Violence in Context

Adonia David

 Yesterday I received an email with a picture of cats that were force-fed toilet cleaner by Proctor and Gamble – an example of animal testing of the type that goes on every day.  The photo was posted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), an umbrella entity that many view as a fringe and frightening network of individuals who are willing to save animals in testing facilities by taking steps that are prohibited by society such as property destruction etc. (ALF’s guidelines insist that all precautions be taken to make sure no animals or humans are harmed when any destruction occurs, but the fact remains that arson and similar activities are carried out at times).  I have seen other information posted by ALF, perhaps the most disturbing being the story of Britches, a newborn monkey stolen from his mother for a study on “maternal deprivation” and whose eyes were sewn shut to study “sight deprivation.” He was kept in what appeared to be a shut cabinet and given none of the affection a young animal requires.  Members of ALF saved him and, watching the video, I’ll freely admit that I saw them as the heroes of the story despite their reputation. Continue reading

Ban on Domestic Horse Slaughter Lifted

 Gillian Lyons

Since 2006, horse slaughter has been essentially banned in the United States, due to Congressional refusal to fund USDA inspections of horses at United States Slaughter Houses.  It is sad to say that on November 18th, this ban was silently lifted when Congress passed, and President Obama signed into law, a USDA spending bill that reinstated federal funding for inspection of horse meat intended for human consumption- effectively lifting the ban on domestic horse slaughter.

The lifting of the ban was the direct result of a Congressional Subcommittee Report “Horse Welfare: Action Needed to Address Unintended Consequences from Cessation of Domestic Slaughter” which connected the 2006 slaughter ban to an increase in neglect and abandonment of horses, as well as a drop in the price for horses. According to the report, the 2006 ban also resulted in a dramatic increase of horses being shipped to both Canada and Mexico for slaughter, with 138,000 horses having been shipped for slaughter in 2010 alone.  Animal welfare organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States argue that allowing domestic horse slaughter is not the proper tool for these managing issues, and instead posit that the move is a waste of taxpayer dollars. Their arguments ring true when reports show that 70% of polled Americans are opposed to horse slaughter.

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The Power of Undercover Videos

Ciara Smyth

            On Friday, November 18th 2011, McDonald’s and Target announced they were dropping one of their main egg suppliers after videos emerged showing the supplier’s employees engaging in multiple acts of cruelty against its animals.  The undercover videos  shot by the animal activist group Mercy for Animals show various acts of severe cruelty  being committed against the birds at different facilities of Sparboe Farms, a Minnesota based company.

The courageous acts of individuals from organizations like Mercy for Animals, and the internet, have become a farm animals’ best friend.  As blogger George Buchanan correctly states in his discussion of the workers harming the hens, many other animal right organizations have also gone undercover to expose the conditions of poultry farms.  Just recently, after the release of undercover videos taken at a slaughterhouse by Richard Couto and his organization, The Animal Recovery Mission, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office and the City of Hialeah Police Department arrested an accused ringleader of the illegal slaughterhouse.  He was subsequently charged him with three counts of animal abuse and 40 counts of confining animals without food or water. Rudesindo “Rudy” Acosta and his associates’ acts of brutal violence against hundreds of helpless animals, including cows, horses, sheeps, pigs and ducks, is beyond egregious and completely shocking to the conscience.
           Undercover video taken includes the repeated beating of pigs with sledgehammers while their stomachs are sliced open.  In one instance, “the killer actually put his hand in the pig’s jugular and ripped it out with his bare hands” said Couto.  Investigators also allege that animals were butchered and boiled alive in some instances.  Another video shows a cow struggling to stay alive after being shot.  Its head is draped over a bucket and a knife rammed into its throat. “I can’t imagine what that animal was going through,” said Couto. Animals are kept aliive to slowly bleed out because the blood has monetary value and is used to make blackened sausage.  Investigators told reporters that more slaughterhouse raids could be coming. They say they’re not going to allow this kind of animal abuse in their city. Just last week, the accused ringleader made his first appearance in Miami-Dade County bond court.  The judge set bail for $500,001.  Yup – over half a million dollars – now this is a judge I would like to shake hands with! Continue reading

