Mercy for Animals

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Help fund the pro-veg transit ad campaign!

Monday, May 6th, 2013

We have some very exciting news!  In one week, Liberation BC will be partnering with Mercy For Animals Canada to mount an ad campaign on the Vancouver Skytrain which promotes vegetarianism and veganism!

The “Why love one but eat the other?” ad series took Toronto by storm in 2011. Millions of people saw these ads firsthand in the subways, they were shared in the media across the country, and the video about the campaign was watched over 66,000 times on YouTube.

Many people reported going vegetarian and vegan because of these ads.  That’s how important and effective they are!

Now these ads will run on the Vancouver Skytrain for the month of May as part of a cross-Canada transit ad campaign that will also include Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Here’s a look at the three ads that will be running in the Skytrain as poster-sized ads:

(Just click on them to see a larger version.)

Right now, Mercy For Animals Canada needs to raise just $5,000 more to run this comprehensive ad campaign in Vancouver. If you’d like to help bring the “Why love one but eat the other?” message into the hearts of Vancouverites, please donate now. (Choose: “Why Love One?’ Transit Ad Campaign 2013 from the drop-down menu below the donation amount.)

Oh, and if you’re on Facebook, you can join the event pages for this campaign in English or in French.

Please be sure to spread the word and keep your eye out for the ads starting on the Skytrain May 13th!

Animal Advocacy Camp 2013: What a weekend!

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

We held our third Animal Advocacy Camp on February 23rd and 24th and we continue to be thrilled by all the incredibly amazing, motivated, innovative, creative bunch of folks in the animal rights community.

Day one started out with a presentation from Liz Marshall, documentary filmmaker and director of the long-awaited film, Ghosts in Our Machine as well as a number of other social justice-related projects, such as Water on the Table.  Liz began the talk by explaining that she’d always been an animal lover and that she’d sometimes eaten a vegetarian diet in the past, but it was while creating Ghosts in Our Machine that she finally set out on her own “ghost-free journey” and became vegan.

Liz Marshall presentation

Audiences like a narrative, and so she wanted to find a story that would captivate people and convince them to begin their own journey towards compassion.  She chose to focus on Jo-Anne McArthur, the main human subject of the film and an immensely talented photographer, who was travelling the world in an attempt to get her work shown by the mainstream media.  Jo-Anne’s photos of zoos, aquariums, factory farms, labs, circuses, and more are a heartbreaking expose of the realities of animal exploitation–something that much of the mainstream media is still leery about. (They’re also a great resource for animal advocates, so I urge you to check out her site!)

Ghosts in Our Machine is scheduled to be in theatres this spring, and will also be airing on CBC’s documentary channel. In the meantime, you can view the trailer here.

After Liz’s presentation, participants began with the “unconference” aspect of the camp, proposing discussion topics for the day.

Here’s what they came up with:

10:30-11:15

  1. Intersections of Oppression: Connecting all struggles and working towards total liberation
  2. How to Get the Word into Schools
  3. Slideshow of the Sexual Politics of Meat

agenda wall

11:30-12:15

  1. The Locavore movement and how to respond to the myth of “Happy Meat”
  2. How to go about starting a letter-writing campaign to reach legislators
  3. Human Psychology and Helping People Transition
  4. Presentation and Discussion: Get Active Now w/ Vancouver Animal Defense League

1:00-1:45

  1. Vegan Co-housing/Co-op Animal Sanctuary Development
  2. Argument Clinic
  3. How to respond to assertions that veganism is like religious fundamentalism
  4. Opening a vegan orphanage in poverty-stricken country

2:00-2:45

  1. Creative Campaigning: Discussing Diverse and Effective Tactics
  2. Solo Activism
  3. Vegan Co-housing/Co-op Animal Sanctuary Development pt. 2

(You can download the notes from all of these breakout sessions here.)

Godwyn talk

A breakout group attends Martin's "Argument Clinic"

At the end of the day, we listened to an incredibly moving speech from Twyla Francois, Director of Investigations with Mercy for Animals Canada, on the topic of the incredible value of undercover investigations.  (MFA recently completed its first undercover investigation into the Canadian pork industry, garnering a great deal of necessary media attention.) Investigations such as these have resulted in cruelty convictions as well as the passage of laws and policy changes–and most importantly of all, they are part of the reason that meat consumption is on the decline.  Twyla’s presentation brought tears to the eyes of many people in the audience, reenergizing us all in our fight to protect some of the most vulnerable beings on the planet.  (You can read her blog entry about Animal Advocacy Camp here!)

The next morning, we showed up bright and early to watch a fascinating presentation from Dr. Olivier Berreville of International Network of Humane Education.  Now, I knew that there are many alternatives when it comes to advancing science without the use of animal subjects, but I was still completely and utterly floored by how far we’ve come and how vastly superior those alternatives are.  We’ll be posting a video soon, but for now I’m just going to tell you that the clips he showed us of students practicing with mannequins and models were so unbelievably realistic (and as a result, disgusting) that the audience was cringing and squirming in their seats.

