Winston Churchill famously said: "A dog looks up to you; a cat looks down on you; only a pig treats you as an equal."
But that, of course, is hardly how we treat them in return. Pigs are typically viewed as things to be born in cages and kept in cages until they're ready to be processed into pork chops and sausages.
Two scientists have now concluded that pigs are indeed extraordinarily complex animals, and that they share many of the characteristics we admire in, for example, dogs, chimpanzees, dolphins and humans.
Animal welfare groups are jumping for joy over Walmart's latest animal welfare announcement. But it's hard understand why.
The company is asking its suppliers "to engage in improved reporting standards and transparency measures regarding the treatment of farm animals" and to adopt animal welfare standards that include sufficient space and easy access to food and water.
Foster Farms, a factory farm outfit that's responsible for the worst salmonella outbreak on record, was the subject of a major investigative report by PBS's Frontline this week.
Frontline did a sterling job of showing how public health officials have been dealing with outbreaks at Foster Farms for ten years. But the one thing the show didn't mention was that this chicken factory carries the seal of approval of the American Humane Association, which calls the company "the most trusted brand of poultry in the Western United States."
Remember last November when Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would ban the use of gestation crates for mother pigs at factory farms in New Jersey?
The general public is overwhelmingly against the use of these crates, and the state legislature gave it overwhelming bipartisan support.
Christie, however, saw a big red light, since one of the states with the most factory farms for pigs is Iowa, and the Governor was planning a presidential campaign.
This week, we learned the specifics of Christie's veto. So, was he just trying to suck up to Iowans in general? Or was he sucking up to a big donor?
A few items from around the world of factory farming this week:
Bird Flu in the U.S.: As of Tuesday, May 5th, just under 26 million chickens and turkeys had been "affected" by the latest outbreak of bird flu – meaning that all or most of them have been "euthanized", as the factory farmers and government officials describe their demise.
(This is not the same as what happens to chickens who don't have bird flu and are, instead, "processed.")
As usual when it comes to the topic of drought, there’s a giant elephant in the room that almost no one wants to talk about. In California, the elephant is a cow and the unmentionable subject is animal agriculture.
While everyone's talking about cutting personal use of water by 25 percent and that almonds cost three gallons of water per nut, what we're not being told is that a single quarter-pound hamburger costs 660 gallons of water.
Or that a single gallon of milk costs 1,000 gallons of water.
According to the Pacific Institute's Assessment of California's Water Footprint, no less than 47 percent of California's water is used for meat and dairy products: Read more
Utah's Attorney General is concerned for poor people.
The new law in California that gives egg-laying chickens enough room to "lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around" is causing the price of an egg in Utah to go up about two cents.
This creates a burden that, according to the A.G., "disproportionately affects low-income families."
That's thoughtful of him, even though the burden is not exactly huge. After all, if you're a "disproportionately affected" person and you eat, say, four eggs a week, you could cover the extra $4.16 a year by cutting out one soda maybe every three or four months.
Still too much?
O.K., so since Utah clearly cares about its lower-income families, the rest of us who live in the state could perhaps chip in to help. This would work out roughly as follows:
A headline last week in a trade publication called The Poultry Site proudly proclaimed:
"Animal Welfare at Slaughter Improves in UK."
Welcome to the Orwellian world of animal "welfare", where it's a triumph, we're told, that more slaughterhouses are simply complying with existing regulations and when some of them are even switching over from electrocuting birds in tubs of water to gassing them prior to decapitating them. A triumph indeed.
If you haven't read the shocking, eye-opening report by the New York Times on the secret, government-operated US Meat Animal Research Center and its "one overarching mission: helping producers of beef, pork and lamb turn a higher profit," you owe it to yourself and to the animals to check it out.
The article is much more than just a litany of horrors; it's a meticulous description of living creatures being used in experiments to turn them into bigger, better, tastier, faster-growing units in the vast industrial machine of factory farming. For example:
October 13th, 2013: Deputies raid a Butterball plant in North Carolina after allegations of animal abuse. Shocking video taken by Mercy For Animals shows employees kicking and stomping the turkeys as well as injured birds with open wounds.
Sept 23rd, 2014: Butterball announces that it has received certification from the American Humane Association under the American Humane Certified program, thus verifying that "turkeys raised on Butterball's family-owned farms meet or exceed the rigorous, science-based American Humane Association standards for animal care."
As some 90 diners trekked around four restaurants in Denver this week, Angela Huffman of the Humane Society of the United States, which is sponsoring the four-night gourmet event, proudly explained that the HSUS supports the slaughtering of animals "in conditions that do not abuse them."
So we're being told that taking a baby lamb from her mother and killing her for a gourmet festival is not abuse. That's the premise of an event that's billed as a "farm-to-table guided culinary tour through four Denver neighborhoods."
How alarmed should you be about the corona virus that's killed seven million baby pigs in the last year?
So far it hasn't mutated into anything that can infect humans. But that doesn't mean it won't. Or that another one won't.
There's a terrible irony right there in the opening sequence of the first episode of the new Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously.
Nelly Montez describes what happened to her and thousands of other workers when Cargill, one of the world's largest factory farm operations, closed its slaughterhouse in the small town of Plainview, Texas. As she explains it:
Denmark has been much in the news over the killing of Marius the giraffe in a Danish zoo. But not much has been said about the other big animal-related story out of Denmark: the banning of kosher/halal slaughter.
Last week, shocked by the latest disturbing video from Mercy for Animals about life and death for pigs at factory farms, Andrew Sullivan wrote a post on his popular blog The Dish called "Inside America's Concentration Camps."
A chicken enjoying her life at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
When is a chicken not an animal? Answer: When she's in a factory farm.
If she were, indeed, an animal, she would be protected by the Humane Slaughter Act, but the Act doesn't cover "poultry". That makes it easier for them to be dropped while still alive into the scalding water that helps remove their feathers.
As we approach Thanksgiving and the Holidays, the ins and outs of how all this works is documented today in the Washington Post.
"I was floored," the doctor said when he looked at the sample under a microscope. "I was astounded."
They've spent their whole lives in tiny cages, unable even to spread their wings. But now thousands of them are flying high – to sanctuaries all across the country.
It began in July, when the Animal Place sanctuary asked an egg factory farm in California to consider giving them 3,000 hens who, at age two, were already too old to lay more eggs, rather than killing them.
The egg farm agreed, and the transfer began. Just over a month later, 1,150 of the new arrivals took off from California in a chartered plane from Hayward Executive Airport, and arrived in New York, safe and sound, on Thursday morning, September 5th.
"It has nothing to do with animals," said Utah state senator David Hinkins. The cattle-ranching, race-horse breeding legislator was defending Utah's "ag-gag" law, which makes it a crime for anyone to expose cruelty to animals at factory farms.
"It's people trespassing on farms. If people can sneak onto anybody's property, then we don't have any rights."
And what right is it, exactly, Senator, that you feel is threatened? The right, from what we've seen, to kick, beat and drag sentient creatures to death.
James Gandolfini’s family quoted his autopsy as saying that the 51-year-old actor had “died of a heart attack, of natural causes.”
But there’s nothing “natural” about dying of a heart attack when you’re 51 years old. Especially when you read what Gandolfini had for dinner the night he died.