Category Archives: Vegetarian

What Doesn’t Separate Us From Animals 4: Bees Have Personalities

Bees have  personalities and feelings, according to a new study. Their brains are similar to ours in several ways, including being affected by the same neurotransmitters.

The purported moral distinctions between humans and other sentient beings that are used to justify exploiting animals continue to lose credibility, while veganism’s abstention from the exploitation of insects by boycotting honey and silk is gaining moral ground. It is also getting easier to follow as substitutes for these products become more available. Healthier sweeteners like agave nectar and stevia are growing in popularity, and fabrics that look and feel like silk are not only on the market, they are cheaper than silk.

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A Pig’s Journey From Birth to Shrink Wrap

Factory farming isn’t limited to rural areas. New York City has a meatpacking center in one of its trendiest neighborhoods. Read about it in my cover story from Our Town Downtown. A section about the journey of pigs from birth to the Meatpacking District didn’t make it into the final story, so here it is:

The pork that meatpackers slice and grind up started out as piglets. Before they were born, their pregnant mothers were confined in gestation crates, small metal cages only two feet wide that prevented them from turning around or even lying down comfortably. Sows spend most of their adult lives in these crates as they are kept pregnant for four out of every five months. The confinement, lack of activity and stimulation, and pain drives pregnant pigs mad. They chew on the bars of their cages, or on nothing.

Soon after the piglets are born their dismemberment begins when their tails are cut off without anesthetic. Their lives, about six months long, are spent in overcrowded pens. Overcrowded once again on trucks to slaughterhouses, upon arrival the lucky pigs are stunned into unconsciousness as things get really violent. Conscious or not, they are hung upside down by their back legs and their throats are cut. That doesn’t kill all of them either, but regardless they are next boiled in the scalding tank. After various parts are removed it is off to Gansevoort Market and places like it. Most people in the Meatpacking District wouldn’t think of it, but it is one of the last stops on the death march from birth to plate.

I recently met a (rescued) pig. She awoke from a doze and rolled over on her side for a tummy rub, closing her eyes happily just like a dog.

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Goodbye to Cruel Gestation Crates?

Let’s hear it for McDonald’s, which has taken a step towards making the lives of the pigs it feeds to people a bit less brutal. It is requiring its pork suppliers to create plans for phasing out gestation crates, which I described in an earlier blog post:


Gestation crates are small metal cages only two feet wide that prevent pregnant pigs from turning around or even lying down comfortably. Sows spend most of their adult lives in these crates as they are inseminated soon after they give birth and thus kept pregnant over four out of every five months. Gestation crates cripple pregnant pigs and cause obesity. The fumes and toxins produced from the concentration of so many animals in one space sicken them (and the humans who “take care of” them). Pigs are smart, affectionate animals, and the constant confinement, lack of activity or stimulation, and pain lead to neurotic behaviors like biting the bars of their cages over and over, or chewing on nothing.


As the largest restaurant chain in the world, McDonald’s has the potential to eliminate gestation crates from the industry by refusing to patronize suppliers that use them. Unfortunately the company has not announced guidelines that factory farms will have to follow in place of gestation crates. Will sows have more space, or will they be crowded together though not in individual pens? Will they be able to socialize with each other? Will their environments allow them to satisfy their instinct to burrow and root around? And what about farrowing crates, where sows are caged and prevented from touching their piglets while they nurse?

The best announcement of all would be that McDonald’s and its competitors are going to stop feeding animals to people. But here in reality, let’s support the Humane Society of the United States, which worked with McDonald’s to create this policy to make farmed pigs’ short lives less miserable.

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