“How we treat animals is often dependent on how they display characteristics we think are human.”
That is why London-based animal photographer Tim Flach focuses his lens on the close-up detail that “beautifully highlights the similarities between animals and humans. Flach told the New York Times that he wants his photos to engage people in debates about our relationship with animals.”
“If you go to the supermarket today, we’re more used to seeing packaged animals with no feathers and no head,” he says. He aims to show us how they should be seen. More and more we are learning about nonhumans’ personality,intelligence, and emotions, that are just like ours.
Animals display loving tendencies towards their young, their family, and their friends
They have proven to be much more intelligent than we ever thought possible
Though we feel like we are above or “better than” animals …
… they are incredibly similar to us in many ways
Their emotional capacity is astounding
Even the animals we consider completely different from us have human-like qualities
If you truly look at the animals around you …
… you will find how much you have in common with them …
… and how amazing they truly all are
Please, please, please check out Tim’s website. I have rarely, if ever, seen such stunning photos of animals. The man is a genius!
“Polish born Dr Alex Hershaft believes he survived the Warsaw Ghetto in order to commit his life to stopping the oppression of animals in the meat industry. Speaking at the final leg of his European tour at the Jewish Museum in London this week, 82-year-old Alex told the astonishing story of how his harrowing experience resulted in a lifelong passion for animal rights.”
Last week the London Evening Standard featured the story of Dr Hershaft, one of the few Jewish survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto.
To put the miracle of his survival in context:
400,000 Jews were trapped inside the ghetto (1940-1943)
245,000 of them were sent to Treblinka concentration camp
In all 300,000 Warsaw ghetto Jews died in concentration camps
A further 92,000 of them died of mass shootings, starvation and disease, in the valiant uprising against the Nazis, and the final destruction of the ghetto
Estimates of the total number of Jewish people annihilated by the Nazis in World War II – between 6 – 11 million.
Each one was not of course simply a statistic, but a real person with a life of his/her own. And mere facts and figures cannot convey the unspeakable horror of the World War II Holocaust. So it’s even more inspiring that Dr Hershaft, this incredible man, channeled his years of suffering and trauma into compassion for other sufferers of oppression – those others now confined just as he was then, often brutally treated, robbed of dignity, and denied their basic rights as sentient individuals – the animals that humans farm for ‘food’.
Estimates of animals killed in the world every year? More than 56 billion, and tragically rising. That is even without counting fish and other marine animals.
The dictionary definition of ‘holocaust’ is ‘destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.’ Yet if we dare to apply such an emotive word to the monstrous flood of life blood flowing from the bodies of those billions of individual cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, slaughtered (like Hitler’s victims) by human hands, we are swiftly shouted down with cries of outrage. But is there a better word to describe what is happening behind closed doors this very second? Click here and I can guarantee you some surprise, if not downright disbelief, at the numbers of different species being stripped of their lives second by second so humans can eat their bodies.
Is this not holocaust on an unimagineable scale, passing unseen, unremarked, and mostly unprotested, right under society’s collective nose? A horror of dystopian inhumanity, insanely become acceptable, for which society at large feels no compunction or concern.
It’s not using the H-word in this context that’s an outrage. This present day holocaust itself is the outrage. So good people, let us close our ears to those cries of indignation, and let’s not stop using the H-word. The outraged will just have to suck it up, because there can be no more authoritative validation for its use in this context than from a Jewish survivor of the Nazi holocaust himself. Dr Hershaft likens “the treatment of animals in the meat industry to his experience within a concentration camp, including the use of branding and witnessing piles of body parts on a regular basis.”
“Following a successful career as an environmental chemist, a work trip to a slaughterhouse made him realise his true vocation. As a result in 1976 he co-founded the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and became a vegan in 1981.”
Dr Hershaft with fellow survivors on a boat to America
Dr Hershaft says of his experience:
“This is when I finally realised that there was a valid reason for my surviving the Holocaust and a valid way to repay my debt for surviving. This is when I resolved to spend the rest of my life fighting all forms of oppression.”
Ever since, Alex has spent his life campaigning for the rights of farm animals; as a member of the Advisory Council of Jewish Veg in America, Patron of the Jewish Vegetarian Society, and the current President of FARM.
Just why are Gary Grill and James Silver, Anita Kranjc’s legal defence team in the infamous ‘Pig Trial’, not popping corks and toasting each other over glasses of champagne after their client’s welcome acquittal last week?
As we all know, in June 2015 Anita was attending one of the regular Toronto Pig Save’s vigils for animals headed to the slaughterhouse. She gave water through slats in the truck to pigs suffering from heat and thirst. The truck driver angrily confronted her, and the next day she was charged with two criminal offences.
