Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time Their Turn - The Social Justice Movement of Our Time

The Monster Minister

February 22, 2015 by Leave a Comment


Don’t be fooled by his childish smile and cheerful name. Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s Minister of Agriculture, is one of the most dangerous men on the planet.

Barnaby Joyce, Australia's Minister of Agriculture

Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s Minister of Agriculture (photo:

In recent years, Australian animal advocacy groups have released footage from dozens of undercover investigations showing thousands of animals being terrorized by industries regulated by Mr. Joyce. Instead of punishing the culprits, Mr. Joyce uses the news as a PR opportunity to portray Australia as a world leader in the humane treatment of animals. Instead of condemning the crimes, he denounces the advocates who document them. And instead of working to eliminate the abuses, he advocates for “ag gag” laws to prevent them from being exposed.


Each year, Australia loads millions of live sheep and cattle onto ships and transports them to countries in the Middle East and Asia that have few, if any, laws governing the humane treatment of animals. Undercover investigations consistently expose atrocities during every leg of the journey. Thousands of animals have died from heat exhaustion and disease on the ships and have been butchered while still alive in their destination countries.

live exports Australia

Australian animals meet their fate in the Middle East (photos: Animals Australia)

In spite of abundant evidence demonstrating that live animals cannot be exported humanely, Joyce defends the trade and works to expand it. And he routinely uses Australia’s unenforceable and ineffective animal welfare regulations – the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Program (ESCAS) – to not only justify his promotion of the live export trade but also portray it as a model for the humane treatment of animals. In January, Joyce stated that a review of ESCAS “demonstrates that Australian livestock exported overseas are treated humanely in almost every instance” and that “only 12,958 animals (0.16%) had experienced a potentially adverse animal welfare outcome since 2011.”

Live sheep exported from Australia

Live sheep from Australia are stuffed into a trunk in Kuwait (photo: Animals Australia)

Adolph Hitler said, “make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it.” This appears to be Joyce’s strategy to convince the world that the millions of animals who are abused and tortured in the live export trade are treated “humanely in almost every instance.”

Barnaby Joyce (photo:

Barnaby Joyce (photo:


In mid-February, Animals Australia released footage of greyhounds ripping apart live animals who were being used as bait to train the dogs to run faster. The revelation that dog racers were using rabbits, possums and piglets as “live bait” and the footage itself were so disturbing that the dog racing industry was compelled to publicly condemn the practice and cancel its annual awards ceremony.

Greyhound in training chases live possum being used as bait (photo: AFP)

Greyhound in training chases live possum being used as bait (photo: AFP)

Instead of denouncing the illegal, pervasive and horrific use of live bait when the news broke, Barnaby Joyce, true to form, criticized the activists for using hidden cameras and reiterated the need for legislation that would outlaw their use. Time and again, Joyce has made his objective clear: fine and imprison those who dare to document crimes against animals while protecting those who commit them.

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Exiting our Comfort Zone

February 10, 2015 by Leave a Comment


Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), the animal rights group that is conducting protests inside, is challenging activists to “exit their comfort zone” on behalf of the animals:

“We have found that speaking loudly and proudly in defiance of social convention inspires others to do the same. And that is why we encourage activists to step outside of their comfort zones, past the boundaries of tradition and into the stores that are selling the dead bodies of our friends.”

It’s a message that is resonating with many activists who have taken a more traditional approach by peacefully protesting on public property. Indeed, hundreds of activists in cities around the world are, for the first time, staging protests inside of restaurants and grocery stores.

Of course, courageous activists have put themselves in uncomfortable situations on behalf of animals since the earliest days of the movement – liberating animals from fur farms; conducting undercover investigations in factory farms; protesting naked; blocking entrances to laboratories; and storming onto runways during fashion shows.

Protesting at a Donna Karan runway show

Protesting at a Donna Karan runway show

Exiting one’s comfort zone is nothing new in the movement. What has changed, thanks to DxE and Collectively Free, is that it is going mainstream.

Donny Moss of took the DxE challenge, (nervously) speaking out during a Collectively Free protest exposing Whole Foods’ fraudulent marketing campaign, which claims that the animals who they sell lived happy lives.

“Pushing my own boundaries was cathartic. I could finally relate to the old saying ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,'” said Donny Moss. “More importantly, stunned customers who might have walked right by me during a street protest paid attention to my message.”

Just imagine how much more we could accomplish for animals if we all exited our comfort zone!

