The Viva Vine: vol #2, no #1: January / February 1995
What About Chicken?

Beyond Beef, yes! But no one, and certainly not the people from the Beyond Beef Campaign is saying that poultry products should be the substitute for a decreased beef consumption. The Beyond Beef Campaign unequivocally states that to make up for the decreased beef in one's diet, grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes should be added. And, they say, as for any flesh products a person still eats, free-range meats and poultry should be purchased from small, organic farms.

Because poultry has less fat than beef, it is generally made out to be better for you. But poultry is not healthier than beef (it has just about the same amount of cholesterol as beef), it is not safer than beef (at least half of the poultry sold in super markets is contaminated with salmonella), and the poultry industry is generally more cruel than the beef industry (confinement systems will be more intense with poultry because the loss of an individual bird is less costly than that of a steer, although dairy factories are extremely intense --cows become hamburger too).

The #1 reason (literally) to be a vegetarian, and you can follow along with your own copy of "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian" is that about 7 billion farm animals, mostly chickens, die or are slaughtered in the U.S. every year for the production of flesh food. The key words here are: "mostly chickens." The amount of flesh (in pounds) people are eating is really not changing that much, despite the fact that 20,000 people in the U.S. are reportedly becoming vegetarian every week. The sheer number of sentient beings giving their lives up to humans eating their flesh has risen astronomically, entirely due to people shifting (on false hopes) to poultry products over beef. Since it takes the flesh of roughly 250 chickens, by pound, to equal that of 1 cow or steer, the general switch to chicken from beef has caused the total number of chickens produced for food consumption to rise by 85% in the last 15 years. In 1992 total animal slaughter (which does not include animals that die in processing which are often recycled as feed, nor the male chicks disposed of in the egg business) rose to over 7.6 billion animals. Of this 7.6 billion, only 130 million are cattle, pigs or sheep. These grim figures (obtained from the newsletter of Farm Animal Reform Movement -- an activist organization on behalf of farm animals) puts things into perspective. Go beyond beef, folks; but also go beyond chicken. The annual Great American Meat-Out, which F.A.R.M is actively involved with is coming up March 20. Contact F.A.R.M., Box 30654, Bethesda, MD 20824, (301) 530-1737; or join The VivaVegie Society, Sat., Mar. 20, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Prince St. & Broadway in lower Manhattan. We'll be out there.

Another heroic animal protection group is Animal Rights International. It has been hard at work out there on the Perdue front. The organization of the indefatigable Henry Spira uses full page ads in publications to expose the chicken industry for what it truly is. In one of their latest ads, ARI ran key excerpts from testimony from the June 28, 1991 Hearing of the Committee on Labor and Human Resources, U.S. Senate on Poultry Safety: Consumers at Risk. A synopsis from ARI, after the alarming reprinted testimony, states: "You are risking more than your health every time you eat chicken. You are supporting an industry which cripples workers, destroys the environment and creates an unending horror for birds. Twenty-five thousand birds at a time are crammed into a dark warehouse, with less than one square foot of living space per bird, choking from accumulated ammonia fumes. And, one more thing to worry about . . ." ARI continues, "Rather than clean up the industry, current proposals call for covering up the dirt and disease (created during chicken processing) by irradiating the birds. But using nuclear waste to irradiate chickens, effectively turns consumers into individual toxic waste dumps. While this may help to dispose of nuclear waste, it introduces additional unknown health risks and encourages the poultry industry to further lower already abominable standards." Contact Animal Rights International with a self addressed stamped envelope and a tax deductible contribution. ARI, P.O. Box 214, Planetarium Station, New York, NY 10024.

Salmonella in eggs?
Many know of today's prevalence of salmonella in poultry. But eggs? Take note. It is definitely not wise to eat raw eggs these days. Salmonella may be in them which can cause a person, who comes in contact with it in uncooked form, to contract salmonellosis. These are not eggs that became cracked and were exposed to salmonella-infected chicken excrement. The salmonella in eggs (evidence is showing) is getting there by way of bacteria-infested ovaries and internal organs of the hens. So, think of this next time you take that nip of egg nog.

Salmonellosis, by the way, according to United Poultry Concerns of Potomac, MD, is no fun at all, with a victim suffering nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal cramps, weakness and exhaustion. In a bad case, the bacteria may penetrate a victim's intestinal tissue and enter the blood. The bacteria could colonize other tissues causing blood poisoning, spinal cord and brain disease or bone disease, and even death.

Other harmful bacteria are found in poultry. Campylobacter jejuni causes flu-like symptoms and Listeria monocytogenes leads to meningitis, septicemia, miscarriages, stillbirths, and abscesses. Incubation may be up to 10 weeks making causes hard to trace.

So the modern confinement systems in our animal factories is producing "one scary product." Quoting from Number 47 in the "101 Reasons Why I'm a Vegetarian," "Animal health in the farm of old came from exercise, sunlight and freedom to peck or root in the soil. Today, animals are packed indoors and barely kept alive with drugs and vitamin injections." Unhealthy and tortured birds, living in the death camps that are our modern poultry plants, do have their revenge, however. United Poultry Concerns tells us that "the Institute for Southern Studies estimated that in 1988, 2.5 million Americans were poisoned [by salmonellosis] of whom 5,000 died from the disease." The problem is, salmonella is rarely seen as the culprit. Cause of death is simply labeled as something else (which is very convenient for the poultry industry). We would otherwise undoubtedly hear more about salmonella.

United Poultry Concerns tells us what we can do to end our poultry ills. Taken from their literature:

- Stop eating poultry and eggs. As consumer demand increases, so does the need to boost production resulting in increased bird density in poultry houses and even filthier housing conditions.

- Contact your legislators and urge them to sponsor legislation requiring more floor space for chickens and turkeys and prohibiting battery cages for laying hens.

- Express concerns to the National Broiler Council, 1155 15th St., NW, Suite 614, Washington, DC 20005 (202-296-2622), the United Egg Producers, 3951 Snapfinger Pkwy, Ste. 580, Decatur, GA 30035 (404-288-6700), and the Nat'l Turkey Federation, 11319 Sunset Hills Rd., Reston, VA 22090 (703-435-7206).

- Contact United Poultry Concerns, Inc., P.O. Box 59367, Potomac, MD, 20859 (301-948-2406) for more information including vegetarian alternatives to poultry and eggs.

The following comes from the Fall, 1992 issue of Intn'l Society for Animal Rights Report, newsletter for ISAR:

Representative Andrew Jacobs has introduced H.R. 4124, The Humane Methods of Poultry Slaughter Act, which would amend the Federal Poultry Products Inspection Act to require humane slaughter of poultry. Currently, stunning prior to slaughter is not required by law. Typically, when it is done, it is not for humane reasons but to ensure satisfactory bleeding and feather release. The birds are hung upside down and their heads are dragged through a trough of electrified liquid. Many birds receive repeated smaller shocks before they are stunned unconscious in the trough.

For more efficient bleeding, birds are often allowed to recover before their throats are cut. Millions enter the scald tank (to loosen feathers) still conscious.

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