“Turlock: the Documentary” Will Make You Want to Hug a Hen

animal place

The documentary film Turlock the documentary (www.turlockrescue.org) chronicles the rescue of chickens from the largest animal neglect case in U.S. history. When Northern California animal sanctuary Animal Place (www.animaplace.org) found out an egg farm in nearby Turlock had closed, and more than 50,000 hens had been abandoned and left to die without food or water, Animal Place’s team and volunteers leaped into action to save thousands of lives. Despite considerable odds and a dramatic standoff with local authorities, the heroic rescuers know they could not leave these fragile beings behind to suffer even if it meant risking their own freedom.

Turlock: the documentary raises timely questions about how we view non-human animals and modern industrial egg farming, a living nightmare for hundreds of millions of hens in the U.S. alone. Whether caged, cage-free, or free-range, these quirky, social, loving animals are denied all natural behaviors, experience fear and stress, and suffer from diseases. The film also introduces several chickens lucky enough to be adopted into happy homes, where their unique personalities are allowed to blossom.


We spoke to Marji Beach, Animal Place’s education director, about the rescue and the documentary film:

Animal Place, one of the oldest and largest sanctuaries for farmed animals in the U.S., provides refuge to hundreds of neglected farmed animals. But nothing can compare with the experience in Turlock.

The Turlock rescue was extreme in its scope and scale, as the largest rescue of farmed animals in California history and the second largest in U.S. history. Approximately 20,000 of those hens had already starved before we even knew they existed.

It was emotionally and physically extreme. We saw firsthand the treatment of the animals on that egg farm – and knew that was standard treatment for more than 250 million hens.

It would take hours of negotiations (executive director Kim Sturla never gave up) while we felt indescribable helplessness watching birds being gassed before our eyes.

And then word came down that we could save birds. Magical words, really.

While the rescue took its toll emotionally and physically on our staff and volunteers, we took from it the knowledge that large-scale rescues are not beyond the realm of possibility.

In fact, a year after Turlock in 2013, Animal Place rescued 3,000 hens from a commercial egg farm in California. A generous donor funded an air transport of 1,150 of the hens to east coast sanctuaries. In the last few years, we have rescued more than 12,000 former egg-laying hens.

Chickens are the most exploited and abused species in the world and hens on egg farms suffer immensely. It doesn’t have to be that way. By making compassionate choices, all of us have the ability to make a difference. And in our view, the kindest and most just choice we can make to help other animals is to simply stop eating them or their by-products, like eggs.

"Turlock: the documentary" is available for grassroots groups, meetups, clubs, and individual activists who want to host screenings in their communities. Whether it’s a public event at the local library, or a small gathering at home, we want as many non-vegans as possible to see it and connect in some small way to the chickens and rescuers in the film.

Inviting people to watch a film is effective and easy. (What's easier than getting people to show up for movie night?) We are also sending out literature, vegan food coupons and information, and other goodies to help hosts plan a successful screening. See www.turlockrescue.org to participate.


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Where’s the Beef? McDonalds Moving Toward Sustainability?

OK, yes, this is a vegan blog about vegan related subjects, but McDonalds and sustainable beef is an interesting topic.

Our friends at Green Biz have written the first of a three part series about how McDonalds intends to move towards buying only beef grown from sustainable farms. McDonalds has indicated that, starting in 2016, they will begin purchasing verified sustainable beef.

“Our vision is to buy verifiable, sustainable beef in the future for all of our beef,” said Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president, global sustainability. “We have achieved internal alignment and energy around that aspirational goal, which is a big task,” he told me during a November visit to the company’s headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill.

Clearly McDonalds is hearing people's concerns about sustainability.  sustainable farmingBut what is sustainable beef.

Rachel Tepper writes for The Huffington Post, “Earlier this month (edit: back in 2011), McDonald's Corp.'s sustainability vice president Bob Langert addressed the issue of sustainable beef and the difficulty defining it. His concerns come more than a year after the company pledged to move toward sustainability. Langert's comments bring up pointed questions. McDonald's defines ‘double green’ as plans and actions that ultimately benefit society and business growth, but how easy is it to make a business sustainable -- particularly fast-food businesses that rely heavily on beef -- and what does beef sustainability even mean?

“Interest in sustainability has skyrocketed among major players in the food service industry in recent years, mirroring conversations in the broader green and food communities about the agriculture industry's role in serious environmental challenges.

