Archive for June, 2012

Extreme confinement cruelty and the meat you eat

Horrific confinement of pigs in China. Please support only farmers who are humane to animals.

Imagine that you aren’t allowed to move your legs or lift you head because the cage you are in is the size and shape of your own body.  This is a condition even worse than in a puppy mill, where dogs are in cages not much larger than they are.  But pigs have it even worse.

Extreme confinement is probably one of the most atrocious cruelty acts caused by people and it is practiced in the pork industry.  It also causes deep emotional suffering to people who witness it — like us.

Not everyone is willing or able to be a vegetarian or vegan, but we can choose to buy meat and dairy only from humane farms who do not use extreme confinement. Consider only getting your meat from places like Whole Foods in the US or local farms near where you live that practice humane farming.

Furthermore, your support of groups that advocate for humane farm animal treatment is an excellent use of money — because this kind of suffering hurts the hearts and minds of people as well as pigs.

I am a proud supporter of The Humane Society of the United States and I have spent much of my life suffering emotionally due to my concern for animals — especially farm animals that could just as easily be raised for meat without extreme confinement.   And in recent years, due to the HSUS and other groups working to stop extreme confinement of farm animals, we have a glimmer of hope that some animals need not suffer so that you can have food on your table.

It is possible, and very practical, to have humane farms.  Just this week,  Rhode Island became the next in a string of states that have banned the porcine gestation crate which immobilizes pregnant pigs.  And it’s not just activist and legislators who are willing to end the use of extreme confinement. Fast food chains and food service companies are taking action as well.

Facts from the HSUS Press Release

  • Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio and Oregon have all passed laws to phase out gestation crates. In addition to Rhode Island, bills on this issue are currently pending in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.
  • Since February, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Cracker Barrel, Denny’s and Sonic have announced that they will eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains, as have Kroger and Safeway, the nation’s top two supermarket chains, and Compass Group, the world’s largest foodservice company.
  • Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is clear on this issue, stating: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”

But the picture of the caged pigs above it also disturbing because it is in China where laws to protect animals are scarce.  But you can certainly end your support of China’s actions by not buying meat from China.  Check your labels!

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Actions Speak Louder Calgary gets heard by city council

Actions Speak Louder Calgary, a grassroots organization working to promote animal welfare in the community, has made significant progress in their effort to have the sale of dogs and cats banned from sale at retail outlets.

According to Metro News Calgary , the Vancouver Sun and the ASLC website, the Calgary City Council will consider a retail pet sale ban as part of a responsible pet ownership bylaw.

Learn more about Actions Speak Louder Calgary and the Calgary bylaw proposal at www.actionsspeakloudercalgary.ca.

 

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Approaching 75,000 cats fixed in Lynnwood!

T-shirt at the FCSNP in Lynnwood, Wash.

The Feral Cat Spay Neuter Project (FCSNP) in Lynnwood, Wash. is approaching a phenomenal event.  This June they are passing a benchmark of spaying or neutering 75,000 cats!  Here is a brief interview with Executive Director, Lauren Glickman.

Q: An exciting milestone for the Feral Cat Spay Neuter Project (FCSNP) is coming up as you approach fixing the 75,000th cat.  Did this milestone come sooner than you expected?

A:  The milestone seems right on time. We’ve been altering between 7500 and 9500 cats per year for the past 5 years now, so we’ve been able to predict with some accuracy when these milestones will occur.

Q:  How many years has FCSNP been in operation? Has your rate of cat surgeries increased over the years to reach this milestone?  Is there a maximum capacity for the Lynnwood clinic? 

A: In operation, since 1997 and rate statistics are shown below.    Capacity is 50 cats/day.

Cats altered per year at FCSNP

Q:  How far do people drive to bring cats to the clinic?   What is the overall region you serve?  

A:  People have come all the way from Forks, WA and also from Gray’s Harbor, Tri Cities, Yakima and Lewis County.  Most of our cats are from Pierce, Snohomish, King, and Grays Harbor counties.

Q:  I understand you are implementing a campaign in Everett to let people know about your services.  Who are you hoping to reach with this campaign? 

A:  We are hoping to reach out to people who live in areas where there are free-roaming cats as well as low-income folks who want to do the right thing but can’t always afford it.

Q:  How do you plan to celebrate this milestone?  Do you have any other milestones on the horizon?    

A:  On August 18th we are going to host an Open House at the Clinic in Lynnwood.  We will have drinks and snacks and will chat and enjoy each other’s company.  We have a big Sexless Soiree Auction with a Twist coming up on September 15th.  That’s our big fundraiser for the year and it’s super playful and fun!

Volunteers at the FCSNP

Q:  How can people help out at FCSNP?

A:  People can help FCSNP in many ways.  Monthly donations are probably one of the best ways… a small recurring monthly donation makes a huge difference in what we’re able to accomplish.  Donations of towels, auction items, carriers, bleach, garbage bags and Costco gift cards are always welcome.  People can volunteer in a variety of ways.  Our website www.feralcatproject.org describes the many volunteer positions available.

