christian. vegan. lover of life.

5. Why Vegan? Part Two: Animal Testing August 5, 2008

Filed under: animal rights,vegan — Jessica Dixon @ 12:03 pm
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There is much more to say about animals who are used for food, but that will have to wait for another time. However, before we leave the animal topic completely to cover other vegan things, I want to look at animal testing.

Animal testing is completely unnecessary but continues to happen. Some people are under the impression that products being developed for humans need to be tested on animals, but this is really pointless because animals don’t react to these products in the same way humans do and they must be tested on humans anyway. Aside from that, the animals have never given any kind of consent for this cruelty being done to them. I don’t have much to say on the subject that hasn’t already been said better by someone else, so here are some quotes from vivisectioninfo.org for your information:

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What is wrong with Experimenting on Animals?

No lab rat (or dog or monkey) ever signed a consent form. In and of itself, this constitutes an ethical problem with the practice of experimenting on non-human animals for the hypothetical benefit of humans.

experimenting on animals

What animals are used and why?

A complete count of animals used in research is unknown because federal laws do not require research institutions to record the number of rats, mice and cold blooded animals that are used in experimentation. Estimates for total numbers are between 20-70 million. Of the animals who are counted, here is what we know: The number of warm-blooded vertebrate animals used in science each year in the United States is approximately 28 million. Of that total, about 18 million animals are killed for research, compared with 2.51 million in England, 1.66 million in Canada, and 0.73 million in the Netherlands.

Animals Used in Product Testing
Eye Irritancy Tests:
In these tests, a liquid, flake, granule, or powdered substance is dropped into the eyes of animals, usually rabbits. The animals are often immobilized in stocks from which only their heads protrude. They usually receive no anesthesia during the tests.

After placing the substance in the rabbits’ eyes, laboratory technicians record the damage to the eye tissue at specific intervals over an average period of 72 hours, with tests sometimes lasting 7 to 18 days. Reactions to the substances include swollen eyelids, inflamed irises, ulceration, bleeding, massive deterioration, and blindness. During the tests, the rabbits’ eyelids are held open with clips. Many animals have broken their necks or backs while struggling to escape.

The results of eye irritancy tests are questionable, as they vary from laboratory to laboratory and even from rabbit to rabbit, as well as between species.

Acute Toxicity Tests: Acute toxicity tests, commonly called lethal dose or poisoning tests, determine the amount of a substance that will kill a percentage, even up to 100 percent, of a group of test animals. In these tests, a substance is forced by tube into the animals’ stomachs or through holes cut into their throats. It may also be injected under the skin, into a vein, or into the lining of the abdomen; mixed into lab chow; inhaled through a gas mask; or introduced into the eyes, rectum, or vagina. Experimenters observe the animals’ reactions, which can include convulsions, labored breathing, diarrhea, constipation, emaciation, skin eruptions, abnormal posture, and bleeding from the eyes, nose, or mouth.

Animal Acute Toxicity Testing

The widely used lethal dose 50 (LD50) test was developed in 1927. The LD50 testing period continues until at least 50 percent of the animals die, usually in two to four weeks.

Like eye irritancy tests, lethal dose tests are unreliable at best. Says Microbiological Associates’ Rodger D. Curren, researchers looking for non-animal alternatives must prove that these in vitro models perform “at least as well as animal tests. But as we conduct these validation exercises, it’s become more apparent that the animal tests themselves are highly variable.” The European Center for the Validation of Alternative Methods’ Dr. Michael Ball puts it more bluntly: “The scientific basis” for animal safety tests is “weak.”
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Common companies that do test their products on animals:
Playtex, Proctor and Gamble (Cover Girl, Clairol, Pantene…), Unilever (Lever, Suave, Ponds, All…), Colgate-Palmolive (Softsoap, Palmolive dish soap, assorted toothpastes…), and many more. If you start reading the labels in your house, I bet you will find that most of the products you own are tested on animals. That was my discovery.

