I'm so very grateful he did. To be honest, I've always sought out creative outlets and I love solo theatre. So it just kind of happened on its own.
MFA: How does theatrical activism tie in with your work for animals in other parts of your life?
Katya Lidsky: I believe that if you make people laugh while you tell them something important, share a feeling, or try to make them think about something serious, they will hear you better. I try to make veganism and activism something that attracts, rather than feeling a need to promote or push. I want people to want to join our cause. That's what will keep them committed. Theatrical activism feels right to me because I'm a performer. It won't go away, as much as I've tried! I'm an actress and comedienne in Los Angeles, and I love performing, especially on stage. My husband even created a web series called My Activist Wife, so I've been lucky enough to do some theatrical activism on film as well. I hope I'm always a part of projects that support the cause.
MFA: What do you think is the most effective way to approach people when influencing change?
Katya Lidsky: Acceptance. I like to come at people with encouragement, that their best is good enough today, and be there to help them do better. Personally, I've never been inspired to make changes by judging myself or being harsh or pushy. That doesn't mean I condone hurting animals or support decisions that are based on animal suffering - it means I believe in building bridges, connecting, and being patient in order to effect change. That being said, I really respect others who do it differently, in their own way, those who are blazing warriors! Whatever is truthful to you - people respond to authenticity most of all.
MFA: How has adopting a compassionate vegan lifestyle and living as an activist affected your friends and family? Have any of them given vegetarianism a try?
Katya Lidsky: Yes! Many of my family members and friends have given up meat, some are almost completely vegetarian or vegan. All of my friends and family are supportive and considerate, making sure there's always vegan food for me wherever we go. And in exchange, I get to promote delicious vegan food to them all the time, proving how easy and fun it is to be vegan! My family and friends are always trying to let me know how proud they are that I fight for animals even in my food choices, and they brag when they make vegan choices too.
MFA: We love that you are using your creativity to advocate for animals. How would you advise others to use their own talents for animal activism?
Katya Lidsky: If you have a desire or the willingness to use your skills - whether it's to write, perform, make a video, sing, take photographs, do stand-up comedy, host an art exhibit, or whatever it is you want to do to help animals, do it. Just do something. Leave your mark - create something. It doesn't matter what external value is put on it; the act of creating something on its own is brave and beautiful. Don't worry about what people think or say because you're not doing it for them, and you're not even really doing it for yourself. You're doing it for the animals.
MFA: Can you offer any insight for others interested in becoming involved with animal rights activism?
Katya Lidsky: Find friends in the animal rights community. My "animal friends" understand me like no one else. Also, make friends outside of the animal rights community! Talk to people outside of our movement so you can understand how we can make our cause more relatable and powerful. If you want to get involved with making the lives of animals better, there is no shortage of places you can spend your time--volunteering at animal shelters, farmed animal sanctuaries, and grassroots advocacy organizations like MFA.
If you're in the Greater New York City area, please join us on Wednesday, August 22nd at FringeNYC at 440 Studios to support Katya and MFA, as 10% of ticket sales will go directly to help our work to protect farmed animals. Get your tickets here!
Jenny Brown is the co-founder and director of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, an Upstate New York fairytale home to hundreds of rescued farmed animals. In a new book titled The Lucky Ones, Jenny tells the heartwarming story of her transition from a documentary film professional to a tireless advocate for farmed animals. MFA was lucky enough to speak with Jenny about her exciting new book, the important work of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and her brave mission as an undercover investigator in a Texas stockyard.
MFA: What led you to become an advocate for farmed animals?
Jenny Brown: I was 18 years old when I picked up some literature at school about the various ways we mistreat animals, including the animals we eat. I went vegetarian that very day and began looking further into fur, animal testing, animals used in entertainment, and animals used for food. It was an awakening for me. During college in Chicago, I met a woman from PETA while I was waiting tables at the Chicago Diner. She was in town managing a fur protest in front of one of the major department stores, and I asked if I could videotape it for a documentary production class. The event rocked my world and I told her I wanted to become more involved.
That's how it started. From there on, I did several undercover assignments for PETA--not actually obtaining a job at a facility that was abusing animals, but getting in however possible and obtaining footage. My most notable accomplishment was getting inside a pregnant mare urine (PMU) farm in North Dakota, where pregnant horses are kept in a factory farm environment to collect urine used in a drug called Premarin. Millions of women take Premarin for estrogen during menopause. The foals from these farms are typically sold for slaughter for meat to Asian countries. That footage aired in three countries and helped expose the miserable lives the horses endure for Premarin.
MFA: What was your inspiration to start Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary?
