Can You Help Save the Nineteen Billion?

A truly disturbing fact I never knew until now, maybe you did. There are way more hens than people in the world. Nineteen billion in fact, 3 hens to every 1 human. And the numbers just keep rising.
( I like to call these clever, social birds hens rather than chickens. Chicken is their flesh, not their personhood.)

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To mark yesterday’s National Poultry Day, and in the run up to Easter when chicks and eggs traditionally take centre stage, here’s what I’ve gleaned from three recent pieces about hens, and indeed chicken, the meat:-

First up

Will Brexit & Trump really force us to eat chlorine-washed chicken?

Well, that’s a pretty unpleasant sentence all round, isn’t it? And the implications are even worse. Certain farming practices in the USA such as the use of specific antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones, and yes, washing chicken in chlorinated water, are  banned on health and environmental grounds under EU law. Which of course applies to the UK at the present time – but in the future, who knows?

“That could all be set to change—at least in Britain. There are worries that the UK Government may be about to open the door to hormone-pumped beef, pesticide-treated wheat, eggs from poor welfare hens, and swimming pool chicken.”

Because right at the top of Theresa May’s wishlist as she negotiates the UK’s withdrawal from Europe is a trade deal with the States. Chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation Bob Young is on record as saying if any deal is to be struck, the UK will have to lift its current (EU) ban on US food products.

This is what we could be exposed to:

including the trauma endured by those millions of hapless hens.

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Did you know that in the USA

  • There are no federal laws governing the conditions in which farmed animals are raised?
  • The majority of farmed animal suffering is exempt from state criminal anti-cruelty laws?
  • Many individual state criminal anti-cruelty laws exempt “standard” or “commonly accepted” agricultural practices?¹

Let’s hope those pics of PM May holding Donald Trump’s hand aren’t an ominous sign of things to come.

Our premier says not:”We are committed to maintaining, where possible improving, standards of welfare in the UK”. But haven’t we seen politicians of every hue executing spectacular u-turns when under pressure?

And in Mrs May’s statement the sting is in the tail: “while ensuring of course that our industry is not put at a competitive disadvantage.” Mmm, seems she’s already feeling the hot breath of the National Farmers Union on her back. They’re demanding a level playing field for meat sales and if that means lowering standards to US levels, so be it, is their thinking.

Read more here

The answer of course is in our hands (see below)


Next

Crisis in the Chicken Coop

For the first time in 100 years those champion meat-eaters of the world, the Americans, are eating less beef. Sadly, although they are eating less beef, they are eating a lot more chicken. And it’s likely numbers will rise. By 2018 chicken consumption is expected to reach over 200lbs per head per annum in the US. There are at least 3 reasons for the trend away from beef to chicken:

  1. Health warnings. Folk are getting the message that red meat is linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They see chicken as the healthier option.
  2. The message of livestock farming’s extravagantly huge environmental footprint is getting through, at least to some.
  3. And the deal-clincher: beef prices are nearly double what they were a decade ago, and now more than double the price of chicken.

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If you think about it pound for pound of meat, in terms of hen’s feet on the ground this actually means an even greater number of individual nonhuman animals suffering at the hands of agribusiness for the benefit of consumers. This is why One Step for Animals focuses exclusively on hens. The numbers are the greatest. Therefore so is the need.

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Nearly all of those 19 billion hens live a life of appalling suffering that has to be kept hidden from the eyes of the chicken-eating public who have no idea of what is going on behind closed doors. In Defense of Animals describes it like this:

“In less than 50 days from the time she is born, her bones will break beneath her own weight. By that time her breast valued only for the quantity of its white meat and not the gentle animal inside will be so massive, she will no longer be able to walk to the water bowl. Left in her own urine and feces and the bodily waste produced by up to 60,000 other chickens in the warehouse, her skin will blister and burn until the day she is brought to slaughter.”

Help expose the horrors these gentle souls are made to endure by supporting IDA’s appeal to fund a secret Easter rescue mission that reveals once and for all how cruel and unnatural factory farming is for chickens, and documents the story of the chicks and chickens rescued to inspire others to choose alternative plant-based sources of protein.”

Donate here


But let’s wind up on a happier note – this is what you won’t be exposed to if you choose not to eat the flesh of the hen

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Maybe, just maybe, ‘clean meat’ will be the answer for those who still want to satisfy their chicken cravings – enter Memphis Meats’ first lab-grown chicken. Churchill’s prophesy was spot on:
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”— Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence (1931)
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©Memphis Meats

The company served its chicken and duck strips at an event in San Francisco last week and it passed the taste test. All the testers/tasters liked it and said they would happily eat it again.

A pound of the stuff at $9,000 is not quite as expensive as the first lab-grown burger which came in at $325,000. The plan is to bring the price tag down to the level of supermarket chicken by 2021.

Even so Memphis Meats will have its work cut out making significant inroads into the quantities of factory-farmed chicken the average American is currently eating in a year.

Clean meat is so much more environmentally friendly than the other kind. Studies show clean meat would potentially use 96% less greenhouse gas emission, 45% less energy, 99% less land and 96% less water than meat from animal agriculture.

Of course the meat though ‘clean’ in that it is grown from stem cells humanely harvested one would hope from live animals and only a few at that, is not vegan as the Beyond Burger grown in the lab entirely from plant cells most definitely is.

Read more here


What we can do

Help save the 19 billion by supporting the work of ADI here

Be prepared to resist detrimental changes to our welfare and environment law here in the UK when the time comes.

Best of all, stop eating animals & go vegan!

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¹Farmed Animals & the Law – ALDF

Sources

Crisis in the chicken coop – In Defense of Animals

Chicken More Popular Than Beef in US for First Time in 100 Years – Huffington Post

I just ate meat for the first time in 20 years – The Medium

Related posts

8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Hens

Libby & Louie – A Love Story

Brexit – The Animals’ View

 


The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Cover pic from Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Two news items clicked together in the brain one week last year: one on the surface at least quite frivolous, and the other of such profound significance it has the potential to throw a bomb into life-as-we-know-it and blast us into utterly uncharted terrain.

Let’s start with the harebrained one. Do you remember when designer dogs first became the must-have accessory? Or maybe they always were. But a few years ago, someone came up with the bright idea of taking established breeds and cross-breeding them with each other in the search for the cutest combo-pup. Nowadays, puggles, goldendoodles, labskys and cockerpoos are everywhere. There was, and still is, good money to be made and breeders are cashing in.

Of course, this is nothing new. Humans have been interfering with natural selection for centuries, cross-breeding both animals and plants in the worlds of farming and horticulture, in search of desired ‘improvements’: more productive milk cows; heavier meatier livestock; disease-resistant crops; or just prettier flowers.

But cross-breeding as a way of getting what you want, is so yesterday. Make way for CRISPR.

CRISPR is not a typo, as one might be excused for thinking, describing how omnivores like their breakfast bacon. It is, apparently, the acronym for

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

Gene-editing to you and me. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

What has made this biotechnology possible are the huge strides in genome mapping over the last couple of decades. Because of course, you don’t want to just cut out any old piece of DNA. Now, because each bit of the double helix can be identified, you can target the exact piece you want to remove, and replace it with the piece of your choice.

So your new designer dog can now be gene-edited any way you want. No more need for crossbreeding, lots more scope for innovation, and better control over results. Genetic-engineer James West has spotted the money-making potential. His Nashville-based firm AgGenetics engineered Angus cattle to have white coats instead of black or brown, to make them more heat-tolerant, thus doubling beef production. (And milk cows are already being gene-edited to be born without horns, so they no longer have to be burned off.)

