Remember mother cows this Mother’s Day with the Cow Ribbon Campaign!

Written by Sandra on April 9th, 2014

 

© Farm Sanctuary

Mother’s Day is just around the corner! We launched the Cow Ribbon campaign in 2010 to recognize the suffering of dairy cows. Dairy cows must endure a constant cycle of pregnancy and birth in order to maintain uninterrupted milk production. Unfortunately, dairy cows usually only get to be mothers for a matter of hours because their babies are taken away almost immediately after birth so people can drink the milk meant for their offspring. Just like humans, cows grieve the loss of their young.

In fact, the voice of their grief is so loud that it has been known to prompt worried neighbours to call the police in the middle of the night. Strange noises from near the Sunshine Dairy Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts, turned out to be the bellowing and cries of cows who had just lost their babies. Police reassured the public that this was just a normal part of farming practice. While it may be standard practice, cows have strong maternal bonds and their cries are a reflection of their distress.

As for the babies, they lose their mothers shortly after birth, eat formula instead of the milk intended for them, and spend their first few weeks of life isolated in calf hutches or pens. The pens are so small they can barely move around. The National Farm Animal Care Council’s Codes of Practice, after all, recommend a minimum of just 35.5 inches by 65 inches for these 200 pound animals.  Females will usually become dairy cows, while the males are kept for a few weeks until they are ready to be sold for veal.

While dairy cows and their babies suffer year-round, Mother’s Day is a great time to be reminded that cows are mothers too. Wear a cow ribbon, and join us in commemorating the lives of cows who suffer so much loss just for a glass of milk

 

Get your cow ribbon!
Volunteers working hard to assemble the ribbons!

 

 

 

Winning Compassion for Chickens One Look, One Wave, One Heart at a Time: The Evolution of the Chicken Vigil

Written by Mary-Chris on March 2nd, 2014

The first week of the vigil, April, 2013

When we first started the Chicken Vigils outside Hallmark Slaughterhouse at Commercial and Hastings almost a year ago, our goals were simple:   we wanted to be there for the chickens and let the public know what is going on behind that big grey wall.  We were inspired by Toronto Pig Save, Chicken Save, and Cow Save.  Now that the one year anniversary is around the corner, I’d like to share some of the lessons I’ve learned about how to get the most out of the vigils in terms of helping animals.

Early days of the vigil

One of the 3,285,000 sweet little birds we fought for this year at Hallmark Slaughterhouse

Over the past year, activists at the vigils have held signs and waved at motorists passing by, drawing attention to messages of compassion for chickens.  We are often rewarded with honks which is inspiring and motivating.  I hope that our presence outside the slaughterhouse has brought some comfort to the birds inside.  I hope that it has influenced managers to make sure they are, at least,  following the welfare standards that are in place.   There is no question that more people know about the existence of this slaughterhouse than did a year ago.  I hope that many of those people have been affected by our invitation to show compassion for chickens.  It has been heartening to see how many activists have attended the vigils at various times throughout the year, in all kinds of weather and I am proud of what we’ve accomplished!

No words can describe the sadness of witnessing their suffering.

So what’s next?  How can we improve?  How can we maximize benefits to animals?  How can we  inspire as many people as possible to re-think their food choices?

First, it is time to say goodbye to our well-used home made signs!  Initially these signs contained only verbal messages until it was brought to our attention that old adage, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ and we added photos so that even those with only a second to take in the images would have a sense of our purpose.  Still, most of  the signs do not offer any type of call to action.  We are now in the process of having new, professional signs made that are designed to allow readers to LEARN something, FEEL something, and DO something.  The main message will be big and bold with vibrant images to reach the eyes of those drivers passing by when the traffic light is green.  The rest of the message will be seen easily by those who get stopped at the red light.

Ashley bears witness in the lane behind the slaughterhouse.

