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Utah Farms Exposure Tour

Lauren Lockey

Amy Meyer of Utah Animal Rights Coalition and I recently teamed up for a “Farm Exposure Tour.” On this tour, which took place over four days, we armed ourselves with cameras and drove by more than 100 farms, including the major industrial factory farms throughout Utah. What we saw shocked us: dumpsters full of dead turkeys, thousands of small hutches with confined calves, animals living in their own waste, liquid manure waste lagoons, manure piles that were stories high, and feed/hay storage for miles. These farms are obscured from the public behind vast private property lots and warning signs, but even from public roads we were able to witness just how awful and unsustainable these operations are, and WHY they are hidden from the public. Consumers have the right to know that these practices are going on right here in our backyard in Utah. We took more than 400 photographs, including dairy calves left for dead at a few Utah dairy farms. These photos are also used on an interactive map we created that plots exactly where Utah’s factory farms and smaller farms are located. This is quite a lengthy write up and I don’t even touch on everything, so make sure to follow Utah Animal Rights and Sage Mountain Utah on Instagram and Facebook for more pictures, videos and details of the tour.

 

Turkeys

There are 47 turkey farms in Sanpete County, and it ranks number 3 in terms of turkey inventory. In 2012, nearly 4.5 million turkeys were killed in Utah. That number is difficult to comprehend, but when you see the massive sheds it starts to make sense. The one we were able to get closest to was in Freedom, Utah. When we stepped out of the car near just one of these sheds, we could hear the hundreds of turkeys crammed together inside. There were no windows and I imagined what it must be like. To see hundreds of these sheds from a distance is one thing but to stand near one is another: nowhere to escape, you can’t sleep because of noise or feeling threatened by others around you, you are bred and fed to grow very big very fast but are just a baby and still developing so often collapse under your own weight or get trampled, get sick and risk dying. Standing there I felt sad, helpless and completely overwhelmed by the amount of turkeys there. These sheds are so mechanized that the only daily task for the farm owner is to come through to clear out the dead individuals. Amy and I found where those bodies are thrown: into dumpsters located on surrounding roads.

Lives hidden, unseen and discarded. The only time they breath fresh air is when they are transported on trucks to their death. Part of me felt the individuals in the dumpsters were lucky because they didn’t have to suffer any longer or have their life end in fear while being shackled with their throat slit. These massive farms supply Norbest Turkey, whose slogan is “raised in the pristine high mountains and valleys.”

We want to believe that farms are keeping up with proper care of these animals, but the reality is quite different. Investigations held by Direct Action Everywhere continue to shed light on the truth inside these facilities. Fox 13 News covered the story a few months ago here.

 

Eggs

Massive egg farms are in Tooele, Utah County, Millard and Cache County. At the time of the most recent USDA census, there were just under 4 million laying hens in Utah. There are more than 100,000 hens in the buildings at time of USDA census. Delta Egg farm and Oakdell were the two we were able to get closest to, which was not very close. These massive farms were heavily guarded with security and no trespassing signs.

We were even approached by one security guard asking why we were there. I have never seen so much security surrounding food! Would there be the same security for say a bean or vegetable packaging plant? Not sure but I am certain that we were not welcome here. These industries do not want the public to see inside these places and here’s why: hens are crammed together in groups of 5-10 in tiny metal cages piled on top of each other so you can imagine the amount of waste these birds live in. They cannot spread their wings, the tips of their beaks are burned off so they won’t peck each other to death out of frustration of living in such close quarters. Male chicks are immediately thrown into a grinder or gassed because they are of no use to the industry. Through genetic manipulation, hens are forced to lay 250-300 eggs a year. In nature, hens lay only 10-15 a year so when their bodies are forced to endure the labor intensive process of 250-300, their bodies become afflicted with debilitating osteoporosis and bone fractures that are extremely painful. They are only 18 months when they reach the slaughterhouse. Backyard and small farms aren’t necessarily better for animals because they are still being exploited for something we do not need. Eggs are not good for us to be ingesting because they are the highest cholesterol dense food.