Last Thursday animal advocates everywhere were rejoicing. Anita’s act of compassion was ruled not criminal and she was saved from a possible 10 year jail sentence.
So why were Gary and James not in celebratory mood? Because it wasn’t the win they (and Anita) had hoped for. “Contrary to the claims of many activists, the case did not put the ‘industry on trial’ or result in a ‘victory for animals’.”
On the charge sheet, Anita’s alleged offences were ‘criminal mischief’ and ‘interference with property’. So in a nutshell, the trial hinged on those two things: whether or not Anita was guilty of criminal mischief, and whether or not she had interfered with the property of a third party.
As for the criminal mischief, her team argued that giving water to thirsty pigs was acting for the public good. The judge agreed and dismissed the prosecution’s flimsy argument that the driver did not know if the water was in fact just water.
He also ruled that as the driver of the truck had no qualms about sending the pigs to slaughter in spite of Anita’s action, it was evident he did not believe the animals had been contaminated. The pigs’ ‘owner’ had suffered no financial loss, and his operation had not been affected in any way. There was no ‘interference with property’.
The most important part of Anita’s defence in terms of animal advocacy was the assertion that pigs are not property. As fully sentient, social, thinking, feeling beings, they are as much persons as we humans, and should be recognised as such in law. After all, if even corporations can be legal persons (and rivers and glaciers in some countries of the world), how much more pigs?
The defence called upon several expert witnesses, including Dr Lori Marino. Dr Marino sought to provide evidence that pigs are indeed persons, based on her years, if not decades, of rigorous scientific observation of, and research into different species of animals. Justice Harris chose to dismiss the eminent biopsychologist’s evidence as unscientific and biased – presumably because Lori is a vegan and animal advocate?
Justice Harris made it clear that under Canadian law, dogs and cats are property, and there are no legal grounds for considering pigs as anything other than property. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Ultimately commonsense prevailed with Anita’s acquittal.Commonsense would wonder why anyone performing the compassionate act of trying to relieve a fellow creature’s suffering should be charged with a criminal offence to begin with.
Which leads us to the sting in the tail of this whole story. The incident that sparked the whole commotion emanated from escalating tensions between the animal rights movement and the meat industry.
Gary and James believe that the truck driver’s confrontation of Anita in 2015 was deliberately staged in an attempt to put a stop to Toronto Pig Save’s thrice-weekly vigils. Unsurprisingly, the worst nightmare for those in the meat industry would be animal activism affecting their bottom line. It’s always all about the money.
Consequently, Van Boekel Hog Farms Inc are not happy with Thursday’s verdict. Fearmans Slaughter is not happy. Livestock farmers in Ontario at large are not happy.
“Organisations representing farms in Ontario expressed their disappointment with the decision, highlighting concerns that it would embolden animal rights activists and spark further confrontations between the two groups.
“Actions by Krajnc and activists like her should not be condoned by the courts as they threaten acceptable and legal farming practices and are a threat to food safety,” said Bruce Kelly of Farm and Food Care Ontario.” The Guardian
He added, “We can’t have a food system where people can interfere with food in any stage of the delivery. It’s not safe.” Global News.Some would say, including me, that slaughtering pigs for food is not safe – not safe for the pigs, and not safe for those who keep eating them.
This time, with this pig trial, the vested interests failed. They failed to shut the lid down on Toronto Pig Save, and by default other like-minded activists.
But Justice Harris’s summing up has practically handed the industry a blueprint for winning a conviction next time round. It’s ludicrously simple. Van Boekel Hog Farms’ prosecution of Anita fell down because the truck driver allowed the pigs to go to slaughter as usual, hence into the food supply chain. So all VBHF needs do next time is ‘euthanise’ just one animal declaring it tampered with, contaminated, and no longer fit for the food chain. Hey presto – ‘criminal mischief’ and ‘interference with property’ are proven, the defendant found guilty.
They will try again.
But meanwhile,“one of the unintended consequences of leveling criminal charges against her [Anita] is that the Pig Save movement has taken off. Last year, there were 50 such groups in North America. Now, she said, there are 150.” The Star
And here is this amazing, compassionate, fearless woman on the courthouse steps, after the trial.
Disclaimer I have tried to summarise in brief some of the main points of the trial, for my own benefit as much as anything, as a layperson. If I have misapprehended any of the legal niceties, please do not hesitate to bring them to my attention!