While the messages on the signs are crucial, I believe that those of us who are holding the signs play a just as crucial a role in maximizing the likelihood that the message will be received.  We do this by acting with genuine purpose.  I have recently begun to pay closer attention to what I actually do at the vigil to see how, along with better signage, I can make a bigger impact on more individuals.   Initially I had been waving generally, at the masses passing by, to get their attention and reacted gratefully when someone honked in response to my message.  But when I really started to pay attention, I began to direct my waves and focus, purposefully, towards each individual pair of eyes, for only a brief second.  I was amazed at what I saw!  Many people made eye contact, smiled, waved, nodded or gave a thumbs up, and, of course, some of them honked!  Previously, I had only paid attention the honks but now I was able to see that many more people could be engaged, with this kind of  personal connection.  Now I wave at each car when the traffic is moving and when it slows down for a red light, I stop waving and move where necessary to let as many people as possible read my sign.  It might be a good time to give my waving arm a rest but it is certainly not the time to lose focus.  As the traffic begins to move again, I make eye contact with as many of these people as I can, wave, and wish them a good day – that’s when I see the most reactions!  I’m not sure these people would be waving or smiling if no one was actually looking at them.  Maybe, just maybe, that personal connection, that personal invitation, makes a difference!  Alex, a regular at the vigils, says that she sees the same thing.  She says she waves at each car as though she’s waving to a good friend and then she visualizes a light going on in their heart!  And it doesn’t have to be done by waving…I watched Allissa one day, direct her attention to a passenger on a bus and have a whole conversation with him, using only her eyes!  The key is being present, doing what we do with purpose.

Alex brings light to hearts!

Maybe just as many people would be affected, just driving by and seeing a bunch of people with signs but I believe that potentially many more can be affected through personal connections.  If I am fully present for the whole time I’m out there, reaching out to people with purpose, I believe I can help animals more!  At least I can go away from the vigil feeling I’ve done everything in my power to help animals.  Sometimes I feel I must seem anti-social at the vigils because I don’t chat very much.  But that is only because I have decided to dedicate that time to the chickens and feel I owe them every single second.  A driver once asked how long we had been on strike.  I realized that it was an easy mistake to make when you see a group of people with signs on a corner.  I believe that being fully present in our outreach will ensure that our message is clear!

The final insult: A dancing chicken on the side of the truck...

There has also been some discussion about holding the vigils at different times to allow more activists to get involved and to reach a different audience.  This may be possible in the future.  For now, the time works well because there is non-stop traffic and there are no parked cars in front of the slaughterhouse at that time.  For sure we are seeing some of the same drivers every week.  Those who are already on our side make sure to honk louder and louder each week.  This not only supports us but it all sends a message to the public that it is not only a handful of activists with signs who see this as an important issue, that there are many more people who care about justice for animals.  For those who were not on our side the first time they drove by, I hope that they are being worn down a little by little every week!  At least, I hope they might admire our determination! But there are definitely many people driving by seeing us for the first time, or at least noticing us for the first time.  It is clear, when you pay attention, that they are taking in the message.  The sign I like to hold tells that 1000s of innocent beings are being slaughtered every day behind the big grey wall.  I see them look up at the wall after reading the sign.

In closing, I just want to comment on the potential irony of smiling and waving when the subject matter is so tragic.  For me, the smile and the wave are used to make a human connection.  I believe I  need to allow individuals to see me as a warm, caring person who they might want to relate to.  I want to invite them, with love, to learn about a very difficult subject.  I have learned this from The Animal Activist’s Handbook by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich and from listening to my non-vegan friends who say they feel intimidated by the stern, angry appearance of some activists and are reluctant to approach them if they want more information.  While I believe there is a time and place for a more somber atmosphere, I don’t want anyone to be afraid to approach me to talk about the issue, even if they don’t agree with my views.  I believe that hundreds of thousands of connections like these will contribute greatly to changing the hearts and minds of the world!

 

Someone, not something...

 

The Pet Lover Show at Tradex.

