Paul Shapiro presents: Animal News You Can Use! »
It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use! Yay!
First, some good news: A bill (H.R. 3798) was introduced in the Congress this week to ban barren battery cages for laying hens, ban starvation molting, require egg producers to label “eggs from caged hens” on their cartons, and more. You can see a joint statement from major animal protection organizations on why they support this bill, and a joint statement from nearly all of the agribusiness trade groups on why they oppose it. Who would you side with?
I was on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday talking about the above effort to help laying hens. Check it out.
Some bad news: The U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down portions of a law passed in California shortly after HSUS’s landmark Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant investigation (which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history). While federal regulations still prohibit the slaughter of adult downer cattle for human consumption, the parts of California’s law prohibiting slaughtering other downer animals are no longer in effect.
Back to good news: Get a coffin, since Florida’s “ag-gag” legislation is now officially dead. However, Iowa is still debating its whistle-blower suppression bill, and similar bills are still pending in other states.
Time has a compelling online video about undercover investigations and these ag-gag bills that you won’t want to miss.
Video of the week: Ever try to teach a pig to sit? Here you go.
Say hello to the cruelty of the egg industry. Canadians for Ethical Treatment of Food Animals (CETFA) documented the lives of 22,500 egg-laying hens at one facility in Canada. You’d think that would take a long time but guess what! It’s only 13 months. After that, the hens’ egg-laying declines and they get sent to slaughter. Yeah, eggs are super vegetarian. Here’s the story:
The hens’ entire lives were carefully recorded from the first moment they were overloaded into the battery cages to their brutal catching 13 months later and their transport to slaughter.
What we learned during this investigation was shocking. Not only was the suffering of the animals much worse than we ever imagined, the absolute filth of the eggs was sickening. In particular, many of the eggs were laid directly in contact with excrement without a protective hard shell because the hens were too calcium-depleted to provide one. Yet, these dirty eggs were collected and sold to the liquid egg carton industry and as bulk liquid eggs to a large cake manufacturing company.
To learn more about what’s really behind the eggs we buy, please visit our new website Get Cracking Cruelty Exposed.
Meanwhile, an estimated 98 percent of Canada’s egg-laying hens are kept in battery cages. Fucking awesome.
Rooster kills cockfighter »
No, for real. So many jokes. SO MANY JOKES. I think it goes without saying that if you play with fire—roosters who have had razor blades attached to their feet—you’re gonna get burned—your throat will be slit by said rooster. How very sad for everyone involved. Don’t fuck with roosters, people! They be crazy! Just leave them alone and let them do their crazy cock-a-doodle-DOO thang!
[Thanks to Vegan.com for the tip; photo via Animal Place, where they currently have adorable adoptable hens!]
Yo Washington state! Your turn to ban battery cages! »
In more excellent news, the awesome Humane Society of the United States and the awesome Farm Sanctuary have introduced a ballot initiative in Washington state that will ban battery cages and the sale of battery eggs by 2018. Tell everyone you know in Washington State what’s up and that they need to get involved so we can get those torture-devices abolished pronto!
End goal: Adorable chickens will run free and I will be allowed to cuddle all of them. JOKE! But really, what a world that would be.
[photo of rescued hens at Animal Place! And you can totally adopt them DO IT!]
Help house the hens of Harvest Home! »
Harvest Home Sanctuary has 50 rescued hens whose enclosure needs big repairs before the seasonal cold arrives. They estimate these repairs will cost $1,000, and in order to raise those funds they’ve initiated a campaign on Facebook.
Five days in, and they’ve raised just over $400—not enough, you guys! Harvest Home is great: they care for 175 animals on two acres, including the buns rescued by the House Rabbit Society, and they do it all with donations and volunteers. Can you give a few dollars to keep their hens warm and safe this winter? Chickens may look eerily similar to dinosaurs, but they’re much more delicate, and need a house for snuggling. So come on already and help them get their house!
Farmers markets, consumer warnings and political scandal in your egg-recall update! »
The Humane Society wants us to know that eggs from the farmers market can come from hens treated just as terribly as hens that supply eggs for supermarkets. Many of you are probably like, “duh,” but before I became vegan, I was unaware of this sort of thing. I even assumed “organic” automatically meant humane! But it’s just not so. Side note: that was actually why I initially became vegan, because if you don’t go directly to the farm, you just don’t know how the animals are treated. But I can’t be running around on farms everyday just so I can eat omelets! I’ve got work to do and dance moves to perfect!
Last week, the Humane Society sent letters to California’s farmers markets asking them to forbid the sale of eggs from caged hens: “To increase food safety, improve animal welfare, and to meet the expectations of their consumers, we hope California’s farmers markets will stop allowing their well-earned ‘halo effect’ to extend to companies and products that don’t deserve it.” LGBT Compassion regularly protests the live-chicken vendors at Heart of the City Farmers Market—did you know that these hens aren’t protected by California’s poultry slaughter laws?
Of course cage-free doesn’t necessarily mean the hen can go outside or anything silly like that, but they generally* do have enough room to spread their wings and actually move in general. And as the Humane Society points out, “cage-free” also means safer, according to the last 10 studies on the subject.
In other egg-recall news, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand says consumer notification systems in food-recalls are plain janky. She says it’s imperative for their health that people get up-to-date information and they should be notified within 24 hours of any recall. I’m going to have to cosign this movement as I was talking to friends just last weekend who had heard jackshit about the egg recall. Dang it! I love most of my friends! I don’t want them to die from Salmonella!
