{A-Z:Veganism} L is for Lamb

Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb its [sic] fleece was white as snow….’

Lamb: a baby sheep. Adorable, gentle and vulnerable. The subject of a well-known children’s nursery rhyme, and frequent character in young children’s books.

Lamb: the main ‘ingredient’ of a popular Sunday night dinner – the ‘lamb roast’. Lamb as ‘tasty’ meal; a taste bud ‘pleaser’.

To market we go

Australia is the world’s second largest exporter of lamb.

In the 2012-2013 financial year, Australia produced 456 997 tonnes of lamb. 51% of this total was exported to overseas markets. The Middle East is the biggest export market for Australian lamb. Other major lamb export markets are China and the United States.

In Australia, lamb is marketed heavily as a national dish in the lead-up to Australia Day (26 January) each year. In fact, Australia is the largest single market for Australian lamb, with 9.7kg of lamb consumed per person in 2012-2013. This equates to an estimated annual expenditure of $2 billion.

The marketing of lamb

A popular television ad that screened in the late 1980’s features a young woman receiving a phone call at work with the thrilling news that she has won a ‘romantic dinner’ with Tom Cruise! This once-in-a-lifetime date – including dinner in a ‘top city restaurant’ and stretch limo transfers – is to take place that very night. The same night that her mum is cooking a lamb roast for dinner.

The young woman decisively declines the date with Tom in favour of an oven-baked, baby sheep’s leg. Her work colleagues are almost speechless. Her father, on the other hand, states: ‘Never mind love, you can go out with him any night’. The ad ends with the slogan: ‘Nothing comes before a roast lamb dinner’.

These days, lamb is flogged to Australians by Meat and Livestock Australia’s mouthpiece and ‘lambassador’, Sam Kekovich. This annual promotion takes the tack that lamb is Australia’s national dish. Those who do not partake are un-Australian. This year, vegans were a target of the lambassador’s ‘pro-BBQ lamb’ agenda.

In the article, ‘Carno-nationalism and cultural lambnesia, Peter Chen argues that lamb is not actually a traditional Australian food. He asserts:

‘…the introduction of sheep in Australia was primarily for the purpose of wool production, and potentially productive sheep were too valuable to just eat as infants. Where sheep meat did become popular, this was more a response to the necessities of the wool glut in the 1980 and 90s than a reflection of a national characteristic.

During Autumn 2013, to coincide with Mothers’ Day in Australia, a Meat and Livestock Australia promotion announced that mini-lamb roasts were so ‘easy to cook that literally anyone can do it’- even tattooed men, according to one of the promotional posters. The promotion attempts to link lamb roast preparation and motherhood:

‘The traditional Lamb roast is a family meal that is forever synonymous with the ‘nurture gene’ and being a mum. It’s the one meal we all return home for, because it’s just too hard or too time consuming for us to cook ourselves – and Mum makes it look so easy!’

This portrayal of motherhood is ludicrous and offensive: A nurturing mother slaving away in the kitchen, preparing a time consuming and complicated meal of baby sheep for her grown offspring, who are incapable of cooking it for themselves. The meal of lamb is a symbol of her love, and a demonstration of her ‘inherent’ female caring.

In another promotion, called ‘We Love our Lamb on Mother’s Day’, Kekovich portrays a school child who tells his classmates: ‘…if you really, truly want to show mum she’s special, cook her a lamb roast. She’ll love you for it’.

Lambs to the slaughter

Current projections indicate that 20.95 million lambs will be slaughtered in Australia in 2014. That is equivalent to more than 55 000 lambs killed per day, every day, for 12 months.

That figure represents an enormous amount of pain, terror, suffering and grief – for the lambs and their mothers, from whom they are forcibly weaned at approximately 14 weeks of age. Life on the farm is not idyllic for lambs. They are subjected to tail docking without anaesthesia, and young males may endure castration without pain relief.

The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: The Sheep is a set of guidelines that provides detailed minimum standards to assist ‘sheep producers’ to understand the standard of care required to meet their obligations under Australian legislation.

Clause 10.3 permits the use of clubbing to kill lambs that are deemed to require euthanasia:

‘Lambs (but not adults) may be stunned by a heavy blow to the back of the neck to render them unconscious. This should be followed immediately by bleeding out.’

Clause 9.3 of the Model Code discusses tail docking, a practice that is ‘recommended’ for blowfly control and involves the removal of a section of tail. Apparently, it is preferable for the procedure to be performed on lambs aged between 2 and 12 weeks of age. Disturbingly, the Model Code states that only lambs over 6 months of age require an anaesthetic.

So, what are the acceptable methods of tail docking without anaesthesia?

They are listed as: ‘cutting with a sharp knife’ or ‘rubber rings applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations’, or ‘a gas flame heated searing iron used according to the manufacturer’s recommendations’.

Castration of male lambs is also permitted without anaesthetic if performed before 6 months of age. However, if lambs are to be slaughtered before puberty, that is, prior to 3 – 6 months of age, ‘castration may be unnecessary’. Acceptable methods include cutting with a clean, sharp knife (to remove the testes) or the application of a rubber ring to disrupt blood flow to the testes, destroying their function.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) discusses early weaning of lambs. It is referred to as a ‘management practice’ that is ‘useful’ during drought periods, and one that enables ewes to ‘gain their condition faster, resulting in higher conception rates at the next joining’. Weaning is acknowledged as a ‘stressful time’ for lambs and, in order to ‘help reduce the stress’, ‘sheep producers’ are encouraged to keep lambs ‘out of sight and hearing range of their [mothers] immediately after weaning’.

Also, ‘sheep producers’ are referred to a web site called ‘Making More From Sheep’, a joint project of Australian Wool Innovation and MLA. The site includes 11 modules, including one called: Wean More Lambs.

Ewe are not special

As Mother’s Day approaches in Australia, perhaps we’ll see another MLA promotion encouraging people to celebrate their mothers by serving a lamb roast.

The industry does not have any regard for the bond of motherhood between a ewe and her baby. Mother sheep are not ‘special’. The focus of the industry is to maximise profits by weaning lambs early in order to impregnate ewes as frequently as possible. The mother, the ewe, only has value as a producer of lambs.

On Mother’s Day, I will not be celebrating my mum, or my role as mother, by consuming the offspring of another mother.

Ally

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

 

 

{A-Z:Veganism} K is for Kill Floor

The concrete floor is bitterly cold beneath her body.

She attempts to stand. But her weak legs cannot support her, and she collapses.

Milk gently flows from her engorged udder, and mixes with blood on the floor.

The blood of her kin.

The white and red swirls drip into a nearby drain.

Soon, her blood will join the stream.

***

K is for…

Kill floor.

Each year, billions of animals take their last breaths on the world’s kill floors.

It is difficult to imagine the slaughterhouse environment as anything other than brutal.

The confusion and terror of the animals.

The smell.

The noise.

While researching J is for Jacob – a piece about the experiences of Australian animals subjected to the live export trade- I viewed photos and videos taken on kill floors in Indonesia and Egypt.

Some of those images are seared in my memory.

Bulging eyes. 

Gaping wounds.

Blood. So much blood. 

I could never subject myself to witnessing these sights first-hand.

But some individuals do.

This post highlights the experiences of three people who spent time in slaughterhouses. All three produced books that provide a disturbing glimpse into the slaughterhouse environment.

Sue Coe, artist and author, spent many years visiting slaughterhouses across the United States. Armed with a sketchbook, she visually documented the struggles and deaths of countless animals – cows, horses, goats, pigs, sheep. The product of that documentation is a book titled ‘Dead Meat’.

Of witnessing the killing of goats in an Arizona slaughterhouse, she writes:

‘The door slowly closes. The older man grabs the front and back legs of a goat, swinging the goat to the ground. He pins the goat down by putting his boot on the other leg. The second goat watches and backs away…The younger man electrocutes the goat and cuts [the] throat. The second goat cries like a child, she shakes. They drag the first goat, still kicking and writhing, into a concrete pit’.

Understandably, Coe writes of her desire to save animals:

‘Sheep bleat even after their throats are cut. They writhe. Every part of my being says to stop it, save them, which is impossible…I feel sick and my legs are shaking – my hands too – I concentrate on acting ‘normal’. Various animals are killed. I look for a way out’.

There is no way out for the animals. They leave the facility as ‘boxes of meat parts’.

In his 1906 novel, The Jungle, Upton Sinclair writes about the experiences of immigrant workers in a Chicago slaughterhouse in the early 20th century.

Sinclair gathered information while working ‘incognito’ in Chicago meatpacking establishments. He intended his novel to expose the exploitation and appalling conditions endured by workers in slaughterhouses. Of ‘wool-pluckers’ he writes:

‘[their] hands went to pieces…for the pelts of the sheep had to be painted with acid to loosen the wool, and then the pluckers had to pull out this wool with their bare hands, till the acid had eaten their fingers off’.

However, many readers focused more readily on the issues of food contamination that the book highlighted.

