The Factory Farming Awareness Coalition is an educational non-profit committed to empowering people to save the environment, animals, and our own health through our daily food choices.

Recent Updates

Help Us Win!

 

FFAC has the opportunity to win $40,000 worth of advertisements on San Francisco’s subway system for the third year in a row!

bart ad collageThe BART Blue Sky Contest awards free advertising space to the top three local environmental non-profits that receive the most votes on Facebook. FFAC won in 2012 and 2013 (ads pictured above). Last year, over 900 people texted in to receive free vegetarian recipes after viewing our ads on BART!

The contest provides an unparalleled opportunity to educate over 300,000 people per day about the impacts of factory farming on animals and the environment.

Help us win by voting and sharing the contest with your friends!

Animal Place Field Trip

There really are no words to describe what 700 chickens looks like, you just have to experience it. Last weekend I did just that.

Animal Place is a farm animal rescue and sanctuary, as well as an education and adoption facility. The rescue portion takes place at their Rescue Ranch located in the outskirts of Vacaville, CA, and the sanctuary, education and adoption components are at their facility in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, in Grass Valley, CA.

We often hear about farm animal sanctuaries rescuing a couple baby cows, a few turkeys, or maybe a pig or a goat. But 700 chickens? Where do 700 chickens come from? And why would someone want to get rid of them all at once? In this case it was a “free range” egg farm that was going out of business. When this happens there are a few options the farmer has for the chickens: 1) sell them for a low price to a slaughterhouse, 2) gas them, or 3) abandon them and let them starve to death. In this case there was a fourth option; turn them over to a sanctuary.

photo(5)I arrived at the Rescue Ranch bright and early with a group of volunteers from Factory Farming Awareness Coalition (FFAC). We were all smiles and hugs enjoying the sunshine and cool morning air outside while Jan, an Animal Place animal caregiver, explained what our tasks would be for the day. It was a bit overwhelming but Jan was so positive and perky that I wasn’t worried at all. Bring it on! The barn doors slid open and we stepped into the realm of chickens.

My heart ached for these animals. Although they are very intelligent, have the ability to feel pain, and experience suffering they have been treated as nothing more than mere commodities,  production units. These hens are so lucky that a place like Animal Place exists, to be their savior from such a wretched fate.

photo(4)We divided our group into “catchers” and “checkers”, fairly self explanatory tasks. I excitedly volunteered as a checker. My group was handed face masks; we looked somewhat worriedly at Jacie, the Rescue Ranch Adoption Coordinator. She explained that it was likely all of the hens would be covered in mites and lice and would have to be “dusted” with a powder that contains a pesticide in order to get rid of them, something we definitely shouldn’t be inhaling (fun fact: this is why chickens dust bathe, a natural way for them to get rid of these pests; something they are unable to do when they are forced to live in crowded, unmaintained living conditions).

photo(9)I was handed my first chicken, she was so small, soft and beautiful, her plumage full of deep shades of browns, reds and oranges. I pressed her against my body gently and began to check her. Comb, eyes, ears, nostrils, mouth, check! Wings, crop, keel, abdomen, vent, check! Legs, toes, nails, check! Well, at least that’s how I imagined it would have happened. I quickly learned what lice, mites, and their egg clusters looked like. Imagine clumps of slightly grey, wet salt, ranging in size from a pea to a grape, at the base of their feathers. We were instructed to cut them off as closely to the skin as possible.

This ended up being a daunting task, as nearly all of them had some level of egg clusters. If she had too many clusters to deal with quickly, or had any other health issues (a prolapsed vent, clogged nostrils, bumblefoot, mouth sores, etc.) she had to go into an isolation cell to receive a more comprehensive exam and care later. When the hen was done with her health check she was handed off for dusting and crating for transport to their future home.

photo(6)Hours later we had completed our task. The healthiest chickens had been put into crates and picked up by their new caretakers, and the more sickly chickens were enjoying the sun and catching up on their dustbathing.

Despite being an incredibly challenging, stressful, emotional and very dirty day, I was immensely grateful for the time I was able to devote to these animals and help them in their transition to a new start. And I would more than happily do it all over again.

