After months of planning and practice, AFA and NZ Open Rescue successfully blockaded the only vehicle access to the country’s largest battery hen farm, a supplier of Farmer Brown eggs to supermarkets. This action is a continuation and escalation of over 20 years of campaigning against battery hen farming. Our message was simple: ban cages. All cages. Not because free range is much better, but to stop the introduction of colony cages as a new standard method of layer hen farming that would be deemed ‘welfare-friendly’. I want to provide an account of the action that cannot be reduced to a sound bite.
There is a history to this campaign which has involved many groups and tactics. Our blockade was not the first to happen to this particular farm. 10 years ago, animal rights activists tried to blockade the same road with people locked onto concrete barrels. Ours is the second blockade of Mainland Poultry, but this time, we used tripods.
The following is a recollection of the event from June 25th 2012.
It is 3am in Waikouaiti. We arrive at our destination with news media. Other activists have already started setting up the tripods. It’s pitch black and raining. The putrid smell of the factory farm hits you as soon as you get out of the car. This is it. I turn my head-torch on and start helping with set up. Everybody’s busy doing something; we don’t even notice the rain. The first tripod starts ascending, the sound of galvanised steel dragging along the gravel dirt road. I stand and watch as the second leg gets pulled out of the bushes. Shit, shit, shit! I thought as I saw the bent disfigured pole emerge from the trees. Panic hits but I try to remain calm. Another activist thinks quickly and the tripod gets brought down. It was Deirdre’s tripod and it was supposed to go up first. Sudden change of plan, mine will go up first instead. I help set up and move it to the right spot. I grab my bag and attach myself to the prussock ropes. With bright camera lights in my face, I start climbing. At the top of the tripod, I attach my bosun’s chair and slip myself in. I’m in position. I haul up my bag, much heavier than our practices. There’s a chain in there and food to last me a couple of days. I secure the chain around my waist and lock it onto a pole above me. I see Deirdre’s tripod erected next to mine. She’s halfway up the climb line, and gets to the top in no time. I sigh in relief. We did it. We’ve successfully blockaded the entrance to the egg farm. No workers have arrived yet.
The third tripod had the pole straightened but does not look as safe as ours. We make a snap decision for Marie to lock onto the gate instead.
At the apex, I could hear the hens inside the sheds. Quarter of a million of them are caged in this farm in both colony and battery cages. The smell of effluent blows past us periodically. Even though I haven’t been inside this specific farm, the footage of the colony cages that Open Rescue took inside their sheds are typical of any caged egg farming. It’s hard to notice the difference between colony and battery cages. Thousands of hens crammed in layers of cages stacked up to the ceiling. Same shit, different name.
What is not visible by only observing the layer hen’s immediate conditions is their life history from an egg in hatcheries to their slaughter at 2 years old age. At the hatcheries that provide layer hens for the egg industry, the chicks are separated by their assigned sex – male or female. Male chicks are gassed or minced alive - or what the industry calls “instantaneous fragmentation”. They are of no profitable use for the egg industry. Female chicks are de-beaked with a hot blade before they reach 10 days old. Layer hens are treated like reproductive machines, their female bodies exploited for their ability to menstruate. There are currently over 3 million layer hens in the country, the majority of them in cages. They produce almost a billion eggs per year. Outside of industrial farming, hens can live up to 10-15 years old, but in this profit-driven system, they are killed by the time they reach 2 years (unless they are rescued).
I think about the scale of this operation that we’re blockading and the symbolic nature of our action. The rain continues as we sit in position and our gloves get soaked. Eventually, the rain stops. But that’s when the cold hit. Our toes were the first to feel it. As the temperature dropped, the scaffolding poles radiated iciness. I wriggle my toes to try and conjure up some warmth to counter frostbites. It became really unbearable at one point and I just tried to take my mind off it.
The first worker vehicle arrives. Our ground crew greets them with a leaflet entitled, “We are not here to piss you off,” which explains the reasons why we are here. This is about the industry that abuses and exploits animals. I think it’s important to acknowledge that workers have little control over this. In a lot of areas in Aotearoa, these are the only jobs available. Some of the local supporters tell us that often WINZ brings people on the unemployment benefit on the farm to get them work. With the new policies of the unemployment benefit, if you refuse a job offer, you’re benefit gets cut. And I’ve heard stories about people only lasting half a day to one day and then going home a wreck. Factory farms have pretty poor working conditions, even more of a reason to end it!
Two workers turn around and drive off. Phew, no aggression, conflict or attempts to move us. The day went by with more trucks and vehicles having to turn around.