During the trial, in presenting Anita’s defence, the lawyers refrained from referring to the Eric Van Boekel’s facility where the pigs were reared as a farm, instead using terms like ‘operation’ and ‘units’. After all, who in their right minds would consider such an intensive industrial facility a farm? Answer: the judge. Justice David Harris impatiently swept aside the defence team’s terminology and insisted the ‘hogs’ housing be referred to as barns, and the operation as a whole, a farm. He himself, he declared, was born and brought up on a farm. Does that raise questions of impartiality, I wonder?
Other expert witnesses at the trial attempted to draw attention to environmental and animal welfare concerns surrounding the rearing, transport and slaughter of the pigs. Justice Harris dismissed these as irrelevant to the case and accused the witnesses of using the trial as a platform for animal activism. Well, why wouldn’t you?
Anita still faces another charge: of “obstructing police after a truck carrying pigs crashed near the Burlington slaughterhouse killing 42 of them. Krajnc was not blamed for the crash (the truck’s driver was charged with careless driving). But she was charged after Pig Save protestors at the scene crossed police lines in an effort to convince slaughterhouse workers to release some of the injured hogs to a pig sanctuary.” The Star
“Nature inspires me. My hope is that my art will serve its purpose, remind us of how the human-nature relationship is supposed to be, beautiful, harmonious, and living side by side. My subjects are often children and animals because they are sincere, unprejudiced and unpretentious. There’s an innate relationship between them.”Indonesian artist Elicia Edijanto
I find these watercolour paintings profoundly moving. I hope you enjoy them, and that they will continue to touch the hearts of those who see them. The simplicity of colour and detail creates a timeless, tranquil, dreamlike other-world. Is this the Garden of Eden? The kingdom of heaven? The way life was here on Earth before abuse of power, greed, exploitation, cruelty and fear trampled innocence, reverence, trust and love into the dust? Elicia’s art brings to my mind two passages from the Bible, see below.
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.Isaiah 11 v 6
He[Jesus]called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.Matt 18 vv 2-4
Elicia depicts the animals with simple reverence, in all their majesty. They are here in their own personhood, with their own standing. They do not seek Man’s permission. They owe us nothing. They are here by right.
Discover the artist and see more of Elicia’s beautiful work on her website
Abusing animals is no more justifiable than abusing people, writes Peter Tatchell. The moral touchstone is sentience, not species, and the ‘humans first’ ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism & misogyny. Cruelty is barbarism, whether inflicted on humans or on other species. We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature.
Since we humans are an animal species, it is obvious that human rights are a form of animal rights; and that animal rights include – or should include – the human species.
“We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?”
Sadly, not everyone sees it this way. Many view humans and other animals as totally distinct: drawing a clear, sharp line between animal rights and human rights.
That’s not my view. Sentience is the bond that unites all animal species, human and non-human. I accept our shared animalism and advocate our shared claim to be spared suffering and accorded inalienable rights.
It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills and our capacity for culture and conscience.¹ But this is no justification for abusing them. Just as we do not sanction the abuse of humans – such as babies and disabled people – who lack these highly developed capacities.
We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?
There is, in my moral universe, no great ethical gulf between the abuse of human and non-human animals or between our duty of compassion towards other humans and other species.
Indeed, I see a link between the oppression of non-human animals and the oppression of human beings because of their nationality, race, gender, faith or non-faith, political beliefs, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny
The different forms of human and other animal oppression are interconnected, based on the similar abuse of power and the infliction of harm and suffering. They cannot be fully understood separately from one another.
How we mistreat animals parallels how we mistreat people. Cruelty is barbarism, whether it is inflicted on humans or on other species. The campaigns for animal rights and human rights share the same fundamental aim: a world without oppression and suffering, based on love, kindness and compassion.
Speciesism is the belief and practice of human supremacism over other animal species. It is prejudice, discrimination or violence in favour of human beings; variously involving the exploitation, incarceration, mistreatment or killing of other animals by humans.
This humans-first ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny. A form of prejudice, domination and oppression, it is incompatible with a humane, civilised society.
We humans are an animal species. We know about pain and suffering. So why do most of us hold high-handed attitudes towards other animals and accept their abuse in medical laboratories, farms, zoos, circuses and sports events?
It does not follow that our highly sophisticated intelligence and material development gives us the right to lord it over other species. Just because we have the capacity to do so, does not mean that we should. On the contrary: our brain power and conscience give us a special responsibility of stewardship over the Earth and all its beings.
We must start thinking in a new way …
My thinking has been influenced by the Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, and his ground-breaking book, Animal Liberation. In my mind, it is one the most important books of the last 100 years. It expands our moral horizons beyond our own species and is thereby a major evolution in ethics.