Samantha Pollak resides in Oakland with her dog, Ripley, her cat Oliver, and a ridiculous amount of succulents. She works as an Environmental Protection Specialist for the National Park Service, at Golden Gate National Recreation Area in San Francisco. She has always been a lover of animals, growing up with dogs, birds, and hamsters. About six years ago her love of animals lead her to become actively involved in animal welfare issues, and she has been volunteering with FFAC for the past year.

Activists at the Table Conference

activists flyer

Thank you so much to everyone who attended the Activists at the Table conference last weekend, and to our wonderful volunteers and speakers who made the conference happen! In case you weren’t able to attend, here’s a recap:

image-9Devika Ghai and Emily Harden from the Pesticide Action Network spoke about the human rights implications of pesticides.

Most of the discussion surrounding organic produce (grown without pesticides) centers on consumers’ health. But as Devika and Emily drew attention to, the 2-3 million farmworkers in the U.S. are on the frontline of pesticide exposure. Many farmworker communities experience increased cancer, birth defect, and miscarriage rates as a result of this exposure.

Devika also spoke about pesticides’ role as the lynchpin of modern industrial agriculture. Today a majority of crops grown in the US are on giant, monoculture farms that only grow one or two crops – usually corn or soy to feed to animals on factory farms. Monoculture farming makes crops more vulnerable to disease and insects, leading to higher pesticide use. GMO crops are also modified to be dependent on pesticides; since GMO crops were introduced in 1996, pesticide use has increased by 404 million pounds, according to Reuters.

Devika and Emily ended on a heartening note by sharing the power of stories, of listening to people’s lived experiences as a way to draw attention to human rights. You can learn about people’s stories and join the dialogue at www.panna.org.

* * *

image-11Next FFAC’s Executive Director, Katie Cantrell, spoke about how factory farming rests at a unique intersection of many critical issues – social justice, the environment, animal welfare, and public health.

The devastation caused by factory farming is widespread – from deforestation and climate change to undocumented workers suffering debilitating injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

However, as Katie drew attention to at the end of her talk, there is a silver lining. Since we eat three times a day, we have tremendous power. There is no other action we take on a daily basis that has such a wide-reaching impact. Boycotting animal products is one of the most effective ways that individuals can stand up for animals, workers, communities, and the earth.

***

During intermission, conference attendees enjoyed a local, organic, vegan lunch provided by the Berkeley Student Food Collective, and muffins donated by Republic of V.

image-5

* * *

image-2

 After lunch, Food Empowerment Project founder and director Lauren Ornelas spoke about many overlooked issues connected to our food system, such as agricultural and chocolate workers, and food insecurity in low-income communities.

The information on workers in the chocolate industry came as a shock to many audience members. Chocolate produced in West Africa is often harvested by children, many of whom are kidnapped from their families and forced into slavery.

In order to empower consumers to stop supporting slave labor when buying chocolate, the Food Empowerment Project has a chocolate list of companies that use ethical labor practices. They also have a petition to urge Clif Bar to be transparent about where it sources its chocolate.

* * *

image-4Our final speaker was Dr. Amie Breeze Harper of the Sistah Vegan Project. Through critical race and black feminist academic perspectives, Dr. Harper spoke about how veganism can be used as a platform to talk about the intersections of structural oppression (i.e. racism, speciesism, normative whiteness, ableism). She used both her own powerful personal history as well as an excerpt from her upcoming fictional book Scars to explain the ways that structural oppression influences food choices and food availability, and the power of reclaiming our food choices as a way to decolonize our bodies.

* * *

Thank you so much to all of the sponsors who made this powerful, thought-provoking, empowering conference possible:

a-well-fed-world-logo

A Well-Fed World is a hunger relief and animal protection organization working with grassroots groups in the U.S. and internationally on feeding and food production programs.

republic of v

Republic of V is a brick and mortar vegan boutique and specialty food shop, located at 1624 University Ave. in Berkeley.

boaa

The Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy is UC Berkeley’s only social justice group dedicated to raising awareness about issues of animal oppression. Our mission is to educate UC Berkeley students and the greater community on animal rights issues and promote a cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle.

