This week’s Saturday Reblog touched briefly on the minimum wage issue. In light of current events and the passing of Labor Day (that sounds about right) I wish to expound on this topic a bit more. My goal is to make a couple of points that I think are patently obvious that I haven’t quite seen before, not that I’ve looked very hard. –Ed.
The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This minimum rate of pay became effective way back on July 24, 2009, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). That was over four years ago.
Like practically all business laws in this country, the FLSA law provides plenty of exceptions and loopholes in favor of business. The standard practice is to make laws that appease the mindless masses by rendering them toothless. If the law was a ravenous tiger it wouldn’t even be able to gum anyone to death.
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Conklin Dairy Farms: An Update
By far one of the most popular stories I’ve ever written about on this blog is the incident of animal abuse at Conklin Dairy Farms in Ohio. It has consistently brought traffic to this blog since the story broke and continues to be popular to this day. I thought it would be a good idea to get caught up on with how this story eventually turned out.
Back in May 2010, a group known as Mercy For Animals (MFA) released an undercover video they had shot at a dairy farm they had randomly selected in Ohio.
The video documented animal abuse by Billy Joe Gregg, Jr., an employee of Conklin Dairy Farms. In the video, Gregg bragged about abusing cows and was seen punching cows and attacking them with a pitchfork.
The video also included a few seconds of footage showing the owner, Gary Conklin, kicking a cow that was laying on the ground.
Gregg originally plead not guilty to 12 counts of animal cruelty. On Sept. 24, 2010, Gregg plead guilty to six misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. Gregg was sentenced to eight months in jail, ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, and was barred from contact with animals for three years. Gregg was also ordered to receive counseling through a program that specializes in treating individuals involved in animal abuse cases.
A grand jury also considered the actions of Conklin, shown on the video kicking a cow on the ground. The jury was shown the unedited version of undercover footage. The edited version of the video released by MFA to the internet had bracketed Conklin’s actions with actual abuse, lending the impression that Conklin was also participating in the abuse.
The unedited video was also seen by four veterinarians who specialize in large animal care.
The County Prosecutor said, “[The grand jury] saw the unedited video of Mr. Conklin’s actions, not the highly inflammatory version released on YouTube by Mercy for Animals.”
After viewing the video and hearing from investigators and veterinarians that concluded Conklin acted appropriately, the grand jury decided not to indict Conklin.
No evidence was ever presented that Conklin was aware of the actions of Gregg.
Regarding the footage of Conklin kicking a cow, the prosecutor said Conklin was actually acting appropriately to prevent injury to the animal. “These animals, sometimes called ‘downer cows’ must be brought to their feet. The sheriff’s office had the video reviewed by four experts, each of whom agreed that Mr. Conklin’s actions were entirely appropriate.”
The prosecutor noted that the experts were veterinarians with extensive experience in large animal care. Each agreed that delivering a sharp blow to the animal to get it to rise was not abuse. The veterinarians told law enforcement that cows that remain down are at risk of injury or death.
The grand jury also heard testimony from the undercover operative put on the Conklin Farm by Mercy for Animals, Jason Smith of Texas. Smith had told law enforcement that he did not witness any abuse by Conklin, and that Conklin did not know of the abuse by Billy Joe Gregg.
After learning of the abuse, Conklin fired Gregg the very next day. Since the incident became an internet sensation, Conklin has been the victim of death threats and threats to destroy his farm “piece by piece” by animal rights activists.
This case is closed and justice has been served. Conklin was found to have acted appropriately and did the right things, and his actions have been reviewed and cleared by industry experts and a randomly selected grand jury. I understand that the video was upsetting – it deeply affected me as well – but threats are never the correct response and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
In my previous coverage of this story, I made two points. First, how could this sort of thing happen at a dairy farm and management not be aware? I stand by that point. As I said, it was never proven that Conklin knew about what Gregg was doing. But isn’t that the point? Isn’t there a moral responsibility to know what’s going on? In a statement for the press, Conklin Dairy Farms maintained that they take “the care of our cows and calves very seriously.” That means you have to be proactive enough to be aware and not let the bad things happen. I’m willing to guess that Conklin learned a very important lesson here. He has since spoken of the importance of maintaining an employee manual that stresses things like standards of animal treatment.
The second point I made was taking umbrage that Conklin had not been charged with a crime. Here I was overzealous and I apologize for going that far. I was wrong. Conklin has been completely cleared of any wrongdoing. I accept that and I wish him well. I allowed myself to become emotional about the issue and the video and I was too quick to rush to judgment. I’ll try to be more careful about that sort of thing in the future.
