World Farm Animals Day
October 2nd is World Farm Animals Day. (For more information, see http://www.wfad.org/.)
This is a day when we remember that more than 55 billion farm animals suffered and died in slaughterhouses this year to provide shallow, temporary, and scarcely acknowledged "satisfaction" to the plates and stomachs of people who refused to acknowledge their lives, and who did not need to cause their deaths, but did so anyway. As the WFAD website states, "It is a day for all to speak out against the atrocities and brutalization inflicted on animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy."
Did You Know:
Pigs are (much) smarter than your dog. Pigs consistently score among the highest IQs in the animal kingdom, up with dolphins and chimpanzees. They know their own names when they are given names, and are capable of complex thoughts. Factory farmers have noticed that pigs quickly learn some very tricky concepts that many people might not even figure out. For example, on farms where automated feeding centers are used, there is a system in which pigs are fed automatically, in small individual feeding stations with closing doors. Each pigs' tag is encoded with a small chip that can be read by a computer that operates the door to the feeding station, and dispenses grain. Each pig has a given ration of grain, and once it has eaten that ration the door does not open and/or no more grain is dispensed to that pig for the rest of the day. The pigs, who have figured this out, have been observed looking around on the floor for abandoned tags that have somehow become separated from their requisite pig. They then carry these tags over to the feeding stations and use them as a pass-key to get in and get more food.
Their behavior in the wild is even more startling. Pigs have close-knit social groups, and are capable of complex communication. They build elaborate nests for themselves and their young. They work together in groups to protect each other, and to care for each other. Mothers carefully socialize their young, and each group of pigs has a wide territory where they can find all the resources they need for survival. They are not territorially aggressive, and territories often overlap. They avoid conflict by simply maintaining distance between themselves and other groups. Pigs are curious and inquisitive, and require lots of companionship and intellectual stimulation to keep them happy.
And did you also know that millions of these animals are killed in slaughter houses each year, or that sows used for breeding in factory farms are kept their entire lives in crates so small there is not even enough room for them to turn or lie down? Did you know that, literally, millions of pigs are brutally slaughtered to bring you "the other white meat"? In Gail Eisnitz's book, "Slaughterhouse," she details the barbaric cruelty with which pigs are assaulted, attacked, brutalized, and killed in slaughter houses. In one passage, she quotes a man who has worked for many years in a slaughter house, Ed Van Winkle. This man speaks of the "emotional toll" that the sadistic killing of animals takes on workers, complaining that it numbs people to violence and robs them of the ability to feel empathy. It makes people kill without caring. Says Van Winkle,
"You may look a hog in the eye that's walking around down in the blood pit with you and think, God, that really isn't a bad-looking animal. You may want to pet it. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them -- beat them to death with a pipe. I can't care."
Of course, Mr. Winkle CAN care. And so can the millions of people who eat meat without a thought given to the suffering and death on their plates. They simply choose not to. It's more convenient that way. They can make their paycheck or enjoy their pork chop, and not have to face the pain and suffering that their own actions have caused. This is what World Farm Animals Day is about. It's about forcing us to look, and forcing us to act up on behalf of the farm animals who deserve better. This "meat" on all these plates did not come from a package. It came from a living animal who wanted to live as much as you want to live.
As many as 50,000 pigs are killed in a single hour, for just one mega-processor, Smithfield Farms. (That's right, the same people who brought us the Swine Flu from their dirty, over-crowded, sickening factory farms.) A "sticker" in a single slaughter house can kill more than a thousand animals in a single shift. Many of these animals are tortured before being killed - Eisnitz' book details the manner in which slaughterhouse workers beat pigs with metal pipes, and jab them in the eyes, mouths, noses, anuses, and vaginas with pipes, pokers, and stun guns while they laugh and denigrate these animals. There is a grotesque and alarming sexualization to much of the violence. There is also an unfathomable sadism that is difficult even to comprehend. In one horrible passage of her book, a worker tells how he chased a pig down and sawed off its delicate snout, causing it to scream in pain and run until it finally just sat down in a daze. This sadist then went over to the animal and rubbed salt into the open wound. He said he did it because he was "frustrated."
No amount of pork rinds could ever be worth this.
DO SOMETHING. On World Farm Animals Day, acknowledge the crime against animals, and do something.
Did you know that researchers have discovered that chickens have a "rich repertoire of language," and that they have separate calls to communicate with each other when there is a threat approaching, and whether it is approaching from the air or from the land? They also have different calls that they use to tell each other about food, and calls that mothers use to talk to their young, and roosters use to talk to hens. Chickens have elaborate social structures, and every chicken in a flock knows his or her place in the hierarchy. Thus, they avoid conflict through careful social rules. Did you know that roosters are actually very brave, and protect their flocks from dangerous predators? Roosters also routinely call hens over to food, and allow the hens to eat before they eat themselves.
