PAWS Magazine

Issue 41, Spring 1999

PAWS responds to the P-I

The following Op-Ed piece was written by PAWS Advocacy’s Mike Jones in response to the Seattle P-I News for Kids special Raised in Washington pullout. This Op-Ed appeared under PAWS Executive Director Kathy Kelly’s byline in the Saturday, February 6 edition of the PI. Titled "Raised in Washington Gives Wrong Impression," it appeared in the P-I’s Soapbox column, the most read section of the newspaper.

The Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) advocates for animals through legislation, education and direct care. Advocacy is our role. Advocacy is not the function of a newspaper. With the January 26 special section of P-I News for Kids titled "Raised in Washington," the Seattle Post-Intelligencer drifted from journalism into advocacy.

As in the animal kingdom, our greatest responsibility is our young. We are each signed to an unwritten contract to safeguard the well being of our young people, to contribute to their education with honesty and sensitivity, and to do no harm to the planet that they and their progeny will inherit. "Raised in Washington" presented misconceptions and falsehoods to children, who lack the filters adults have developed to sort fiction from truth.

In this instance, the truth hurts. The truth hurts animals.

Children who read "Raised in Washington" absorbed the notions that animals are "nature’s recyclers" who are doing us a favor by grazing, and that "techMOOlogy" has improved the dairy cow’s life. The kids were told that chickens live in a "chicken spa," that beef cattle is "born to be prime rib," and that farm animals enjoy "domestic bliss."

The life of the factory-farm animal is not "domestic bliss"; it is cramped, dark, terrifying, short, and punctuated by death. Individual species suffer an array of atrocities during their forced march toward the market.

The "chicken spa" is actually a tiny cage crammed with as many as four chickens in a building housing tens of thousands of other chickens. The floor of the cage could be covered by the folded P-I News for Kids, but that would prevent droppings from falling to the cage below as intended (though the chickens would relish the relief from the wire the paper would provide). Excretory ammonia causes breathing problems and blindness in these birds.

Their toes and beaks are removed without anesthetic to limit damage from fighting. The "tasty mash" referred to in "Raised in Washington" contains other chickens. Chickens raised for meat live this way for 47 days. The life span of an egg-laying hen is 18 months. Male chicks, unable to lay eggs and genetically unsuitable for meat, go directly from egg to trash bin to be rendered into animal feed.

America’s dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated, confined to indoor stalls for most of their lives, and treated with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an average cow produced 3.5 tons of milk per year in 1960. In 1990 she produced 7.4 tons. In 1996 the Associated Press reported some dairy cows produced more than 30 tons of milk per year. In addition to spurring unnatural production levels, BGH contributes to painful infection and inflammation of the udder. Once a dairy cow’s milk production declines, she is slaughtered.

Male offspring of dairy cows, unable to produce milk and not born of beef breeds, become veal. Veal calves are separated from their mothers soon after birth. The calves are chained by the neck, crammed into wooden boxes barely big enough for their bodies, and kept in the dark except during feeding.

To produce the taste, texture and appearance of veal, these calves are fed an iron-deficient diet that often leaves them anemic. Slaughter comes after 12 to 16 weeks. Piglets are castrated without anesthetic to make them less aggressive. Their tails, a biting target during fighting brought on by the boredom and frustration of confinement, are removed, again without anesthetic.

Each of these animals face cramped transport in livestock trailers, which freeze or roast depending on the weather. A cow or pig unable to walk toward slaughter is termed a downed animal, and is either dragged to slaughter or left to suffer until death and rendering.

During the brief interval between birth and death, America’s factory-farm animals produce billions of tons of excrement each year, waste that is fouling our lands, our waterways and the air that we breathe. The land on which they graze and defecate could be more efficiently utilized by growing plants, yet millions of acres of forest- and grassland are being stripped, often irreparably.

Animals are not here for our exploitation. Protein needn’t come from meat; vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds all have essential amino acids. Other vital nutrients are readily available in a plant-based diet. A diet free of meat and animal fat is also void of the antibiotics, hormones, pesticides and other toxins these animals ingest.

We owe it to our animals, to ourselves and to our children to look behind the curtain that hides the institutionalized cruelty of the factory farm, its unwilling residents and their eventual executioner, the slaughterhouse. Learn the truth, share that truth with the young and be accompanied by greater knowledge, consideration and compassion on your next trip to the market.

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