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!

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.

Supporters of Farmed Animal Cruelty Use Deceptive Tactics

Male calf in a confined veal crateA couple days ago I posted about George Carlin’s routines focusing on euphemisms and soft language. In one he says, “I don’t like words that hide the truth.” I’m guessing he’d be laughing (or cursing) in his grave at the goodie that the opponents of California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act have developed.

The Prevent of Farm Animal Cruelty Act is a California ballot measure set for the November 2008 election. If passed, it would mean a phase out of not only gestation crates (for pregnant female pigs) and veal crates (for baby male calves). But, it would also mean the end of battery cages (which are the cages that egg-laying hens, known as “battery hens,” are crammed into.), the first such measure for any state in the U.S.

According to a recent post by Humane Society of the U.S. CEO Wayne Pacelle, industrialized factory farmers and others who oppose the measure, and thus support continued extreme animal cruelty and suffering, are calling themselves “Californians for Safe Food.” Pacelle says,

Of course they can’t call themselves Industrialized Factory Farms Seeking Profits at the Expense of Animals Committee. Or the Committee for Treating Animals Like Objects. We wouldn’t expect that sort of suicidal honesty. But Californians for Safe Food? These people have no shame. Are there no limits to their duplicity?

Pacelle goes on to list some of the major contributors to the CFSF campaign, including companies that have had to pay fines to settle animal cruelty charges or for false advertising, and industries that flourish off of factory farming methods.

If you look on the website of Californians for Safe Food, you’ll see a “fact sheet” with information such as that a “special interest group has undertaken a nationwide effort to ban current safe and humane farming practices, particularly regarding housing requirements for egg-laying hens.” (emphasis mine) (I love the “housing requirements part. Nice touch. Housing. As if most of the egg-laying hens in the U.S. don’t spend their horrific existence in a space about the size of a standard piece of typing paper.)

They also state that the measure would “jeopardize food safety and public health, effectively eliminate local, California-grown eggs, lead to consumer reliance on eggs shipped from other states and Mexico, and drive up grocery and restaurant prices.” Then it just gets sillier and more deceptive.

Unfortunately, people tend to freak out when they hear “safety” and “higher prices” and “someone’s trying to take something away from you without your consent” without doing any investigating or critical thinking. It’s sad that industries are so bent on maintaining the status quo, even when it’s contrary to what most citizens want. As Ruth Harrison said:

“If one person is unkind to an animal it is considered to be cruelty, but where a lot of people are unkind to animals, especially in the name of commerce, the cruelty is condoned and, once sums of money are at stake, will be defended to the last by otherwise intelligent people.”

The Humane Society of the U.S. has started a $20/20 campaign to help raise funds to counteract the enormous amount already acquired by those who support animal cruelty ($20 to help save 20 million lives). If you feel called to help financially with the campaign, you can make a donation on HSUS’s site. I know I’ll be making one.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.

(Thanks to Vegan.com for the heads up about this news.)