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New Film ‘Eating Our Way to Extinction’ Exposes Frightening Consequences of Factory Farming

'Eating Our Way to Extinction' is a new documentary exploring how our broken food system contributes to ecological collapse around the world. Read more

For most pigs, chickens, cows, and other farmed animals, entering a transport truck means that their lives will soon be over. These trucks are usually taking them to slaughter, and their final hours or days are some of their most harrowing. Many are forced to spend long hours in crowded trailers or stacked crates without food or water. The conditions are so horrific that, according to a recent analysis, more than 20 million animals die in the United States each year before reaching their destination.

Countless animals have attempted to escape these horrible conditions. While many of their stories end in tragedy, for some animals, the risk pays off. Here are five inspirational stories of brave animals who risked everything to escape transport trucks—and succeeded.

1. Amazing Anthony

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Anthony, a three-month-old piglet, broke his leg jumping from a transport truck in southern Ohio. A kind stranger rescued him from the highway and brought him to the Good Shepherd Animal Sanctuary in Neapolis. There, Elle “Christine” Cox, founder and CEO of the sanctuary, tended to Anthony in her home—even waking every two hours throughout the night to make sure he was all right! 

2. Brilliant Bella

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Bella, a pregnant cow used for dairy, was on her way to slaughter when the driver lost control of the truck and it overturned. While a dozen cows initially escaped, all but five were rounded up and continued their journey to slaughter. Of the remaining five cows, one was hit by a truck, others were shot dead, and one disappeared. But Bella was lucky! After evading capture for nearly a month, she was lured into a barn by volunteers and brought to SASHA animal sanctuary in Manchester, Michigan.

3. Miraculous Marley

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At just two weeks old, tiny Marley the pig was small enough to escape the transport truck taking her to be “fattened up” for slaughter. A kind stranger picked her up off the side of the road and brought her to animal services. Eventually, she wound up at Critter Creek Farm Sanctuary in Gainesville, Florida, where she became best friends with a rescue bull named Eli.

4. Fierce Frank Lee

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Frank Lee the bull was on his way to a slaughterhouse in Queens, New York, when he leapt out of the truck and ran to nearby York College. However, he was soon captured by the NYPD and transported to Animal Care Centers of NYC in Brooklyn. Luckily for Frank, celebrity couple Jon and Tracey Stewart heard his story and negotiated his voluntary release! The Stewarts drove from New Jersey to Brooklyn just to pick up Frank, and he spent a weekend at their home before finally arriving at Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen.

5. Brave Beatrice

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Talkative little Beatrice the hen was on her way to slaughter when her crate fell off a transport truck in Pennsylvania. A total of 74 chickens not only survived the crash but were rescued! Beatrice and her friends Helga, Gertrude, Rose, Helen, Eloise, and Irene all found homes at Luvin Arms Animal Sanctuary. Today, Beatrice enjoys sunbathing, feather preening, and chatting with kind humans.  

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While these stories all have happy endings, we cannot forget about the millions of other animals suffering and dying on transport trucks. Please join Mercy For Animals in calling on the USDA and Department of Transportation to modernize U.S. animal transport laws by providing species-appropriate space, rest time, food, water, and protection from extreme temperatures! Join us at MercyForAnimals.org/Transport.

Cover Photo: Seb Alex / We Animals Media

Thanks to your support, Mercy For Animals is celebrating 23 years of working to create a more just and sustainable food system. That’s why we are excited to invite you to The Mercy For Animals Gala on Friday, September 16, 2022! Join us virtually or in person at the grand ballroom of Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

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We cannot wait to spend the extraordinary evening with you as we recognize our brave investigators, enjoy a star-studded awards show with celebrity entertainment, and connect with an inspiring community of dedicated supporters.

Celebrate In Person

Join us in person at the grand ballroom of Skirball Cultural Center, with a reception under the skies, breathtaking mountain views, and unique water features. Celebrate with some of the most influential activists, celebrities, and changemakers who envision a better, kinder future for animals.

Stream Online

We are thrilled to offer a virtual option, which makes this incredible event accessible to many more people, regardless of their time zones or access to transportation! Engage with fellow guests via chat and video at virtual tables. Take real-time action, such as participating in the donor challenge or bidding on auction items to benefit the animals who need our help.

Get Your Tickets!

