Wednesday, November 24, 2010


While I hope everyone is having a nice Thanksgiving and spending time with their families (or chosen families), I also think it's important to consider the realities of this holiday. We go around laughing and saying, "gobble, gobble." We discuss cooking techniques to get the perfect texture. We take pictures of the finished "product" (not that I am above this). But, I think we forget about how the turkeys actually got to our plates. We don't see the suffering. Instead, we sit around, listing what we are thankful for, often forgetting that they lived a life of torture. They spent their entire lives suffering so our taste buds could feel good for five minutes.

I think we must remember them today. And we must remember that our choices have ramifications.

The following account is quite graphic, but I believe it must be shared:

Broiler turkeys are usually slaughtered between 12 to 27 weeks, depending on their size. They spend the last few weeks of their lives in dim artificial lighting (sometimes pitch black to prepare them in case there is a power cut). They become distressed and there is no doubt that they are in pain. The more they grow, the worse the conditions become. They can very rarely support their own weight. The turkeys will compete for food and water as there are so many birds, it is usually hard to reach. The ones who are too crippled to move die, either of starvation, dehydration, being trampled or pecked to death.

A pole barn is similar to a broiler shed, although one side is netted allowing natural light and ventilation in. Pole barn turkeys have slightly more space to themselves. However, the natural lighting and cramped conditions causes aggression between the birds and sometimes cannibalism resulting in the turkeys having their sensitive beaks cut which causes trauma and stress. Pole barn turkeys are exposed to all weather conditions, be it blistering cold or intense heat; they can't get away.

When the birds are ready for slaughter, they are thrown into crates and loaded onto trucks; skin grazing and broken blood vessels are a common occurrence in this part of the process. The lorries are then driven through all weathers, sometimes considerable distances in the blistering cold or sweltering heat.

Once there, the turkeys are placed upside down and clipped into shackles on a conveyor belt. The law states that they can remain upside for up to 6 minutes. The turkeys can weigh between 12 and 60lbs, and hanging upside down must cause considerable amount of pain, especially to the birds who have dislocated or even broken bones.

The turkeys heads are dragged through water with an electrical charge running through it, this supposedly stuns them, that is, if the turkey doesn't move her/his head like s/he does in so many cases. It has also been reported that in several cases, the turkeys wings will drag in the water first. Smaller slaughterhouses use a handheld stunner. These stunners are smaller so are unlikely to cause a cardiac arrest, meaning the turkeys may be fully conscious when they have their throats cut. The conveyor belt continues its journey taking the birds toward the automatic neck cutting machine. The turkeys who are still conscious will once again move their heads as a natural reaction for something coming toward it.

Next they are taken to the scalding tank where they are plunged into water so hot it loosens the feathers ready for plucking. 35,000 turkeys enter the scalding tank alive and fully conscious every year. The turkeys are then plucked, unrequired bits hacked off, packaged and distributed to your local supermarket.

Pretty gruesome, eh? I know it’s easy to forget about what really goes into the food on your plate, but I think it’s especially important to remember today. I hope we can all be thankful for compassion and practice it ourselves by having a cruelty-free holiday.

If you would like to see more, I urge you to watch this video:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thoughts on the NKOTBSB AMAs performance (holy crap, that's a lot o' letters!)

This past Sunday may have been one of the happiest moments of 1990’s boy band fans’ lives. At least it was for me, Kate Brindle. If you missed it, NKOTB teamed up with Backstreet Boys for a medley performance of all of their greatest hits on the American Music Awards. The performance was also presumably to hype their upcoming joint tour in 2011. The guys closed the show, and their show (complete with pyrotechnics) left the crowd (well, at least those who were 12 years ago circa 1990) screaming!

Seeing as I adore anything New Kids related, I, of course, loved their act. However, I do have some thoughts about the performance (which I will now list in numerical fashion):

1. I was surprised that Nick Carter looked so good. It’s amazing what sobriety and breaking up with Paris Hilton will do for your looks.

2. AJ McLean, on the other hand, not so much. Someone needs to clue him in that eye-liner does not make you look younger; it makes you look like an over-the-hill emo kid with a receding hairline.

3. Could Jon Knight have had any less camera time? I know he doesn’t really sing much, but my God, he is still in the group.