Written by Mary-Chris on February 27th, 2014

After a busy week of amazing animal advocacy activities around Vancouver- Valentine’s events by Animal Voices and Mercy For Animals, our own screening of  ‘Meat the Truth‘, the Friday Chicken Vigil, the fur protest and veg tabling, we topped it off by taking part in the Pet Lover Show at the Tradex Convention Centre in Abottsford on February 15 and 16. We feel that this is an important crowd to target – since they already love some animals, maybe it isn’t be too much of a stretch to get them to extend their compassion to others.  More than 13000 people attended the show over 2 days.  As they arrived, they were given a ‘goody’ bag filled with coupons and information from various vendors.  3000 of those bags contained a Vegan Outreach booklet – Even if You Like Meat, Compassionate Choices, or Why Vegan?.  The bags were stuffed the night before by girl guides.  After dropping off the booklets, I couldn’t help but overhear the girls talking about them – they sure were different from the other materials going in the bags!

The table is set for visitors!

Our table was set up with our usual information and items for sale but for this show, everyone who passed by was offered our ‘Extend Your Compassion‘ leaflet inviting them to make the connection between those animals we love and those we allow to suffer enroute to becoming food.  We had no trouble attracting people to our booth thanks to Stanley and Daisy, the vegan dogs!  Stanley, a German Shepherd cross, rescued from the pound 10 years ago, invited everyone to throw his frisbee for him!  And most people were happy to oblige!  Daisy, the whippet, another rescue – from my next door neighbour who was going to return her to the breeder, was snuggled and kissed by nearly everyone who walked by!  By stopping to see the dogs, people became interested in who we were and what we were all about.   Our famous Liberation BC cow also did her best to attract people to our booth, even salsa dancing to get their attention!  As usual, the bowl of  free stickers was a big hit with the kids!  Being set up on a corner, we were able to hang 3 ‘Why Love One But Eat the Other’ posters on the side, away from the main action making it easier for people to read them in privacy.

Stanley engages a young visitor in a game of tug of war.

Kids couldn't resist our loveable cow!

Daisy and Stanley check out one of the many disturbing displays at the show...

Other booths at the show ranged from sellers of pet food and gear to breeders and clubs as well as a few non pet related booths.  It was hard to walk by the raw food vendors, the leather vendors, the caged birds and reptiles,  the cat breeders’ show, and seeing people wearing fur without feeling discouraged but it was also heartening to see other animal advocacy groups like the Fur Bearer Defenders, Katie’s Place Cat rescueSTOP UBC Animal Research, Greyhaven and a reptile rescue group working the crowd as well!  It was also rewarding to have many positive conversations with visitors to our table.  Very few people were surprised to hear our message.  Most nodded sheepishly and with some sadness and gave the dogs a pat as they checked out the information on our table or asked questions.  Many people took the PCRM Vegetarian Starter Kit, always a good sign!  One woman was moved to tears when she heard for the first time what life is like for a dairy cow when her baby is taken away from her.  It was encouraging to see the reactions of individuals, as they were interacting with our dogs, when they thought about why we love them so much and have no compassion for those who are used for food.  One woman from a booth selling raw meat, came to let us know that she did not believe all animals are equal.  Some are for pets and some are for food.  That’s the way she was raised.  We responded respectfully and let her know that our main concern was to stop the suffering of all animals.  She clearly believed that they didn’t suffer but when she agreed that they were afraid at the time of slaughter she seemed to understand that to us, that was suffering.  Later I went down to her booth and thanked her for coming over to talk to us.  I told her that I believe it’s important to understand each other and to keep the lines of communication open and that I thought she was brave to come over by herself and face the 4 of us.  She thanked me and said that she does see where we’re coming from – she’s been in a slaughterhouse.

Willow answers questions as interested visitors browse through the CAFO book.

We gave out 100 samples of V-dog vegan dog food, endorsed heartily by Stanley and Daisy!

The message is clear!

All in all it was a very productive and encouraging weekend.  We worked hard!  No one got by our booth without knowing who we were and being offered our leaflet – we gave out 1500.  Whether working at the coat check, answering questions, handing out V-dog samples and leaflets, or engaging the crowd in the cow suit, our team worked non-stop inviting the public to consider extending the compassion they have for cats and dogs and other companion animals to those who are treated as commodities.  Thanks so much to Sandra, Farhad, Darren, Sophie, Jane, Amira, Willow, Andrea, Stanley, and Daisy  for giving up your weekend to speak out for animals!!