“Bryan Weech, director of livestock agriculture for World Wildlife Fund (WWF), told The Huffington Post that ‘there is no one, universally accepted definition’ for beef sustainability. Weech also represents the WWF on the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, one of several groups working toward a definition.

source: http://beefmagazine.com/blog/what-sustainable-beef

The definition of this term appears to be open for interpretation. The cynic in me is remind of free range chickens.

The vast majority of eggs produced and consumed in the United States come from conventional, large-scale battery cage operations. Hens spend their entire lives with up to eight other birds in wire cages as small as 67 square inches, a space about the size of a single sheet of letter-sized paper.

source: http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/organic-or-cage-free-eggs.htm

Here's an interview that Green Biz had with McDonalds:

A really good question is whether or not the meat eating public will even care...

How all this plays out in the McDonald’s global restaurant empire remains to be seen. And the road from here to sustainable Big Macs is rife with unknowns. Among them: Will the company and the GRSB be able to enlist a critical mass of the global beef industry to engender a tipping point in production techniques? Will Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s and other beef-centric fast-food chains join in? (And what about higher-end restaurants?) Will regional variations of the standard meet the tough scrutiny of activists and local stakeholders? Will all of this happen within acceptable costs so as not to drive up the cost of beef or burgers unacceptably? How will sustainable beef be perceived in the face of other pressing sustainability and reputational issues facing the fast-food industry, such as obesity and fair wages for employees?

And, not insignificantly: Will the meat-eating public even care?

To that last question, Langert thinks they will. “From the research we do, consumers really care about where their food comes from,” he told me. McDonald’s has done private consumer research with the firm GlobeScan. “What comes through very strong is high expectations for companies like McDonald’s across the board in CSR and sustainability.

There certainly are those people who are trying to "do the right thing" (in their opinion) and only eat meat grown on sustainable farms. However, I suspect that there is not a very large crossover between the people interested in only eating meat grown on sustainable farms and those people that eat at McDonalds. If McDonalds only offered meat grown on sustainable farms would that convince the "do the right thing" crowd to eat at McDonalds? I suspect not. However, if McDonalds completely transitions over to sustainable farms, I would suspect that most farms would change over as well.

If you are interested in reading the rest of the story, there's a link to the article below.

Source: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/01/07/inside-mcdonalds-quest-sustainable-beef

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The Humane Society Accuses College of Mistreating Dogs

The L.A. Confidential star signed on to narrate the short film for The Humane Society of the United States, whose campaigners captured undercover footage at a facility run by Georgia Regents University over the course of three months. In the film, dogs allegedly purchased from dealers are used for exploratory operations, after which they are often killed.

"Dogs like Shy Guy, along with others, who may have been family pets, were all used for unnecessary dental experiments. Their teeth were pulled out and replaced. It's very painful, just look into their eyes. This is a glimpse of what happens behind closed doors at GRU. These dogs were killed for this little sample of their jaw bone.

"Each year in the United States, 65,000 dogs are used in labs. Let's start by protecting dogs like Shy Guy from the hands of unscrupulous dealers and unnecessary suffering."

Animal rights campaigners are hoping the expose will put pressure on GRU officials to stop buying innocent dogs from unlicensed dealers, known for animal welfare violations, and urge them to halt the painful pet experiments once and for all.

The experiments were being done to compare a dental implant that was invented by Georgia Regents researchers with one that was developed by a competitor, Twining said.

Dogs that were provided to the university were collected by a Random Source Class-B Dealer, Twining said. She said these types of dealers are allowed to gather animals from various sources — including auctions, online and shelters — and resell them to research facilities.

University Senior Vice President for Research Mark Hamrick said in a statement that researchers at the Augusta school use protocols that are regularly reviewed by the United States Department of Agriculture, and that the university adheres to local, state and federal guidelines.

The school doesn’t frequently use dogs for research and all projects involving animals are reviewed by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, Hamrick said.

“The research being done with dogs is neither frivolous nor unnecessary, as alleged by the investigation, and is performed in order to develop safe, effective dental procedures for people,” Hamrick said. “As an institution, we are committed to research that will provide a direct benefit to patient lives by restoring function to damaged and diseased organs and tissues,” he said.

