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I am a big believer in “Happy Holidays”, as opposed to Merry Christmas… I just feel it’s more inclusive of everyone, no matter what their beliefs.  And there are so many different holidays around this time of year!  But I do like Christmas carols, so that’s what this Thursday Thirteen is all about.

1.  O Holy Night

2.  Mary’s Boy Child

3.  Little Toy Trains

4.  This Old White Doorway

5.  The First Noel

6. Do You Hear What I Hear?

7.  Mummers Song

8.  The Seven Joys of Mary

9.  Fairytale of New York

10.  Appalachian Snowfall

11.  We Three Kings

12.  Feliz Navidad

13.  Bells of St. Mary

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!  The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

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For years, I have been thinking about writing a series of articles about animal welfare and training issues.  I’ve finally started working on them, so that’s what today’s Thursday Thirteen is all about.

Thirteen Animal Welfare Issues I will write about

1.  Pets as gifts

2.  How to choose an animal trainer

3.  Effects of punishment

4.  Pet overpopulation

5.  Rabbit overpopulation and feral rabbits

6.  Exotic animals

7.  Circuses, rodeos and travelling exhibitions

8.  Farm animal transport and welfare

9.  Wildlife – Predator control

10.  The link between violence against animals and family violence

11.  Pets in rental housing

12.  Animals in research and testing

13.  Animals in recreation/sport/entertainment, film and tv, and fashion/art/clothing.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!  The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

On Oprah today, Lisa Ling reports on the treatment of animals being raised for food.  I have found Lisa Ling to be a very balanced and intelligent journalist, and I urge you to watch/tape/DVR/Tivo today’s episode.

I believe we all have the responsibility to know how our food is produced.  After we know, then we can make the choice whether to eat mass-produced meats after knowing how it gets to your supermarket.

I recently posted on World Farm Animal Day, and wrote about the lives of farm animals that are being produced for the mass market.  I will be watching (and taping) today, and I will post about Lisa Ling’s report later in the week.

See what other people have done for Thursday Thirteen here!

Today is World Farm Animal Day.  October 2nd was chosen to be marked as World Farm Animal Day (WFAD) as it honours the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, an outspoken advocate of non-violence towards animals.

WFAD is a time dedicated to spreading knowledge about the incredible suffering and slaughter of the more than 55 billion cows, pigs, turkeys, chickens, and other sentient land animals in the world’s factory farms and slaughterhouses.  It is a time to remind ourselves of the horrible treatment suffered by animals raised for meat, eggs, and dairy.

To mark WFAD, today’s Thursday Thirteen are Thirteen Facts about Farm Animals and WFAD.

1.  WFAD is marked in all 50 states of the United States, Canada, and approximately two dozen other countries.

2. The first World Farm Animal Day was launched in 1983.

3.  Ninety-eight percent of all animal suffering takes place at factory farms and in slaughterhouses.

4.  Farm animals are usually raised for one of four different purposes:

(i) food (e.g. meat, eggs, dairy products),

(ii) fiber (e.g. wool, fleece),

(iii) work (e.g. draft animals for traditional farming or forestry, or for recreational, ranching, or

entertainment purposes), and/or

(iv) fur / pelt / hides.

5.  An estimated 98% of Canada’s 26 million laying hens are kept in battery cages for their entire lifespan, which amounts to only about one or two years.  Battery cages are so small that they don’t allow for the hens to spread their wings, so empty that hens cannot make a nest, and so restrictive that the hens’ bones can become brittle and snap due to lack of exercise.    These cages are 16″ by 18″, and they hold from four to six hens each.  The actual living space for each hen is approximately the size of a letter size piece of paper.  For more important (but graphic) detail about the life of a laying hen, please go here.

6.  Broiler chickens are the ones bred specifically for the most meat, costing the least amount possible, in the shortest time possible.  Broiler chickens are usually bred in large industrial barns in groups of 5,000 to 50,000 birds.  They are mass-housed on the barren floor, and they are fed and watered automatically by machine.  The lights are on in the barn for 23 out of 24 hours a day.  The average lifespan of a chicken is 15 years, but most broilers are slaughtered at 42 days of age or less.  In 2003, 600 million chickens were slaughtered in Canada.  More on the life of a broiler chicken can be found here.

7.  Turkeys are bred to produce the biggest bird, in the smallest time, at the lowest cost.  Their lives are much like broiler chickens.  Birds are housed with thousands of other birds in industrial barns;  the Canadian Recommended Code of Practice calls for two square feet of space per turkey, which is less than the size of a newspaper.  The barns typically have no natural light (because it causes fighting), and they are typically very poorly ventilated.  The barn floors are covered in litter and not cleaned of waste during the turkeys’ stay.  Naturally, a turkey is a wide roamer, searching for food,  but on factory farms, they are fed and watered automatically by machine.  In 2003, 19.7 million turkeys were slaughtered in Canada.  The natural life span of a turkey is about 10 years, but on factory farms they are slaughtered from 12 to 26 weeks of age.  For more information about turkey farming, click here.

8.  Pork is produced by keeping sows in gestation crates (also known as “sow stalls”) for the majority of their lives.  A sow stall is a metal barred cage that usually measures about two feet by seven feet;  a sow cannot even turn around in the stall, and is limited to taking one step forward and one step backward.  The sows sleep, eat, urinate, and defecate in the stall, and the waste falls through slatted concrete flooring to a pool of raw sewage under the cage.  More than 1,440,000 sows are raised in Canada, the vast majority living in sow stalls.  A natural behaviour for a sow is to forage for six to eight hours per day, but in the stall there is no ability to forage at all.  More about our pork industry can be found here.