Inevitably, it didn’t take Mr West long to realise that the change-the-coat-colour technique could be applied to other animals too. He tested his idea on mice, and produced poor little newborns sporting their little fur coats patterned with squares, stripes and spots.

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Maybe soon he will be taking orders for the customer’s choice of novelty designer dog picked from an online catalogue. There are so far four colourways: red, brown, yellow and black. And would you prefer squares or stripes, Sir/Madam?

Ludicrous as it sounds, gene-editing for striped dogs provokes serious questions. Who knows where it could lead, and what the implications could be – and not just for dogs?

And the designer stripey dog is one thing, but how about wiping out an entire species at will?

We ran across this even more worrying application for CRISPR earlier this year, in Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth? With CRISPR it’s possible, for instance, to delete the mosquito DNA involved in reproduction and replace that section of the sequence with DNA that makes the insect sterile. This ‘permanent solution’ for mosquitoes is being researched for obvious reasons – these insects carry malaria, zika and dengue fever, and by transmitting malaria in particular, have probably killed more than half the humans that have ever lived.

This seems to be the default human mindset: how can we use this new technology for the benefit of our own species before and above all others?

With CRISPR, humanity now holds in its hands the power of god, the power to gene-edit Nature. I’ll say it again,

Man now has the power to gene-edit life itself

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

In 2011 a group of geologists called for the recognition of a new era in the history of the Earth – the Anthropocene, to acknowledge the impact of humans on the planet. How much more apt now than it was just five short years ago.

So when we ask that question, how can these new technologies be used to further our own interests, there are other, and even more important questions that need to be addressed: Should we be doing this? What are the ethics controlling our ever-increasing powers? And who gets to decide?

This is what natural scientist and poet Melanie Challenger has to say about the new power we have, to deliberately wipe out a target species if we so choose (as opposed to accidentally wiping out random species which tragically, we’re proving spectacularly successful at)

If we start getting cavalier about the existence of a living being, if we start to think it’s OK to eradicate something because it’s a threat to us, we put other ideas about the sanctity of life in question”

Striped dogs, a world without mosquitoes, can it get any more bizarre and perturbing? Well yes it can – the Chimaera (chimera in the USA), already here. In Greek myth the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breeding hybrid, a goat-headed lion with a serpent-head tail. These days, we’re more familiar with the electro-petroleum kind of hybrid on four wheels. But the very latest kind of Chimaera hybrid has more in common with the one of Greek myth – it’s a nightmarish combination of human and pig.

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

A while ago I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel ‘Never Let Me Go’. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it)  As you turn the pages you start to realise the horrible truth, that the young people we are getting to know as they grow up, are in fact clones. Then an even more disturbing truth is revealed – the characters have been created solely for their organs and will undergo a cycle of ‘donations’ until their bodies and their lives are consumed.

Well, reality is catching up with fiction once again. Only, as is always the case in the real world, it’s the infinitely useful nonhuman animal that humans deploy for the task. The unfortunate ‘donors’ will not be human but porcine. Pigs have drawn the short straw because their organs are about the size and weight of human organs. Not that they will be using the animals’ own organs though, because pig organs would be rejected by the human body. So what’s needed for the sick people on the long waiting list for transplants are proper healthy human organs.

No cloning here though – just CRISPR and the new Chimaera. This is what you do. You get a brand new pig embryo in your lab. You delete the genes responsible for the formation of, say, the pancreas. You introduce the appropriate human genes. You implant the genetically-engineered embryo into a female pig on your Organ Farm, and hey presto, there will be a lovely human pancreas ready to transplant into a human recipient in need. Farms of pigs incubating clean healthy human organs, and on demand.

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Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, but that is where the research is heading. And it will happen. As the title of last night’s Panorama proclaimed, “Medicine’s Big Breakthrough”. The scientists are excited by CRISPR’s potential. So are the medical professionals. And who can blame those once considered incurably ill for holding on to such promise of a complete cure.

But what about the animals? And what about the planet? The waves in the wake of this technology could sink us before climate change gets a chance to.Just a final note to send you to bed with nightmares: there’s a guy in San Francisco selling Do-It-Yourself CRISPR kits online out of his garage, so everyone can do their own gene-editing at home. He calls it the democratisation of science. Sweet dreams.
Time now for an update

Above piece posted June 7th 2016, but there have been developments.

Gene-edited organs are on their way. Just last week (on the 26th January 2017) scientists in California were excited to announce a world first – Chimaera lives. They have indeed succeeded in making embryos containing both pig and human cells.

These so-called human-pig chimeras (which contained only a small number of human cells) were allowed to develop for several weeks in female pigs before the pregnancies were terminated, according to a new study.

“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” study researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, said in a statement. “This is an important first step.” LiveScience

I don’t know about you but I find this deeply disturbing, and their triumphant announcement poses more ethical questions for me than it answers:

  • How exactly were the pregnancies terminated?
  • Did the sows give their consent? Silly question
  • What happened to the sows post-abortion?
  • Do we know the physical and emotional effect on the sows?

Scientists would dismiss such questions as irrelevant but that is exactly where the problem lies. Not only do they feel entirely justified in their research, but any thought that something could be horribly wrong here would never even come near to entering their heads.

How did the Nazis square their conscience over the barbaric experimentation they conducted on gypsies, Poles, Russian POWs, Jews, and even Germans if they were unlucky enough to be disabled? They were brainwashed by propaganda that created in their minds a ‘them and us’. Their victims were ‘other’, of a different and lesser order. They de-personalised them, designated them vermin. And of course, as we all know, nonhumans only exist for human use, human benefit, and ‘vermin’ are at the very bottom of the heap. For ‘vermin’, anything goes.

Last week the BBC news highlighted the terrible shortage of donor organs in the UK. Patients in need of transplants are going to Pakistan where they can buy an organ from the poorest, people in dire need of the money. And even worse, criminals are cashing in, lining their pockets trafficking people to harvest their organs by force.

The scientists at La Jolla are looking to forcibly harvest organs from the pigs. True, they’re not exploiting living beings for illegal personal gain like the traffickers. They would say they are doing it for science, for medicine, and indeed out of humanity. It is sanctioned by society. But only because society has also been indoctrinated into arbitrarily dividing animals into ‘them and us’, making the nonhuman animals other and lesser than the human animal, declaring, “We are not animals.” But we are. Bestowing on ourselves like gods the power over life and death. Holding the fate of those ‘others’ in the palm of our hands.

But cruelty, coercion and exploitation are always cruelty, coercion and exploitation. The end does not justify the means.

You might say to me, what if it was your son’s, your daughter’s life in the balance waiting for a transplant? A hard question to answer. But two things I can say:

  • There should be far better ways to increase the supply of donor organs. For instance, Wales now has an ‘opt-out’ system. If you don’t register as not wanting to donate your organs, you will automatically be considered as having no objection. Isn’t that preferable to harvesting organs for humans by violating pigs?
  • And secondly, are the sow’s powerful maternal feelings worth less consideration than ours? And isn’t hijacking her reproductive cycle in this way, as with dairy cows, as with laying hens, both sexist and speciesist?

Are we to accept any horror perpetrated on nonhuman animals if it is in human’s interests? Surely it is more than time to acknowledge that

“We are one species among many who share a common ancestry with all other species in the animal kingdom. The false dichotomy between us and them pits humans against the rest of the animal kingdom and reinforces the myth that humans are so superior from the other animals that it’s practically blasphemous to even suggest that other animals possess lives that matter to them in the way our human lives matter to us.” Robert Grillo

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Postscript This is a huge topic with more ramifications than it is possible to imagine. I don’t pretend to any expertise and my descriptions of the science are just my way of getting my head around it a little bit. This is just skimming the surface of a technology of infinite significance that is surely ushering in the next Age of Life on Earth.

