Ag-Gag Updates

As you may know, “ag-gag” laws seek to “gag” would-be whistleblowers and undercover activists by allowing them to be prosecuted for recording and disseminating footage of modern animal agriculture’s brutality. Ag-gag laws were first introduced in the early 1990s, when Kansas passed legislation that made it illegal to take undercover footage at a private farm. Montana and North Dakota passed similar laws the following year, followed by Iowa, Missouri, Utah, North Carolina, Wyoming, and Idaho.

Farm Sanctuary joined a coalition of other organizations in a First Amendment lawsuit against the Idaho ag-gag law. In August of 2015, U.S. District Judge B. Winmill found Idaho’s “Agricultural Security Act” to be unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. The state appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and arguments were heard last month; Farm Sanctuary remains a part of this coalition determined to fight Idaho’s ag-gag law as long as necessary. A ruling is expected later this summer.

Another ag-gag / anti-whistleblower law took effect in North Carolina on January 1, 2016. Twelve days later, Farm Sanctuary, along with another coalition of organizations, filed suit against this law as well. Earlier this year, a judge ruled against Farm Sanctuary and the coalition. Our coalition released the following statement and appealed the ruling to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court.

“The Constitution is clear: North Carolina courts must protect citizens’ right to know about abuse in nursing homes, at schools, and in government offices and to know about the welfare of animals. We firmly believe the Fourth Circuit will agree. The district court’s decision was exclusively on procedural grounds, holding that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue. Courts including the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho have decided that laws like North Carolina’s present a threat to all citizens. The district court’s decision should not be perceived as a judgment on our argument that North Carolina’s Anti-Sunshine law is designed to intimidate whistleblowers, in violation of the First Amendment. The state convinced the district court to close its doors and refuse to even consider the constitutionality of the Anti-Sunshine Law. We are confident that the Fourth Circuit will reverse the district court’s decision.”

We will, of course, continue to stand for farm animals, and for the public’s right to know what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses. We appreciate you being a part of this vital work!

Matt
Director of Engagement and Outreach

Victory in MN! CCC Across the Country

We wanted to give you a quick update on the important work we’re able to do together for farm animals.

Clementine

As you’ve seen in your inbox, we continue to alert you to national farm animal protection issues, such as this petition to stop the terrible slaughter program known as HIMP.

What you may not know is that we also send state-level alerts whenever there are new opportunities to help farm animals or harmful legislation to take action against. From the attempt to undermine the recent ballot-initiative victory in Massachusetts to pushing for anti-confinement legislation in Rhode Island, the Compassionate Communities Campaign is monitoring every state for issues affecting you and farm animals.

Just one example:

On May 2, I wrote to Compassionate Communities members in Minnesota, asking for their help in stopping a proposal that would have given factory farms special rights.

On June 1, we learned that, due in part to the pressure we brought to bear, this harmful provision was stripped out of the final bill!

Thanks so very much to all of you! We will continue to keep you updated on further opportunities to help farm animals.

Matt Ball
Director of Engagement and Outreach

Gene on Ending the Cycle of Violence

We continue to revisit Gene Baur’s writings from the past decades. This article, from early 2011, remains as relevant and insightful today as it was then.

In addition to the meat, dairy, and egg recalls and exposés of factory farming cruelty that made national news in 2010, a number of other headlines appeared in agribusiness trade publications that weren’t so widely circulated in the public eye.

On the last day of 2010, Meatingplace.com (an online meat industry site) published their top 10 most-read news stories of the year. The list included articles with the following titles:

• Bomb found in employee locker at Hormel plant
• Man dies after fall at Cargill beef plant
• Morrell to close Sioux City plant; 1,450 lose jobs
• Pope paints a bleak picture for future of meat industry
• Smithfield stock leaps on takeover rumor
• Texas meat company apparently closes doors
• Tyson production shifts to eliminate hundreds of jobs
• USDA halts operations at Tyson plant
• Worker killed at Wis. beef plant
• Worker loses legs in meat grinder accident

These examples indicate just how dangerous and violent work in the meat industry can be, with two worker deaths, one worker who lost his legs in a meat grinder, and one who had a bomb in his locker. But as tragic and dramatic as these events are, the chronic misery and widespread suffering wrought by animal agriculture goes much further. Billions of animals suffer intolerable abuse and untimely deaths every year, while millions of Americans experience debilitating and preventable health problems (and premature deaths) related to the excessive consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs.