 

food collective

The Berkeley Student Food Collective is dedicated to providing fresh, local, healthy, environmentally sustainable, and ethically produced food at affordable prices to the Berkeley campus and greater community.  Through inclusive, democratic decision-making, we operate a cooperative grocery market that promotes community-building and environmental stewardship. Located at 2440 Bancroft Way in Berkeley.

Activists at the Table

activists flyer

This Saturday, March 15th, from 10am to 3pm in 60 Evans Hall at UC Berkeley, FFAC is hosting a conference exploring the surprising interconnections between food choices and activism.

Join us for an afternoon of thought-provoking lectures, conversation, and free local, organic lunch provided by the Berkeley Student Food Collective

Reserve your ticket online before they sell out! http://activistsatthetable.brownpapertickets.com/

Sliding scale $5-$15 donation requested at the door, but no one turned away for lack of funds. Both students and community members are welcome.

Speaker Line-Up
10:20-11:05
Devika Ghai, International Campaign Coordinator for Pesticide Action Network North America, explaining the impact of pesticides and GMOs and workers and farmers.

11:10-12
Katie Cantrell, Founder and Director of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, discussing the impact of industrial animal agriculture on workers and the global community

12-1 Lunch Break

1:05-1:50
Lauren Ornelas, Founder and Director of the Food Empowerment Project, speaking about environmental racism, food access issues, and worker conditions in the agriculture and chocolate industries.

2:00-2:50
Dr. Amie Breeze Harper, Research Fellow and Founder and Director of the Sistah Vegan Project. Through critical race and black feminist academic perspectives, Dr. Harper will speak about how veganism can be used as a platform to talk about the intersections of structural oppression (i.e. racism, speciesism, normative whiteness, ableism).

International Women’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, a global holiday dedicated to inspiring women and celebrating their achievements.

In honor of International Women’s Day, our Executive Director spoke at the Wo/men’s conference at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.

When people think of the issues associated with factory farming, animals are usually the first to come to mind. Thus it may come as a surprise that there are a number of potent ways that factory farming affects women and women’s rights.

Female Workers

Slaughterhouse workers face one of the most dangerous and disturbing jobs in the country. In addition to the fast-moving production lines, large kicking animals, and deadly sharp blades, women at slaughterhouses and rendering plants face an additional hardship: sexual harassment and assault.

Many workers are undocumented and underage, so it is particularly difficult for them to speak out against the abuse. The experience of Quendi Garcia, who worked at a meatpacking plant in Iowa, is unfortunately representative: “Garcia said her supervisor at Agriprocessors had touched her inappropriately and tried to coerce her into having sexual relations with him using the threat of job loss.”

To learn more about Quendi and the hardships faced by underage and female slaughterhouse employees, click here.

Families

The partners of male slaughterhouse workers and female community members also suffer as a result of slaughterhouse work. A 2009 study found that slaughterhouse workers employees were more likely to be arrested for domestic abuse, sexual assault, and rape. It is thought that the increase in violence is due to the psychologically traumatic and violent nature of slaughterhouse work. Read more about the study here.

Women’s Health

Factory farming also has broader implications for women’s health. As we wrote about previously, many dairy products come from cows given bovine growth hormone, also referred to as rBST. Milk from cows given rBST contain higher levels of pus, antibiotics, and the hormone insulin-like growth factor 1, or IGF-1.

Over 3 dozen studies have shown a correlation between high circulating IGF-1 levels and cancer risk, including one study that found that women with high IGF-1 levels are 7x as likely to develop breast cancer.

Another recent study found that people who eat diets rich in animal protein run the same cancer risk as people who smoke 20 cigarettes per day.

Despite the direct threat that certain food products post to women’s health, many companies specifically market those products to women by exploiting concern about women’s health.

“Pinkwashing” refers to corporations that exploit the pink breast cancer ribbon in order to sell products, many of which contain chemicals and compounds that can actually cause breast cancer, such as bovine growth hormone.