Then we set off for another day of discussion topics proposed by attendees:

attendees looking at agenda wall

11:30-12:15

  1. Solidarity and/or Building Bridges: keeping social justice in our movement, finding allies, caring for ourselves and one another, etc
  2. Continued discussion with Dr. Olivier Berreville, first speaker of the day
  3. Yoga and Veganism
  4. I Fell in Love with a Meat-eater

1:00-1:45

  1. Argument Clinic II: Back by Popular Demand!
  2. Media Relations: How to get your stories in the news
  3. Specific Strategies for Human-Wildlife Conflicts

2:00-2:45

  1. Efficient Activism Using Science
  2. How to Give Effective Media Interviews
  3. Self-care: Sustainable Animal Activism
  4. DIY Creative Activism
Solo activism group

A group gathers to discuss methods of solo activism, hosted by Jason.

Again, you can download notes from all of the discussion sessions here.

Additional photos are available here, and soon we’ll be posting more, as well as videos of our three speakers.

A huge thank you to all the wonderful people who attended Animal Advocacy Camp and who are responsible for making it such a success.  We can’t wait to see you next year!

Abuse at Conklin Dairy Farms, not an anomaly

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

I think by now everyone has seen or at least heard about the 4 minute undercover investigation video released by Mercy for Animals earlier this week. Workers at Conklin Dairy Farms in Ohio engaged in sadistic abuse of the animals they are paid to care for. Calves having their heads stomped on, diary cows tied and then beaten in the head with crowbars, cows having their udders stabbed with pitch forks…

What industry allows employees to get away with this? Imagine an employee at a grocery store stomping on perfectly good tomatoes. They would be fired on the spot. But what if the tomatoes were too rotten to be sold? I suppose then, the employee might get away with it. Perhaps the manager would even join in on one particularly frustrating or boring day at work. I think this is precisely what happened at 4th generation, family-operated, Conklin Dairy Farms.

In the undercover video footage, you see Conklin employee Billy Gregg bragging to his new co-worker (the undercover investigator) about abusing a cow that was being sent to slaughter because her inflamed udders would not allow her to produce any more milk:

“we beat the fuck out of this cow, we stabbed her, I broke her tail in three place, kept stabbing her ass. Beat her. Next day Gary says, “we’re gonna send her to beef” Cuz she had mastitis and all. Couldn’t get her in the parlor. I drugged that cow. I beat that fucker until her face was like this big around”.

In an industry that treats sentient animals like production units and commodities, a dairy cow with mastitis is as good as a rotten tomato at a grocery store. And since there are about as many laws protecting a rotten tomato as a unproductive dairy cow, you can do whatever you like with them.

In the days following the release of the footage, the agriculture community in Ohio denounced the activities that had taken place at the farm and blamed it on one bad apple, Billy Gregg. He was charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty and has been jailed. Under current Ohio animal cruelty law, Billy will not be charged with any felonies, just misdemeanors. Before you start trashing the hillbilly Americans and their backwards law system, please note that Canadian animal cruelty laws are about the same – if not worse.

The owner Gary Conklin said in a statement, “The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable”. Ironically, Gary Conklin was one of the guys shown kicking a downed cow in the video (at 1:26).

Everyone in the small Ohio farming community is putting on a fabulous display of outrage by vocally denouncing Billy Gregg’s actions and painting him as a psychologically disturbed criminal who acted alone. But no one else shown on the video has been charged with animal cruelty and the dairy farm has not been shut down.

It is clear that the community’s attempt at denouncing animal cruelty is disingenuous. If there really is a culture that rallied around good husbandry and condemned deliberate acts of abuse against the farm animals, why did Billy Gregg feel so comfortable bragging to a newly hired employee (the undercover investigator) about all the egregious acts of cruelty? If it wasn’t a socially accepted practice, why did he do it in front of his coworkers and why did the owner take part in the abuse? It is apparent that the precedent set by the culture around Billy Gregg is that abusing animals is tolerated, accepted and even celebrated.

Billy Gregg in court (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

What happened at Conklin Dairy Farms is not an isolated incident by any means. Every time an animal rights group hires an investigator to go to a randomly selected farm they come back with more than they set out to get. Even without any of the abuse shown in the 4 minute footage, Mercy for Animals would have obtained footage that documented the systematic abuse of dairy cows who are kept constantly pregnant, suffering from chronic mastitis and the killing or disposal of new born calves.

The animal agriculture industry is mostly self-regulated and it is obvious that this system is not working out. This November, people in Ohio will have the opportunity to vote for a ban on some of the worst practices in animal agriculture. It is true that the proposed law will not stop the abuses documented at Conklin Dairy Farms, but it will ensure that the animals on farms will have the bare minimum, such as the ability to turn around, stretch their limbs and spread their wings. It is not much too ask for, but even so, there is strong opposition from the farming community against the initiative to give farm animals just enough room to stretch their limbs. In fact, they are spending millions of dollars to make sure that this initiative does not pass. It really makes me wonder why anyone in animal agriculture would think Billy Gregg is a psychopath.