We are what we eat, and our food choices have profound consequences for animals, ourselves, and the environment. As George Bernard Shaw once said, “While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth?” And as Pythagorus observed thousands of years ago, “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” Such wisdom speaks to the fact that violence only leads to more violence. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fortunately, we all have the chance to live better simply by choosing to eat plants instead of animals.

For Sparrow’s Sake, Give People What They Want

One of the most common questions I’ve gotten over the past 30 years is how to convince a loved one – often, a spouse – to go vegan. It is a difficult question, and I’ve struggled to find a satisfactory answer.

Today, though, it is much easier to answer this question. The key is to change the issue from “How do I get my partner to believe what I do?” to “How can my partner’s diet cause less harm?”

One mistake I made early on was to think that exactly what I ate was the only thing worth promoting. Spicy Thai dishes, vegetable-stuffed peppers, quinoa and mung beans – making extended family eat meals like these led to upset stomachs, resentment, and an even worse opinion of vegans and veganism than they had already.

Contrast this with friends who didn’t care about pushing personal philosophy, but simply focused on having their family members eat fewer animals. For example, we have friends who make their family’s Taco Tuesday meals with Gimme Lean Ground Beef. No one has ever noticed the change – except, of course, the cows who haven’t been killed.

Currently, many people have a negative view of vegans and veganism. Sadly, this is partially because some of us are like I was – pushing vegan food that others might find “weird” and “unsatisfying,” convincing many people that veganism is a horrible deprivation.

Humans have been programmed by evolution to want fatty and high-protein foods. Instead of pontificating about the dangers of fat and the protein content of broccoli, we should recognize that basically no one eats meat because they want animals to suffer. They simply want familiar, tasty, satisfying foods.

We are extremely fortunate to live in a time when we have the ability to put aside our personal preferences and simply give people what they want! I have seen this work, over and over and over.

For example, I was once working with MBA students at the University of Arizona on marketing research into attitudes about vegetarianism / veganism. After preliminary research, they created categories for individuals; one category was “hard core meat eater, will never consider changing.” On the last day of the research project, the owner of the local veg restaurant brought in “chicken fingers.” One of the students who had listed himself as “hard core / never change” exclaimed, with genuine surprise, “Hey, I could eat this!”

100% Plant-Powered!

Ellen, our lifelong-vegan offspring, would take Boca chicken nuggets to events in high school. These nuggets – never labeled “vegetarian” – were always scarfed down immediately. Once, a Science Olympiad teammate saw Ellen eating a nugget and exclaimed in shock, “Ellen! You’re eating meat!!” They couldn’t believe the nuggets were entirely plant-based.

So if you live with a meat eater, don’t try to convince them to “go vegan.” Just feed them what they want! If they don’t like Gardein’s Ultimate Beefless Burger, try the Beyond Burger. If they don’t like Beyond’s chicken strips, grab Tofurky’s! Tofurky’s sausage not a hit? Try Field Roast’s next. And I’ve never met anyone who didn’t like Gimme Lean’s sausage or Tofurky’s deli slices. There are so many “roasts” out there that you’re sure to find one everyone loves! My homemade seitan and gravy has satisfied the holiday demands of hard-core meat eaters, leaving everyone happy – especially the animals!


In the end, it is easier to agree on food first, and worry about details like philosophy and purity later. Individuals like Sparrow and Frank and Emily only care about the bottom line – that people aren’t eating animals, regardless of their reasons.

-Matt Ball
Director of Engagement and Outreach

Michelle Cehn, Hero of Compassion

We are thrilled to have Michelle Cehn as our latest Hero of Compassion.

Michelle is a filmmaker on a mission to make vegan living easy, accessible, and fun through online media and visual storytelling. She is the founder of World of Vegan, co-author of The Friendly Vegan Cookbook, co-creator of The Dairy Detox, and a YouTube personality who has reached millions through her creative, relatable, and engaging vegan videos.

What does the term “living compassionately” mean to you?

In my eyes, living compassionately means being conscious of how my actions affect others, and using this awareness to make kind choices that are aligned with my values.

What inspired you to start down this path?

I have always had a strong sense of compassion for animals, which led me to where I’m at today.

When I was just 8 years old, I stopped eating meat because I realized animals had to die to produce it. Soon after, I learned about factory farming and became an activist. I founded animal rights groups at my high school and college, gave speeches about our treatment of animals, distributed literature, raised money for nonprofits, and more. And when I serendipitously stumbled upon the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer while I was in college, I learned about the horrors of the dairy and egg industries and became vegan. That was 10 years ago.