APOLOGIES – WORDPRESS HAS DONE SOMETHING WEIRD TO THE LAYOUT & I CAN’T SEEM TO CORRECT IT.

Update

23rd February 2017 – CRISPR promises a better way to stop mosquitoes spreading malaria, and without the need to render the insect extinct. Tony James from the University of California is “using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to create a ‘gene drive’ system that spreads an anti-malaria gene inside the mosquito population. The gene basically destroys malaria, and then spreads on to the next generations.”

It sounds like a very promising approach, but it’s early days and the strategy would not be without its problems. Find out more from ZME Science.

10th August 2017 – pig to human organ transplants using CRISPR just got one step closer. “Using the genetic cut-and-paste tool CRISPR, scientists have removed DNA-based viruses that usually infect pig organs, raising the chances that these animal organs could be safely transplanted into human patients one day, a process known as xenotransplantation.” – LiveScience

Sources

Quote & pic Free from Harm

Let’s Not Buy Into Genetically Modified Fur – Care2 Causes

Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes – Panorama

Human/Nonhuman Chimera – Do We Really Want to Go There? – The Kimmela Centre

Related posts

Get Your Pet Fox Here

Planet at the Crossroads

Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

I’ve Seen You In The Meat Aisle

I’ve seen you in the meat aisle,
Seen you choosing who to eat,
Eyeing up their body parts
In rows all nice and neat.

 

 

I’ve seen you grabbing bottled milk
That wasn’t made for you
And I know you never think about
The suffering they knew.

.

 

I’ve watched you fill your trolley up
With misery and pain,
Eggs and cheese, a leg, a wing,
My heart just broke again.

 

 

You say I should respect your choice,
That it’s your right to choose,
Well, legally perhaps you win
But morally you lose.

I don’t know how you do it
But you close your ears and eyes
To the slaughterhouse, the blood and screams,
Their fear, despair and cries.

 

 

It doesn’t even cross your mind,
You bite and drink and chew,
And you keep yourself from knowing
That they died because of you.

So no, I don’t respect your choice,
There’s no respect from me.
You are putting in your stomach
Someone you refuse to see.

 

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The animals, they have no voice,
Convenient for you,
But have a heart and look at those
Who lost their lives for you.

 

Emma Murphy

Choose Compassion – Go Vegan here
Or here
Or here

 

Source

A friend posted this on Facebook. In the light of the message, I feel pretty confident that Emma (whom I do not know, but would like to) would be happy for me to share it with you.

I added the photos to her powerful words.

A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

If the interests of animals are properly embedded in the democratic process…the laws adopted by a society are less likely to infringe their fundamental interests.

1822 is a date we lovers of justice and animals should all have tattooed on our hearts. Because 1822 was the year Richard Martin MP won for animals an important protection which was also a right: the right – for their own sake – not to be gratuitously harmed.

A 19th Century Irishman who fought more than 100 duels with sword and pistol – and obviously survived them all! – seems a most improbable man to put forward as father of the modern Animal Rights movement. But the small snowball he set in motion has just kept on rolling and rolling for the last 200 years, and growing into what we hope will soon become an avalanche.

For Martin it was who introduced a new Act to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Cattle, which made it an offence, punishable by fines up to five pounds or two months imprisonment, to “beat, abuse, or ill-treat any horse, mare, gelding, mule, ass, ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep or other cattle.”

Up until ‘Martin’s Law’ was passed, it was the animal’s owner who was considered wronged by any harm done to the beast, not the poor animal itself. The animal had no greater status than a table or a chair, so harm inflicted on it was simply damage to the owner’s property. Martin’s Law changed that.

The prolific and accomplished duellist followed up his great legislative achievement by personally bringing the first prosecution under the new Act. The criminal – a fruit seller. The crime – beating a donkey. When the MP led the donkey into the courtroom to exhibit its injuries to judge and jury, he provoked a storm of publicity. Political cartoons appeared depicting him with donkey’s ears. Instead of being praised for his unusual-for-the-times passion for animal protection, he was publicly ridiculed.

Before another two years were out, this remarkable man was instrumental in founding the SPCA –  later the RSPCA – the very first animal protection organisation in the world, prompting the birth of similar groups in Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Only welfarism as yet, but animal advocacy began to spread around the world.

But that was 200 years ago. So where is Animal Rights today?

Well, because human society and its treatment of nonhuman animals is still, it goes without saying, regulated by law, changes in the law are what we continue to wrangle for in our pursuit of Rights for Animals. And laws that win new rights and protections for our nonhuman cousins have really gathered pace in the last decade.

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But when, just to take one example, badgers – a ‘protected’ species – are being slain in their thousands year upon year supposedly to safeguard other animals, dairy cattle – which later farmers will send to their deaths in the slaughterhouse  – there is clearly still a very long way to go.

So what if we didn’t need to change the law concerning animals at all? What if nonhuman animals had the right to have their interests properly taken into account before any human proposals were cemented into law?

Well, we just may have an exciting new way forward for Animal Rights, a way that could sweep aside the drawbacks inherent in all the various AR theories to date: it is the principle of political theory called the “all-affected.”

“The interests of animals are affected – often devastatingly – by collective decisions and, therefore, they, or – more specifically – their representatives, have a democratic right to have some say in the making of those decisions” says Professor Robert Garner.

If I can beg your patience a little further? To appreciate just how promising this approach could be, we need a super-quick run-through of Animal Rights in the past 40 years or so. Animal Rights is, as it always has been, dependent on two disciplines:

Philosophy, which deliberates on human perceptions of nonhuman animals, and their status relative to us.

And Law, which regulates that status.

I am neither a philosopher or a lawyer, so forgive my lack of expertise, simplifications of a complex subject, and any glaring omissions in my brief summary. This is a personal view, not by any means a definitive account of Animal Rights.

Utilitarianism

One of the first and most influential in recent years to grab hold of Richard Martin’s snowball and give it an energetic push down the mountain was Australian philosopher Peter Singer. He famously shook things up in the 1970s with his book Animal Liberation. His approach to Animal Rights was based on two principles:

  1. The separation of ‘human’ from ‘animal’ is illogical and arbitrary – there is far more difference between a great ape and an oyster than there is between a human and a great ape
  2. The utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham that ethics and morality are dictated by what will achieve “the greatest good of the greatest number”

It necessarily follows from his first principle that nonhumans must not be excluded from that “greatest number” for whom it is our moral duty to obtain “the greatest good”.

Drawback

The problem with this approach to Animal Rights is that if it can be established (by humans, nonhumans having no say) that the greatest good can only be achieved for the greatest number by the use of animals, even if this means inflicting pain upon them or causing them to die, then such actions are justified. Singer for example condones the use of animals where ‘necessary’ in medical research – a position I for one totally reject.

Subjects-of-a-Life

Following quickly on Singer’s heels, Tom Regan gave the snowball another hearty shove with his book “The Case for Animal Rights”. His was a very different argument. He proposed that if animals are ‘subject-of-a-life’ as unquestionably humans are, then their value lies in more than just their usefulness to humans.

“Such an individual has inherent value independent of its utility for others. Because of this inherent value, a subject-of-a-life has rights to protect this value and not to be harmed. Other subjects have a duty to respect these rights.”¹

Drawback

It seems a promising approach until you realise how high he set the bar for non-human animals to be worthy of consideration as ‘subject-of-a-life’, strangely, higher than is set for human beings.

