Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection

A new book by Erin E. Williams and Margo DeMello explores the treatment of animals and how the pursuit of profit has led to horrendous treatment of animals in the United States.

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Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection exposes how capitalism has degraded yet another ages old human institution: our relationship to animals. This contemporary pursuit of profit–as animals are used for food, hunting, pets, research and entertainment–inflicts extreme cruelty upon animals, places many of their human counterparts in danger and destroys the environment.

The authors’ strongest point is made in their expose of the meat industry. The reader gets much more than a moral lecture on why to be a vegetarian. The book documents how factory farm methods not only slaughter animals but also force them to live lives of daily torture as they are confined in dark, small, crowded pens, in their own urine and feces. To combat the resulting ill health, they are pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones that make them more susceptible to painful and debilitating deformations.

Birds’ beaks are cropped; even eating causes them pain. Cow’s tails are cropped; they cannot even swish away biting flies. The authors write, “They (animals) often have no fresh air, do not feel the earth under their feet, and do not enjoy sunlight. Hundreds of millions of them are virtually immobilized. They can hardly perform any of their most important natural behaviors or experience even the most basic pleasures.”

When it’s time for slaughter, meat animals experience horrific fear and excruciating pain. For example, they are shipped long distances with little care given to food, water or rest and hung on hooks or scalded in boiling water often while conscious. Spent hens are crammed into dumpsters while still alive.

Human costs

Meanwhile, the underpaid workers in these operations are often immigrants who dare not speak up. The authors write, “…they slip and fall in the blood, feces, and other fluids that cover the floors; they are kicked and cut by animals struggling for their lives; they are cut by knives that disembowel and disassemble animals; they endure painful and chronic repetitive motion injuries. The industry’s ever-increasing line-speeds increase the risk of being cut, bruised, burned, stabbed, blinded, dismembered, disfigured and worse.”

In addition, slaughterhouse workers breathe air contaminated with airborne feces, E coli, campylobacter and listeria. Workers on factory farms endure similar subhuman working conditions and routinely develop sinusitis, chronic bronchitis and organic dust toxic syndrome. The book notes, “Factory farm workers are also exposed to infectious diseases such as anthrax, psittacosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis, swine influenza A, and avian influenza A, as well as several other diseases and conditions…”

Workers are not the only human health victims of the meat industry. Widespread use of antibiotics has created several antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, which are in the beginning stages of causing pandemics among the general public in the US and around the world.

Environmental consequences

According to Williams and DeMello, “… animal agribusiness and its use of ever-increasing numbers of animals is among the most serious causes of environmental degradation.” U.S. factory farms produce more than 500 million tons of manure a year, waste that is hundreds of times stronger than untreated domestic sewage. Overgrazing is the leading cause of desertification, and subsequent loss of native plant species, in the U.S.

Factory farms growing animals account for more than 50% of all water use. In addition, manure spills contaminate our water supplies. “Each year, pollution from animal agriculture creates a ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, killing much of the marine life in an area the size of Massachusetts,” the authors report.

Data supporting humane change

In subsequent chapters, Why Animals Matter presents well documented, full treatments of other ways our capitalistic society subjugates and abuses animals. The authors show that hunting has very little to do with conservation; the fur industry subjects farm raised and trapped fur animals to ongoing pain and cruelty; animal laboratory research is more about big bucks than science; and zoos, rodeos, circuses and the TV/motion picture industry all victimize animals, though to differing extents. Nor is the pet industry exempt. Its powerful lobbyists make sure legislation favors profit over fair treatment of the very animals Americans hold most dear.

Each section of the book concludes with action steps readers can take to work against the vast market forces that see all animals as units to be sold for profit. For example, the chapter on the meat industry–while encouraging readers to adopt a meat-free diet–also offers the options of reducing meat and dairy consumption or limiting purchase to products from free range animals that have been raised and slaughtered humanely.

Excerpts about animal friends rescued from the factory farm, puppy mill, greyhound track and laboratory also inspire readers to make the world a better place for animals–and hence, a better world for humans, too.

Erin E. Williams and Margo DeMello, Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, (Prometheus Books, 2007). A new book by Erin E. Williams and Margo DeMello explores the treatment of animals and how the pursuit of profit has led to horrendous treatment of animals in the United States.

Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection

Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection exposes how capitalism has degraded yet another ages old human institution: our relationship to animals. This contemporary pursuit of profit–as animals are used for food, hunting, pets, research and entertainment–inflicts extreme cruelty upon animals, places many of their human counterparts in danger and destroys the environment.