What was the transition like for you, and what did you learn that might be useful to people currently trying to make changes?

I’ve always been committed to upholding my ethics, so when I learned that, even as a vegetarian, my food choices were harming animals, I committed to going vegan.

I assumed this would mean massive sacrifice, limited (and bland) food choices, and even more eye rolls from my family and friends. But after a brief adjustment period, I discovered that vegan food was both abundant and delicious. My palate began to expand, and I found myself enjoying a more varied (and healthy) diet than ever before. And as a longtime vegetarian, I was used to the eye rolls and snide comments at the dinner table, so those bounced right off me.

The biggest obstacle to going vegan for me was my own mind. I assumed it would be hard. I assumed it would be unhealthy. I assumed it would be a sacrifice. As it turned out, none of that was true! All of these thoughts were holding me back from living in alignment with my values.

My advice to others interested in going vegan is to just do it! Let go of any expectations of perfection, because we live in an imperfect world. Approach it with a sense of exploration. Try new foods, visit new grocery stores, read books and blogs, invest in vegan cookbooks, watch videos and documentaries, connect with other vegans online, attend events and VegFests, and visit farm animal sanctuaries like Farm Sanctuary. Attitude is everything, so approach it with enthusiasm and enjoy the journey!

What has been most challenging and/or surprising about living a compassionate life?

The most challenging part of living a compassionate life is being aware of the needless cruelty going on in our world. As I opened my eyes and my heart to the atrocities carried out by our species, little pieces of my heart began to break. Luckily, each one of us has the power to make an impact, prevent suffering, and better our world.

What advice / tips would you give to people who find it hard to cope with living in a world where the vast majority of people eat meat and so many farm animals are suffering and dying every day?

It’s not easy, but do your best to focus on the positive. Focus on what you can do (leaflet at your local college, bring vegan cupcakes to work, donate to Farm Sanctuary) rather than what you can’t do. Think about the incredible waves of change we’re seeing in our society, and remember that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. And when you’re feeling particularly down, plan a trip to Farm Sanctuary, where you can heal your heart by spending time with the individuals who you helped save.

What advice would you give to an aspiring activist?

When I first became an activist, I followed traditional paths of animal advocacy such as attending protests and demonstrations. But this wasn’t making the best use of my personal skills and talents. Today, my advocacy looks much different and more in line with my passions — filmmaking, photography, and social media.

Take what you already love to do and think about how you can apply those interests and professions to your advocacy. Whether you’re an artist, teacher, lawyer, scientist, or anything else, I’m sure your specific skill set is needed in the animal advocacy world. Plus, you’ll be much less likely to suffer from “activist burnout” if you’re choosing forms of activism that you love.

And finally, don’t underestimate your power and influence. With small everyday actions, we each have the power to save thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of lives.

How did you learn about Farm Sanctuary, and why (and/or how) did you get involved?

Soon after becoming vegan in college, my friend and activism mentor Jen Kaden told me about Farm Sanctuary and encouraged me to attend the 2008 Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down event. It was the first vegan event I ever attended and I had the most amazing time. It was also my first time coming face-to-face with a cow — now my favorite of all animals! Since that weekend, I’ve been a die-hard fan of Farm Sanctuary.

Do you have a favorite resident at one of the sanctuaries?

There will always be a special place in my heart for Emma, a baby cow who was hit by a car and left to die. Farm Sanctuary came to her rescue and brought her to a veterinary clinic, where she had to have her broken and infected leg amputated. She was at the vet for five long months before she was able to come home to Farm Sanctuary.

Farm Sanctuary invited me to come film Emma’s journey home, and watching her take her first steps out of the van and victoriously hop toward the cows and human friends waiting for her, remains one of my fondest memories. You can see that video here.

How do you think things will change over the next 50 years or so?

I am incredibly optimistic about the future, and here’s why. I believe a much kinder world is coming, and how soon we get there is all up to us.

What is your favorite “main dish” recipe or meal? Dessert?

My go-to recipe for a filling, delicious vegan meal is this homemade Pad Thai. I’ve always loved ordering Pad Thai at restaurants, but I assumed it would be too complex to make at home. This recipe makes it easy! And for dessert, I love making these simple no-bake cookies.

Is there anything else you would like the Farm Sanctuary family to know? / Do you have a favorite website you would like to share?

If you’re not yet vegan, I hope you’ll watch this video. And if you are vegan I hope you’ll share it!