 

Meat the Truth

Written by Willow on February 21st, 2014

Meat the Truth is a documentary that  provides insight into one of the most overlooked contributions to global warming: the impact of factory farming on the environment. It attempts to fill the gap left by the 2006 Academy Award winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, which drew the attention of millions to the issue of global warming. As effective as Al Gore’s documentary was, it failed to mention the largest single contributor to the greenhouse gas effect.

On February 11, 2014, we showed Meat the Truth as part of our Eyes Wide Open film screening series to an audience of 79 at the central Vancouver Public Library.

Mary-Chris introduces the film to the audience at the Vancouver Public Library

Meat the Truth is presented by Marianne Thieme, who is the leader of the Party for the Animals in the Netherlands. She set out to expose one of the most significant causes of climate change, intensive factory farming. The beginning of the film starts with interviews of passersby to obtain a sense of what the general public thinks are the main cause of climate change.

Cars. Factories. Aviation. Energy use. Gas. Power stations. Coal. These were causes repeatedly cited as the key culprits in climate change.

Pollution from industry, transportation, and residential energy use obvious contributors to climate change. However, the statistic for how much greenhouse gases are attributed to factory farming, 18%, drew gasps from the audience. The entire transportation industry is responsible for only 13%. The statistics are from the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)’s 2006 report that made one of the first links between intensive farming and climate change. For more information, read Livestock in a Changing Landscape on the FAO site.

Marianne Thieme poses the question several times through-out the Meat the Truth film. Why are we not aware of this? Why did one of the most compelling documentaries about climate change leave out what UN scientists have identified as the largest single contributor to climate change?

“If everyone in the United States ate a vegetarian diet for seven days, they would save around  seven hundred megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. That would be just the same removing  all of the cars in the USA off the roads.” (See carbon savings tables)

Only Al Gore could answer this question. However, Marianne Thieme included an interview with Howard Lyman, a career factory farmer turned vegan. Mr. Lyman suggested that critiquing the animal farming industry is bound to be met with resistance. In the interview, he noted that his appearance on Oprah, in which he talked about what he believed to be serious consequences of factory farming, was followed by a lawsuit made by cattle farmers.

The film demonstrates the consequences that intensive animal farming has on our environment and illustrates some of the impact that it has on animal welfare. It probably could have taken its examination of the consequences further, by looking more deeply into health issues and the magnitude of its impact on animals, but the film helps fill an important gap in the public awareness about global warming.

Darren and Liz answer questions from the audience after the film

It also shed little light on the dairy industry, and as one audience member pointed out, Marianne Thieme focussed on eating a vegetarian diet. She illustrated the impact that going vegetarian even one day week could make, but could have pointed out that a vegan diet would have even an greater impact as the dairy sector is also a significant part of the intensive farming industry.

If you are interested in viewing the film, it is available online at the Meat the Truth website.

Written by Sandra, posted by Willow .

 

Volunteer Spotlight: John Federico

Written by Mary-Chris on February 4th, 2014
Neither rain nor sleet nor snow keeps John from coming out every Friday morning to speak up for animals!

John Federico only became actively involved in animal rights activism about a year ago but I honestly don’t know how we survived before he came on the scene! He has done such a great deal of work for us in 2013 and his dedication and passion are greatly appreciated.
John became vegan in 2009 after being vegetarian for most of his life. His reasons for being vegetarian were related to health and fitness and it wasn’t until later, after his children were born, that he became aware of the horrors of factory farming. Reading the book ‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer was the tipping point for him to become vegan.
Still, John wasn’t really aware of animal advocacy groups. One year he joined Sinead Sanders as she performed at the Walk For Farm Animals and that’s when he discovered like minded people. He didn’t see himself as a rebel type, however, and believed his silent personal protest was enough. Sinead then brought him out to one of Liberation BC’s morning chicken vigils at the Hallmark Poultry Slaughterhouse at Hastings and he Commercial. “I spent time in the alley, close up to those poor birds and saw that more was needed to be done for them,” said John.  Since that day, back in April, he has attended every vigil except one! And he stays for the full 2 hours every time! In fact, John makes the vigils possible because he packs up the signs at the end of each one and gets them back to me. When I was away for most of the summer and then again at Christmas, I was concerned about the vigils carrying on. John and several other dedicated activists kept them alive!

