Here's What Happened When I Tried to Rescue Piglets From a Factory Farm
By Jenny McQueen
For a city girl, I've had a lot of experience with pigs. I've visited with them in sanctuaries, given belly rubs (they love those), introduced little children to them, rescued and cared for young piglets, witnessed distressed, overheated/freezing/thirsty young pigs in slaughter trucks, and experienced the hellish conditions inside a pig breeding and pig growing facility.
So what's the truth about how pigs live on farms?
The industry provides an adorable illustration of "This Little Piggy" in a sweet-looking children's booklet, "Pig Tales Fun Book." It shows piglets suckling from their mama on the grass, a vet on hand, kids playing among the pigs. The pigs are enjoying their freedom in an idyllic setting. It's an artistic rendering that the kids can color. What fun.
The reality, however, is quite different. This is from my direct experience, in Canada, a developed country.
From the outside, there are neat buildings, a clean white shed, surrounded by pristine fields. Workers park their cars and leave civilization to enter a secret world of suffering and injustice to their charges—hundreds, perhaps thousands of pigs. Their offices and kitchen area look like any workplace. Open the door to the pigs' area and your senses and emotions are assaulted.
Pigs have sensitive noses. Their cousin, the truffle hog, is prized for sniffing out precious truffles. But pigs enduring life inside an industrial farm are in absolute purgatory. Shine a flashlight into the air and it's thick with particles. I wore silver jewelry and it was tarnished just from being exposed for a few hours. The cacophony of hundreds of pigs in distress, some screaming to escape, is deafening, as are the sounds of machinery—automatic feeders, automatic air extraction. Working in this environment must be awful for the humans, too. Who would be able to take pride in work that involves brutality, suffering and dangerous conditions? Dusty cobwebs hang from the electrical fittings, a desk fan is strung up in the corridor pointed at more electrics. The building is a fire hazard.
One could argue that the female pigs kept for breeding have it the worst. They languish in either a cramped gestation or farrowing crate, where they can't turn around. They urinate and defecate in the crate, and as they have to stand in their feces, it gradually falls below the slatted floor to a big pit. They give birth on these cold hard floors, not able to nuzzle their young or create a nest as they do in the wild. If they suffer injuries, there's no vet on hand. I witnessed one pregnant pig with a huge prolapse. She was being kept in a cold room, her chart marking her due date. Females like her are forced to reproduce until their piglet production declines, and then they are brutally loaded and shipped off to slaughter.
Male pigs are mostly slaughtered young, at barely 6 months old. Some males, however, are kept for breeding and used to supply semen. I witnessed large boars confined in a small cold room, in similar cages to those of the females. They were trying but failing to escape the confines of their cages. The look of desperation in their eyes is something I will never forget. Syringes were nearby.
The baby piglets seem oblivious to their fate. They struggle to reach their mother's red, often sore, nipples. Some are obviously suffering, thin and struggling to survive. I tried to save one piglet who was shivering on the bare, cold floor. She died in my arms.
Piglets who don't thrive are swung by their feet until their heads are bashed on the concrete floor—and yes, this is standard industry practice. They endure 'modifications' such as having their tails snipped off, their testicles removed and even their teeth ripped out without any painkillers. Witnessing these atrocities, and knowing that pigs are intelligent, feeling animals breaks my heart. Locking eyes with adult pigs who are in a constant state of anxiety and distress is soul-destroying.
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) activists have managed to rescue some individuals. We took one lucky piglet, Noel, out of a hellish place in Ontario, Canada. He had a swollen ear and needed urgent veterinary treatment. He's now safe at a sanctuary, but we had to leave behind so many others.
The public is beginning to understand what happens to animals used for food. So-called humane slaughter methods have come under scrutiny. A court in Canada recently viewed footage of the gas chambers in a pig slaughterhouse. The pigs descending into the gas were seen screaming and struggling for air.
Please share this video and help the public see the truth.
Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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