The authors’ strongest point is made in their expose of the meat industry. The reader gets much more than a moral lecture on why to be a vegetarian. The book documents how factory farm methods not only slaughter animals but also force them to live lives of daily torture as they are confined in dark, small, crowded pens, in their own urine and feces. To combat the resulting ill health, they are pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones that make them more susceptible to painful and debilitating deformations.

Birds’ beaks are cropped; even eating causes them pain. Cow’s tails are cropped; they cannot even swish away biting flies. The authors write, “They (animals) often have no fresh air, do not feel the earth under their feet, and do not enjoy sunlight. Hundreds of millions of them are virtually immobilized. They can hardly perform any of their most important natural behaviors or experience even the most basic pleasures.”

When it’s time for slaughter, meat animals experience horrific fear and excruciating pain. For example, they are shipped long distances with little care given to food, water or rest and hung on hooks or scalded in boiling water often while conscious. Spent hens are crammed into dumpsters while still alive.

Human costs

Meanwhile, the underpaid workers in these operations are often immigrants who dare not speak up. The authors write, “…they slip and fall in the blood, feces, and other fluids that cover the floors; they are kicked and cut by animals struggling for their lives; they are cut by knives that disembowel and disassemble animals; they endure painful and chronic repetitive motion injuries. The industry’s ever-increasing line-speeds increase the risk of being cut, bruised, burned, stabbed, blinded, dismembered, disfigured and worse.”

In addition, slaughterhouse workers breathe air contaminated with airborne feces, E coli, campylobacter and listeria. Workers on factory farms endure similar subhuman working conditions and routinely develop sinusitis, chronic bronchitis and organic dust toxic syndrome. The book notes, “Factory farm workers are also exposed to infectious diseases such as anthrax, psittacosis, brucellosis, leptospirosis, swine influenza A, and avian influenza A, as well as several other diseases and conditions…”

Workers are not the only human health victims of the meat industry. Widespread use of antibiotics has created several antibiotic resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, which are in the beginning stages of causing pandemics among the general public in the US and around the world.

Environmental consequences

According to Williams and DeMello, “… animal agribusiness and its use of ever-increasing numbers of animals is among the most serious causes of environmental degradation.” U.S. factory farms produce more than 500 million tons of manure a year, waste that is hundreds of times stronger than untreated domestic sewage. Overgrazing is the leading cause of desertification, and subsequent loss of native plant species, in the U.S.

Factory farms growing animals account for more than 50% of all water use. In addition, manure spills contaminate our water supplies. “Each year, pollution from animal agriculture creates a ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, killing much of the marine life in an area the size of Massachusetts,” the authors report.

Data supporting humane change

In subsequent chapters, Why Animals Matter presents well documented, full treatments of other ways our capitalistic society subjugates and abuses animals. The authors show that hunting has very little to do with conservation; the fur industry subjects farm raised and trapped fur animals to ongoing pain and cruelty; animal laboratory research is more about big bucks than science; and zoos, rodeos, circuses and the TV/motion picture industry all victimize animals, though to differing extents. Nor is the pet industry exempt. Its powerful lobbyists make sure legislation favors profit over fair treatment of the very animals Americans hold most dear.

Each section of the book concludes with action steps readers can take to work against the vast market forces that see all animals as units to be sold for profit. For example, the chapter on the meat industry–while encouraging readers to adopt a meat-free diet–also offers the options of reducing meat and dairy consumption or limiting purchase to products from free range animals that have been raised and slaughtered humanely.

Excerpts about animal friends rescued from the factory farm, puppy mill, greyhound track and laboratory also inspire readers to make the world a better place for animals–and hence, a better world for humans, too.

Erin E. Williams and Margo DeMello, Why Animals Matter: The Case for Animal Protection, (Prometheus Books, 2007).

Background on the Green Scare Campaign against Activists

Over the weekend, activists in over thirty cities held benefits for “Green Scare” victim Marie Mason, who has recently been indicted for arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) in Michigan in late 1999 and early 2000.

Mason’s arrest was part of what many have dubbed “the Green Scare“–a coordinated government campaign aimed at silencing the radical animal rights and radical environmental movement. Journalist Will Potter has been writing about this government and corporate scare campaign since the late 1990s, and at a recent talk, he gave an excellent overview of the green scare and what it means for activists. The talk is viewable below:

Legislators Rated on Animal Protection Issues

The Humane Society Legislative Fund has released its annual “Humane Scorecard.” The scorecard reports how legislators in the United States House of Representatives and Senate have acted on animal protection issues. The scorecard primarily tracks co-sponsorship of animal protection legislation in the House and the Senate.

