Death of an Activist

I’m writing this at 2 a.m. the day after a fellow activist was killed at a vigil for pigs at Fearman’s Pork slaughterhouse in Burlington, Ontario. I can’t get it out of my mind. This is a vigil I have attended. I have stood on the corners with signs; I have stood at the gate entrance, providing water and succor to the pigs held in captivity in transport trucks. I have bore witness to the cruelty withstood by these baby pigs. I have seen their cuts and bruises from mistreatment; I have watched as they foamed at the mouth out of fear and dehydration; I have witnessed them walking over their dead comrades in the truck, pigs who did not survive the trip. I have seen the result of living beings crammed into a truck for days on end in 40 deg heat or sub zero temperatures, with no food or water, covered in puke and shit. But no body cares about that because “mmm bacon”.

It reminds me of the old photos of the trains running to Auschwitz.

So here I am at 2 a.m., feeling angry, so angry that I’m about to kick some meat-eating butt because apparently, even someone – a human – dying is not enough. There is an uproar now, but when it all dies down, will anything have changed? Oh yes – life will have changed for Regan’s family and friends, but that’s a small price to pay for your Big Mac isn’t it? It doesn’t directly affect you, right? And hey, if we can turn a blind eye to millions of animals brutalized and used as commodities every single day, then the death of one activist is a mere drop in a very big pond.

Let me ask you something: do pictures of the Yulin Dog Meat Festival enraged you, upset you, incense you? Well, what’s the difference between the dog meat festival and the annual ribfest celebrations we hold? It’s a “fest” right? If someone put a plate of luscious ribs in front of you, could you tell if they were dog meat or pork or beef? Bet that’s a big fat fucking NO.

So fuck off with your “the dog meat festival is wrong”, because if that festival is wrong, so is ribfest. They are ribs. Flesh and bone. Does it matter which animal was caged and mistreated and ultimately killed to get it? If it does to you, then you are NOT an animal lover. You are a PET LOVER, and there’s a big fucking difference.

It means you discriminate over which life is valuable and which isn’t – you feel you have the power over life to be able to state unequivocally that someone should be fought for at all costs, but someone else is expendable. And why? Because of their shape? Colour of their fur/skin?…..oh wait…..See what I just did there?

So fuck off.

You can’t be an animal lover and eat meat. You cannot eat meat without perpetuating a vile, gross industry of torturing and killing animals, therefore how can you say you are an animal lover? If defies logic. It simply does.

When shown slaughterhouse images you are disgusted, angered, you know it’s wrong: but you eat that burger on your plate anyway. Knowing. KNOWING. The drivers of the trucks transporting those pigs: they know. The employees clicking away at their keyboards: they know too. But when they take their lunch break and they bite into their bologna sandwiches or leftover chicken wings, they don’t care. It’s disgusting and it’s frustrating for those of us awakened to the reality and fighting to make changes. And when I hear someone died fighting for those changes, and no one is listening and learning, then I fear for our world. Truly.

When you see these images, Yulin Dog Meat Festival or pigs in gestation crates or calves in tiny veal crates, you want social media censored so you don’t have to be affected by the atrocities, but that is the wrong thing. Why aren’t you questioning your revulsion? Why aren’t you trying to find out more about these atrocities you don’t want on your newsfeed? Here’s a thought: rather than burying your head in the sand, or asking social media to bury the images, you should be stopping the actual acts that create the images YOU DON’T WANT TO SEE!

Don’t like seeing images of dogs in cages? Well you can block it but the dogs will still be suffering. Don’t like seeing cows having throats cut and pigs prodded with electric shock batons into a gas chamber? It’s not going to stop just because you don’t see the images anymore. The dogs will still be boiled alive – so will turkeys and chickens for that matter. Just because you don’t see the images on your timeline, doesn’t mean it isn’t still happening. Stop eating meat; don’t kill the messenger.

Don’t censor the truth, change the reality.

#goveganforregan

In Our Mind’s Eye

Lately, there has been a lot of propaganda about the dairy industry: cow’s milk, and cheese by extension, is found to be carcinogenic, and the industrialization of dairy farms has changed the industry to a metal and machine enterprise rather than the cozy family farm of yore, contributing to the commodification and abuse of cows in ways beyond our imagination.

