7 Simple Things You Can Do to Show Respect for Chickens

chickensdayToday, May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day, a campaign developed by United Poultry Concerns to celebrate chickens (as friends, not food) and to bring attention to the atrocious treatment that chickens suffer in farming operations.

Here are 7 simple things that you can do to show your respect for chickens:

  1. Don’t eat them. Chickens, especially those on factory farms, endure horrific suffering, just for us to enjoy a fleeting taste on our tongues. Even those raised “humanely” usually experience enormous stress and suffering in their transport and slaughter — some are even boiled alive. Learn more about the conditions that these beings endure and ask yourself whether you’d want to experience the same. If not, then you have a responsibility to stop contributing to their suffering and death. Find out more:
  2. Take the egg-free pledge. May is National Egg Month, and egg producers are working hard to convince citizens to eat more eggs. Instead, take the egg-free pledge and choose egg-free products for at least 30 days. Battery hens (those hens who are used to lay eggs for human consumption) endure terribly inhumane conditions, and male “battery chicks” are killed immediately, since they are of no use to the industry, usually by slowly suffocating them or by grinding them up alive.
  3. Question your assumptions. Many people think of chickens as stupid animals, but that’s completely untrue. When we take the time to study what chickens are really like, the degree of their intelligence and the complexity of their lives emerges. Check out:
  4. Learn more about them. In addition to learning about how they’re treated for food, learn about the natural lives of chickens. For example, did you know…
    • Building a private nest is so important to chickens that they’ll go without food and water, if they have to, to instead be able to use a nest.
    • They often talk to their babies before they’ve been born.
    • They take dust baths instead of showers.
    • They can see light in the morning almost an hour before humans can.
    • At night, they like to fly up to safe places in trees to sleep.
    • They recognize their names (if given one by humans) and the faces of others.
    • Chicken moms are very courageous and will go to great lengths to protect their babies.
    • They are intelligent and good problem solvers. They can understand that, even when an object is taken away, it still exists.
    • They have separate alarm calls, depending on whether a predator is traveling by land or air.

    Find out more through useful resources, such as:

    • The Natural History of the Chicken (from PBS)
    • Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good by Jonathan Balcombe
    • The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals by Jeffrey Masson
    • The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery
  5. Watch your language. Using words and phrases such as “bird brain,” “running around like a chicken with his head cut off,” to “chicken out,” and so on, spread disrespect for and misinformation about chickens. Think consciously about the language that you use.
  6. Share with others. Use your knowledge about chickens and the way they’re treated to compassionately educate others. Point adults to websites and videos. Share age-appropriate activities and resources with kids (suggested ones here, here and here). Don’t just blast everyone with horrifying accounts; share positive and uplifting stories. Help them get to know chickens and then encourage them to take positive action to help end their suffering and exploitation.
  7. Meet a chicken or two. It’s much more difficult to make judgments and assumptions about those we haven’t personally met. Take advantage of a farmed animal sanctuary near you and go and meet some chickens! Get to know them!
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Pledge to Go Cruelty-free With Your Products

I’m a week late for WWAIL (World Week for Animals in Laboratories), but it’s always a good time to choose to go cruelty-free for your health, beauty and household products. Many people don’t realize that many of the shampoos, cosmetics, cleaners, soaps and more out there — and the ingredients in them — are tested on animals. And, unlike tests for new drugs, animal tests for these kinds of products are NOT required.

I came across this little video from The American Anti-Vivisection Society (thanks, Stephanie, for the heads up) that sums it up nicely:

The tests are cruel;

The results aren’t reliable;

There are plenty of terrific cruelty-free products available to choose from (many of which are also eco-friendly).

If you’re wanting to go cruelty-free with your products, you can sign the pledge to “take the leap” to cruelty-free products and find a cruelty-free shopping guide (note that not all products on this list are vegan) that lists cosmetics, personal care products, household products and even companion animal care products.

With all the plethora of products out there, there isn’t a single reason that anyone should still be using products tested on animals.

You can also go steps further and:

  • Write to the companies that still test on animals, asking them to choose non-animal alternatives;
  • Contact your local stores and ask them to carry cruelty-free products;
  • Encourage the stores you patronize — restaurants, groceries, hardware stores, etc. — to use only cruelty-free products (such as the soaps in the public bathrooms);
  • Leave a note with hotel managers to carry cruelty-free products;
  • Tell your friends, family and colleagues about your choice and encourage them to learn more and take the pledge themselves;
  • Write letters to editors and others to inform the public about this issue.