Singer challenges human chauvinism. By viewing non-human sentient beings as ‘other’, we allow ourselves the ‘excuse’ to look down on and mistreat them; including to insult, exploit, abuse, dominate or even kill those ‘other’ beings. We stop seeing them as living, thinking, feeling creatures.
Anti-animal prejudice runs deep. Bigots often disparage other people with speciesist epithets. They accuse them of acting ‘just like a beast’ or ‘worse than an animal.’ This bigotry echoes the vile insults that black people are ‘savages’, women are ‘bitches’ and that LGBT people are ‘perverts.’
Before we can liberate the millions of oppressed humans and billions of exploited animals we need to free our minds and start thinking in a new way: to consciously eliminate the mentality of subjugation and entitlement that allows us to passively acquiesce or, even worse, actively participate in the cycle of abuse against other sentient beings – human and non-human.
Animal liberation is in the same ethical tradition as women’s, black and LGBT liberation. It is about ending the suffering that flows from a supremacist mindset and power relations of domination.
Surely, in the twenty-first century, the time has come to emancipate non-human animals, just like we previously emancipated humans through abolishing slavery, male-only suffrage and anti-LGBT laws?
We have a moral duty to stop abusing other animal species. They aren’t really that different from us humans. Vertebrates share much of our DNA and our capacity for thought, feelings, emotions, sociability, language, altruism and empathy.
We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature. If we did that, the excuses and rationalisations for treating other species badly would fall away.
¹I love this piece and totally endorse everything Peter says – except for the statement: “It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills …” Intelligence is a human construct. Some nonhumans display remarkable intelligence even by that human-centric standard, while others show their own special intelligences that we can scarcely understand or lay claim to ourselves. As for mental-physical skills, many if not all of the 7.77 million species on our planet could give humans a good run for their money.
Peter Tatchell is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. Tatchell was selected as Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey in 1981.
Event: Peter Tatchell’s keynote address ‘Human rights ARE animal rights’ takes place at Veggie World London at 2pm on Saturday 8th April, Kensington Town Hall, West London. Advance tickets available online: £8 for adults and £6 concessions.
In the summer of 2016 a daring duo of capybaras staged an escape during their transfer to the zoo, evaded capture and stayed on the run for more than a month before they were caught. Bonnie and Clyde in furry rodent form. Of course all the publicity they attracted did the zoo and its visitor numbers no harm at all, particularly when this February the pair hit the headlines once again by becoming proud parents to three cute capybara babies. It seems these truants were honeymooning all along.
An Animal Conspiracy?
Would you ever have thought an animal as big and conspicuous as a kangaroo could be wandering at large in Germany? Well in 2012 not one kangaroo, but three – Skippy, Mick and Jack – broke free from a zoological park near Frankfurt, aided and abetted by local wildlife, a fox and a wild boar. They’d dug holes under the park’s fences through which the trio escaped. No-one is quite sure if the fox and the boar were motivated by fellow feeling for the incarcerated trio, or the handy holes were just a bye-product of a hunt for worms.
Timorous Skippy was recaptured almost immediately. Jack two days later after “a long chase”. As kangas travel at about 15mph, that must have been a sight to behold. Mick was the last kanga still at large. The park’s deputy head Michael Hoffman reassured the public: “He’s super friendly, super nice. Absolutely no danger at all .”
His eventual capture was as spectacular as his jailbreak – he was “pounced on by a policeman”. I’m guessing the only kanga anywhere ever to be taken into custody by an officer of the law.
How about breaking into the zoo?
Why on earth would an animal do such a thing? A nameless wild Bengal tiger could give you the answer – if you could find him. It seems though he was looking for love. Feminine allure proved irresistible for this guy when in 2012 he broke into a female’s enclosure at Nandankanan Zoo. No-one including the lady herself seemed to mind and the male stayed there happily for several weeks. Until he decided enough was enough and scaled the enclosure’s two-storey high security wall, disappearing into the night never to be seen again, much to the disappointment of the zoo. History does not record if the love match resulted in the patter of tiny paws.
Ghost Cat of Dartmoor
Remember beautiful Flaviu? The young lynx who last July, newly arrived at Dartmoor Zoo, broke out by chewing through a board in the wall of his enclosure? He enjoyed three whole weeks of roaming free, successfully evading zoo staff, volunteers, police, helicopters, drones, baited traps, motion sensor cameras, and even the services of ‘a secretive individual with expertise in tracking’, before he was re-captured.
There was no question about this cat’s ability to survive in the wild. The only fear was that he might be targeted as a coveted hunting trophy to inflate some bonehead’s ego. But I for one was sad when this wild cat was returned to the zoo. No doubt the farmers who lost four lambs to him thought otherwise.