The Big Stumbling Block – Species Criteria

For Regan, to be ‘subjects-of-a-life ‘ nonhumans must have “beliefs, desires, memory, feelings, self-consciousness, an emotional life, a sense of their own future, an ability to initiate action to pursue their goals, and an existence that is logically independent of being useful to anyone else’s interests” – his criteria any species must fulfil.

Humans all have rights independent of Regan’s requirements: newborn infants, certain disabled people, elderly people with failing mental and physical health – none of these could fulfil his criteria, but their rights are nevertheless guaranteed.

He is said not to be speciesist but so many species would be left by the wayside. Would the honey bee, for instance, reach Regan’s bar? Does the honey bee have ‘an emotional life’ and ‘beliefs’? And who decides? Humans of course. When it comes to nonhuman animals, Regan limits those supposedly deserving of rights to ‘normally mental mammals over a year old, several species of birds, and possibly fish’.

Apart from the few wild animals that qualify, certain farmed animals – cows, pigs and sheep – could benefit from his approach. But not calves, piglets or lambs, and very probably not (in spite of what we now know of their intelligence and complex emotional and social life) hens. Certainly not the millions of day-old chicks that drop off the conveyor belt into the grinder.

The criteria he has set would leave billions of animals, and a very large slice indeed of the estimated 8.7 million species on the planet without rights.

Abolitionism

In the here and now, animal advocates fall broadly speaking into two camps: the abolitionists and the welfarists. The foremost spokesperson for Abolitionism is Professor Gary Francione. As a lawyer with a background in philosophy the Prof is peculiarly well qualified, one would think, to set out the ideal path for the AR ‘snowball’ to travel.

Abolitionism is based upon the philosophical premise that all animals, human and nonhuman, have the basic moral right not to be treated as the property of others. Therefore any human use of nonhumans is unjustifiable, just as human slavery is unjustifiable. All animals exist for their own purposes, not others. The moral baseline is veganism.

The battle for Abolitionism is legal as well as philosophical since in law, with a few notable exceptions, such as in a limited way in France², the status of nonhuman animals is still that of property. And most laws that relate to animals simply protect their welfare to a greater or lesser degree – without changing their status.

So how to get that legal status changed?

Two ways the status of nonhumans can be changed:

  1. By governmental legislation
  2. In the law courts. If a change in status can be established in a court of law, a legal precedent is set which would subsequently apply to all similar cases.

There are heroes for animals like Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Animal Rights Project in the US, and the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) in Argentina, toiling tirelessly to get that status change from property to person accepted in a court of law.

Drawback

It’s a tough battle, less like giving the AR snowball a gentle nudge on its way, much more like pushing an elephant up a mountain. And once again there is a major problem. We are back to the dreaded Species Criteria. Bringing a case to court, a lawyer has to limit him/herself to a particular client or clients on whose behalf he/she is pleading. And we’d be crazy to think a judge would grant personhood to, say, a silkworm, let alone to the entire animal kingdom. The right client has to be chosen.monkey-256420__340

So what are the criteria by which a lawyer selects a client that has the best chance of success in court? The NhRP’s current plaintiffs are “members of species who have been scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales.”

This list of the species that qualify is even more meager than Regan’s. The idea, of course, is to ‘get a foot in the door’ for one species, which would pave the way for others. But I’m guessing it will be a long long while before science decides silkworms are self-aware and autonomous, the first hurdle they need to jump if their advocates are to pursue this particular route to legal rights.

I applaud their efforts and don’t wish to sound unduly pessimistic, but short of turning the entire world vegan, it is unclear how in practical terms Prof Francione is going to achieve his Abolitionist goal.

Protectionism/Welfarism

Certain animal charities such as PETA, Animal Aid, Viva, also advocate total non-use of animals for human purposes. But where out-and-out Abolitionists are at odds with them, is their pursuit at the same time of incremental welfare improvements to reduce the suffering of animals alive now.

Drawback

It could be – and is – argued that campaigning for greater protections is a distraction from the goal of Animal Rights. Or worse, counter-productive, allowing the public to believe they can keep right on using animals, as long as it is done ‘humanely’. Abolitionists certainly think so and reject single issue campaigns. But that’s an argument we won’t get into just at the moment!

And the majority of other animal charities like ASPCA, HSUS and the RSPCA make no bones about their purely welfarist agenda.

Out-and-out revolution

There is absolutely no doubt that nearly all the exploitation and abuse, legal or illegal, humans inflict on nonhumans is in the service of the great capitalist god Profit. When it comes to lining their pockets humans have no regard for the rights of animals. So the answer is simple –  bring down capitalism.

Drawback

Or is it? Personally, I can’t see the overthrow of capitalism stopping people wanting to eat meat and cheese, use leather or wear fur. Isn’t it likely, or at least possible, that today’s capitalist factory farms would be tomorrow’s communist or socialist state-run operations?


Finally, the good news!

At last we come to Professor Garner’s exciting new paper Animals and democratic theory: Beyond an anthropocentric account” published in Contemporary Political Theory less than two months ago. Even the title whets the appetite!

The Prof bases his thesis on the ‘all-affected principle’, already current in political theory. It goes like this: in a democracy, the interests of every sentient being affected by legislation must be considered. And those who clearly cannot speak for themselves must have their rights represented by those who can.

“A democratic polity should take account of animal interests, not because a substantial number of humans wish to see greater protection afforded to animals, but rather because animals themselves have a democratic right to have their interests represented in the political process.”

So exactly why should we believe Garner’s new political theory could do better for animals than what has gone before?
  • Firstly, because it removes disputable questions of morality, ethics, and humanity (humaneness) from the equation. Under this principle Animal Rights is a purely political matter. You don’t have to believe it immoral to exclude nonhumans from democracy – it’s enough that it’s undemocratic.
  • Secondly – and I think this is huge – because it sweeps away all those contentious species criteria we were talking about. Here there are no criteria to fulfil, except that of sentience alone.

So no longer does AR depend upon humans deciding whether an animal is ‘intelligent enough’ or has a ‘sufficiently complex emotional life’. A life need only be sentient. And that, says Professor Marc Bekoff, author of a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience³, is now beyond dispute:

“After 2,500 studies, it’s time to declare animal sentience is proven.”

Not so very long ago black people and women, though most certainly affected by the collective decisions of their society, were entirely excluded from the democratic process. They battled hard for their rights, their vote, their say.

And won.

Because the ‘all-affected’ principle is surely the very heartbeat of Democracy.

Animals next!

To get general acceptance for Professor Garner’s new approach to AR, to help turn that snowball into an avalanche, please share widely!

You can read his complete paper here

Check out CASJ (Centre for Animals & Social Justice) who commissioned his work, and whose aim is to achieve:

• an overarching legal/political status for animals
• the institutional representation of animals’ interests within Government
• a government strategy and targets to improve animal protection

¹Subject-of-a-life – Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy

²What France’s New Animal Rights Law Actually Means For Animals – The Dodo. This change in French law “only applies to pets or wild animals tamed or held in captivity. The sentience of wild animals, meanwhile, is not recognized.

³A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience – Psychology Today

Footnote: The EU already implements something approaching Prof Garner’s thesis.

“In terms of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the European Union (EU) is the most progressive one in regard to including animal welfare in its sphere of policy work. Its activities in this area are based on the recognition that animals are sentient beings.

An amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into effect on 1st December 2009, now includes this principle and made it a binding condition to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing policies in relevant areas.This puts animal welfare on an equal footing with other key principles such as: gender equality, social protection, human health, combat of discrimination, sustainable development, consumer protection and data protection.”