The general public were alarmed by descriptions such as this:

‘There were men who worked in the cooking rooms, in the midst of steam and sickening odors, by artificial light; in these rooms the germs of tuberculosis might live for 2 years, but the supply was renewed every hour’. 

And this:

‘When, for instance, a man had fallen into one of the rendering tanks and had been made into pure leaf lard and peerless fertilizer, there was no use letting that fact out and making his family unhappy’. 

Of workers who had fallen into the tanks, he writes: ‘Sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham’s Pure Leaf Lard!’. 

Sinclair conceded that the public cared little for the workers in slaughterhouses but they certainly ‘did not want to eat tubercular beef’. Or human-laced lard.

What about the non-human animals in slaughterhouses of the early 20th century?

Of the slaughter of pigs – referred to as ‘porkmaking by machinery’ – Sinclair writes:

‘There were high squeals and low squeals, grunts, and wails of agony: there would come a momentary lull, and then a fresh outburst, louder than ever, surging up to a deafening climax…One by one [the workers] hooked up the hogs, and one by one with a swift stroke they slit their throats…[The hogs] vanished with a splash into a vat of boiling water’.

Clearly, slaughterhouses of the early 1900’s were brutal environments for non-human and human animals.

More than one hundred years after the publication of Sinclair’s book, Timothy Pachirat, Assistant Professor of Politics, made the decision to work undercover in a Nebraska slaughterhouse. He writes about his time there in a (non-fiction) book that has been dubbed ‘The Jungle for the 21st century’.

Published in 2011,  Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Policitics of Sight, provides an account of industrialised killing from the viewpoint of a participant. 

Of his motivation to experience a slaughterhouse from the inside, Pachirat states:

‘I wanted to understand how massive processes of violence become normalized in modern society, and I wanted to do so from the perspective of those who work in the slaughterhouse’. 

How do the workers perform this ‘work’, day in and day out? How do they regard the fear and resistance of the animals that they are paid to slaughter? Are they callous and heartless people with little regard for animal suffering?

The pages of Pachirat’s book provide some insight into these questions.

The politics of sight

Patchirat discusses the fact that modern society censors, compartmentalises and conceals that which is unpalatable. The annual killing of billions of animals in slaughterhouses is hidden from the public gaze.

In Dead Meat, Coe states:

‘…When Sinclair wrote ‘The Jungle’, packinghouses were very proud of their slaughtering techniques and would offer guided tours for the public…By the end of the 20th century, that [was] no longer the case. The public is not welcome. Slaughterhouses, especially the larger ones, are guarded like military compounds’.

The branding of animal rights activists as ‘terrorists’, and attempts to introduce legislation that would ban the filming of undercover footage in slaughterhouses (and factory farms), demonstrates the lengths that industry will go to in order to conceal that which is ‘hidden in plain sight’ (to use a phrase coined by Pachirat).

water2

Photo by author

But the act of killing is concealed and compartmentalised within the slaughterhouse too.

Workers are separated into departments within the slaughterhouse environment. Consequently, Pachirat explains, it is conceivable for non-kill-floor workers to bypass entirely the witnessing of animals being killed in the slaughterhouse. Moreover, it is easy for most workers to avoid encountering a live animal at all – even in a slaughterhouse that kills hundreds of thousands of animals per year.

What about kill floor workers? Surely, they can’t avoid the reality of their role in the killing of sentient beings? 

Pachirat argues that the act of killing is hidden here too. In the very place that we would expect it to be most visible:

‘…the kill floor is divided spatially into a clean side and a dirty side. The dirty side refers to everything that happens while the cattle’s hides are still on them and the clean side to everything that happens after the hides have been removed. Workers from the clean side are segregated from workers on the dirty side, even during food and bathroom breaks’. 

This separation is required to avoid contamination of the finished product – the ‘meat’ – but it also serves to conceal the violence of killing.

Of the eight hundred workers on the Nebraska facility’s kill floor, only four workers are directly involved in the killing of the animals. Moreover, less than twenty workers have a direct ‘line of sight’ to the killing of the animals. Pachirat states, in a 2012 interview:

‘Of 121 distinct kill floor jobs…only the ‘knocker’ both sees the cattle while sentient and delivers the blow that is supposed to render them insensible. On an average day, this lone worker shoots 2,500 individual animals at a rate of one every twelve seconds’.

This undisputed fact – that only the ‘knocker’ administers the captive bolt gun – allows for the remaining workers to distance themselves from the act of killing. Pachirat states:

‘…the kill floor operates with 120+1 jobs. And as long as the 1 exists, as long as there is some plausible narrative that concentrates the heaviest weight of the dirtiest work on this 1, then the other 120 kill floor workers can say, and believe it, “I’m not going to take part in this.” ‘

Pachirat provides a powerful example of the way that euphemism is used in the slaughterhouse, to disguise the sentience of animals:

 ‘…the use of language is another way of concealing the violence of killing. From the moment cattle are unloaded from transport trucks into the slaughterhouse’s holding pens, managers and kill floor supervisors refer to them as ‘beef.’ Although they are living, breathing, sentient beings, they have already linguistically been reduced to inanimate flesh…’

Pachirat argues that the responsibility for the violence inflicted on animals in slaughterhouses does not rest solely on the shoulders of the ‘knocker’ or the other slaughterhouse workers.

It rests with all of us.

‘Our complicity lies not in a direct infliction of violence but rather in our tacit agreement to look away and not to ask some very, very simple questions: Where does this meat come from and how did it get here?’

***

The dairy cow’s body is still now – but still warm.

She did not consent to her death.

Nor did she consent to the theft of her newborn babies during her short life. At 7 years old, she was still many years from old age.

Soon, rough hands will work quickly to remove her head and hooves. A man with a power saw will remove her skin.

In life, she was prized only for her ability to produce milk.

She will leave the slaughterhouse in pieces.

***

Although not within the scope of this article, the correlation between increased crime rates and slaughterhouse work has been explored, and makes for interesting reading. Research suggests that crime rates are higher in towns and suburbs that contain a slaughterhouse.

Are violent people drawn to slaughterhouse work, or does the nature of the work encourage slaughterhouse workers to act violently outside their workplace? Or a combination of both?

To read more about these issues, refer to these articles:

Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From ‘The Jungle’ Into the Surrounding Community (2009) Fitzgerald, AJ et al. Organization and Environment.

Animal abuse leads to human abuse (2012) Grezo, C New Internationalist

***

References for K is for Kill Floor:

Coe, S (1995) Dead Meat Four Walls Eight Windows, NY, USA.

Pachirat, T (2011) Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Policitics of Sight Kindle eBook, Yale University Press

Sinclair, U The Jungle Kindle eBook, Waxkeep Publishing

Solomon, A Working Undercover in a Slaughterhouse: An interview with Timothy Pachirat  March 2012

Note: The experiences of the dairy cow (in my intro and conclusion) were inspired by Coe’s drawing, Meat Fly (click here).

In my A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally 

{A-Z:Veganism} J is for Jacob

J is for…

Jacob.

***

DATE: October 2012

LOCATION: Slaughterhouse, Ismailia, Egypt.

As Jacob’s body is forced into a slaughter box*, he panics.  The slaughter box is coated in the blood of his kin, whose necks were hacked while fully conscious.

The gentle Brahman steer from Western Australia manages to escape the slaughter box.  His left foreleg breaks. Hobbling on three legs, he flees to an outside pen.

Trapped in the pen, Jacob ducks and weaves to escape a slaughterman who descends on him, brandishing a knife. The slaughterman slashes at Jacob’s face and legs with the knife’s blade.

Jacob’s tail swishes, and his broken leg swings in seemingly impossible directions. There is no reprieve. The knife-wielding slaughterman slashes and stabs at Jacob’s body, relentlessly. He stabs the knife into Jacob’s eye, repeatedly.

Eventually, Jacob collapses to the ground. The slaughterman continues to slash at Jacob’s face and legs. He cuts Jacob’s tendons to immobilise him. Jacob attempts to stand.

Horrifically, the slaughterman begins to hack at Jacob’s neck. Blood pours from a gaping wound on Jacob’s neck. Yet, he tries to stand. Again… and again.

Jacob is on his knees in a pool of blood. His white body is stained with patches of blood. He can no longer stand. He continues to move his head, attempting to avoid the knife. He resists death with each breath, with each movement of his head.

It is a fight that he does not win.

**

LOCATION: Egypt

WHO: Dr. Mahmoud Abdelwahab, Veterinarian and Lyn White, Campaign Director, Animals Australia.

DATE: April 2013

Sitting in the shade of a large umbrella, Dr. Mahmoud Abdelwahab tells Lyn White about a white steer: Jacob.  Above the sounds of birdsong, a video camera captures his words:

…‘And the story of this steer started when they wanted to kill this steer in the box. And they can’t control this steer. So this steer ran out and jumped. So its leg was broken. So the company must bring this cattle. So they ordered the worker – whose name is Essam, he’s a butcher – to kill this animal by any way. Any way.

And they didn’t provide him with any means. Only his knife….So they order him to slash the tendon, to put the knife in his eyes, all this footage what you see….All this bad action, he [was] forced to do these actions’.