Recent Texas Court of Appeals Decision: Using Pets as Property to Gain Ground

Jillian Bittner
In an opinion delivered by Justice Gabriel on November 3, 2011 inthe case of Medlen v. Strickland, the Second Court of Appeals of Texas, Fort Worth, reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen’s suit against Carla Strickland for the death of their dog. In what can only be considered a landmark decision, the Second Court of Appeals remanded the Medlens’ case, thereby granting the Medlens the right to sue for the “sentimental or intrinsic value of their wrongfully euthanized dog, Avery.

Kathryn and Jeremy Medlen’s history with their dog Avery began when Kathryn adopted Avery from a homeless man. The facts of this specific case, however, begin when Avery escaped from the Medlens’ backyard during a thunderstorm on or around June 2, 2009. Avery was soon thereafter picked up by animal control. Jeremy Medlen went to the animal shelter, Fort Worth Animal Care and Control, to recover Avery but did not have enough money with him to cover the fee in its entirety. Jeremy was informed that he could return to retrieve Avery on June 10th, and a “hold for owner” tag was placed on Avery’s cage, which was intended to protect Avery from being euthanized. On June 6th, Carla Strickland, an employee at the shelter placed Avery on a “to be euthanized” list for the following day, despite the label on Avery’s designated cage. On June 7th Avery was euthanized. When the Medlen family returned a few days later to get Avery, they were told he was put down. Continue reading

Workers Caught Harming Hens

More on the Sparboe mess…:

George Buchanan
  Sparboe Farms, which runs facilities in Colorado, Iowa, and Minnesota, that supply both Target and McDonalds with eggs, was dropped by the two companies due to animal cruelty. A group called Mercy for Animals filmed “hens crammed in crowded cages, workers burning beaks and one, trying to shove a bird inside the pocket of a co-worker, apparently for fun. Another worker presses his thumb against the back of a chick’s neck until it breaks

The egg supplier, Sparboe Farms, was also sent a warning letter earlier in the week by the FDA, which “found ‘serious violations’ after visiting five of the companies’ production facilities, including failure to have and implement a written Salmonella Enteritidis prevention plan and failure to prevent stray poultry, wild birds, cats and other animals from entering poultry houses.”   Both PETA and The Humane Society have complained, and released videos of the inhumane treatment that occurs at these poultry facilities in years past. But, perhaps with huge corporations such as McDonalds and Target pulling their accounts from egg suppliers, like Sparboe Farms, other suppliers will take notice and not only set standards that conform with anti-cruelty laws; but will also keep an eye on their employees to ensure the treatment that cost Sparboe Farms the lucrative accounts of McDonalds and Target, does not take place at their egg supplying facilities.    Continue reading

McDonald’s and Target Drop their Relationship with their Egg-Supplier, Sparboe Farms

Heather Schlemm

            Mercy for Animals revealed an undercover video of five egg producing farms in three states that both McDonald’s and Target purchase from. Mercy for Animals had its people hired at Sparboe farms and wired them with hidden cameras from May 23rd to August 1st to document the animal abuse occurring. Sparboe Farms is one of the nation’s largest egg suppliers and has facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado. Target Corp. was purchasing from the Litchfield Minnesota one and has now agreed to pull all eggs from this farm off its shelves. Target claims to have just been made aware of the facilities conditions and that is why they are immediately stopping their purchases. McDonald’s had purchased from the Vicent, Iowa plant for all its west locations and now says it will never work with Sparboe again. McDonald’s and Target released full statements on their decision to stop using Sparboe. Continue reading

Animal Abuser Registry Laws: NY is First, but Shouldn’t all States Jump on the Bandwagon?

Ally Bernstein

Last month, with a unanimous vote by the Legislature, Albany County became the third county in New York, and the Nation, to require persons convicted of misdemeanor or felony animal cruelty charges to register on the animal abuse registry. According to “Local Law K,” first time offenders will remain on the registry for 10 years and second time offenders will remain there for life and will be prohibited from owning an animal while on the registry. Other provisions of the law will subject offenders to fines and and other punishments for failure to comply.

