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One Country's Companion Is Another's Cuisine
By Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle
Their fear and pain are equal. But the first is a dog, the second a pig — and herein lies our
cultural divide.
Empathy for the dog rarely extends to the pig.


He huddles with others, until rough hands pull him through metal slats. Past red streams to an airless spot. There, they bash his head with a pipe and shove an electric prod against him. He is an alert carcass, dunked in boiling water, blowtorched. Finally all goes black.

Elsewhere, an animal stiffens under the stomp of muddy boots. Hands drag him down a corridor and toss him over a 4-foot ledge. A chain looped around his neck is clipped to a forklift. Suddenly the ground goes away. Up, up, up. His legs fumble for a bottom. A clamp squeezes around his neck. He panics. After four, five or more minutes, he is dead.

Their fear and pain are equal. But the first is a dog, the second a pig — and herein lies our cultural divide. Empathy for the dog rarely extends to the pig.

The dog's death — in a meat market in China, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia or Thailand — triggers rage. But the hanging of the pig, an arguably cute, tame animal, doesn't elicit our fury. Western societies sympathize with the "pets" they see and cuddle. Conversely, "livestock" is an abstract concept drawn from occasional petting zoos, childhood films, or plastic-wrapped parts.

Pigs, like dogs, are outgoing individuals who form social ties and navigate life through curious snouts. Each year in the U.S., about 100 million pigs are denied space, sunlight, straw bedding, mudbaths or any feature fundamental to pigs. At hog factories, 600-pound sows are immobilized in 2-foot wide gestation crates and forcibly impregnated. Pigs are tail-docked, castrated and teeth-clipped without anesthesia. They travel to Midwest slaughterhouses "in windchills as low as 70 degrees below zero. Many hogs become frozen solid and have to be ripped with chains from truck walls," says Humane Farming Association, a U.S. group that exposes factory-farming abuse.

On the kill floor, an "insufficiently stunned pig may be alert during dismemberment," observes Temple Grandin in Survey of Stunning and Handling in Federally Inspected Beef, Veal, Pork and Sheep Slaughter Plants. Pigs kick and squeal as workers "stick" them with knives. Humans compartmentalize animals based on their "function." Thus, a companion in one country may be cuisine in another.
Westerners find the consumption of humankind's best friend repugnant. Yet in South Korea some two million dogs are annually killed for human meals. Humane Society International estimates 500,000 dogs are butchered in the Philippines each year.

In 2007, Koreans acknowledged global opposition to dog meat with rules to ban dog-eating. Sort of. Revisions to the Korean Animal Protection Act of 1991 clarified animal cruelty and inflated penalties. But a leading anti-dog meat group, International Aid For Korean Animals (IAKA), worries the amended law "fails to directly address the chief source of cruelty: Dog meat markets."

Korea's Food Sanitation Law of 1984 dubs dog soups (Boshintang) "disgusting foods." Dog-meat eateries stay licensed by renaming canine dishes. Under Korea's Livestock Product Sanitation and Inspection Act, dogs aren't "livestock" and can't be slain under agriculture laws. But Korea's Food and Drug Administration labels dog meat a "natural product," thereby legitimizing it for human ingestion.

Animal welfare regulations are "paper laws" unless enforced and loophole-free. Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the Anti-Rabies Act of 2007 to ban commerce in dog meat and control rabies through required dog vaccination. While the decree imposes steeper fines and jail time for each dog slaughtered or sold for meat, violators are unlikely to be punished until the government funds police training and backs prosecution.

Ultimately, legal incongruities fail to safeguard dogs and cats. Documentation of Asian wet markets reveals dogs, some in collars and apparently stolen, squashed inside fly-infested crates. Dogs are beaten with pipes and hammers to expel adrenaline, coveted for its aphrodisiac properties. Butchers believe a dog's terror yields tender, profitable flesh.

In 2007, Humane Society International (HSI) teamed with Filipino police and animal groups to save nearly 100 dogs en route to slaughter. HSI investigators saw dogs with mouths bound in plastic cord, wrenched from cages and clubbed. Killers sliced their jugular veins and bottled spurting blood to sell.

In Korea, cats are "pests." Collected in sacks, strays and former pets are slammed into the ground. Some are liquefied in pressure cookers for elixirs presumed to heal arthritis, neuralgia, and other human conditions. Cats cling to one another as workers pluck them from a box to boil and burn.

Americans don't eat their horses. Yet until 2007, foreign-owned plants processed horses for diners in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Japan and Mexico. On 9/21/07, the Illinois Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld a ban on horse slaughter for human intake. The closure of Cavel International in DeKalb, IL mirrored earlier court-ordered shutdowns at Dallas Crown in Kaufman, TX and Beltex Corp. in Fort Worth, TX. As a result, spent racehorses, companions, Premarin-industry foals, draft horses, ponies, donkeys and mules were legally spared slaughter on U.S. soil. Still, over 100,000 horses were trucked to Canadian and Mexican kill floors in 2008.