The Humane Society of the United States has filed legal complaints with the USDA and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare, Twining said.

source: Express.co.uk and Washington Post


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Factory Farming

M0207DAIR_SU_C_^_SUNIQHere's an article from   on factory farming:

Traditionally, many Americans are brought up eating meat as the main course in each meal. Most of us probably don’t think about where the food we eat actually comes from so I conducted some research which has made me think twice about wanting that next serving of meat. One of the first things that needs to be acknowledged is the fact that our portion sizes have grown so much that it is undoubtedly the cause of many of our health problems. For instance, in 1950, the standard size for a hamburger was about 3.9 oz whereas today the average has tripled to 12 oz. of meat.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study that compared meals from the 1950?s to today. The results showed that the typical meal at an average restaurant is over four times larger than it was in that time period. Larger portions also means bigger pants sizes because adults, on average, weigh 26 pounds more today due to such enormous portions.

Larger pants is a size effect that no one wants, but let’s take as step back and look at the bigger picture. If we are consuming four times more food per meal than we were in the 1950?s, then that means we have to kill that many more animals in order to keep up with the demand. Most of us have heard of factory farming but probably have no idea how awful it actually is. These are not the type of rural homes that have chickens running around and cows out in the pasture. Unlike the farms that many people associate with the “good old days”, these animals are living a torturous life in order to supply someone with a bigger hamburger or steak.

Many people have one or more pets in their home which is why I think it is important to ask a few questions to gain some perspective. Would you eat your dog? – Your cat? What if you knew that your four-legged family member was living in a facility where they were being fed food specifically to make them get bigger in a very short amount of time? Not only are they much larger in this setting, in many places they are crammed together with hundreds of other animals to the point where they can’t do anything except stand in the same spot. Since they are unable to move around, they are covered in the fecal matter and urine of all the surrounding animals in their room or pen. Does this sound like a humane way to keep an animal?

For some reason family pets are treated as family but cows and chickens are simply food. What if “Fido” didn’t have a name but instead was simply another number? My point is that in many counties there are guidelines for proper animal care that state you must provide the basic necessities for the animal. Food, water, and a shelter which protects the animal from the elements are typically what constitutes for a minimum standard of living for the house pet. When it comes to the animals we eat however, in some places the animals do not get the proper care that they should. There isn’t the same standard for cattle and chickens as there is for our dog or cat but this is simply inhumane.

According to the MSPCA, there are old traditions that need to be changed in order to properly care for animals that we intend on consuming. We still brand with hot iron, contain and leave cattle outside in all types of weather, and the injured or ill animals don’t always get seen by a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, there have been cases of animal abuse where the workers on a factory farm have been reported to conduct many heinous acts towards the animals. There are so many cases to report that I have provided one source that contains a list of various types of animals which humans consume with their individual stories.

The undercover footage provided for these multiple instances of animal abuse reveal how cruel workers at some factory farms can truly be – “Undercover footage from this factory farm – which raises over 10,000 calves for use on dairy farms – documented workers bludgeoning calves with pickaxes and hammers, burning out their horns without painkillers, standing on their necks, pulling them by their ears, and leaving them to suffer without veterinary care.” – ( VIDEO Texas, 2011)

source: http://www.mercyforanimals.org/calves/


Regardless if the animal is going to be consumed by people, why should anything deserve this type of treatment? Just because we choose to eat animals does not mean that they should be tortured. We don’t actually need to eat meat nowadays but we have grown accustomed to having it included in the majority of our meals so we continue to eat it. Protein is not only found in meat, there are many alternatives that don’t require a cow to be senselessly beaten with a hammer.

Does anyone really need a Triple Baconator or a Triple Whopper? We have been driven by commercials and advertisements to consume the “bigger burger” but there should be a rational limit. Why can’t we just eat one piece of meat instead of three?

Fido and Whiskers don’t have to suffer the fate of the cattle, pigs, and poultry of factory farming. We give them names, let them sleep in our beds, and in some cases they are like our children. Can’t we be reasonable and acknowledge that we probably shouldn’t be such gluttons when it comes to having to kill animals for a product? I am not telling everyone to stop eating meat altogether because that is your right to choose what you want. Instead, I am advocating that we just eat less meat and perhaps choose to get the free range alternative. Not only will less animals need to suffer the torture of factory farming, but you will actually live longer if you cut down on meat. Can’t we all just be humane?

source: http://theallegiant.com/the-gruesome-reality-of-factory-farming/

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Better Pig Pens For McDonalds

pigs mcdonaldsMcDonalds is now telling its pork providers that they need to use better pig pens. Recently, we had written about the animal cruelty with regards to McDonalds chickens. Now McDonalds is telling its pork providers that gestational stalls are too small.