    According to the Albany Times Union, the laws passed were followed by enthusiastic applause from the legislatures, apparently an “unusual move” after new laws are passed. Lead sponsor, Bryan Clenahan stated, “We know that animal abusers are the same people who commit violent acts toward children and other innocent victims in our community. By taking a stronger approach to animal abuse, we are working to create a safer, more peaceful community for pets and people alike.” Interestingly, this statement reflects that the law was created in order to further the protection of the children and other innocent victims, based on the correlations related to animal abuse and abuse to humans. However, whatever the case may be for why the laws were adopted, they are a major step in the prevention of animal abuse. Continue reading

Nonnative Snakes Populating South Florida

Josh Loring

Earlier this month it was reported that officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission encountered a 16-foot Burmese python in the Everglades (this issue has been previously raised in the Blawg here).  Officials felt compelled to kill the snake so to prevent the further re-producing of the species, as well as preventing it from travelling north to more populated areas.  Officials report that at the time the snake was caught and killed, it had recently consumed a 76 pound female deer.  Continue reading

The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act

Elizabeth Rattner

New legislation, titled “The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act,” has recently been proposed by Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia. The legislation aims at cracking down on the use of exotic animals such as elephants, lions, and tigers in traveling circuses. The bill proposes that these animals cannot be used in the circus if they have traveled in a mobile housing facility during the 15 days preceding the performance. The bill clearly targets traveling circuses (as most are) “that that keep their animals on the road for most of the year.”  Often, it is the circumstances of these travels where animals are tied up and caged for long periods of time causing both physical and psychological damage. The group PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society), in addition to Animal Defenders International (ADI), Bob Barker, and Jorga Fox have all teamed up to raise awareness of the conditions that circus animals endue, and to raise support for the new legislation, which aims to “signal fundamental changein the way in which animals are used in the name of entertainment in the United States.”

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Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Cartons should be Regulated

Sheila Rodriguez

Most Americans care about the welfare of farmed animals. Egg companies

Image courtesy of Compassion Over Killing

know that, and many market their eggs with labels claiming the hens were treated well. What consumers don’t know is that many of the animal welfare claims on egg cartons are meaningless.

In my article, The Morally Informed Consumer: Examining Animal Welfare Claims on Egg Labels, I argue that egg consumers have a right to know how hens are raised. Most hens are packed eight or nine birds to a cage. The cages are so small that hens are unable to stretch a wing. The overcrowding causes them to fight, so their beaks are cut off to prevent them from injuring other birds. The fewer than 5% of eggs in theU.S. that are not produced under these conditions are from hens that were not even allowed outside. Continue reading

Britain Set to Consider Required Video Surveillance in Slaughterhouses

Gillian Lyons

As fellow blog writer Adonia Davis mentioned in her blog posted earlier today, in 2007 undercover videos shot by the HSUS at California slaughterhouses showed horrific footage of abuses being committed against downed cows.  Partially as a result of these videos, the State of California passed a law requiring that downed animals be humanely euthanized.  Unfortunately it looks like the Supreme Court may overturn said law due to conflicts with federal law.  For more information see Adonia’s post.

It is also unfortunate that the incidence of cruelty against those downed cows in the California slaughterhouse was not an insolated incident.  Numerous organizations throughout the United States, and the world have conducted undercover investigations and discovered similar abuses.  For instance, Animal Aid, an organization based in Britain conducted similar undercover investigations and released videos of various abuses being committed.

