Grisly Injury at Texas Slaughterhouse

One problem with slaughterhouses is that the equipment used to dismember 1500 pound steers also works marvelously at severing human body parts, as a Texas worker discovered yesterday. UPI reports the worker’s arm was cut off, while the Fort Worth Star Telegram writes, “a later report indicated that the worker’s limb was not lost.”

In any case, while the details are sketchy, having to fly on a medical helicopter is never a good thing.

Conklin’s Milk is Grade A

The Columbus Dispatch has the best article I’ve seen yet about Mercy For Animals’ latest investigation. Among other things, it reports:

The state inspected the farm three times in the past year and, although the focus was on the cleanliness of the operations, inspectors would have documented signs of sickly or abused animals but found none, said spokeswoman Cindy Kalis.

The farm was inspected so often because it was approved in February as a “Grade A facility,” meaning that its milk can be used for anything commercially.

This is a perfect example of the fact that government standards don’t mean shit when it comes to animal welfare. I suppose it’s easy enough to put down the pitchforks when state inspectors show up for their brief visits.

What we’ve got in Ohio is a system where farmed animal cruelty enforcement is totally broken. Had it not been for this Mercy For Animals investigation, today would be yet another day of animal torture at the Conklin dairy. (Via Paul.) Link.

Local News Report Blasts Conklin Dairy Farms

Here’s an excellent local television news video covering the Mercy For Animals investigation at Conklin Dairy Farms. There’s some horrible footage included here; stuff you probably didn’t see if, like me, you became too upset to watch the entire undercover video.

Billy Joe Gregg, Jr., the worker who was arrested yesterday, had his bail set at $100,000, so it appears he’ll be locked up until at least his June 12th hearing. From the reporting in this video, it seems like a sure bet there will other arrests. (Thanks, Paul.) Link.

The Big Six

When it comes to E. coli, it’s becoming clear that the 0157 strain is not the only concern. Food safety experts are also worried about, “the big six” — six potentially deadly E. coli strains that regulators have known about for years but have so far largely ignored:

The O157 strain of E. coli is a frightening bug, causing bloody diarrhea and sometimes kidney failure, which can be fatal. Some of the six strains cause less severe illness, but others appear to be just as devastating as the O157.

The beef industry now routinely tests for the O157 strain, but there is no regular testing for the other six strains.

From this New York Times article, it sounds as if food safety officials are going to move slowly to address matters, unless a large and deadly outbreak forces their hand. Link.

Conklin Dairy Farms Cruelty: Day Two Coverage

Three updates on the Conklin Dairy Farms cruelty case. First, a worker accused of carrying out some of the video’s abuse was arrested this morning.

Second, the dairy has issued a statement in response to the video:

As fourth-generation farmers, our family takes the care of our cows and calves very seriously. We take equally seriously the allegations that have been made about our farm operation and the mistreatment of our animals.

“We have conducted an initial review of the video that the activist group has released. 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.

…The trust of our customers in the way we operate our farm, care for our herds and produce quality, safe milk is of critical importance to us, and we will work to maintain that trust as we address this issue.

You can’t maintain what’s already shattered.

And third, CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell will cover the story on her show tonight, at 7:00 PM eastern time. I’ll post a link to the video when it’s online.

Using Facebook for Animal Advocacy

I know I’m far from the only person who is still in a state of shock over Mercy For Animals’ Conklin Dairy Farms cruelty video. As I write this, more than 500 readers have clicked the “Like” button beneath my write-up from yesterday.

Many animal advocates have caught on to the fact that Facebook is an incredible tool for purposes of spreading word about vegetarianism and issues related to animals. Facebook is a platform in rapid transition, and it’s not like there’s an owner’s manual, so most of us are stuck figuring out best practices for Facebook on our own.

Given that there’s a closing window for spreading this Conklin Dairy Farms video far and wide, and just a few days’ time in which this video has the chance to go viral, I want to share one tip to using Facebook that isn’t yet widely understood, but that every animal advocate needs to know.

Recently, Facebook has began emphasizing its “Like” button, and has made it easy for websites like to add a “Like” button beneath every blog post. This is an amazing feature because, not so long ago, if you liked something you saw online you’d have to copy the URL and then visit Facebook to post it. But now, you can “like” things directly from any site that enables these buttons. Cool beans.

As the “Like” button has been incorporated into thousands of websites across the web, it’s become easy to lose sight of the fact that it is just one of two ways to share web content through Facebook. The other way to share content is to use Facebook’s “Share” feature. Think of “Share” as a vastly more powerful “Like” button, but one that’s subject to misuse.

Facebook is always likely to change how it works at any moment, but as of now here is the difference between “Like” and “Share”: when you “Like” something, all that happens is that a link to it will go near the top of your profile, until it’s bumped off the page by newer items you’ve liked. So, really, the only way for your friends to see that you’ve liked a given item is for them to visit your profile page. Facebook’s “Share” feature, by contrast, is a hundred times more powerful in terms of reaching your friends. That’s because hitting “Share” is essentially the same as updating your status. Not only do “Share” updates go atop your profile page until you post another status update, but, even more importantly, the item you’ve shared will likely end up in your friends’ Facebook news feeds. That’s something that never happens with the Like button.