Chicken Litter says the sky is falling
Nope. That is not a typo in the subject line. I wish it was.
Today I’d like to introduce a bizarre practice that just boggles the mind. I even wrote a little song for this post (sung to the tune of Enter Sandman by Metallica):
Oh the cow goes moo
And the chicken goes cluck
If you eat either one
You’re gonna be fucked
Intrigued? Then keep reading! 🙂
Seemingly there is no practice too appalling, painful, gross, bloody, gruesome, and barbaric for the good folks response for turning critters into dinners. The industry that puts meat on the American dinner table likes to keep their standards and practices a closely guarded secret and makes maximizing profits an overriding goal.
I recently watched the intense and disturbing movie “Earthlings” and it had a very profound effect on me. (You can read my earlier post about it here: Greetings, to ALL Earthlings.)
Even before I viewed that movie, however, I was already aware of what I like to call Chicken Litter, which is also known as “poultry litter” or “boiler litter.”
The Wikipedia definition of poultry litter is: “a combination of is a material used as bedding in poultry operations to render the floor more manageable. Common litter materials are wood shavings, sawdust, peanut hulls, shredded sugar cane, straw, and other dry, absorbent, low-cost organic materials. Sand is also occasionally used as bedding.”
That sounds reasonable enough. The really interesting part, though, is what happens to that material after it has been used. You’ll never guess.
If you guessed “it gets scooped up and feed to cattle” then you’re way smarter than me! Adds Wikipedia:
After use, the litter consists primarily of poultry manure, but also contains the original litter material, feathers, and spilled feed.
Interesting Factoid #1: Chicken poop is feed to cows.
I mean, really! I’d very much like to meet the fellow who looked at used poultry litter and said to himself, “Golly gee whiz. You know what? I think that shit would make a bitchin’ feed for cattle. We’d save a bundle. Yee haw!”
The FDA estimates 1 to 2 million tons of poultry litter is fed to cattle annually.
Interesting Factoid #2: Chicken feed contains beef. (Source.)
It works a little like this: Beef (and sheep) material (known as “ruminants”) are found in chicken feed. That feed is given to chickens. Some of that feed goes uneaten and ends up in the poultry litter. That litter is scooped up and fed to cattle.
Could there possibly be anything wrong with using beef proteins as a feed for cattle?
In December 2003, in response to a the detection of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow disease”) in a cow in the state of Washington, the FDA announced plans to put in place a poultry litter ban. Because poultry litter can contain recycled cattle proteins as either spilled feed or feed that has passed through the avian gut, the FDA was concerned that feeding litter would be a pathway for spreading mad cow disease.
“It takes a very small quantity of ruminant protein, even just 1 milligram, to cause an infection,” said Steve Roach, public health program director with Food Animal Concerns Trust, a Chicago-based animal welfare group that is part of the coalition.
Interesting Factoid #3: Chicken feed contains arsenic. (Source.)
Whoa! I did not see that one coming. What the hell? Yep, it turns out something known as “roxarsone” with is an arsenic compound.
So why on earth would they add something like that to chicken feed?
The poultry industry has been using the feed additive roxarsone — purportedly to fight parasites and increase growth in chickens — since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in 1944. Turns out that the arsenic additive promotes the growth of blood vessels in chicken, which makes the meat appear pinker and more attractive in its plastic wrap at the grocery store, but does little else. The arsenic additive does the same in human cells, fueling a growth process known as angiogenesis, a critical first step in many human diseases such as cancer.
So we can add arsenic to the list of fun stuff that ends up in the poultry litter that is then fed back to cattle.
What happens to that cattle, by the way? Turns out that we humans will dine on some if it. Yummy!
Inorganic arsenic is a Class A carcinogen that has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and declines in brain function. Recent scientific findings show that most Americans are routinely exposed to between three and 11 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended safety limit.
Interesting Factoid #4: The government puts no restrictions on the use of poultry litter as a feed for cattle.
The history of using poultry littler as a feed for cattle may surprise you.
- Roxarsone approved as a feed additive by the FDA in 1944.
- The practice of using poultry litter as cattle feed was unregulated prior to 1967.
- In 1967 the FDA declares that poultry littler in interstate commerce is “adulterated” effectively banning the practice.
- 1n 1980 the FDA reversed this policy and passed regulation of litter to the states.
