United Poultry Concerns
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7 December 2012
Backyard Animal Farming is NOT a “Humane”
Alternative to Industrial Animal Farming

Florida Investigation Documents Horses, Cows,
Pigs, Goats, Sheep, and Birds Being Tortured

Lest anyone think backyard animal farming is a “humane” alternative to factory farming, please watch this undercover video by Richard “Kudo” Couto’s Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) of two farms in Hillsborough County, Florida. The investigation prompted the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) to file a lawsuit on December 4, 2012 in Florida’s 13th District Court against Hillsborough County’s Cuesta Farm and Planchart Farm for criminal violations of Florida’s nuisance laws which allow private citizens to bring forth nuisance suits.

As summarized by ALDF’s press release on December 4:

ALDF’s extensive video investigation exposes the shocking abuses committed on these so-called “backyard slaughter” farms. Animals are tortured, whipped, and starved. Children are present at both the slaughter and butchering of animals. In one example, defendants gutted a pig and dragged him with a meat hook while he was still alive and struggling. In another case, a defendant and an unidentified young girl butchered a live goat. They stabbed him, made holes in each of his hind legs with a knife so he could be hung from meat hooks, sliced the nerves in his neck, and beat him with a meat cleaver. Florida’s humane slaughter and cruelty codes clearly prohibit such acts of abuse.

The cruelty documented by ARM’s investigator for ALDF’s lawsuit is not unique. A whole new animal abuse enterprise is developing in the United States and elsewhere in the name of “food sovereignty,” “sustainability,” “food security,” and the like. The Internet has created a theater beyond the barnyard for displaying one’s cruelty to chickens and other victims of animal farming and “food choice.” See, for example, “The Butcher Next Door” by James McWilliams.

As of now, the outlook for animals on a planet overrun by humans is completely bleak. It is bad enough that backyard animal farming is benefitting from the “green/local” movement to satisfy a desire to dominate and humiliate birds and other creatures and torture them to death; but facilitation by wealthy animal “protection” organizations adds to the grim forecast. These groups are exporting animal farming assistance using the same language that all animal exploiters and government agencies use to promote and disguise their activities. Instead of promoting sustainable plant-based agriculture in poor countries, Humane Society International states, for example:

To ensure long-term food security, particularly for vulnerable groups in the developing world, development finance and policies must favor small farmers who give proper care to their animals, act in accordance with the basic ethic of compassion towards animals under their control, and practice and promote more humane and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

Erika Abrams, cofounder of Animal Aid in India, quotes this statement in an ANIMAL PEOPLE op-ed in July/August 2012 in which she debunks the delusion of a “humane” village dairy industry in India and the “misguided belief” that backyard poultry farming in India will slow the growth of factory egg farming, “which has already captured more than 90% of the fast-growing Indian market for eggs.” Instead of promoting backyard animal farms, which “only parcel out the cruelty associated with factory farming into smaller units,” Abrams writes that animal welfare organizations should take a positive approach in India and elsewhere by “limiting their arguments to explaining the cruelty suffered by hens, chicks, and chickens; explaining the environmental ruin that comes from having unnaturally-bred birds; explaining the health disaster that occurs as a result of keeping the sheer number of birds whom humans have bred and intensively housed; and explaining the negative health effects of consuming eggs and meat.”

The question is: why won’t they?

In More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality, I document some of the traditional poultry farming practices in England and America from the Middle Ages onward. In Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching,” Michael Greger, MD, documents traditional animal farming practices in Asia, where avian and porcine influenzas are believed to have originated many centuries ago, leading to worldwide epidemics, where, for example, caged chickens have traditionally been placed “directly over feeding troughs in pig pens which in turn are positioned above fish ponds. The pigs eat the bird droppings and then defecate into the [fish] ponds.”

Picture the fact that every single day in Hong Kong alone, 100,000 plus chickens are brought from Guangdong province to be sold alive in more than a thousand “wet” markets in which chickens, ducks, geese and quails are crammed and stacked in small plastic cages, the birds defecating on one another amid blood, feces, feathers, intestines, and disease organisms. Unsold birds go back to the province and are then returned to the markets in a continuous recycling. See Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) – What You Need to Know.

With the human population predicted to rise to 9 billion people by 2050, who thinks for a minute that hundreds of billions of animals consumed by humans every year will be “raised and slaughtered humanely”? When there were fewer than one billion humans, animals were treated atrociously. For an idea of how chickens and other farm animals were/are handled and slaughtered in traditional Russian villages, read The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer, starting with “The Slaughterer,” in which a ritual slaughterer who is forced to take the job and is considered crazy by the villagers for his sensitivity to animals goes insane.

Singer describes from his own childhood how housewives would often tear chickens’ feathers out while they were still alive and bleeding. All the cruelties of modern farming, including rape by farmers of their turkeys and chickens, cows and goats (“a farm boy’s first girlfriend is a mule” is an old saying), are rooted in traditional farming practices and attitudes. There is no Golden Age of animal farming to go back to or look forward to. There is no shortage of nutritional plant foods on earth. How could any animal advocate do less for animals than to celebrate and promote this fact and these foods? – Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns


More Than a Meal: The Turkey in History, Myth, Ritual, and Reality by Karen Davis, PhD:
Now available as a Free PDF.

Photo: Jake Stangel for Bloomberg Businessweek
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