Horses ride to kill plants in double-decked trailers that hurt their heads and necks. Food, water and rest are withheld. Horses arrive weak, injured or dead.

Slaughter (abroad or in U.S.) is excruciating for these excitable animals. USDA documentation verifies a violent process. Captive bolt stun pistols, ordinarily used for short-neck animals, fail to render horses insensible. In Mexico, investigative reports reveal horses thrashing in pain while stabbed at the withers until the spinal cord severs. Some are conscious as throats are slit.

2012 UPDATE: DOORS REOPEN TO U.S. HORSE SLAUGHTER, KILL INSPECTORS FUNDED AGAIN — U.S. politicians talk about deep spending cuts, yet pass a 2012 Agriculture Appropriations bill that restores funding for horse slaughter inspectors? A 6-year ban on use of USDA taxpayer funds for slaughterhouse inspections is now gone. Without this loophole, states eager to kill horses have little to stop them.

Proponents consider this a solution for surplus horses who would otherwise endure neglect and starvation. The option to discard unwanted horses for slaughter absolves breeders and caretakers of illegal animal abandonment. Offenders should be criminally charged rather than permitted to profit from killing horses. Furthermore, a timely GAO report that sought to link equine abuse with termination of slaughter found no real evidence to back such claims.

WHAT U.S. CITIZENS CAN DO: Ask your Rep and Senators In U.S. Congress to support the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act.

In many nations, dogs, cats and horses are legally protected from cruelty while farmed animals are not. A vast gap separates consumption from origin. Each year over 47 billion animals are slaughtered worldwide. In America 10 billion land animals, plus an estimated 17 billion fish, die for human ingestion. Every hour, roughly 1 million birds, pigs, cows and other perceptive beings are killed for food.

Meat, milk and eggs come from mega-farms where revenue overshadows welfare. In 2006 prosecutor Frank Forchione sought animal cruelty penalties for Wiles Farm, after viewing Humane Farming Association's undercover images and notes. At the 2007 trial, Judge Stuart Miller, of Wayne County, Ohio, concluded that veterinary neglect of pigs with prolapsed vaginas and broken legs or backs did not represent cruelty. Pigs bashed with hammers and flung into transport carts did not depict mistreatment.

When asked if hanging neck-chained pigs via forklift made them suffer, defendant Ken Wiles replied, "My pigs aren't suffering." Judge Miller wrist-slapped Wiles Farm with a $250 fine and 1-year probation for Ken Wiles' son Joe.

The justice system is uncertain where husbandry ends and cruelty begins. Animal welfare guidelines are rarely upheld. The U.S. Humane Slaughter Act doesn't cover chickens, turkeys, ducks, or geese.

In 2005 Ginny Conley, Acting Executive Director of West Virginia Prosecuting Attorney's Institute, failed to convict 11 employees of Pilgrim's Pride, a KFC supplier. A video exposed workers twisting off heads of live chickens. They spat tobacco into the birds' eyes and mouths, spray-painted faces, and crushed them against walls…in violation of animal cruelty statutes. But Conley rationalized: "[The case] needs to be handled more on a regulatory end than prosecuting someone criminally."

In fact, a chicken's aptitude is similar to a cat or dog. Chickens identify one another, nurture their young, build nests, and enjoy dust baths. At egg factories, 6 to 9 hens subsist in a battery cage no larger than a filing drawer. "Broiler chickens" and turkeys are squeezed into dark grower houses. To curtail fighting and cannibalism, workers amputate the bottom third of each bird's beak.

When animals are distressed daily, cruelty loses its boundaries. Among 30 million U.S. cows killed yearly, at least 195,000 are downers — stockyard animals too sick or crippled to stand. Downers are beaten and dragged on severed bones and ligaments.

At intensive dry lot dairies, cows are kept artificially pregnant and lactating so machines can siphon their milk. Many are injected with Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and suffer bovine mastitis, an acute infection of the udder. After three to four years of exhaustive pregnancy cycles, dairy cows are slaughtered for beef.

Veal is a byproduct of the government-subsidized dairy industry. Within 24 hours of birth male calves are auctioned to veal farms, to live chained by the neck inside two-feet wide crates. They are kept anemic on a liquid-only diet that suppresses muscle growth.

Calves used for veal are denied maternal love. Though sensitivity to loss is considered a human attribute, evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin noted animal parents who grieve their missing young. "When a flock of sheep is scattered, the ewes bleat incessantly for their lambs, and their mutual pleasure at coming together is manifest."

