Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Read and Respond

The Associated Press released an informative news bite today, entitled Film Prompted First Humane Slaughter Law. The story is a brief historical piece that chronicles the birth of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act in 1958 and its connection to the recent beef recall.

Read an excerpt from the AP story:

"A film showing slaughterhouse workers abusing animals spurs demands for the federal government to put a stop to the abuse. That happened this year — and also a half-century ago, when a Seattle animal rights activist filmed hogs being mistreated at a Washington state slaughterhouse.

The 1950's film helped trigger a fierce debate on Capitol Hill over whether animals deserved some federal protection in their final moments. Congress ultimately decided that they did, and 50 years ago this summer, lawmakers passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which required that meat purchased by the federal government come from processors that humanely kill their livestock.

Now Congress is taking another look at slaughterhouse practices following undercover video filmed by the Humane Society of the United States. The video showed workers at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Chino, Calif., shoving and kicking sick, crippled cattle, forcing them to stand using electric prods, forklifts and water hoses. In response, the Agriculture Department shut down the plant, citing 'egregious violations of humane handling regulations.' Two fired workers have been charged with crimes."

Later in the article:

"Fifty years ago, the hog slaughter film by Arthur P. Redman similarly galvanized animal welfare advocates to pursue legislation. The film was shown at a congressional hearing in 1957 and Congress passed the landmark humane slaughter law the following year.

Speaking during debate on the day of the bill's passage, then-Sen. Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota Democrat and future vice president, said: 'We are morally compelled, here in this hour, to try to imagine — to try to feel in our own nerves — the totality of the suffering of 100 million tortured animals. The issue before us today is pain, agony and cruelty — and what a moral man must do about it in view of his own conscience.'"

The article also highlights a key vehicle for change - citizen action:

"In the late 1950s, Congress was awash in debate on the humane slaughter issue. The New York Times, in a May 4, 1958 story headlined 'Humane Appeals Swamp Congress,' described how constituent letters on the subject dwarfed those on foreign policy, the economy and defense. Four days of Senate hearings, the Times reported, attracted large crowds, mostly of women. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation despite the Agriculture Department's opposition. 'If I depended on my mail,' he said after the hearings, "I would think humane slaughter is the only thing anyone is interested in.'"

Moral of the story: Urge our Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer to ban the entry of sick and injured cattle into the human food supply. Email Secretary Schafer at

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Scientific Solution?

The Daily Democrat reports: "Animal welfare and poultry science experts from UC Davis, Michigan State University and other universities across the country are teaming up to study what are the most humane and commercially viable methods for housing egg-laying chickens. Leading the team of researchers in tackling this controversial issue are internationally recognized animal welfare scientist Joy Mench of UCD, and animal welfare researcher Janice Swanson and philosophy professor Paul Thompson, both of Michigan State University.

The research team has recently received $400,000 from the American Egg Board, an egg-marketing organization, to fund the planning stage of the research program. The issue of whether it is better for egg-laying hens to be housed in cages or to roam freely in large barns is particularly contentious in California, where an effort is under way to place an initiative on the November 2008 ballot that would ban the use of cages in raising laying hens."

It will be interesting to see the results of this well-funded study. With an industry trade group sponsoring this measure, it won't be a surprise if the study will reinforce the status quo: cage egg production.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

East Bay Congressman Weighs in on Hallmark Beef Recall

KCBS News reports: "Congressman George Miller, D-Martinez, Wednesday called for Congressional hearings in the biggest meat recall in U.S. history. He said more than a billion pounds of beef could be tainted and blamed the U.S. Department of Agriculture's inspection process for the problem. Miller claimed USDA has a conflict of interest because they're responsible for promoting food consumption and sales as well as safety. Even worse, Miller accused some slaughter houses of duping USDA inspectors. 'They know when the inspectors are coming to the plant so they can prepare for those inspections and delay the inspectors,' said Miller. That means USDA inspectors might never catch slaughterhouse workers doing something that could put consumers at risk."

Thank Congressman Miller for taking a stand for the animals!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Shooting Against the Mainstream Meat-dia

Whether it’s a chained dog in your neighbor’s back yard, a dairy cow with swollen utters, a protest to stop animal cruelty, or a hen who only wants to spread her wings. Animal rights media is extremely important to the animal rights movement, and far too often over looked by the mainstream media.

Who needs the mainstream meat-dia in the world we live in today! We have every form of getting our voices heard, from web pages to video blogs the information is out there.

Making animal rights media is easy. Making interesting and engaging animals rights media is the tricky part. A good thing to keep in mind is what you want to make of your story. Do you want it to be, censored or uncensored, biased or unbiased. And where oh where should you put it to get it seen by people outside the animal rights community? And the even more gripping question is, how can any compassionate human being desensitize themselves to the violence and torture?

When making a media for animals it’s crucial to be as uncensored as humanly possible. The more we censor the lives of these constantly tortured animals, the more we lean to the direction of: “Happy cows come from California.”, and “Always natural. Always fresh.”, or everyone’s favorite, “Milk, does a body good.”. On television there may be some feathers raised for such uncensored material, and in that case by all means censor, because it’s better to be seen censored than to not be seen at all. But on the Internet all bets are off. Even if the viewer clicks off the minute they see cruelty, the significant point is they see it, and the more it’s out there the more they will have no choice but to look.

Starting a video blog, posting on Indy Media, uploading to You Tube and myspace, are all great ways to impact people that wouldn’t normally be in your community. And love it or hate it, but You Tube and myspace are here to stay and probably the best way to be seen by people outside of any activist world.

As far as desensitizing yourself to the cruelty and torture you will be seeing on a daily basest, well… This is different for different people, some are never able to completely desensitize from these images, and others just pretend to be. Remember being effected by this cruelty is what makes us fight for what’s right, so don’t be afraid to shed a few tears, just remember after you wipe your eyes clear get back up and keep working. The animals will never stop dieing if we stop working to help them.

-Njeri Sims, EBAA Interactive Media Director

Friday, February 1, 2008

Be your own food inspector

The Washington Post ran a wonderful piece, entitled The New Food Inspector: You, about empowering individuals to unearth the truth about the food they purchase, especially meat, dairy and eggs. The article touches on humane issues. Check out some of the interesting factoids within the news story:

"Traditional retailers are working to earn customer trust. Whole Foods, of course, has made a business of being a trusted proxy. It has developed its own, higher standards for the humane treatment of animals and for "natural" products -- a label that 86 percent of consumers say falls short of expectations, according to a survey by Consumer Reports. Current USDA standards prohibit only artificial colorings and additives in foods labeled "natural"; high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil still can be used.

When the GfK Roper survey asked consumers who they thought had their best interests in mind when it comes to food choices, advocates and activist groups led the list of responses, at 64 percent. Retail grocers were second, at 62 percent, and food manufacturers were third, at 53 percent. The U.S. government ranked fourth at 47 percent, ahead of fast-food companies at 26 percent."

Read the full story online.