Legislators representing Grand Rapids–Representative Vern Ehlers and Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow–generally were rated highly by the Humane Society. Senator Levin received a “Humane Champion” award for having a 100% rating on the scorecard and sponsoring the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act that created federal-level felonies for violating the federal law on animal fighting. Levin also co-sponsored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act and a law designed to prevent animal researchers from using stolen cats and dogs. Additionally, he signed onto a letter to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee seeking more funding for animal protection. Senator Stabenow received a 75% rating. The Humane Society rated her lower for failing to co-sponsor the law preventing animal researchers from using stolen pets.

In the US House of Representatives, Representative Vern Ehlers received a 67% rating. Ehlers co-sponsored the Dog and Cat Fur Prohibition Enforcement Act that would require all garments trimmed with fur to list the source of the fur. He also voted for the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act that would create felonies for violation of federal animal fighting laws, a bill that prohibits the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses, and a bill that prevents the import of sport-hunted trophy polar bears from Canada. However, Ehlers did not co-sponsor the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act that would limit the sale of horses for human consumption, nor did he sign onto a letter to the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee seeking additional funding for animal protection.

Guide to Going Vegan in Grand Rapids Released

grand rapids vegan guide cover

Contributors to ExtraVeganza!–a blog on the Grand Rapids online community G-Rad.org–have produced the Non-Definitive Guide to Going Out Vegan in Grand Rapids. The guide offers a number of resources for people considering a vegan diet. Vegan diets have been increasing in popularity in recent years, with people choosing not to consume animal products for a range of reasons including health, the environment, and animal rights. In addition to listing a number restaurants and stores where folks can get vegan food, the guide contains seven reasons to go vegan and tips for those making the transition. The guide is available both in online and print format.

Aside from the this guide, folks considering going vegan should also checkout the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council’s annual guide to purchasing locally produced food.

Slaughterhouses, Fur Farms, and Animal Research Laboratories in Michigan

080307-animal_exploitation.jpg

An anonymous activist has compiled a directory of slaughterhouses, fur farms, and animal research laboratories across the United States and published it online at finalnail.com. The name “Final Nail” comes from an underground magazine that was circulated in the late 1990s. That zine was targeted by the Fur Commission, a trade group representing “mink farmers” who charged that:

The Final Nail: Destroying the Fur Industry – A Guided Tour has been posted for years on the Internet, introduced by the same quote: “The Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people killing it have names and addresses.” The Final Nail lists farm addresses for fur farmers and, since fur farms are predominantly family-owned, those addresses are the home addresses of small family farmers.

The Final Nail includes chapters entitled “Maximum Destruction NOT Minimum Damage”, “Smashing the Furriers” and three chapters on incendiary devices.

Extremists have used these addresses to coordinate midnight raids on farms, releasing, then abandoning, domesticated animals to become road kill. These terrorists have mailed razor blades and death threats to farms where children routinely fetch the mail. They have used the information in The Final Nail to build incendiary devices and commit arson.

Despite the charges of the Fur Commission, the information is important in that it can shed light on an industry that exists based on the systematic exploitation of animals. According to the FinalNail.com, the website exists to “shine light on industries directly involved in animal abuse and exploitation.” The website further states:

Have you ever seen a slaughterhouse? Chances are there’s one close to where you live. Or take a road trip and visit a fur farm. When you do, send us pictures and we’ll post them here.

We need your help to improve this resource. Let us know if you find businesses that have closed, incorrect addresses, or if there’s something missing from our lists.

We hope to expand this directory in the future. Is there an animal industry that you think we should feature?

For Michigan, the website lists 6 lab animal suppliers, 16 fur farms, 5 trapping operations, and 31 slaughterhouses. The locations are listed below:

Laboratory Animal Suppliers

Xenopus I, Inc.

5654 Merkel Road

Dexter, MI 48130

Phone: (734) 426-2083

Fax: (734) 426-7763

Web: http://www.xenopusone.com

Notes: Laboratory animal supplier (frogs)

Hodgins Kennels

6300 Lange Road

Howell, MI 48843

Phone: (517) 546-3078

Fax: (517) 546-3078

Contact: Fred & Janice Hodgins, Tammy Longhi

Notes: Laboratory animal supplier (dogs); USDA Class B dealer (licensed to sell “random source” dogs).

