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USDA Uses “Demand” to Justify Intensive Confinement of Farm Animals

April 14, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

In a speech on climate change at Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, defended the intensive confinement of farm animals on the grounds of demand, saying “the market has been encouraging [farmers] to do that.” He also stated unequivocally that abuse on factory farms is the exception, not the norm, in spite of the fact that confinement is, in and of itself, abusive and that animal mutilation is standard practice on industrialized farms.

USDA versus animal rights activists

Animal rights activist Zach Groff confronts USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Mr. Vilsack made the remarks in response to the following question posed by animal rights activist and Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) organizer Zach Groff: “You are on the record supporting more subsidies for animal agriculture, defending animal agriculture left and right whether it goes for pink slime or keeping animal products in the [government’s] nutritional guidelines. Everyone in this room knows that animal agriculture is devastating for forests, for the climate, for the water supply. But most ignored is that there are innocent animals who are routinely the victims of horrendous violence. And I want to ask you – why do you support horrendous violence against innocent animals?”

After Mr. Vilsack addressed Mr. Groff’s remarks, categorically denying the inherent cruelty of animal agriculture, DxE activists disrupted the event, chanting “It’s not food. It’s violence” as they exited the auditorium.

Brian Burns, a DxE spokesperson said, “Tom Vilsack is dangerous. His carefully crafted messages about built-in animal protections and his sympathetic tone belie the fact that he is subsidizing the country’s most violent industry with our tax dollars. And his lies about animal agriculture, which must sound compelling to those who are uninformed, serve to marginalize the activists who are fighting to end the cruelty.”

Tom Vilsack

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

DxE activists disrupt USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack after he minimized animal abuse on factory farms

DxE activists disrupt USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack after he minimized animal abuse on factory farms

Activists say that Mr. Vilsack is the American version of Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s Minster of Agriculture who notoriously works to convince the public that the millions of sheep and cattle who are abused and tortured in his country’s live export trade are treated “humanely in almost every instance.”

Has Australia's Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce met his match?

Has Australia’s Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce met his match?

DxE is growing rapidly. In the 1.5 years since launching the “It’s not food. It’s violence” campaign, the organization has added chapters in 110 cities in 24 countries, including India, Bolivia, Romania, Indonesia and the Republic of Georgia. Following is short video highlighting their recent non-violent direct actions.

Your Turn

Please visit Direct Action Everywhere to learn about, support and/or join the organization’s ground-breaking campaign to expose animal cruelty in the very spots where it is taking place.

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The Earth’s Open Wounds

March 18, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

From above, the red and purple shapes look like gaping wounds on the planet’s surface. And, as it happens, that is exactly what they are. Agribusiness calls them “lagoons,” which conjure up images of pristine bodies of water, but they’re actually cesspools filled with the toxic waste of tens of thousands of animals.

Agribusiness describes cesspools as "lagoons" because that conjures up the image on the left, not the cesspool on the right.

Agribusiness describes their cesspools as “lagoons.” Pictured on the left: an actual lagoon

On factory farms, owners pump the animal waste from their sheds and feedlots into these man-made cesspools. Some of the sludge, which is filled with nitrates, antibiotics, bacteria and other toxins, seeps into the groundwater consumed by area residents who pump their water from wells. Most of it, however, is sprayed into the air, wreaking havoc on the communities that surround them. People who live near factory farms say that airborne liquid waste makes them sick; contaminates their drinking water; and prevents them from being able to go outside and open their windows.

Agribusiness uses industrial machines to spray toxic liquid animal waste into the air as a means to eliminate it and make space in the cesspools for more waste.

Agribusinesses spray animal sludge into the air to make space in the cesspools for more waste

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “lagoons routinely burst, sending millions of gallons of manure into waterways and spreading microbes that can cause gastroenteritis, fevers, kidney failure, and death.” A study published in January concluded that surface water near North Carolina factory farms is, in fact, contaminated. According to University of North Carolina professor Steve Wing, researchers “have evidence of pig-specific bacteria in surface waters, next to industrial swine operations.”

Waste lagoon at "Judy's Family Farm" (photo: Factory Farming Awareness Coalition)

Waste lagoon at “Judy’s Family Farm” in Sonoma Valley, California (photo: Factory Farming Awareness Coalition)

Like the factory farms themselves, the cesspools are hidden from public view. But, in 2014, Mark Devries, the director of the documentary film Speciesism, flew a drone over pork producer Smithfield Foods, exposing millions of people to a behemoth cesspool and its impact on the people who live in the community and the environment.

Ag gag laws, which criminalize the taking of photos and video on factory farms, have and will continue to compromise the ability to document these cesspools. In 2013, a National Geographic photographer was arrested for trespassing while taking photos of a feedlot in Kansas from a paraglider.

U.S. animal rights groups are fighting "ag-gag" bills

U.S. animal rights groups are fighting “ag-gag” bills

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When 100,000 Chickens Move Into the Neighborhood

August 21, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

City-dwellers who think they’re ingesting polluted air will never complain again after reading this powerful story of what happens to a rural community when a factory farm moves in: “Surry County, NC – with its beautiful rolling farmland and vineyards – is under siege.”  Children can no longer play outdoors; residents can no longer use fans in their homes; property values have plummeted; everyone is breathing in ammonia; and the community has no recourse because factory farms are exempt from the North Carolina’s odor laws.

Photo: Jere Cunningham

Photo: Jere Cunningham

Your Turn

Every community needs a superhero like Erin Brockovich to protect it, but most have regular people who are just trying to get by. Small towns are  simply no match for powerful agribusiness. As more rural areas are destroyed (literally) by factory farms, perhaps the residents will join the chorus of environmental and animal rights activists fighting to end factory farming — the industry most responsible for destroying their communities, the environment, our health and, of course, the animals.

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Where Are All the Egg Laying Hens?

August 20, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

In the United States alone, how many eggs do you think are consumed each day — in omelets, baked goods, packaged foods, restaurant kitchens, etc? About 220 million. It’s a staggering number and begs the questions: Where do these eggs come from? And where are the hundreds of millions of hens who are laying them?

Animals Australia has just released 2 minutes of high definition footage from the inside of the biggest egg supplier in the Australia, but this video could have been taken at any factory farm with hens. You won’t see any people in this video. Just hens. Watch and listen:

Your Turn

The farm featured in this video is “Egg Corp Assured (ECA)” in Australia, which means it has the “mark of a quality product produced under strict guidelines.” These certifications are almost always meaningless because they are created by the trade associations who represent their industry, not the public. Please share this video. People who eat eggs deserve to know the truth about what (or who) they are consuming.

Filed under: Food, Investigations
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Animal Rights Activists Tour MA to promote Humane Cage Bill

June 3, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

The Massachusetts Coalition for Humane Farms has launched a six city tour to promote state legislation mandating ages that would enable animals “to turn around and spread their limbs.” Using cages as a prop, the activists will educate voters about the extreme confinement of battery cages for hens, gestation crates for pregnant pigs and veal crates for calves.

Photo credit: One Green Planet

Photo credit: One Green Planet

News & Opinion

Bigger cages don’t equate to “rights,” but they’re less horrific than existing cages. Should we be fighting for bigger cages, an achievable goal that provides some relief, or should we be fighting for abolition, which is what we ultimately want for the animals? As we debate those questions as a community, we should continue to do what we can all agree on — encouraging people to adopt a cruelty-free lifestyle.

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