Daisy the Liberation BC dairy cow tells the crowd to "Go Vegan!'


John’s volunteer work has moved beyond just the chicken vigils. He wore our famous cow costume at Veg Fest this past summer and was approached by a rep for the BC Lions who liked the costume and John’s antics. She invited him to participate in the annual BC Day football game that featured a halftime soccer game between 20 mascots! John recruited the help of another amazing Liberation BC volunteer, Taylor Freeman who took photos. At halftime, John was introduced as ‘Daisy the Cow’ from Liberation BC. On the back of the costume, in huge block letters, were the words “GO VEGAN!!” As the goalie for his team, ‘Daisy’ hammed it up, blowing kisses and falling on his back when trying to kick the ball! Several people came up to him afterwards and told him that the soccer game was the best part of the day!
In September, John was instrumental in helping to hand out 400 leaflets to walkers at the SPCA’s Paws for a Cause, inviting them to join the Walk for Farm Animals. He has also helped us at many other leafletting events.

John and Sinead work the Paws for a Cause crowd in Stanley Park

John is a musician who hosts an Open Mic night every Saturday night at the Wired Monk Cafe on 4th Ave. He loves meeting all the wonderful, talented singers and musicians. He has his own CD called ‘Conscience Free’. He also feels blessed be able to play Kirtan music at Yoga West, Kundalini Yoga being another of John’s loves.
John Federico is an amazing person who gives so much of himself to others and here at Liberation BC, we don’t know what we’d do without him! As for John, he says he is “grateful to have an established organization where I can work and express my desire to help animals. If it’s handing out leaflets, holding a sign, or dressing as a cow, it is always time well spent. To be among like minded people working together for these precious beings on earth helps me believe there is a chance for an awakening. There is nothing more satisfying than doing something selflessly!”  With people like John on our side, the future is full of  hope!

 

An Evening with Dr. Martin Godwyn: How to Argue Effectively for Animal Rights

Written by Mary-Chris on December 14th, 2013

Back in October, Liberation BC was fortunate enough to have Dr. Martin Godwyn come to our Volunteer Night to share some of his wisdom on how to argue effectively on behalf of animals.  Dr. Godwyn – Martin, was a very popular speaker at the 2012 Animal Advocacy Camp at UBC.  At that time we threw all kinds of dilemmas at him, arguments we are all met with as we fight for animal rights, and he had a good come back for each of them!  So we were thrilled when he offered to come and speak to us.  A link to his notes can be found at the end of this blog.

Martin began his talk with an introduction to arguing in general and some guidelines to follow.  He emphasized that the term ‘argue’ as he would use it did not refer to ‘fighting’ with someone over an issue.  Instead, it means to present   premises and respond to those presented by another person.  He suggested the following guidelines:   Keep emotion out of the argument, remember what the actual issue is, listen carefully to the other person, be clear about your position and why you believe it.  These all seem so obvious but I know myself how easy it is to get sidetracked by emotion or a secondary issue and end up defending something that has nothing really to do with what I am trying to say.  Sometimes I become so busy trying to formulate my own thoughts that I don’t even take in what the other person is saying!

He went on to explain how arguments actually work:  Premises or claims are made that are intended to result in some kind of conclusion.  Two basic questions are required before even entering into the argument: Are the premises acceptable and plausible? Do the premises offer adequate support for the conclusion?  If the answer to either question is “no” according to Dr. Godwyn, it is a bad argument.  If we can recognize when an argument is not good, we can save a great deal of energy by addressing the problem with the argument rather than getting sidetracked and losing sight of our message.   There are three types of premises:  conceptual, empirical, and normative and, depending on the type of claim, you will approach the argument differently.  He offered several examples of how to do this – very helpful!