Praxis

2723 116th Avenue

Allegan, MI 49010

Phone: (888) 205-1536

Web: http://ipraxisibc.com

Contact: Patrick McKown

Notes: Laboratory animal supplier (fish, amphibians)

S & S Farms

14135 S. 29th Street

Vicksburg, MI 49097

Phone: (877) 646-4744 or (760) 788-7007

Fax: (269) 649-2589

Website: http://www.snsfarms.com

Notes: Laboratory animal supplier (pigs). See also Ramona, CA.

R & R Research

19256 W. Kendaville Road

Howard City, MI 49329

Phone: (231) 937-5680

Contact: James Woudenberg, Roberta Woudenberg

Notes: Laboratory animal supplier (cats, dogs); USDA Class B dealer (licensed to sell “random source” dogs).

Cheri-Hill Kennel & Supply

17190 Polk Road

Stanwood, MI 49346

Phone: (231) 823-2392

Fax: (231) 823-2925

Contact: Mark Ulrich

Notes: Laboratory animal supplier (dogs); USDA Class B dealer (licensed to sell “random source” dogs).

Fur Farms

There were 7 fur farms in Michigan in 2006 (according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service), down from 16 in 1997.

Jack Brower Fur Farm

15011 Chandler Road

Bath, MI 48808

Notes: Farm may be closed (confirmation needed).

Michigan State University

Dr. Steve Bursian

2209C Anthony

Department of Animal Science

East Lansing, MI 48824-1225

Phone: (517) 355-8415

Fax: (517) 353-1699

Web: http://www.canr.msu.edu/dept/ans/community/people/bursian_steve.html

Notes: Received a $20,000 grant in 2005 from Mink Farmers Research Foundation (“Research on Nutrition, Toxicology, Behavior and Management of Mink”). Dr. Bursian used to work with now-retired fur industry researcher Richard Aulerich. MSU used to operate an Experimental Fur Farm (located on Jolly Road), which may still be open?

Dale Hiatt

31765 M-66 or 30985 Covey Road

Leonidas, MI 49066

Notes: Fox farm. Farm may be closed (confirmation needed).

Natural Fibers

17519 L Drive South

Marshall, MI 49068

Contact: Joe & Marie McFadden

Notes: Fox farm. Farm may be closed (confirmation needed).

Van Elderen Bros.

8th Street, just north of 112th Avenue

Martin, MI 49070

Fox Haven

1806 E. Hinchman Road

Berrien Springs, MI 49103

Contact: James E. & Judith Brown

Notes: Fox farm.

Lemon Creek Fox Ranch

2224 E. Lemon Creek Road

Berrien Springs, MI 49103

Contact: William V. & Norma Kechkaylo

Notes: Fox farm. At same address, Wicklewood Kennels.

Fisk Fox Farm

11576 Sprague

Sand Lake, MI 49343

Phone: (616) 984-5564

Contact: Douglas R. and Diane Fisk

Notes: Fox farm.

LeFebre’s Mink Farm

1260 146th Avenue

Wayland, Ml 49348

Contact: Randall J. LeFebre

Notes: Farm may be closed (confirmation needed).

Scholten Fur Farm (Scholten Feeds)

260 – 139th Avenue

Wayland, Ml 49348

Contact: John Scholten

Notes: Large fur farm.

Mink farm

2495 Phaneuf

Traverse City, MI 49686

Contact: Brian Fisher

Notes: Farm may be closed (confirmation needed).

Jander’s Fur Farm

17725 County Road 551

Bark River, MI 49807

Phone: (906) 466-2909

Contact: Gregory Jander

Robert Roell & Sons

N11218 State Highway 95

Channing, Ml 49815

Contact: Robert Roell, Kenneth Roell, David Roell

Notes: There are two large farms south of Channing on State Highway 95; east side of road.

Sturdy Mink

5218 18.9 Lane

Gladstone, Ml 49837

Robert & Rita Sturdy

Phone: (906) 786-7835

Notes: Large fur farm. Entrance located off of 19th Lane, about 1/2 mile west of County Road 426/Michigan 5/G38.

Pipkorn Mink Ranch

Box 217

Hermansville, Ml 49847

Contact: Steve & Tom Pipkorn

Notes: Address?

JET Mink Ranch

N2119 Bay De Noc Drive

Menominee, MI 49858

Phone: (906) 863-3113

Notes: Large fur farm. Bay De Noc Drive is also known as Old US 41. Farm is located at southwest corner of Bay De Noc and 5.25 Lane, west of US 41.

Trapping

Michigan Trappers Association

Web: http://www.michigantrappers.com

Notes: state trapping association

J&K Fur Exchange

2893 S-M65

Whittemore, MI 48770

Phone: (989) 756-2473

Contact: Ralph Degesie

Notes: U.S. agent for Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. (www.furharvesters.com/usagents.htm).