Dr. Abdelwahab, a veterinarian, blew the whistle on the brutal treatment of cows at the two Egyptian slaughterhouses approved to slaughter Australian cattle. This includes Ismailia, where Jacob was tortured and killed.

Dr. Abdelwahab leans forward in his seat, and declares:

‘….We haven’t any rules to control bad treatment. I want our government to…to take any step to stop that. But our government not do anything’.

Jacob’s treatment was not an isolated case.

Dr. Abdelwahab informs White that brutality and violence is endemic in the slaughterhouses. He declares that the only concern is for the meat inspection phase. There is no regard – from slaughterhouse management, butchers, or the Egyptian government – for the way in which the cows are killed. He states that there are no consequences for slaughterhouse workers if they engage in the ‘bad treatment’ of animals, such as cutting tendons.

White asks :

‘The veterinarians that are at the abattoirs, do they ever stop bad treatment’?

There is a brief pause before Dr. Abdelwahab answers her question. He is blunt in his response:

‘Lyn we don’t care about…’ A pause. He points to his chest:

‘Not me. I speak about all Egyptians. We don’t care about animal welfare. So, this action happened yesterday, and today, and will happen tomorrow, OK?’

He released the footage to Animals Australia in the hope that the organisation could enact positive change in his country. Dr. Abdelwahab tells White that the footage of Jacob was filmed by slaughterhouse workers as ‘a joke’. This was not a case of undercover activists filming gross acts of brutality. This is a film that was never intended for widespread viewing**.

***

DATE: 16 May 2013

LOCATION: Parliament House, Canberra, Australia (during Question Time).

Andrew Wilkie, the Federal Member for Denison, ‘has the floor’. He stands:

‘…..Prime Minister, if you won’t end the [live export] trade, will you give an unambiguous, personal guarantee that there’ll be no further animal welfare abuses like this…’

Mr. Wilkie reaches down and retrieves a large object. He unfurls it, and holds it in front of his body. He is silent.

It is a picture of Jacob. His blood-stained face is clearly visible. It looks as though he has been crying tears of blood. This image of Jacob was captured during the final moments of his life.

wilkie-holding-photo.jpg

Source: Animals Australia

There are jeers from other members of the Parliament. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, appears to look at the image briefly, then spins in her seat, putting her back to Mr. Wilkie who continues to hold the image aloft.

The Speaker of the House is heard ordering Mr. Wilkie to ‘remove the prop’. Eventually, he folds up the picture, and takes his seat.

The Prime Minister stands:

‘…I think all members of this House, members of the Australian community in general, are appalled by animal cruelty. I think we all share those sentiments, and to the extent that we ever see images of animal cruelty we are all revulsed by those images. I understand that, and the live export industry understands that as well…’

The Prime Minister asserts that the live export industry is important for employment, particularly in the north of Australia. She discusses recent government measures to improve regulation of the industry, specifically tracking and tracing of cattle. Clearly, her government is not prepared to ‘take on’ the live export industry. She concludes:

‘…The purpose of having tracking and tracing is so that you can find instances where people have done the wrong thing and you can act on those instances. That is the approach we are taking to the live animal export industry and the approach that we will continue to take’.

The Prime Minister returns to her seat, and in doing so she turns her back on Jacob and his kin.

Australia’s Live Export Trade

In 2012, Australia exported 617,301 ‘head’ of live cattle (cows) to overseas markets. The largest market for Australian cattle is Indonesia (278,581 head in 2012), followed by China (56,026 in 2012). Australia exports beef and dairy cattle, as well as goats and sheep. Other countries that receive live animals from Australia include: Malaysia, India, Japan, Sri Lanka, Libya, the Philippines, Turkey, Israel, and Pakistan. And Egypt.

In the 6 months to January 2013, Australia exported 15,300 live cows to Egypt. This represents a 5% increase on the previous 6-monthly figures. The Egyptian trade is worth $25 million annually.

The live export industry claims that Australia is ‘the world leader in the export of live cattle, sheep and goats’. The industry states: ‘Of the 109 countries exporting livestock globally, Australia is the only country in the world that invests in animal welfare beyond its borders’. The industry boasts that Australia sets a global ‘benchmark’ for ‘animal welfare performance’.

By no stretch of the imagination can Jacob’s treatment be regarded as a ‘global benchmark’.

This is not the first time the live export trade has come under the spotlight for gross animal abuses in Egypt. In light of this, and Dr Abdelwahab’s comments about endemic ‘bad treatment’ and lack of regard for animal welfare, one is entitled to ask: Did the Australian live export industry know that Australian cattle were still being subjected to brutality in Egypt?

Interestingly, when the live export industry discovered that Animals Australia possessed footage of the slaughter of animals inside Egyptian slaughterhouses, they ordered an immediate suspension of trade to Egypt. This suspension is still in force.

Steps are being taken to re-open the trade at the conclusion of an investigation by Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

In 2011, it was revealed that Australian cattle were subject to acts of brutality in Indonesian slaughterhouses (Warning: very graphic images). The Australian government responded by suspending the live animal trade with Indonesia, despite an outcry from the industry.

Ultimately, the Indonesian trade resumed and the government implemented the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS). This is the ‘tracking and tracing’ system that the Prime Minister referred to in her response to Mr. Wilkie.

However, Australian cattle in Egypt are not subject to the ESCAS.

In Egypt, Australian cows are killed without prior stunning. Their throats are cut with a knife while they are restrained and fully conscious. Death is not instantaneous. That is the best case scenario.

Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and LiveCorp co-published a document in 2012, called: Standard Operating Procedures for the Welfare of Cattle in Overseas Markets. This document contains standard operating procedures (SOPs) pertaining to the ‘pre-slaughter and slaughter management of cattle in overseas markets’.

There are 6 SOPs – animal handling, land transport, feedlot operations, lairage, slaughter with stunning, and slaughter without stunning.

What is the standard operating procedure for slaughter without stunning? What does the SOP say about the manner in which Jacob should have been killed?

The SOP for slaughter- without stunning commences with a standard from the intergovernmental organisation, World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). It states:

‘Restraining methods that immobilise by injury- such as breaking legs, cutting leg tendons, or severing the spinal cord –  cause severe pain and stress and must never be used’.

Jacob endured the pain of severed leg tendons, and Dr. Abdelwahab indicated that this type of ‘bad treatment’ was meted out in Egyptian slaughterhouses.  Clearly, Australian cows have been subjected to a practice that is in breach of this OIE standard.

Moreover, the SOP requires that animals be restrained when slaughtered. Once the animal is restrained (in a slaughter box, for example), workers are instructed to cut the animals throat using ‘a single, uninterrupted fast stroke of the knife‘. The SOP states that workers must refrain from using ‘the point of the [knife] blade to make the incision’. Rather, the incision must ‘sever both carotid arteries’.

Who is to blame for Jacob’s mistreatment?

In light of the Prime Minister’s comments about acting on instances where ‘people have done the wrong thing’, who is in the ‘wrong’ here?

Is it Essam, the butcher? Is it the slaughterhouse management? Is it the Egyptian government? The live export industry? Is it the Australian government?

The tip of the iceberg: Additional footage emerges from Egypt

Animals Australia has obtained additional, disturbing footage of Australian cows (warning: graphic images of animal suffering) in both of the slaughterhouses…..

A conscious steer with a severed throat attempts to stand. Cows are hoisted by their back legs before verification that they are dead. Bellowing, salivating, and struggling animals. A blood stained slaughter box. Disturbingly, a white steer stands. His throat is missing – in its place a gaping hole. He is conscious….

These images are very graphic and disturbing. The animals captured in this footage endured immense and inconceivable suffering.

It is difficult and confronting to bear witness to the suffering of Jacob and his kin. But, our distress in viewing these images pales in comparison to the suffering of the animals subjected to this brutality.

Some opponents of the live export trade argue that all animals destined for overseas markets should be slaughtered in Australian slaughterhouses, and their bodies (carcase) shipped in chilled vessels. It is argued that this would provide jobs in Australia and improve ‘animal welfare’. A ‘win-win’. Currently, Australia exports ‘red meat products’ to numerous overseas markets.

I am horrified by the treatment of animals subjected to the live export trade, but I do not regard the killing of animals in Australia as a happy solution. While watching the video of Jacob, it was palpably clear to me that he wanted to live. He fought with every ounce of his diminishing strength.

He fought from the outset- he refused to allow his body to be forced into the slaughter box.

Moreover, it is incorrect to assume that animals do not suffer in Australian slaughterhouses. It is convenient to believe that horrific abuse occurs only in overseas markets – but it is simply not true.

Footage from a turkey slaughterhouse in Sydney and images of the brutal treatment of newborn calves by slaughterhouse workers in Victoria demonstrate that torture and brutality is meted out in slaughterhouses on Australian soil.

At a bare minimum, animals in slaughterhouses experience the sights, sounds, and smells of their kin being slaughtered. Regardless of the manner in which they are killed -whether they have been stunned or tortured- animals do not willingly give their lives to humans.

