Factory Farming: Guilt Trip Part One…

Animal welfare is a cause very near and dear to my heart.  That being so, I really don’t know where to begin.  So I’ll begin with animals, who they are, what they’re like, and the terrible things that happen to them before they come to your plate.  Being that there is a well of information available on these topics, I have chosen one main source to derive most of my evidence.  I will reference Peter Singer’s book, The Ethics of What We Eat as my main source of information, as he has done quite a thorough investigation himself.  So this can also serve as a sort of summary of outstanding bits, since I know it’s so hard for people to actually read a book…

So often when I talk about these things, people respond in the typical way, “it’s just a pig.” Or, “humans are an intelligent species, pigs/chickens/cows are not.”  Animal consumption and poor treatment is all based on one of the most hurtful assumptions thrown around in our society, that intelligence equals worth.  This assumption is inherently flawed.  Even if it were true, who are we to say that intelligence does not exist in the animal world?  What does “intelligence” really mean?


Free range chickens. Don't they look happy?

In this guilt trip series, I’ve decided to begin with chickens. Slaughter of chickens and turkeys constitute a large majority of slaughtered animals in the U.S.  Chicken is the ultimate staple food today, but was once considered a luxury to eat.  That is absolutely laughable to most people considering how often chicken is eaten today.  This is a direct result of humanity being sacrificed for productivity, a concept we should all be familiar within this economic system.

Broilers (75% of the chicken we eat)

According to Peter Singer, “Chickens can recognize up to 90 other individual chickens and know whether each one is higher or lower in the pecking order than they are themselves.  Researchers have shown that if chickens get a small amount of food when they immediately peck at a colored button, but a larger amount if they wait 22 seconds, they can learn to wait before pecking… chickens still retain the ability to give and to understand distinct alarm calls depending on whether there is a threat from above, like a hawk, or from the ground, like a raccoon.  When scientists play back a recording of an ‘aerial’ alarm call, chickens respond differently than when they hear a recording of a ‘ground’ alarm call.”

“Chickens exist in stable social groups. They can recognize each other by their facial features. They have 24 distinct cries that communicate a wealth of information to one other, including separate alarm calls depending on whether a predator is traveling by land or sea. They are good at solving problems. ‘As a trick at conferences I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I’m talking about monkeys.” -Dr. Chris Evans, Professor of Psychology at Macquarie University, Australia

That is intelligence.  But is that really what matters?  The question we should really be asking ourselves when we take a bite is not whether this animal is intelligent, but whether they can feel pain.  They most certainly can.

“One study found that 90 percent of broilers had detectable leg problems, while 26 percent suffered chronic pain as a result of bone disease… Sometimes vertebrae snap, causing paralysis.  Paralyzed birds or birds whose legs have collapsed cannot get to food or water, and–because the growers don’t bother to, or don’t have time to, check on individual birds–die of thirst or starvation.” (Singer).

“Broilers are the only livestock that are in chronic pain for the last 20% of their lives.  They don’t move around, not because they are overstocked, but because it hurts their joints so much… in both magnitude and severity, [industrial chicken production is] the single most severe, systematic example of man’s inhumanity to another sentient animal.” – Prof. John Webster, University of Bristol’s School of Vertinary Science.

This quote states that a chicken spends 20% of their lives in chronic pain.  Let’s say the average life span of a human is 80 years.  That’s 16 years of chronic pain.  Unbelievable.  Do you really want to participate in this system?

In conditions like those pictured above, you can imagine the smell.  But can you imagine living in it?  Or laying in it?

“High ammonia levels give the birds chronic respiratory disease, sores on their feet and hocks, and breast blisters.  It makes their eyes water, and when it is really bad, many birds go blind.  As the birds, bred for extremely rapid growth, get heavier, it hurts them to keep standing up, so they spend much of their time sitting on the excrement-filled litter–hence the breast blisters.”  (Singer).

And this is just how they live (not mentioning their constant state of starvation, see paragraph 3 of this link).  What about the slaughter house?  How do they get there?

Yep.  Pretty gruesome, huh?  I myself had had the unfortunate experience of seeing many of these trucks filled with turkeys awaiting death outside of a slaughter house.  Six of seven truckloads sitting in the 110 degree heat, being beaten with hot air by one large industrial fan each, for hours, until they were moved in to slaughter (I’d like to thank the Longmont turkey slaughter house for this unsavory, bi-weekly experience).

And their death?