Common companies that do not test products on animals:
Almay, Bath & Body Works, Mary Kay, Revlon, and more here. As time goes on, I will review some cruelty-free companies that I love. So far, I really enjoy Method products for cleaning, which you can easily get at Target. Some Method products are also available at Wegman’s and Method has its own website too. Visit caringconsumer.com for more info on cruelty-free companies.

Some resources to learn more about the uselessness of animal testing and its alternatives:
Animal Liberation Front, Animal Experiments, Humane Learning. Google “animal testing” to research on your own.

I am also strongly against using animals for Entertainment purposes including circuses and zoos, as well as using them for clothing or any other reason.

This is all I plan to say for now about how animals are directly affected. It’s honestly too overwhelming for me to continue at present and the information about it is truly endless. If you want to learn more, or feel convicted at least to learn more, please search out the information. A film I would highly recommend watching to get a very comprehensive knowledge-base concerning the animal industry would be Earthlings. You can watch it for free at that site. I did sob through a lot of it and the images and sounds are a lot harsher than what I’ve given you a glimpse of here, but I would consider it the ultimate and most effective resource. If I post more or add additional info to this topic in the future, I will let you know. The next issues to cover will be how the animal industry affects the environment and the welfare (health and mental well-being) of humanity. I’m not sure when they’ll be published, so stay tuned.

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4. Tackling the marketing labels surrounding eggs August 4, 2008

Filed under: animal rights,vegan — Jessica Dixon @ 12:00 pm
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Each animal affected by agribusiness should have their own post on this blog and I hope someday they will. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of endless time to research and write what you see here. (This post alone has taken several hours to compose.) But since “humane” labels are inescapable, it’s important to cover this now while we’re talking about animal welfare. “Humane” labeling affects all animals, but eggs are probably the most common product affected, so that’s what we’ll cover today. To be clear, any egg carton without these labels are battery cage eggs.

Most of you have probably seen the labels “cage-free,” “free-range,” “organic,” etc. on egg cartons at your grocery store. I think these labels can get pretty confusing and you may not know what they actually mean, so I’ll post the definitions of these terms (from hsus.org) and give you extra resources to find more information.

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Certified Organic*:
The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, and are required to have outdoor access although there have been concerns about lax enforcement, with some large-scale producers not providing birds meaningful access to the outdoors). They are fed an organic, all-vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and pesticides, as required by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing.

Free-Range: While the USDA has defined the meaning of “free-range” for some poultry products, there are no standards in “free-range” egg production. Typically, free-range egg-laying hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access. They can engage in many natural behaviors such as nesting and foraging. However, there is no information on stocking density, the frequency or duration of outdoor access, or the quality of the land accessible to the birds. There is no information regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Certified Humane*: The birds are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but may be kept indoors at all times. They must be able to perform natural behaviors such as nesting, perching, and dust bathing. There are requirements for stocking density and number of perches and nesting boxes. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Certified Humane is a program of Humane Farm Animal Care.

Cage-Free: As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but generally do not have access to the outdoors. They have the ability to engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting, and spreading their wings. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.

Free-Roaming: Also known as “free-range,” the USDA has defined this claim for some poultry products, but there are no standards in “free-roaming” egg production. This essentially means the hens are cage-free. There is no third-party auditing.

United Egg Producers Certified*: The overwhelming majority of the U.S. egg industry complies with this voluntary program, which permits routine cruel and inhumane factory farm practices. By 2008, hens laying these eggs will be afforded 67 square inches of cage space per bird, less area than a sheet of paper. The hens are confined in restrictive, barren cages and cannot perform many of their natural behaviors, including perching, nesting, foraging or even spreading their wings. Compliance is verified through third-party auditing. Forced molting through starvation is prohibited, but beak cutting is allowed. This is a program of the United Egg Producers.
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Beak cutting and forced molting are mentioned in those label definitions. Beak cutting/trimming is very painful for the birds. It must be done because chickens resort to cannibalism when enclosed in tight spaces. Forced molting “involves starving hens for up to two weeks until they lose up to 30 percent of their body weight. The birds stop laying, lose their feathers, then start to produce eggs again when feed is returned.” (HSUS)