Some workers manage to get inside the facility, probably by foot through someone’s paddock. One of them drives up on a quad bike and threatens to hose Marie, who is locked onto the gate, with effluent water. We have wet weather gear with us, ‘cause we were prepared for the worst. We wait for the hose to come on but it never happened.
The sun comes up over the trees and provides us with warmth; this is the moment we were all looking forward to having been in the dark coldness for the past four hours. I watch the steam rise from the grass below and the icy dew evaporate from the poles.
Various media – print, radio and TV- start turning up. At one point in the morning, Deirdre’s phone was exploding from phone calls from the media. Interview after interview, she repeats our message and explains the Code of Welfare for hens that is currently under review.
On the ground, some local people came to support, bringing us food and offering their toilets.
The police had been there since 4.30am, but they mostly stood around talking to each other or sat in the warmth of their police cars. It took them about 10 hours to figure out how to get us down. Search and rescue team were called. The moment came when I saw the rugged-looking cherry picker approach us slowly. Two policemen get into it. They come for me first. They cut the chain with a bolt cutter and fiddled with my carabiners until the bosun’s chair comes undone and I am no longer attached to my safety lines. A cop walks me to a police car and takes my details. He hadn’t been told whether to arrest me or not at this stage so I take the liberty of accepting an offer from a local resident to use the toilet. I walk down to her place and relieve myself. She was fully supportive of our action. Living quite close to the farm, she knows the routines of the trucks and she told us that trucks normally go down this road every 10 minutes on a working day. So we did manage to cost and delay their production! Our tripods put a spanner in the works in the machinery of the egg factory farm.
We did get arrested, initially on charges of obstruction of a public way, but the senior sergeant in the station decided to release us without charge after considering the evidence. We were ecstatic! We didn’t have to stay in Dunedin for court!
We managed to catch the evening news. TV 3 coverage was considerably better than TV 1. Coincidentally, we have the same reporter covering us on TV 3 as we did for the Silo Lock On over a year ago. The Close-Up story that followed was quite weird. While it seems to show both sides, it was definitely more weighted towards the industry.
The Otago University Bioethicist basically acted as a mouthpiece for the industry: “We [humans] like the idea of chickens being out in the fresh air and we think that’s natural for chickens. Um, we need to think though... about welfare in a... um... in a more scientific way if we can.”
Is he actually insinuating here that it’s natural for hens to have their beaks mutilated, their brothers minced up alive, to have their bodies imprisoned inside metal cages in dark sheds on top of each other with wire beneath their feet and breathing ammonia-filled air? Under the rubric of ‘science’, you can justify any kind of murder and torture without having to explain yourself. Whaling as “scientific research” for example. WTF, seriously. The pragmatism of the industry of providing a cheap and sustainable supply of eggs is typical of any animal abuse industry that profits from the death and labour of non-human animals. We’re made to believe that the products of these animal industries are necessary in our diets for ‘health’ when they’re not.
On social media, there was a poll on TV3’s Facebook with the question, “do you support the protestor’s actions?” I read through the comments and over 90% of them were in support of the action!
While this is only one action among many with the ultimate goal of animal liberation, it is the first time that the animal rights movement in Aotearoa has used tripods as a blockading tactic. It was good for us to get out of our comfort zone! This campaign will only escalate if real change does not come for the animals.
We’re not actually advocating for free range farming or more ‘welfare-friendly’ forms of animal exploitation. We see the problem as the domination of animals full stop – speciesism – the control industry has over their reproduction and their life and death, because farm animals are treated as property. They are considered production units rather than sentient beings and we want to challenge those perceptions and the relationship of domination between humans and animals.
None of us are professional activists or anything doing this kind of work; we’re just a small group of vegans from various groups who came together because we care enough to act. Anyone can do this and every contribution to the struggle for animal liberation is important. We have to keep fighting to end speciesism! The animals need us. J
One of the awaited events, embracing the whole Europe nowadays, is Euro 2012 – football championship, hosted by Poland and Ukraine. On the contrary, one of the awaited events for European animal rights protestors
is checking up on how Ukrainian authorities managed to get rid of or reduce a number of homeless dogs and cats. One of the brightest social trends of last months is numerous boycotts and demonstrations, where Europeans appealed to cruelty of Ukrainians and demanded of cancelling Euro in Ukraine.
On June 9th 2012, on the eve of the major sport competition, the second demonstration of Fair Play organization was arranged along Kyiv streets. Due to a small number of activists (nearly 100 people) the strike did not do well, especially in contrast to European boycotts of the last year. The news of massive animals’ murders astonished Europeans immediately, especially considering their thorough and attentive treatment to our little brothers.