- In 2004 the FDA was interested in removing most infectious animal proteins from all animal feeds. They took no action however, in part based on comments made by the North American Rendering Industry. (Source: Wikipedia.)
- 2005 and 2008 rulings made by the FDA did not include the litter ban.
It should be noted that California does partially ban the practice, but their ban only pertains to lactating dairy cows. Other states may also have their own laws restricting the practice. Again, the FDA has opted to make this a state-by-state decision.
Interesting Factoid #5: The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn. says science does not justify banning the practice
From the Los Angeles Times:
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn., the beef industry’s main trade group, said the ban was not needed and that several FDA reviews had determined that the chance of cattle becoming infected with mad cow disease from eating poultry litter was remote.
“Science does not justify the ban, and the FDA has looked at this now many times,” said Elizabeth Parker, chief veterinarian for the trade group.
If I had any graphic skills at all I’d attempt to show you artwork depicting what I’m calling the Where’s The Beef Cycle. I imagine it would look a lot like the Precipitation Cycle we all learned about in elementary school.
Beef proteins and arsenic go into chicken feed – Chicken feed goes into chicken poop and poultry litter – Poultry litter is fed back to beef.
Props go to George Carlin for the image caption.
Greetings, to ALL Earthlings
“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”
Abraham Lincoln’s cat, Tabby, was the first of several White House cats. Source.
Here’s a bit more about Lincoln and his love of animals:
Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth President, loved cats and could play with them for hours. When asked if her husband had a hobby, Mary Todd Lincoln replied, “cats.” President Lincoln visited General Grant at City Point, Virginia in March of 1865. The civil war was drawing to a close and the enormous task of reuniting the country lay ahead, yet the President made time to care for three orphaned kittens. Abraham Lincoln noticed three stray kittens in the telegraph hut. Picking them up and placing them in his lap, he asked about their mother. When the President learned that the kittens’ mother was dead, he made sure the kittens would be fed and a good home found for them.
President Lincoln’s compassion extended to turkeys, too. Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation on October 3, 1863, setting aside the last Thursday of November, “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.” A turkey was sent to the White House for Thanksgiving dinner in 1863, and Tad, Lincoln’s son, named him Tom. Tad befriended the turkey and pleaded with his father to grant “Tom” a stay of execution. Abraham Lincoln took time out from a cabinet meeting to issue “an order of reprieve,” sparing the turkey’s life.
Mr. Lincoln’s compassion extended to dogs, too. Fido was a mixed breed with floppy ears and a yellowish coat. When fireworks and cannons announced Abraham Lincoln’s victory in the Presidential election of 1860, poor Fido was terrified. The Lincolns were worried that the long train trip to Washington,DC, combined with loud noises, would terrify Fido. John and Frank Roll, two neighborhood boys, promised to take good care of Fido. Mr. Lincoln made them promise to let Fido inside the house whenever he scratched at the front door, never scold Fido for entering the house with muddy paws, and feed him if he came to the dinner table. The Lincolns gave the Rolls their sofa so Fido would feel at home! Did you know “Fido” is Latin? Fido is from “Fidelitas” which translates as “faithful.”
Nanny and Nanko were White House goats. Tad and Willie liked to hitch the goats to carts or kitchen chairs and have the goats pull them through the White House. Both Nanny and Nanko liked to chew things. Nanny got in trouble for chewing up the flowers at the Old Soldier’s Home. Nanko got in trouble for chewing the bulbs planted by White House Gardener, John Watt.
The Lincolns also had rabbits and cats. Mr. Lincoln named his horse Old Bob. Old Bob was the rider-less horse with a pair of boots turned backward in the stirrups in Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession.
While researching Joaquin Phoenix for a blog post I discovered that he had narrated a film called “Earthlings” back in 2007.
Using hidden cameras and never-before-seen footage, EARTHLINGS chronicles the day-to-day practices of the largest industries in the world, all of which rely entirely on animals for profit.
This powerful movie currently has a rating of 8.4 out of 10 starts over at IMDb.
And, I just found out yesterday, this movie is being made available for free at the web site earthlings.com. If you care about how animals are treated on this planet it is a movie I highly recommend.
DISCLAIMER: The film is extremely graphic and contains a lot of footage depicting the killing of animals. This is an important film but may be too upsetting for some viewers.
If you are willing to take a look, visit the earthlings.com, click “Watch Now” near the top-right corner, then scroll down to the bottom and click the thumbnail image labeled “Full video.”