 

Pigs

In 2012, roughly 2.5 million pigs from Utah’s farms were slaughtered. Smithfield/Circle 4 Farms located in Beaver County Utah raises 1.2 million pigs per year. 600,000 pigs are packed into long warehouse sheds at any given time. These sheds go on as far as the eye can see, but you would never know that thousands of pigs are inside each one of them.

We drove the road that follows many of the sheds, but could only see the chutes and fans at the end of each shed and the liquid manure pools in between. Waste pits like these eventually end up in the oceans causing “dead zones” where ocean life cannot survive. No one was around and when we got out of the car, we understood why. The smell of manure was so bad that it burned our eyes and soaked into our clothes. I immediately thought of Ponyboy and Wilma Jean and my eyes filled with tears. How lucky I am to get to know them and take care of them . To realize we were standing outside sheds where a sow will spend her short life confined to a gestation crate where she can only lie down or stand up on concrete flooring was heartbreaking especially now that I know how pigs enjoy digging and rooting around in dirt and laying in the sun for hours. Ponyboy and Wilma Jean are best friends and they are free to choose how they spend their day. They can communicate in ways that continue to amaze me. What makes the individuals inside all these sheds any different from Wilma or even my dog Maggie? A mother pig will not have enough room to turn around or care for her young. She will be impregnated year after year until her body breaks down and she is sent to slaughter. Newly born piglets undergo castration and have their tails cut off without any pain relief. They then are crammed into pens until they reach market weight, usually when they are 6 months old. At that point, they are loaded up onto trucks through the chutes and are hauled off to slaughter. They often go 12+ hours in the heat without water in the trucks and by the time they reach the slaughterhouse they are overheating and exhausted, but all that awaits them is an electric pliers stun to the head. Another DXE investigation inside Smithfield/Circle 4 here.

 

Dairy

All the farms we drove by or visited were extremely tough to see, but the dairy farms (large and small) were the most difficult for me. Most of us believe that dairy is ok. That being vegetarian is enough. I believed the same thing until I started researching the dairy industry a little more. Dairy is not only bad for human health and the environment, it is extremely cruel to all the animals involved. There are over 200 dairy farms in Utah. The largest dairy farms we saw were in Elberta and Newcastle.

Cache County had the most small dairy farms and honestly these were the ones with the worst conditions.

In order for any mammal to produce milk, she must have given birth. In the dairy industry, these cows are forcibly impregnated by a person inserting their arm far into the cow’s rectum in order to position the uterus, and then forcing an instrument into her vagina. The narrow chute in which female cows are restrained to do this is often referred to as a “rape rack”. See video demonstrating how this is done. Once the cow has carried her baby for 9 months, she is ready to give birth. Her baby is taken from her less than 48 hours after she has given birth. A bond between a mother and her newly born baby is immensely strong, so you can imagine how horrifying and sad this is for mom and baby. I have met calves newly separated from their mom, and they try to cry out but have lost their voices from crying so much for their mom. At only a few only days old, some tried to “nurse” my hand and fingers because they were so desperate for their mother’s milk.

Male calves born into the diary industry are either stuffed into crates to be slaughtered in a few months as veal or sold off as beef cattle. Female calves are chained or fenced into extremely small areas called hutches. They are denied room to play and be social with others. They will remain in these hutches for up to 4 months until they are transferred to group pens which can be extremely stressful for them.

They will never see their mom again and will repeat the same process she did.

I don’t have children but I often hear mothers talk about how much they hate pumping and how sore they get. I have spoken with mothers who would literally kill anyone who tried to hurt their baby. This is what these mothers go through day in and day out until she is forcibly impregnated again to repeat the process, produce more milk and then sent to slaughter at 4 years of age. I have to ask, put yourself in the position of these mothers. Your baby is taken from you so another species can consume the milk that was meant to grow your baby. You become so sore and often infected from being hooked up to metal machines that you can hardly walk at times. Nature is pretty amazing in that every mammal (we are not separate from this) produces just enough growth fluid for an infant to grow healthy and strong. Obviously there are individual issues that can arise but we surely don’t need to be consuming another species growth fluid as a baby and especially not into adulthood.