Nonhuman animals "have a point of view on what happens to them, their families, their friends," writes Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Colorado University, Boulder. "Nonetheless, their lives are wantonly and brutally taken in deference to human interests."

If animals value interconnected lives, how do we reconcile consumption of some with compassion for others? Once it is clear the dog and the pig BOTH want to live, the pig changes from something to someone.

In 1996 I saw an HBO documentary, To Love Or Kill: Man Vs. Animal. It was the first time I glimpsed inside factory farms and slaughterhouses and it forever ruined my burgers and tuna. I never hated meat, its smell or taste. Still don't. But I can no longer swallow another's fear and pain. Fortunately, today's plant-based meals are downright delicious. A happy stomach convinced my husband to keep our kitchen flesh-free. Now he's full-time veg. Below are some general prep tips, based on my own vegan ventures.  ~Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle

    Season like hamburger, chicken, steak, or any other animal meat. The olive oil captures flavors in a crispy, delicious outer edge.
    VEGETARIANISM 101: Imagine dishes you already make, replacing animal meats with veg meats. My husband doesn't share my affinity for all animals. But he does enjoy my animal-free Thai peanut "chicken," barbeque "ribs," sloppy-joes, cornbread, pumpkin muffins, "meatloaf," shepherd's pie, apple-cranberry cobbler, chocolate chip cookies, cornbread stuffing, roasted tacos, "steak" strips…
    If you're a decent to fabulous carnivore cook, you'll be a decent to fabulous veg cook.
    • Veggie Burgers: Grill in olive oil. Sprinkle burgers in garlic/onion powders, basil, and brown sugar. Ketchup lovers: Baste ketchup with seasonings, both sides of burger. Or check out great vegan sauces such as Annie's Naturals Organic Worcestershire.

    • Veggie Chicken-Style Strips / Thai Peanut: Grill strips in olive oil. Season with garlic and onion powders, basil, Asian seasonings from a speciality store…or other spices you prefer. Once veg chicken strips have crispy edges, stir in: Thai peanut sauce, a few spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter, and a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. Let chicken strips simmer in sauce. Serve over noodles or rice cooked with Earth Balance vegan butter (the best butter-like vegan spread!

    • Veggie Steak-Style Strips / Teriyaki: Grill strips in olive oil. Season with garlic, onion powders or spices you prefer with beef. When steak strips have crispy edges, stir in teriyaki sauce. Let simmer in sauce and mix in grilled veggies. Serve over noodles, rice or cous cous lightly flavored with Earth Balance vegan butter.

    • Sweet & Sour Sloppy-Joes: You need - 1 can cranberry sauce; 12 oz. bottle of chili sauce; 2 lbs. of vegetarian hamburger crumbles; 1 medium onion, grated; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. pepper. Crumble up veggie hamburger into small pieces. Mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a pot or deep skillet. Serve on hamburger buns.

    • Barbecue-Style Veggie Beef Chunks: Grill veg meats in skillet with light olive oil: Gardenburger BBQ Riblets + seitan (beef-like chunks). Add more barbecue sauce, sweeten sauce a bit (if you like sweet/spicy concoctions, as I do!) and any other spices used for BBQ-style. Grill till crispy around edges and serve with sweet potato fries, grilled potato chunks or other side. TIP: Add a bit of Earth Balance vegan butter with olive oil in any of above dishes, for great flavor blend with spices, sauces.

Plant-Based Proteins = Delicious! And most are stashed in mainstream grocer aisles. If not there, veg meats are at stores such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's…

    ~ BOCA Meatless Burgers (best vegan burgers!)
    ~ Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs (vegan)
    ~ Yves Meatless Meatballs (vegan)
    Yves® Meatless Beef Burger (vegan)

    Yves® Meatless Chicken Burger (vegan)
    ~ BOCA Meatless Chik'n Nuggets (vegan)
    ~ BOCA Meatless Chik'n Patties (vegan)
    ~ Morning Star Chik'n Nuggets (has egg)
    ~ Morning Star Chik Patties (has egg)

    ~ Gardenburger BBQ Riblets (vegan)

    Tofurky® Dogs and Links (vegan)
       Tofurky Hot Dogs
       Tofurky Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Tofurky Breakfast Links
    Tofurky® Sausages (vegan)
       Artisan Sausages
       Gourmet Sausages
       Artisan Andouille Sausages
       Artisan Spinach Pesto Sausages
       Artisan Chick'N and Apple Sausages
       Gourmet Beer Brats
       Gourmet Italian Sausage
       Gourmet Kielbasa Polish Meatless Sausage

    Yves® Hot Dogs & Brats (vegan)
       Yves The Good Dog
       Tofu Dogs
       Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Yves Meatless Brats
       Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Meatless Breakfast Patties

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