One of the most fascinating parts of the talk for me was about fallacies in arguments.  Fallacies are moves made in an argument that are not rationally sound but are very persuasive and may derail an argument!   An example of one type of fallacy is Ad Hominem.  Martin gave this example:  Someone says, “Well you would say that, you’re a vegan.”  If your argument is that animals feel pain, the fact that you are vegan has nothing to do with it.  Animals feel pain no matter what you eat.  But I know how easily I can be thrown off guard by a comment like that and lose my cool rather than just state that the point has nothing to do with the argument.   There are many more of these types of ‘traps’ and knowing they exist can help us plan our own arguments better and be prepared to spot the fallacies in others’.

Martin finished up the evening with some real examples of arguments he took from the internet.  We read through them and tried to spot the merits and flaws in each argument.   One thing was certain, they weren’t so easy to spot and we realized that it will take a fair bit of practice to get good at this skill.

Dr. Godwyn makes it look so easy!  I wasn’t kidding when I told him I wished I could keep him on speed dial for those times I find myself feeling lost in an argument and unable to come up with the perfect response!  I do however feel far more equipped now to prepare my own arguments in such a way that they will be as strong as possible and I will be more likely to spot the weaknesses in the arguments of my opponents.  With practice, I hope I will be able to speak more confidently on behalf of animals.  It is a real credit to Martin’s commitment to animals that he  was willing to come out and teach us after teaching all day -  we really appreciated it!  Thank you!  Please check out the link below to get much more detail about how to argue effectively for animals!

Martin’s Notes

 

2013 Walk for Farm Animals: A Celebration of Hope!

Written by Mary-Chris on October 25th, 2013

Speaking up for the animals!

For seven years Liberation BC has been proud to organize the Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary and all the amazing work they do to help change the way the world views farm animals. For over 25 years they have rescued animals from horrendous conditions, shared their stories as a way to educate the public, and fought to change the laws that allow humans to legally abuse and kill animals by the billions every year.

This year’s walk was the best yet. Nearly 150 compassionate people raised money and came out to show their support for animals. Together we raised over $16,000!  During registration, walkers enjoyed delicious snacks donated by Edible Flours and warmed up with yoga led by Cynthia, from Animal Voices. Elektra painted faces and created balloon animals for the kids.

Our famous cow!

Hayley is ready to go...

Ray helped to hand out leaflets to passersby.

Good question, Gabbey.

When it was time to go the fantastic Carnival Band and members of the VPD led us into the streets of downtown Vancouver where we took up two lanes of the road for our 2.8 mile walk. The festive music and enthusiasm of the leader of the Carnival Band announced our approach and the public were greeted by posters, smiles, waves, and thousands of leaflets handed out by the walkers. It was a parade-like atmosphere where walkers and onlookers alike danced and celebrated together and the message was clear – we are hopeful that things are changing and we will never give up the fight for animal rights!

Here we go!

The Carnival Band!

...on the march.

When the walk finished,  everyone celebrated together back at Library Square with entertainment by Sinead Sanders.  While the raffle prizes were awarded, hungry walkers lined up for fabulous Loving Hut lunch options.

Sinead

Sinead!

People line up for lunch at the Loving Hut Express.

The Walk was a huge success!  Many thanks to our fantastic volunteers: John, Sandra, Kendal, Brooks, Kimberly, Yuanyang, Sasha, Cathryn, Taylor, and EVERYONE who carried banners and handed out leaflets.  And a special thanks to Tanya and Hayley for taking photos! (You can see more photos here.)

Thank you to all of our amazing sponsors: 3G Restaurant, Bandidas Taqueria, Daiya, Dazey Dog Photography, Edible Flours, Eternal Abundance, Feed Life, Fit Foods, Graze Restaurant, Loving Hut Express, Nice Shoes, Organic Lives, Saje Natural Wellness, Tao Organics, Whole Foods, and Zimt Chocolate.

