Tag Archives: animal liberation

Investigating China’s Infamous Dog Meat Trade

Pau at Chinese dog meat farm. He was rescued and brought back to the U.S. this year.
Pau at Chinese dog meat farm. He was rescued and brought back to the U.S. this year.

[On Tuesday night (Sept. 20, 2016) the Berkeley City Council passed a resolution in solidarity with Chinese activists condemning the killing of dogs for food in China, and asking China to end the dog meat trade there. I thought this would be a good time to publish my recent article about activists who went to China earlier this year and rescued three dog meat dogs. This article originally appeared at The Daily Pitchfork.]

By Michael Goldberg

There was no sink, no bed, no toilet. The walls of the Chinese jail cell, in which US animal rights activist Wayne Hsiung found himself, were painted a bright blue. The lights were never turned off.

“I thought I could be held indefinitely, particularly when they claimed we were spies from the US government,” Hsiung said during an interview.

In early May of this year, six Chinese interrogators took turns going at him for 15 hours. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. Hsiung, co-founder of the international animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), faced questions about why he had planted hidden cameras at a slaughterhouse in Yulin, China, now infamous for its annual Yulin Dog Meat Festival.

Meanwhile, his activist colleague, Julianne Perry, an MBA student at Dartmouth, faced her own interrogation in the same jail.

“I thought of the suffragettes jailed dozens of times, freedom riders sending dozens of students to be jailed,” Perry said. “I took comfort that I would be in good company if I was kept in jail for speaking out against social injustice.”

Hsiung, a lawyer who had taught at Northwestern School of Law, was worried about what would happen not only to Perry, but the third member of his investigatory team, Chris Van Breen, a deeply compassionate activist from San Jose whose day job is working as a plumber and who was waiting for Hsiung and Perry at their rented apartment in downtown Yulin. Just as pressing on Hsiung’s mind was the fate of the three dogs they’d rescued a week earlier from a Yulin dog meat farm.

“My main concern was the safety of the dogs,” Hsiung said.

A week earlier, on April 25, 2016, Hsiung and the other two DxE members had arrived in China to investigate the dog meat trade.

“It was partly redemption,” Hsiung said, explaining one of his reasons for the investigation. “I remember seeing dogs suffering [in China] when I was 9 years old. I wanted to save some because I couldn’t when I was a child.”

Julianne Perry at dog meat farm in China.
Julianne Perry at dog meat farm in China.

The dog meat farm turned out to be a former pig farm. For Hsiung, it was ironic because DxE had recently investigated one of Hormel’s Farmer John farms and documented the horrific conditions.

The owner told Hsiung he had to switch to dogs after he was essentially driven out of the pork business by huge multi-national companies like Smithfield and Hormel. But the owner also told Hsuing that whether he raised pigs or dogs made no difference, to him they were all the same. As Hsiung later said, this was one thing they could both agree on.

While Hsuing said that farms in the US are much worse that the dog meat farm he saw; but it was still a hellhole of a place: filthy and dilapidated with piles of old wood and other garbage scattered about and a rusty gate leading inside, where Hsiung’s found seven dogs confined in cement-walled pens.

Hsiung returned to the farm with Perry and Van Breen the next day to rescue three dogs, who are brothers and who they later named Pao, Lao and Xiao. “This was death row,” Van Breen said. “Every animal there was born to be murdered.”

The three dogs were covered with fleas and ticks, their skin was red, they were losing their fur and their bellies were distended. The DxE team took the dogs to a vet where they were de-fleaed and de-ticked. With Van Breen and Perry caring for the dogs at the apartment, Hsiung began part two of the investigation at a slaughterhouse in Yulin.

Read the rest of this story at the Huffington Post.

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

FACE-TO-FACE WITH A PIG KILLER

Paul Willis in a Berkeley, CA butcher shop. Photo by Michael Goldberg
With Perdue’s purchase of Niman Ranch, and McDonald’s move to “cage-free,” it’s time for us to ask: what does “humane” actually mean?

By Michael Goldberg

With his thinning white hair and black Polo-style short-sleeved shirt with a Niman Ranch “Raised With Care” logo over his heart, Paul Willis looks like a kindly grandfather. This soft-spoken man certainly isn’t my idea of a pig killer.

But that’s exactly what he is.

Willis, a high-profile spokesman for the “humane meat” movement, co-founded and manages the Niman Ranch Pork Company, a division of Niman Ranch.

This week it was announced that Perdue Farms, the third biggest U.S. factory farm company raising chickens, has purchased Niman Ranch.

In addition to running the Niman Ranch Pork Company, in years past Willis has also raised between 2500-to-3000 pigs a year on his Willis Free Range Pig Farm in Thornton, Iowa, two hours north of Des Moines. He still raises 100s of pigs each year on his farm.