“Today, a killing line typically moves at 90 birds a minute… can go as high as 120 birds a minute, or 7,200 an hour… As birds move down the killing line, still upside down, their heads are dipped into an electrified water bath… “the stunner.” But this is a misnomer… the type of electrical current used in the stunning procedure was not adequate to make the birds immediately unconscious.  Using a current that would produce immediate loss of consciousness, however, would risk damage to the quality of the meat… From the point of view of the slaughterhouse operator, inducing paralysis is as good as inducing unconsciousness, for it stops the birds from thrashing about and makes it easier to cut their throats.  Because of the fast line speed, even the throat-cutting that follows the electrified water bath misses some birds, and they then go alive and conscious into the next stage of the process, a tank of scalding water.”  (Singer).

“An undercover videotape made at a Tyson slaughterhouse at Heflin, Alabama, shows dozens of birds who have been mutilated by throat-cutting machines that were not working properly.  Workers rip the heads off live chickens that have been missed by the cutting blade.” (Singer).

These activities are not exceptions, they are THE NORM. And if all this isn’t bad enough, consider a human working at the slaughter house, and how they become desensitized to the suffering of animals. “In January 2003, Butler made a public statement describing workers pulling chickens apart, stomping on them, beating them, running over them on purpose with a fork-lift truck, and even blowing them up with dry ice ‘bombs… Workers had ripped off a bird’s head to write graffiti in blood, plucked feathers off live chickens to ‘make it snow,’ suffocated a chicken by tying a latex glove over its head, and squeezed birds like water balloons to psray feces over other birds.”  Don’t believe it?  This undercover video was taken at a KFC slaughter house.  Check it out, it’s your responsibility.

“Unable to dismiss the evidence of cruelty [shown in the video], Pilgrim’s Pride said it was ‘appalled.’ But neither Pilgrim’s Pride nor Tyson Foods, the two largest suppliers of chicken in America, have done anything to address the root cause of the problem: unskilled, low-paid workers doing dirty, blood work, often in stifling heat, under constant pressure to keep the killing lines moving no matter what so that they can slaughter up to 90,000 animals every shift.”

This post has been for the most part, about chickens.  But it is important to note that everything said of chickens and their slaughter also applies to turkey production.  Here’s undercover video of a turkey slaughter house, this video was taken at House of Raeford Farms, the 7th largest supplier of turkey in America.  Think about this on Thanksgiving.  Are you thankful for this?

Feel guilty yet?


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This is my boyfriend, Kevin.

Lately, I’ve noticed that I am totally “that girl” who talks about her boyfriend all the time.  That’s because he’s awesome.  I guess you could say I’ve been feeling particularly lucky as of late, to have this guy around.  There are so many things I appreciate about this human being, it’s difficult to realize myself sometimes.  From the moment I met him I knew he was special.  We were friends for years before coming together as a couple, and he was just the best friend you could ever think of having.  Kevin has the innate ability to make a person feel special.  No matter who you are, what you look like or think, he can talk to you on a real level.  He’s very relatable, and kind.  And it always just felt good to be with him.  But relationships aren’t perfect, as many of you know, it wasn’t always pretty between us.  In fact, sometimes it was down right heinous.

We are no stranger to difficulties, it seems as though over the years the cards have never been stacked in our favor, but we persevered.  And I think we’re stronger than ever!  Here are some things I love about Kevin:

 He makes me laugh.

He loves animals.

He loves my family

He’s in touch with his feminine side.

Madrid, Christmas 2008

He loves to travel.

Paris, New Year's Eve 2008/2009

Coachella! With Andrew

He loves music.

And, he’s super smart.

I love many things about him.  He’s just plain great.  I think the thing I love the most, and means the most to me, is that when I’m around Kevin, I can be the person that I want to be.  I don’t have to worry about being stupid or unattractive, or worry he will be offended by my ideas.  He is so open minded, and adaptable.  I can’t tell you how much it means to me when he wants to make Tofu for dinner, or when he spends an extra 3 dollars on eggs so I can have my peace of mind.  And he tolerates all of my silly behavior:

We have a good time together.  I really cannot WAIT to add more countries to our list, more states, more cities, more experiences, more concerts, more moments.  This is not to say we are committed for life, but I am sure excited for whatever adventure comes next.  Regardless of what the future brings, this person will always mean so much to me.  I just love him.


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Memorial Day…

It’s not the happiest of days for many people, but this is a day of memory, reflection and a celebration of the lives of fallen service members (fallen in action, or not).  I can’t think of a better way to spend Memorial Day than hanging out with one of my favorite veterans, and that’s just what I did.  It was a fantastic weekend, really, but more on that later.

