Farmed Animal Watch: Objective Information for the Thinking Advocate
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DECEMBER 22, 2006 -- Number 43, Volume 6


1. COSTLY GIFTS

Multi-million dollar campaigns through which charities give farmed animals to people in impoverished nations are being denounced by animal protection organizations and the World Land Trust (WLT). Animal Aid and WLT say it is “madness” to send farmed animals to areas where they will aggravate drought conditions and desertification. Goats, for example, are particularly damaging to arid, degraded areas while cows require tremendous amounts of feed and water. Animal Aid alleges that various charities raise up to £10 million ($19.6 million) every year this way while ignoring the damage it causes. "But while donating animals might make the donor feel good, such gifts simply add to the burden of the impoverished recipients. There are many worthwhile initiatives to help people in developing countries that do not involve the exploitation of animals,” said Animal Aid’s Andrew Tyler. "I was prepared to put this down to ignorance of the issues last year, but now it seems utterly cynical. They seem to be doing this just to make money at Christmas. It's a gimmick," said WLT director John Burton, adding that “…in the long-term the quality of life for [the recipients] will slowly be reduced with devastating effect."

The charities claim they provide fencing, veterinary care and other support needed for the animals, whom they say are usually obtained locally. Send a Cow, one such charity, counters that it insists on a zero-grazing policy, with animals instead kept in spacious shelters and given fodder. Another, Christian Aid, said that money donated to purchase a goat wouldn’t necessarily be spent that way but would instead go into an agriculture fund to be distributed by local managers. "We strongly dispute these claims by Animal Aid and the World Land Trust. We work closely with the communities where we have worked for over 60 years to provide them with exactly what they need to lift themselves out of poverty,” said an Oxfam spokesperson. "We work with local organisations on the ground who know the needs of the community better than anyone else,” concurs a Christian Aid representative.

See also “MORE HYPE THAN HOPE” at: http://tinyurl.com/y4k7y3

An on-line discussion about this issue is taking place on The Inspired Protagonist, the blog of Seventh Generation, at: http://tinyurl.com/yfxgu6


WHY GIVING A GOAT FOR CHRISTMAS 'HINDERS THOSE IN POVERTY'
This is London, Nov. 30, 2006
http://tinyurl.com/wy8cf

BRITISH CHARITIES URGED NOT TO SEND ANIMALS TO POOR COUNTRIES
Crosswalk, Kevin McCandless
http://www.crosswalk.com/news/1458048.html

CRITICS URGE CHARITIES TO GIVE UP THE GOAT
The Times, Sean O'Neill, November 30, 2006
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2478857,00.html

 

2. MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS

The November/December issue of Mother Jones magazine includes a photo essay (accessible on-line) by Dutch photographer Jan van Ijken who has “spent the past several years watching humans interact with animals in a range of settings—from research labs and factory farms to exotic bird shows.” The magazine notes: “The result is a series of remarkable ../images documenting the shifting and ambivalent ways we value other creatures.” Entitled More Equal than Others, the essay includes numerous photos of intensively confined farmed animals.

According to van Ijken’s website, the essay originates from a photographic project entitled “Precious Animals,” part of a series commissioned by the Netherland’s Rijksmuseum jointly with the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad under the title Document Nederland. The project “is about the complex relationship people have with animals: animals as efficiently produced consumer products for people, animals as objects for medical research to benefit humans, and animals as objects of human love and affection. In his photos Jan van Ijken examines the value attached to animals in the Netherlands. He makes no judgment, but encourages us to reflect about our own values and our occasional double standards”: http://tinyurl.com/tzkp8


PHOTO ESSAY BY JAN VAN IJKEN
Text by Mother Jones, November/December 2006
http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2006/11/more_equal_than_others.html

 

3. THE DARK SIDE OF THE ALL-AMERICAN MEAL

Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal debuted in U.S. theaters on November 17th. Eric Schlosser, author of the book on which it is based (see item #2 of: http://tinyurl.com/y2wvgz ), explained that the movie was done as a fictional narrative rather than a documentary because of the clout the fast-food industry wields with networks that might have aired it. “Even PBS -- you know McDonald's is a big sponsor of Sesame Street,” he remarks.

Revolving around a fictional chain called Mickey's, it includes scenes filmed in a Mexican slaughterplant. “It is horrendous stuff to watch, animals being killed and gutted en masse, their bowels falling dangerously near the prime cuts of meat that make it to American tables each night. It is, quite simply, sickening,” writes Detroit News film critic Tom Long. The bloody scenes are placed late in the movie for two reasons, explains Barbara Vancheri of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Moviegoers aren't likely to bolt at that point, and they've come to care about the woman sent to work where cows are stunned, killed, sawed and skinned and internal organs removed.” Rebecca Weiss relates in The Cornell Daily Sun: “There are a few scenes of unrelenting carnage, more mercilessly graphic than anything you’ll have ever seen in the theatres. Worse, there’s no way to console yourself afterwards — everything you’ve seen is 100% real and all true to life. From the decapitations to the skinning to the disemboweling…” She cautions: “The amount of times that innards and giblet are depicted onscreen may convert the most staunch carnivore into a cow-hugging tofu-championing vegetarian, nay, vegan.”