At about six months of age, Willis’s pigs are driven to the Sioux-Preme Packing Company, a slaughterhouse in Sioux Center, Iowa, where they are gassed and their throats slit.

Willis is responsible for the deaths of far more pigs than the ones he raises on his own farm.The Niman Ranch Pork Company is a network of over 500 farms that provide a total of over 150,000 pigs each year, who are slaughtered and sold under the Niman Ranch brand. The company’s reputation is based on raising pigs in what is alleged to be a humane way, and its operation is considered the gold standard for compassionate animal agriculture. Companies whose success is based on their “compassion” and “values,” including Chipotle Mexican Grill and Whole Foods, are supplied by Niman Ranch.

False advertising. About seventy-five percent of Niman pigs are raised indoors, according to a Niman spokesman, and yet this is the photo that appears on their website.
Willis, who refers to the dead body parts of pigs that Niman sells as “product,” told the New York Times in early 2014 that Niman oversees the raising and killing of about half of the pigs in America that are considered pasture-raised, or “humanely” raised, though most of those pigs are actually raised indoors.

Though in his early seventies, Willis has become the poster boy for Niman Ranch, the human face of a system that doesn’t value the lives of nonhuman animals. He’s the subject of an eight-minute video, “Paul Willis Story,” created and funded by Chipotle, one of Niman’s biggest customers.

The video tells a folksy story about Willis growing up on the farm in Thornton, and shows him wearing denim overalls, petting pigs who are hanging out in a large pasture, and letting his granddaughter’s chickens out of a barn. Willis has been favorably written up in numerous publications, including Fast Company, and has been quoted in both the New York Times and the New Yorker.

In the video, Willis speaks of himself as an “activist” fighting the good fight against factory farming. It’s a good story, and it’s helped assuage the guilt of upscale meat eaters who think they have a humane alternative to the violence that goes on at factory farms.

“We do the best we can with raising the animals as humanely as we can,” Willis said while hanging out at a Berkeley, CA butcher shop, Magnani’s Poultry, one afternoon in early June. Willis was there to promote Niman Ranch “product,” and the event was billed as “Demo and Q&A.”

I was there with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). We wanted to question Willis about Niman farming protocol, which is, in fact, anything but humane. But even if they did raise the pigs with care, there is nothing humane about killing an animal that wants to live. There were about 30 of us, and at least a half-dozen DxE members fired off questions at Willis for about 15 minutes before he abruptly ended the conversation.

DxE fights for animal liberation and against speciesism, which is similar to racism and sexism. Only where racism and sexism describe privileged humans discrimination against humans of color or the female sex, speciesism describes humans discriminating against other species.

Just as there is no moral justification for racism or sexism, there is no moral justification for speciesism. There is no moral justification for humans to exploit and torture and kill animals because they “like the taste of meat,” as more than one carnist has said. Yet that’s what humans do. More than nine billion land animals are killed each year in the U.S. alone for food. It’s mass murder on an unimaginable scale.

“I’ve always raised outdoor pigs, pasture pigs. Ok?” Willis continued. “Factory farming started coming in on us big time [in the early ’90s]. I wanted no part of that.”

Willis’s words are misleading. While he may actually raise his own pigs outdoors when the weather allows, most Niman pigs live their entire short six-month lives inside warehouse-style buildings with as little as 14 square feet allotted per pig – equivalent to the footprint of a small desk and approximately the size of a gestation crate, which are now illegal in California.

David Marin of Tendergrass Farms wrote in a June 11, 2013 post on the “Mark’s Daily Apple” blog that he considered raising pigs for Niman before founding Tendergrass. He changed his mind when he learned from a Niman “field representative” that “only a small percentage of Niman Ranch pigs are actually raised on pasture. In the whole east coast region he [the Niman rep] said that there are virtually no pasture-based Niman producers.

To read the rest of this post please head here.

Video: The Path To Animal Liberation

  
Check out this amazing video:

And join us Saturday evening for an international memorial for all the animals who have died at the hands of human animals.

More info at this Facebook page.

– A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –

Video: Watch DxE Protest Rock San Francisco

DxE protesters block Geary Street outside Macy’s.

DxE did three protests advocating animal liberation on Saturday, May 23, 2015 in San Francisco. This video shows excerpts from all three protests.

A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –

Animal Rights Activists Stand Up For Mother Cows

Mother’s Day protest: We will not forget. Photo and videos by Michael Goldberg

This past Sunday the Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy (BOAA) stood up for mother cows during protests that took place inside two Berkeley markets – Andronico’s and Safeway.