Chickens form strong bonds with each other, and become visibly upset when they are separated from members of their flock. In fact, this can be so upsetting that chickens will refuse to eat or drink until they are reunited with those whom they love.
In battery cages, chickens are stuffed so tightly into tiny cages that they cannot even stretch their wings for their entire lives, and they never see the sun. Yes, you already know this. But have you stopped supporting the people who do this to them? Have you stopped collaborating with those who cause their suffering? Have you stopped eating their eggs and their flesh? In slaughterhouses, chickens are hung upside down and often dipped into boiling vats while they are still alive. Many chickens, like pigs and cows, are fully conscious and aware as they hang upside down and are subjected to the blades and knives and unthinkable acts that most of us don't want to know about.
Did you know that cows love their babies as strongly as humans love our own? People who work on factory farms often talk of the inconsolable manner in which cows and calves bellow for each other on the day that they are separated for good by the meat and dairy industries. When they are left together, cows socialize their young, and pass down cultural knowledge from one generation to another. Calves who are removed from their mothers experience great stress, and never fully recover. Compared to calves who are raised by their mothers, they have higher levels of stress hormones in their bodies, and they do not thrive to the same degree as calves who were not taken from their mothers.
While most of the male calves born in the dairy industry are slaughtered as babies, to make veal and to provide the rennet for your cheese (rennet is an enzyme that comes from the stomachs of unweaned baby calves), a very few are allowed to grow to adulthood so that they can be used for breeding purposes. Some years ago, in a seminal paper on safety around large farm animals, Temple Grandin made a startling observation. In discussing incidents in which a bull had injured or killed a human, Grandin noted that the vast majority of those incidents involved dairy bulls rather than meat industry bulls. The reason? Grandin concludes that, because the meat-industry bulls are raised by their mothers in the herd, while the dairy industry bulls are removed from their mothers at birth, the dairy bulls never learn important socialization from the herd, and from their mothers, and are therefore much more dangerous. Of course, attacks by bulls upon humans are exceedingly rare, while humans kill tens of millions of cows each year. But the point here is that cows are complex, reasoning beings, and that socialization is an important facet of who they are and who they become. They are not just "things," any more than pigs, or chickens, or humans are mere "things." They are living beings, who deserve to live in the family units that they are born into. It takes a tremendous toll on the mother and the baby when calves are removed from their mothers to accommodate meat and dairy industry "producers" (who do not actually produce anything, but merely exploit).
Like chickens and pigs, of cows are tortured to death while fully conscious and terrified, in slaughterhouses across the country. None of this suffering is necessary.
On October 2nd, we take the time to remember the animals who have been killed, and to acknowledge the lives of the animals who are incarcerated on factory farms at this very moment. We take a moment to examine the blood on our hands, and to wash them clean by taking sides with the farm animals who are left. They are not "food," they are living, sentient, beings. Their lives are worth more than to be taken to feed the American obesity epidemic. We do not need their bodies to survive and thrive. There is no excuse for the torment they are forced to endure so that we can all have wads and slabs and knots of "meat" on our plates and plaque in our arteries. We are healthier when we do not eat their flesh or take the milk from their babies. The earth is healthier when we do not eat meat. (Giving up meat is better, overall, for the environment than giving up driving.) And God knows, the animals are healthier when we do not eat meat.
Here are some things you can do to help farm animals on World Farm Animals Day:
1. Go Vegetarian. If you have not already done so, this is the single greatest thing you can do to stop the slaughter. Stop eating animals, and be an example to others. Your body will thank you, the earth will thank you, and the animals will thank you. Do not stop here, but start here. There will be much more work to do once you stop eating meat yourself, but this is the first and foremost way you can help.
2. Go Vegan. If you haven't already stopped eating eggs and dairy, now is a great time to do it! Start by reading "The China Study," to find out how much better your health will be when you stop eating animal protein. Then, make a promise to the mother cows and the mother chickens that you will no longer cause their young to suffer. No longer will their male offspring be ground up alive, smothered in dumpsters, or chained in tiny crates and then slaughtered in your name. No longer will their female offspring be crammed into battery cages or forced into the dairy industry in your name.
3. If you have the room, consider taking in rescued farm animals. There are so many pigs, cows, chickens, rabbits, and etc who need refuge from the meat industry! If you can provide sanctuary to them, please do!
4. If you don't have the room, please donate to a farm sanctuary near you. It's hard work and it takes a lot of resources to provide shelter, food, and medical care to farm animals. People who do this work can use all the help you can give them. Here are some farm sanctuaries right here in Cascadia that you may want to consider helping out:
Ananda Farm Animal Rescue and Sanctuary is out on the Columbia river, just outside of Portland. You can reach them here: anandaFAR@gmail.com
Out to Pasture Farm Sanctuary is in Estacada, up near the Clackamas river. You can reach them here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary is down in Scio. You can reach them here:
For more ideas on what you can do to commemorate World Farm Animals Day, please see http://www.wfad.org/actioncenter/
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