As an ethical vegan, I want to see an end to live export. It is undeniable that this trade inflicts immense suffering on animals. As an ethical vegan, I want to see an end to the suffering that industries inflict on animals for profit.

An end to live export?

On Monday (27 May), Andrew Wilkie, MP, tabled a private member’s Bill in Federal Parliament. The proposed legislation, Live Animal Export (Restriction and Prohibition) Bill 2013, would see the end of Australia’s live animal export trade by July 2017.

Wilkie asserts that the trade, and the Australian government, are ‘out of last chances’.

***

Notes

*Slaughter box – a box designed to immobilise conscious animals while their throats are cut. Click here to see one. Warning: These are graphic images. The slaughter box looks like a torture device. The animals are clearly distressed.

** The video of Jacob’s torture begins with footage of Jacob in the outside pen. I wasn’t going to watch the video. But I did. I knew that I couldn’t write an accurate portrayal of his death if I didn’t watch the video. I told myself: ‘Jacob isn’t suffering now. Watching the video will not add to his suffering’.

The video does not show Jacob’s final moments. It ends while he is still alive. It is hard to watch, of course. I waited until I was alone. I did not want my children to view or hear the video, inadvertently. On my first attempt, I couldn’t make it through to the end. I paused the video. I closed it down. I cried. Then I steeled myself and went back.

I am not suggesting that you have to watch it. One thing is clear. No animal deserves to be treated in this way. It is wrong. You can see the video here. (There is a point where you are told to stop watching if you do not want to see the graphic images).

Ally

In my A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

{A-Z:Veganism} I is for Inspiration

I is for Inspiration.

Who (or what) do you credit with inspiring you to embrace veganism?

I credit Dr. Neal Barnard with inspiring me to consider (and, ultimately, embrace) veganism.  Or, more accurately, a magazine interview with Neal Barnard.

It was 1995. December. The festive season.

I was 18, a university student, and one of those ‘vegetarians’ who ate seafood.

I was heading to beautiful Byron Bay with my mum, sister, and our friend Jasmine, for a two-week holiday.

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I had brought along a copy of (the now defunct) New Vegetarian magazine, to read in the car as we headed up the coast. It was the spring/summer issue, with KD Lang on the cover.

The cover also featured a smaller, black-and-white photo – a bloke called Dr. Neal Barnard, standing in front of the Sydney Opera House. I had never heard of him.

Somewhere north of Coffs Harbour, I began reading a 4-page interview with Dr. Barnard. As I read the opening paragraph –

‘Dr Barnard grew up in Fargo, North Dakota, near the Canadian border, in the middle of cattle country….’

– I had no idea that my belief system was about to be radically challenged.

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The early part of the interview discussed Dr. Barnard’s experiences in medical school. It focused on his experiences with patients suffering from debilitating heart disease, and breast cancer. He mentioned his mother’s battle with a ‘dangerously high cholesterol level’, and how 6 weeks of following a vegan diet led to the level plummeting. She was a convert after that!

Some of this information was not new to me. I knew that I did not require red meat to be healthy, and I had ditched it a couple of years earlier, inspired by a book called Old McDonald’s Factory Farm (You can read about that ‘realisation’ here).

Then, I came to the topic that would change my world view.

‘As a committed vegan, Dr. Barnard is scathing about the western preoccupation with milk and dairy products…’

I didn’t know any vegans at that stage of my life.

I adored cheese. I knew that rennet was made from the stomach lining of baby cows, so I chose to purchase a ‘vegetarian’ brand of cheese that didn’t contain rennet.  I thought baby cows were adorable, and the thought of harming one was abhorrent. Even during my time as a meat eater, I chose to abstain from eating veal. I didn’t understand carnism back then!

Dr. Barnard seemed to be saying that dairy products weren’t healthy. Really?

The interview jumped back to Barnard’s childhood in North Dakota, where he ate ‘pork chops or roast beef just about every day’. The impact of his ‘scathing’ opinion may have been lost. But, fortunately, there was more compelling ‘anti-dairy’ information to come.

Just to drive home the point, and ensure that I never regarded dairy products in the same way again, the entire last page of the interview detailed some of the health concerns of dairy products. Dr. Barnard stated: ‘I have ten main reasons why dairy food is not good for health…’ Ten! Wow. This was news to me. I re-read and reflected, trying to absorb the details.

All these years later, I still remember the initial impact that the information had on me.

By the time we reached Byron Bay, I had begun to seriously consider ditching dairy from my diet. Discovering that dairy products were not healthy allowed me to remove my blinkers. I could no longer disregard the cruelty of the dairy industry. If dairy products were not necessary for bone health…. in fact if they were actually injurious to human health, I needed to stop consuming them.

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I had some familiarity with the workings of a dairy farm. As a child, I spent Christmas holidays at a dairy farm owned by my aunty and uncle (in fact, we also visited the farm during our Byron Bay holiday. That’s me cuddling my friend Charlie, the fox terrier, above).

On the farm, over the years, I learnt that the calves were removed from their mothers shortly after birth. I knew that a truck came to ‘collect’ some of the calves, and that the mothers bellowed for days. I knew that the incessant bellowing saddened my mum too. No one wanted to tell me or my sister that the calves were going to their deaths.

I had been led to believe – as all of us are – that dairy farming was necessary. I accepted that humans required cows milk for bone health. 

Now Dr. Barnard was telling me otherwise.

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The trip to Byron Bay marked a significant time in my life. I was a teenager, at the dawn of my adulthood. I had finished my first year at university. I got my first (and only) tattoo that holiday!

Most significantly, the journey that began a couple of years earlier with the discovery of a book about factory farming, was now gathering momentum.

The interview also mentioned Neal Barnard’s recently released book Food For Life: How the New Four Food Groups can Save Your Life. I purchased a copy upon my return to Sydney. I read it cover to cover, enthusiastically consuming and absorbing the words. I still own the book. It sits on the same bookshelf as Diet for a New America, another truly inspirational book.

By late March 1996, I was 19 and a vegan.

I wholly embraced that part of my heart that loved and respected animals. I faced up to the fact that ocean dwelling creatures were sentient beings. I acquired the knowledge to live a healthy life, without consuming dairy products and eggs. I began reading about animal rights.

I had embraced a vegan ethic, not just a vegan diet.

This ethic shapes and influences all facets of my life today.

So, thank you Dr. Neal Barnard, from the bottom of my heart. I owe you.

I also extend my gratitude to the interviewer, Robert Fraser, for bringing the words and wisdom of Neal Barnard to my attention.

Who has inspired you on your vegan journey? I’d love to hear your stories!

Ally

In my A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

{A-Z:Veganism} H is for Hatching Project

H is for…

Hatching project.

This is Sarge:

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Sarge the rooster.
Photo used with kind permission of B. Carmody.

Here is Sarge as a chick, with his sister and brothers:

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Chicks dust-bathing.
Photo by author.

I first encountered Sarge when he lived in an egg. His egg, his world, was part of a school hatching program.

The fragile inhabitants of those 12 eggs emerged into an incubator, to a motherless existence. They did not experience the welcoming chirps or body warmth of a nurturing mother. A heat lamp set to 37 degrees Celsius was their only warmth and comfort.

What is a hatching project?

Hatching projects are promoted as ‘fun and easy do-it-yourself programs that enable children to see chicks actually hatching from their eggs’. School teachers are encouraged to use hatching projects  in their classrooms.

One company, Living Eggs , asserts that their program provides children with ‘the opportunity to experience the miracle of life first hand…’. Hatching projects are promoted as ‘hands-on’ enhancements  for life cycle studies.

When participating in the Living Eggs hatching program, schools are provided with an incubator, eggs, a brooder box for the chicks, educational resources and chick feed.

The company aims for the chicks to hatch on a Wednesday (‘please inform us Wednesday afternoon if there are no signs of hatching‘), and instructs that all chicks should be moved to the brooder box by Friday afternoon. It is requested that a ‘responsible person’ take the chicks home over the weekend.

On Monday, the chicks are ‘ready’ to be handled by the students. On the twelfth day, at the completion of the program, the chicks are collected, along with the incubator and brooder box.

What do hatching projects teach children? 

According to the companies that provide this ‘experience’ for pre-schools and schools, children are learning about ‘the life cycle’.

A testimonial on the Living Eggs home page states:

 ‘A wonderful stimulus for work across the curriculum. It gave the children an amazing experience of a real life-cycle’.

Perhaps the chicks were a ‘wonderful stimulus’, however, I do not agree that there is anything ‘real’ about this set-up. A hatching project is not indicative of a ‘real’ life cycle. It is totally artificial!

Another testimonial exclaims:

Brilliant!  One of the most unique bonding experiences ever.’

Huh!? Who bonded? The kids? The kids and teacher? Or the kids and chicks? Perhaps the teacher and the chicks bonded?

It is disappointing that there is no concern for hen-chick bonding –  the bond between mother and baby.  I am curious to know what the children are told about the ‘absent’ mother.

In fact, one of the criticisms directed at hatching projects is that the chicks may ‘imprint’ (bond) with the children who are caring for them, only to experience separation anxiety when they are removed from the school a few days later.