Does anyone else remember the E. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006? When I went to Whole Foods around then, every single bag of spinach had an E. coli warning—have they done that with the eggs? I don’t know, I don’t buy eggs, but I doubt it. And you know why? Politics!
That’s right, in the world of food safety, corruption abounds. A survey released yesterday by the Union of Concerned Scientists showed that almost half of the scientists and inspectors at the federal agencies in charge of food safety say big business and congress has interfered in their work. This was a problem under the Bush administration and apparently there’s been little improvement under Obama. From the LA Times:
"What we found is that action is needed to curtail interference in science, both political and that driven by the private sector," said Francesca Grifo, director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "We have two very different agencies giving very identical responses, and this suggests the need for broad reform."
Inspectors responding to the survey reported pressure from their own agencies to make problems disappear and to help offending companies remain open even when there are clear violations. So basically, we’re screwed! Business over safety, that’s the American way.
Speaking of business and corruption, Grist had a good piece yesterday about the crazy egg empire of Jack DeCoster. DeCoster owns Wright County Egg, one of the egg factories subject to the recall, and according to Grist writer Tom Philpott, he’s “one of the most reviled figures in industrial agriculture.” DeCoster views violating food safety laws as no big deal, and paying fines as another part of doing business. OMG this guy rules! Wright County Egg is only the ninth-largest egg producer in the U.S. BUT! DeCoster may very well be numero uno of the egg market! BUT! It’s very confusing! Philpott tries to get to the bottom of it:
[There are] four large egg producers—DeCoster Family Farms (Wright County Egg), Hillandale Farms, Ohio Fresh Eggs, and Quality Eggs of Maine—which [are] controlled by or have extremely intimate links with Jack DeCoster. The Cal-Maine list of the largest U.S. egg producers puts the hen flocks of DeCoster Family Farms, Hillandale, and Ohio Fresh at 9 million, 14 million, and 7.6 million, respectively. It doesn’t list Quality Egg of Maine, but the Boston Globe says it keeps 5 million hens…. [T]hat amounts 35.6 million hens under management by companies owned by or tightly linked with DeCoster—more than 10 percent of the nation’s total flock (340 million).
Philpott is not done yet but I’ll keep you updated. God bless his tireless soul!
I know our vegan readers don’t buy eggs, but many of our friends and loved ones do. One thing we can do is get them hip to the farmers market jive and tell them to always ask egg vendors if the hens are cage-free, and to ask farmers market organizers if they allow eggs from caged hens. I find that even when omnivores don’t care how animals are treated, many of them are über-scared of food-borne illnesses so the increased danger caused by small cages is a good thing to make them aware of. Everybody now: BABY STEPS!
*This is an update. Cage-free doesn’t necessarily mean they can spread their wings or anything superfluous like that. FYI.
Harvest Home Sanctuary has a great blog post up about Tracy, an ex-battery hen. It’s touching in the crying into your keyboard type way. But also inspirational and makes you want to get really upset about shit and change things. I dunno…read it. While you’re at it, Nicholas “is that a toupé?” Kristof has a great piece up in the New York Times about abolishing battery cages. The mainstream heat behind this is building; I hope the momentum keeps up. I want a rallying cry behind the abolition of battery cages that rivals, “DONNA! MARTIN! GRADUATES!” (Happy 90210 Day, btw!). Any ideas???
Chickens in sweaters! »
Yes, chickens in motherloving sweaters! Of course it’s in the UK so they call them “jumpers” because the Brits are a culturally rich and adorable people. Sorry to pair this cute picture with a downer but this goes in the bittersweet category as they are retired battery hens; due to the horrible conditions they lived in before, they have lost lots of their feathers and now they need sweaters just to keep warm. But look at that picture! Those chickens RULE. OK, OK, that’s it! I can’t take it anymore! I think I need a purse hen. Am I allowed to have a purse hen? What?! Can I live?!
Little Hen Rescue, the organization behind this effort, is dedicated to “working with the farmers to retire these working girls into a wonderful free-range life.” They rescue and rehome these sweet but neglected hens, and now with the help of Monkton Elm Garden and Pet Centre (“centre,” adorable!), they are improving the chickens’ lives a little bit more with these handsome sweaters.
Guess what everybody?! YOU TOO can make hen jumpers for Little Hen Rescue! You can get the knitting pattern from the Monkton Elm site. Also, the Little Hen site has a fleece version for those of us who find knitting terrifically boring.
[Image from Monkton Elm website]
A little Vegansaurus post-Prop. 2 activism! ow! »
Hello awesome Vegansaurus readers! Here is a chance to do some great animal activism from the comfort of your own couch. Or if you’re like us, bed. We are total lazy-asses.
In the wake of Prop 2, which outlawed the confinement of hens in battery cages, several California businesses have been moving away from using eggs from caged hens. However, Double Rainbow Ice Cream is still using eggs from hens who are confined in barren battery cages. Double Rainbow is based in San Francisco, where Prop 2 got 72 percent of the vote. Please write Double Rainbow and ask them to follow the lead of SF voters by ending the use of eggs from caged hens in their products.
Battery cage confinement is one of the worst practices in factory farming, where hens are crammed into cages so small they spend their entire lives barely able to move. Please let Double Rainbow know that you will not support this kind of animal cruelty, and that you respectfully request that they adopt a cage-free egg policy.
Letters and emails can be sent to:
Double Rainbow Gourmet Ice Creams, Inc.
275 South Van Ness Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Please let us know if you send a letter or email, so we can keep track of how many we are sending. We want to make sure to send them as many as possible!
Thanks so much for all of your hard work for the animals! And a review to come shortly today! PROMISE!