How has Flaviu been in the 9 months or so that have elapsed since his taste of freedom? “Though the lynx is safe and sound, zoo officials say he is ‘grumpy,’ and report that they are trying to find Flaviu a female companion to lift his mood.”
And then there was Inky
What can I say?
Finally, the Sad Tale of Ken Allen
Borneo orangutan Ken Allen aka Houdini (San Diego Zoo) romps away with the multiple-escape award, no competition. In 1985 he made no less than three attempts in as many months. The first time, in June, he was spotted enjoying a leisurely stroll along one of the zoo’s public paths – having scaled the wall of his ‘escape-proof’ enclosure.
“Zoo staff began surveillance of his enclosure to try to catch him in the act, only to find that Ken Allen seemed to be aware that he was being watched for that very purpose. This forced zookeepers to go “undercover”, posing as tourists to learn Ken Allen’s escape route, but Ken Allen was not fooled. Moreover, other orangutans began following Ken Allen’s lead and began escaping from the enclosure. Zoo officials eventually hired experienced rock climbers to find every finger, toe, and foothold within the enclosure and spent $40,000 to eliminate the identified holds.”¹
Not to be daunted, in July he broke out again. In August the cunning ape, finding a crowbar accidentally left in his pen, tossed it over to a female by the name of Vicki who was able to use it to open a window and let him out.
In spite of his will to live free, poor Ken Allen remained captive in the zoo until his death from cancer in 2000 aged 29. Born in captivity, died in captivity. RIP Ken Allen.
These animal capers are pure gold for the press. Even more so for the zoos concerned, as well as a source of entertaining fun for the public. Ken Allen’s exploits were celebrated on t-shirts, and he had his own fan club, much good though that did him.
But if there is one moral we can draw from these tales, it is this: these animals seized upon any opportunity that presented itself to break out of imprisonment. Wild animals even if born in captivity are wild. And that is where they long to be – in the wild. They want their autonomy. No less than the human animal they want to be free.
Freedom is the foremost of rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts it top of the list:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
Yet freedom is the very thing the human animal denies his fellow earthdwellers. I would like to remove the word “human” from that sentence in Article 1.
Zoos justify the incarceration of nonhuman animals on grounds of education, research and conservation of endangered species. It would take a PhD-length dissertation to examine the research, debunk myths and expose the ‘greenwashing’ that goes on.
The truth is, the only animals happy in zoos are the human ones.
Please never visit the zoo.
Please sign and share the Declaration of Animal Rights here
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.)
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:-
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.
And then there are the so-called “ag-gag” laws in the US that make it near impossible to expose certain animal welfare violations,
including the trauma endured by those millions of hapless hens.
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.
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:
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.
The message of livestock farming’s extravagantly huge environmental footprint is getting through, at least to some.
And the deal-clincher: beef pricesare nearly double what they were a decade ago, and now more than double the price of chicken.
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.
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.”
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
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)
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.
Today is a big day. Today lawyer Steven Wise of the NonHuman Rights Project will be presenting oral arguments in the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan on behalf of two chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko.
In the fight to win legal person status for a nonhuman animal and what that would mean for nonhumans as a whole, this is the best and clearest article I’ve come across yet. It’s a decent length but truly worth reading through to the end. There cannot be much else as important as this for Animal Rights.
“If we didn’t have rights, all we had was some statute that said you can’t be cruel to me, or that I’m entitled to some kind of welfare, the person who gave it to me can also take it away,” [NhRP President Steven M. Wise] said. Wise cited the example of environmental protections set forth by the Obama administration, which are now being rolled back by Trump. Essentially, if legislation can be passed, it can also be erased. Rights are more difficult to erode.”
“They used to bark at me when I walked into the courtroom,” lawyer Steven Wise said in the Sundance documentary Unlocking the Cage, which debuted on HBO last month. His use of the word “bark” is literal.
Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has spent his entire legal career preparing to represent the first chimpanzee plaintiffs in the U.S. court system. While he’s no stranger to having his life’s work—of attempting to get certain animals recognized as persons—poked fun at, he’s found that the courts have taken him seriously.
The distinction of “persons,” not “people,” is important. Part of the apparent absurdity is that on the surface, arguing for personhood might sound like saying a chimpanzee should have the same rights as an adult human, like the right to own property and vote in elections. Instead, the category of “person” is a legal one referring to a being entitled to certain fundamental rights. The case of the chimpanzees, Wise said, is about their right to bodily liberty—recognizing the animals as legal beings instead of “things.”
