Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pasture, not hamburger

If you've done your stint as a dairy cow – and in dairies today it is, ironically, a bone-destroying occupation, with most of your calcium shunted into milk cartons, not bones (at least not yours) – you don't get put out to pasture. You get trucked to slaughter. You become hamburger.

Not these cows.

Thanks to compassionate animal advocates – and with the approval of the dairy farmer's tenderhearted young son – these spent cows will be getting the retirement they've more than earned. It's a joy just to see them taste freedom. And a revelation of how much like us they are.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cheese. An Excellent Source of Torture.

“There should be a daily dose of pleasure.”

So begins a warm and fuzzy new TV ad from the Dairy Farmers of Canada, slinging cheese to the me generation. It's part of a campaign “introducing a new brand positioning for cheese: Cheese. An Excellent Source of Pleasure.”


If I didn't know better, I'd be salivating right on cue. Unfortunately, most people don't know better – or try not to.

In the Old South, white people might have been lulled into complacency with a slogan like this:
Slave-picked cotton. Because your lilly white skin deserves a lilly white dose of luxury.
Today, what conscientious consumers demand is a daily dose of reality. When it comes to cheese, that should be:
Cheese. An Excellent Source of Torture.
Sound like hyperbole? Judge for yourself. Here's the ad:



There are many more ads like this one out there – undercover video of other dairies, of cows and calves during long-haul transport, at livestock auctions and inside slaughterhouses. Consider these ads for another kind of pleasure:
Vegan Cheese. An Excellent Source of Guilt-free Pleasure. 
Vegan cheese used to be an excellent source of crappy imitation – crappy taste, crappy ingredients.

No more.

Companies like Daiya are producing 100% plant-based hard and soft cheeses that are so good – taste, feel and melt like the real thing, made from wholesome ingredients – they demand to be tried by consumers who find the daily dose of dairy reality too shocking, too unconscionable, too criminal to support.

You wouldn't buy cotton picked by slaves. Cheese? Same idea.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Eat Atrocities

This video is from the UK where animal welfare standards are assumed to be much more progressive than here in North America.

And yet just look at the everyday atrocities documented here by a major UK animal rights group in eight out of nine slaughterhouses they randomly chose to investigate.


Or don't look.

One minute of this exposé of the banality of slaughterhouse evil should be enough to persuade anyone with a sense of shame that we have no moral leg to stand on eating bacon and hamburgers, cheddar cheese and chicken wings, at the cost of such mistreatment of animals when we could be nourishing ourselves at least as adequately on a plant-based diet.

Nearly every craving for meat or dairy – a taste most of us acquired long before we had the ability to make a moral choice about it – can be met, with increasing satisfaction as food companies refine their products, by plant-based/vegan substitutes. Not that there's any nutritional need for them, but they're there if we crave them.

To insist on eating “the real thing” when we can't be sure that horrifying cruelty and degradation of the kind we see here wasn't part of the life journey of the animal who provided it is to abrogate our moral responsibility. This is so even if we buy organic. According to the Animal Aid investigators: “‘High welfare’ plants, such as those accredited by the Soil Association, were no better than the non-organic ones.”

We're grownups now. The choice is clear – and it tastes just great.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

These little piggies went to market and nearly died for a drop of water

I really wasn't expecting to be so moved – and enraged – when I clicked “play” on this video that came up on my Facebook newsfeed via Canadian for the Ethical Treatment of Food Animals.

Please watch it. It's not the least bit gory. What it is is a glimpse behind the curtain that separates us from animals no different from us in the most basic ways, like being laid flat by a heat wave and dying for a drop of water. Except these animals – pigs en route to slaughter during a heat wave – commonly suffer with no relief.

But not this time. In this heartbreaking video, members of a group called Toronto Pig Save frantically administer some milk of human kindness to these chronically abused animals as they head to their undeserved fate.




Friday, July 12, 2013

REVIEW: Bringing the Ghosts in Our Machine to Life

There are many ways of alerting people to “the animal holocaust,” as some call it (with no argument from me), and winning hearts and minds (and hands, feet and shopping lists).

Some are films and videos.

And of those, some are in-your-face graphic and shocking, such as the Scared Straight of animal advocacy documentaries, Earthlings, and PETA's classic Meet Your Meat.

Others, like the award-winning documentary Peaceable Kingdom, mitigate hard-to-bear moments of brutal, cover-your-eyes reality with no less emotionally overwhelming oases of peace, beauty and hope.

The Ghosts in Our Machine – a new feature-length documentary from Canada – is in the second category.

Directed by Liz Marshall, Ghosts lets us tag along with animal holocaust “war photographer” Jo-Anne McArthur (to quote her sad-eyed, mordant self-description), usually undercover in places we're never supposed to see (the “machine” where so much of our food, fibre and medicine comes from), but also in places of compassion, like Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York, where many of the very same species live free, content and unmolested.

A newborn calf awaits life in a crate.
Photo from the online gallery of Jo-Anne McArthur. 
It doesn't matter where McArthur finds her haunting subjects, whether abused and degraded in captivity or delighting (and delightful) in liberation. Her camera captures every individual's essence in a way that allows a fur-farmed fox or a rescued stockyard calf to speak ineffable volumes to us, eye to eye, soul to soul. And for that reason alone, The Ghosts in Our Machine should be required viewing for any human animal who professes to love other animals but doesn't quite walk the talk.

Marshall and McArthur bring the ghosts in our machine to life. And those animals' faces, so redolent of personhood, of naked fear, curiosity, affection and pleasure, may never stop haunting you. And that's a good thing.

View the trailer and visit the website to find out where to see The Ghosts in Our Machine



Friday, June 21, 2013

Mother Jones on Mother Pigs

It's one thing to hear about the cruel confinement conditions imposed on the millions of sows who give birth to nearly all the pigs in North America from PETA or your friendly neighbourhood vegan. It's another thing when a vivid description of the shameful truth comes from a writer who starts by admitting “I love pork.” Here's how the always exceptional food and agriculture columnist Tom Philpott spells it out in the July/August issue of Mother Jones:
“Throughout their four-month pregnancies, many of these sows live in cages just large enough to contain their bodies. As the sows grow bigger, the tight confinement means they can lie face down but can't flop over onto their sides. The floors under these ‘gestation crates’ are slotted so that urine and feces can slip through into vast cesspits. Immobilized above their own waste, the sows are exposed to high levels of ammonia, which causes respiratory problems. Just before they deliver, they're moved to farrowing crates, in which they have just enough space to nurse.
“Once the piglets are weaned, it's back to the gestation crate for the breeding sow, which averages two and a half pregnancies per year. After three or four years, the sow is slaughtered for meat.”
And this, among other disturbing peeks into the world of captive sows:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why Vegans Don’t Drink Milk

There are many reasons why vegans don't drink milk – the male calves who are killed at birth or raised in solitary crates to become “veal,” the brutal toll that modern intensive milk production takes on the bodies of dairy cows. But this moving video from Mercy for Animals tells a story that, in its own way, says it all. Certainly, it says all one needs to know to say “no.”