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Update on the dog fighting amendment for the Farm Bill

Good news from the US Senate on a dog fighting amendment for the Farm Bill. The HSUS has announced that it will included as part of another amendment. See Wayne Pacelle’s blog for more information.

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If you’re against cruelty, why aren’t your senators?

Are you against dog and cock fitting?  Are you against hens in battery cages and inhumane factory farms? 

Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, you are not going to be happy with this news. (The Republic, Seattle PI, SF Chronicle)

Last night the US Senate denied consideration and debate of two amendments to the farm bill that would 1) improve the lives of chickens on factory farms and 2) cracks down on dog fighting and cock-fighting (remember Micheal Vick’s major case).

Both amendments had considerable support in the US Senate and the egg industry reform amendment was sponsored by Democrats, Republicans and Independents including Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Scott Brown, R-Mass., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., David Vitter, R-La. and Ron Wyden, D-Ore and several more. (HSUS)

Note that it was not the egg industry that was against this amendment!  In fact, the United Egg Producers Association was a huge supporter of the amendment and advocated for its passage.

So what went wrong last night?  A group of lobbyists (American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council) are too afraid of their own customers.  Their fear — that they will have to be humane to animals. (HSUS)

“This is a matter of self-determination for the egg industry,” said David Lathem, second-generation egg farmer from Georgia and chairman of UEP in a press release several weeks ago. “No other sector of animal agriculture should prevent our industry from innovating, improving animal welfare, and finding best practices that will protect our farmers and answer major questions posed by consumers.”

So if congress will not or can not act on our behalf, we do it ourselves. 

First it’s our duty to stop buying any meat from producers who are continuing to treat animals inhumanely.  Meat can be obtained from local humane farms or easily from Whole Foods (see post here).

Second, support the Humane Society of the US who will work to include these amendments in the US House version of this bill (See Pacelle blog).

Lastly, write to your local newspaper in response to this news story (Seattle PI).  Let them know how factory farms, dog fighting and cock-fighting causes us personal pain as we feel deeply that animals, regardless of their role in agriculture, should be treated humanely.

Also, you can let you representatives know that you want to see action on humane issues for farm animals.

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“The Bond” book signing in Northgate Seattle

Wayne Pacelle (HSUS) at the Northgate Barnes & Noble

With more dogs than children, it was a typical Seattle event at the Barnes & Noble yesterday morning when Wayne Pacelle, President of the HSUS came to talk about our human responsibility towards animals — a topic included in his book The Bond: Our Kinship With Animals, Our Call to Defend Them.

The group discussion was started with a great bit of local support for St. Matthew School in the Lake City area.  Nancy Edwards, school librarian, passed out coupons to visitors that allowed part of B&N’s proceeds from a purchase of “The Bond” to go towards the school’s book fair.

River that greeter dog

Our friends from PAWS were also in attendance, and River, a big black sweetie, greeted people at the door.  As an organization, PAWS works to help our community integrate with local wildlife and serves companion animals.

Pacelle’s talk on the issues of animal welfare, and especially advocacy to prevent cruelty,  included animals from horses, chickens to laboratory animals.  The crowd was well prepared with questions, and listened with engagement.

Ruth Kildall asked a question of particular interest to Washingtonians about why the HSUS decided to forgo the state ballot initiative (I-1130) to ban chicken confinement pens and instead pursue national legislation for the improvement of conditions for all hens.  Clearly other audience members had the same questions, as ears perked up once again.

Local Seattle activists Claudine Erlandson and Ruth Kildall at “The Bond” book signing.

Pacelle’s reasoning was one of resources, and he explained that the HSUS and local constituents could help the majority of hens in the US by pursuing national legislation rather than state initiative.  A state initiative would have required considerable resources beyond the successful signature gathering.  Furthermore, such initiatives would only be an option for advocates in states where the ballot initiative method is allowed to circumvent the state legislature.   The grim outcome of a patchwork of state laws to protect chickens could mean that the majority of US chickens would reside in states with no protection laws, Pacelle explained.

Wayne Pacelle explaining Meatless Mondays

Pacelle also encouraged us to choose Meatless Mondays to reduce the amount of meat we eat as a society.  “Meatless Monday saves the lives of 1.5 billion animals a year.” explained Pacelle.

In the company of friends, this book signing was a reminder that our goals to prevent cruelty to animals are shared by so many people right here in my own backyard of North Seattle.

An AHELP hospice dog, waiting for the book signing, sticks his tongue out at me.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Valuing our bond with animals

Wayne Pacelle (courtesy of Paul Markow Photography)

By Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

June 13, 2012

It is amazing to realize, but there are few parts of our lives that do not influence the lives of animals.

We share our neighborhoods with squirrels and raccoons, our nature parks with wildlife and our oceans with sea life.

We purchase every kind of animal product from dairy and meat to leather and gelatin that come from animals whose welfare is often inadvertently ignored.

Commercial products, like laundry soap or cosmetics that are tested on animals can be difficult for the consumer to identify and avoid.