All real power is subject to misuse, and the Share button is no exception. I’ve got a Facebook friend who was basically providing a textbook example of misusing Facebook’s “Share” feature: she would share every single item that PETA posts to its front page. She would post a dozen different PETA items each day, and these items would get into all her friends’ newsfeeds. If I cared that much about PETA, I’d subscribe to their RSS feed. Since this wasn’t the sort of content I wanted constantly appearing in my news feed, I just blocked her updates from showing up in my feed.

The thing to understand about the “Share” button is to realize that it’s immensely powerful, but it’s also by nature intrusive. So you want to be very sparing about using it. To “Share” a link is no different than updating your profile status, and that’s something you want to do sparingly, or you’ll run the risk of having your friends block you. As a rule of thumb, I think it’s best to limit “Shares” or status updates to once, or at the very most, twice a day.

The “Like” button, by contrast, is by design too lightweight and unobtrusive to be misused. Whether you click it once a month or a hundred times a day, you won’t be irritating your friends, or giving them reason to block you, since nothing you “Like” gets into your friends’ news feeds.

All of this brings me back to yesterday’s Conklin Dairy Farms cruelty video. This is in all probability the single most horrible undercover factory farm video ever produced. For something of this magnitude, with a short shelf life and a real chance of going viral, it’s time to break out the heavy artillery and use the “Share” button. What if you’ve already clicked the “Like” button? No problem. As we’ve seen, the “Like” button is too lightweight to bother anyone, and hitting “Share” after the fact won’t be redundant.

By hitting the “Share” button, you’re making a value judgement that a given item is important or interesting enough to deserve a spot in your friends’ news feeds. It’s as simple as that. And I think if there was ever a time for an animal advocate to use the “Share” button, it’s in the 72 hours after the release of a groundbreaking story like the Conklin Farms cruelty video.

I hope this overview has been helpful to you and to your advocacy. A couple last notes for regular readers. First, I’ve just added back a Facebook “Share” button that appears at the very bottom of every single blog entry I post. So now you’ve got an easy way to “Like” or “Share” any story on—most items I post are only worth a “Like,” but when you find a bombshell story then it’s time to hit the “Share” button instead. Secondly, I currently post what I view as the most “Share”-worthy items to the fan page. On a given day, I might blog a half dozen items, but I typically only make one post to the fan page each day. Maybe that post is only worth a “Like,” or maybe it’s worth a “Share.” Your call. But, for now, think of the fan page as sort of a “greatest hits” collection of my blog posts.

So, having written all this, I hope you’ll apply what you’ve learned to get word out about MFA’s undercover dairy investigation. With your help, the publicity from this video will inspire long-overdue safeguards for farmed animals, and create a ton of new vegans in the process.

New Undercover Dairy Video Reveals Savagery in Ohio

Mercy For Animals just released a new undercover cruelty video, this time from Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio. I’ve watched in their entirety every undercover cruelty video I’ve ever blogged about, but I had to stop this one after twenty seconds—witnessing this unspeakable viciousness could cause lasting psychological trauma. Animal welfare expert Bernard Rollin says:

This is probably the most gratuitous, sustained, sadistic animal abuse I have ever seen.

Two immediate reactions. First: I’ve little doubt that we’re going to see at least one lengthy prison term as a result of this video. Second, Ohio’s farm lobby might as well drop its opposition to the Ohioans for Humane Farms ballot initiative. With this video’s release, it’s now impossible to argue that animal agribusiness in Ohio is capable of policing itself.

If you’ve got it to spare, please throw Mercy For Animals a donation. And please do whatever you can to share this video with others—the animals tortured in this video need us to make sure their agonies are not ignored. This sort of undercover footage, and the need to quickly publicize it, is exactly why I believe every serious animal advocate must have Facebook and Twitter accounts. Link.

The Root of All Evil: Children’s Menus

A successful New York City restauranteur refuses to offer a children’s menu, calling such menus, “a parenting crutch.”

Great point. I bet that much of America’s obesity epidemic can be traced back to parents who expect too little from their children, in terms of willingness to try new foods.

Now it sucks that the the guy in question pushed his kids to eat octopus and fried rabbit, but his underlying thought is correct and directly applicable to vegan parents. Link.

Subway’s Five Dollar Fuck You

If I was incapable of keeping my true thoughts to myself when ordering at a Subway restaurant, this is how I’d order:

I’d like a Veggie Delight, you know, the very worst sandwich deal you’ve got since it’s almost the price of a meat-based sandwich but only contains your pathetic vegetable selection. And since I’m vegan, I’d like you to screw me even further: please hold the cheese and mayo—the two most expensive ingredients on the sandwich—but be sure to charge me for them just like you always do. And while you’re at it, since I don’t eat honey, please serve my meal on your blood-sugar-spiking white bread.

This month, Subway has started treating its competition the way it treats its vegan customers. The chain is trying to enforce a trademark on the commonly-used “footlong” description.

There are two ways to succeed in business: one is to offer a better product than your competition, and the other is to get lawyers involved. It’s obvious which path Subway has chosen.

What a bunch of dicks. Link.