Friday, May 28, 2010

MFA - Dairy investigation

No doubt you have all seen, or at least heard of, the latest undercover video released by Mercy For Animals. I managed about 10 seconds of watching a guy jumping on a calf's head before having to push stop.

You want to go vegan but you could never give up cheese? Really? You still want to eat it after hearing about this??

If you missed this important undercover footage which has brought the cruelty of dairy into the public eye, here's the gist of it (quoted from MFA):

During a four-week investigation between April and May, MFA's investigator documented farm workers:
  • Violently punching young calves in the face, body slamming them to the ground, and pulling and throwing them by their ears
  • Routinely using pitchforks to stab cows in the face, legs and stomach
  • Kicking "downed" cows (those too injured to stand) in the face and neck - abuse carried out and encouraged by the farm's owner
  • Maliciously beating restrained cows in the face with crowbars - some attacks involving over 40 blows to the head
  • Twisting cows' tails until the bones snapped
  • Punching cows' udders
  • Bragging about stabbing, dragging, shooting, breaking bones, and beating cows and calves to death

After viewing the footage, Dr. Bernard Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University, stated: "This is probably the most gratuitous, sustained, sadistic animal abuse I have ever seen. The video depicts calculated, deliberate cruelty, based not on momentary rage but on taking pleasure through causing pain to cows and calves who are defenseless."

Yep, nasty stuff.

In good news, there has been worldwide media coverage of this footage and one of the workers, Billy Joe Gregg, has already been arrested and charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty.

And you gotta hand it to MFA, what a horrific job having to go undercover and watch that shit in order to expose them to the world. I can't bear 10 seconds of it on a small grainy video on my computer, let alone in real life for a month. This video just makes me want to show everyone and yell out "This is why!! This is why I'm vegan! You see? You understand now?!"

If you want to keep posted, Erik Marcus of is following the fallout of this investigation.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New political party - Animal Justice Party

Seeing as governmental policies regarding animal use and welfare are determined by private interests and Big Ag lobbyists, having a political party who puts animals over profits (there's a first) is exciting!

From Animals Australia:

Plans are underway to form the Animal Justice Party (AJP) — the first ever Australian political party dedicated wholly to the protection of the interests of animals. To learn more, you can see the AJP's charter and constitution at, and policy papers will be published soon.

As the AJP Steering Committee — a small dedicated group of animal advocates - states, 'much of the cruelty inflicted on animals in this country results from government policy decisions, ignorance, and inertia. The interests of animals have not been represented in the Australian electoral system and as a result governments have not given due regard to their plight'.

The AJP will first gather sufficient supporters to register as a federal political party, and in time stand candidates for election to parliament to give voice to those who cannot speak for themselves. The AJP will also seek to work with other political parties to ensure the adoption and enforcement of laws and processes to protect the interests of all animals, be they domestic, farmed or wild. The new party's mission is not surprisingly to seek genuine justice for animals.

Cool huh?

In some sort of rabid delirium I hastily downloaded and completed the form to show my support, before realising I don't even think I'm eligible to vote as I'm not a citizen. Exciting nonetheless!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Broiler chickens - what I didn't know

I recently finished reading Planet Chicken - an interesting enough read, if not a bit tediously drawn out in the second half. The author is not vegetarian and is happy to eat chicken, but wants to do it the right way so investigates where it comes from.

I knew a lot of this stuff already:
  • broiler chickens are slaughtered at about 6-8 weeks old 
  • many of them are lame and have leg problems due to their rapid growth
  • they get ammonia burns from sitting in their excrement which is only cleaned up after they are removed for slaughter
  • you can sometimes see these ammonia burns on the breasts and legs of whole chickens, but those with really bad burns get cut into chicken pieces

What I didn't know:

The chickens are not sexually mature when they are slaughtered, they are still babies. But, due to their breeding to rapidly gain weight these chickens would not survive much longer anyway due to the strain on their heart and their weakened bones.

The hens who lay the eggs from which these broilers hatch obviously have to live a lot longer in order to reach sexual maturity (at 18-20 weeks). And to keep them alive longer they have to limit their food to near starvation levels. The chickens are so hungry they eat droppings and drink excessive amounts of water. So water is also restricted so that their droppings aren't too wet, as that causes problems when the chicken has to live in it.

Doesn't that sound crazy? That an animal is bred in such a way that, unless starved, they would die before sexual maturation?

I also didn't know that the broiler breeding hens are almost featherless due to continual mating. Or that many are blind due to the high ammonia levels in their sheds. They produce about 140 chicks each before they are no longer productive enough to keep. Worn out breeders (10 months old) are no good for meat so go into canned soup, pies and baby food. The excess male chicks produced, 'hatchery waste', are minced alive.

I didn't know that the eggs were taken to be hatched in an incubator and once hatched the chicks get sucked up by a big tube and put into boxes to ship to the broiler farms. They actually put these newly hatched chicks in a box and send them in the mail! A newly hatched chick doesn't require food or water for a day or so - mother nature's way of allowing mother hen to stay put until all her eggs have hatched - very handy for the industry.