It seems, however, that these investigations may have paid off- at least in Britain.  According to news sources, the outcry as a result of Animal Aid’s video releases prompted several of Britain’s largest slaughterhouses to install video surveillance in an attempt to monitor the conduct of their employees.  Furthermore, the videos have lit a fire under the Department for Food and Rural Affairs, which is now considering the implementation of required video surveillance at all slaughterhouses in England, Scotland and Wales. Continue reading

Supreme Court to Rule on Treatment of Downed Animals

Adonia David 

 The horrors of slaughterhouses were brought home to many Americans in 2007 when undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States at a California slaughterhouse showed workers abusing cows who were unable to walk (“downers”) by dragging them with forklifts, using water hoses on them, and shocking them with electric prods.  Footage of the video can be seen here.   The slaughterhouse was the second largest supplier of meat to the National School Lunch program, and the Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of meat following the release of the video.  California responded to this abuse by strengthening a state law relating to downed animals so that any such downed animal in a slaughterhouse is to be humanely euthanized immediately, and their meat shall not be sold for human consumption.

 The meat industry has claimed that California’s law conflicts with a federal law, the Federal Meat Inspection Act, which requires downed animals to be examined.  Under the federal regulations, if an animal shows signs of specified illnesses during the examination, its meat to be destroyed,  but otherwise it may be butchered for human consumption.  Asserting that the California law is preempted by federal law and that it violates the dormant commerce clause, the National Meat Association brought suit in National Meat Association v. Brown.  A district court judge granted an injunction which was overturned by the Ninth Circuit.  The Supreme Court granted certiaori and on November 9, 2011 heard arguments on the case.  The decision is expected in a few months, but unfortunately the Court seemed to be leaning towards the meat industry during the arguments. Continue reading

Pet Store in California Caught Buying from Puppy Mills

Heather Schlemm

             Many people decide to purchase animals from pet stores, regardless of the millions of animals killed in shelters annually. When a person purchases a pet from a store, they are not always guaranteed the animal was bred properly. Dogs bred in puppy mills are commonly sold in pet stores, & many customers are not aware of what this means for the health of their pet, never mind the cruel treatment of these facilities.  Would you purchase a dog you knew was malnourished & improperly cared for since its birth?                              

The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a class action suit in California against Barkworks, a pet store chain with 6 stores, for buying from puppy mills ALDF is claiming repeated fraud & false advertising to hide from customers that the puppies they sold were from puppy mills. Puppy mills are large, commercial facilities that breed dogs that are normally unsanitary & mass-produce pets. Puppy mills fail to provide adequate food, water, medical care & socialization. Dogs from these facilities are prone to diseases & disorders.  Continue reading

Remembering Charlie…

Gillian Lyons

***

We here at the Animal Blawg have written many a post on New York City’s horse drawn carriages- evidence here, here, and here.  However, the issue has never been more prevalent than it is currently, due to the unfortunate death of Charlie- one of the city’s carriage horses on October 14th.  According to preliminary necropsy results, at the time of his death Charlie was “suffering from a pronounced, chronic ulceration of the stomach and a fractured tooth.”  A representative of the ASPCA, the organization that performed the necropsy, stated that such maladies likely meant that Charlie was in severe pain prior to his death.

As a result of Charlie’s death, numerous organizations and individuals have called for an end to the carriage horse industry.  However, in response to this outcry Mayor Bloomberg declared his support for the industry, which he claims contributes huge amounts of money to the city. Bloomberg also stated that the horses should be considered lucky, because most wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for this “job.”

I respectfully disagree with Mayor Bloomberg’s statement, namely because there are other options for transportation of tourists around NYC’s Central Park- including a faux-vintage electric car (which would supposedly preserve carriage industry jobs, and increase the industry’s revenue).  Currently the electric car is supported by Introduction 86, a bill before the NYC Council, which calls for the phase-out of horse-drawn carriages and the introduction of the electric cars. However, it is unlikely that Introduction 86 will be passed without more support.  This is particularly true due to the fact that last April the Council passed another bill concerning carriage horses which mandates that horses are given a stall large enough to turn around in, as well as 5 weeks of vacation a year (note that for the other 47 weeks a year, the horses can be made to work 63 hours a week).

For those interested in showing their support for Introduction 86, information on Council Members to call may be found here.

***Please note that the horse in this picture is not a carriage horse and is instead a very happy horse.

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