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Oddly, The NY Times Describes Return of Foie Gras to California as Insignificant

January 14, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The NY Times regularly publishes substantive stories about the cruelty of industrialized animal agriculture, giving readers a disturbing peak over the high walls and into the windowless sheds that house the 10 billion farm animals slaughtered for food each year in the U.S. And, while the NY Times will never go far enough to satisfy those who espouse an entirely cruelty-free diet, its coverage of the horrors of factory farming is most welcome and appreciated by advocates.

Factory farm sheds where animals are held prisoner for their entire lives

Factory farms have no windows so that people cannot see where their meals are raised.

Today, the Times published a lengthy story by op-ed writer Mark Bittman arguing that the recent return of foie gras in California is insignificant because it affects only 600,000 animals nationwide, which is less than the number of chickens killed each hour in the U.S: “The lifting of the California ban against selling foie gras is pretty much a nonissue, except to point out that as a nation we have little perspective on animal welfare. To single out the tiniest fraction of meat production and label it ‘cruel’ is to miss the big picture, and the big picture is this: Almost all meat production in the United States is cruel.”

"No. Not again."

Ducks and geese are force fed through a metal pipe 3X daily in the weeks before slaughter.

While Mr. Bittman’s references to the cruelty of animal farming and his use of graphic words like “torturous” are praiseworthy, his suggestion that the return of foie gras is insignificant is perplexing. Why dismiss as irrelevant the reversal of much-needed protections that advocates worked tirelessly to achieve? Mr. Bittman might believe that “foie gras itself just isn’t that important,” but the ducks and geese who are throat-raped with a metal pipe three times a day would probably beg to differ.

Activists with PETA protest the return of foie gras in California (photo: PETA)

Activists with PETA protest the return of foie gras in California at Hot’s Kitchen in Los Angeles (photo: PETA)

Greedy, Heartless Owner of Hot's Kitchen, Sean Chaney, Sued to Legalize Foie Gras (photo:

Greedy, Heartless Owner of Hot’s Kitchen, Sean Chaney, Sued to Legalize Foie Gras in CA (photo:

Mr. Bittman: Is it too late to reframe the story by saying, “We must advocate to reinstate California’s foie gras ban AND work to help the billions of abused chickens, pigs, cows and fish who have been left behind.”

Ironically, the return of foie gras to California comes at a time when this “delicacy of despair” is coming under fire in the foie gras capital of the world — France.

Your Turn

Please sign the petition to re-instate the law banning foie gras in the state of California.

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Activism 2.0 – Entering, Agitating & Disrupting

January 11, 2015 by Leave a Comment


All ethical vegans fighting for animal rights want the same thing — total animal liberation — but our paths to achieving it take us in different directions. In the past two years, a new and confrontational approach has gone mainstream in the U.S. and is spreading globally. Does the approach reflect the natural evolution of all social justice movements? Does it stem from the desire to expedite change for animals? Did it emerge to help activists stand out in an era of information overload? Whatever the motive, the approach is breathing new life into the animal rights movement, jolting  consumers where they least expect it; capturing the attention of the media; and triggering activists to exit their comfort zones on behalf of animals.

DxE protests Chipotle's for marketing animal farming & slaughter as humane.

DxE protests Chipotle’s for marketing animal farming & slaughter as humane. (Photo: DxE)

The big change, propagated by the global organization Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and embraced by NYC-based Collectively Free, is taking the protests inside of businesses that exploit animals. Let’s face it: many people pay no attention to activists demonstrating on a sidewalk, but they are a captive audience when seated in a restaurant or waiting in line at the grocery store. It’s an approach that, on the surface, appears ineffective or even counterproductive to some people. But in a compelling article about the approach, DxE’s founder, Wayne Hsiung, explains why disrupting and agitating inside are key ingredients in any successful social justice movement.

In his blog, Hsiung writes that Naomi Wolf, the pioneering feminist who studied dissent and protest in America, argues that, throughout history, activists have succeeded only when they disrupted “business as usual” and that today’s protests have become so “bureaucratized, institutionalized, and integrated into the fabric of ordinary life” that they are no longer disruptive.

Rosa Parks agitated by illegally sitting at the front of this bus, which is now a symbol of the Civil Rights movement.

Rosa Parks agitated by illegally sitting at the front of this bus, which is now a symbol of the Civil Rights movement.

Following are a few short excerpts from Hsiung’s blog:

“Dissent is vital to achieving social change, and that dissent is only effective if it is powerful, confident, and . . . disruptive.”

“Passersby, customers, and even multinational corporations can easily dismiss and write us off, if we do not push our message in the places where it is most unwelcome. But when we transform a space where violence has been normalized into a space of dissent, we can jolt, not just individual people, but our entire society into change.”