And I didn't know that even the 'happy farms' where the chickens are raised in a better environment still receive their chicks in the post from the same broiler breeders.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

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Fish was one of the last things I quit. If only I had know this:

For many people farming tends to bring to mind pictures of happy animals roaming green pastures, with a quaint, old farmhouse where the farmer and his wife enjoy a modest lifestyle.  Just as fishing tends to bring up the same relatively innocent images of a fleet of hardworking fisherman braving the weather to earn their living.

Most of us know now, whether or not we try to convince ourselves otherwise, that traditional farming is long gone with the vast majority of animal products at your supermarket and restaurant being factory farmed and being owned by a handful of massive corporations.

Sad to say but fishing looks to be headed the same way. In less than a century, commercial fishing has cleared out most of the ocean with trawling, endangered countless species and destroyed entire marine ecosystems that have shown no signs of recovery, even after 18 years of protection. For some species as much as 80 per cent of what is caught is thrown back, dead.

"As Professor Roberts says, over-fishing has destroyed not just individual species but entire marine eco-systems. The small species that fed the fish we traditionally buy are gone, as are the smaller ones they fed on.

That means the chances of stocks recovering are minimal, even if fishing is halted  -  the world they lived in has vanished."

How about fish farming then?

Over half the world's seafood is now farmed. Whilst on the surface this sounds responsible and sustainable, fish farming has the same dire implications for our environment as factory farming.

In all reality, they are the marine equivalent of a poultry factory farm. Farmed fish produce fattier flesh, contain less omega 3s and are fed more antibiotics than any other livestock. Besides mercury, they contain high levels of PCBs, borminated flame retardants and carcinogens. To maintain the right colour in their flesh they are fed synthetic pigments (think Tasmanian salmon which would otherwise be grey). They are fed soy, chicken manure, hydrolysed feathers and other scraps from poulty factory farms. And for every kilo of farmed salmon, you need to feed them between 2 and 8 kilos of wild caught fish. And daily doses of pesticides such as dioxin and DDT to control disease and sea lice, which still manage to infect and kill large numbers of wild salmon populations. Norway provides a devastating example, where almost 30 river systems have had to be deliberately poisoned in order to stop farm-bred disease. Environmental destruction aside, do you really want to eat all that?

The worst part is that this is the exact salmon that ends up in most restaurant and supermarkets. “You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every five months without increasing your risk of cancer,” says David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany.


And did you know?

Fish oil doesn't just contain omega 3, but unnecessary levels of omega 6, cholesterol and mercury. If omega 3s are good for your heart and cholesterol isn't, perhaps you should get your omegas from a source that is cholesterol free. And white fish contains very little omega 3, farmed fish even less. Plant based sources of omega 3 are plentiful without the side effects.

That fish is low in cholesterol is a myth.

Fish and mercury
For something sold to us as a super healthfood packed full of Omega 3s, why are we warned against more than 1 - 2 servings a week? And pregnant women advised to avoid entirely? As mercury levels continue to rise maybe we should be reconsidering eating fish for our health.

And just in case you thought fish had 3 second memories and were stupid.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Animals Australia dinner at Zen Zero Blu

Because I'm a moron I somehow confused ALV with Animals Australia as I am a member of both. So it turned out that I only realised I was at an Animals Australia dinner when I sat down and read the stuff on my table. Oops.

Anyway, the place was booked out with about 80 people. Turned out that everyone was an activist and everyone knew everyone except me who knew no one and I was thankful I brought two mates along for the ride.

Food was great, with a number of the 8 courses as shared plates. Starting with olives, bread and dips, and a divine potato and leek soup with truffle oil as the best finishing touch ever. Truffle oil = magic. I wasn't privy to this information before. Followed by potato wedges with fennel and rosemary, baked eggplant stuffed with rice - unfortunately the rice was about all you could taste - and some delicious mushroom risotto balls.  The only dish that I wasn't keen on was the apple, cabbage and walnut coleslaw. In fact, I don't think there is any vegan food I have tried and not liked and I found this coleslaw inedible along with my mates who also didn't eat theirs. Which was fine really considering we were already bloated from the other courses. And that Dave the Duck Rescue dude at our table was happy to eat our leftovers...

And finished off with a beautiful berry sorbet with fresh mint, the sorbet so creamy it was almost like icecream.

I had no idea what to expect from one of these dinner gathering thingamies, but I did have a moment of panic when Roy, an Animals Australia volunteer, got up to talk about activist stuff. I'm all fine with it, but neither of my mates are vegan or animal rights type people so I had that horrible feeling of "Oh god, they are going to think I am an extremist and I have lured them into a trap and am secretly trying to convert them." I worried unnecessarily, particularly as I appeared to be the only person there who didn't do anything except donate, so really I looked pretty tame. In fact, I am such a poor activist that I made the terrible faux pas of wearing leather boots to the dinner (purchased pre-vegan days!).

FYI - Zen Zero Blu do an 8 course vegetarian degustation for $32 which is standard on the menu. If you want the vegan degustation you need a minimum of 20 people plus letting them know well in advance.

Friday, May 7, 2010

World's biggest burger


Oh, and how can vegan food seem revolting to many omnis yet that charred black slab of god knows what animal scraps and trimmings is deemed appetising?

ALV 8 course vegan meal...

.. tonight at Zen Zero Blu in North Fitzroy.

Anyone going?