One of the vivid reflections of European dissatisfaction was recorded in Hamburg. German advertiser Christian Baur has introduced the yelping football ball in attempt to alert an attention of German residents to horroble situation in Ukraine. He left an invention on the streets. When people pulled the ball, it started yelping like dogs do. Curious people looked at the ball and saw messages left by Baur about dogs’ shooting in Ukraine. The ball appeal asked people to stop the mass destruction of animals and to support the German charity organization ETN eV for the protection of the environment and animals.
In November 2011 the world-known actress and prominent animal activist Brigitte Bardot referred to the Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych. Her letter carried a request to stop the mass destruction of stray dogs. After that, Prime Minister of Ukraine MykolaAzarov has demanded to strengthen control over the animals catch and prosecute all cases of abuse. In addition, last autumn the phenomenon of professional “dog-hunters” was revealed in Kyiv, who exchanged messages about their experience on the Internet. The second letter from Brigitte Bardot did not make the President wait.
The most incredible protesting step was made by Austrian authorities. On December 28th2011 Austrian deputies unanimously considered and supported a bill called the "Stop killing of stray animals in Ukraine” on the eve of Euro 2012. January 2012 has outburst with several boycotts of Ukrainian embassies with the same request. In particular, they were registered in Germany, Czech Republic and Italy, rightful countries-competitors of the football championship.
Great Britain also took part in animal rights campaign against Ukraine. The Sun, one of the leading mass media in the UK, has published pictures of the dead stray dogs, both poisoned and shot. They were made particularly in Kyiv and Donetsk, cities, which are going to host most of the football matches within the championship. Most of the activists admitted that there are no such records in Poland.By Maria
Last month I attended a biology trip to the Liggens Institute. We all filed into the room and sat down in front on the projector. Informed by my teacher we would get the opportunity to carry out gel electrophoresis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR), two processes related to our current internal Biotechnology. However the speaker at the Liggins Institute had another agenda.
He announced we would begin with a quiz. Questions were asked on screen, mostly related to our internal. However we were then asked if we agree with the use of “animal models”. A being strongly
agree, B agree, C don’t know, D disagree and E strongly disagree. He asked us to write down the results. They are as follows: A-4 B-10 C-5 D-7 E-4. He said that there was no wrong or right answer and that we would be asked the same question at the end of the day to see if anything had changed. He also said he was not trying to make us give a particular answer, simply trying to educate us.
We were each given a booklet. Under ‘programme aims’ I noticed somethings strange, “develop your understanding of what a scientific model is and why they are valuable in scientific research”already on the second page I had a biased, not to mention, completely false statement forced upon me. If what
he said was true, that he was not trying to get us to agree with animal testing, then why was the word valuable used. Animal testing is not valuable; it is torture and produces completely false results because animals are so different to us.
The research being undertaking at the Liggins Institute currently is focused on how the fetal environment affects the individual in later life. An example of a “scientific model” was given where
pregnant rats were fed a high fat, nourishing or under nourishing diet. The fat percentage of each group of offspring was then compared. He tried to justify this experiment by telling us that the rats chose to eat the food. He failed to mention the rats were most likely murdered after the data was obtained. And that unlike humans used in experiments these rats did not volunteer and sign a contract. This particular example was also used because it is mild compared to most where the animal suffers extreme pain or death.
At the end of the day we were again asked the question regarding “animal models” and again asked to note down the resultsThey are as follows: A-8 B-16 C-2 D-2 E-2. This shows the duplicitous and sanitized nature of his statements worked and how people are so easily manipulated to believe something even though it comes from only one biased source.
Three scientists arrived nearing the end of the day to speak to us. One man, who worked at the University of Auckland, shared his current research into a cure for ‘lazy eye’ in individuals over 12 years of age. He believes that stimulating the brain with electrodes helps the eye recover focus. This was done on animals, and that he might be importing monkeys from Singapore to work with soon. My disgusted face did not match that of my peers who had so happily accepted this scenario.
The Liggins Institute pretends to further high school students education, when it fact it corrodes their minds with incorrect information, imposes disgusting ethics and removes their empathy which is after all what separates us from animals.
The idea of equal rights of both humans and animals is, apparently, the most powerful statement of those, who fight against exploiting these marvelous creatures, their extermination, hunting and using in inappropriate purposes. 2011 was not only the year of crucial political transformations and economic reforms, but a period of prominent protests for animal rights as well, which could not but alert world society’s attention, as they occurred in both prosperous and developing countries.