While “cage-free” is slightly better than the alternative of “battery cage,” it does not mean that the birds lead a better life or are treated with respect and care. They are still products – objects to use and discard – but they have a tiny bit more room in which to exist. There is a ton of information at Peaceful Prairie about the cage-free myth. I highly recommend the story “A Rare Glimpse Inside a ‘free-range’ Egg Facility” on that site. If you don’t like to read, you can listen to it on the Vegetarian Food for Thought podcast (free on Itunes) titled “A Visit to two ‘Free-Range’ Egg Facilities” (from 7/2/07). The author gives her account of visiting two farms. She interacted with a worker at the second farm who was required to wear a gas mask when in close proximity to the building that housed the chickens “because the stench would damage his lungs if they did not. Birds have much more sensitive respiratory systems than humans.” (J. Johnson)

A short “free-range” rescue story:

A quick note about male chicks – they are of no use to the egg-laying industry and are not bred to be suitable for meat, so they are often either stuffed in garbage bags to suffocate and be thrown out, or ground up while still alive. A large majority (if not all) free-range farms get their chicks from egg hatcheries that practice this brutality.If you have questions or comments concerning this post or any that follow, please write them and I’ll address them as soon as I reasonably can.

Please visit the following sites for more information:
Exploreveg, Peaceful Prairie, HSUS, Compassion Over Killing, Vegan Outreach, All Creatures.

 

3. Why Vegan? Part One: The Animals You Eat August 3, 2008

Filed under: animal rights,vegan — Jessica Dixon @ 12:03 pm
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Would it bother you if someone came to your house and wanted to cook your cat or dog (or other “pet”) for dinner? I’ll assume “yes.” What makes this unacceptable? Would it be unacceptable simply because it’s a cat or dog? Would it be unacceptable because you have an emotional connection with the animal in question?

Animals used for the food industry (such as pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens, goats, etc.) have the same personalities, emotions and desires that our “pets” do. All these animals share the will to live. They can all feel pain. They all have a consciousness of the world around them. They grieve when a family/group member is lost. They can also experience happiness and contentment and pleasure.
We’d all like to believe that the animals we eat somehow lived great lives, endured no pain, and then happily offered to be slaughtered for us. We have the ridiculous notion that they frolic around a huge farm all day long and sleep warm and cozy at night. But this is a lie. Most, if not all, the animal flesh (“meat”) we consume comes from factory farms. The animals are born there and die there, never knowing freedom and pleasure, only pain, suffering, fear and then death. These beautiful creatures (10 billion land animals each year in the US alone), who feel and sense and love just like your cats and dogs, are tortured and consciously mutilated without any kind of anesthesia, and then slaughtered solely for your pleasure.We’re desensitized to these truths at a very young age. I was absolutely one of those people that never made the connection between that cow on a farm and this “hamburger” on my plate. I knew but I didn’t know. Now I wish someone had told me the truth. I wish I had been vegan my whole life. It disgusts me to think of how many innocent lives were taken because of me. I hate knowing that their last feelings before their premature deaths were of pure terror. I can’t stand the thought of being a contributor to such an abusive, desensitized business. Perhaps the saddest truth is that it’s all unnecessary. We don’t need animal flesh or their secretions to thrive. We don’t need it and the cruelty doesn’t have to continue.

If you’re an animal eater, you should at least know what you’re eating. I’ve included the video below to give you just a glimpse of the reality of some of your favorite foods. Don’t skip out on watching it because it’s 12 minutes long. Don’t buy into the lie that “ignorance is bliss.” I know it’s hard to watch (I’m sure I was sobbing through it the first time) but be educated and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions. (Just as a warning, if you haven’t already guessed, this video is not suitable for children’s eyes or ears.)

If you have any questions or comments, please post them. My goal in this series is to simply expose you to the truth.

Additional Resources:
Videos: Animal Aid, Farm Sanctuary, Peta TV
General info: Peta, GoVeg, Farm Sanctuary, Compassionate Cooks, All Creatures, IVU