Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use!  »

It’s Paul Shapiro’s weekly dose of all things animals! Yes!

It’s almost Thanksgiving…Wondering how most turkeys are treated? Check out the newly-released Mercy For Animals investigation documenting appalling abuse of turkeys raised for Butterball.

(You may also want to take a look at this week’s NY Times’ major feature on vegetarian Thanksgvings.)

On that note, Los Angeles became the biggest city in the country to official start promoting Meatless Mondays. (Even the Today Show covered it!)

Finally, if you’ve got some time and want a fascinating read, here’s Washington Monthly’s new feature, “Obama’s Game of Chicken.” As they bill the story: “The untold story of how the administration tried to stand up to big agricultural companies on behalf of independent farmers, and lost.”

Video of the week: Not quite the lion and lamb laying down, but at least the dog and the fawn…


Mercy For Animals makes history! First-ever cruelty to animals FELONY conviction!  »

MFA made history last week, when Brian Douglas of Butterball factory farm pleaded guilty to felonly cruelty to animals on August 28th. It was the MFA undercover investigation at the farm in Hoke County, North Carolina that sparked what is believed to be the “first-ever felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Douglas will serve 30 days in jail, followed by 42 months of probation, for the horrifying violence towards the butterball turkeys he executed. On August 31, Butterball employee Rueben Mendoza also pleaded guilty to felony identity theft and misdemenor cruelty to animals. He faces a “consolidated sentence of a minimum of 8 months, and a maximum of 19 months, in state prison”.

I can’t watch the undercover video at the Butterball Factory farm. But it’s up on MFA’s site if you can stomach it. To show my advocacy however, I like to sport my MFA “Not Cool” t-shirt around town. If you get one too, we’ll be twins! We can start a club! Maybe wear them to Vegan Drinks so we’ll know to schmooze with each other? If the merch doesn’t appeal to you, you can always donate to the cause as well! Man, I love Mercy for Animals, and the incredibly difficult work they do on the behalf of animal rights.

The little chick in the stomach is saying “Not Cool”. I love, love, love it!

Of course there always needs to be a naysayer, doesn’t there? plays that role well with this article which I think screams, THANKS A LOT CAPTAIN OBVIOUS AND BY THE WAY, MFA IS A VEGAN NON-PROFIT. Rachel touched upon all the same points, about the injustices that the workers must face on on these farms, back in Febuary. I think she covered this issue in a much more compassionate and well-informed (I’m not biased!) way. Thoughts? I noticed there’s nowhere to leave comments, but that might be a good thing considering the comments section usually makes me want to throw myself off a building sick.

ANYWAY. No more turkeys for holiday feasts, or sandwiches OR ANYTHING. Why eat an animal when we can have delicious vegan turkeys???? RAINBOW please order more this season; I did not get one last year and it gave me a case of the sads. Actually no, because I made this delectable tart, but I want both this year!

[Photos via]


Butterball Turkey: The Abu Ghraib Of Animal Abuse  »

Painting by Fernando Botetro via this Italian website

Congrats to Mercy For Animals: an undercover video of turkey abuse they took in December led to the arrest last week of seven people, including a North Carolina government official. Five of those arrested have been charged with animal cruelty. I don’t see any need to ruin my day with the video evidence of their crimes, but you an check it out at

This is awesome, right? Some justice, finally? Except it feels really icky to me. Like one of the worst incidents of the last decade: how our country dealt with the human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib.

In Iraq, as in NC, abuse was revealed in graphic images, and outrage ensued. People were punished. Yet I fear that in this case, just as with Abu Ghraib, the wrong people are getting scapegoated and the real problem is sliding by unexamined and unsolved.

Though the names and even addresses of the workers arrested are public, I could find no info about who they are. Their names are Hispanic. I suspect they are among the low-paid, over-worked, probably-miserable workers with the shitty job of actually witnessing the atrocious way meat is produced in this country. I suspect that their alleged cruelty, while not excusable, is a symptom of a systemic ill, not evidence of their personal moral failings. I would say the same about the abuses at Abu Ghraib. (If you disagree with me on that one, please watch the spectacular Errol Morris documentary “Standard Operating Procedure,” then let’s talk).

And I fear that just as with Abu Ghraib, the little people will be punished, while the rich, powerful people whose decisions pushed them to atrocity will continue to be rich, powerful, and free from meaningful consequence (see Bush, Cheney, John Yoo, et al).

Butterball says, “Animal care and well-being are central to who Butterball is as a company, and we are committed to the care and well-being of our turkey flocks. We are closely re-evaluating our animal care and well-being policies and practices and have already established several new initiatives.”

They pretend this is a problem that can be solved with more training and better HR. Bullshit. This cruelty is built into the system, and the only solution is radical change. (Forcing factory farms to open their doors to the public? Outlawing cruel practices at the federal level, since apparently states aren’t allowed to do that? Making producers bear the true cost of the pollution and social ills they cause? Taking all kids on field trips to the farms that actually make their food?)

Torture thrives when the setting is psychopathic. Pretending that punishing the guy on the bottom will fix anything? That too is irrational. Human rights, animal rights, empathy, kindness, and love: these die and wilt in a war zone. Do we really want it to be that bad just for the sake of club sandwiches?


Animal News You Can Use: a Paul Shapiro production!  »

It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use! Yay!

Like good news? Here you go: Americans are eating 12 percent less meat than we were just five years ago. For real. Interesting takes by Mark Bittman and Forbes on the issue.

Not so good news: Six states—Florida, New York, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Nebraska—now have “ag-gag” bills pending in their legislatures; the bills seek to criminalize whistle-blowing at factory farms. See what Wayne Pacelle’s got to say on the topic.

In better news, did you see that Martha Stewart’s speaking out for farm animals? Check her out.

Back to bad news: In a sickening display of the foxes guarding the hen house, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture leaked confidential info about an upcoming cruelty raid on a Butterball turkey facility in advance. Weak.

And finally, some really good news: Video of the week: Rat and cat sharing. I’ve seriously watched this thing like five times now. It’s just amazing.


Where did your holiday dead turkey come from? Mercy for Animals knows! Tastes so good with extra side of abuse! Yum, yum. Oh, and if your turkey wasn’t Butterball, just know that this abuse happens anywhere animals are treated like a commodity. I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, just like pretty much everything I say does. Now, I’m gonna go eat a veggie dog and cry in a corner. Now, I’m gonna go eat a veggie dog and cry in a corner.

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