Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

This week Brian Douglas was convicted of felony animal cruelty in Hoke County, North Carolina, and was sentenced to 30 days jail, and nearly four years probation. Mercy for Animals has hailed this conviction as “the first felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Other related defendants’ cases are pending. Since the investigation into the abuse commenced last December, Butterball has maintained that as an organization it does not condone animal cruelty. Although my search for “animal rights” or “felony” did not turn up any results on Butterball’s website, the self-described largest turkey supplier in the United States does have a slide show demonstrating the love and affection each and every bird receives. I particularly enjoy the image of a mother and son handling a poult with the text, “Our turkeys need the proper care and attention from the start. This concept of well-being is essential in order for the birds to grow and thrive.” It’s true. I’m sure the turkeys do need that care. Whether they actually get it is the question. Butterball also states that “Regular veterinary exams monitor for diseases and help to ensure the health of flocks.” Again, true, but would these be the same veterinarians that tip-off Butterball prior to a police raid? Some people are skeptical. Continue reading

The animal industrial complex: The monster in our midst

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

Given the opportunity, what would you say to a couple hundred high school students about animal exploitation? In 30 minutes? I had that chance as a speaker at a Missoula, Montana high school in April. Having taught there several years ago, I already knew that kids at this school are generally awesome and take pride in their open-minded, “alternative” image. Still, I was clued in by a few that the animal rights viewpoint isn’t any more warmly embraced there than it is in the rest of society. Go figure.

Earth Day was the occasion, so I chose factory farming for my topic–its gross cruelty to animals, its devastating impacts on the environment and humans. Continue reading

Pondering Michael Vick & Grandma´s Turkey

David Cassuto

From the Recommended Readings Desk:  This from Sherry Colb over at Dorf on Law — a very thoughtful essay furthering a discussion begun when Gary Francione lectured at Cornell Law School.  Among other queries, the piece explores the relative morality of dog-fighting vs. cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.  The name of the essay is ´Animal Rights, Violent Interventions and Affirmative Obligations´ and is well worth the peruse.

Protecting Animals, One Mouthful at a Time

David Cassuto

Emory University is attempting to preserve “heritage” turkeys by feeding them to its students.  The Standard Bronze and Bourbon Red turkeys are in danger of dying out due to lack of demand.  So, apparently, is the Tennessee Fainting Goat and other species that don’t fit the factory farm mold.  The lede of this Chronicle of Higher Ed. article (pay site but there are day passes…) declares: “Sometimes the best way to save something is to eat it.”  It then describes how Emory ordered 1,600 pounds of birds for its Thanksgiving meals.

I’m fascinated by this rhetoric as well as how this type of logic goes routinely uncontested.  Last time I read the Endangered Species Act, it said nothing about how only edible species merit preserving.  Continue reading

It’s a Girl!

Kate Blacker

Meet my new edition, Rhonda.  She was rescued by Farm Sanctuary and lives in upstate New York.  I think she has my eyes.  You, too, can sponsor a turkey just in time for the holidays.

I admit it is a bit cliché to talk about turkey cruelty on Thanksgiving.  But it is also quite an exercise in gratitude to reflect on the life and death of a Thanksgiving turkey.  I am thankful for not having my toes chopped off.  I am thankful no one will trim off a piece of my face or neck (unless I elect to have such work done and I don’t mind paying the taxes).  I am grateful that my eyes and lungs do not burn in agony as I live out the rest of my days breathing in ammonia and standing in my own waste (and the waste of everyone around me).  I am not so overdosed with antibiotics and hormones that my little legs break underneath the immense weight of my unnaturally oversized body.

Yes, our Thanksgiving turkeys are mutilated at birth and tortured to death.  Their lives are replete with pain, misery and even sexual abuse.  I have a lot to be thankful for when I compare my life to that of the turkey.  And don’t be deceived; the life of a natural/organic turkey is no better.  You can check out some “free range” turkey farm pictures here.

Maybe we don’t need to kill turkeys in order to get the most out of Thanksgiving this year.  Maybe we can capture the spirit of Thanksgiving by having compassion for one another and by treating everyone with a little kindness.

Turkey Pardons

Much has been said about the ritual of Thanksgiving and its accompanying slaughter of hundreds of millions of defenseless birds, most of who lived short lives of unrelenting and abject misery.  I have little to add to what’s already out there except my own indignation and sorrow.

But I do have something to say about the Thanksgiving ritual, particularly the embedded legal contradiction in the practice (discussed by Luis below) of pardoning turkeys.  To pardon means “to release (a person) from further punishment for a crime.”  At Thanksgiving, however, the concept of the pardon gets up-ended.  The turkeys supposedly petitioning for clemency have committed no wrong.  Their lives consist of brutal mistreatment with slaughter soon to follow (the latter, I might add, will occur devoid of any of the protections of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act since under Department of Agriculture regulations, birds are not “animals” and thus not legally entitled to a merciful death).  If anything, egregious crimes have been wrought upon these birds.  Yet, every year, one or two are selected at random and “pardoned.”  This ritual amounts to transferring the guilt of the perpetrators on to the victims and then forgiving a token few of them in a bizarre act of self-absolution by proxy.

The pardon no doubt is supposed to demonstrate mercy and humor but in my view, it demonstrates neither (case in point: Sarah Palin’s now infamous video ).  It rather reveals a deep societal discomfort with the fact that a holiday that celebrates life’s blessings and an industry devoted to torture and death are conjoined and mutually dependent.

David Cassuto

Thanksgiving Turkey

Every year close to 300 million turkeys are raised for slaughter in the United States. Over 45 million are eaten on Thanksgiving. Nearly all of them spend their entire lives with little or no room to spread their wings. Most of them are bred to gain incredible amounts of weight which often leads to heart attacks and broken limbs. As a result, they are given inordinate amounts of antibiotics just to say alive. There is no justification for doing this to millions of sentient beings. This Thanksgiving we should do the right thing. Let’s say “thanks, but no thanks” to that turkey meal. Try one of these faux turkeys instead.  

Luis Chiesa

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