Opponents of hatching projects assert that children are being taught to regard the fragile chicks as mere ‘teaching aides’, not sentient beings. This is further enforced when the chicks are collected at the end of the project. The chicks are disposable.

A classroom environment can not emulate the role of a mother hen, who rotates her eggs up to 30 times a day to ensure proper embryonic development.  A mother hen communicates with her offspring while they are still inside the eggs, welcoming them and guiding them as they emerge from their eggs.

This particular ‘educational experience’ patronises children. We only give them part of the story. Yes, the avian egg is fascinating. However, the ‘life cycle’ that is demonstrated to school students is a false one.  A mother, a hen, is essential for the life cycle. She is the layer of eggs, the one who gave them life.

Not just Chicks

I was dismayed to discover that one company,  Hatch n Grow , provides duckling eggs as part of its hatching program.

The Hatch n Grow website provides the following cautionary announcement:

‘PLEASE NOTE: Ducklings can drown if you don’t provide a step for them to get out of the water by themselves. It’s always best to supervise the ducklings in the water and if at any time they look tired or cold put them back near their heat light for a rest.’

It is very unlikely that a duckling would drown under the guidance and supervision of her mother, but in a busy classroom a tired or struggling duckling  may go unnoticed.

The web site also states that their program is:

Great for keeping the kids in the neighbourhood occupied at home during the school holidays.’

Is that the value we truly wish to place on living beings? When we use living beings as ‘occupiers’ of our children’s time, we treat them as a novelty. The ducklings are reduced to the status of a play thing, a toy.

Ducklings are very cute, undeniably so. I am sure that  my kids would love to hold one. But, this is where our influence and guidance as parents is so important. It is essential that we instill in our children a belief that ducklings (and other beings) are not play things, that they have inherent value as living beings.

At all stages, we must ask: Is this action beneficial to the duckling (or chick)? Is it kind, is it right? This process requires empathy.

We must also ask: What are my children learning from this experience? Are these the types of beliefs that I want them to develop about animals?

I do not want my children to regard animals as toys. This belief, therefore, influences the type of activities  that I would seek for my children to be involved in.  Hatching projects in the home are definitely out.

Sarge’s Story

I rescued four of the chicks from the school hatching project that Sarge was a part of, and took them home to my suburban backyard.

My sister and I named the chicks according to their unique features: Sarge appeared to be ‘the boss’, the benevolent leader. Tails grew her white tail feathers first. Lionel’s tail feathers appeared as distinct ‘lines’. Baby was the smallest.

They were tiny, precious and fragile- and we fell in love with them.

As they grew, two things became apparent-

1. Three were roosters, Tails was the only hen;

2. They were ‘broilers’ (meat chickens), not ‘egg laying’ chickens. The company had stated that the remaining chicks, Sarge’s siblings, were going to a ‘free range’ egg facility.  I had not believed this assertion at the time and, as our chicks ‘grew’ into broilers, we confirmed the claims to be false.

Broiler Chickens

As the chicks grew, deformities began to emerge. And grow they did. Rapidly. Broiler chickens have been bred to gain weight fast. They are commonly slaughtered at approximately 30-35 days old (but no later than 55-60 days old). They are just babies.

I felt so relieved that I had brought the chicks to my home. What fate had awaited them otherwise?

Before long, the chickens could barely carry their own weight. Any amount of exertion would render them exhausted. At times it seemed conceivable that their fragile legs may snap under the weight of their unnaturally large bodies. Eventually, Lionel could only walk short distances at a time.

At the time that we shared our lives with Sarge, Lionel, Tails and Baby I had not eaten chicken for 4 years. I had read about broiler chickens and their crippling deformities. I had seen photos of them.

Now, I was sharing my life and home with broiler chickens. I observed their dust bathing and their exploration of the backyard. My heart ached as I watched them struggle to walk.

I wanted everyone to meet them. To know them. To know what these beings endure in order for humans to eat roast chicken and chicken nuggets. They were just babies. Do people realise that they are eating babies?

There was a happier ending for Sarge, Tails, Lionel and Baby.

A New Home

Once Sarge, Lionel and Baby began crowing each morning, it became apparent  that it was time to find them a more suitable, more rural home.

That is when Bede Carmody came in to our lives. Bede was living on a property that was home to ex-battery hens. He agreed to provide a home for our 4 friends. For this act of kindness and compassion, I will be grateful to Bede, forever.

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Tails, resting at her new home.
Photo used with kind permission of B. Carmody.

Bede updated us on the lives of our broiler friends with photos and letters, and it became apparent to me that he had welcomed them into his heart.

Sadly, all of  these precious chickens died before their first birthday. 

Unlike millions of their kin, however, they died FREE. They were not slaves, they were not subjected to the stress of transportation or the horrors of a slaughterhouse – and they knew kindness. In a chicken production facility, they would have been slaughtered before they reached 2 months old.

A Poultry Place

Bede Carmody now runs a no-kill sanctuary called A Poultry Place in Southern New South Wales. A Poultry Place (APP) is home to rescued and unwanted hens, roosters, ducks, turkeys and geese. No doubt, some of the roosters in residence are former hatching project chicks. APP celebrated its 12th birthday this week.

I have not seen Bede for many years, but I look forward to the day that I can hug him and thank him again for his kindness.

I eagerly anticipate  the day that Mat and I visit  A Poultry Place with our children.

For this is the appropriate place to gain a ‘hands on’ educational experience about chickens and ducks (and others).  I want my children to learn about the lives of the precious beings who reside there, to understand that the residents have been blessed with a  second chance. I want them to hear about the personalities, habits and ‘quirks’ of Bede’s feathered friends.

My kids can also gain some ‘education’ by helping Bede with some of the never-ending jobs that stack up at an animal sanctuary! I’m thinking cleaning, shoveling, feeding…..that is very ‘hands on’!

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Sarge and his pals at dinner time.
Photo used with kind permission of B. Carmody.

Have you visited an animal sanctuary? Please let me know in the comments. 

An alternative to chicken hatching programs, a lesson plan called Beak, Wings and Feet is available here.

More information about A Poultry Place is available here.

You may also want to check out my post E is for Eggs

References:

Edgar’s Mission

World of Animal Welfare (WOAW) 

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally

{A-Z:Veganism} G is for Gelatine

G is for…

Gelatine.

During my primary school years, it was not uncommon for all students to be restricted to the classrooms during recess and lunch breaks.

We would eat the contents of our lunch boxes at our desks, chatting, and gazing longingly at empty playgrounds through closed windows.

It wasn’t whole school detention or inclement weather that kept us indoors- it was a foul stench.

My suburban Sydney school was situated directly across the road from an enterprise called Davis Gelatine.

The manufacture of gelatine (gelatin) and tallow occurred a few yards away from the grounds of my primary school, for the entire seven years of my primary education.

Maybe it is no surprise that I am vegan! Perhaps the roots of my veganism were established during those years.

I remember that the smell was repulsive. It filled the air. My sister recently recalled that it ‘smelt like hell’.

I recall being told that gelatine was made from horses hooves. My juvenile brain conjured up images of amputated hooves boiling in large pots, cauldron style. It really did smell that bad.

To my mind, the factory was a dark and sinister place.

I also remember the frustration of our school principal whenever the air quality was compromised. In my senior years, the principal was also my class teacher. I recall occasions that she retreated to her office to telephone the company, her simmering anger palpable.

Surely the factory would have controlled the odour if it was at all possible?

Or, perhaps the company had little regard for the complaints of a local school principal.

I am grateful that I didn’t live in the vicinity of the factory. Many of my school friends did.

The smell hindered our freedom to enjoy the outdoors. It robbed us of fresh air. The smell was repulsive, but was it also toxic to young lungs?

Gelatine manufacturers are frequently located near slaughterhouses. This is where the raw materials of the gelatine production process are sourced.

Davis Gelatine was built in 1917, at a time when a slaughterhouse was located in a neighbouring suburb. By the time I attended primary school, the slaughterhouse was long gone.

A year after I graduated from primary school, the factory relocated to a rural area in Queensland- presumably near a slaughterhouse. It is my understanding that the factory was ‘forced out’. Times had changed. This type of enterprise was no longer welcome in a residential area.

My sister was fortunate to spend her last couple of years at school free of the foul stench and indoor restrictions. The neighbours must have been ecstatic. The frustrated principal had retired by this time, so -like me – she never experienced the improved air quality.

What is gelatine (gelatin)?

Gelatine is derived from collagen.

Collagen, definition:

The fibrous protein constituent of bone, cartilage, tendon, and other connective tissue.

Collagen is present in the bodies of humans and non-human animals – including birds, reptiles, fish and mammals.

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In gelatine manufacture, the raw materials are commonly pig skin, cattle skin and bones.

According to the Gelatine Manufacturers of Europe, approximately 80% of the edible gelatine manufactured in Europe is produced using the skin of pigs. The remainder is derived from fish, the skin of cattle, and bones.

How is gelatine manufactured?