We hope you’re as excited as we are to spend the evening together as we honor changemakers who continue to make all our progress possible! Click here to get your tickets, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more exciting gala updates. See you there!

Last week, thousands of baby chicks were found dead inside a cargo warehouse at Miami airport. Trapped in metal baggage carts, the babies had been left in the oppressive Florida heat for “some time.” According to CNN meteorologists, the temperature that day was a blazing 90 degrees—and asphalt temperatures can rise 40 to 60 degrees hotter than the air. 

After baking in the sun, the chicks were eventually found during a routine patrol by an airport employee. While the chicks’ original flight from Minneapolis-Saint Paul had arrived at 1:15 p.m., they were not discovered until four hours later. According to representatives from Abaco Big Bird Family Farm—the poultry farm where the babies were being shipped—only 1,300 of the 5,200 birds made it there alive. Erin Moffet, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, stated:

Birds had died as a result of excessive heat while awaiting transport to the Bahamas. The remaining live chicks made it to their final destination.

Mail-Order Birds

It may seem shocking that baby animals are being shipped in the mail like packages, but day-old chicks, ducklings, and other animals have been mailed to U.S. farmers for decades. And unsurprisingly, there are countless stories of them being smothered, crushed, lost, or subjected to extreme temperatures. 

In 2020, Maine poultry farmer Pauline Henderson stated that all 800 of the chicks she had ordered had died en route. Although they arrived in the usual time frame, she believes the chicks had been mishandled during transit. She said:

We’ve never had a problem like this before. Usually they arrive every three weeks like clockwork. And out of 100 birds you may have one or two that die in shipping.

Her statement sheds light on the way the animal agriculture industry regards birds. While the deaths of thousands of chicks at a time is a massive tragedy, even accepting that “one or two” out of a hundred will die speaks to the way farmed animals are viewed as commodities instead of living beings.

Chickens are smart, sensitive animals who pass down knowledge from generation to generation. They are able to recognize more than 100 individual faces—including those of humans!—and can empathize with one another. Just as we would not send puppies or kittens through the mail, chicks and other baby farmed animals deserve better treatment.

You can help chickens by choosing delicious plant-based food. Check out the many tasty vegan chicken products, or discover egg-cellent recipes that don’t use eggs. You can also learn more about plant-based eating by visiting ChooseVeg for resources and information. 

Actress, animal activist, and mother Daniella Monet is taking a stand for chickens by telling the story of Rose—a chick raised by an ALDI supplier. 

Last year Mercy For Animals released a groundbreaking animal welfare report that ranks retailers by the treatment of chickens in their supply chains. While companies like Whole Foods and Sprouts Farmers Market have demonstrated clear leadership on animal welfare, retailers like ALDI, Target, and Winn-Dixie have not published meaningful chicken welfare policies, failing to ban practices that cause the greatest suffering in their chicken supply chains.

We followed up the report by releasing heartbreaking hidden-camera footage shot at a contract farm for an ALDI chicken supplier. Our investigator documented tens of thousands of chickens packed inside filthy, overcrowded sheds and forced to live in their own waste. Rose was one of those chickens.

Rose’s Story

In a new video with Mercy For Animals, Daniella Monet states that Rose’s tale is especially challenging for her to share as a mother. She continues, however, because it is “vitally important that Rose’s story be told so that ALDI sees that this cruelty is unacceptable.”

Daniella explains that after hatching, Rose was among thousands of babies packed into crates and transferred to a farm. Our investigative footage shows workers tossing chicks from the crates onto the ground as though they were objects. 

Rose’s days-old flockmates suffered horrific injuries and illnesses, such as gaping wounds and painful lesions. Many of these babies were too sick to stand or even lift their heads. Daniella describes the heartbreaking scene: “Some died almost immediately—their organs spilling from their bodies.” Rose rested her head on a dead companion.

Like the other chicks, Rose was bred to grow too large too fast. Her legs were not strong enough to support her, and she couldn’t even reach water without our investigator’s help. 

In nature, chicks form close relationships with their mothers. Yet at factory farms, chicks like Rose never even meet their mothers. The touch of our investigator, who stroked her feathers and gave her a moment’s comfort, may have been the only kindness Rose ever knew. 

Take Action

At the end of the video, Daniella calls on all of us to join her by taking action! Visit ALDIUncovered.com to demand that ALDI adopt a meaningful chicken welfare policy to address the worst abuse permitted in their supply chain. 