Jenny Brown: In 2002, I learned about Farm Sanctuary and became increasingly interested specifically in farmed animal issues. It was a visit to Farm Sanctuary and meeting Gene Baur that led to my undercover assignment to film downed animals--animals too sick or injured to stand up on their own, who are often left to linger for days until a slaughter-bound truck arrives--at various "livestock" stockyards in Texas. That visit changed my life.
Weeks after that trip, I started the biggest job of my professional film career: co-producing and directing an hour-long documentary for Discovery Channel. During the job, I realized that my heart was no longer in the work. I was engulfed by my despair about the abuse of farmed animals, so I packed up my bags and went to work for Farm Sanctuary--learning all that I could about the care of rescued farmed animals and what it takes to operate a sanctuary.
I worked there for almost a year and left with a heap of knowledge under my belt, and the ambition to start a sanctuary of my own. Months later, Doug Abel and I bought a property in Woodstock and built the entire place from the ground up. Farm Sanctuary knew this was ultimately my goal, and in exchange for the hands-on education they gave me, Doug and I work on a number of videos pro bono to help with their fundraising and education efforts.
MFA: What situations do most of Woodstock's animals come from?
Jenny Brown: Many of our animals come from the streets of New York City because of the presence of over 100 "live-kill" markets throughout the five boroughs. Most of these markets are storefront businesses that cater to various cultures and religions and aren't even recognizable as slaughterhouses. You can literally walk in and choose a chicken, turkey, goat, lamb, or calf and wait for them to be slaughtered and butchered. Many animals escape when being loaded in from farms and are picked up by Animal Care and Control or the ASPCA--and Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary is here to accept them. Others come from hoarding or neglect cases and some are escapees from well-known slaughterhouses who make the news and are spared due to public outcry. For those we don't have room for, we work diligently to find loving homes for them.
MFA: Tell us about your new book The Lucky Ones.
Jenny Brown: I was approached by several literary agents after a big story appeared in the New York Times about myself and a little goat named Albie, who was found in a park in NYC. I have an artificial leg below my right knee and I was having a leg made for little Albie, who had to have his leg amputated due to a terrible bone infection that could not be treated. That story sparked a lot of media attention and support from around the world, as well as a book deal!
People are inspired by my personal story of growing up in Louisville, KY, in a conservative Southern Baptist family that ate a lot of animals, my personal transformation to veganism, leaving a lucrative and sought-after career in film, my undercover work, and founding a sanctuary for farmed animals. That seems pretty cool, right? The Lucky Ones is a memoir with a mission: writing the book with my friend and fellow activist Gretchen Primack allowed me to share my knowledge and firsthand interaction with farmed animals, and to share my perspective on the morality of our eating habits. I really put myself out there personally--even including a photo of myself at 16 in my McDonald's uniform.
My hope is that my story of overcoming adversity as a bald and skinny one-legged cancer kid and finding my passion in helping the voiceless among us will inspire others to re-examine their views of farmed animals and see them as the sentient beings they are. Of course, the ultimate goal is to turn everyone who reads it vegan. I'll shamelessly just put that out there. My fight is not just against factory farming--it's against animal agriculture period.
MFA: Undercover investigations are crucial to expose animal abuse. What was the most challenging aspect of being an undercover investigator?
Jenny Brown: Getting access and getting over my nerves! Ultimately, the biggest challenge was seeing the misery that animals were enduring and not being able to help those individuals directly. I wanted to free them all--as any animal lover would--but I knew that by filming the abuse, others could bear witness to the mistreatment and that would help more animals through awareness.
MFA: In The Lucky Ones, you reveal what has been an incredibly busy and constantly changing life. What is next for you?
Jenny Brown: I will always work to change the way our society views and treats farmed animals. Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary not only rescues farmed animals in need--we also advocate on their behalf through educational tours and outreach events. Given our location, hundreds of people come through our doors to see and learn more about farmed animals. We have the unique opportunity to introduce the public to happy, socialized animals who love attention and affection.
Most people have never met a pig or a cow or a chicken, much less ones with names who are living in a loving, respectful environment. Here, when you meet Andy the pig and give him a big ol' belly scratch, people learn how others just like Andy are living and dying before becoming bacon. The majority of our society has never been in contact with the animals they only know as food, much less looked into their eyes and put a face to their food. We try to show them that these animals are all someones, not somethings. We are on the front lines of activism and this is our chosen path of advocacy because it is very effective. Plus, we get to be around the animals we're fighting for on a daily basis. We love them dearly!
Click here to purchase your copy of The Lucky Ones today.
To learn more about making the transition to a kind and compassionate vegan lifestyle, visit ChooseVeg.com.