For now, I’d like to share some poetry in honor of this day.  These are from Brian Turner‘s amazing book, Here, Bullet.  I stumbled on it accidentally one day at the book shop and it has since become one of my favorite works.

A Soldier’s Arabic

This is a strange new kind of war where you learn just as much as you are able to believe. –Ernest Hemingway

The word for love, habib, is written from right
to left, starting where we would end it
and ending where we might begin.

Where we would end a war
another might take as a beginning,
or as an echo of history, recited again.

Speak the word for death, maut,
and you will hear the cursives of the wind
driven into the veil of the unknown.

This is a language made of blood.
It is made of sand, and time.
To be spoken, it must be earned.


What Every Soldier Should Know 

If you hear gunfire on a Thursday afternoon,
it could be for a wedding, or it could be for you.

Always enter a home with your right foot;
the left is for cemeteries and unclean places.

O-guf! Tera armeek is rarely useful.
It means Stop! Or I’ll shoot.

Sabah el khair is effective.
It means Good Morning.

Inshallah means Allah be willing.
Listen well when it is spoken.

You will hear the RPG coming for you.
Not so the roadside bomb.

There are bombs under the overpasses,
in trashpiles, in bricks, in cars.

There are shopping carts with clothes soaked
in foogas, a sticky gel of homemade napalm.

Parachute bombs and artillery shells
sewn into the carcasses of dead farm animals.

Graffiti sprayed onto the overpasses:
I will kell you, American.

Men wearing vests rigged with explosives
walk up, raise their arms and say Inshallah.

There are men who earn eighty dollars
to attack you, five thousand to kill.

Small children who will play with you,
old men with their talk, women who offer chai–

and any one of them
may dance over your body tomorrow.


Kirkuk Oilfield, 1927

We live on the roof of Hell, he says,
and Ahmed believes it, he’s watched the gas flares
rise from holes in the earth, he’s seen the black river
wash through the village in a flood of oil
as if the drillers had struck a vein
deep in the skull of God, and the old man says
Boy, you must learn how to live here–
where the dead are buried deep in the mind
of God, manifest in man and woman,
given to earth in dark blood,
given to earth in fire.



It is a condition of wisdom in the archer to be patient because when the arrow leaves the bow, it returns no more. – Sa’di

It should make you shake and sweat,
nightmare you, strand you in a desert
of irrevocable desolation, the consequences
seared into the vein, no matter what adrenaline
feeds the muscle its courage, no matter
what god shines down on you, no matter
what crackling pain and anger
you carry in your fists, my friend,
it should break your heart to kill.


Really beautiful, huh?

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Who put a quarter in you?

I have opinions.  A LOT of opinions.  The other day at work I was voicing one when a good pal walked by and said I was like a broken record, or a juke box, “who put a quarter in you?” He said.  Good question.  As much as I would like to, I do not run on quarters.  That’s right, anyone who wants to (or doesn’t) can hear any of my opinions free of charge.  And why shouldn’t they?  I have something to say.  As do many people, but it is my humble opinion, that many of them have learned through years of careful conditioning to not say exactly what is on their mind.  It’s not very lady like, mild-mannered or polite, and it’s a perfectly good way to get yourself in a screaming match.  In which event you will most certainly be ganged up on, especially if this opinion is peculiar or not commonly held.  But if you are lucky, your opponent will be reasonable and level headed and though you may disagree, at the end you will stand as equals on the battlefield.

I hate arguing, I really do.  But what else is life all about?  The only way to sharpen your own understanding of the world is to hear and examine all sides of an issue.   Being that this is a blog, where I have the ability to go on and on about whatever, it doesn’t really serve that purpose.  But it serves my own selfish purposes, so whatever.

Anyhow, here’s something that really pisses me off:



I hate them.  I especially hate them when they are used by influential people, in public. I hate slurs against any marginalized group.  I hate the N word, the F word (no, not “fuck”, I am actually fond of that word), the R word, and many others that aren’t of particular popularity at this time.  I hear them every day.  Every damn day.  And it just really makes me sad.  The use of these words is particularly prevalent at the schools I worked at.  The use of the N word was so prevalent that I was confused on those days where it was absent.  Of course, it wasn’t the white kids yelling it at the black kids–most of the time.  “We” tend to believe that racism doesn’t exist anymore because “we” don’t see it.  How could a white person who hangs out with a bunch of white people see that racism is still alive and well?

