Erica Meier on Irene’s Unacknowledged Victims

Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing guest blogs for

The horrible toll taken by Hurricane Irene doesn’t end with the suffering of people. And it hasn’t ended with the crises of their pets, either. One less-reported facet of the storm has been the deaths and misery of factory-farmed animals.

A reason may perhaps be that animal agribusiness is accustomed to having huge numbers of animals periodically perish in disasters; it’s just part of the hazard of overcrowding vast sums of animals in cages or warehouses. And every time huge numbers of animals are killed—whether from tornados, fires, roof collapses, or otherwise—the industry’s response is generally not exactly filled with empathy for the victims.

While tens of thousands of factory-farmed chickens in Delaware were killed by Irene, Maryland’s agriculture secretary Earl Hance put it bluntly, saying: ”Overall Maryland livestock fared well with no significant loss. For the poultry industry… the storm killed about 30,000 birds in Maryland.”

Later reports questioned the accuracy of the 30,000 statistic, but the fact that Secretary Hance believed 30,000 animals had perished in the storm and found it so insignificant speaks volumes. Only in industrialized factory farming would anyone consider the deaths of 30,000 animals “no significant loss.” Only in a system of agribusiness that treats individual animals with so little regard could such a dramatic and lamentable event be rendered so minor.

Thirty thousand is the approximate number of birds you’d find in a typical production shed confining chickens for meat, so presumably one facility had a power outage, flooding, or some other storm-related problem that led to the demise of all the animals in that building.

We have to ask ourselves: Had the victims been tens of thousands of dogs and cats on pet breeding facilities, would the secretary of agriculture have been so nonchalant in his characterization of the situation? Is our view of chickens—who are social, intelligent animals capable of suffering—so dim that we’ve come to regard their suffering and death as no significant loss at all?

New Scientist: Cultured Meat on the Way

R&D to commercialize cultured meat has long seemed like nuclear fusion; a technology perpetually set thirty years in the future. But now New Scientist claims that a breakthrough on cultured meat research could be just six months to a year away.

Of all the things that could take a huge bite out of the meat industry, I’d put the successful commercialization of cultured meat at the top of the list. Cultured meat has the promise to be cleaner, safer, and cheaper than the stuff from animals, while eliminating all the animal welfare and many of the environmental concerns. Expect meat eaters to switch en masse once it’s available.

If New Scientist is right, now could be a perilous time to own stock in any meat company that has huge capital investments in slaughterhouses and factory farms. Link.

Estabrook on Marler

Barry Estabrook’s latest piece makes food safety attorney Bill Marler look as good as it makes meat giant Cargill look despicable. Great reading on America’s food safety mess. Link.

Time Ranks Animal Liberation in Top 100 Nonfiction Books

Time magazine just named Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation as one of the top 100 nonfiction books written since 1923:

In writing what has become known as “the bible of the animal-liberation movement,” ethicist Peter Singer did not set out to make us love animals any more than we may (or may not) already have. Instead, he set out to persuade us on rational grounds that humans (themselves animals) must reject causing unnecessary pain to other beings who can “suffer and/or experience enjoyment.” How can it be moral to torture pigs — for torture it is, as Singer matter-of-factly puts forth the realities of farming — just so we can have pork for dinner?

The book is often credited with launching the modern animal rights movement, and it’s an essential read for anyone who intends to devote significant time to animal protection. Link.

Flexitarians Take Bite Out of Meat Industry

The Independent says those damned flexitarians are spoiling everything for our friends in the meat industry:

Sales of meat have slowed to a crawl around the world, thanks in part to the growing number of ‘flexitarians’ –  that murkily-defined group of part-time vegetarians – and public health warnings outlining the perils of red meat consumption.

The article is written in response to a new report on the matter that costs a mere $2600 to access. (Via Hawthorne.) Link.

Jane Black on Huntington, West Virginia

More than a year after Jamie Oliver left Huntington, West Virginia, Jane Black has an article that looks at how the city’s school lunch program has fared.

An interesting follow-up, but I wish Black offered details comparing total meat and veggie use today to the quantity served before Oliver’s arrival. Link.

Importing the Running of the Bulls

A promoter is looking to bring to Arizona a “running of the bulls” event modeled after the one in Pamplona. The event is slated to occur for October, assuming the organizers can come up with the necessary funds to cover insurance. Link.