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The Rape Rack

June 15, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

Perhaps the only thing that the animal agriculture industry and animal rights activists can agree upon is the name of the device in which dairy cows are impregnated – the “rape rack.”

Female cows restrained in a device reffered to as the "rape rack."

Female cows restrained in a device referred to as the “rape rack”

The “rape rack” is a narrow, chute-like device in which female cows are restrained while they undergo a process the dairy industry euphemistically refers to as “artificial insemination.” During artificial insemination (AI), a dairy worker inserts one of his arms into the rectum of a restrained cow and, with his other arm, inserts a rod-like device called an Al gun into her vagina. The Al gun, which contains bull semen, is pushed in further until it reaches the cervix (the entrance to the uterus). The semen is then injected into the uterus.

A diagram illustrated how to artificially inseminate a female cow.

A diagram illustrates how to artificially inseminate a female cow.

Many supporters of animal rights argue that forcibly impregnating cows constitutes sexual abuse. “As public awareness of its barbaric practices increases, the dairy industry is desperate to whitewash them,” said Kathy Stevens, the Executive Director of Catskill Animal Sanctuary. “They can call this practice ‘artificial insemination’ if they wish, but impregnation against one’s will using forcible restraint pretty much sounds like rape to me.”

A female cow undergoing the process of artificial insemination.

Artificial Insemination

In order to produce milk, cows and other animals used for dairy production must be impregnated each year because their milk production stops at around the time their calves would naturally stop nursing.

To maximize the amount of milk available for human consumption, babies are typically taken away from their mothers within 24 hours of birth, causing profound distress to both the mother and her newborn. Mother cows bellow and call to their babies for days following the separation. Some of the babies are sent directly to the slaughterhouse, to veal farms, or to feedlots; the rest become dairy cows like their mothers.        

Dairy industry diagram illustrates the different ways to profit off of male calves, who cannot produce milk.

Dairy industry diagram illustrates the different ways to profit off of male calves, who cannot produce milk.

The psychological and physical stresses of life in the dairy industry rapidly weaken and/or sicken cows, quickly rendering them unprofitable to their owners. They are therefore sent to slaughter at a fraction of their natural lifespan. When the cows arrive at the slaughter plant, they often need to be dragged to the kill floor because they are too weak to walk.

A cow too weak to walk (downer) is pulled into a truck which will carry her into the slaughter plant.

A cow too weak to walk (downer) is pulled into a truck which will carry her into the slaughter plant.

A 2014 horror film entitled “The Herd” vividly depicts the torment endured by cows in the dairy industry. This film, directed by Melanie Light, portrays a fictional dairy farm in which the cows are replaced with human women.

In an interview with “Shock Till You Drop,” a website devoted to reviewing horror films, Light, who describes herself as a “vegan feminist,” said: “A lot of people don’t make the connection. Being female isn’t exclusive to humans . . .These cows, pigs and sheep are abused for their reproductive systems.”

Over the years, the term “rape rack” has gradually disappeared from the dairy industry’s vernacular. “It used to be common parlance in dairy farming. Today, farmers are far more savvy about terminology—as are other industries that use animals” says Katie Arth of PETA. “As a result, that term has vanished from the farmers’ vocabulary in the same way that ‘iron maidens’ and ‘restraint chairs’ have been renamed ‘sow stalls’ and ‘gentling devices.’ The industry now prefers to use euphemisms such as ‘breeding boxes’ to describe the boxes or chutes where female cows are restrained while a worker forcibly inseminates them.”

A restrained female cow undergoing artificial insemination.

A restrained female cow undergoing artificial insemination

Your Turn

To learn more about artificial insemination please visit Free From Harm.

To learn about other dairy industry practices and undercover investigations done on dairy farms please visit Mercy for Animals.

To watch “The Herd” in full, click here


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VIDEO: Film Documents Explosion of Factory Farms in China

January 3, 2016 by Leave a Comment


The News

Historically, meat in China was used as a seasoning. Today, it’s the main course. The radical change in diet coupled with an exploding population has led to the rapid industrialization of animal agriculture — in a country where the humane treatment of animals has not yet entered the public consciousness. Brighter Green, a U.S. based public policy action tank, is attempting to change that.