Two Bears Trading Company

12475 Greenbriar Lane

Grand Haven, MI 49417

Phone: (888) 863-2652

Fax: (616) 846-9635

Web: http://www.twobears.com

Contact: Ernie & Vicki Marvin

Notes: Retailer of furs, skulls, teeth, turtle shells, etc.

F&T Fur Harvester’s Trading Post

10681 Bushey Road

Alpena, MI 49707

Phone: (989) 727-8727

Web: http://www.fntpost.com

Notes: trapping supplies

Mark Spencer

N4552 Spencer Lane

Moran, MI 49760

Phone: (906) 292-4779

Notes: U.S. agent for Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. (www.furharvesters.com/usagents.htm).

UPTA, Dan Harrington

W9402 Peterson Drive

Iron Mountain, MI 49801

Phone: (906) 774-3571

Notes: U.S. agent for Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. (www.furharvesters.com/usagents.htm).

Slaughterhouses

C. Roy Inc.

444 Roy Drive

Yale, MI 48097

Phone: (810) 387-3975

M P

Crescent Slaughterhouse Corp. (dba Al Badr Slaughterhouse)

1826 Adelaide Street

Detroit, MI 48207

Phone: (313) 567-6000

M

Berry & Sons Rababeh Isl Slau

2496 Orleans Street

Detroit, MI 48207

Phone: (313) 259-6925

M

Wolverine Packing Company (dba Amish Country Brand, Bonnie Maid)

1340 Winder

Detroit, MI 48207

Phone: (313) 259-7500

M

Weltin Meat Packing

8678 Fifth Street

Minden City, MI 48456

Phone: (989) 864-8888

M

Confers Slaughterhouse

8100 Saginaw Street

New Lothrop, MI 48460

Phone: (810) 638-5095

M s

McNees Meats

6267 Old State Road

North Branch, MI 48461

Phone: (810) 688-2408

M

Johnston’s Meats

4470 Sandusky Road

Peck, MI 48466

Phone: (810) 378-5455

M s

Bernthal Packing

9378 Junction Road

Frankenmuth, MI 48734

Phone: (989) 652-2648

M P s

Nature’s Premier Organic

372 List Street

Frankenmuth, MI 48734

Phone: (989) 652-9840

M P

Walsh Packing Company

7551 Pigeon Road

Pigeon, MI 48755

Phone: (989) 453-2961

M P

Michigan State University, Animal Science Dept.

1358 Anthony Hall (Meat Lab)

East Lansing, MI 48824

Phone: (517) 355-8452

M P s

Alma Freezer Company

1724 W. Monroe Road

St Louis, MI 48880

Phone: (989) 681-3733

M s

Jones Butcher. & Meat Proc.

7965 Potters Road

Saranac, MI 48881

Phone: (616) 642-9212

M P

Packerland – Plainwell, Inc. (dba Moyer Packing, Murco Foods)

11 Eleventh Street

Plainwell, MI 49080

Phone: (269) 685-6886

M

Pease Packing Corporation

8713 South 38th Street

Scotts, MI 49088

Phone: (269) 626-8891

M P

Countryside Quality Meats

1184 Adolph Road

Union City, MI 49094

Phone: (517) 741-4275

M P

Bob Evans Farms

200 N. Wolcott Street

Hillsdale, MI 49242

Phone: (517) 437-3340

M

Hillsdale County Meats

11560 E.Territorial Road

Waldron, MI 49288

Phone: (517) 286-6270

M

Geukes Market

500 North High Street

Middleville, MI 49333

Phone: (269) 795-3767

M P

Otto’s Poultry

5622 Whitneyville Road

Middleville, MI 49333

Phone: (269) 795-7696

P

De Vries Meats

17685 80th Avenue

Coopersville, MI 49404

Phone: (616) 837-6061

M

Jos Sanders

237 South Main

Custer, MI 49405

Phone: (231) 757-4768

M

Fillmore Beef Company

5812 142nd Avenue

Holland, MI 49423

Phone: (616) 396-6693

M

West Michigan Beef Company

3007 Van Buren Road

Hudsonville, MI 49426

Phone: (616) 669-1212

M s

Michigan Turkey Producers

2140 Chicago Drive SW

Wyoming, MI 49519

Phone: (616) 245-2221

P (turkey)

Ebels Family Center

420 E. Prosper Road

Falmouth, MI 49632

Phone: (231) 826-3333

M P

L & J Meat Market (dba Boone Cattle Company)

