Magi Loucks

How To Help Animals

Emma on porch

Over the past few weeks, several people have asked me for suggestions on where and how to volunteer in their communities.  With the recent Ohio Conklin Dairy Farm video scandal, even more people have asked for suggestions on how to get involved in animal rights and welfare issues.  Hopefully, this will help.

First, let’s briefly cover what are often called “factory farms.”  Farms of the Old MacDonald variety are disappearing as industrialization has consolidated and almost completely automated the process.  Small farms exist, but most have contracts with larger corporations that push industrialization as a means of survival.  As of 2002, only three companies controlled nearly 80% of the U.S. cattle slaughter/packing market: Tyson Foods Inc., Cargill Meat Solutions Corp., and Swift and Company. Animals are no longer mated, but artificially inseminated, genetically modified and injected with steroids and hormones to increase production.

Animals bred for food, or “livestock,” are not governed by the same rights as your cat or dog.  The initial argument (by the FDA, the Department of Agriculture, the Dairy industry, etc.) was apparently that since these animals are being bred, and ultimately killed, for their meat or byproducts, they are an exception to animal cruelty laws.  What has resulted is an industry fraught with common practices and procedures that are horrific, yet legal.   Unanesthetized tail docking, debeaking and lifetime cage confinement are a few of the tamer methods: sites such as FarmSanctuary and Vegan Outreach describe these inhumane practices and others in greater detail. Undercover investigations by such organizations as PETA and Mercy For Animals have accumulated a catalog of videos that show not only these methods, but the sadistic animal abuse that so often that follows.  In 2002, Sierra Club researchers created The RapSheet on Animal Factories, documenting “crimes, violations or other operational malfeasance at more than 630 industrial meat factories in 44 states.”  That’s just the ones that were caught.

So what can you do?

1. Educate yourself about where your food comes from.  Reading labels isn’t enough.  For example, free-range and cage-free are terms that sound nice, but apply only to birds raised for food (not for eggs), are only partially regulated by the USDA (cage-free is not regulated at all), do not require third party certification, and are  thus essentially meaningless.  Organizations like Vegan Outreach attempt to educate the public on these types of issues  (labeling, certifications, common practices, etc.) through their website, educational programs and booklets – and so does  almost every organization mentioned in this blog entry.

2. Sign up for Action Alerts about upcoming legislation in your area.  Many different non-profit orgs, such as FarmSanctuary, AmericanHumane, The Humane Society (HSUS) & WSPA have email alerts, and will send you a notice when a new measure is up for a vote, or a petition is looking for signatures.  Born Free USA and Wildlife Conservation Society cover a broader spectrum of animal issues, such as animal abuse in circuses, zoos, puppy mills, and wild horse slaughter.

3. Modify your diet.  Voting with your dollar has an impact, and even one day less of animal products makes a difference to animals, to environment, to health.  For example, a 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gasses than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.  Meat Free Monday is a non-profit started by Sir Paul McCartney with the goal of raising awareness about the climate-changing impact of factory farming.

Target, and even Costco, sell “meatless” garden burgers, bacon and sausages, as do more health conscious stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.  There are some great faux cheeses out there (Daiya is a personal favorite) that melt just like the original.  Soy or rice milk are easy to find alternatives (I prefer almond or hemp), and there are even dairy-free coffee creamers!  Experimenting with foreign foods is fun, and a lot of the ingredients are now available at your local supermarket.  Other cultures are often a lot less dependent upon animal products in their food, particularly milk or cheese.  The web is full of incredible recipes and suggestions on how to widen the scope of your eating habits without sacrificing taste: the site GoVeg even has a free Vegetarian Starter Kit to give you ideas and help with the transition.

4.  Donate.  Donate your money, donate your time.  Hands On Network is a great site to connect you with volunteering opportunities in your area.  If you’re here in Los Angeles, Animal Acres and The Gentle Barn are just two of the farmed animal sanctuaries in the area that hold tours, and always welcome volunteers. There are dozens of companion animal rescues throughout the city, that rescue animals from city shelters, then foster, rehabilitate and often train them to prepare them for a loving forever home.  American Humane and FEMA both offer animal rescue training for all kinds of disasters, from tornadoes and flooding to hoarding situations.

I’m sure there are a million other ways to help, but hopefully this will get you started.  Please feel free to add suggestions and links in the comment section.  To paraphrase a favorite parable, helping one animal may not seem like it makes much of a difference, but it makes all the difference to that animal.

how

headshot with glasses pointing

How do you continue when the world is ending?
Well, maybe not the world but the only one that matters
Your World
My World
How do you move forward when everything has stopped?
All plans cut short
All dreams irrelevant
The puzzle’s last piece is missing, or has left on its own for greener puzzles
She was taken from me
She left
She decided
I know not which but I know she is gone like I know there’s not enough oxygen in this all too quiet room to breathe
My throat knots in a tangle of dissonant chords
My thoughts are a cancer eating me alive with why did I why didn’t I why couldn’t I why did you go
We had a deal

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