On March 16th, Wise will be presenting oral arguments in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department in Manhattan on behalf of Tommy and Kiko, two chimpanzees who appeared in movies in the 1980s and are now living in New York State in questionable conditions—Tommy, in a concrete cell at the back of a trailer lot in upstate New York, and Kiko, in a concrete storefront operated out of a private home in Niagara Falls. According to NhRP, Tommy has frequently been left with a small TV set as his only stimulation; Kiko has been photographed with a makeshift leash made of a padlock and chain around his neck. Both animals, kept in cages, are being deprived the natural habitats and socialization that chimps, known to thrive in large and organized societies, require.
Rather than attempt to sue or criminalize the chimps’ owners for cruelty, Wise is using a writ of habeus corpus to argue that these animals are being held against their rights as autonomous beings—autonomy being a “supreme common law value” recognized by the courts, as Wise explained.
“Scientifically speaking, autonomous beings have the capacity to freely choose how to live their lives. They are not cabined by instinct,” Wise told Gizmodo. He believes Tommy and Kiko should be released to true sanctuaries, with living conditions more akin to the jungles chimpanzees are native to, and importantly, other chimpanzees to socialize with. While nonhuman entities like corporations have, in the past, been named persons in the eyes of the law, Wise is the first to seek personhood status for nonhuman animals in a U.S. court. And if it can happen once, the door will be open to recognizing personhood in other cases of animal cruelty. Wise could set a precedent that changes the way nonhuman animals are seen in the eyes of the law forever.
Animal cruelty is usually fought piecemeal: Reports come out of an inhumane practice, an advocacy organization leads a reactionary campaign, and maybe a new law gets passed, or an offender is pressured to change their practices. David Coman-Hidy, executive director of The Humane League, says corporate boycotts are an effective tool. But it’s an imperfect system, because many forms of animal cruelty (like keeping chimps in isolation in concrete cages) are perfectly legal. Some laws are in place to protect nonhuman animals, but not nearly as many as you might think. Farm animals, the focus of THL’s work, “are afforded essentially no meaningful protections, legally,” Coman-Hidy said.
“Some of the most inhumane practices, like extreme confinement, are outlawed, but there’s very little [that is against the law to practice] in terms of slaughter.”
Farm animals, though not (yet) the subject of NhRP’s work, make a strong case in point. Specific forms of cruelty remain legal until—maybe—they’re not anymore. Meanwhile, other forms of cruelty remain the status quo. Wise’s approach, of arguing that animals are being not just mistreated, but being held against their rights as autonomous beings, is meant to upend this usual order.
“If we didn’t have rights, all we had was some statute that said you can’t be cruel to me, or that I’m entitled to some kind of welfare, the person who gave it to me can also take it away,” he said. Wise cited the example of environmental protections set forth by the Obama administration, which are now being rolled back by Trump. Essentially, if legislation can be passed, it can also be erased. Rights are more difficult to erode. As Wise put it, there’s a big difference “between having rights that you can enforce, and just being the object of protections that someone wants to give you.”
It’s been a few years since Wise first made headlines for filing on behalf of Tommy in 2013, and initially being rejected by a ruling and an appeals court by the end of 2014. Since then, his firm has also filed cases on behalf of the chimps Hercules and Leo, who were being held at Stony Brook University as biological subjects for study. Wise didn’t win that case either, but a public campaign (led by none other than Jane Goodall, primate expert and NhRP board member) is now pressuring Hercules and Leo’s owner, the New Iberia Research Center, to surrender the animals to a sanctuary in Florida.
Despite its losses, the NhRP is anything but discouraged.
According to Wise, Justice Barbara Jaffe, the judge in the First Department’s ruling on the Hercules and Leo case in 2015, agreed with “virtually everything” the NhRP presented. Jaffe wrote in her decision that “‘Legal personhood’ is not necessarily synonymous with being human,” and that the concept of legal personhood has “evolved significantly since the inception of the United States. Not very long ago, only caucasian male, property-owning citizens were entitled to the full panoply of legal rights.” But ultimately, Jaffe felt bound by a prior ruling against the NhRP—Tommy’s 2013 case in Albany—where the court said that to be a person you had to “assume duties and responsibilities.”
“The problem is,” Wise said, “millions of New Yorkers cannot assume duties and responsibilities.”
Wise is referring to what animal ethicists often call the “arguments from marginal cases”: if we define humanity, or personhood, as possessing a certain ability—in this case, the ability to assume responsibilities—what does that mean for the human beings who don’t? Are young children and those with disabilities less entitled to rights?
Few would say so. And this is where it gets messy when scholars and judges try to make logical distinctions between humans and other animals. The particular distinction the Albany court went with in the case of Tommy was that collectively, humans are able to assume duties, and chimps are not.