But these conditions do not necessarily indicate a lack of good intention. If fact, I have met devoted carnivores who care deeply for cows, chickens and pigs and fight against factory farming, as well as vegans who are not particularly attached to animals. So like many people, I am perplexed by the contradictions in our society’s relationship to animals.

I recently gained insight into this matter during a conversation with Wayne Pacelle, president of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Pacelle is author of the New York Times best seller “The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them,” and he will speak in Seattle on Saturday, June 16, at 11 a.m. at the Northgate Barnes & Noble store.

An economy in sync

Pacelle is an experienced advocate for humane treatment of animals. His career with the HSUS — first as a spokesperson and then president of the HSUS — spans nearly 18 years.

In his last eight years as president, the HSUS has grown to be one of the world’s most comprehensive animal-welfare and advocacy groups, now counting 11 million members in its ranks. While the organization supports rescue efforts, it also focuses on fostering significant legislation to help prevent cruelty and to improve the lives of companion, farm, laboratory and sport animals alike.

Pacelle’s book is an exploration of what he describes as the “the bond” — the natural awareness, appreciation, respect or love we have toward animals whether they be our pets, our native wildlife or the cows and pigs we may see at a distance.

“There are so many different expressions of ‘the bond.’ It is part of every one of us to have empathy for animals,” Pacelle explained.

Yet, in spite of that inherent bond, we allow or participate in horrific acts of cruelty — from puppy mills and factory farms to baby-seal clubbing in the Arctic for the fur trade. According to Pacelle, this disconnect between what we naturally feel about animals and the way we treat them has both historical and cultural roots. We may grow up unaware of where our food comes from, and economic or societal pressures may lead us to ignore the welfare implications of our purchases.

In “The Bond,” Pacelle argues that it is possible to bring our economy in sync with our values by making humane choices for food products or buying products that don’t harm animals. Purchasing cage-free or free-range eggs and buying meat from farms where animals are treated humanely are conscious choices we can all make.

Similarly, seal watching, like whale watching, would be an economically conscious way to convert the fur trade to one of ecotourism, according to Pacelle.

In line with values

Many Seattleites heard his advice loud and clear. In our community, we put considerable focus on our local humane farms, raising backyard chickens, adopting our pets or even choosing veganism. But it is it often difficult to make animal welfare a priority in every part of one’s life.

In that regard, I am grateful for the multitude of animal-welfare groups in the Seattle area. The Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), with locations in Seattle and Lynnwood, is one such organization that guides our community in making humane choices. PAWS is co-hosting Pacelle’s talk on Saturday and will provide information about its programs for animal adoption and cohabitation with wildlife.

“We really support the work that Wayne Pacelle and HSUS are doing,” said Mark Coleman, communications manager at PAWS. “PAWS encourages people to consider every option for living humanely.”

While this advice is often easier said than done, the HSUS has had unprecedented success on the national level working to improve the lives of farm animals. In May, the U.S. Senate introduced the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, which was jointly supported by the HSUS and the Egg Producers Association — seemingly unlikely partners in the past. This legislation would double the amount of space for laying hens.

Similarly, fast-food companies like Burger King and McDonald’s have announced their future commitment to improving the treatment of pigs by phasing out cramped gestation crates used for pregnant sows.

Cattle grazing at Country Natural Beef, a suppler of beef for Whole Foods in Seattle

Cattle grazing at Country Natural Beef, a suppler of beef for Whole Foods in Seattle

But while we wait for welfare improvements from our national companies, we have options now to choose humanely raised meat or animal products. The Global Animal Partnership (GAP) — a nonprofit organization run by meat farmers, animal advocates and retailers (such as restaurants and grocers) — was formed to provide an independent rating system to inform consumers about the quality of life for animals before they are slaughtered. The five-step rating is meant to encourage farmers to be innovative in providing good conditions for farm animals and to provide consumers with an understanding of the meat they purchase.

Cattle at Roaring Springs Ranch, another suppler of beef to Seattle Whole Foods stores

In Seattle, Whole Foods is one retailer that has implemented GAP’s five-step labeling, so consumers can easily make humane choices when they buy meat.

“We care about [animal welfare] because we sell animal products. And if we are going to sell products derived from animals, we need to look out for their welfare,” explained Whole Food representative Elizabeth Fry in a company video.

Fry’s explanation is a core thesis that Pacelle emphasizes in his book. “At the HSUS, we talk less about animal rights and instead about human responsibility toward animals,” Pacelle clarified. “Humans are different than animals, and we have the power in this relationship.”

Pacelle emphasized that when we use that power for the good of animals, we are bringing our choices in line with our values.

Information on the HSUS and PAWS can be found at their respective websites at www.humanesociety.org and www.paws.org.

To learn about the five-step farm animal welfare rating system, visit http://www.globalanimalpartnership.org.

Seven copies of “The Bond” are available at Seattle Public Libraries, but there is currently a waiting list to get a copy. One electronic copy is available for checkout.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org.

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