One of the illustrious protests has been marked in March 2011 in Finland, which encouraged ten more countries to continue it in other areas. Specifically, ecologists of Finnish “OikeuttaEläimille” were remonstrating against cruel and disgustingly poor animal preserving in fur industries. On the basis of overview of certain such establishments, activists came to very sad conclusion: animals were kept injured, infected or even without limbs, not to speak about any veterinary treatment. On the contrary, the holders of these plants claimed that their fosters are in good hands and feel nothing, but well-being. It is impossible not to mention that Finnish protest even affected the results of parliamentary elections, when the activity of obvious leader (who appeared to be connected to state’s fur industry) was doubted by voters.
In September the protest against BFC Israel have emerged in front of the Embassy of Israel in Moscow, which opposed to laboratory experiments on monkeys this company conducted. Wearing the masks of monkeys, activists tried to deliver the claim of outrageous treatment to these funny animals. In particular, there were some statements about monkeys’ living in tiny cages until someone would like to buy them, afterwards they were sent to specific laboratories without their relatives and in depressed condition.
The suspicion about activity of protesters for animal rights appeared in Denmark in August, when thousands of minks (nearly 3500-7000 individuals) were released from cages on the farm, situated on the Funen Island of Assens community. However, the result was not so good, insomuch as 50 local hunters and inhabitants have caught or killed the most of fugitives almost during one evening, justifying their actions by potentially aggressive behavior of minks.
The demonstration against stray dogs killing in Ukraine was held in Leipzig on December.Their massive extermination is associated with arrangementof the European Football Championship 2012 in Ukraine and Poland. Under the motto "European Football Championship 2012 without killing animals" 80 people out ofAktion Fair Play (organization) came to the demonstration with posters and flyers, handing pictures of killed dogs to others. Instead of organizing certain dog shelters, these poor animals are hunted and burned in specialized crematories, and there were also evidences that dogs were alive before the process started. Many protestors brought their little pets to support the movement. In November, similar demonstrations were held in Potsdam and Kiel.
Probably, it would be appropriate to finish this article with the most unprecedented animal rights protest, which occurred in June, when 12 members of SpanishIgualdad Animal (Animal Equality in English) and EquaAnimal were arrested for a crime against natural environment (this accusation was likely to appear as the consequence of release of 20 thousand minks in Santiago de Compostela). This event of national importance defined animal rights protestors
as eco-terrorists, struggled with Spanish fur industry, which supported the repression wave in Spain. The resonance this protest gained in the world society might resemble an attempt of criminalization of activists’ work.
Maria Kruk, an author for Species.com
In an effort to control South Korea's worst outbreak of Foot and Mouth disease the Government have ordered that over 1.23 million pigs and hundreds of thousands of cows, goats and deer be killed.
Presumably to speed up this process up and save on the costs of slaughter pigs, in their thousands, are being buried alive in pits. I found these disturbing images on the Mercy for Animals blog
Surely the best way to stop the spread of Foot and Mouth disease is to not farm animals in the first place. I have never really heard of anyone getting a terrible disease from vegies.
Just over seven weeks ago two good friends of mine had a lovely little vegan boy called Liam. With two wonderful, intelligent and compassionate parents he is destined for a rich and fulfilling life; sadly he is one of the very lucky ones. Billions of human and non-human children all over the world are not so lucky.
Last week I was reading the Stuff website as I do most days and came across an article which made me cry (also something that seems to happen most days – our world has both truly beautiful and truly disgusting things happening every day). The article titled ‘Mother dog finds her puppies drowned
’ details how a female pitbull cross named Faith from Tauranga found her puppies drowned in an estuary on Saturday. According to the SPCA she only stopped howling, presumably in grief, yesterday and has been sitting in her kennel without moving. The article says that the six two-day old puppies were found in a plastic bag and that their drowning was obviously purposeful.
Among the almost daily articles detailing animal cruelty this story really stood out to me because I am the proud mother a red nosed pitbull called Daisy (see picture of us above) and anything relating to pitbulls grabs my attention but also because of the very obvious distress and grief both the mother and father were going through after finding their dead puppies. It has been obvious to me for as long as I can remember that animals have the same feelings as me but for some reason not everyone sees this. I wanted to share this families story with as many people as possible so that people might actually start to understand the rich emotions that animals have and how they really are just like us.
Below are picture from the NZ Herald of Faith and the father finding the puppies and the bag they were in. There is also one of Faith at the SPCA.