3901 South Morey Road

Lake City, MI 49651

Phone: (231) 839-2176

M P

Rocheleau Meats

10900 Townline Road

Cheboygan, MI 49721

Phone: (231) 627-4474

M P

Rainbow Packing

3532A 18th Road

Escanaba, MI 49829

Phone: (906) 786-7098

M P

Michigan Meat Processing

3708 19th Avenue North

Escanaba, MI 49829

Phone: (906) 789-7410

M

PETA Highlights Treatment of Chickens at Protest

Three activists with PETA visited Grand Rapids to “strip naked” as part of PETA’s coordinated effort to hold nude or bikini-clad protests around the country to raise awareness about KFC’s treatment of chickens served at is restaurant. However, as is frequently the case with PETA events, the treatment of chickens was minimized by PETA’s questionable tactics.

On Friday, three activists with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) held a protest at the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant located at 945 Michigan NE in Grand Rapids. The PETA members, all of whom were women, wore nothing other than two banners that read “KFC Tortures Chicks” on the front and “Turn Your Back on KFC Cruelty” on the back. The protestors, who have staged similar events around the country as part of a coordinated effort by PETA members to hold either nude or bikini-clad protests, designed to increase awareness about Kentucky Fried Chicken’s treatment of chickens and PETA’s ongoing campaign to challenge the restaurant. The women were joined by two additional protests during the twenty minutes that Media Mouse observed the protest.

PETA’s Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign was launched after two years of PETA attempting to work with KFC to improve the conditions under which the 850 million chickens slaughtered by the restaurant each year are raised. While other competitors such as Burger King and McDonald’s have made progress on animal welfare issues following PETA campaigns, KFC has refused to make substantive improvements and has attempted to mislead the public about its treatment of animals. Undercover investigations by PETA have shown horrible abuses of chickens at KFC suppliers in West Virginia, Maryland, Arkansas, and Alabama, as well at plants outside of the United States in the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries. At a West Virginia plant that won a KFC “Supplier of the Year” award, workers were caught tearing chickens’ heads off, ripping them apart, spitting tobacco on them, spray painting their faces, and throwing them against walls. This kind of treatment has been repeatedly shown to be taking place at plants supplying KFC with chicken, yet the company has refused to do anything.

In order to improve conditions for chickens slaughtered by KFC, PETA has supported a “recommended animal welfare program” that was actually created by members of KFC’s own animal welfare board. The plan makes a series of broad recommendations that KFC could take to improve the treatment of chickens–all of which are consistent with industry practices–but KFC has refused to adopt the recommendations. The recommendations call for KFC to adopt the “Animal Care Standards” program that would establish guidelines to protect chickens on factory farms by covering issues such as ammonia concentration, lighting conditions, and living space in chicken sheds. It prohibits intentional starvation of breeding birds, and also requires that birds be provided with mental stimulation. The recommendations call for measures to attempt to make the slaughter process more “humane,” although no system that is based on the murder of 850 million chickens per year could ever be described as such. Nevertheless, it has been suggested that KFC replace electrical stunning and throat-slitting methods of killing birds–often done when they are conscious–with “controlled-atmosphere killing.” Improvements are also being sought for chickens’ lives before they are killed, with recommendations to switch to “less cruel” mechanized chicken gathering instead of manual chicken gathering from pens (resulting in less broken legs, bruising, and stress on chickens), breeding for health instead of rapid growth by ending the practice of using antibiotics for non-therapeutic purposes. Perhaps the most important recommendation is for increased transparency and verifiability, with the recommendations calling for independent and unannounced third-party audits and disclosure of the results on KFC’s website.

PETA cites numbers showing that 95% of people want to see humane treatment of animals used for food, and the goals of this campaign represent are admirable both in their substance and that they are modest enough that both meat eaters and vegetarians and vegan can support them, with the goals representing the very minimum of what people should be doing to improve the deplorable treatment of animals raised for food by humans. However, these goals are often lost through tactics such as those used today by the naked PETA protestors in Grand Rapids. While these tactics occasionally get PETA press attention (although not always, as the Grand Rapids Press wrote about why they refused to cover a similar protest over a year ago), there are significant questions about how they reinforce patriarchal values. At the protest today, men driving by in cars honked at the women–not necessarily in support–but instead as they gawked at the sight of women standing naked on a street corner. PETA’s tactics downplay the relationship that exists between eating meat and the oppression of women, a relationship most famously raised by the feminist Carol Adams in her book the Sexual Politics of Meat. Adams has also written specifically on the subject of PETA and their use of pornographic imagery, arguing that PETA’s tactics inevitably add to the oppression of women under patriarchy and that she would not “liberate animals over the bodies of women.” PETA’s nudity reinforces the idea that women are acceptable objects for the male gaze and its alliances with institutions built on the oppression of women, such as Playboy, come at the expense of what could be a unified movement for animal and human liberation. Over the past several years, PETA has produced a number of advertisements that project objectifying and misogynistic portrayals of women, used questionable protests that use S&M and bestiality references, and even produced a web-only strip-tease video.