Breast Cancer Action has a guide to Pinkwashing, as well as many other women’s health resources.

The Good News

We all have the power to help women through our daily food choices. By boycotting harmful animal products and instead choosing healthy, humane, plant-based foods, we can improve the health of ourselves and women around the globe. Visit Choose Veg to learn about easy and delicious ways to rethink your diet.

We Are What We Eat

Whether it’s the chocolate cake that brings us bliss or the old leftovers that don’t sit quite right in our stomachs, we all know the drastic impact that food can have on the state of our minds and bodies.

Luckily for us, we have a choice in what we choose to put in our bodies. Cows, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals are not as fortunate – they have to eat what is offered to them.

Factory farms only care about one thing: keeping the animals alive long enough to be slaughtered. In addition, these farms are always looking for ways to keep costs down and the animals healthy, and the best way to do this is to feed animals cheaply, with low doses of antibiotics thrown in.
Just last week we learned that a hog farm in Kentucky is battling porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, also known as PEDV. To protect the healthy hogs, this farm is “vaccinating” them with their own offspring. “The animals’ intestines are ground up and fed, as a “smoothie” — as HSUS dubs it — back to the sows, which could be their own mothers.”
In addition, a practice that is illegal in Europe but still practiced in U.S. is feeding “poultry litter” to the cows – the feces, feathers, uneaten chicken feed, and anything else that gets scooped off the floors of chicken cages and broiler houses. The uneaten pellets can contain beef protein, which can be a carrier of infected bovine protein – the dangerous culprit behind mad cow disease.

If we are what we eat, then it’s worth considering all of the inputs into our food, whether sunlight and water, or dead piglets and chicken litter.

In Our Own Backyards

When most people think of factory farming, they imagine giant feedlots in the Midwest that supply fast food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King. But the reality is that 99% of all animal products come from factory farms, some of which are in our own backyards.

Since FFAC is headquartered in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’re going to spotlight a surprising local epicenter of factory farming – Sonoma County.

Screen shot 2014-02-01 at 7.13.21 PM

According to factoryfarmmap.org, Sonoma County has an “extremely high” density of factory farms. Specifically, Sonoma County is a local hub for dairy, egg, and chicken factory farming.

Sonoma has over 15,000 dairy cows, 1,500,000 egg-laying chickens and 2,800,000 broiler chickens (chickens raised for meat).

Judy’s Eggs

Animal Legal Defense Fund recently successfully sued the Sonoma-based Judy’s Eggs for misleading consumers with fraudulent claims on its packaging.

Here you can see the bucolic old-fashioned front of the package, and the misleading claim on the inside of the package: “These hens are raised in wide open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to “roam, scratch, and play.”

judyscollage

Here is the reality of where Judy’s raises its hens – a factory farm, complete with purple “manure lagoon.”

Judy’s sells under several other brand names as well, further misleading consumers: Uncle Eddie’s, Rock Island, Gold Circle, Whole Foods 365 brand, and Organic Valley all source eggs from Judy’s.

Judy’s eggs are also labeled organic, which technically is supposed to mean that the birds have “outdoor access.” However, their certifying agency gave them a permanent exemption from the outdoor requirement based on the threat of avian flu. This exemption seems a bit odd, given that there are many other egg producers in Petaluma that allow their birds outdoor access, without any avian flu outbreaks.

Judy’s provides the perfect example of how meaningless “free range” “organic” and “cage-free” labeling can be, and that local farms can in fact be factory farms.

In case you’re wondering about the distinction between the different types of labels, check out this great guide from the Humane Society.

Rancho Veal Corporation

Last week the North Bay’s last remaining slaughterhouse was forced by the USDA to recall  8.7 million pounds of meat because they failed to meet federal inspection requirements, after being forced to recall 40,000 pounds of meat in January.

The meat in question was classified as a Class1 Recall, meaning “This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”

Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Turkeys

Turkeys

With Thanksgiving coming up, turkeys are on all of our minds. From the animals themselves to the production of turkey, here are some surprising things you might not know:

1. Flock vs. rafter

While many people use the term flock, technically a group of turkeys is called a rafter.