The AIDS activist group ACT-UP, which was comprised mostly of gay men in the 1990s, would have been ignored if they didn't stop traffic, chain themselves to fences and climb onto rooftops.

ACT-UP, an AIDS activist group, would have been ignored in the 1990s if they didn’t stop traffic, chain themselves to fences and climb onto rooftops. (pictured at the NIH)

“Because we have expressed that our cause is important enough to violate a powerful social norm [dining], we leave a mark on people: “Wow, what the heck was that! They’re so outraged by something that they felt the need to come into the store to register their complaint.”

animal rights protest at Chipotle

DxE breaks with the tradition of letting customers dine in peace.

“Speaking loudly and proudly in defiance of social convention . . . inspires others to do the same. And that is why we encourage our activists to step outside of their comfort zones . . . and into the stores that are selling the dead bodies of our friends.”

Your Turn

Please visit Direct Action Everywhere and Collectively Free to learn about, support and/or join their provocative campaigns to expose the truth about animal farming and promote a cruelty-free lifestyle.

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8 Reasons Why Horse-Drawn Carriages Cannot Be Operated Humanely or Safely in NYC

January 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment


Following are eight reasons why horse-drawn carriages cannot be operated humanely or safely in NYC. No amount of regulation or enforcement can fix these issues:

1. Horses spook: Horses are prey animals who can be spooked by sirens, potholes, barking dogs and many other stimuli. When spooked horses bolt down congested city streets, they become weapons. Many horse-drawn carriages crashes in NYC have been caused by spooked horses.

Spotty died after spooking and crashing into a car, sending 3 people to the hospital.

Spotty died after spooking and crashing into a car, sending 3 people to the hospital.

2. Urban environment: Horses are living animals, but, by forcing them to work in the streets with aggressive taxi drivers, tour buses and emergency vehicles, the carriage operators are treating them like motor vehicles. They simply do not belong in the busy streets of NYC.

Who does not belong in this picture?

Who does not belong in this picture?

3. No pastures: Horses are grazing animals, but NYC has no pasture where they can graze, run, roll and interact physically, as herd animals do. They are either confined between the shafts of their carriages, encumbered by equipment, or kept in stalls.


In addition to blinders, which curb their vision, the horses eat with a cold metal bit in their mouths.

4. Housing: The horses are housed on the second and third floors of four stables on the far West Side of Manhattan. If a fire broke out in one of these buildings, where highly flammable hay is stored, the panicked horses would be unable to escape down the narrow ramps, even if someone opened their stalls one-by-one to let them out. In 2011, NYC’s Department of Health recommended that the City prohibit new stables from having stalls above the ground floor, but that change, if implemented, would have done nothing to help horses trapped in the current stables.

West side livery front

After working in the streets, the horses aren’t turned out into a pasture. They come to this and other stables in Hell’s Kitchen.

5. Car exhaust: Ingesting car exhaust can cause lung disease in horses who live a nose-to-tailpipe existence – even in Central Park, where cars are permitted at certain times of day.

Nose-to-tailpipe for nine hours a day

Nose-to-tailipe for up to nine hours each day

6. Hard surfaces: Hard surfaces can cause concussive injury to horses’ legs and feet, which were designed to walk on soft surfaces.

horse surface

Horses legs were designed to walk on soft surfaces, like grass or dirt.

7. Lack of shade: Most of the horses are stationed in Grand Army Plaza, which has no shade. During the hot summer months, they bake in the sun for hours at a time. Over the years, many carriage horses have collapsed and died from heat exhaustion.


Carriage driver pours a bucket of water on a horse who collapsed from heat exhaustion.

8. Food & water: The horses’ feed is often contaminated with pigeon droppings, which is a violation of city code.  In addition, the horses are watered out of two communal basins, which is described by one expert as “a veterinary nightmare” because the horses can transmit diseases to each other and because humans use them as trash cans.

horse pigeon

Feeding horses with grains contaminated with pigeon feed violates city code, but who is going to enforce that?

The horses have no choice but to wear blinders, but elected officials, carriage operators and patrons intentionally turn a blind eye to the obvious cruelty out of political expedience and greed. History will assuredly judge those who fought to keep horse-drawn carriages in the congested streets of New York City.

How can anyone think this is humane or safe?

How can anyone think this is humane or safe?

Your Turn

1. If you live in NYC, please join NY-CLASS in its efforts to rally support among lawmakers for the Mayor’s bill to ban horse-drawn carriages. If you live elsewhere, please sign their petition.

2. To learn more about the issue and keep apprised of news, subscribe to the weekly newsletter of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

3. Watch the award-winning documentary film BLINDERS to see why people have been fighting for years to take the horses out of NYC:

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