A number of years ago, I was writing for a local newspaper on a freelance basis, and I was called to cover a hostage situation.Imagine my excitement – ME! Cub reporter covering a hostage situation! I zoomed over to ground zero and discovered a local dairy farmer sitting in a ginormous tractor blocking the exit of a large milk tanker truck from leaving his property full of milk from his farm.

I kid you not. He was holding milk hostage. True story, peeps.

Now I can’t remember all the details, but I think it involved pricing, and since that has something to do with math, you can pretty much assume I didn’t understand most of it. But I took photos, got interviews, recorded a few juicy quotes – from the farmer as he wielded his oversize tractor bucket dangerously and from the bored trucker who obviously just wanted to get home to a beer and his TV – and then looked around for some background shots. That’s when I heard it.

The plaintive bawling of some creature, clearly sad and lonely, by the sounds of it, perhaps in distress. I looked around for the source and saw these tiny little white plastic huts, each with a small black and white face poking out of it. Days old calves locked away in a hut no bigger than it took to cover their backs.

I learned they were veal calves. They kept them in these huts to limit their movement and fed them special food, to ensure the tenderness of their muscles was not toughened up by movement.

It was horrible! I was not vegan at the time, and had only had veal on occasion, but I did not know this was how it was cultivated. I was appalled and at that moment, vowed never to eat veal again – which I did not.

However, my greater sin at the time was not putting all the elements of what I was witnessing together.

If the calves were in these boxes, at only days old, it also meant they were being deprived of their mother’s milk and her love. I was still so blind, in those days, I didn’t connect all the different aspects of what I saw. If I had, I surely would have stopped drinking milk and eating cheese also, based on my reaction to the veal question. But I didn’t. For years.

I still saw the dairy industry as a less invasive, less abusive industry. I still saw, in my mind’s eye, green fields of happy cows munching on their cud with the sun shining overhead. I was oblivious to the reality, preferring to gad about without questioning the veracity of what was actually in front of me.

This is what we, as a society do, everyday, peeps. With everything. We have a preconceived idea of what things should be, and despite the reality in front of us, we see that and nothing else. And if something is literally planted right in front of us, we avert our eyes, pull up that bright and lovely well-rooted notion, and STILL see what we want.

Why? Because it’s easier.

We are bombarded every damn day with crap that brings us down: high prices, low wages, leaky roofs, car repair, families in crisis, crime, illness, death, war. We are over stimulated, under appreciated, weary and jaded. Sometimes it’s just too much to allow one more injustice into our circle. We can’t bear it. So we don’t.

Like the ostrich, if we bury our head in the sand, then it isn’t really there.

But of course, it is really there, and pretending it isn’t, looking away, doesn’t right the wrongs, and it doesn’t help us in the long run.

So you see, peeps, I get it. I understand when I post an article clearly outlining the cruelty in animal agriculture, listing the poisons in the meat we consume, showing death, abuse, torture, and suffering, not everyone will see it. At that moment, the sheet drops in our minds and the movie we prefer starts playing in our heads: cue the orchestra for some lilting, light-hearted notes! It’s just too much to absorb along with everything else we already have to bear.

Eventually though, gradually, it will work it’s way into our consciousness. It did with me. It did with many others. That’s why the Animal Rights movement is growing exponentially. People are allowing the information to seep into the cracks, those cracks are getting bigger, and the facts are becoming clearer. Just like with other movements in the past, compassion and understanding has a way of spreading and growing. Good will always win over evil.

It may seep in slowly or it may, like with me a couple of years ago, make it’s presence known like a crack from Thor’s hammer to the head. We just have to try and not judge an individual’s journey to knowledge in the meantime. Our paths may differ, but the end goal is the same, and mutual support is the way we will effect change.

Just be kind. It spreads.

Why One and Not the Other?

Let me play devil’s advocate for a minute.

