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.

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.

WebSpotlight: Oil Imports Map

Energy consumption and policy are on many minds, and while President Obama’s recent decision to allow states to determine auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards may eventually help decrease U.S. dependence in “foreign oil,” we still have an insatiable appetite for that fossil fuel.

Knowing about the history and patterns of our oil imports can help us shape our future choices. The Rocky Mountain Institute has created an Oil Imports Map, which shows “how much oil the U.S. has imported, from where, and how much we have spent every month since 1973.”

The map allows us to see from whom we’ve gotten our oil and how much we’ve spent, and it connects our imports to major events such as Hurricane Katrina and the oil crises of the 1970s. It also makes it possible to pay attention to the history of our foreign relationships and how that has affected oil imports.

It’s an interesting and useful tool that can help expand our knowledge and perspective of energy policy and of the impact of our own choices.

~ Marsha

h/t to Worldchanging.

Don’t Sweat(shop) the Small Stuff

While our children are all nestled in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing about, and they’re looking forward to acquiring a whole slew of new stuff that they’ll be talking about incessantly with their friends for weeks after winter break is over, it’s an excellent time to encourage them to think critically about all that new stuff — much of which quite possibly came from sweatshops.

Several websites address issues of sweatshops, child labor and fair trade. Here are a few that might be useful for helping your family explore these issues.

Co-op America’s Ending Sweatshops Program provides information about sweatshops, tips for avoiding sweatshop products, and a sweat-free products guide.

Global Exchange Sweatfree Communities offers information about sweatshop issues, resources and ideas. Their site also has a Sweatfree Toolkit for launching a sweatfree campaign in your community.

The focus of the National Labor Committee is “putting a human face on the global economy.” At their website you’ll find personal accounts, photos, news and information about worker conditions around the world.

The Smithsonian Institution currently has an online exhibit about the history of sweatshops in the U.S. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: A History of American Sweatshops, 1820 – present, provides a variety of information and perspectives.

If you’re interested in learning more about sweatshop issues and want to become active in promoting sweatshop-free products and communities, Sweatfree Communities has campaign materials and other information to help citizens create sweatfree communities, as well as a variety of educational resources. They also offer a “Shop with a Conscience Guide.”

Sweatfree also has announced its 2008 Sweatshop Hall of Shame, focusing on corporations that have “consistently flouted labor laws and basic worker protections.” This year’s “honorees” are American Eagle, Carrefour, Cintas, Dickies, Disney, Guess, Hanes, New Era, Speedo, Tommy Hilfiger, Toys “R” Us, and Wal-Mart.

And, for those interested in taking up legislative action against sweatshops, the NLC has been tracking anti-sweatshop legislation in the U.S. Congress. If the Decent Working Conditions and Fair Competition Act passes, it would “prohibit the import, export or sale of sweatshop goods in the U.S.” The bill was first introduced at the beginning of 2007. So far, about 26 senators and 175 representatives have signed as co-sponsors to the legislation. Students and others are invited to write their representatives to ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor (or to thank them for being one), as well as to encourage other organizations to endorse this legislation.

And, while you’re talking to your own kids about sweatshop products, be sure to take at look at your own goodies, too, and strive to make choices that can ensure that everyone — regardless of where they live — can have a happy holiday (and a happy, healthy life).

~ Marsha

Originally published in the December 2008 Humane Edge E-News.

Image courtesy of cambodia4kidsorg.

Are You Helping the World Burn or Putting Out the Fire? Derek Jensen Goes Graphic (Novel)

asworldburnsIn his two-volume book, Endgame, Derrick Jensen boldly states that nothing less than the dismantling of civilization will bring the change we need to live harmoniously and sustainably. He notes that change is going to come violently; the amount of violence depends upon how soon and how willing people are to take major action. A similar theme finds its way into Jensen’s new-ish (2007) graphic novel, As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial.

Written by Jensen and illustrated by Stephanie McMillan, As the World Burns uses satire, quite a bit of violence and a slew of human, animal and alien characters to point out that humans are never going to be able to “save the planet” by making a few small changes in their individual habits. Real change must also come from government and industry, both of which currently have little or no incentive to do much of anything differently. While the government, corporations and aliens are hell-bent on consuming the planet and increasing profits, animals and environmentalists are working to stop the destruction. The ultimate last-ditch strategy of the whole of nature and the humans who are willing to fight for it is to band together and try to stop the aliens, who have been given the go-ahead to completely trash the planet.

The book is a strange mix of humor and anger and clearly advocates using whatever means are necessary to stop the destruction (just as those doing the destroying are using whatever means they have to increase profits). It’s certainly not an uplifting, inspiring read, but it certainly made me think more deeply about the choices I make and how I spend my time.