We came across calves that looked sick and malnourished as well as a few dead calves.

dead dairy cow

dead dairy calf

Amy and I were actually able to get pretty close to a few of these dairies. The number of dairy cows at any given location was astounding when you think about the amount of resources it takes within the industry. It takes 1000 gallons of water for 1 gallon of milk. So you wonder where our water is going. Just one dairy cow consumes 100 pounds of food a day and produces 120 pounds of waste per day. The waste has to go somewhere.

The toughest part is that even though it was overwhelmingly sad to witness babies chained to hutches in the hot sun, we were able to go back to our hotel that night and eat dinner. They were all still there. Some I have visited in the last few months are all still there. Chained, confined and missing their mom.

Something I have always believed to be true is that humans are compassionate and empathetic. We want to believe we are making good choices. There is a reason a lot of these farms are hidden from public view. If they were transparent, very few would support them. I do not doubt that there are farmers that do care for their animals and most likely don’t enjoy sending the animals they have raised to slaughter. But because of our demand for this idea that we need animal protein, these animals will continue to be betrayed. No matter the farm, at the end of the day, animals will be needlessly slaughtered. ALL the nutrients we need comes from plants. Why are we filtering it through an innocent animal? Amy and I did this tour to see for ourselves just how hidden and unapproachable some of these farms are, to share our experience with you, to create a map so the public can see where these farms are located, and to inspire you to not only choose a vegan lifestyle but to stand up to these unjust practices that are 100% unnecessary. When you see animals being confined or transported, take a picture, write about it, talk about it, share it! Get involved with animal rights groups, outreach groups, volunteer at animal sanctuaries or start your own, leaflet, write letters, start petitions, protest, reach out to environmental groups and share with them that the number 1 contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use, deforestation, ocean dead zones and species loss is animal agriculture. Reach out to health organizations, doctors and dietitians and ask why they aren’t addressing the number one cause of heart disease, cancer and diabetes and prescribing a plant based diet. These issues must be talked about, action must be taken and the time is NOW.

Humans are a Virus to Planet Earth (and how to cure it)

Planet Earth, just like us, is a living breathing organism and just like humans when it gets sick, it heats up to kill the virus (disease). Well, right now our planet is sick, very sick and it’s heating up big time to kill the disease and that disease is us, humans!

The instances of larger hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, airborne diseases, dirty/lack of water and rampant violence are a direct result of the human species taking more than we are giving back. When I was born in the 1950’s there were two billion people on this planet, today there are 7.4 billion, projected to hit 12 billion by 2100. Along with that human growth has come with it an industrial revolution in the form of energy development, transportation and agriculture that this planet has never seen before. The excess heat being produced by 7.4 humans is being trapped in our atmosphere and absorbed by our oceans. Hurricanes feed off those warm waters; wildfires feed off the dry land conditions. Even if you are not convinced that humans are contributing to these problems, shouldn’t we ALL be on the same page to better our planet and all it’s occupants?

The most efficient way to deal with a disease is to get to the root of the problem, not just ignore it, take a pill or apply a band-aid but stop the problem at its root cause. When it comes to human health, the root of most health problems is what we eat three times a day as well as other abuses we do to our bodies. With education and support, humans can improve their diet, incorporate regular exercise into their lives and stop bad habits like smoking, alcohol and drug abuse. When it comes to planetary health the root of the problem is us, so what can we do about it?

I, like everyone else, want to come home to a warm home every day, I want to drive my car anywhere I want, go on periodic trips around the world by plane. The energy and transportation industry is very important to the human lifestyle, but thanks to the many visionaries our species has produced, we are now seeing the beginning of an energy and transportation industry based on renewable energy in the form of the sun and the wind and that’s awesome. A number of individuals are switching to solar energy for their homes and electric cars, but not all of us are financially able to do so as of yet. The time frame to switch to 100% renewable is going to be long and expensive and will be fought the whole way, by industries profiting on the present system.