It’s no secret that plant-based meat is better for animals, but a new study by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG)—one of the world’s largest consulting firms—shows how dramatically plant-based proteins can positively impact our planet. The study found that investments in plant-based protein resulted in greater emissions cuts than other green investments. 

In fact, BCG reports that every $1 invested in plant-based meat reduces seven times more emissions than $1 invested in green building, 11 times more than zero-emission cars, and three times more than some other popular climate-friendly investments.

Plant-based meat and dairy also deliver substantially lower emissions than their animal-based counterparts. Beef, for example, produces up to 30 times more emissions than tofu!

The Guardian highlights the report’s key predictions:

Alternatives make up 2% of meat, egg and dairy products sold, but will rise to 11% in 2035 on current growth trends. … This would reduce emissions by an amount almost equivalent to global aviation’s output. 

As this study shows, the increasing popularity of plant-based meat and dairy has the potential to significantly lower our carbon footprint from food, which will help save our planet.

How Meat Impacts Our Planet

According to the United Nations, greenhouse gas emissions from raising farmed animals make up 14.5 percent of global human-induced emissions. 

Our meat-heavy diets put a huge strain on natural resources. Raising animals for food accounts for 8 percent of all human water use and takes up 33 percent of the world’s cropland.

Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Worse still, meat production also pollutes our land and water. Chicken farms and other animal-raising facilities generate tons of waste, which is commonly overapplied to nearby cropland as fertilizer. This leads to nutrient pollution that can destroy aquatic ecosystems and cause toxic algal blooms, which endanger humans and companion animals

Fortunately, there are tons of delicious plant-based foods that are much kinder to the planet than meat, dairy, and eggs from animals. They pollute less and require less energy, water, and land. In fact, swapping animal products for tasty plant-based foods can cut your greenhouse gas emissions from food in half

Take action for the planet by choosing more plant-based foods and encouraging others to do the same. 

In 2018, California voters achieved incredible progress for farmed animals by passing Prop 12, a ballot measure outlawing some of the most extreme forms of animal confinement throughout the Golden State. When it was passed, the measure was the strongest farmed animal protection law in the world. Now this groundbreaking progress is under attack.

Intensive confinement is one of the cruelest practices in the meat and egg industries. For mother pigs, it means being kept in cages during pregnancy that are barely larger than their bodies. For calves raised for veal, it means spending their short lives in tiny hutches. For laying hens, it means being crammed so tightly into wire cages that they can’t even spread their wings.

The meat industry—which values profits over animal well-being—is fighting back against Prop 12. After losing in a lower court, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation petitioned the Supreme Court to strike down Prop 12. Their petition is supported by a wealth of special interest groups, including the North American Meat Institute and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Austin Frerick of the Thurman Arnold Project at Yale University described it well, saying:

The ones complaining are the industrial operations that pack hogs into metal sheds that never see the light of day or even a blade of grass.

On March 28, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the meat industry’s case challenging Prop 12. In response, Mercy For Animals and other animal protection organizations urged members of Congress to request that the Biden administration support Prop 12 and change the position of the Trump-era Department of Agriculture on this issue. ​Mercy For Animals also launched a multiweek campaign encouraging our supporters to reach out to the USDA and ask that it withdraw the amicus brief it had filed in support of the pork industry and—instead—support Prop 12.

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Unfortunately, in a move that went against public sentiment and California voters, the Biden administration recently filed a brief supporting the industry’s effort to strike down Prop 12. This puts the groundbreaking animal protection law in an even more precarious position. Professor Christopher Carter, a theologian at San Diego University, stated:

If the Supreme Court were to overturn the will of the 63% of voters in California who passed this measure, then this is not only a major setback for farmed animal advocacy, it also undermines a citizen’s belief that our democratic system can be used to effectively confer rights upon a marginalized group if the giving of those rights presents an “undue burden” on corporations.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments regarding the case for October 11. As the meat industry remains relentless in its attacks against a voter-approved measure, Mercy For Animals will remain strong in its support of Prop 12. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to stay tuned on how you can support Prop 12.

According to an analysis by the Guardian, animal transport conditions are so horrific that more than 20 million farmed animals die each year before reaching the slaughterhouse. 