What if pigs, cows and chickens were not used for food. What if they were, let’s say, roaming the wilds like elephants, deer, and rhinos. And what if you found out, through some undercover activists, that there were places where these animals were kept and bred for an unnecessary use, like trophies, rather than for food. And what if this enterprise kept these animals in dirty, deplorable conditions; beat them, cut off horns and tails without anaesthetic, forcibly impregnated them to control births, prevented them from seeing the light of day by keeping them in tight metal cages and just generally abused them in order to profit off them. And they are not food. Think elephants, dogs, cats…

Would you be appalled? Would you be angry? Wouldn’t you do everything you could to lobby for the animals’ freedom? Wouldn’t you picket these organizations; produce petitions to be signed; sneak in to take videos to show the world what is actually going on? A warehouse full of dogs kept in metal crates, their puppies laying in their own filth around them. Like puppy mills but for cows, pigs, and chickens.

Wouldn’t you think this is a bad thing? That humans were evil to the core to be able to do that to innocent beings? I mean, they are not being used for food, we have loads of other things to eat – remember this is hypothetical. Try to be honestly neutral here.

You would, I know it. I can see the articles being shared on Facebook, IG and Twitter. I can see your comments. They are the same ones I see under pictures of abused dogs and cats. The same ones I see plastered all over; photos of Trump Jr. and his slaughtered trophies; Michael Vick and his bait and fighting dogs; carcasses of elephants missing tusks. I know you would think it was wrong.

So why is it alright now?

Why is it ok for cows, pigs, and chickens? Because we eat them? So there are certain animals we can abuse and some we can not. Why? Are they lesser in some way? Are they ugly? Is that it? An abomination to our senses? No…Do they damage our property, encroach in our neighbourhoods, steal our children? No…What do they do that gives us the right to maim and kill them when other animals are protected?

Why one and not the other?

That is All.

Dairy Is Scary

You are probably seeing the billboards going up everywhere: Dairy is Scary. I’m sure more than a few of you are probably wondering “what the fuck? why is dairy scary? damn vegans!” I mean, you probably have visions in your head of the quintessential dairy farm of yore, with a lovely, green meadow filled with black and white mama cows grazing peacefully, calves cavorting at their sides, being called in twice a day for milking. Cue the classical nature music and butterflies.

In fact, outwardly, it would seem of all the animal products we consume, dairy is the least harmful to animals. Wrong again.

Dairy production is equally harmful to the animals as any other animal product process.

Consider this: Cows only lactate when they have a baby. What? Yes, it’s true. They are a mammal and like humans, only produce milk when there is a baby to drink it. We are not that baby. The calf is. However, the calf is removed from the mother almost immediately and either sledgehammered to death or, if destined to become a veal chop, they are sequestered away in little crates to limit their movement.

Calf_igloos_and_calves_in_England

these babies are destined to become veal

Removing the calf from the mother causes undue distress for both – much like it would do if your child were removed from you at birth. Does it hurt them any less because they are animals? Appearances would suggest not. Both animals are frantic to reunite, crying and balling for each other. Imagine about 100 cows and babies separated like this; imagine 400; you get the picture. Not the idyllic pasture scene you imagined, is it.

But first of all, how does the mother get pregnant? Oh ho – it’s not how you think! Forget nature, peeps, it’s all on Farmer Jack’s head. The cow is tied still, and basically a special tool loaded with bull sperm is pushed into the cow’s vulva by the farmer, and the semen is dispensed into the cow that way. The farmer’s arm is shoved into the cow’s rectum and pressure from that flattens out and smooths the way for the “semen gun” to enter the cervix far enough for effective dispensing. This is not “nature taking its course” by any means.

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Milk production

Once all the impregnating and baby nonsense is complete, the lactating mother cow is then pushed into a small stall, hooked up to milking machines, and milked 24/7. She is fed hormones to ensure continued production of milk. She will develop mastitis, a painful infection of mammary glands due to over-milking. She will be fed anti-biotics in large doses to contain the infection and inflammation, but all three will enter the milk stream: hormones, pus, and anti-biotics. She will be in great pain through out this, and will be physically depleted in every way by age five, at which point, she will go to slaughter. Under normal circumstances, her life span would be 25 years.

But it’s ok – she’s just an animal, right?

It’s hard to believe people actually justify this to themselves, but in retrospect, I guess if people can justify incarcerating a certain culture just because they look different, then it’s not too far a stretch to debase a whole species this way.