Too often we hear stories of bags of puppies and kittens that have been dumped in streams, rubbish bins or on road sides. It is as if the people who do these things think that these animals are disposable, that their lives don’t matter and that the parents who’s babies have been taken are not going to suffer and grieve either. I recently read a book called The Inner World of Farm Animals; Their Amazing Social, Emotional and Intellectual Capacities by Amy Hatkoff. This is one of the most amazing books I have ever read and it should be compulsory reading for meat, egg and dairy consumers as well as animal advocates.Among the many stories
were heaps about the bond between farmed animals and their young. Did you know that baby chicks cheep to their mother and siblings a couple of days before they hatch to let everyone know they are coming out soon? Or that every chick looks different and a mother hen can tell which ones are her babies?
Cows have similar bonds with their calves. During our Dairy Investigation earlier this year a dairy farmer told us how cows on his farm often broke out of the paddocks to search for their stolen calves. This is sort of behaviour is not uncommon.
Knowing this makes you wonder how anyone could justify taking a baby from their mother, regardless of the species, for profit or in the case of Faith above because they can not be bothered caring for the puppies. Liam’s mother loves him greatly and her bond with him is very strong. Recently we were talked about how since having Liam and establishing this bond with him she can now really understand what mother sheep, cows and pigs must feel with every stolen litter. Fortunately she will never be confined to a farrowing crate unable to even turn around to nuzzle Liam, nor will Liam be taken away from her to be grown, cut up and eaten.
The agricultural industry treats parents as machines; fathers are there to produce sperm and mothers are made to churn out babies who are often taken away not long after birth to be mutilated by procedures such as de-beaking, castration and tail docking. The babies remain separated from their mothers and are grown until they are big enough to kill and eat.
The ‘pet’ industry is similar in that the parents are nothing more than baby making machines, churning out profitable babies who are taken away from their mother well before weaning time so that they are ‘super cute’ and will fetch a higher price.
Companion and farmed animals are no different to me or you. They have a full range of emotions; they have bonds with their children and friends, they feel pain, happiness, apprehension and fear. Next time you sit down to eat a steak, eat an egg or drink some milk think about how you would feel if your friend/child/sibling was taken from you, abused and butchered. Or think about how you feel if someone placed your child/friend/sibling in a plastic bag and drowned them just because they could not be bothered caring for them. The horror, pain and grief that you would feel is no different to that of any of the animals that we share this earth with.
*** Please note that I do not think that human womyn have to be maternal or mothers and I support the right for womyn to have abortions, adopt out children and like myself choose to not have babies but there are also many womyn who maternal and who are mothers. I also do not think we should eat or harm human babies (or adults) in anyway
Huntly was finally neutered yesterday. During his operation he was also microchipped & had eighteen teeth extracted. The teeth had to be removed because he has severe gum disease caused by major neglect when he was a kitten.
The best news is that Huntly tested negative for FIV & cat flu. We are so pleased about this as the chances of him being positive were very high. He also has good kidney function. YAY!!!
Huntly's movement in his back legs continues to improve. He spends much of the day chasing flies & playing with his favourite toy "Furry Worm" [who kept him company during his stay @ the vet's]. He appears in very good spirits. Ate well this morning, & is showing no indication that he had a big operation yesterday. He's one tough little cat.
Huntly's walking is improving everyday & only when he gets tired does he drag his back legs. He's gained just over a kilogram in weight which is great because he was so malnourished when we discovered him.
Huntly is getting on really well with the German Shepherd that shares our house. He likes jumping out from behind the furniture to give him a fright & the Shepherd is often seen throwing Huntly his rubber ball. The relationship that is developing between them is lovely to watch. Unfortunately Huntly's neutering couldn't be done today. His vet has found he has some major dental & gum issues. He has to be treated with antibiotics before he can be operated on in 2 weeks.
Huntlywill be neutered & have the worst of his teeth removed. It's so sad to see such a young cat affected like this. He's in this state because of major neglect during his early development. He has probably had rickets too & will also be tested for feline AIDS... so all in all it wasn't good news. For a cat that is probably only 10 months old this is very unfair. However, his vet is very hopeful we can get him on the right track. She was impressed with his heartbeat & the size of his testicles. "The biggest balls" she'd ever seen apparently. I presume she meant within the feline range!!
Wee Huntly is going from strength to strength. We have a short video of him showing us how good he is a walking now :) You should check it out.
This weekend we were luck enough to hold another stall for the good vegan boys of The Mark of Man
in Henderson :)
We also did one the next day on K'rd. We had a decent number of interested people come up and talk to us. It was awesome!
We have heaps of events
over the next couple of weeks and we will be having lots of stalls so if you see us come say hi :)
Check out our pics from the weekend here