The pre-treatment process (conditioning) of gelatine manufacture differs for pig skin, and cattle skin and bones. All raw materials are cut, washed and de-greased. An acid process is used for pig skin, while an acid and alkaline process is used for cattle skin and bones.

The rest of the manufacturing process is the same for all raw materials, and involves extraction, filtration, concentration, drying, grinding, milling, testing, packaging.

What is gelatine used for?

Gelatine is used as a stabiliser, thickener, gelling agent or texturiser in foods.

Sweets, baked goods and desserts may contain gelatine as an ingredient. It gives lollies like ‘snakes’ and ‘jelly babies’ their form, their chewy consistency.

Isinglass, derived from the swim bladders of fish, is one of the oldest forms of gelatine. It is used in the fining process of some alcoholic beverages.

Gelatine is used in the pharmaceutical industry for items like capsules and tablets. It is also used as a replacement for blood plasma in blood plasma ‘expanders’.

Gelatine is used in the photographic industry, in the production of photographic materials. Specifically, ink-jet printer paper is coated with gelatine. It is also used in the production of X-ray films.

Gelatine may also be present in the following diverse items:

nail polish remover

fondant icing

implantable medical devices

match heads

sandpaper

A ‘non-gelling variant’ of gelatine is known as hydrolyzed collagen, and may be present in cosmetics.

Alternatives to gelatine in food products

Some sweets that have traditionally contained gelatine, like marshmallows and jelly babies, are now available gelatine-free.

We buy a packet of gelatine-free jelly crystals each year to make our Christmas trifle. For people who enjoy making their own jelly (jello), there is a product called agar agar, derived from seaweed.

For information about using alternatives to gelatine in food preparation, see Gelatin Alternatives.

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My children know that most lollies contain gelatine. From a very young age, they have known that their parents like to inspect any ‘party’ bags that they receive at birthday parties. Oh how my children love party bags!

My children have attended many birthday parties where they have been provided with vegan lollies in their party bags (that usually cost four times as much as non-vegan lollies). I truly appreciate the efforts of parents who cater so thoroughly- and generously – to our family’s veganism.

Incidentally, I love party bags that don’t contain sugar laden treats, or any food at all. This type are loved by vegan parents and/or health-conscious parents alike. Perhaps not as loved by children though!

Our local ‘health food’ store stocks a decent array of vegan lollies.

But, they haven’t become a feature on my shopping list. Some things are best avoided- whether they contain gelatine or not.

For a list of vegan lollies available in Australia, and to view photos of the ‘raw materials’ (body parts) of gelatine manufacture, see ‘They put WHAT in my lollies!?’ Now I know why Davis Gelatine smelt so repulsive!

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Gelatine production, like leather production, is a by-product of the meat industry. Pigs and cows are not specifically killed for the manufacture of gelatine. However, the fact that the by-products of the industry (skin, hides, bones) are sold on, ensures that the entire industry is more viable (and profitable).

My experience with the gelatine factory as a child demonstrates that the production and manufacture of animal products impacts negatively on the environment, affecting people’s enjoyment of outdoor spaces.

Naturally, I haven’t suffered any lasting affects from spending many a lunch break indoors.

However, my experience is a reminder that humans and our environment are paying a high price for the meat industry.

Of course, non-human animals pay the ultimate price.

References:

Gelatine Manufacturers of Europe

Gelatin Manufacturers Association Asia-Pacific

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally

{A-Z:Veganism} F is for Fishing

F is for …

Fishing

‘Recreational’ fishing is a form of hunting that occurs in Australia’s oceans and waterways. It would not be overstating the matter to declare that fishing is one of Australia’s national past times.

Fishing is commonly referred to as a ‘sport’ and a ‘recreational activity’, and is regarded as a suitable activity for children to engage in.

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The New South Wales Department of Primary Industries’ website contains a section on fishing for children, called ‘fish ‘n’ kids’.

Children can explore the following contradictory topics: ‘Learn to Fish’, ‘Help Save Fish’, ‘Pet Fish’ and ‘Fish Recipes’

Presumably the ‘fish recipes’ section does not have any overlap with the ‘pet fish’ section. Moreover, I have a novel idea to help ‘save’ fish……Don’t ‘learn’ to fish!

In the learning to fish section, children are advised:

‘like any sport it’s wise to be careful when you’re fishing so you don’t hurt yourself and others.’

Unfortunately, the term ‘others’ does not refer to the targets of this ‘sport’. In fact, the term ‘sport’ is entirely misleading.

SPORT, definition  –

an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

This definition brings to mind a football (soccer) match or a swimming event. A ‘real sport’ – an activity where the participants consent to their involvement and the competitors are evenly matched.

Clearly, fish do not consent to being pursued by humans brandishing fishing rods. The ‘competition’ is not evenly matched. It is ludicrous to label fishing as ‘sport’. Fishing involves the pursuit and killing of a live animal – this is hunting, clearly.

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Elsewhere on the NSW Department of Primary Industries website I located a section called ‘Welfare of Fish’. This section contains one clause, called:  Humane Harvesting of Fish and Crustaceans.

In relation to fin-fish, the clause states:

It is important to be able to apply humane dispatching methods to any fish that are to be harvested. Percussive stunning is considered a good approach provided it is done swiftly and delivered to the correct area.’

Percussive stunning is described in the following manner:

‘Fish should be hit with a sharp blow to the head in the area just above the eyes (the area adjacent to the brain) using a special tool such as a heavy wooden handle …When applied correctly, the fish’s gill covers should stop rhythmically moving and the eye should remain still.  Fish should only be bled after the fish has been dispatched’.

Dispatched? Euphemisms are used to disguise the reality: dispatched in place of killed, percussive stunning in place of bludgeoning.

Furthermore, the term ‘humane dispatching’ is an oxymoron.

In ‘Help Save Fish’, children are given strategies to protect fish and their habitats. One tip encourages children to refrain from washing food scraps down the sink as this can ‘pollute waterways and harm fish’. This implies that children are only expected to display care and concern for fish and fish habitats when they are not holding a rod.

Once children are engaged in the ‘recreational pursuit’ or ‘sport’ of fishing it is acceptable to harm fish by hooking them through the lip, removing them from their aquatic home, bludgeoning them and then watching them bleed out (or perhaps they witness an adult perform this gruesome procedure).

Why are these fish not worthy of protection?

Companies that market children’s fishing adventures commonly refer to the ‘back to nature’ aspects of fishing. For example, one company states on its website:

‘Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Australia and it is a great way to get children away from the computer or TV and experience the outdoors, to bond with you as a parent and learn a thing or two about the environment at the same time’!

Another company asserts:

‘[We] are supportive of the worldwide movement to reconnect children with nature’.

A fishing company director laments the fact that (according to her) none of the children in her ‘vacation care group’ had ‘hung out in the great outdoors, let alone climbed a tree or built a cubby house’. She was bewildered that – in a group of 16 children (aged 10-12 years) – only one had ever been fishing before.  

Her company also offers an intensive 5-day workshop, with subjects titled: ‘What’s my Line’; ‘We are Champions’ and ‘Fish are Friends’.

What?! Fish are friends.

Apparently, this topic focuses on ‘environment and fish habitats’. It’s the same message espoused by NSW DPI – only some fish are worthy of our respect and compassion.

I wonder how the staff would answer a child who questioned why some fish are regarded as friends and others are regarded as ‘prey’.

The director’s concern for children’s disengagement with nature is admirable. However, I cannot support her proposed method for helping to alleviate the disconnection. To my mind, the killing of ocean dwelling beings is an act that further disconnects children from the natural world.

The wonder that is evoked by the lulling water, the gentle breeze, or the leafy, peaceful surroundings should extend to the life forms swimming beneath the water.  To appreciate and bask in the beauty of nature that exists above the waterline, and then kill that which dwells beneath is to disconnect oneself from the natural world.

Australian culture teaches children that the killing of a sentient being is a valid recreational pursuit, a worthy way to spend time outdoors, and a fitting way to engage with nature.

Alas, fish are not regarded as impressive in their living state, as members of a diverse, aquatic dwelling species.

During my research for this blog post, I viewed dozens of images of young children and teenagers holding corpses of fish. Most children were smiling broadly, clutching their ‘prize’. I saw tiny fish and enormous fish, all with blank eyes. It really is quite grotesque….and sad.

Most people would be (justifiably) horrified if they saw children clutching the corpses of rabbits or cats, while grinning broadly. Why is our reaction different for fish? Is it because they are so dissimilar to us?

A carnist value system deems it acceptable to pursue, maim and kill fish. Carnism also explains why an individual eats some types of fish, while regarding other fish as ‘pets’ and inedible (eg. goldfish).

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I do not support the maiming and killing of sentient beings in the name of recreation or ‘engagement with nature’. As parents, we can encourage our children to ‘get outside’ and connect with nature, without engaging in an activity that destroys (and devalues) the lives of aquatic dwelling beings. I choose to educate my children that all fish are important and worthy of our respect; that aquatic dwellers are part of a complex web of life.