9.  The production of beef cattle is probably the least changed method of farm production over the last hundred years.  Beef cattle are born on the open range and stay grazing with their mothers for four or five months after birth.  When they reach 160 to 230 kilograms, the calves are sent to a backgrounding lot where they are begun to be fattened up for slaughter.  At 400 kilograms, they are sent to feedlots, which can house up to 40,000 animals in very cramped conditions.  Their feed becomes 90% grain;  because cattle naturally eat grass, their digestive systems are thrown into chaos, and they experience extreme discomfort, bloating, and diarrhea.  In 2003, there were approximately 13 million cattle and calves in Canada, and 3.1 million were slaughtered.  Other cruel practices are branding, dehorning, and castration;  the transportation of cattle is known to be inhumane.  Read about these and more, here.

10.  Dairy cattle are kept pregnant to keep milk production high, but the calves are taken away as young as one or two days old.  The cows are manipulated and exploited to make them produce more milk that would be possible naturally, which causes physical and emotional suffering.  In 2003, there were 1.06 million cows on Canadian dairy farms, which produced 7.5 billion litres of milk.  Over time, the number of dairy cows in Canada are decreasing each year, but the amount of milk produced remains the same.  Dairy cattle are inseminated at fifteen months of age and have a nine month gestation period.  They are inseminated again once a year for the next three to four years of their life, and are forced to provide milk for seven months of each pregnancy.  Cows have a natural lifespan of about 25 years, but after three to four years of enforced pregnancy and production of milk, they are sent to slaughter.  Other issues related to dairy cattle are housing conditions, transportation, and tail docking.  You can find out more here.

11.  Veal calves are a by-product of dairy farming, where cows have to be constantly pregnant.  The calves are taken from their mothers at one or two days of age, and they are slaughtered at 14 to 16 weeks of age.  In 2003, there were more than 300,000 calves slaughtered for veal in Canada.  The living conditions for veal calves are horrific;  read about them here.

12.  Foie gras is a “delicacy” made from the livers of ducks or geese.  It is made by force-feeding male ducks and geese to grossly enlarge their livers (up to ten times their normal size).  Up to four pounds of food per day are pumped into the birds’ stomachs using long metal tubes.  The birds live in tiny individual cages that are so small that there is no room to turn around or clean their feathers.  Their necks stick out of the cages, so that the farmers can manipulate them to force the food down the birds’ throats.  More about foie gras here.

13.  Farmed fish live completely unnatural lives crowded in pens with thousands of other fish.  In the wild, fish like salmon migrate hundreds of kilometres to spawn;  in a fish farm, they are lucky to experience water amounting to a bathtub or two.  Salmon is the most farmed fish in Canada, primarily in British Columbia and New Brunswick.  Also farmed are steelhead, trout, and shellfish.  At the end of 2003, there were 125 fish farms in BC producing about 80,000 tonnes, and in New Brunswick there were 95 farms producing 39,000 tonnes.  A fish farm is a system of cages, which contain up to 20,000 fish in each cage.  (There is no legislation in BC to limit the number of fish in these cages.)  Injuries and disease are huge issues at fish farms, and they are controlled by chemicals and antibiotics.  After one year, the fish are slaughtered, following a period of starvation of one to three days to clean out their stomachs so that they are easier to process and clean.  Much more about fish farming here and here.

Today is a two-for-one Thursday Thirteen, because I couldn’t very well tell you all of these horrors and not tell you how you can help change things.  So here are thirteen ways to improve the welfare of farm animals:

1.  Do not buy factory-farmed meat, dairy, or eggs.  If you don’t know whether the product you are looking at is factory-farmed, it probably is.

2.  Buy products that are free-range, certified organic.  These will be clearly labelled;  if not, talk to your grocery manager to ask that all products are labelled clearly.

3.  Ask your grocery stores to stock alternatives to factory-farmed meat, dairy, and eggs, and to make sure they are clearly labelled.

4.  Decrease the amount of meat, dairy, and eggs you eat each week.  You can eat other protein rich foods like tofu and beans, and drink calcium-fortified beverages and calcium-rich foods like greens.

5.  If you live in BC, buy SPCA Certified meat, dairy, and eggs.  SPCA Certified is an independent third party certification system which ensures that products bearing the program label have been produced in compliance with farm animal welfare standards developed by the BC SPCA.  Over the next three years, the BC SPCA hopes to expand this program across Canada.

6.  Many other places also have similar programs to certify production methods.  Check with your local SPCA or humane society.

7.  Don’t eat veal or foie gras.

8.  Write to retailers and restaurants to explain the cruel processes involved in producing veal and foie gras, and politely ask them not to sell these products.  Also write to store managers to ask them to refrain from stocking veal and foie gras.

9.  Educate others about factory farming and the production of veal and foie gras.  Tell your friends and family what you’ve learned.

10.  Ask retailers and restaurants if the fish they are selling is farmed or wild.  Explain why farmed fish should not be sold.

11.  Where eggs are concerned, beware of misleading labels.  Battery eggs are often labelled as “fresh” or “farm fresh”.

12.  Write to your legislators asking for stronger animal welfare laws concerning farm animals.

13.  Learn more about this issue yourself!  There is a great collection of farm animal welfare links here.

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My spell-checker is apparently not working.  My apologies for any mistakes that slipped through.

I’ve been absent for a while, first visiting family from out of town, then through illness.  But I’m hoping that I’m back to my normal routine now!

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