 

Every Day is Animal Advocacy Day for Matt Ball

For Animal Advocacy Day, Animals of Farm Sanctuary ran this profile of Matt Ball, our Director of Engagement and Outreach. You’ll want to read the full piece, for more like this:

Matt feels privileged that he can devote as much time as possible to the issues he holds dear. “[Farm Sanctuary CEO Harry P. “Hank” Lynch] made the comment, ‘Matt, most people don’t have the opportunity we have, to be able to work for animals.’ This is really insightful: we are really incredibly fortunate to have this opportunity, and I want to make the most of it.”

“There is something truly wonderful about getting to know individuals like ValentinoEmily, and Lucie. It makes our choices and our opportunity to advocate for these animals less abstract, more concrete. For me, at least, spending time with these individuals leaves me energized and even more motivated to change the world, to build a society where individuals like Frank and Ellen are no longer our job, but simply our friends.”

Staying Healthy

Our friends at V-lish have an important section, Ask the Dietician, where Ginny Messina, the world’s leading V-licious Registered Dietician, answers readers’ questions. Her recent post is about meeting nutritional needs while following a compassionate diet:

If you’re leaning toward a more plant-based diet, you might feel a little uncertain about meeting your nutrient needs. Don’t worry – you can get everything you need from a V-licious diet. But if it’s new territory for you, these seven guidelines can help.

1. Eat at least three servings per day of legumes. This is a big food group that includes not just beans, but also peanuts and peanut butter, tofu, soymilk, and all types of veggie meats (including burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and chick’n nuggets). These foods will ensure that you get plenty of protein without any extra effort.

2. Eat at least eight servings per day of fruits and vegetables. Include dark green leafy vegetables and bright orange vegetables for vitamin A and plenty of vitamin C-rich choices such as oranges, strawberries, broccoli, peppers, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. When you’re in a hurry, use frozen or canned vegetables — they’re just as good for you.

3. Emphasize whole grains over refined ones, and if you like them, include some whole-grain bread and sprouted grains in meals. They are especially good sources of the minerals iron and zinc.

4. Include healthy fats in your diet. Nuts and seeds can help you meet needs for zinc while also lowering your risk for heart disease. Make sure you’re getting enough of the essential omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) by eating a small serving of ground flaxseeds, walnuts, or canola oil every day.

5. Meet calcium needs by choosing calcium-rich veggies (kale, collards, turnip greens, bok choy), calcium-set tofu, soy nuts, tempeh, fortified plant milks or yogurt, fortified juice, dried figs, almonds, or tahini.

6. Take appropriate supplements. As you move toward a mostly or completely V-licious diet, you’ll need 25 to 100 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day (choose the cyanocobalamin form of this vitamin). If you don’t get plenty of sun exposure (without sunscreen), take a vitamin D supplement. And if you don’t use a few shakes of iodized salt on your food every day, a supplement of iodine can be a good idea.

7. Keep the focus on whole plant foods, but leave room for convenience and treats. Some gently processed foods can help you meet nutrient needs and make your healthy, compassionate diet easier to stick with for the long term.

For more on meeting nutrient needs with ease, see my Plant Plate food guide.

Faith in Change

-Gene Baur

Throughout recorded history, religious institutions have grappled with major ethical matters while addressing fundamental questions about our place in the universe. Religious and spiritual leaders are seen as moral authorities and have been an influential force, sometimes defending the status quo and sometimes ushering in new understandings and change.

Members of the religious community are often at the center of highly charged debates when existing world views are challenged. Different religious leaders, each citing the divine, have taken opposing positions on contentious topics. Incendiary rhetoric can ensue, as was the case when slavery was debated in the U.S. Congress in the mid-1800s. In his book, Arguing About Slavery, William Lee Miller outlines how anti-slavery activists were demonized: “Who were these foul murderers, bloodhounds, incendiaries, agitators, instigators of midnight murder? These disturbers of our peace and enemies of our lives and liberties? These cold-hearted, base, malignant libelers and calumniators? These knowing accessories to murder, robbery, rape, and infanticide? In short, who were these fiends of hell? Churchwomen, mostly. Churchwomen and preachers, and Quakers, and a few teachers and lawyers and journalists – a powerless and marginal handful of practitioners of a new sort of reform.” (p. 65) These churchwomen and their cohorts took the side of the exploited against the powerful, and ultimately succeeded in changing people’s hearts and minds.