Dairy is scary:  Scary for the mother cows, robbed of their babies and hooked up 24/7 to milking machines; scary for the babies shoved into small huts restricting movement so they make better veal; scary for people who then consume the milk riddled with an “acceptable” level of PUS and high levels of antibiotics (to bring PUS levels down to an acceptable point) and hormones (to keep mama with milk longer). It’s bloody scary that we go along with all of this and drink this stuff even knowing what we are consuming is not only NOT good for us, but NOT necessary for us for good health.  It’s scary that there are non-dairy alternatives EVERYWHERE and we still reach for the pus-filled, hormone laden, anti-biotic infused boob milk of another animal that is meant for their babies, the same way OUR milk is meant only for ours.

It’s scary that we humans feel keeping animals in this way is appropriate because they are “just animals”. It’s scary because we are able to justify this behaviour to ourselves because we have “always done it” or “well i was raised that way and I turned out ok”. It’s scary because we have done this to HUMANS in the past and justified it to ourselves then as well: concentration camps, detention camps. It’s scary because we are doing it TODAY, right now, to humans with the immigration camps.

It’s scary because people have not made the connection, and continue to refuse to make the connection, that humans are animals too. We are animals, peeps. Our species: homo sapien. Still animals, though. A mere gene or two away from chimpanzees – not human. Do you see? Do you get it? We are a couple of genes away from a non-human animal, one which we use for experiments because they are animals…. as are we.

embryo

mouse embryo. oh wait, no, human…um no it’s a frog….no chicken….crap…

Did you know when we are in utero when we are in the “Phylotypic” stage, our embryo cannot be differentiated from a mouse, a chicken, a frog – basically any vertebrate – visually? Animals, peeps. We are animals. We are sentient animals. And so are cows, pigs, sheep, dogs and cats. We all breathe, eat, procreate, care for our young, protect each other, fight for our families, feel happiness, sadness and fear.

So yeah, dairy is scary, in so many more ways than you can imagine. But that is one thing humans can do for themselves: imagine. We can imagine a better world, one where all creatures are respected and treated kindly. One where we understand we do not need to dominate another living being to survive. One where we follow the wise women’s motto: “Do what thy wilt; an harm ye none.”

 

 

Black Goat Farm and Sanctuary

So this week, I had a date with a black goat.

No, no, I wasn’t delving into the art of black magic or practicing self-sacrifice to a satanic lord. (been there, done that in my last relationship ahaha! I’m laughing here but its really not that funny…see earlier posts)

I signed up for a bi-weekly volunteer work day at Black Goat Farm and Sanctuary, and Thursday was my first day!

totes the goat

Totes the Goat, for whom Black Goat Sanctuary is named. He is in a timeout here because he was bad.

Now I already volunteer for occasional events at my local humane society, and of course I’ve adopted numerous dogs, cats, birds, hamsters, fish and snails over the years. I’ve shared sandwiches with our backyard chicken, and recently even fed baby racoons from a bottle! (awwwwww…let’s all say it together)

But I really just fucking love farm animals. I don’t know why. Cows, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, I just love them. Especially cows. They are just so huge and gentle, with the most beautiful eyes and soft, rounded lips, just like my spaniel. They actually kind of make me think of ginormous dogs. I like the fact that we can interact with farm animals because over the millenia they’ve been domesticated so much, and they are so trusting they basically know their lives depend on us. They are so misunderstood and mistreated, I feel a special bond with them and a special desire to take up their cause in particular. me and zoey

So I am really committed to the demonstrations against factory farming and the inhumane farming practices. Helping out at the Sanctuary was a new experience for me and one which I had been hoping to do for some time. Getting right in there, down and dirty, building barns, slogging manure, birthing babies…..ok well not that but I just wanted to interact with farm animals, ok?!

Of course, the day before my scheduled work day, I was sick with a fever and congestion. Really sick. Unable-to-scrape-myself-off-the-couch sick. Tissue-stuck-up-each-nostril sick. Anyway, I took some Dayquil, made a strong coffee in my travel mug, grabbed the Halls, and drove off anyway, armed with my rubber boots, rain poncho, and trusty phone for pictures. (Oh the pictures!)

These folks are super nice and bought this farmland with the intention to open a much-needed rescue. They operate solely on donations or their hard-earned money at their day jobs, and their mission is to raise awareness as to how livestock is treated in society. They are recently creating a schedule for volunteers to help out with the day-to-day management/work on the farm.

And it’s no small feat, as  I soon found out.