 

Other Sources

There are three Animal Movements – Armory of the Revolution

Animals have democratic right to political representation – CASJ

The Case for Animal Rights – Wiki

Animal Rights – Wiki

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Persons Not Property – Could The Tide Be Turning?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Vegan Rights & Why They Really Matter for the Animals

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My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

Hanna,  passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is  founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements

Q:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories?  Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?

A:  I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout.  The following are a number of evident scenarios:

1  At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog.  I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home.  Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger.  There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper.  I cried all the way home.  As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water.  I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged.  Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move.  Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner.  Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!

2  My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street.  Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels.  My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.

I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.

Q:  Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan

A:  By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland.  Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce.  All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk.  It just seemed like those were stolen goods.  Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.

Q:  Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?

A:  I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.”  That did it!  That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them!  Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk.  Now you don’t want to eat meat?!  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to die?”  Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.

At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way.  I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof.  I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again.  By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost.  I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime.  On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.

Q:  What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?

A:  It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle.  I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals.  I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.

Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.  I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.

Q:  What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?

A:  My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path.  Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful.  As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering.  It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.

In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.

Q:  You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?

A:  Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer.  As of today, I’ve written and published:

  • vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
  • children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
  • and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)

I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.

Q:  What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?

A:  Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:

Hanna V. Golan
Sprout A Vegan
Vegan Blogger  & also here
Global Vegan Registry
Vegans in San Fernando Valley
Antelope Valley Vegans

In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.

Q:  Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?

A:  I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).

Q:  Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?

A:  My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.

Q:  Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?

A:  The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.

Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.

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Join the Global Vegan Registry here

Related posts – interviews with other remarkable vegans

A Picture of Compassion Chantal Poulin Durocher

Ama’s Story

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ryan Phillips – Ambassador for the Animals Extraordinaire

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Dale Vince – Vegan Tycoon of Unwavering Vision

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Libby & Louie, a Love Story

Libby and Louie’s story is a remarkable true tale of profound love and devotion, as told by an equally remarkable human  – Joanna Lucas, creator of the Be Fair Be Vegan social justice campaign responsible for the recent high-profile billboard display in Times Square & Javits Center NYC. As well as being a person of incredible vision, Joanna has a deeply empathetic insight into an animal’s heart and soul, which she beautifully reflects in her luminous writing.

It took extraordinary events – a shattering blow, like the loss of her right foot to the wire floor of the “cage-free” egg farm where she was rescued from, or a rapturous release, like her arrival at the sanctuary, or a seismic shift like Louie’s absence – to shake, charm, or punish a sound out of Libby. It’s not that her voice was frozen in fear, like so many of her fellow refugees. It’s not that she was shy, feeble, injured, or ill. She was quiet. And, unlike so many of her kin, she did not enjoy, or need to, commit her inner experiences to the stream of constant humming that often fills chicken communities with the music of their thoughts. Libby’s thoughts were silent. Silence was her nature, her disposition, her remedy, her talent, her power, her gift, and her pleasure. She looked at the world in soundless wonder – her thoughts, streaming and darting, swelling and swarming in the dark pools of her eyes – and filled it with the hush of her mind.

ll-libby-1In the blush of her first weeks at the sanctuary, when everything astonished her – the open sky, the endless fields, the scent of rain, the feel of straw underfoot – we thought we heard her voice a few times: small, joyful cries coming out of nowhere, seemingly formed out of thin air, the musical friction of invisible particles, not the product of straining, vibrating, trembling vocal chords, but a sound of pure joy coming from the heart of life itself. But, after she paired up with Louie and became his sole partner, Libby turned so completely quiet, that we began to wonder if the voice we had heard in the beginning was truly hers.

Louie’s delight in the sound and functioning of his own magnificent voice, his pleasure in putting sound faces on everything – their finds and failures, their contentments and complaints, their yearnings and fears, their joys and hopes, the major, minor or minute events of their daily lives together – gave Libby the improbable ability of being heard without making a sound. For the first time in her life, she could enjoy the bliss of silence and the full power of voice at the same time. Her thoughts, her needs, her feelings, her pleasures and displeasures, were all there – perfectly voiced, perfectly formed, perfectly delivered in Louie’s utterings – each experience, captured in the jewel of a flawlessly pitched note. And in these notes, you could hear the developing musical portrait of Libby’s inner happenings.There was the sighed coo for Libby’s request to slide under his wing, the raspy hiss for her alarm at OJ, the “killer” cat’s approach, the purred hum for her pleasure in dustbathing, the bubbling trill for her enjoyment in eating pumpkin seeds straight out of the pumpkin’s cool core on a summer day, the grinding creak for her tiredness, the rusty grumble for her achy joints.

There was the growing vocabulary of songs used to voice their shared moments of delight – the lucky find of the treasure trove hidden in a compost pile, discovered by Libby and dug out with Louie’s help to reveal a feast of riches to taste, eat, explore, investigate or play with; or the gift of walking side by side into the morning sun and greeting a new day together; or the adventure of sneaking into the pig barn and chasing the flies that landed on the backs of the slumbering giants.

Occasionally, there were the soundbursts for their shared moments of displeasure, hurt, sadness, fear, or downright panic, such as the time when Libby got accidentally locked in a barn that was being cleaned and Louie, distressed at the sudden separation, paced frantically up and down the narrow path on the other side of the closed door, crowing his alarm, crying his pleas, clucking his commands, flapping his wings, showering us with a spray of fervid whistles, following us around, then running back to the barn door, clacking at it, knocking on it, then running back to us, whirring his wings, stomping his feet, tapping the ground with his beak, staring intently, and generally communicating Libby’s predicament in every “language” available to him: sound, movement, gaze, color, and certainly scent too.
But, for all of their panache, Louie’s most spectacular acts of voice were not his magnificently crafted and projected vocal announcements but his quiet acts of allegiance, his tacit acts of devotion, his daily acts of restraint. The things he did not do.

There was the silent song of giving up his treasured roost in the rafters, his nest in the sky where he had bunked every night of his years before Libby, the space where he felt safest surrendering to sleep, strongest entering the night. Happiest. The spot closest to the clouds. His personal Olympus.

ll-roostBut, in her lameness, Libby couldn’t join him there. She managed to climb next to him a few times but, with only one foot to grip the perch, she kept losing her balance and fell to the ground and, after a while, she stopped trying and just stayed there, grounded, anchored to the earth. So Louie quietly descended from his blue yonder and settled next to her in her terrestrial roost – a long, narrow tent created by a leaning plywood board – and he slept near the entrance, exposing himself to the intrusions of curious goats, wandering cats and restless geese, the better to protect Libby from them.