4. Kevin Richardson needs to come back to the Backstreet Boys! Who gives a rat’s patoot that he couldn’t sing? Have you seen those eyebrows? He is denying fans another chance to stare at them, and that‘s just not fair. Plus, Jon, his NKOTB counterpart, will presumably be lonely and need someone to talk to while on tour…or at the very least somebody to take Xanax with.

5. A+ to Joey McIntyre for having the evening’s coolest boots. Now if he could just figure out how to dance in them without running into Jordan’s microphone stand.

6. Note to the camera operators: next time, lay-off on the audience cutaways. I didn’t need to see a bunch of random people with no rhythm head-bopping out of sync with the music. I want to see my boys!

7. Jordan Knight was and always will be sheer perfection.

8. Donnie Wahlberg should have been given more time to rap. The American Music Awards clearly did a disservice to the American public by not demanding that Donnie at least say, “positivity is not about being soft, it’s about being smart” (or, seeing as he has a Boston accent, “smaht”).

9. I am so much more forgiving of off-key voices if they come from singers with nice smiles and great highlights.

10. With NKOTB and BSB hitting the road together next year, 2011 is clearly going to be the best year of my life!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thoughts on Election Day, voting and activism

So tomorrow is Election Day in the United States, and I have some thoughts (as indicated by the title of this post). And, seeing as this is my blog, I figured I would post them here.

First, I, for one, am happy that this day has come so I don’t have to listen to all of the smear advertisements that now plague the television. I’m all for spreading your message if you’re a political candidate (provided the information you disseminate is true and your ads haven’t been paid for by corporate interests), but the amount of propaganda out there is disheartening. Some of the commercials I’ve seen are so nasty that I swear they might as well just say, “The other candidate forces old men to kill puppies" or "My opponent hates his mother." I think the public loses when ads use rhetoric like that because instead of saying what the person running will do, they just focus on what her/his opponent has allegedly done wrong. This does not make for informed voters who actually know where candidates stand.

That being said, I hope people take the time to research the candidates (and issues they stand for) and vote tomorrow. Lord knows I’ve gotten enough postings on my facebook wall to remind me to vote. And as annoying as these posts can be, it’s important to remember that elections have consequences. The people we elect and ballot measures we pass will directly affect our lives for months and years in the future.

It’s also important to note that many candidates and ballot measures that have the most impact on people’s lives often get the least amount of attention. For instance, in Michigan, our Supreme Court is elected, yet, I have not seen many advertisements or information about the judges who are running. While these justices are supposed to be impartial, they run on party platforms and often bring their political biases and values with them when rendering decisions. Currently, the conservative judges on Michigan’s Supreme Court have a 4-3 majority. These people are the same justices who used their power to strip basic healthcare coverage from same-sex partners (and children) of public employees (including workers at public schools and government offices). Tomorrow, Michigan residents have the opportunity to change this; we have the chance to vote for Supreme Court justices who believe in fairness and equality for all. While I agree that it’s important to vote in ‘bigger’ elections (like for the office of the president), we should pay attention to who and what we’re voting for in ‘smaller’ elections as well.

Ballot measures are another example of policies that can have huge consequences. Colorado currently has an initiative on the ballot that would grant constitutional personhood to fetuses (which would clearly have legal ramifications on women’s reproductive freedom). And several other states (including one I used to live in, Arizona) have ballot measures that oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (the bill that would essentially establish a better, easier, more efficient system for employees to join unions and have employers recognize them). These ballot initiatives directly affect people’s everyday lives, and it’s so important to thoroughly research each measure and make informed decisions when we vote on them.

Also, I think we must recognize that voting is not enough. If we want to bring about true social change, we cannot let our action stop at the ballot box. We must hold our politicians accountable. This means we should be regularly calling, emailing and visiting them. It’s so easy to phone our local representatives, schedule appointments with them and discuss the issues that are important to us.

Additionally, we must be advocates and activists in systems beyond the government. I think the reason people are so frustrated with government is because it can never solve all of our problems (no matter how near-perfect it is). We must create justice and peace in our own communities. If we don’t like something, we have the power to change it. So let’s use the time we spent reminding folks to vote on facebook to write letters to the editors of our local newspapers or call the CEOs of companies whose policies we don’t agree with.

Lastly, when we do vote, it’s imperative that we don’t just vote for our own self-interests, but, instead, for the interests of all. Let’s vote and advocate for the common good, and let’s commit to working for change on November 2nd…and for years to come.