Industrial agriculture in China has expanded with the increased demand for meat and the explosion of fast food restaurants

Industrial agriculture in China has expanded with the increased demand for meat and the explosion of fast food restaurants

Using an all Chinese crew, Brighter Green produced a half hour film – What’s For Dinner? – that documents the surge in factory farms and the tragic impact they are having on the environment, public health and the animals. According to Executive Director Mia McDonald, Brighter Green is using the film as “a tool to raise public awareness about the negative impact of industrialized agriculture and the benefits of adopting a plant-based diet.”

The story is told through the eyes of a retired pig farmer, a vegan restaurateur in Beijing, a livestock entrepreneur, and residents of a city whose water supply has been polluted by factory farm waste.

In addition to exporting fast food restaurants to China, the United States has exported the fallacy that the meat and dairy-centric American diet is healthier than the traditional vegetable-heavy Chinese diet. The mainstream Chinese public has not yet connected the dots between the increase in the consumption of animal protein and the growing obesity and diabetes epidemics. The public also hasn’t made the connection between animal agriculture and the country’s food shortage, which could be curbed if the grain being fed to livestock was instead fed to the people.

Chinese people connect the dots between animal agriculture and their polluted water supply

Chinese people connect the dots between animal agriculture and their polluted water supply

According to What’s For Dinner?, there is hope, as vegan restaurants gain popularity in Beijing and other cities, and animal welfare organizations are increasing in number and influence. But the shift away from the newly-adopted meat-heavy diet has to occur quickly because, as the filmmakers point out, “Twenty percent of all people live in China, so what the Chinese eat and how they produce food affects not just China, but the entire planet.”

Industrial animal agriculture is especially egregious in China, where the humane treatment of animals isn't a part of the public discourse

In China, the humane treatment of animals is not yet a part of the public discourse.

Your Turn

What’s For Dinner? is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Video.  To purchase the DVD, please contact Icarus Films.


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Activists Shut Down Wall Street Journal’s “Why We Love Meat” Symposium

October 19, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

When animal rights activists with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) planned a disruption at a NYC Wine & Food Festival symposium celebrating the consumption of meat, even they didn’t anticipate shutting it down. But that’s exactly what happened during the Q&A at the sold out event hosted by the Wall Street Journal.

Several minutes after the activists stood up – one by one –  to draw attention to the violence inherent in the meat industry, attendees in the audience began filing out of the auditorium.

Angry audience member grabs poster out of activist's hands

Angry audience member grabs poster out of activist’s hands

An organizer of the event, who was visibly exasperated by the disruption, stood up and said “No one here is listening to what you are saying.”  Based on the number of people who left, however, her remark was incorrect.

“While some people would urge us to be nice, our goal at this event was to send a message that, if you host an event that celebrates violence, then you will be disrupted by nonviolent direct action,” said Zach Groff, an organizer with Direct Action Everywhere.

A visibly frustrated event organizer fails to silence the DxE activists

A visibly frustrated event organizer fails to silence the DxE activists

In its advertisement for the event, the NYC Wine & Food Festival writes, “Putting the environmental and health considerations aside, we’ll focus on the culinary and cultural aspects of eating meat, its enduring appeal and shifting significance.” Notably absent from the ad was the “ethical consideration.” The activists, however, ensured that every attendee left the room thinking about the ethics of slaughtering animals.

Exasperated audience members leave meat symposium during DxE disruption

Exasperated audience members leave meat symposium during DxE disruption

Your Turn

To learn more and/or join DxE, please visit Direct Action Everywhere.


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A Farmer Sees The Light in THE LAST PIG

August 4, 2015 by Leave a Comment


Opinion

Emmy award winning filmmaker Allison Argo has released the trailer to her highly anticipated documentary. THE LAST PIG, the story of a farmer in upstate New York who struggles to align his livelihood with his principles, chronicles Bob Comis’ final year raising pigs for slaughter, intimately documenting his personal journey from killer to advocate. Watch the extraordinary trailer:

Unlike Howard Lyman, an animal rights activist who once farmed animals on an industrial scale, Mr. Comis became a “humane” pig farmer to offer an alternative to factory farming. According to Argo, he “labored to provide a near-idyllic life for his pigs, digging mud wallows in the summer heat; planting fields of corn where they can feed freely; and providing pigs with acres to roam with their herds.” But after ten years of farming pigs, Mr. Comis reached a tipping point. How could he continue to slaughter the very pigs who follow him around like his beloved dog and who show signs of stress when their friends vanish?

Last-Pig-Comis

“I’ve come to understand that their eyes are never vacant. There’s always somebody looking back at you.”

