In one of the most highly anticipated animal events of 2015, thousands of people traveled to High Falls, New York on September 5th to celebrate the grand re-opening of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in its new location. Situated on 150 lush green acres, the new sanctuary will serve not only as a refuge for rescued farm animals but also as a living classroom for visitors and a venue for cruelty-free events, such as summer camps and celebrations.
Jenny Brown and Doug Abel, the founders of Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, opened the original location in upstate New York on 26 acres, but they – and the animals they rescue who serve as ambassadors to all victims of animal agriculture – have outgrown the space. The new sanctuary is six times the size and far more expensive to own and operate. Please support Woodstock Farm Sanctuary by making a contribution or becoming a member.
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?
“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
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.”
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.”
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.
In its extensive coverage of the California drought, the New York Times has consistently focused on the cultivation of crops without so much as mentioning animal agriculture, which is far more water intensive.
Cattle during California drought (photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
The glaring omission has sent readers the message that fruits, vegetables and nuts – not beef and dairy – are responsible for the state’s grave water shortage. Following are excerpts from the NY Times over the past three days.
April 6th: “Even as the worst drought in decades ravages California, . . . millions of pounds of thirsty crops like oranges, tomatoes and almonds continue to stream out of the state and onto the nation’s grocery shelves.”
April 5th: “The expansion of almonds, walnuts and other water-guzzling tree and vine crops has come under sharp criticism from some urban Californians.”
April 4th: ”There is likely to be increased pressure on the farms to move away from certain water-intensive crops — like almonds.”
Cultivating crops might be be water intensive, but it uses a fraction of the water consumed in animal agriculture. On California’s factory farms, which house tens of millions of chickens, pigs and cows, water is used not only to hydrate these animals but also to grow their feed and clean the facilities and slaughterhouses where they are raised and killed.
Cows in a California feedlot
Eliminating animal agriculture, which inefficiently uses of a scarce resource and is altogether unnecessary, would undoubtedly help to curb California’s water shortage.
2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply
Following are just a few statistics that demonstrate the impact of animal agriculture on the water supply:
2,500 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef compared to 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.
Vegetables use about 11,300 gallons of blue* water per ton. Pork, beef and butter use 121,000, 145,000 and 122,800 gallons per ton respectively. (*Blue water is water stored in lakes, rivers and aquifers.)
Each day, cows consume 23 gallons of water; humans drink less than one.
The amount of water needed to produce a gallon of milk is equivalent to one month of showers.
132 gallons of water are used every time an animal is slaughtered.
One year ago (March, 2014), the NY Times published an op-ed, Meat Makes the Planet Thirsty, that included statistics comparing the amount of water used for crops and animals. So why is it omitting this vital information in its current coverage of the drought? Could it be a mere oversight? Or is it something more sinister?
2014 Climate March participants highlighted impact of animal agriculture on water supply
Once an animal rights campaign is embraced by the mainstream public, the corporation that is targeted would be wise to stop defending, and start fixing, the issue in question. But all too often, companies fight to maintain the status quo, prioritizing short-term profits over their reputations and even the long-term viability of their organizations. This week, two companies foolishly dug in their heels by defending practices that have been rejected by the public and, in many cases, by their own customers.
NATIONAL PORK PRODUCERS COUNCIL
In a letter to the editor of the NY Times in response to an opinion piece criticizing gestation crates, the President of the National Pork Producers Council, Howard Hill, writes that the crates are humane and “allow farmers to provide individual care to sows, monitor their feed intake and eliminate aggression among sows.”
Is Mr. Hill living on the same planet as the rest of us? Surely he knows that even meat eaters reject the most intensive forms of farm animal confinement. In a recent poll taken in New Jersey, for example, 93% of respondents said they oppose pig gestation crates. The ship has sailed, Mr. Hill. If you want members of the public to take “pig producers” seriously, then you need to eliminate, not justify, the metal cages that drive pigs (and activists) insane. Individualized care? Really?
On December 9th, activists in San Diego hand-delivered a petition to the Mayor asking him to help retire Corky (aka Shamu), an orca who has been performing tricks in a barren pool since she was plucked out of the ocean in 1969 — 45 years ago!
Delivering petition to retire Corky
In response to the “Retire Corky” petition, SeaWorld issued a statement describing the activists as “a handful of extremists” who are “out of touch with reality” and stated that Corky is “happy and healthy.”
Corky gave birth 7 times in captivity. All of her babies died in a matter of days.
Those words might have resonated with the public before Blackfish created an anti-captivity revolution. Now, they make SeaWorld sound delusional. Does their stock price have to drop to $0 before they accept the fact that the whales who once earned them billions are now poised to sink the entire company?
Today, it really is Their Turn! We have three victories to celebrate – each better the next.
First up – Eight female pigs are jumping for joy – literally – because their recent journey from gestation cage to slaughterhouse was pleasantly interrupted by people who liberated them. The brains behind the rescue? A student taking a “swine production” class who fell in love with them. The money? None other than Sam Simon, the Simpsons co-creator who is donating his fortune to animal rights causes.
Next up- the gay bull in Ireland who became an international sensation when his story went viral. As Benjy was being fattened up for a premature slaughter because he wasn’t inseminating female cows, the Irish animal rights group ARAN convinced his owner to sell him. Now, Benjy will live out his remaining years at a luxurious sanctuary, serving as an ambassador to all farm animals. And who’s funding his retirement? A few hundred people made contributions, but Sam Simon swooped in with the big bucks to close the deal.
Last, but not least, lawmakers in Oakland, California, have voted to ban the use of bull hooks, the weapons used by circuses to beat their elephants into submission (see video below). Los Angeles is the only other U.S. city with a bull hook ban. Without these weapons, the monsters at Ringling Bros. will be unable to bring their battered elephants into the city limits. The ban doesn’t go into effect until 2017, but it’s a major victory, and it sets a precedent for other municipalities. Let’s hope that Ringling employees don’t take out their anger on the elephants.
Hit the pause button to celebrate, share and be re-energized by the victories.