There was the soundless song of limiting the sport of his summer days to fewer and fewer hours when the stiffness in Libby’s stump increased with age, and the effort of following Louie in the fields, hobbling and wobbling behind him, turned from tiring to exhausting in fewer and fewer steps, and she started to retire to their nest earlier and earlier in the day. At first, she was able to make it till 6 in the evening, but then 6 became 5, and 5 became 4, and then it was barely 3 in the glorious middle of a summer day when she felt too weary to go on. The day was still in its full splendor, there was still so much more of its gift to explore and experience, and there was still so much energy and curiosity left in Louie to explore with, but Libby was tired, and she had to go to her tent under the plywood plank, and rest her aching joints. And Louie followed. With Libby gone from the dazzling heart of the summer day, the night came early for both of them.Then there was the tacit song of forfeiting his foraging expeditions and his place in the larger sanctuary community only to be with her. When Libby’s advancing age, added to the constant burden of her lameness, forced her to not only shorten her travels with Louie, but end them altogether, and when her increased frailness forced her to seek a more controlled environment than their plywood tent in the barn, she retired to the small, quiet refuge of the House. And Louie followed her there, too, even though he still enjoyed the wide open spaces, the wilder outdoors, the hustle and bustle of bunking in the barn. But Libby needed the extra comfort of the smaller, warmer, more predictable space inside the House and, even though Louie did not, he followed her anyway. And, when she started to spend more and more time indoors, curtailing her already brief outings, Louie did too.

ll-togetherAnd there they were. Just the two of them in the world. A monogamous couple in a species where monogamy is the exception. Determined to stay together even though their union created more problems than it solved, increased their burdens more than it eased them, and thwarted their instincts more than it fulfilled them.
It would have been easier and more “natural” for Louie to be in charge of a group of hens, like all the other roosters, but he ignored everyone except Libby. He paid no attention to the fluffy gray hen, the fiery blonde hen, the dreamy red hen, the sweet black hen dawdling in her downy pantaloons, or any of the 100 snow-white hens who, to our dim perceptions, looked exactly like Libby. Louie, the most resplendently bedecked and befeathered rooster of the sanctuary, remained devoted only to Libby – scrawny body, scraggly feathers, missing foot, hobbled gait and all.

It’s true that, with our dull senses, we couldn’t grasp a fraction of what he saw in her because we can’t see, smell, hear, touch, taste, sense a scintilla of the sights, scents, sounds, textures, and tastes he does. But, even if we could see Libby in all her glory, it would still be clear that it wasn’t her physical attributes that enraptured Louie. If he sought her as his one and only companion, if he protected that union from all intrusions, it wasn’t because of her physique but because of her presence.

ll-roamingIt would have been easier for Libby too – so vulnerable in her stunted, lame body – to join an existing chicken family and enjoy the added comfort, cover and protection of a larger group, but she never did. She stayed with Louie, and followed him on his daily treks in the open fields, limping and gimping behind him, exhausting herself only to be near him.

What bonded them was not about practical necessities or instinctual urges – if anything, it thwarted both. Their union was about something else, a rich inner abundance that seemed to flourish in each other’s presence, and that Libby nurtured in her silence and that Louie voiced, sang out loud, celebrated, noted, catalogued, documented, expressed, praised every day of their 1,800 days together.Except today. Today, it was Libby who “spoke” for both of them. And, this time, there was no doubt whose voice it was, or what it was saying, because it not only sounded off, it split open the sky, punctured the clouds, issued forth with such gripping force and immediacy that it stopped you dead in your tracks. It was a sound of such pure sorrow and longing, hanging there all alone, in stark and immaculate solitude, high above the din of sanctuary life, like the heart-piercing cry of an albatross. She had started to cluck barely audibly at dawn, when Louie failed to get up and lingered listlessly in their nest. She continued her plaintive murmur into the afternoon, when Louie became too weak to hold his head up and collapsed in a heap of limp feathers. And then, when we scooped him up and quarantined him into a separate room for treatment, her soft lament turned to wrenching wail.

ll-aloneThe next morning, she was still sounding out her plea, her love, her desperation as she feverishly searched every open room in the house, then wandered out into the small front yard, then the larger back yard, and the small barns behind it. Soon, she left the house and the fenced yard and took her search to the open fields, cooing, calling, crying like a strange sky creature, using her voice as a beacon, it seemed, a sound trail for Louie to follow back to safety, and roaming farther than she had in months, stumbling and staggering on a foot and a stump, the light in her being dimming with every solitary minute, her eyes widened as if struggling to see in dark, her feathers, frayed at the edges, as though singed by the flames of an invisible fire, their sooted ends sticking out like thorns straight from the wound of her soul, her whole being looking tattered and disoriented, as if lost in a suddenly foreign world.

And, for three excruciating days, we didn’t dare hope she’d ever find him alive again. Louie was very weak, hanging to life by a thread that seemed thinner and thinner with each passing hour. He didn’t respond to the treatment we were advised to give him and, after three days of failed attempts, we were beginning to accept that there was nothing more we could do except to keep him comfortable, hydrated and quiet until the end.But we underestimated both his strength and her determination. Libby did find her soul mate again. We don’t know how she managed to get into the locked rehab room, but she did. We were planning to reunite them later that day – going against the Veterinarian’s advice, as we sometimes do out of compassion for the animals – because it had become clear to us that Louie’s ailment was not contagious, it was “just” a bad fit of old age. But Libby beat us to it. She found her way into his room, only she knows how, and Louie found his way back to life too, seemingly at the same moment. There he was, looking up for the first time in days, life flaring in his eyes again, and there she was, huddled next to him, quietly sharing his hospital crate. And there they still are, Louie, slowly recovering, and Libby, blissfully silent again. She hasn’t moved since. She won’t leave his side now that she’s found him again, she refuses to even look away from him, as if he might disappear in one blink of her eye, as if the force of her gaze alone can keep him anchored in life.

She beholds him with her deep, dark eyes, thoughts streaming and darting, swelling and swarming in their inky pools, and she envelops him in her symphonic silence, which – you hear it now! – is not really a silence, but a space in which Louie’s voice may shine, a protected space where his voice may grow stronger, vaster, freer – not because it can boom against her muteness, but because it can speak for someone other than himself and, in so doing, it may grow from an instrument of self expression to an instrument of grace. Not the abstract concept of grace that we like to discuss and dissect, but the daily practice and experience of it.

They are both quiet now – Louie, exhausted from his ailment, regaining his strength, Libby, exhausted from her dark journey, gazing steadily at him. Both, brimming, basking in the rich silence that is so alive with voice and flowing conversation, that it glows between them like a strange treasure. And it shines.

© 2009 Joanna Lucas Be Fair Be Vegan
Libby and Louie lived and loved at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

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8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Hens
________________________________________
Libby and Louie were extraordinarily lucky to survive the human demand for eggs. Virtually every one of the billions of chickens who are born into egg production does not come out alive. Egg production on ANY scale, from hobby farms to factory farms, is predicated on the mass killing of  the “unproductive” birds—the male chicks (roosters), who do not lay eggs, and the hens themselves when they become “spent” (unable to lay eggs at a profitable rate), at 1.5 to 2.5 years of age, a fraction of a chicken’s lifespan. The day-old roosters are killed by suffocation or maceration at the very hatcheries that supply laying hens to backyard egg enthusiasts and big producers alike. If the roosters are hatched on the farm, they are killed on the farm, usually as adolescents.

© Joanna Lucas, Be Fair Be Vegan
Libby and Louie lived and loved at Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary

For more information about the cruelty and injustice inherent in ALL egg production, from backyard farms to factory farms, please read:

What’s Wrong With Backyard Eggs?
Why There is No Such Thing as Humane Eggs—in a Nutshell 

What Happens to the Roosters?
What Happens to the “Spent” Hens of Backyard Egg Farms?

The Faces of “Free Range” Farming
Their Eggs, Not Ours

The Humane Egg ________________________________________
If living ethically is important to you, please remember that there is nothing humane about “humane” animal farming, just as there is nothing ethical or defensible about consuming its products. When confronted with the fundamental injustice inherent in all animal agriculture—a system that is predicated on inflicting massive, intentional and unnecessary suffering and death on billions of sentient individuals—the only ethical response is to strive to end it, by becoming vegan, not to regulate it by supporting “improved” methods of producing dairy, eggs, meat, wool, leather, silk, honey, and other animal products. For more information, please read The Humane Farming Myth. Live vegan and educate others to do the same.

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8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Hens

The hen “puts more light into every day.”

Why throw the spotlight on to hens? Well, because these sweet and fascinating birds are overlooked and underrated. That’s one good reason. Another I’ll come to shortly.