While I completely agree that it’s going to take major individual and systemic transformation to create a humane, sustainable world, I can’t see us successfully getting there through violent means.

Give it a read and see what you think.

~ Marsha

Peter Singer on Animal Rights, Poverty, Food Choices

petersingerI’m a little slow in pointing it out, but in case you haven’t already heard, there was an interesting commentary in Newsweek by Peter Singer recently. “The Rights of Animals” looks at the current and potentially future states of the rights and treatment of animals (mainly through the lens of Western countries). Here’s a nice tidbit:

“The notion that we should recognize the rights of animals living among us rests on a firm ethical foundation. A sentient being is sentient regardless of which species it happens to belong to. Pain is pain, whether it is the pain of a cat, a dog, a pig or a child.

“Consider how widely humans differ in their mental abilities. A typical adult can reason, make moral choices and do many things (like voting) that animals obviously cannot do. But not all human beings are capable of reason, not all are morally responsible and not all are capable of voting. And yet we go out of our way to claim that all humans have rights. What, then, justifies our withholding at least some rights from nonhuman animals? Defenders of the status quo have found that a difficult question to answer.”

Singer also has a new book coming out in March. The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty argues that our current methods for dealing with poverty are (obviously) failing terribly, and he outlines a plan for what citizens can do to help truly make a positive difference.

By the way, if you haven’t yet read Animal Liberation or The Ethics of What We Eat, I highly recommend both. Animal Liberation was one of the major springboards for the modern animal rights movement. It outlines Singer’s arguments and views regarding animal rights and provides a detailed overview of what’s involved in animal experimentation and in the factory farming and slaughter of animals. Singer provides this information in a factual, unemotional manner that makes what’s happened to the animals all the more horrifying. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (The original edition was called The Way We Eat), which he wrote with activist Jim Mason, outlines the impacts of our food choices on people, animals and the planet.

(Irrelevant tidbit: Although I don’t agree with some of what Singer says, enough of his views resonate with me that we named our cat after him :))

For a bit more about Peter Singer, check out:

His website

His Wikipedia bio

~ Marsha

Must See TV for MOGOers

As a former TV addict and now proud TV-free household member, there’s not much on the telly anymore that could hold my attention, or that I’d consider worth watching. However, I do hear about the occasional show that I wish I could tune into. If you have cable television, here’s some MOGO-friendly programming you might want to check out:

4Real, which airs on CW (in the U.S. – and other channels around the world), is a series that takes celebrity guests around the world to connect with youth who are making a positive difference in their communities. In the first season, episodes included Joaquin Phoenix learning about the Yawanawa tribe of the Amazon; Casey Affleck traveling to a Pawnee reservation where Native youth are empowered through hip hop and art; Cameron Diaz traveling to Peru to meet a special medicine man; and Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers) learning about a project to provide medical care and health education in Haiti. You can see episode trailers, and connect with the 4Real community online.

Animal Planet is hosting the controversial and action-packed Whale Wars, a 7-episode series featuring activist Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd crew, as they try to protect whales from being killed by Japanese whalers. Watson and the Sea Shepherd crew are well-known for using aggressive tactics to try to stop what some deem illegal whaling operations.

Billing itself as the “first and only 24-hour eco-lifestyle television network,” Planet Green is an eco-lite channel that offers shows mostly on building and living green, with, of course, the ever-present celebrity-focused shows, as well as reality tv-type formats (such as Wa$ted, in which 10 households are put through a “green boot camp” for cash prizes). Most of the shows don’t appeal to me, but since I’m originally from Kansas, the show Greensburg: A Story of a Community Rebuilding intrigues me. The programming on this channel isn’t world-changing stuff, but it has the potential to inspire others to take small steps toward a more humane world.

The Sundance Channel offers The Green, a “programming destination devoted entirely to the environment.” The Green offers several mini-series on green issues (some of which are available for viewing online), as well as mini-videos, podcasts, documentaries and more. The Sundance Channel also offers The Good Fight, a series focused on environmental justice. The series offers interviews and information, either in webisodes or interview formats. Topics include Wangari Maathai’s work in the Greenbelt Movement, how environmental issues impact different communities, green jobs and economy, food security and justice, and energy independence. Sundance has a new series coming soon called Eco-Trip, which will offer a “thorough investigation of all the work that goes into making, shipping, selling and finally, using a product.”

Even if you’re like me and don’t own a television, there are usually some good tidbits on the companion websites, from clips of the shows to forums to articles and other goodies.

If you know of some Must See TV for MOGOers, be sure to share in the comments!

~ Marsha