I choose to enjoy the spectacle of a radiant sunrise without a fishing rod in my hand.

How do you assist your children to engage with nature?

Ally

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

{A-Z:Veganism} E is for Eggs

E is for…

Eggs.

During my time as a vegan, I have been asked (more than a few times) why I don’t eat free-range eggs. People understand why I don’t eat cage eggs- anyone with half a shred of common sense realises that the battery system is abhorrent.*

So, while I have never had to justify my ‘boycott’ of cage eggs, I have had to explain my opposition to free-range eggs.

As someone who subscribes to a vegan ethic, I do not support a system where hens are valued only for their capacity to produce eggs.

Regardless of the egg production method in place, when a hen stops laying eggs, she is regarded as worthless, unprofitable. Invariably, this means that she is slaughtered. Chickens, like all non-human animals, do not exist for the benefit of humans. A hen lays an egg as part of her reproductive cycle. She does not lay eggs for humans.

Moreover, there is another significant issue that influences my opposition to free-range systems (and other egg production systems):

Male chicks.

Do you ever wonder where the male chickens (roosters) are hanging out while the hens are doing all the egg-laying? Free- range, barn and cage systems require only egg layers, that is, hens. Roosters are not required.

Hatcheries breed ‘egg laying’ hens for free-range, barn, and cage systems.

In hatcheries, the eggs mature in industrial incubators. Obviously, there is a 50% chance of each egg containing a male chick.

What happens to male chicks?

When the chicks hatch they join a ‘production line’, where they are inspected to determine their sex. Apparently, it is not an easy task to differentiate males from females, so the ‘inspectors’ are required to be skilled at this process. Female chicks are separated from male chicks. Female chicks will go on to provide eggs in free-range, barn, or cage facilities.

Male chicks do not leave the facility alive. They are regarded as ‘unwanted by-products of egg production’. They are killed shortly after their emergence from their egg. Weak and sickly female chicks are killed too.

According to the Hatchery Management section of the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry 4th ed. there are 2 ‘recommended’ methods by which male (and ‘unwanted’ female) chicks may be killed:

1. Quick maceration, or

2. Carbon dioxide gassing.

There are videos of male chicks being macerated and gassed in hatcheries, on YouTube. I cannot watch them. I won’t inflict them on you either. I feel repulsed by the thought of a live, newborn chick being ‘ground up’ by sharp blades. My heart aches when I envisage a tiny, delicate being, newly emerged from his egg, gasping for oxygen.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA) Australia, quick maceration is preferable to carbon dioxide gassing. The RSPCA states:

‘Gassing results in gasping and head shaking and, depending on the mixture of gases used, it may take up to two minutes for the chick to die’.

However, the Hen Welfare Advisory Group states, in relation to male chicks:

‘The majority are humanely destroyed as day-old chicks using carbon dioxide’.

Humanely destroyed? What an oxymoron that is!

If the Humane Welfare Advisory Group (HWAG) is correct – and most chicks in Australia are killed by carbon dioxide gassing – then, by the standards of the RSPCA, the majority of chicks are dying by the least ‘humane’ of these two gruesome methods.

Both of these ‘disposal’ methods sound horrific to me.

Male chicks are bred by humans, and they are killed by machines or poisonous gas at the hands of humans.  They are regarded as ‘surplus hatchlings’. Only their sisters are prized. Their only ‘fault’ is to be born male and, therefore, unprofitable.**

Male and female chicks born at hatcheries never know the nurturing touch and gentle guidance of a mother. They emerge from their eggs into an industrial incubator, to a ‘motherless’ existence. An unnatural and heartless existence.

Free-range systems are not ‘cruelty free’. The killing of 50% of the chicks born at hatcheries cannot be overlooked or disregarded.

I do not believe that the killing of male chicks in hatcheries can be separated from the egg production method. To me, an egg, whether free range or cage, represents the killing of male chicks.

In addition, some hatcheries promote day-old female chicks for use in ‘backyard’ egg production systems. One hatchery charges $3.50 per female chick.

For some male chicks, another fate awaits them. One Australian hatchery advertises live chicks for $1.50 each in their reptile food section. No doubt they are male chicks.

Chicks. They commonly decorate Easter cards. They are a symbol of life and renewal. Chicks are undeniably cute, fluffy and fragile. Children adore them. I believe that my children would be horrified and outraged to learn of the sacrifice that male chicks are forced to make in order to satisfy humanity’s appetite for scrambled eggs.*** I imagine most children would be.

Chicken eggs are not necessary for human health. We can nurture our bodies, and our children’s bodies, without consuming eggs.

Did you know about the killing of male chicks? What are your thoughts? Are YOU outraged?

***

Notes:

For tips on baking and cooking without eggs, go to VegWeb Guide to Egg Replacers

Footnotes:

* The industry still defends the ‘battery’ system method. The Hen Welfare Advisory Group states: ‘the weight of scientific evidence shows that cages systems provide many welfare benefits to hens compared to other methods, including reduced cannibalism, better disease control and lower overall mortalities’.

** Of course, the life of a female chick is not a ‘walk in the park’. She will live her days in a cage, barn or free range system- her body valued only for as long as she is able to produce eggs. Ultimately, she will be slaughtered when her role as an ‘egg layer’ is over.

*** Up until now, we have told our children that chickens do not like humans to take their eggs. This has been a sufficient explanation. I do not look forward to the day that they will discover the unpalatable truth about male chicks.

Ally

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

{A-Z:Veganism} D is for Dairy Industry

D is for…

Dairy industry.

Recently, I wrote about bobby calves. Today, I want to examine the messages that the Australian dairy industry disseminates to children, specifically primary school students.

What is the dairy industry telling school students about cows’ milk, and the lives of dairy cows and bobby calves?

To answer this question, I visited Dairy Australia’s website, Discover Dairy. Visitors to the site can explore sections aimed at students, teachers, and canteen staff. Apparently, Dairy Australia developed the section for teachers, in order to:

‘engage and educate teachers and students about the Australian dairy industry and the nutritious products it provides’.

Teachers and students are introduced to 3 ‘learning’ modules – Unbeatable Bones, Fuel for Life and Farm to Plate. Teachers are encouraged to ‘Discover Dairy with [their] students today!’.

The site includes lesson ideas and student activity sheets for primary school children covering subjects such as art, mathematics, English, and science & technology.

Fresian Cow

(source)

What is the industry telling children about the lives of cows and calves on dairy farms?

In the section aimed at students, I navigated to Games and Interactives. I imagine this is the most popular section for students. Lets face it, any self-respecting 8 year old would head straight there!

I viewed two ‘interactives’:

The Milk from Farm to Plate – What’s it all About? interactive has this to say about the ‘milk cycle’: ‘Milk is created inside the udders of dairy cows on the farm’. It then describes the pumps that ‘gently suck milk from the cow’. There is no mention of her calf.

This interactive provides the illusion that cows naturally or automatically lactate, that they need to be milked by humans. It fails to mention that cows lactate as a consequence of giving birth.

The second interactive is titled: How do Dairy Cows Make Milk?  It begins: ‘ How dairy cows make milk is really cool’. It then describes the four stomachs that cows possess – it is interesting. No doubt about that. But, I was left thinking: hang on! We (humans) are drinking the milk of a species with four stomachs?! It is truly absurd!

The interactive states: ‘Milk is stored in the udder until the cow is milked’ – as though the milk  is just waiting there in a vessel, for humans. For our convenience. It does not mention that the milk is produced for her baby. Children are not told that the cow’s baby would suckle many times throughout the day. There is definitely no mention of the fact that a cow’s udder can become painful and engorged, and that cows can suffer from mastitis. No, the milk is just filling up her udder, ready to be ‘gently’ sucked out by a machine.

Clearly, the ‘interactives’ only tell part of the story.

What about the 3 ‘learning’ modules?

I discovered a reference to calves in the module From Farm to Plate. In a section called Hand-Feeding Calves, it states:

‘After only 12 to 24 hours, calves are weaned off their mothers but are still given milk to drink. The first milk they are given comes straight from their mother and is called colostrum…The colostrum is milked into a bucket which is then transferred to a bottle with a very large teat on the end and fed to the calf’

This paragraph glosses over the severing of the maternal-calf  bond. The industry wants children to believe that life is good for a calf:

The calves soon learn to eat grass and often get to eat the best pasture on the farm to help them grow strong’.

Calves are denied a relationship with their mothers. They are fed from an artificial teat. They are only a day (or less) old. But, apparently, children should not be concerned, because the calves are compensated for this loss by having access to ‘the best pasture’.

There is no mention of male calves, shipped to specialist calf-rearing properties or slaughterhouses. The information gives the impression that calves have an idyllic life in a lush green paddock. Rather, a female calf will ‘grow up’ to be a dairy cow herself, and endure repeated pregnancies and loss of offspring.

peek a moo

(source)

In another location, I read this:

‘Male calves become bulls and are often sold’. 

The key phrase is ‘often sold’. Sold to whom? For what purpose? The use of ‘often sold’ implies that some are not sold. What happens to them? Dairy Australia asserts that bobby calves are the foundation of their industry, so why aren’t they telling children the truth about them?

