Get a Taste of Farmed Animal Lives with Farm Sanctuary’s Virtual Experience

fsvirtualexperienceWhat’s it like for animals raised in factory farms, and how does that compare to their natural lives? Farm Sanctuary, a farmed animal education and advocacy organization, recently launched Virtual Experience, which is designed to teach the public about factory farming conditions. People can also learn about some of the rescued animals that live out their lives in peace on one of FS’s two sanctuaries.

Visitors to the virtual experience take on the role of a photographer who is taking pictures of animals in factory farms and at the sanctuary. Clicking on various images on the screen reveals quotes, factoids, images and video, providing information.

The factory farming section of the exhibit includes graphic photos and video, so it’s not for all ages. However, the Sanctuary part of the exhibit will help connect anyone with rescued animals.

Check it out and share it with others.

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!

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

Animal Visuals Offers Glimpse into Lives and Deaths of Farmed Animals

The principal at Whitwell Middle School in rural Tennessee knew that it was difficult for students to envision just how many 6 million is when they were studying the Holocaust (the number of people who were exterminated by the Nazis), so they decided to collect paperclips (one clip to represent one person) to help create a visual representation (see the documentary about the project it became).

Likewise, when we ask people to think about the number of land animals killed for food in the U.S. each year – more than 10 billion – the number alone can be a poor representative of the depth and breadth of suffering and death involved. Recently I found a powerful little visual representation of the number of chickens (9 billion), pigs (116 million) and cows (35 million) killed in the U.S. for food in 2008.

Created by Mark Middleton, founder of Animal Visuals, the brief video shows little animated cow, pig and chicken carcasses sliding along a slaughterhouse line at the average rate of slaughter (such as 287 per second for chickens). The data for the animation comes directly from the USDA.

When you sit and watch all those bodies swinging (and sometimes kicking) along the lines across your screen, and note the counter tallying up the number of cows, pigs and chickens who are being killed during those brief seconds that you’re watching, it’s a visceral image, without being too graphic, so it’s a great little too to share with others. (There’s also a link to “stop” the killing lines and find out about vegan resources.)

Middleton’s goal with Animal Visuals is to “provide compelling visuals and interactive media to empower animal advocates, educate the public, and expose the injustices of animal exploitation.”

He has also created a Virtual Battery Cage, which offers a glimpse into what a battery hen endures while in her cage. The “virtualization” also includes sound and factoids. Although I’m glad this tool exists, I don’t think it’s as strong as the slaughter animation; but, it’s still a new and different perspective.

Look for Middleton to create more such tools in the future.

Mark Your Calendar: Jeffrey Masson at Powell’s April 3

faceonyourplateWell-known for diving into the depths of animal emotions in books such as Dogs Never Lie About Love, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, and The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has a new book out this month that focuses on who ends up on our plates and the consequences of eating them.  Heralded by one reviewer as “Intelligent, absorbing and very easy to digest, this is an essential book for any person who thinks and/or eats,” The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food (W.W. Norton, 2009) examines the health, environmental and spiritual impacts of industrial agriculture and of eating animals.

Masson will be appearing at Powell’s (1005 W. Burnside) here in Portland, Oregon  on Friday, April 3, at 7:30 pm. Here’s his current book tour schedule.

Celebrating 10 Vegan Years By Biking 600 Miles for Farmed Animals

People honor anniversaries in different ways.  Some throw parties, some go on trips, some buy flowers, some turn within and meditate, some drink copious amounts of liquor….and some ride their bikes 600 miles.

Herbivore Clothing Company owner Josh Hooten has decided to memorialize his 10 years of being vegan by biking from Portland, Oregon to the Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California. Josh is recording his training and trip on his blog, Bike Ride for Animals. He’s also hoping to raise $10,000 for Farm Sanctuary. Josh says:

“I’m going to ride my bike 600 miles to help rescued farm animals. The first week of May, 2009, I will leave Portland, Oregon for Tillamook, then ride South to Orland, California. My final destination is Farm Sanctuary, one of my favorite animal advocacy organizations.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the farm several times and I always leave inspired. Getting to meet the animals and the people who care for them is a very powerful experience. I’m raising money on this ride to help Farm Sanctuary provide that experience to others.”

If you’re interested in supporting Josh’s efforts, you can give a donation; you can also spread the word if you have a Facebook account by becoming a fan.

If you’re not familiar with Farm Sanctuary, they are an amazing non-profit organization that focuses on rescue, legislation, education and advocacy for farmed animals. They have  locations in Orland and in Watkins Glen, New York (I went there for the first time last summer and couldn’t get enough pig and cow snuggles.)

In addition to their website, they’ve recently debuted several blogs, including:

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Josh’s Facebook page.