When I first got there, I guess you could say I was like a grinning child: I ran up to all the animals to hug them, “Who is this? Which one is this? OMG LOOK AT THIS ONE?” It was kind of neat because I had them on my Facebook and IG and so I felt like I already knew some of them, but here I was actually petting them! Once I had hugged every single cow, goat, and sheet, and had calmed down a bit, we grabbed our tools: shovels and brooms, and started the arduous job of cleaning out the barn so the floor could be prepped and new hay laid down.

The main barn used to be a chicken warehouse, and was now converted with some large stalls and a huge open space for everyone to play. And play they did.

It was a rainy day, grim and overcast, so first of all, none of them wanted to be outside. They clustered around us as we worked, extremely curious about who we were and what we were doing, playing with each other and bumping against us as we worked. It was not unusual to be sweeping away, feel a bump which nearly took me off my feet, and turn to see Zoey the Heifer peering at me curiously. I had to stop what I was doing multiple times to talk to them and pet them and hug them. That’s when I noticed Zoey’s soft mouth was like my spaniel’s, and then I was like “Omg you’re like my dog, Omg I Love you!” Calvin, the Jersey, at one point decided he wanted to help bring the filled wheelbarrow to be dumped, and turned it over back onto the concrete floor.

Then there was Maple, the crippled goat. In her past situation, she was being raised for meat, her leg was somehow broken there but was never set so it healed all broken up. Then due to her leg not being set properly, she was actually rejected for meat, was just going to be euthanized for no reason. Simply because she was not needed. Black Goat Farm to the rescue! And now, she gallops around on three legs, and plays head-butts with Millie, another goat, as if there was nothing unusual about her at all.

maple with her broken leg

Maple, her leg has actually fused this way due to a break which was never treated properly in her last situation.

Luna is a Heifer, so gentle and quiet, with both eyes missing. In her last situation, she developed some eye issues, but it was not tended to because, well vet bills are expensive and what did she need eyes for anyway? So her painful and uncomfortable condition was left untreated. When Black Goat Farm got her, her eyes needed to be removed in order for her to heal. Today, she is the calmest, quietest girl you could ever see, with no fear of her surroundings, despite having lost her vision.

luna

Luna had both eyes removed at Black Goat Farm because she had severe untreated eye infections from her last situation.

Many of the animals there have similar stories; some were dumped; some, like the pot-bellied “mini” pigs were adopted as pets by uninformed people and eventually surrendered, some were rescued from horrific circumstances, and sadly, some were rescued from deplorable conditions, treated by Black Goat Farm’s vets, and yet didn’t make it.

It’s truly heart breaking to hear the stories of what the beautiful and tender beings have been through; it’s emotionally debilitating to me to know there are thousands out there still experiencing it. Some at factory farms hooked up to milking machines, babies ripped away and tossed into a veal crate; standing butt to jowl in cramped transport trucks with no water or food for days, in extreme heat or cold, as they are carted to their death; some forced to bear litters in small metal crates over and over again with minimal to no veterinarian care because people really love bacon!

When you meet these beings in person, when you’ve watched their silly antics, when you’ve looked into their eyes, you really don’t see any difference between them and the animals we consider “our pets”. Why does society see them this way? Quick answer? Because we have been raised to think of certain animals as “products” not sentient creatures.

Serial killers dehumanize their victims to make it easier to torture and eventually kill them for whatever their nefarious purposes are. Their victims are a means to an end, to satisfy some cruel and evil blood lust, and the way I see it, factory farming is basically the same thing.

There is absolutely no good reason for eating animal flesh and consuming dairy in this day and age, with all the knowledge we have about health and wellness, and all the many plant-based options available now. If you truly want to make a difference in this life, for the environment and for yourself, stop eating meat. I know a whole truckload of living beings who will thank you!

Why Veganuary?

The month of January is often a time when people make resolutions to themselves to improve their lives. Most of these resolutions go unfulfilled – usually because the project feels bigger than them once they get into it. Often, the challenge is too big, the immediate rewards too small, and the support non-existent.

Choosing to go Vegan is one of those commitments that is totally overwhelming to many people, despite how they feel about the cruel treatment of factory-farmed animals and the effects on the environment. Many people are able to disconnect from the facts: they can’t watch a video of a live male chick being put into a grinder simply because he has no value if he can’t lay eggs, but they can tuck into their eggs benny without a thought. This is called “cognitive dissonance” and humans are masters at it.

cow-burger

They don’t feel like people do……really? That looks like fear to me.