In reality, bobby calves are not given high priority by the industry. A bobby calf’s only ‘use’ is his ability to initiate his mother’s lactation.

At 5 days old, calves can be transported, and the industry standard permits the withholding of milk from calves for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered. They certainly aren’t sharing that information with children.

The module From Farm to Plate includes a section titled ‘How cows make milk’. Here, calves are mentioned in connection with milk production:

A cow only starts to produce milk once her first calf is born.’

The module states that:   

‘Most cows give about 25 litres of milk a day.’

The use of the term ‘give’ implies that cows are willing participants in their enslavement. Obviously, the milk is ‘taken’ or ‘stolen’. This misuse of language disguises the reality of dairy cows’ lives.

Under the heading ‘Milking Time‘, I was disturbed to read the following :

‘Milking time is an enjoyable experience for the cows for many reasons. Sometimes the farmer plays soothing music in the background to relax the cows. It is important that cows are kept happy because they need to be relaxed to produce their milk’ .

A ‘happy’ cow. (Source: Discover Dairy)

I wonder what style of music ‘keeps’ cows happy, and compensates for the loss of a baby? Mozart? Moby? Muse? Despite the assertion that there are ‘many reasons’ that milking time is ‘enjoyable’, no further information of this nature is provided. Perhaps they’ll start telling children that the gentle sucking of the machines is quite relaxing, and preferable to the constant suckling of a baby.

What is the industry telling children about dairy products?

Children are told that dairy is ‘fuel for life‘, and that they require 3 serves a day.

(Fuel for life? That is actually true. A cow’s milk is fuel for her calf; nourishment that is biologically designed to promote bovine life).

Children are encouraged to:

‘speak to [their] teacher or principal about adopting a healthy canteen policy that includes plenty of milk, cheese and yogurt on the menu’. 

Children are directed to ‘lead by example’ so that their friends will be:

‘slurping yogurt, slicing cheese, and sipping milk right along with you before you know it…Keep up the yummy fun!’

‘Yummy fun’ (Source: Discover Dairy)

I was surprised to read the following in a curriculum guide for the Picasso Cows program:

‘New research has found milk is a more effective drink than water to rehydrate active kids’.

A footnote is provided in the curriculum guide.* I imagine that this finding would be regarded as a boon to the industry. Time constraints prevent me from following up on the ‘new research’ at this stage. However, I find it difficult to believe that the lactation fluids of a mammal with 4 stomachs can provide ‘more effective’ rehydration of ‘active’ human children than water. Water is fuel for life!

So, why am I concerned about the information that the Discover Dairy web site promotes to teachers and students? 

Firstly, lets examine the stated role of Dairy Australia:

‘Our role is to help farmers adapt to a changing operating environment, and achieve a profitable, sustainable dairy industry’.

Secondly, lets look at the language that the industry uses about primary schools and school children.

In a curriculum guide for a national project called The Great Wall of Dairy, it states:

‘Primary schools provide an ideal channel to reach a large number of children aged 5–12 years’.

A captive audience!

 ‘Children are also developing their long term food consumption behaviours at this age so it is important to build healthy, positive eating habits while they are young’.

And who better to ‘educate’ them about positive eating habits than Dairy Australia?!

And this:

‘Educating children about nutrition and where their food comes from is important to establish positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry and the products it produces which they can carry into adulthood’. 

Clearly, children in classrooms are fair game for an industry seeking to advertise its products and ensnare lifelong consumers of dairy products.  Naturally, the establishment of ‘positive attitudes and perceptions about the industry’ would be hindered if young children were provided with factual information about bobby calves, rather than misinformation. A young child who has been unwittingly separated from her parents (such as losing sight of them in a shopping centre) would be able to identify with the fear and panic of a calf who has been separated from his mother.

I am opposed to school teachers being used as conduits to promote dairy products to students in their classrooms. I would not be impressed if my children were learning about calcium and nutrition from Dairy Australia.

Source: Discover Dairy

As mentioned above, Dairy Australia’s stated role is to achieve a ‘profitable’ industry. They do not develop learning modules, free classroom resources and national curriculum programs because they care about the health of Australia’s children. The industry is not interested in educating children about nutrition. The industry is interested in ‘educating’ children about dairy products. They are interested in maximising their profits. These programs, modules and resources are part of a marketing strategy.

Nutrition education in schools should not be driven by industries with vested interests.

Dairy: ‘A unique combination of bone-building nutrients’. (Source: Discover Dairy)

It’s unlikely that parents would give consent for their children to view television advertisements (during class time) that are designed solely to establish positive ‘perceptions about [an] industry and the products it produces which [their children] can carry into adulthood’.

So, why should we tolerate this covert form of advertising being conducted under the guise of ‘education’?

Notes:

*Footnote cited by Dairy Australia – Volterman K et al. Children and Exercise XXVII: The Proceedings of the XXVIIth International Symposium of the
European Group of Paediatric Work Physiology 2011; Chapter 13: 101–105

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

Ally

{A-Z:Veganism} C is for Carnism

C is for…

Carnism.

Carnism is a term coined by Melanie Joy, author, psychologist and vegan.

Carnism has been referred to as ‘an extremely important concept that has the potential to dramatically transform the way society thinks about eating animals.’ *

It has been termed a ‘revolutionary concept that neither animal advocates nor meat eaters can afford to ignore’. **

So, what exactly is carnism?

Quite simply, it is ‘the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals’.

Where I live, in Australia, it is perfectly ‘normal’ for people to eat chickens, cows and pigs (among others). It is regarded as inappropriate or repulsive for people to consider eating cats, dogs and budgerigars (among others).

Most people do not question this. It is just the way it is. I certainly never questioned it during my childhood and most of my adolescence.

As a child, I was served lamb, beef, chicken and fish on my dinner plates. Our companion animal friends were cats, dogs and mice.  I never thought twice about it. I didn’t stop to consider why some non-human animals were friends and some were food. I remember, as a young child, finding out that people in some meat-eating cultures ate dog meat. I was horrified! How could anyone do that? How could they be so callous?

I did not realise it at the time, but my beliefs were carnist in nature. I had been successfully inculcated with a carnist value system- from my parents, society and the media. I thought it was cruel to eat a dog, but normal to eat a cow. I never asked: why does one deserve my love, and not the other? 

At 19, I embraced veganism. I adopted vegan values because I recognised that all animals were worthy of my respect. Prior to veganism, I regarded myself as an animal lover. However, once I embraced veganism, I understood that true respect meant no longer eating animals. Now, the thought of eating any sentient being horrifies me. I no longer make the distinction between a cow or a dog or a chicken.

But carnism is more than a belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals -it is a belief system that conditions us to believe that eating meat is normal, natural and ‘value-free‘.

There is recognition that veganism – choosing not to eat animals and animal products -is rooted in a belief system, a philosophy.

But the same is true of meat-eating – although this is not usually acknowledged.

Choosing to eat meat- indeed, to eat animals –  is the manifestation of a belief system.

In Australia,  meat eating (non-veganism) is regarded as the ‘normal’ way of being. It is the default position. Anything that deviates from that, such as veganism, is regarded as different or abnormal.

Sometimes, vegan parents are asked whether they will ‘allow’ their vegan children to eat meat when they are older. I assume it is uncommon for non-vegan parents to be asked if they will permit their meat-eating children to be vegan when they are older.

Moreover, non-vegan parents don’t usually ask their young children if they want to eat animals. Yet, vegans are encouraged to give their children ‘a choice’.

Some vegan parents have been accused of  ‘forcing’ their values on their children, as though meat eating parents aren’t passing on a value system to their children – one that says ‘eating animals is acceptable and ethical’.

This demonstrates how deeply entrenched carnism is.

Most people do not recognise that they are subscribing to a belief system when they eat meat- a carnist belief system. Meat-eating is not value-free.

Meat eating is certainly more common than veganism in our society, but this does not mean that people should engage in meat eating without making a conscious choice to do so. I do not think that saying ‘it’s just the way it is’, ‘it’s the way it has always been’, or ‘everyone else I know is doing it’ is adequate. Not when the lives of millions of animals depend on our daily choices.

Melanie Joy states that eating meat is a choice, and ‘choices always stem from beliefs’.

When I broached this subject with a friend recently – that eating meat stems from a belief system; a belief system that says it is OK to eat animals – she told me that she ate meat because it is how she was raised. She appeared horrified that I had described it as stemming from a value system. Perhaps many people think like this.

I am truly grateful that I was able to remove my carnist blinkers, that my food choices are now in harmony with my belief system.

Today’s post is a basic introduction to the concept of carnism. For a more detailed analysis, refer to Joy’s book ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows’ and Carnism Awareness & Action Network.

Notes

* Gene Baur, President and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, and author.

** John Robbins, author of  Diet for a New America and The Food Revolution

Ally

In My A-Z of Veganism series, I discuss and explore a topic or issue related to veganism, and my experiences as a vegan – as I work my way through the alphabet!

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