Director Richard Linklater muses: "It's funny, people know everything about how movies are made - something that fundamentally makes no difference in your life. Everyone knows everything about sports, and run their own fantasy sports team. But the more important something is to your health, your kids' health, the attitude is, let's leave that to the experts, let's not think too much about it." Fast Food Nation “aims to… shock, to demystify and to force a kind of horrified, questioning clarity,” explains The New York Times’s A.O. Scott: “[T]here's no question that a vegetarian diet is much more sustainable for the land, is much more sustainable for many of the people eating that way,” Schlosser states, “The simplest thing people can do is be conscious of where they spend their money. As a consumer, you can think of each purchase as a vote. When you go to fast-food chains and buy industrial meat, you're endorsing those practices” (see also item #4 of: http://tinyurl.com/y8vtvx ). Linklater concurs: “Once you see what goes into your burger, why not choose a healthy alternative, like a veggie burger?”

“Animal rights activists won't necessarily like the movie, since they are portrayed as earnest bumblers when they attempt to liberate cattle from a feedlot only to discover that the animals don't want to leave,” notes the National Chicken Council’s Richard L. Lobb.


FAST FOOD DAMNATION
Grist, Sarah van Schagen, Nov. 17, 2006
http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/11/17/schlosser/

ON FOOD CHOICES, SAYS LINKLATER, MOST PEOPLE WEAR BLINDERS
Philadelphia Daily News, Gary Thompson, Nov. 17, 2006
http://www.philly.com/mld/dailynews/living/16034508.htm

GRAZED AND ABUSED
Mother Jones, Interviewed By Rob Nelson, October 27, 2006
http://www.motherjones.com/arts/qa/2006/11/linklater_extended.html

 

4. OUR DAILY BREAD

Between October 2003 and October 2005, Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter and his crew traveled across Europe recording scenes from the industrial food chain. The result, Our Daily Bread, “is an unblinking, often disturbing look at industrial food production from field to factory,” writes The New York Times’s Manohla Dargis. Commenting on the film’s lack of narration or location identification, he states: “Considering the homogeneity of industrial agricultural practices, these strategies make sense. The opening scene of a uniformed man hosing down a floor flanked by two rows of gutted pigs could have been shot just about anywhere in the modern world, as could the image of live chickens being scooped up by a machine and then loaded by hand into small processing trays. The man slamming one of those trays closed on the head of a chicken frantically bobbing its head could be French or Austrian; nationality here is as irrelevant to the animals as to the consumers who will later buy that chicken after it has been killed, plucked and cleaned, all of which Mr. Geyrhalter shows us through one precisely framed shot after another.
The scenes on the killing floor are predictably brutal, though not for all the obvious reasons. Mr. Geyrhalter doesn’t flinch from showing us the panic of the animals as they head toward the killing floor or the barbarism of their deaths. There’s a haunting scene of a woman, seated seemingly alone and cutting the necks of the chickens that survived the initial kill room. Hers is actually an act of mercy. If she does her job properly, the birds will be dead by the time they are cleaned and butchered, which isn’t always the case in industrial slaughterhouses.”

Writing for Final Call, Kam Williams relates: “Our Daily Bread graphically depicts, not merely death, but the mistreatment doled out to these unfortunate factory animals at every stage of their lifecycles. What could be more shocking than to see a baby calf birthed, not from its mother’s womb, but from a gaping, man-made hole arbitrarily gouged in the cow’s side? Maybe the sight of baby chicks being jettisoned out of pneumatics tubes at breakneck speed onto conveyor belts that then drop the bewildered newborns into crates, which, in turn, cart them off to another equally mechanized, indoor environment for fattening. Then, there are the scenes of fish, hogs and cattle being shuttled to their fates, to be drawn and quartered assembly line-style, with their carcasses carefully hacked away in a fully-automated process that makes use of virtually every bit of their bodies besides the tail. The few employees featured in the film have deadened eyes that ostensibly reflect their having long since capitulated spiritually to their soul-draining line of work. None exhibits even an ounce of compassion for any of the creatures in their care.”

Michael Joshua Rowin concurs: “It's an alienation effect rather than a shock tactic--to watch the droning mindlessness behind the dusting of crops, the picking of cucumbers, or the disemboweling of pigs is to conceivably watch an unfeeling race of androids from a totalitarian planet going about their nightmarish daily routine.”
Williams concludes: “[A]s un-indicted co-conspirators in an ethical compromise of unthinkable proportions, the picture prods you to prevent agri-business from leading the planet down a path to complete moral and ecological collapse.”
And Dargis advises: “‘Our Daily Bread’ can be extremely difficult to watch, but the film’s formal elegance, moral underpinning and intellectually stimulating point of view also make it essential.”

See: http://tinyurl.com/pxbrw and: http://www.frif.com/new2006/odb.html


WHAT'S FOR DINNER? YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW
The New York Times, Manohla Dargis, November 24, 2006
http://movies2.nytimes.com/2006/11/24/movies/24brea.html

HORRIFYING DOCUMENTARY OFFERS PEEK AT FOOD INDUSTRY
Final Call, Kam Williams, Dec 7, 2006
http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/article_3094.shtml

AGRICULTURE CLASH
Indywire (from Reverse Shot), Michael Joshua Rowin, November 25, 2006
http://www.indiewire.com/movies/2006/11/review_gricultu.html

 

 




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Compiled and edited by Cat Carroll and Mary Finelli, Farmed Animal Watch is a free weekly electronic news digest of information concerning farmed animal issues gleaned from an array of academic, industry, advocacy and mainstream media sources.