~ Marsha

Oregon Action Alert: Contact Your Senator to Help Address the Puppy Mill Problem

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The Humane Society of the United States just sent me an email mentioning that the Oregon House has passed H.B. 2470 to help stop puppy mills in Oregon, and the bill has now gone to the Oregon senate.

The bill would limit breeders to no more than 50 “sexually intact dogs 2 years or older,” would require minimum care standards, and would require retail pet stores to provide information about a puppy’s medical and breeding history. Here’s the text of the bill in full.

Here’s information about puppy mills from:

If you’d like to take positive action to help address the puppy mill problem in Oregon, you can call and/or email your state senator and ask them to support H.B. 2470.

~ Marsha

WebSpotlight: VegFund Helps You Serve Fabulous Vegan Food in Your Community

veganfoodYou’ve been there: the fundraising dinner to help the local humane society help companion animals; the environmental club meeting focused on helping protect wildlife; the human rights fair dedicated to eliminating oppression — all great causes working for a more compassionate, just world, and what’s on the menu? Animals.

Sometimes organizations working for a better world forget about the impact of the food we eat on people, the planet, and especially animals, so it’s great that there’s a new resource available for citizen activists.

VegFund.org helps “fund the distribution of vegan food at local events.”

If you can find an event (preferably one that wouldn’t normally have vegan food) in your community at which you can serve free vegan food, then you can apply to VegFund for possible reimbursement of your food and supply expenses. (See application details.) According to their website, VegFund grants thousands of dollars every week to people organizing vegan food at events.

If you’re someone who has cash to spare, you can also donate to VegFund, so that they can offer grants to other activists.

Image courtesy of JP Puerta via Creative Commons.

MOGO Tip: Write Right Now for a Better World

letterwriting1I have a friend who has written to legislators, corporations, and other leaders and officials since she was in high school, and she has kept a big binder of all the letters she’s written – and any responses she has received. That’s not the only citizen activism in which she has engaged, but she has certainly made sure that her voice and her views have been heard by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in power.

I’ve discovered through some of my own letter-writing to officials that issues (and better solutions to problems) I assumed they would already know about are frequently unknown to them. I’ve learned not to make assumptions about what people at any level of authority know and to do what I can to help educate, inspire and empower them…and to offer positive suggestions and praise as often as I express my concerns and complaints.

Whenever we take the time and courage to speak our piece about a MOGO world to others – including those in major decision-making roles – we help create that just, compassionate, sustainable world we seek.

Try to make it a habit to regularly write letters and emails to legislators, officials, editors and others who can help enact decisions that can bring about positive systemic change.

If the thought of writing a letter or email makes your palms all sweaty, here are a few sites with some good tips:

Let your voice be heard: Write right now! It only takes a few minutes!

~ Marsha

Earth Hour: A Vote for the Planet (But Not a Very Big One)

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On Saturday, March 28, families, businesses and organizations around the world will be turning out the lights in order to turn on support for the planet. Earth Hour is a campaign, sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund, encouraging people to turn off their lights for an hour, from 8:30 pm – 9:30 pm in their timezone, in order to bring awareness to the importance of our energy (and other environmental) choices and of the crisis issue of climate change. This year, turning off the lights is also being considered a “vote” for the earth (not turning them out is being considered a “vote” for global warming). So far the campaign has more than 2,700 cities and towns in 83 countries participating.  The goal is to get 1 billion people to “vote” by switching off their lights for that hour.

On the one hand, I think that it’s really terrific that so many people are participating in a collective action. I know the folks organizing this are completely serious about it being a major tool for positive change, and I applaud their efforts. Hopefully this worldwide event will inspire families, businesses and policy makers to commit to making significant choices that will help curb climate change and protect the planet.

But, really, the action people are taking is turning off a few lights (and using social media to encourage other people to do so). I worry that the message this sends is that all we have to do to help create a sustainable, just world is a few simple actions, like using less electricity or switching to compact fluorescent bulbs. And, while small steps are an important beginning, it’s important that people become aware that it’s going to take significant positive changes, both in our personal lives, and in society’s systems, in order to have a humane world.