In the film, we see Comis embrace the feelings that he worked for years to suppress — that pigs are sentient beings who want to live and that slaughter cannot be reconciled with “humane” farming: “I don’t want to have the power to decide who lives or dies anymore.”

Bob Comis at his farm in upstate New York

Bob Comis at his farm in upstate New York

The film delivers subtle, but unmistakable messages about animal rights. Among them is our arbitrary cultural bias – regarding dogs as companions and equally intelligent pigs as commodities. Comis’ dog Monk, who follows him around the farm, serves a constant reminder of this bias, especially when he sits in the front of the truck while the slaughter-bound pigs languish in the back.

"This communion is a lie. I am not their herd mate. I am a pig farmer."

“This communion is a lie. I am not their herd mate. I am a pig farmer.”

Comis’ decision to transition from a pig to a veganic, vegetable farmer did not come easy because of the risk to his financial security: “I have to give up my job, my livelihood, in order to live in line with my ethics. It’s a colossal effort. It’s a terrifying effort. It’s overwhelming. But I’m committed to doing it.”

Your Turn

THE LAST PIG will be released in spring of 2016. Thus far, filmmaker Allison Argo and cinematographer Joe Brunette have funded production from their own pockets, but they need support with finishing funds. Please contribute, if you can. Follow the progress on Facebook.


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Animal Rights Activist Being Sent to Jail: “The Animals Have it Far Worse.”

June 8, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

Amber Canavan is spending the month of July in jail. Her crime? Entering a foie gras facility, where tens of thousands of ducks are intensively confined and force fed through metal pipes, and rescuing two of them.

Amber Canavan entered Hudson Valley Foie Gras to document and expose the cruelty

Amber Canavan entered Hudson Valley Foie Gras to document and expose the cruelty

“We still live in a world where people who commit the abuses are victims and those who expose them are criminals,” said Ms. Canavan. “I don’t want to go to jail, but my time there will be a cakewalk compared to what animals are forced to endure in foie gras factories.”

Ducks cower in fear at the side of their cage at Hudson Valley Foie Gras (photo: still shot from footage taken by Amber Canavan)

Ducks cower in fear at the side of their cage at Hudson Valley Foie Gras (photo: still shot from footage taken by Amber Canavan)

In 2011, Ms. Canavan and another activist whose identity she has protected paid a late night visit to Hudson Valley Foie Gras in upstate New York, the largest foie gras producer in the United States. While there, she documented the “deplorable” conditions in which the ducks are kept. The footage she captured was used in a foie gras exposé produced by the Animal Protection and Rescue League and narrated by actress Wendy Malick.

In February, the NY Times published a lengthy story about the incident, which linked to the video and informed readers about the “force feeding” required to produce this “controversial” dish. “I take comfort in the fact the NY Times article and the footage that I took have helped to expose the atrocities being committed against these animals,” said Ms. Canavan.

Excerpt from NY Times story about Amber Canavan and Hudson Valley Foie Gras

Excerpt from NY Times story about Amber Canavan and Hudson Valley Foie Gras

After several weeks of intensive care, the two ducks rescued by Ms. Canavan recovered from their injuries and are “flourishing” at a sanctuary, where they have access to fresh air, proper care and water for swimming. Ducks and geese are aquatic animals, but they have no access to water in foie gras factories.

Ducks are aquatic animals but have no access to water in foie gras factories. These two ducks were rescued by Amber Canavan.

Ducks are aquatic animals, but they have no access to water at Hudson Valley Foie Gras and other foie gras producers. These two were rescued by Amber Canavan.

The campaign to expose foie gras cruelty and hold restaurants that serve it accountable has intensified in recent years. Since 2014, activists in the U.K. with Hertfordshire Animal Rights and London Vegan Actions (LVA) have compelled at least 10 restaurants to stop selling foie gras. In recent months, LVA has staged provocative disruptions inside of establishments that refuse to remove the “delicacy of despair” from the menu.

Amber Canavan will complete her jail term at the end of July, but her punishment won’t stop there. For the next five years, an order of protection – a penalty intended to protect victims of stalkers or domestic violence – will prevent her from campaigning against Hudson Valley Foie Gras. Ms. Canavan hopes that the court’s breach of her civil liberties and “heavy-handed” jail sentence backfire by triggering activists to convince as many restaurants as possible to drop foie gras.

Your Turn

Amber sacrificed her safety, freedom and financial security to expose the plight of animals exploited and killed for foie gras. Now, she needs help. Please make a tax deductible donation to her legal defense fund.


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