Whenever I spoke to my students of color about racism, each one of them cited at least one recent event when someone used one of these terrible words against them.  One student, Eric, an extremely kind, intelligent, and athletic young man (who is black), told me that at a basketball game a few weeks ago, a white student on the opposing team pulled out the “big guns” and used the N word on the court.  Eric played it cool, of course, and simply kept scoring points on him (he’s a sophomore starter for the Varsity basketball team, he scores ~20 points a game).  Eric said he felt sorry for him.

And Eric is right to feel sorry for him.  People (adolescents) who use slurs should be pitied for their ignorance.  After all, they are a product of their environment.  On the other hand, adults have a responsibility to rise above such things.  On another occasion, at the middle school, I heard the F word.  I immediately responded by saying that I don’t appreciate or allow that type of language in my groups, and if I hear it again I will ask you to leave. I was able to use this as a teaching moment .  The discussion turned to why the word is so hurtful when one young lady interrupted, “Well, my mom says it all the time at home.” Really?  Come on.  How could you blame her for saying inappropriate things?  After our discussion, though, I think she got the point.

Thanks, Wanda!

And now for the R word.  A slur we often forget about.  This one is particularly hurtful, because this is a group who cannot stand up for themselves, who happen to also be the sweetest, kindest, most innocent group of people on the planet.  The use of this word is completely unnecessary, and it cuts like a knife.  The amount of pain this word causes to people with intellectual disabilities, to those who know them, and especially those who have spent their lives caring for them, is indescribable.  Really, who has the disability, someone who would simply do anything to make you happy and shows an unbelievable amount of unconditional love?  Or someone who derives self satisfaction and displays a serious lack of creativity and humanity by insulting the most innocent members of society?

So why is this such a big deal?  Whenever someone brings these things up, people (white people, straight people, cruel people), cry at the “dangers” and annoyances of political correctness.  This is a reflection of privilege.  These people have the PRIVILEGE of not being offended by slurs, the privilege of not being the target of these words.  The privilege of being “normal.”  And now they are upset that they have to think about other people, and how these words might make them feel.  What a travesty? Get over it! You are not the only type of human on the planet.

As one of my most influential professors once said in response to the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”: words justify the throwing of sticks and stones.  Words are used to dehumanize, because it’s a lot easier to throw stones at a “retard”, or a “nigger”, or a “faggot” than a human being.  This is why a $100,000 for Kobe saying the F word on the court is not enough.  I want a full on, Michael Vick type punishment, I want game suspensions, I want community service, I want REAL consequences when someone slings a slur on the court.  I want suspensions–expulsions(!!!) in the school, and I want negative social sanctions when I hear the words used socially.

Don’t be a jackass! Be a responsible and productive member of society, and think before you speak.

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Swishiness… Origins and Meanings

Why Swishiness, you ask?  Well, let me just tell you.

As some of you may know, during college, I was a creative writing major.  This major required many things of me, primarily writing, but mostly reading quietly, attending public readings, and listening to excessive blather from some of the most pedantic members of the academic community.  It was a very peculiar experience that I loved very much, looking back.  Anyway, it was also occasionally required of me to read aloud, publicly.  This fact never bothered me too much, having had much workshop experience and also a strong proclivity for speaking aloud (I’ve been known to spew pedantic myself).  And so, during my poetry workshop second semester senior year, I was called upon to fulfill my duty as a creative writing major and read aloud a poem for a presentation from my most beloved poetry book, Poemland, by Chelsey Minnis.  And so I read:

The swishiness of others is legendary…

But I must live under the swishiness of my own self…

There is swishiness in the future…

But I don’t know about it yet.

Death will come to end swishiness

But my swishiness will continue in my poems…!

Yes, it is a beautiful, strange little poem.  And as I proudly lifted my head from the book to begin speaking on the bizarre and brilliant use of the word “swishiness“, one classmate cut in loudly with “Maybe that’s because it’s swiNishness, not SWISHINESS! (You moron)”  Well, yeah, it is swinishness.  Oh well?  I really screwed the pooch on that one.

My face was red, but I laughed along with the rest of my classmates and did what any good loud-mouth would do: owned it.  Yeah, I said swishiness, so what??  I saved face, but secretly I was very embarrassed. When you embarrass yourself as much as I do, you get pretty good at masking your humiliation.

The scene continued two days later, when our class was graced with the presence of Chelsey Minnis herself.  Side note, I think she is a genius.  She is hands down my favorite poet and a great presence in the classroom as well.  Anyhow, she had chosen a few poems to read aloud and talk about.  I was hoping, begging, PRAYing that she wouldn’t turn to page 39.  But you can guess what happened. And as the word “swinishness” so flawlessly rolled off her tongue, I bit my lip, and smiled as my classmates’ eyes unanimously shot in my direction.  Yikes.