But there is an industry which most people aren’t aware of that is the biggest contributor (51%) to the warming and polluting of our planet more than energy and all the transportation in this world combined and that’s animal agriculture. Because of our demand for animal protein an industry has been born in less than 100 years that is the leading cause of:

  • Deforestation–we need more trees, not less, to absorb more carbon dioxide and breathe out clean oxygen we all need to survive).
  • Water Shortage—there is only 1% of fresh water available to all life on this planet and animal agriculture takes close to 50% of that fresh water. The rest of our planets water is salt (97%) and ice (2%).
  • Food Shortage—the reason animal agriculture needs so much water is to grow grain, corn, soy, alfalfa, and hay to raise the 70 billion land animals being raised for food annually.
  • Ocean Dead Zones—because those 70 billion animals create over 100 times more waste (feces) than humans with no sanitation system. That animal waste ends up in our streams, rivers and oceans killing all life it comes in contact with.
  • Airborne Diseases—to keep those billions of animals from dying of disease during their short life before they are sent to slaughter, they are giving 80% of all antibiotics available in this world, creating antibiotic resistant airborne diseases that spread quickly across our sick planet.
  • Human Sickness—the science is overwhelming today showing that an animal based diet is the leading cause of virtually every disease humans are experiencing.
  • Human Violence—violence creates more violence and there is not a more violent industry that the raising of billions of animals for food…food that is eventually killing us from those animals grave and that grave is the human body!

Fortunately, there is “one single act” that all humans on earth can participate in and can do so at their very next meal and every meal after that, which will force an end factory animal farming and begin the healing of our planet (and us) immediately. That “one single act” is to stop eating, wearing and using animals for ANY resource, it is not necessary in the modern world we live in now! Everything on this earth revolves around money and demand determines where that money goes, we as a human species need to demand:

  • Plant Based Foods—grown directly for human consumption and not filtered through an animal first.
  • Solar Power—the sun is the center of all life on this planet and is given to us freely.
  • Compassion—to treat every animal on this earth (humans and non humans) with respect, compassion and love.

One Single Act that EVERY ONE of us can do RIGHT NOW and FOREVER, to better ALL life on planet earth, as well as planet earth itself!

Kent Maurer—citizen of planet earth
www.OneSingleAct.org

The Plant Powered Challenge

By: Dave Swartz

It was just this morning heading westbound down Parley’s Canyon on interstate 80 when I slowly passed yet another animal transport truck filled to capacity with pigs, swine, or hogs. I’m actually not sure what the correct term is. I guess it depends on who you ask. My vehicle and the transport truck were going roughly the same speed so I had a little time to peek in. I’m not sure how many motorists do the same and actually look through the metal slats to see who is inside one of these trailers. I’m hoping many but I’m guessing only a few. This sight immediately makes me stop my thoughts and have a moment for the animals that are surely  bound for the slaughterhouse. As much as this sight breaks my heart, I do not feel any hate or anger towards the driver, the trucking company, the producers, or the processors. I try my absolute hardest to send only good thoughts and absolute love to the animals inside. Every time I see one of these trucks the same question in some form or another pops into my head. It’s usually something along the lines of “How in this day and age is raising and slaughtering animals for food still a thing?”

What we know in 2017  is the science based fact that the more animal protein one consumes the more health problems and disease one will have. It is science based fact that animal agriculture is responsible for most of the water pollution, ocean dead zones, and deforestation on this planet. Not to mention it is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the whole transportation industry combined.

It was not until my 22nd year on this planet before I realized the amount of suffering I caused simply because of my regular “western” diet. When I realized that not only would a plant-based diet or vegan diet eliminate this needless suffering but it would also be the healthiest diet for my body and least destructive of all diets on our environment, it simply was a no brainer to make the switch.

Early next month, Sage Mountain is sponsoring our  10 day “Plant Powered Challenge” with local fitness expert Kent Maurer. I strongly encourage you to sign up and see for yourself how empowering a plant based vegan diet can be.

Keep in mind that nothing will do more for human health, this planet’s environment, and most importantly reduce suffering, than removing animal products from our plates…and that is a science based fact.

*If you would like more information on our 10 day Plant Powered Challenge please email Kent Maurer at kwmaurer@gmail.com or Dave Swartz at dave@sagemtn.org