Moreover, however problematic and criticized PETA has been for its “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign, nudity in that campaign was at least directly connected to the core of the campaign, the same cannot be said about the Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign. The press release sent out about PETA’s Grand Rapids protest prioritized the “PETA Beauties” who would be in Grand Rapids to “bare all” by “wearing nothing but a banner” over the treatment of chickens. The release makes no mention of the endorsements that the campaign has gotten or the undercover investigations into the company’s treatment of chickens, instead hyping the nudity rather than KFC’s treatment of chickens.

New Law Classifies Non-violent Civil Disobedience Carried out by Animal-Rights Groups as Terrorism

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), passed unanimously by the US Senate and passed today without debate in the House of Representatives, targets animal rights activists by reclassifying common tactics as terrorism.

by Megan Tardy / New Standard News

Media Mouse has reprinted this article because of the potentially stifling impacts that it may have on the animal rights movement as well as its potential for creating a climate where dissent is equated with terrorism. Following the publication of this article, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was passed with no debate in the House of Representatives.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA), already passed unanimously by the US Senate, expands on a previous law aimed at activists who protest the treatment of animals. It reclassifies common activist tactics as terrorism based solely on the cause pursued.

Proponents of the legislation, including co-sponsors Senator Dianne Feinstein (D–California) and Senator James Inhofe (R–Oklahoma), say it will offer protection to scientists, medical researchers, ranchers, farmers and other industries using animals against “violent tactics” used by animal-rights “extremists.”

While the bill makes specific provisions to safeguard First Amendment-protected activity, such as peaceful protests and lawful boycotts, animal-rights activists and civil-rights groups say the bill’s vague language could brand activists as terrorists for activities that are unlawful yet non-violent, such as blockades, property destruction, trespassing, and the freeing of captive animals.

The Senate passed the bill in September, less than a month after it was introduced. An even stricter version is under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee.

Current law allows the government to prosecute activists for intentionally damaging property used by “animal enterprises” – businesses that use or sell animals. The AETA expands the bill to criminalize activists who also “interfere” with animal enterprises and businesses that work with them, taking into account resulting profit losses. It increases lengths of jail sentences and fines for activists convicted for breaking the law during their protests.

“What we’re concerned about is an instance… where protesters conduct a sit-in that causes lost profits…. We don’t want them prosecuted for ‘terrorism’ where the only damage is lost profits.”

Marv Johnson, legislative counsel for the ACLU, said activists could find themselves slapped with terrorism charges for committing non-violent crimes.

“The way the new bill is drafted is not particularly artful,” Johnson told The NewStandard. “What we’re concerned about is an instance… where protesters conduct a sit-in that causes lost profits. While they may be engaging in civil disobedience and have committed trespass, we don’t want them prosecuted for ‘terrorism’ where the only damage is lost profits.”

Additionally, the House version of the bill sweeps in “non-violent physical obstruction of an animal enterprise” as an offense if it causes a loss of profits.

Will Potter, a journalist who tracks how the so-called “war on terror” affects civil liberties, questions the motives behind the legislation.

“If this legislation is only going after so-called violent extremists, how can it spell out sentences for crimes that are, in the words of the legislation, ‘non-violent’?”

Animal-rights and “animal liberation” activists typically protest the inhumane treatment of animals, including their use in food production, laboratory testing, clothing and entertainment. Some animal-rights activists feel so strongly about animal abuse, they choose to break the law to protest or prevent the practices. Civil disobedience tactics used by animal activists have included sit-ins and blockades, undercover abuse investigations, destruction of abusers’ property or equipment, and the freeing of captive animals.

Under current law, activists can be penalized for causing an individual serious bodily harm or death. However, nearly all animal-liberation activists have foresworn violence and taken great care to avoid causing harm to people during their actions. The new bill criminalizes any act that creates a “reasonable fear” of bodily harm or death.

Potter said including such a provision is dangerous for activists because it is unclear what would constitute a “reasonable fear.”