Imagine if 1 billion people signed up to turn off the TV,  computer or radio and volunteer in their communities. Or to take an hour and clean up their streets. Or to take an hour and feed some hungry folks. Or, if 1 billion people agreed to stop eating animal products for 1 day. Or to shop locally. Or to write letters to their lawmakers in support of the 350 policy, or in support of an end to slavery, or any other significant topic.

I’ll be participating in Earth Hour, because I want to be supportive. But, I’ll continue to seek significant MOGO choices that can have a larger positive impact on the planet.

~ Marsha

Wanna Create a Better World? Then Get Your Facts Straight: 7 Tips for Sharing Accurate Information

factsAlex Steffen from Worldchanging wrote a great post recently about comparisons used for sustainability issues to help — usually the public — more easily grasp the consequences and impacts of various actions. As he says:

“We all see sustainability comparisons regularly: ‘…if Americans stopped buying red, round clown noses, they’d save as much energy as it takes to make all the pogo sticks used worldwide.’ These are fun. Sometimes these are clever. Unfortunately, these are also almost always completely useless….”

Steffen goes on to say that the numbers and statistics used can be awfully fuzzy and/or arbitrary, that different comparisons measure the same sorts of things in different ways, and that comparisons can be confusing.

As he says in his post:

“…in too many cases, advocates choose to measure different things in different ways in order to get to a number that supports their preferred climate action, or just see putting these sorts of statistics into the world in purely utilitarian terms: if it gets people to act, why quibble about the details?”

Steffen says that the details are definitely worth quibbling about, and I agree.

One of our most essential duties as an activist for whatever cause(s) or issue(s) is to ensure to the best of our abilities that the information we’re sharing is accurate. Once our credibility is lost, it’s lost. Here are just a few tips to consider about providing accurate information:

1. Use reliable sources and double check them. Don’t just take one organization’s word for it; check several sources. If you’re seeing facts and statistics on an advocacy website, do they cite those sources? Are those sources credible, or are they links to more advocacy sites and information? What’s the original source of that information?

2. Whenever possible use primary sources. Can you visit a factory farm yourself? Review that latest study on global warming yourself and not just skim the press release sent out by an advocacy group? Talk to a person who’s an expert on the issue in question? Find the original source for the statistic being used? Go to the source when you can.

3. Use industry and government sources when possible and appropriate. No, they’re not more likely to be accurate or credible (in fact, often the opposite), but, like it or not, the public often gives more credence to industry and government sources as being “objective” and tends to think advocacy groups are more “biased.” (Which, of course, we are.) One of the things I love about Vegan Outreach‘s literature is that they often manage to use farmed animal industry statistics and quotes to show just how horrible industrial agriculture is.

4. Never exaggerate or mislead. It can be tempting, as Steffen mentions in his post, since it’s for a good cause, but honesty and accuracy must prevail.  And, again, if you get caught telling a little white lie, your credibility is gone, and a potential future advocate is lost.

5. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.” There are so many challenges in the world, that even if you focus on one issue, there’s too much to know. Certainly it’s important to be as knowledgeable as you can, so be sure to continue to educate yourself; but, it’s okay to tell someone that you don’t know the answer to their question or assertion. People will often appreciate your honesty, and if you can point them to some credible resources that CAN answer their question, even better.

6. Tell them “Don’t take my word for it.” Invite them to explore the issue(s) themselves and do their own investigating. They’re more likely to believe what they read, see or hear with their own senses, rather than getting it second (or third) hand. We WANT to encourage critical thinking and questioning, including of what we ourselves are saying.

7. Admit when you’re wrong. Information is dynamic, and with new knowledge, facts and statistics can change. New studies may reveal new data. Or, you may have found the same statistic from three reliable sources and then subsequently discovered that all of them were mistaken. Don’t hesitate to admit if you’ve been inadvertently sharing an inaccurate piece of information or if someone you’re talking to turns out to know more about the issue than you do. Mistakes happen. Honesty and sincerity are more important than clinging to erroneous data, even if it seems to “weaken” your stance.

And, of course, it’s important to remember that not everyone responds to logic and data. Many changes of heart (and habits) aren’t made from the information on charts and graphs, but come from an awareness of the impact of our choices on others and a realization that we don’t want to cause others harm.

~ Marsha