It became a dominating theme for me in this classroom, I went so far in my attempt to neutralize my gaffe by naming my chapbook “swishiness” and even further by giving my blog the name.  But in truth, I think this concept is very representative of who I am. I love to laugh, and it’s a good thing too, because I give myself reason to quite frequently.  Life is swishy.  Period.  I say dumb, inappropriate things all the time, every day of my life.  You should hear me order at an unfamiliar burrito shop or restaurant, really, can’t take me anywhere.  Some say they find it enduring, but I find it like reality.  I’m a swishy person. I’d rather be swishy than swinish, wouldn’t you?  I am taken back to this quote from Feste, the clown of Twelfth Night:

“Wit, and ‘t be thy will, put me into good fooling! Those wits
that think they have thee do very oft prove fools; and I, that am
sure I lack thee, may pass for a wise man: for what says
Quinapalus? ‘Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.'”

In conclusion, I said it before, and I’ll say it again: swishiness sounds better anyway.

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I’ve begun again…

Well, after my long hiatus from blogging, which I hadn’t fully undertaken in the first place, I have decided to start again for many reasons.  The greatest being that I just really, REALLY need some sort of outlet for my abundance of opinions.  I can no longer raise my hand in class, and after a year of living together, Kevin grows tired of my opening my mouth all the time just to “enlighten” him on a subject that he already knows my feelings about.

The second reason here is that I will also use this forum to document my future travels.  Yes, I am pleased to announce that Kevin and I have just sent off our applications to volunteer in Thailand next February.  Though it is a long way off, I’d like to become fully blog-savvy by then.

The final reason being that I am just a little bored.  Just a little.  And so, here we go.  The next few posts I will dedicate to background information with a few opinions sprinkled in and out.  As we say in the restaurant industry, please enjoy!

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So, here it is!  My very first blog post.  Since those of you reading this probably know me more than extremely well at this point, I’ll start off by sharing some information I gathered regarding one of my less attractive features: my webbed toes.

Yes, this condition is something that has been with me my entire life,  though I wasn’t truly aware anything was wrong with me until people began to point it out.  It is difficult for me to remember who first brought this trait to my attention, but I think it’s safe to say it was my father and his insistence that I must be a gifted swimmer.  And though some people (Jennifer) deny that my toes are truly webbed, the fact that I had to alter my toe socks in fifth grade to accommodate the less dexterous “two” should be evidence enough.  I have been dwelling on this deformity in recent weeks due to the hot weather and consequent visibility of my toes, so I decided to do some research.

Here’s what I found out:

  • “webbed toes” is a layman’s term for syndactyly affecting the feet.  It is of course, most common in birds and amphibians, and does occasionally occur in humans.  It is associated with a bunch of rare conditions I’ve never heard of, but I’m fairly sure none of these conditions apply to me.
  • Can occur as partial or complete.  Lucky for me, I’m only partial.  This could however be due to the freakish length of my feet which I owe to my father (size 14 shoe)
  • Only 1 in 2000-2500 babies are fated to suffer this purely cosmetic imperfection.  A large part of why some people display their web proudly.  We are special!

This is a complete web, displayed proudly with a tattoo (THIS IS NOT MY FOOT)

  • Webbed toes are fetishized in some circles.  No surprise there.
  • Famous people with webbed feet include Ashton Kutcher, Dan Aykroyd, and Joseph Stalin.
  • Webbed toes eliminate the possibility of athlete’s foot in said webbed area.
  • There is no evidence to support the idea that individuals with webbed toes are better swimmers.  Sorry, Dad.

I did learn a lot about my feet through this research, but at the end of the day, I looked down, and they were still webbed.  Though most of the facts which appear on this list are cons (see Ashton Kutcher, Stalin), I was able to take some comfort in that my condition personally is not even close to severe.  I have never meet a person with toes quite like mine, and therefore had no basis for comparison.  But, man, it could be way worse. If you decide to do a little independent research, you’ll see, Jennifer has (semi)good reason to suggest that my toes are normal.  Most of the time, my web goes completely unnoticed.  Sometimes, people even mistakenly tell me  that my toes are cute!  I humbly thank them for the comment and hide my little tootsies before they have time to examine further.  Basically what I’m trying to say is, that even though Jennifer doesn’t think I’m special, my toes are still webbed. And the only way to end the stigma is to educate the masses.  I’m not one of those aforementioned “proud” people who wears my web as a badge of individuality, but at least I won’t get athlete’s foot.


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