Each of my own feathery girls, Rosa, Juliet and Tiddlo, had a definite and distinct personality – which would come as no surprise to anyone who has had the pleasure of sharing companionship with hens. Tiddlo was ring leader and bold as brass. She led the charge of the troops into the house whenever the back door was open. Back in the garden, collie dog Jim would put his jaws around her neck and shake her gently from side to side. She was quite unfazed. Back on terra firma and with barely a ruffled feather she’d carry on where she left off, scratching at the grass for tasty worms. All three have long since moved on to contented clucking in hen heaven.

You’ll notice I’m choosing not to call hens ‘chickens.’ This is how the dictionary defines ‘chicken’:

A domestic fowl, Gallus domesticus, descended from various jungle fowl of southeastern Asia and developed in a number of breeds for its flesh, eggs, and feathers.

See what they’ve done there? Reduced this living, breathing, thinking, feeling creature to nothing more than a commodity.

So what is it we need to know about hens?

chicken-1328295__1801 As I mentioned, hens have personalities. Some are a little nervy and jumpy like Rosa, others curious and bold like Tiddlo. We may find one hen gregarious, and another aggressive. Some love human company, some are more standoffish. Like dogs or cats and (unlike children !) many will answer to their names and come when they’re called.

cock-274650__180

2 Hens are brainy. Far from being birdbrained or featherbrained (where did that notion come from?) hens can outperform dogs, cats and 4 year old kids in some intelligence tests. As Dr Christine Nicol says, “Studies over the past 20 years have… revealed their finely-honed sensory capacities, their ability to think, draw inferences, apply logic and plan ahead.” (Delighted to see that Christine, author of review paper ‘The Intelligent Hen’, agrees with me on the preferred name for the animal!)

In one test, hens were taught that if they refuse a food reward in the present, they will receive more food later on. Remarkably, or maybe we shouldn’t be surprised at their good sense and patience, ninety-three percent of the birds chose to hold out for the later but better option.

In this sweet short video, watch what this hen can do with a dice.

Hens are curious and like to investigate new things. Hens learn from observing the successes and failures of each other, and pass cultural knowledge down through the generations. They ‘get’ cause and effect. They realise that objects still exist even when hidden from sight.

eggs-1348537__1803. Hens talk. Don’t you just love that clucking! It’s the most soothing sound. But it’s a lot more than just a comforting, homely noise in the background. Researchers have identified at least 30 different kinds of vocalisations hens make. Amazingly hens have one cluck for a threat coming their way over land and a different cluck for danger approaching by water. A mother hen even talks to the developing chick inside her egg, and the unhatched chick talks right back to mum. Wouldn’t it be lovely to know what they are saying to each other.

chickens-874507__1804. They have their own complex society – that is if humans allow them the kind of life that Nature intended – the well-known pecking order in which each hen knows its own rung on the social ladder. Hens can know the faces of more than a hundred other hens and remember where each one’s place is on that ladder.

cochin-1415260__1805. Just like us, they have deep feelings. They love their families. Nigh on 2000 years ago Plutarch remarked,”What of the hens whom we observe each day at home, with what care and assiduity they govern and guard their chicks? Some let down their wings for the chicks to come under; others arch their backs for them to climb upon; there is no part of their bodies with which they do not wish to chick-929566__180cherish their chicks if they can, nor do they do this without a joy and alacrity which they seem to exhibit by the sound of their voices.” Mother Hens par excellence!

 

urica-1251980__180They sometimes find true love. While it’s more usual for a rooster to mate with several hens, it has been known for a rooster and a hen to form a profound and unshakeable bond of love.  In my next post I plan to bring you the deeply moving story of Libby and Louie, one such pair for whom existence without the other would have been but as the dust they scratched in .

As well as caring for their families, they also look out for the other hens in their group. They can forge lasting friendships, and like to hang out with their best buddies. And sometimes the buddies are not other hens! Thousands have already seen this beautiful 14 second video, but a second, third or fourth viewing still melts the heart.

6 Hens’ calming influence has not gone unnoticed. Now we have ‘therapy hens’.  Inmates of Scotland’s Saughton and England’s Holloway Prisons enjoy their soothing presence. “[The birds] have got such a therapeutical effect on you so it’s brilliant,” said one of the inmates working on the Saughton project. “It puts more light into every day.”  The Holloway hens are rescues, restored to good health by the prisoners.

chicks-1433003__180

These wonderful animals are also working their magic among children, the elderly and the mentally ill. We hope the interaction is mutually beneficial.

7 Sleeping with a hen next to your bed helps prevent malaria, dengue fever and zika. Yes, truly. A study was conducted in Ethiopian villages and found that Anopheles arabiensis, one of the main mosquito species spreading malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization, was repelled by chicken odour.  Although it’s early days, the research could pave the way for a chicken-scent repellent being introduced on the marketTake Part

Now we come to number 8 – and this tragic fact is my other reason for putting hens in the spotlight today – though this is less about them and more about humans:

Many billions of farmed animals are killed for food each year, virtually all having been bred for that sole purpose. Chickens account for the largest number of these animals, with an estimated 20 billion slaughtered annually. There are almost triple the number of chickens as there are humans in the world, and a huge number of people eat chicken most days, or even several times a day – Faunalytics

Sadly, because many people have heeded warnings about the health negatives, and have seen graphs like this comparing the carbon footprints of chicken and red meat, they’ve replaced their lamb, beef and burgers with chicken and nuggets.

greenhouse20gas20emissions20from20common20proteins20and20vegetables20-jpeg-650x0_q70_crop-smart

As a result we get a graph like this –

number-of-farmed-animals-killed

One Step for Animals has come up with a radical proposal for advocacy intended to reduce animal suffering, and this is it: Given that it takes more than 200 chickens to provide the same number of meals as one cow, we must avoid anything that risks encouraging anyone to replace red meat with chickens. Conversely, if we can convince someone to stop eating birds, they would go from being responsible for the factory farming and slaughtering of about two dozen land animals per year to fewer than one.

Their surprising argument, that makes pragmatic sense but I suspect will be anathema to many animal advocates, goes like this: though all animal suffering is a gross injustice, isn’t it better for one animal to suffer instead of two hundred? They back this up by quoting economist and Nobel Prize-winner Herb Simon, that people do not make perfect or optimal decisions (eg giving up animal products altogether and going vegan). It’s much more usual for people to base their choices on what is a bit better or, good enough. So if people can be persuaded that if they want to carry on eating meat they should eat beef rather than chicken, it’s better because fewer animals suffer and die. And you’re more likely to succeed in persuading them of that than in getting them to go vegan overnight.

We know individuals who evolve over time to full vegetarianism or veganism are more likely to maintain that change (a major consideration given the overwhelming 80% rate of veg recidivism). Obviously, any journey has to start with the first step. We should shape our message such that the one step is seen as “do-able” for our audience and also as meaningful as possible for animals.

I’m not sure what to think about One Step for Animals, but what Professor of Veterinary Science John Webster says about modern chicken production can scarcely be denied:

“In magnitude and severity [it is] the single most severe systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient being.”

chickens-in-battery-cages-on-egg-farm-1
Image courtesy of PETA

For everyone who wants to make the world a kinder, friendlier place – if you haven’t already, take a step and leave these incredible underrated animals off your plate.

And consider going vegan for the animals

Update

1st December 2016 Research shows Birds Have Skills Previously Described As Uniquely Human – The Scientist

 

Related posts

Libby & Louie, A Love Story

The Real Truth in Numbers about the Farming of Animals

Thinking Pigs

If Rembrandt Painted Farm Animals, They’d Look Like This

Pragmatism – The Art of the Possible Working for Animals

And watch Little Miss Sunshine strut her stuff  – from spent battery hen to TV star!