2. Turkeys are omnivores

In the wild, turkeys eat a varied diet of everything from seeds, berries, grass, and acorns, to insects and small lizards. But on factory farms, turkeys are fed only corn and soy laced with antibiotics.

3. Breasts get in the way of sex

99% of turkeys raised today are the “Broadbreasted White” variety. These turkeys have been selectively bred to produce the largest possible breasts. Turkeys’ breasts are now so large that they are physically incapable of mating. Which means…

4. Humans inseminate turkeys

After “milking” semen from male birds, workers artificially inseminate the female turkeys. A female turkey can lay one egg every few days. She is inseminated and forced to produce eggs at this rate for up to 25 weeks, at which point her body is “spent” and she’s sent to slaughter.

5. Turkeys are speedy

Wild turkeys can run up to 25 miles per hour and fly up to 55 miles per hour. But domesticated turkeys cannot fly because of their unnaturally large size. Many domesticated turkeys cannot even stand because their bones cannot support the weight, and most cannot walk properly because…

6. Turkeys’ missing toes and beaks

Workers “de-beak” and “de-toe” newborn baby turkeys. The sharp parts of their beaks and toes are cut off without any sort of pain relief. This is done to keep them from attacking each other while under the stress of intensive confinement. As a result of having their toes and beaks cut off, many turkeys cannot walk and some cannot eat and die of starvation.

7. In the Mood for Snood

Male turkeys have a flap of flesh that hangs over their beak called a snood. Female turkeys decide who to mate with based on snood length (bigger is better), and males are less likely to challenge turkeys with longer snoods. But on factory farms, the snood is cut off along with the beak and toes shortly after birth.

8. Mother Turkey

Baby turkeys, called poults, stay with their mothers for up to 5 months in the wild. But baby turkeys raised for food never set eyes on their mothers; the eggs are taken from the mothers before they hatch and placed in giant industrial hatcheries. By the time her last round of eggs is hatched, the mother turkey will already have been sent to slaughter.

9. No Legal Protection for Turkeys

The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act doesn’t apply to poultry, so turkeys, chickens, ducks, and rabbits (which, strangely enough, are classified as “poultry”) are exempt. This means they can be “shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut”  while fully conscious.

10. Turkeys have superbugs

Remember those antibiotics we mentioned in #2? They’re used so indiscriminately, in such huge quantities, that it leads to the evolution of new, stronger bacteria. A study by the Environmental Working Group found that 81% of ground turkey is infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria!

 Sound Unsavory?

If some of this information is less-than-appetizing, there’s good news! There has never been such an abundance of delicious meat-free Thanksgiving centerpieces, such as Field Roast, Gardein, or the classic Tofurky.

There’s also a plethora of delicious veg Thanksgiving recipe compilations, from the New York Times, to Buzzfeed, to Cosmopolitan Magazine.

#10 on Buzzfeed's List of 41 Delicious Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

#10 on Buzzfeed’s List of 41 Delicious Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Sources
1. http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10370_12145_12202-52511–,00.html
2. http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/wild_turkey.htm
3. http://www.sustainabletable.org/432/talking-turkey
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/23/turkey-antibiotics-drug-resistant-infections-thanksgiving_n_1110745.html
4. http://www.businessinsider.com/life-of-a-turkey-2013-11?op=1
5. http://www.nwtf.org/all_about_turkeys/wild_turkey_facts.html
http://www.thepoultrysite.com/poultrynews/27450/tackling-turkey-leg-problems
6. http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/animal_husbandry/animhus_tur_management.html
7. http://wild.enature.com/blog/snoods-and-wattles-a-turkeys-story
http://agritech.tnau.ac.in/animal_husbandry/animhus_tur_management.html
8. http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com/vtcritters/animals.cfm?cat=Birds&species=eastern%20wild%20turkey
http://www.businessinsider.com/life-of-a-turkey-2013-11?op=1
9. http://www.animallaw.info/articles/ddushmsa.htm
10. http://static.ewg.org/reports/2013/meateaters/ewg_meat_and_antibiotics_report2013.pdf
 

Vegan Mac Down

macdown3

 

GET YOUR MAC ON at the first ever vegan mac & cheese bake-off! Sample all the entries & vote for your fave mac & cheese.
 
