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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming Portland Area MOGO-esque Events

Be sure to schedule these into your iPhone, Blackberry, calendar, piece of scratch paper, or whatever you use to keep track of can’t-miss events:

The most essential ones (in my opinion — but, of course, that’s ’cause I’m helping organize them) are Zoe Weil’s appearance at Powell’s on February 4, and the MOGO Workshop on Saturday, February 7. Here are some details:

Author and president of the Institute for Humane Education, Zoe Weil, is appearing at Powell’s – Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd. ) at 7:30 pm to talk about her new book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful LifeMost Good, Least Harm shows that choosing to do the most good and the least harm is personally enriching and helps to bring about a peaceful, sustainable, and humane world for all. If you care about social change issues at all (you know, like world peace, human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation — those kinds of things), be sure to attend.

Zoe is also leading an all-day MOGO (Most Good) Workshop on Saturday, February 7 here in Portland.  Creating a humane and sustainable world is not easy.  But when you live a life that deeply embodies your principles, not only do you help improve the world, you also cultivate your own inner peace and joy.  Tap into your deepest values and make choices that do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet with this terrific workshop. The regular registration fee is $110; the registration fee for students is $75; but, what’s that when this workshop could change your life and change the world?! Find out more.

Here are some other upcoming events to be sure to attend:

Internet Activism with Glenn Gaetz
Sunday, January 25, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, at PSU (Smith Memorial Union, Room 238 )
This workshop, sponsored by the Let Live Foundation, features Glenn Gaetz from Liberation B.C., who’ll be talking about topics like  “making a website, using social networking sites, e-newsletters, and other relevant online tools.” Let Live will be hosting a different topic each month, so be sure to check them out.

Why Farm Animals Matter
Tuesday, February 3, at 7:00 pm, at PSU (Smith Memorial Union, Room 101)
NW VEG, Vegans for Animal Advocacy and the Let Live Foundation are sponsoring this talk by Erin Williams, communications director for HSUS and author of the book Why Animals Matter. Erin will be talking about “the importance of making humane, sustainable food choices” and will share some of the exciting recent advancements for farmed animals in the United States.

NW VEG has some other great upcoming events, such as their new Happy Hour on Friday, January 30, their book club on Tuesday, February 10, and  their first annual Vegan Valentine’s Bake-off on Sunday, February 15. Find out more about NW VEG Events.

Also in the same vegan vein are the events sponsored by the MeetUp group Viva La Vegan. You have to be a member to enjoy all the benefits (about $6/year), but great upcoming events include the Garden Planning Primer on Saturday, January 31, and the free Ice Cream Social on Saturday, February 14Find out more and consider joining.

Know of more terrific MOGO-esque events in the Portland area? Let us know.

Enough of This Either/Or Nonsense: Let’s Have Some Win/Win Thinking!

blackwhite1Why, oh why, do we continue to insist on handling difficult issues and challenges in black and white, either/or terms? Why do we approach problems as jobs vs. environment? People vs. animals? Species vs. individuals? Rich vs. poor? You vs. me? Us vs. them?

I’ve seen a lot of either/or thinking lately. The recent issue of E Magazine has a commentary raising the issue of the “greenie wars,” pitting environmentalists against animal protection advocates. (Though there is a blurb at the very end suggesting both/and solutions may be possible….sometimes..maybe.)

The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted against whales and for the Navy, refusing to consider restrictions that would have “required the Navy to reduce or halt underwater sonar pulses when marine mammals might be nearby.” Another either/or approach.

And, a big brouhaha has come from the passage of Prop 2 AND Prop 8 in California. Prop 2 will now require the phase-out of gestation crates (for pregnant sows), veal crates (for male calves) and battery cages (for egg-laying hens), meaning animals raised in factory farms in California will endure just a little bit less suffering. The passage of Prop 8, however, has overturned the California law which allowed gay and lesbian couples to marry. Some gay and lesbian activists, and their supporters, have been incredibly outraged that voters chose “animal rights” over “human rights.” Bloggers and news outlets have been running headlines like “Chickens 1, Gays 0” and “Californians Like Chickens More Than Gay People.” Of course, it’s incredibly upsetting that Prop 8 passed, and while issues of human and animal oppression are deeply connected, the fact that rights for gay and lesbian folks were thwarted this time doesn’t mean that protections for animals should be also.

Author and President of the Institute for Humane Education (and my boss), Zoe Weil, recently wrote a post about this either/or perspective.She says:

“But it is wrong and disingenuous to compare these two propositions. If homosexuals were forced into cages for the duration of their lives, mutilated and abused under horrendous conditions, all to please the tastebuds of consumers and line the pockets of agribusinesses, and then a proposition to give them a bit more space before they were slaughtered failed to pass, well then we could rightly say that Californians care more about chickens than gay humans. But comparing Prop 2 and Prop 8 is like comparing proverbial apples and oranges.”

“…we should not compare the torture of other sentient beings to a rejection of gay marriage. Such a comparison fuels either/or thinking, lack of compassion for other sentient species, and narrow thinking. We need just the opposite to create a more thoughtful, just world.”

Author Mark Hawthorne shares similar sentiments in his essay for the American Chronicle. Hawthorne notes:

“Abusing animals is always wrong, just as discriminating against humans is always wrong. Why should one oppressed group express their anger by targeting another oppressed group? (I don´t believe there are any beings on this planet more oppressed than farmed animals, who are bred, raised, confined, mutilated and slaughtered at a rate of 55 billion per year worldwide.)”

He continues:

“Moreover, the very fact that people are picking on Prop 2 rather than one of the many other measures on the California ballot underscores the low regard many people have for the animals they eat. After all, no one is complaining that voters care more about veterans than gays because Prop 12, the Veterans Bond Act, passed, or that people care more about children than gays because Prop 3, the Children´s Hospital Bond Act, passed….While gay people have a voice, animals inside factory farms do not: they rely on compassionate individuals to speak out for them. I can only hope that the same people who are disparaging the passage of Prop 2 will see that demeaning animals does not further gay rights … that human liberation and animal liberation are inextricably linked.”

It’s important that we use our creativity, critical thinking skills and ability to connect, cooperate and compromise to find solutions that work for everyone. It usually takes a bit longer, but it helps bring us closer to that compassionate, sustainable, peaceful world that we’re seeking.

~ Marsha