But most of all, thanks to ALL of the walkers!  Your compassion and energy are infectious and are changing the world right now.  See you all next year!

 

“Experiencing” animal suffering through virtual reality

Written by Becci on October 8th, 2013

Though it is obvious that virtual reality could never truly recreate the experiences of an animal subjected to such cruelty as exists on farms today, a study at Stanford University has perhaps come a little closer than before.

According an article in Scientific American, researchers carried out an experiment meant to give students an impression of what it might feel like to be a cow in a slaughterhouse:

They donned a virtual reality helmet and walked on hands and feet while in a virtual mirror they saw themselves as bovine. As the animal was jabbed with an electrical prod, a lab worker poked a volunteer’s side with a sticklike device. The ground shook to simulate the prod’s vibrations. The cow at the end was led toward a slaughterhouse. (link)

The experiment was not meant to turn people into vegetarians (though it would be nice if that was an unintended effect!) but to learn whether “virtual reality could alter behaviors that tax the environment and contribute to climate change.” Why in the world that required them to feel like a cow I honestly don’t know. (Learn more about animal agriculture and climate change.)

“Once I got used to it I began to feel like I was the cow,” one person wrote. “I truly felt like I was going to the slaughter house towards the end and I felt sad that I (as a cow) was going to die. That last prod felt really sad.”

On that note, the Vegan Feminist Network has written a very thought-provoking response to the idea of a virtual reality program and “feeling like” a cow:

Let’s parallel this. That’s like saying, in order to “feel” what it’s like to be an oppressed person of color, let’s all willingly sit in a prison (considering there are more people of color in prison than any other population because of racism) for an amount of time that you arbitrarily choose in hopes that you, a privileged person, will be able to relate, just so that you can care.

 

There’s still a very arrogant element involved here. In order for you to care about something, you have to literally be in its position to give a shit. That’s pretty terrible.

 

That’s why I think it’s important that we don’t conflate empathizing, and then becoming an oppressed being. Those are two completely different projects.

 

Also, in trying to become an oppressed being, as privileged people, we will inevitably mis-characterize the oppressed being’s position. (Why becoming a virtual cow won’t help you care about the cows)

Anyway, we can’t all take part in this particular experiment, but there are a couple of interesting little gadgets available online from Animal Visuals.  If possible you should turn your speakers on–perhaps even loudly.

First, a pig trapped in a gestation crate:

Learn more about pigs and gestation crates in Canada.

Animal Visuals also has a virtual battery cage. Again, speakers are recommended:

Learn more about battery-caged chickens in Canada.

Again, such programs as these cannot really come close to recreating the experience of life on a farm, but perhaps they can give us the barest glimpse of it.

 

Walk for Farm Animals: Michael the calf

Written by Becci on October 1st, 2013

Since Liberation BC’s 7th annual Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary is coming up on October 5th–this weekend!–we’re introducing you to just a few of the some of the approximately 900 animals who live at Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters.  Are you ready for the Walk?  There’s still time to register and start fundraising!

This is part of a series of farm animal stories on our blog.

michael

Michael, shortly after his rescue. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)

Michael was born on a small dairy farm.  We might like to imagine that small farms are somehow drastically different than large, industrial factory farms–and in some ways, they are–but not necessarily as much as we’d hope.  For example, even on the smallest, friendliest dairy farms, calves are a byproduct of an industry that requires constant pregnancy–and therefore, constant babies.  Most dairy calves have a miserable fate.  Females are sometimes kept to replace their mothers; despite the fact that cows can live 20 to 25 years, the turnover rate for the average dairy farm is shockingly high: in British Columbia, for example, cows are sent to slaughter at the age of 5. (Learn more.)  Male calves, meanwhile, are most often killed outright or sold at auction for veal.

