Petition to Oprah – Livestock Should be Treated Humanely

Dear Oprah,

Lately, many of your shows have focused on the betterment of the planet:

  • You’ve asked your viewers to examine and cut down on their consumption.
  • You’ve focused on helping people reach a state of enlightened living (the Eckert Tolle seminars).
  • And you recently did a story on the horrors of puppy mills.

The story on puppy mills was excellent, until you said that the owners of these puppy mills were treating their dogs as livestock. The implication being that livestock are somehow different than our companion animals. The only real difference is the way we treat them.

We, the undersigned, ask you to review the following and to consider sharing this with your audience. In our opinion, to imply that the current treatment of livestock is acceptable is to continue to foster the abysmal treatment of these animals.

Livestock are sentient beings. Here is some expert data that you may not be aware of:

  • Cows are intelligent, loyal animals who enjoy solving problems. Cows have been known to use their smarts to perform amazing feats, such as leaping over a 6-foot fence to escape a slaughterhouse, walking 7 miles to be reunited with a calf after being sold at auction, and swimming across a river to freedom. When cows figure out the solution to a problem, they have a “Eureka!” moment, according to animal behaviorists.
  • Pigs are curious and insightful animals thought to have intelligence beyond that of an average 3-year-old human child? They are smarter than dogs and every bit as friendly, loyal, and affectionate. Scientists and scholars who have studied pigs say that pigs are the smartest animals outside of primates.
  • Chickens are inquisitive, interesting animals who are thought to be as intelligent as cats, dogs, and even some primates. They understand sophisticated intellectual concepts, learn from watching each other, and even have cultural knowledge that is passed from generation to generation.
  • Turkeys are social, playful birds who enjoy the company of others. They relish having their feathers stroked and like to chirp, cluck, and gobble along to their favorite tunes.
  • Geese are very loyal to their families and very protective of their partners and offspring. Often, they will refuse to leave an injured or sick mate or chicks behind, even if winter is approaching and the other geese in the group are flying south. After a partner dies, some geese spend the rest of their lives without a mate; this can be a long time, because geese can live up to 25 years.
  • Even fish are smart, sensitive animals with their own unique personalities. They have excellent memories and can learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group and can recognize individual “shoal mates.” Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some even use tools.

source: Please see their website for additional information on the behavioral characteristics and treatment of “livestock.”

There is also preliminary evidence that lobsters and prawns feel pain and suffering too. For further details, see our post at on the subject.

Your show, “What would you dare to live without,” touched on the over-consumption of goods by Americans. You urged us to cut down. Americans account for 5% of the global population. As Mark Bittman pointed out in his New York Times article, “Rethinking the Meat Guzzler,” we consume 10 BILLION animals a year, which amounts to 15% of the worlds consumption. Here are some of the more amazing facts he points out:

  • A study last year by the National Institute of Livestock and Grassland Science in Japan estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef is responsible for the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the average European car every 155 miles, and burns enough energy to light a 100-watt bulb for nearly 20 days.
  • Though some 800 million people on the planet now suffer from hunger or malnutrition, the majority of corn and soy grown in the world feeds cattle, pigs, and chickens. This despite the inherent inefficiencies: about two to five times more grain is required to produce the same amount of calories through livestock as through direct grain consumption, according to Rosamond Naylor, an associate professor of economics at Stanford University. It is as much as 10 times more in the case of grain-fed beef in the United States.
  • Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago.
  • “When you look at environmental problems in the U.S.,” says Gidon Eshel, a geophysicist at the Bard Center, “nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production… (In Iowa alone, hog factories and farms produce more than 50 million tons of excrement annually.)

As global citizens we must examine the impacts of our behavior, not only on the individual level, but also on the global level. As John Robbins says in his book “Diet for a New America”

“It is increasingly obvious that environmentally sustainable solutions to world hunger can only emerge as people eat more plant foods and fewer animal products. To me it is deeply moving that the same food choices that give us the best chance to eliminate world hunger are also those that take the least toll on the environment, contribute the most to our long-term health, are the safest, and are also, far and away, the most compassionate towards our fellow creatures.”

And here’s a question for you and Mr. Tolle. How enlightened a species can we be when we continue to eat the flesh of other sentient beings? We perpetrate a needless brutality on the other species of this planet. Is it not hypocritical to search for enlightenment while continuing to behave with such a total lack of compassion toward our fellow earthlings? I urge you again to watch Earthlings, the 2003 documentary narrated by Joaquin Phoenix. It will forever change the way you see the world.

Oprah, please consider this petition as your next billboard: Please do a story on the atrocities perpetrated against livestock. We would like you to bring awareness to the impact that the factory farming industries have on the environment. Perhaps by doing this we can influence the way people eat, significantly reducing their consumption of meat, which will in turn:

  • save the lives of billions of animals per year,
  • save the lives of countless people per year,
  • and reduce pollution and greenhouse emissions,thereby helping to save the planet.

For further reading see:

Livestock’s Long Shadow (PDF file)

The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat (PDF file)


Note to our Readers: Some of you have written to us indicating that you’ve had trouble signing the petition. While we would still prefer to have “signatures” here, if that is impossible in your case, please write a comment at this post. Thanks!


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