“One possible scenario is if you have a very raucous protest outside an executive’s home. And then you add on the fact that all of these industry groups have been using this ‘eco-terrorist’ rhetoric,” Potter said. “And if those individuals are protesting outside of the home and are wearing masks, then that can be seen as menacing. So… what is a reasonable fear in this climate of the war on terrorism and the ‘eco-terrorism’ rhetoric going on?”

If activists were successfully charged with intimidation for carrying out such protests, under the AETA they could be liable for any lost profits the company suffered as a result of the demonstration.

“We think that the AETA is really a test case that would not bode well in the future for other activists….”

Nick Cooney, an animal-rights activist and director of the Philadelphia-based group Hugs for Puppies, said the word “terrorism” is “an extremely charged word” that would “influence how the public sees [the animal-rights debate], how politicians see the issue, how juries would see the issue.”

Critics of the bill worry that such labeling, coupled with the bill’s vague language, could inhibit both lawful and unlawful activities.

Johnson also said, “Any time you start talking about targeting a particular group, there’s a potential for chilling [of] speech.”

Heidi Boghosian, director of the National Lawyer’s Guild, said her organization opposes the bill, in part, because laws already exist to criminalize acts such as trespassing and property damage. Specifically targeting animal-rights activists with separate legislation and penalties, she said, “sets a dangerous precedent for going after people based on the content of their speech.”

“We think that the AETA is really a test case that would not bode well in the future for other activists,” Boghosian said, “because we think that they’re going to target activists based on their specific views of animals and environment.”

Potter called the AETA a “dream come true” for industries that abuse and kill animals.

As previously reported by TNS, corporations have long been pushing for stricter penalties for animal-liberation activists. In 2003, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative public-policy organization funded by more than 300 corporations, collaborated with the US Sportsmen’s Alliance to write model legislation, called the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act” to “fight domestic terror by animal and eco-extremist groups.”

The model legislation created offenses for “depriving” or “obstructing” an animal enterprise from using animals, similar to the House version of the AETA.

Cooney said the AETA is nothing more than a bill to “shield [company] profits from attack.”

Senators Feinstein and Inhofe acknowledged the financial motives behind the AETA in a press release. “Prohibiting the animal-rights extremists’ violent tactics,” they wrote, “will ensure that important animal enterprises, like biomedical industries, stay in California, for example, rather than go to India or China.”

One way in particular the bill is protecting industry is through its treatment of “tertiary targeting” – an activist tactic aimed not at the animal-abusing company itself, but other businesses that the animal enterprise depends on to stay in business.

The AETA expands the reach of current laws aimed at animal-rights groups to give prosecutors the ability to charge activists as terrorists if they target “a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise.”

Cooney says tertiary targeting is an important tactic used by animal-rights groups, and its success is what partly prompted the legislation. For instance, in an effort to cripple the animal-testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) – which activists charge with killing hundreds of animals a day – groups like Hugs for Puppies protested other companies that did business with HLS.

Cooney said activists held demonstrations outside of company employees’ homes and offices, and also called companies’ boards of directors to appeal to them. After being targeted by Hugs for Puppies, the aerosol-spray manufacturer Penn Century broke ties with HLS and issued a statement condemning animal cruelty.

Cooney said tertiary targeting has “allowed small, grassroots organizations to wield a lot of power, even though they don’t have millions of dollars and thousands of members.”

Protestors Welcome Circus to Town

circus protest

This weekend, Uniting for Justice, a local animal rights group, is holding protests outside of the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus at the Van Andel Arena in downtown Grand Rapids. The group—who believes that “all animals, like humans, are feeling beings with a basic right to live their lives as nature intended”—is leafleting people going into the circus about the treatment of animals. The group is distributing flyers produced by the People for Ethical Treatment’s (PETA) ongoing campaign to raise awareness about circuses and to eliminate the use of animals as entertainment. The leaflets that the group is distributing provide a considerable amount of information about the treatment of elephants by the Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus. A majority of the elephants used by the circus were captured in the wild but are forced to live in cages, chains, and are occasionally beat by animal “trainers.” They are forced to live in isolation rather than in the family groups in which they live in the wild. Elephants used by the circus are shackled up to 96% of the time and are only able to move 3 feet forward or backward rather than the 30 miles per day that they travel in the wild. Eight of Ringling’s two dozen elephant deaths since 1992 were attributable to osteoarthritis or chronic foot problems—two painful conditions caused by chaining. Documents from the United States Department of Agriculture reveal that Ringling paid a $20,000 fine after a baby elephant died after being forced to perform repeatedly while sick and has been cited for failing to provide veterinary care, minimum space, exercise, and drinking water.

View a video showing Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Circus abusing elephants