GET DOWN to DJ sets from DJ MIGGY STARDUST and TRAILS AND WAYS
 
GET MORE EATS from local food vendors:
 
TO COMPETE IN THE MAC DOWN:
E-mail info@ffacoalition.org and we’ll send you more details about how to participate.
 
The winning mac & cheese baker will win everlasting fame & glory, plus a prize pack including chef Miyoko Schinner’s “Artisinal Vegan Cheese” cookbook & 8 ounces of her cheeses, and a gift basket from Hampton Creek Foods. All runners-up will receive prize packs.
 
Get your tickets & spread the word to all your food & fun-loving friends!

What About Workers?

There’s been much talk this week – from the Washington Post to Mother Jones – of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s proposed plan to increase line speeds and privatize inspections at slaughterhouses.

The plan, called HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), would result in millions of dollars in increased profits for multinational agribusiness corporations at the expense of worker and consumer safety.

Evisceration of turkey carcasses at slaughterhouse Nottingham Vet School/Flickr

Evisceration of turkey carcasses at slaughterhouse Nottingham Vet School/Flickr

Most of the discussion has centered on consumer safety. A scathing report from the Government Accountability Office reveals that 3 of the 5 pilot slaughterhouses for the new program were among the top ten worst in the country for health and safety violations.

Under the new program, federal inspectors would have to inspect 10,000 birds per hour. According to one inspector, while working at this rate, “Tremendous amounts of fecal matter remain on the carcasses,” he said. “Not small bits, but chunks.”

It’s understandable that consumers are up in arms about this threat to public health. But what isn’t garnering as much attention is the dire threat to slaughterhouse workers.

* * *

Slaughterhouse workers already face the most dangerous job in America. They must carry out the same motion thousands of times everyday while surrounded by fast-moving objects, extremely sharp knives and machinery, and sometimes live kicking animals.

A list of the types of injuries (and fatalities) endured paints a grave picture:

  • Employee Hospitalized for Neck Laceration From Flying Blade
  • Employee’s Eye Injured When Struck by Hanging Hook
  • Employee’s Arm Amputated in Meat Auger
  • One Employee Killed, Eight Injured by Ammonia Spill
  • Employee Decapitated by Chain of Hide Puller Machine
  • Employee Killed When Head Crushed by Conveyor

These hideous workplace dangers were documented by Mother Jones magazine in 2001. Back then, a slaughterhouse nurse claimed she could tell how fast the line was moving by how many injured workers came to her office.

Now the USDA is proposing to move the line even faster, increasing from 140 birds per minute to 175 birds per minute - up to 84,000 birds per day.

Already 3 in 4 slaughterhouse workers surveyed reported experiencing significant work-related injuries. Further increasing line-speed will drive injury and death rates even higher.

Currently neither the Occupational Safety and Health Administration nor the USDA considers the impact of line speed on worker safety. The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of civil rights groups hope to change that by suing the USDA and OSHA to take steps to protect the safety of slaughterhouse workers.

What can you do? Sign this petition to President Obama to abandon the dangerous new plan, and boycott slaughterhouse products by switching to meat alternatives like Beyond Meat, Gardein, or good old fashioned plant-based proteins.

For more information:
http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/09/gao-squaks-usdas-plan-speed-poultry-kill-lines
http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/unsafe-at-these-speeds/osha-offers-few-protections-for-worker
http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/unsafe-at-these-speeds/injuries-and-illnesses-extremely-common
http://www.foodwhistleblower.org/the-lifecycle-of-food/the-problems-of-processing/insufficient-government-oversight/himp
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/food/foodsafety/privatized-poultry-inspection-usdas-pilot-project-results/
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/poultry/
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/102831445?access_key=key-7b5fz4scoq80qt920m7&allow_share=false&show_recommendations=false&view_mode=scroll
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