Wise is now armed to attack that assertion. The team has collected 60 pages of expert affidavits attesting to how chimpanzees in fact do assume responsibilities, both in chimpanzee-only and human-chimpanzee communities. At this stage, NhRP’s hope is the Manhattan court sets them up to appeal the Albany ruling. Considering it took almost 30 years between Wise getting the idea to argue for legal nonhuman personhood at all, and filing the first case, the process feels like a slow one. But Wise and his firm are in it for the long haul, and it’s entirely possible that one of their clients could be recognized as a person before the end of 2017. What’s more, NhRP is already looking outside of the Empire State.
Wise sees the bigger picture as a movement. He says the firm is in talks with lawyers in 11 different countries.
“We may be arguing in this courthouse way out in rural New York, but…people all over the world are paying attention to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” he said.
As of now, NhRP is gearing up to file a personhood case on behalf of circus elephants, and it’s looking into building a case for the orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego. Though the nature of the abuse and mistreatment is secondary to Wise’s legal argument, these cases are likely dire ones—abuses against circus elephants and SeaWorld orcas are well-documented. Large animals in captivity often suffer illness and developmental issues as a result of cramped and unnatural living spaces and breeding practices. Even worse, reports of violent abuse (beatings, confinement, use of ropes and shocks) in performing animal conditions are tragically common.
It would be no small victory for Wise to rescue even one of his clients from an unhappy life. But the greater value is the chance to set a precedent for the future. Future cases for nonhuman personhood in New York would be able to refer directly to the NhRP ruling, and a model would be provided for other states, even other nations.
“We’ve known from the beginning that ours will be a long-term fight continuous with and similar to other struggles for recognition of personhood and fundamental rights,” Wise said. That they’ve even made it this far, he says, is “a turn away from speciesist thinking.”
Kiko and Tommy, in other words, are only the beginning.
This is no less appalling for being not entirely unexpected. Who really would want to insist on buying chunks of our fellow animals’ tortured bodies to eat knowing they were personally contributing to such horror?
An investigation by Animals International has found that live animal exports from the European Union are subjected to inhumane treatment and conditions that have been described as abuse and torture.
In an extensive exposé The Guardian reports on the Animals International operation that collected footage from various ports and abattoirs over an eight month period:
Dozens of undercover videos and photographs obtained by the Guardian show live cattle and sheep from EU countries being beaten, shocked with electric prods, held for days in overcrowded pens and covered head to toe in faeces as they are transported from Europe to their final destinations in Turkey and the Middle East in conditions that breach European law.
At their destination, at least some of the animals are slaughtered in appalling conditions. The footage shows cattle and sheep from France, Romania and Lithuania kicking and flailing violently as their throats are crudely cut or sawed at repeatedly, often in crowded street markets and run-down abattoirs.
The export of live animals has been a contentious issue for the EU for a number of years, with campaigners saying that not only is the practice unsound from a food safety point of view, it is deeply harmful to the animals and rife with abuse.
Juliet Gellatley’s personal story of undercover animal- rights investigation, by Viva!’s Tony Wardle for Barefoot Vegan Magazine. Thank you Tony! Had to share this.
Tony says: I’ve known Juliet Gellatley a long time – a very long time – 26 years to be precise. When I first met her she was a young youth education officer at the Vegetarian Society but within three years was its director. She then left to found the vegan campaigning group, Viva!, which she still directs from its Bristol offices.
That’s a long time to be constantly fighting for animals but in truth, it started way before that, as a 15- year-old on the streets of Stockport, handing out leaflets against seal pup slaughter, snaring and other barbarities. It was also then that Juliet blagged her way into a ‘model’ pig farm and the suffering she witnessed – particularly a limping, lame old boar who implored her with his eyes – determined the rest of her life. She was compelled to try and turn Britain – the world – vegan.
There have been many farm visits since then but if you are so ripped apart by animals suffering, why oh why would you continue to expose yourself to it? There’s no equivocation in Juliet’s answer:
“I do it because I care about animals and someone has to tear away the veil that disguises their pain with constant hype that encourages people to believe that they have to eat animals. It is a massive deceit built on terrible cruelty and self-interest yet it is the source of so many human diseases and is destroying our world.
“Our children should know this – it should be on the school curriculum but the opposite is happening. Their environmental awareness consists of recycling and biking, which suits the establishment perfectly as no one talks about the huge damage done by livestock on so many fronts.
“We know that children hate cruelty to animals and their parents hide them from it, taking them to lovely, cuddly petting zoos. And so they are woven into the thread that runs through society – that animals are well- cared for. It is almost a conspiracy and we’re all part of it. The industry would fall apart if the truth was known and that’s why I do what I do.”