Two weeks before, the farmer sent a group of calves to auction, yet she held one back. She liked something about this little calf and wasn’t ready to let him go. Eventually, however, she decided that she must. It is uncommon for a dairy farmer to keep a male calf, feeding and caring for him as he grows while gleaning no marketable product. When animals are seen as commodities, it becomes impractical to put their welfare first, and personal connection inevitably yields to the bottom line. (link)

The farmer eventually decided that Michael would have to go to auction like the others.  A trucker friend of hers, however, heard about the little calf’s predicament and began sending out messages, looking for somebody who might take him in.  Animal rescuer Mike Stura learned about him just in time, and he and his wife leapt into their truck and headed for the farm, still trying to get in touch with the farmer.

They were finally able to get the farmer’s contact details from the truck driver — and not a minute too soon. Stura pulled into the farmer’s driveway just as the auction truck arrived. He lifted the calf into his own truck and headed for our New York Shelter, arriving at night in the middle of a snowstorm. In honor of this valiant friend to animals, we named the new arrival Michael.

Michael frolicking at his new home at Farm Sanctuary's New York Shelter. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)

Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals.  Won’t you join us?

 

Walk for Farm Animals: Butterscotch the chicken

Written by Becci on September 25th, 2013

Since Liberation BC’s 7th annual Walk for Farm Animals to benefit Farm Sanctuary is coming up on October 5th–just a bit more than 2 weeks!–we’re introducing you to a few of the some of the approximately 900 animals who live at Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters.  Are you ready for the Walk?  It’s time to register and start fundraising!

This is part of a series of farm animal stories on our blog.

Butterscotch arrived at our New York Shelter with a swollen mass on her face, which had destroyed her left eye. She had one good eye left, however, and with it she saw something for the very first time: sunshine. (link)

butterscotch

Butterscotch (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)

Butterscotch was one of 200 hens who were rescued from a battery-cage egg farm in 2013.  The farm, unable to pay for mandatory legal upgrades, had opted to sell all their hens to a processing plant to make up for financial loss.  Hours before the hens were slated to go to slaughter, Farm Sanctuary was able to take 200 of them.

All of the birds had horribly overgrown toenails and were crawling with mites. Most had pale, limp combs, and all were very stressed. We saw some cases of prolapsed oviducts and of vents so stretched out from excessive egg laying that the resulting incontinence had given the hens urine-scald. Like Butterscotch, many other hens had eye infections; some were even missing eyes…Many of the hens had distended, fluid-filled abdomens from egg yolk peritonitis. We drained nearly 20 ounces from the belly of one hen…another hen, Peppermint, was afflicted with egg impaction too severe for treatment to make a difference, making euthanasia the only humane option. Peppermint probably suffered unnoticed for months as egg after egg became lodged in her reproductive system. (link)

Hens in the egg industry–whether conventional, free-range, or organic–are slaughtered at a fraction of their natural lifespan.  Bred to lay far more eggs than they are meant to, the birds wear out and are considered “spent” at only a year or a year-and-a-half old.  After being confined for the entirety of their short lives in cages so small that they cannot even spread one wing, egg-laying hens are sent to slaughter for pet food, soups, pot pies, and other low-grade meat that hides the bruises on their bodies.  The turnover for egg-laying hens is so high, however, that many are simply killed on the farm and discarded.    (Even free-range and organic hens are not exempt from most of the problems that plague their battery-caged sisters.)

battery cages

98% of Canada's egg-laying hens live in battery cages. (Photo: Farm Sanctuary)

Compared to so many, Butterscotch is lucky.  The mass on her eye was diagnosed as a tumour and removed, and Farm Sanctuary is waiting to find out whether it is cancer.  In the meantime, she rests and recovers at her new home.  Several of the rescued hens were found to have cancer, and though they cannot be cured, medication is being administered in order to slow the growth of the disease and to reduce pain.  The same will be done for Butterscotch if indeed she does have cancer.

For the first several nights, the hens slept piled on each other, not yet realizing that is was possible, or would feel good, to spread out. Slowly, however, they are discovering the joys of space. They stretch their wings with a few experimental flaps. In the coming days and weeks, they will learn to perch, roost in nesting boxes, scavenge for insects, and run. (link)

Liberation BC is proud to support Farm Sanctuary by participating in the annual Walk for Farm Animals.  Won’t you join us?