 

Sources

Chickens: smarter than a 4 year old – NY Daily News

Chickens’ Personality – backyardchickencoops.com

Chickens’ Personality – Toronto Vegetarian Association

The Social Life of Chickens – United Poultry Concerns

Chickens Teach Life Skills to Prison Inmates – The Dodo

Prisoners Nurse Chickens in Holloway Prison – Islington Gazette

Why You Should Give a Cluck About Chickens – World of Vegan

 

 

 

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Brexit – the Animals’ View

 From an animal rights perspective an independent Britain is worrying

As the pound plummets, billions are wiped off the stock market, the PM resigns, the political parties are in disarray, Scotland looks to leave the UK, and Europe itself looks set to crumble, to many it might seem trivial to say “What about the animals?” But not to me, not to us.

So what has Europe done for our animals? The EU has some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and these are a few of its achievements over the last few years –

  • In 2012 it banned battery caged hens and in 2013 sow stalls that cruelly restricted movement, both identified as the worst excesses of factory farming. Millions of farmed animals got a better quality of life
  • Farming subsidies from the EU enable farmers to uphold higher welfare standards and provide protections for the environment
  • The EU enacted strict rules to ensure animals are given regular rest, food and drink when being transported, and since 2015, this also applies to journeys that continue outside the EU
  • The EU ended the use of great apes in animal testing
  • The EU banned the sale of any cosmetic products that have been tested on animals
  • The EU is at the forefront of the fight against wildlife crime, contributing millions to protection schemes for elephants, for example, and setting up training and anti-poaching patrols
  • Last year the EU’s crime-fighting body Europol took an active part in the largest ever international operation against wildlife crime, making over 200 arrests and seizing live animals and animal body parts
  • In March this year the EU set out a comprehensive EU action plan to crack down on wildlife trafficking
  • Influential organisations such as the Eurogroup for Animals have access to lobby on behalf of animals at the highest level in Brussels for better protections Europe-wide

So what will animals lose?

  • Once the divorce is completed, current EU animal protection laws will no longer have force in the UK
  • And of course, the UK will not be subject to any further animal protections won by the EU

I’m no expert on EU law, but having witnessed the Tory government’s utter disregard for animals here in the UK over the last few years, I would say we have much to fear.

This is a government under the thumb of the NFU that actually got the EU ban on bee-slaughtering neonicotinoids suspended.

This is a government under the thumb of the NFU that’s not only persisting with the cull of badgers, a protected species, but plans to extend it against all expert scientific advice.

This is a government under the thumb of the Countryside Alliance that wants to scrap the Hunting Act.

This is a government that has dragged its heels for years on its manifesto pledge to enact a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

This is a government that has made efforts each subsequent year to remove funding from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, which does outstanding work on a tiny budget.

This is a government which wants to deregulate farming – wants to remove welfare standards at present required by law for animals – so every last penny can be extracted from them. Back in March, they proposed scrapping the official code on farming chickens, and to allow the industry to regulate itself, a change that rang alarm bells with all those who care about animals, including the RSPCA and Compassion in World Farming. And they intended the poor hens to be just the start. The Guardian reported:

“The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed it will now begin working with other livestock sectors in a staged timetable of reform. Other sectors that could get control of their own guidance include the cattle, sheep and pig farming industries.”

Nice use of the word ‘reform’ don’t you think? This is how my dictionary defines reform: “to make changes in an institution or practice in order to improve it“. So the Tories want to improve farming regulations, do they? For whom? Certainly not for the animals.

Factory farming is the most cost-effective way of turning animals into cash, and the industry has shown it can turn to extremely cruel animal farming practices in the pursuit of Rizla-thin profits

They hoped this one would slip under the radar, but the subsequent outcry caused them to shelve the plans. With people like Liz Truss, Owen Paterson and George Eustice still in the offing though, there is every chance we could see this noxious idea resurrected. If the Tories remain in power no longer subject to EU constraints, our animals will be at their mercy, and there is precious little of that particular quality to be found amongst them.

“If Britain leaves the EU, then current animal rights rules will not vanish overnight. But their future would not be certain long term, and from an animal rights perspective an independent Britain is worrying.

We have made impressive advances on animal rights in the UK over the years. But from an animal welfare perspective we really need continued European Union input. Animal rights are too important to be left to our current government, and if Brexit happens then the chances are that rights for farm animals will either stagnate or be whittled away.” Sam Barker in The Guardian 27th April.

It looks like we’re going to have our work cut out. We’re just going to have to raise our voice for animals even louder.

You can start by signing the petition here, to the UK Environment Secretary, Home Secretary & PM Ensure that environmental and animal welfare protective EU directives are kept

And also Friends of the Earth campaign to protect the environment after Brexit

And another! 38degrees Keep the EU Laws that Protect the Environment

Post script Interesting short article by sentience-politics.org. 80% of our animal protection legislation has come from the EU, much of which this government has been reluctant to accept or implement.

Cruelty Free International thinks it likely that the UK will continue to follow EU directives affecting animals, at least in the short-term, since there will be so many other areas considered more important to negotiate.

If Rembrandt Painted Farm Animals, They’d Look Like This

cally whitham photo

I find these images profoundly moving. That’s why I wanted to share them with you. What leaps out at me is the personality, the unique personhood of each individual animal, that Cally Whitham has captured in these photographs. Yes unbelievably, they are photographs. I have never seen photos quite like these. They really do look like they were painted by Rembrandt.

Murray grey cattle Cally Whitham photo rembrandt epitaph

Painfully impressed on the minds of us in animal advocacy, are the unimaginable numbers of farmed animals killed for their ‘products’ every day, all over the world. I guess to most others, they are just numbers – if they are even aware of them – abstract statistics of no significance, devoid of any connection with the shrink-wrapped meat in the supermarket trolley. But each animal in Cally’s pictures is speaking, with great dignity. “Can you see me? Can you hear me? I am not a number, I am a person.” 

“Beauty always takes place in the particular. Cruelty, on the other hand, prefers abstraction.”  Elaine Scarry, philosopher

“We come from people who used to be able to tell two sheep apart” (National Geographic) But in 21st century farming, animals are reduced to units, their worth estimated by their size, weight and market price.

Black turkey Cally Whitham epitaph rembrandt bird

“In modern times most of us have lost connections with the land and the livestock that sustain us,” says Cally. “Instead of knowing animals individually, we’re mostly just familiar with lamb, beef, chicken, or pork as a product. We have divorced ourselves from the land and the things we eat, reducing these noble subjects into so many pounds of flesh.”

Re-forming these lost connections is what motivated her to create farm animal portraits that look like a Dutch master’s paintings. She gave this project the poignant title, ‘Epitaph’.

tawny crossbreed ewe sheep call whitham epitaph photo rembrandt

“I wanted to portray the animals as dignified individuals, photographed in a way that lent them a value, an importance, that was of the same weight as paintings of aristocracy or our ancestors. Our perceptions have changed but their importance has not. I wanted to give back to them a light they had lost.”

Wessex crossbreed pig Cally Whitham epitaph photo rembrandt

Because her pictures reach right into the animals’ soul, and show such respect for them as individuals, it came as a surprise to me that Cally does eat meat. I have no doubt though that these powerful pictures will stop people short in their tracks. And we can hope that the images will make them wonder about the person that was killed and turned into the slices on their plates.  

greylag goose cally whitham epitaph photo rembrandt farm animal

See what you think.

Source: National Geographic

To see more of Cally’s extraordinary work, visit her website here

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