These pens are usually only two feet wide. This is hardly enough room to allow the pigs to move around. There seems to be a trend in the fast food industry to (at least make the appearance) that they are treating animals humanly.

During the Grammy awards, the fast food chain Chipotle (who was formally partially owned by McDonalds) ran an ad campaign which criticized those companies that allow their pigs to be kept in very small cages. We are somewhat skeptical that conditions for these animals will improve all that much. After all, the term "free range" as it applies to chickens does not really afford the chickens all that much room to roam.


Here's the two minute video from Chiptole which tries to show a back to former practices approach to farming. Again, we are skeptical that these types of changes are taking place. After all, demand for these types of products continues to grow.

There are thousands of sows whose "job" it is just to give birth. These two foot cages do not even allow the pigs to turn around. Since the public is upset, the retailers are trying to show them that they are sensitive to their concerns.

Better pig pens is a step in the right direction, but it's not surprising that the retailers are trying to have the government keep its distance.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204062704577221624090652612.html

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Animal Cruelty and McDonald’s Eggs

mfa-logoJane and I have been vegan for over 4 years now.  In that time, we've noticed a significant shift in the mindset of the general population. The word "vegan" doesn't always meet with blank stares (0r thoughts of the cosmos).  Vegan products are readily available at all our local grocery stores.  Veganism is even an occasional topic on talk-shows (thank you to Oprah in the past, and to Ellen for continuing to promote a vegan lifestyle).  Mark Bittman promotes meat free Mondays.  Vegan books abound.  There's even been a slight shift towards "better" conditions for animals.  Yes, we have FAR to go.  I would certainly hate to be judged by the way our species treats the other species on the planet, but we're making tiny strides forward.

Today, McDonald's announced they were dropping Sparboe Farms, an egg supplier, because of a video produced by Mercy for Animals depicting a variety of instances of animal cruelty.  While McDonald's is still not on our list of restaurants we'd frequent, we applaud all efforts to improve the conditions of the animals still being slaughtered for food.


If you'd like to read more about the McDonald's story, here's a link to the article in the Chicago Tribune.  And here is the link for the campaign against McDonald's.



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Peta at Westmister Dog Show

The Westminster Kennel Dog Show ended today.  Just before the award was given for "Best in Show," two Peta protesters managed to get out in the ring and held up signs reading "Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances." The protest was cut from television, so if you missed it make sure to watch the following Associated Press video:

This really touches a nerve for us.  According to Peta, 4 million unadopted pets are euthanized annually! Get your animals from the pound!!!!

Some of you may remember that we had to put down our beloved 16 year old cat last June. Our boy cat is still hanging in there, he'll be 16 in April. We finally got to a place where it was time to entertain the idea of bringing new cats home.  After meeting a few different cats, all of whom would have made wonderful additions to our home, we settled on a brother and sister from our local Humane Society.

We decided to get two because our boy is getting older, so when he goes, there will still be two cats to entertain each other. Jane also figured that siblings would be more likely get along well.

Our two monsters were abandoned by their owner... we're not sure why.  They are really fun cats.  They have very distinct personalities and love to play.  They're three years-old and they are fantastic.  As with any animals being introduced into a new environment, they require a little bit of attention to make sure they don't shred the furniture or climb the curtains.  But we've gotten them new scratching posts and toys to keep them active and help them to bond with us.

When we were at the shelter, the adoption counselor was so excited that we would take the two together. Apparently siblings are much less likely to be adopted together, or at all. They were even running a special... get one cat for $70 and the second for $15. Plus they gave us a coupon for a free vet exam at the vet of our choice in the San Gabriel valley.  This seems to be common practice if you adopt from a Humane Society.  They even offer senior discounts... if you're over sixty and get a cat over 5 years old, there is no adoption fee (not sure about dogs, but there are discounts).

If you're looking to get a new companion animal, you can find plenty of lovable animals looking for a home at Petfinder. They host photos of adoptable animals from a variety of shelters all over the country. There are currently almost 300,000 animals looking for a home!  Don't buy a pet, save a life instead!