Juliet is mother of 14-year-old twin boys, Jazz and Finn, directs the Viva! team in Bristol and is responsible for an equally big team at Viva! Poland in Warsaw. And she’s still taking part in exposés, deciding how best to connect with you and me.
“I try to personalise it, which is why I talk to the animals and say things such as, ‘this little girl will never see a vet.’ I named one pig Blue because of her penetrating blue eyes, to remind people that pigs are every bit as complex as us and in the wild run free, often for miles, have a complex social structure and here she is, locked into a rape rack so small she can barely move, desperate to escape – transformed into a commodity, a tiny cog in a huge machine.
“We know from our Face Off street viewings that the cruelty affects people deeply and challenges their perceptions, which is why we have to keep doing it.”
“We have to stop seeing animals as things. They are not here for our use, for us to abuse, ours to kill. Someone has to show what happens or no one will believe it.”
Most people would not want to do what Juliet does and I asked if there was anything she found particularly difficult.
“Normally, I carry a camera but on the recent Face Off pig investigation I didn’t have that barrier between me and the animals, I was talking straight to camera about my emotions and had nowhere to hide. I found it very difficult.
“It was the same breeding sow, Blue, who ripped a hole in me. I bent down to her level, talked to her and made a connection with her. She had probably never before heard a kind word from any human in her life and I could see her trying to work it out. I so wanted to take her out of that dreadful place but couldn’t. I left feeling absolutely dreadful and on the train back I started crying for Blue and the millions of others who are subjected to relentless suffering.”
If you look at Juliet on camera at www.viva.org.uk/faceoff you will be in no doubt about how deeply affected she was. But there is also a powerful positivity about this seasoned campaigner for the animals.
“What helps me is being surrounded by people who feel the same as I do. I let my feelings pour out on social media and the messages come rushing back so I know we’re not alone. Society is changing and we are part of that change. Blue now has a place in my heart and the pain of her comes back to me at the most unexpected times – and so it does with the hens I recently filmed. I want to rescue them all but it isn’t an answer as they will simply be replaced with others.”
I guessed there must have been some hair-raising moments over the years and I was right.
“One of the first undercover exposés I did was into duck farming. My colleague and I were so naive – two women chatting up a worker so we could see inside a duck shed. The noise and stench and overcrowding were overwhelming but I dropped to my knees in the crap and filmed.
“The managers weren’t as gullible and I was suddenly surrounded by angry men so I surreptitiously ejected the tape and hid it in my knickers. They wouldn’t dare search there! It was all worth it as it got enormous media coverage – the first-ever view inside an intensive duck farm.
“You have to be robust to do this work and know your limits. I filmed in one slaughter house and struggled to suppress the urge to shout out, ‘stop it, stop it you bastards, you can’t do this!’ I won’t film slaughter again – others do that.
“We know from our Face Off street viewings that the cruelty affects people deeply and challenges their perceptions, which is why we have to keep doing it. Our Face Off chicken film has also been viewed by 260,000 people on one Facebook page alone. I feel no sense of elation as I know the scale of what’s happening. But we have to change people – we are changing people and the pace of that change is now quite extraordinary!”
10 million pigs killed in the UK each year equates to:
833,333 per month
192,308 per week
27,397 per day
1,142 per hour
19 per minute
1 PIG KILLED EVERY 3 SECONDS
A Happy Pigs’ Tale
Mother & babies find a forever home thanks to Viva! and Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary
Viva! and Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary have rescued a sow and her six piglets from a pig farm going out of business. The mother and her babies will now enjoy a life together in the beautiful Welsh countryside! Not only that, it’s their hope that these pig ambassadors will help to educate people about the horrors of factory farming by juxtaposing their new lives with Viva!’s shocking footage from Britain’s factory farms.
On helping to secure sanctuary for these lucky pigs, founder and director of Viva!, Juliet Gellatley said:
“When I was doing the filming for the Face Off campaign, I saw so much cruelty and neglect. One of the overriding feelings I came away with was that I felt terrible that I couldn’t rescue them all. But I was determined to find a way of rescuing at least some pigs.
I hope this mother and her babies can represent the millions of their brothers and sisters that are still on factory farms. Hopefully through seeing them, and how wonderful they are, people will give up meat. Because, of course, the only way to truly rescue animals is to stop eating them.”
Tony Wardle is a journalist, author, associate director of Viva! & editor of Viva! life magazine. He has been with Viva! since its launch, and his time is consumed mostly with words, writing for and editing the supporters’ magazine, in addition to editing a large output of written material as well as conceiving and writing much of it. You can read Tony’s blog by clicking here.