You can read all about it here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Vicious Vegan blog:

It was Mother’s Day, a day when the animal rights groups Berkeley Organization for Animal Advocacy (BOAA) and Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) try to remind the public of the millions and millions of forgotten mothers – the dairy cows who are forced to stand in one spot indoors and be milked and milked and milked for fucking months on end until their udders are bleeding, swollen to the point of dragging on the floor and infected with mastitis. Mothers who frantically search in vain for their newborns who are stolen by humans shortly after birth. Mothers who cry and moan for days and days for their lost babies….

Read the whole post here.

Check out videos I shot of two of the speakers here:

– A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –

DXE, UPC Stand Up For Chickens, Defy Security In San Francisco

Photo and video by Michael Goldberg

A group of animal rights activists from DXE and UPC including myself marched to the San Francisco Ferry Building yesterday to protest the selling of so-called ‘humane meat’ at a market inside the building.

My wife Leslie wrote a great blog post about the action, which includes photos, a video that ends with security guards trying to shut us down and prevent people from photographing and videoing the protest, and more.

Here’s how her post begins:

ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS DEFY SECURITY GUARDS IN SAN FRANCISCO

By Leslie Goldberg

When I heard “You’re all under arrest,” my heart jumped in my throat. I flashed on who-will-take-care-of-the-dog-what-about-babysitting-I’d-promised-I’d-do-tomorrow- and what-about-the-cat-and-what-about-all-the-work-due-for-my-class-this-week- what-if-I-can’t-get-to-my-class.

I’ve never really been in jail before.

It was an “International Respect for Chickens Day” protest. We were in the San Francisco Ferry Building which is a sort of foodie plaza where you can spend all sorts of money on “artisan” cheese, olive oil, nuts, fruit, pricey bread and “humanely-raised” meat.

In fact, it was in front of one of these “humanely raised and cruelly-killed” meat places where two animal rights groups, United Poultry Concerns (UPC) and Direct Action Everywhere (DXE), had joined to cause a disruption.

“HUMANELY RAISED,” shouted long-time activist Hope Bohanec of UPC.

“KILLS CHICKENS” we shouted back.

“ORGANIC,” shouted Hope.

“KILLS CHICKENS,” we yelled.

“SUSTAINABLE” she shouted.

“KILLS CHICKENS,” we yelled.

“FREE RANGE,” she yelled.

“KILLS CHICKENS,” we yelled.

You can read the whole post here.

– A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –

Animal Rights Group Exposes Whole Foods ‘Humane Meat’ Myth

Outside Whole Foods Market Street store in San Francisco. Photos and video by Michael Goldberg

What a scene. Nearly 40 of us standing in front of the meat counter in Whole Foods’ Market Street store (San Francisco) chanting “It’s not food, it’s violence!”

Yes it was a Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) animal rights protest. It took place this past Saturday.

I shot photos and video. My wife Leslie AKA The Vicious Vegan wrote an excellent report on what went down, and the philosophy behind the protest.

Here’s how her blog post begins:

ANIMAL RIGHTS PROTEST CALLS OUT WHOLE FOODS

By Leslie Goldberg

I’ve never yelled inside a Whole Foods Market or in a Safeway or in any grocery store. I’ve never even wanted to. When I’ve walked past (quickly) the neon-lit graveyards they have in the back of these stores, which showcase the dead animals or their chopped-up flesh, I’ve felt a grief and revulsion that makes me quiet.

Yet despite my despair at the obvious animal cruelty that’s taken place, I have to admit I’ve always kind of liked Whole Foods. I like that they have a gazillion different plant-based milks (that taste good); that they have a pretty good bulk section; that the employees are nice; that one of the store’s founders, John Mackey, was persuaded to become a vegan; and I always liked that the checkers would ask me, “Credit or donation?” when I brought in my own bag. I’d get a little warm feeling when I’d say, “donation.”

Yet there I was – pissed and yelling my head off with the other protestors in the meat department of Whole Foods on Sunday: “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence.”

I joined a group of Direct Action Everywhere (DXE) members to protest Whole Food’s truly bizarre, if not Orwellian, $20 million ad campaign: “Values Matter.” The ads feature such slogans as “Know What Kind of Life Your Dinner Lived” or “Choose a Fish, Cook a Fish, Save a Fish.”

Welcome to the house of mirrors world of “humane meat.” Or “sustainable agriculture.” Or “cage free.” Or “cruelty-free food.” Or “grass-fed.” It’s a wonderful dreamy world where the environment is pristine: no water pollution, no climate change, no destruction of wildlife. You can still kill and eat animals and/or consume their secretions and feel good about it. Hell, you can eat animals and save animals at the same time!

Read the whole post here.

DXE protest.

– A Days Of The Crazy-Wild blog post –