We sign petitions against the Yulin Festival, where dogs are rounded up, imprisoned, and slaughtered for traditional dinner fare but don’t give a thought to the geese force-fed tubes of food down their throats to painfully fatten their liver for foie gras or cows hung upside down while alive, watching in abject terror as their throats are cut and their lifeblood empties onto the filthy concrete below them while we at our steaks.

See? Cognitive dissonance.

Cargill_Kam_03

This is a Canadian plant.

People can eat plant-based diets strictly for nutritional reasons but that is not necessarily Vegan. Being Vegan is a lifestyle, not just a diet. Being Vegan is a choice bound in the ethics and morality of not harming any other living, sentient beings. This includes not eating them, not wearing them, not using them and their by-products for any use whatsoever. No leather car seats or handbags and shoes. No down-filled parkas. No fur-lined collars. No make up used to test on animals. No candies using gelatin made from hooves and bones.

b_downer_kicked

Not a daunting endeavour from where I’m sitting….or for this poor baby pig either.

Wow there’s a lot out there Vegans willingly forgo in the name of compassion.

Veganism seems like a pretty daunting endeavour!

This is why I like the idea of Veganuary, for those who would like to go Vegan, but find the commitment daunting. (Link to the Veganuary plan included here.)

Let’s draw up a good old-fashioned pro/con list to put things in some perspective. I love lists. Putting everything down in black and white (made even more fun using coloured GEL PENS – with sparkles!) really helps me keep organized and feel less overwhelmed. The fact that I forget the lists at home notwithstanding, it’s the actual drawing up of the list that is key.

Pros

  • According to PETA 198 animals are saved (that is not produced for slaughter) each year by one Vegan. WOW!
  • Improved health: no cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduction of the risk of heart disease and diabetes, weight loss, improved skin and hair, more energy, lower risk of developing many cancers.
  • Helping the planet and the environment: most greenhouse gases emitted are caused by animal agriculture, not fossil fuel-based vehicles.
  • End world hunger: livestock takes up 80 per cent of agricultural land by either raising it or raising the food needed for the livestock. If that food were used for humans, it would end world hunger.
  • Rainforests and animal habitats would not be destroyed to create agricultural land to raise or feed livestock.
  • With an appropriate plan in place, farmers, field workers and labourers would still have jobs and earn a living without factory-farming.
  • Animals currently on the endangered list would repopulate due to habitat retrieval.
  • Oceans would become replete with sea life once again.
  • Our air and water would detoxify.

Wow. That’s some good stuff. Now the cons.

Cons

  • …………………..
  • no bacon. NOT TRUE! bacon can be recreated in many meat-free carcinogenic-free ways. Not a valid con. Next
  • Our agricultural animals would go extinct. The farm animals we have were bred to be docile and caged. It would be more difficult for them to exist in the wild, but not impossible. There are many docile animals who live, eat and procreate successfully in the wild. Obviously we would house our domesticated animals and care for them  while gradually allowing their numbers to adjust through natural processes and in time, they would develop appropriate methods for survival. Survival of the fittest has always been nature’s way long before humans interfered.
  • We need animal protein and fats to stay healthy. ALSO NOT TRUE! Many of our largest mammals are vegan, and I don’t think any of us would want to take them on to prove their muscles aren’t just fine, thankyouverymuch! We do not need animal protein. Protein is protein. Building blocks of our muscles yes. Plant-based protein is cheaper, easier to get, cholesterol free, delicious, and cruelty free and more beneficial as there are no cholesterols or carcinogens.

Ok. These are just some of the pros and cons. I think they are the most important ones, or at least the ones most addressed by omnivores.

I also think in looking at this list the choice is a no-brainer. #govegan.

Veganuary is not just a time but it is also a very do-able plan allowing those who are vegan-curious or a bit timid to give it a try with no risk. The Veganuary plan is online, offers recipes and nutrition tips, has tons of information, and tons of support! It explains why there is no humane slaughter, why free range is a myth, and provides oodles and oodles of excellent fact-based information.

One month. One site. One life: yours.