The positions and teachings of religious and faith-based organizations evolve over time and they reflect changes in our society which occur when injustice and cruelty are called out and challenged. For years, the factory farming industry has perpetrated various misdeeds, hidden from public view. It treats animals like inanimate commodities to be exploited, and most citizens have unwittingly supported this systemic abuse by purchasing meat, milk, and eggs. But with increasing awareness about factory farming, we are now in the midst of a burgeoning food movement. People oppose animal cruelty and they are seeking to make choices that are better aligned with their values.

As citizens wrestle with moral questions surrounding our food choices, the religious community will be engaged. If you are involved with a faith-based group, please consider raising these concerns for deeper discussion. Our relationship with other animals is an important moral issue, and it is time for the abomination of factory farming to become a thing of the past.

The Essence of Earth Day: Equitable Ethics vs. Easy Environmentalism

It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves.

It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own views, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among the beliefs and values we hold.
—Peter Singer, Practical Ethics

Many people express concern for the environment, and believe Earth Day is a good opportunity to draw attention to various issues. Sadly, yet not surprisingly, Earth Day has become largely a meaningless event, with just about everyone from the strictest vegan to the largest multinational corporation claiming to support “the Earth.”

But of course, the planet itself – the mass that circles the Sun – is in no danger. There is no way we can destroy a hunk of rock that weighs 13,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 pounds. (That’s 13 septillion pounds.)

Let me emphasize this point again, as it has generated about as much angry feedback as anything I’ve ever written: “How can you say the Earth is in no danger?? What about fisheries’ collapse/ atmospheric pollution/ rainforest destruction/ topsoil erosion???”

But none of these are “the Earth.”

The oceans could empty and the atmosphere blow away, and the planet would still exist.

Only the razor-thin biosphere matters, because it is where we and our fellow feeling beings reside.

This indicates what really matters. The bottom line is the lives of sentient beings.

This is not something most people want to face, though. To avoid considering all our fellow creatures – and the implications that would have for our personal lives – many simply proceed as if any and every environmental problem were equally pressing, and anything “green” equally commendable.

When you look at what has become of “environmentalism” in the U.S., the emphasis tends to be either on the feel-good-about-ourselves (“I recycled!” “I bought a hybrid!”), or on condemning the “other” (“British Petroleum is evil!” “The government must do something about global warming!”). The avoidance of an honest, meaningful analysis of the fundamental bottom line isn’t surprising. It is much simpler to parrot slogans, follow painless norms such as recycling, vilify faceless corporations, and demand that the government take action.

All of this makes it easy to continue the status quo and still feel smugly green and good.

Personal “environmentalism” is often nothing more than an expression of self-interest, just another laundry list of “we want.” We want to feel good about ourselves for doing relatively painless things. We want charismatic megafauna to entertain us. We want wild spaces for our use. We want clean air and water for our children.

But ethics aren’t a question of what “we want.” We can be truly thoughtful individuals and go beyond personal preferences, feel-good campaigns, and the vilification of faceless others. We can each recognize that sayings and slogans are superficial, intentions and ideology irrelevant.

What matters isn’t this rock we call Earth. What matters are the sentient beings who call this rock home. We can’t care about “the environment” as though it is somehow an ethically relevant entity in and of itself. Rather, what matters are the impacts our choices have for our fellow feeling beings.

In the end, all that matters are the consequences our actions have for all animals.

All creatures – not just wild or endangered animals – desire to live free from suffering and exploitation.

Cruelty is wrong, whether the victim is an eagle or a chicken, a wolf or a pig. The rest is just noise and obfuscation.

We simply can’t consider ourselves ethical if we make choices that lead to more suffering for these creatures. And the greatest amount of suffering on Earth is caused when we choose to eat animals instead of a cruelty-free alternative.

A compassionate diet is a statement against “we want.” It is the embodiment of a consistent, universal ethic. Choosing to live with compassion is a real choice with real consequences – a way to oppose and actively reduce violence, to make the world a truly better place for all. When we choose to live consistently and ethically, we can look in the mirror, knowing we are good people making choices that won’t lead to more suffering for our fellow feeling beings.

But we know that our food choices are only the beginning. There are many further opportunities to make the world a better place. Even if our food choices aren’t directly causing animals to be slaughtered, our other choices – optimizing our example, time, and resources to have the greatest impact – have consequences even more important than what we eat.

This is why we are so honored to work with all of you, who recognize that every day is a day to make a real difference.

-Matt Ball
Director of Engagement and Outreach