And one other interesting fact we learned upon adopting our furr-balls.  The Humane Society provided us with a fact sheet advocating spaying/neutering.  According to them one unaltered cat could yield 420,000 cats in seven years based on the average cat having a litter of 6 every year and each cat from that litter producing the same, etc.  Even if those numbers are halved, that's certainly reason to spay/neuter your pets!

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Pound Puppies

PetfinderLogoIt's been awhile, sorry.  While I've been ignoring this blog, I've been watching a fight brew in a chat I visit.  The issue is animal adoption.  One of the people involved is choosing to buy a dog from a breeder.  The other person is a staunch animal rights activist and has taken to berating her openly  and is actively recruiting others to harass her.  He even started a chain email to petition her to get an animal from the local pound.  This has been going on for almost two weeks now.  It's gotten to the point where I think the animal rights activist has been banned from the chat.

Personally, I cannot understand how someone would buy a pet when there are so many animals in shelters, especially today when many people are giving up their companion animals because of financial issues.  And yet, it is very common.  My cousin bought himself a boxer last year, and a co-worker is getting herself an English Bulldog.  Both of them have purchased their animals from breeders.  I tried to dissuade them, but they both had their minds made up, and nothing I said had any influence.  I even sent them links to websites for rescues for the breeds they were looking for.  Also, it's not uncommon to find specific breeds at local animal shelters today.  But my money is still on the mutts.

Regardless of how you feel however, if someone wants to buy a companion animal, they currently have that right.  So I find myself in the interesting position of siding with the person who bought her dog, even though I think what she is doing is morally wrong.  But her antagonist is really out there.  The most bizarre thing about all this is that they live on different continents.  It almost  seems like he is venting all his frustrations at her because she is so far away and can't really retaliate.  Regardless, it is her choice.  It is still very legal in this country to breed and sell animals.   His behavior is alienating others on the board who might otherwise be on his "side."  This chat has nothing to do with animal rights or veganism.

Having said all that, if you are considering getting a pet in the near future, please look to your local animal shelters.  There are so many wonderful animals in need of a good home.  Petfinder, which is an on-line, searchable database of animals that need homes, has animals all across North America.   Be aware that each shelter has their own set of fees and requirements for adoptees.

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Animal Rights National Conference 2009

animal rights national conferenceThis year the Animal Rights National Conference will be held right here in Los Angeles.   (It was in Alexandria, VA last year.)  The conference runs July 16 - 20, 2009 and will be held at the Westin LAX Hotel: 5400 West Century Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045.

Here is what you can expect:

  • 100 sessions, including keynote plenaries, workshops, raps/discussions & reports
  • 90 speakers representing 60 animal protection groups in seven countries
  • 90 free exhibits with compassionate shopping & social justice organizations
  • Sessions on personal skills development, activism, organizing & outreach
  • Eyewitness report on the Sea Shepherd whale wars and CA Prop 2 campaign
  • Presentations & networking with leaders of other social justice movements
  • Celebrity, Activist, and Campaign Awards at Saturday Banquet
  • 80 videos including premieres
  • Networking Receptions
  • Delicious vegan cuisine

The conference itself is not cheap, $160 for the full session, or $65 for one day. They do offer low income discounts. But if you don't qualify for one of those, there is still a reason to drop by if you can. From the Animal Rights National Conference website:

Visitors are encouraged to drop by Friday, Saturday and Sunday (9am-6pm) to enjoy our 90+ free exhibits, including compassionate shopping, delicious snacks & desserts, and amazing social justice organizations. One free session is also included, so bring your friends, stay for a meal, and make a day out of it!

If you are in the area and can swing by, this is defiitely a worthwhile event.  Don't forget to pass this info along to any of your friends or family who may be interested in the topic.

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Where The Farms Are

Earlier last week, the New York times published "The Hot Spots for Organic Food" in which they provided maps of farms in the United States.  The data was compiled for the 2007 agricultural census.

I've published the map of all vegetable farms, as a vegan that is the most interesting to me. The rest of the short article has maps of all farms, the organic farms, orchards, and dairy farms. It's an interesting look at where our food comes from. You may even be surprized.

Vegetable Farms as of 2008

Vegetable Farms as of 2008

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