The Guardian’s analysis reveals that each year, a staggering 20 million chickens, 330,000 pigs, and 166 cows arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses either dead or dying. Another 800,000 pigs arrive too weak, sick, or injured to walk

Veterinarian and animal welfare specialist Gwendolen Reyes-Illg describes for the Guardian the three most likely causes for these deaths: heat stress, freezing temperatures, and trauma

Transport trucks are not made to protect animals from harsh weather. In winter, farmed animals endure below-freezing conditions and are exposed to snow, rain, and frigid winds. Some die from hypothermia. Others freeze to the floors or sides of truck beds. In summer, temperatures inside trucks rise to well over 100°F. Many animals suffer heat stress and heart attacks. 

Stuffed in crowded trailers or stacked in crates, farmed animals are not even given bedding to make their journeys more comfortable. Some suffer injuries from slipping on urine or manure, their bodies already weak from exhaustion. 

Even worse? No law requires that animals receive food or water, unless they’re on the road for more than 28 hours. The 28-hour law doesn’t even cover birds and often goes unenforced. Animal protection organization Animal Outlook recently shared their experience following a pig transport truck for 32 hours straight as it traveled 1,200 miles from Nebraska to California. Never once did the investigators see the pigs let out of the trailer—despite the soaring summer temperatures—or receive food or water. 

The meat industry and those responsible for regulating it are fully aware of the issue. The Guardian’s analysis pulls from publicly available data, and a USDA statistician who reviewed the analysis made no corrections to the final figures. Despite this, very little has been done to combat deaths or make transport a little more bearable for animals. 

Current U.S. laws do not go far enough in protecting farmed animals during transport. This is why Mercy For Animals is calling on the USDA and the Department of Transportation to modernize U.S. animal transport laws by providing species-appropriate space, rest time, food, water, and protection from extreme temperatures. SIGN THE PETITION.

Oxford Languages defines “slacktivism” as “​​the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.” And we’ve got great news: Studies have shown that slacktivism actually works

Tackling the vast issues involved in factory farming can seem daunting, but you don’t need to be a seasoned activistor have a ton of free timeto make a difference. Here are five petitions to help animals that will take only a few minutes to sign but could have a major impact on the lives of animals and the future of our planet. 

Urge grocery chain ALDI to do better for chickens.

Overcrowded, dark, and filthy sheds; open wounds; twisted necks and exposed organs; and live chickens in piles of rotting birds—this is what our investigation uncovered at a contract farm for one of ALDI’s suppliers. 

Mercy For Animals’ first U.S. retailer report ranks companies according to their efforts to address the most pressing welfare issues associated with chickens raised for meat. In particular, it highlights how large retailers like ALDI have failed to meaningfully reduce chicken suffering.

Over 200 companies have adopted the Better Chicken Commitment, a set of standards to ban some of the cruelest practices from their chicken supply chains. But ALDI is dragging its feet. Urge ALDI to adopt meaningful policies to address the worst abuses permitted in its chicken supply chain.

Call on the USDA to protect animals during transport.

Headed to the slaughterhouse in crowded trailers or stacked crates, animals suffer long, grueling journeys on transport trucks with no food or water in all weather extremes. In the winter, many die of hypothermia, and some even freeze to the floors or sides of trailers. Summertime is no better, with temperatures inside trucks often rising to well over 100°F. Animals can suffer from heat stress, asphyxiation, and heart attacks.

In addition to weather-related trauma, animals often suffer agonizing deaths from dehydration, suffocation, and severe injuries due to overcrowding.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Transportation have the authority to draft better transport regulations for and enforce laws related to animal transport. Sign the petition asking these agencies to modernize U.S. animal transport laws by providing species-appropriate space, rest time, food, water, and protection from extreme temperatures.

Halt plans to build a cruel octopus farm.

Jennifer Mather, PhD, an expert on octopus and squid behavior at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, says that octopuses “can anticipate a painful, difficult, stressful situation—they can remember it.” She asserts: “There is absolutely no doubt that they feel pain.”

Because octopuses have feelings just like any other animal—and because of serious environmental concerns—a coalition of organizations is calling on the Canary Island government to halt plans for constructing an octopus farm. 

Learn more about how this farm would imprison and cruelly kill these amazing animals—and sign the petition.

Help U.S. military service members get access to plant-based MREs (meals ready-to-eat).

When service members are in combat or other demanding situations where cooking facilities are unavailable, the U.S. military provides individually packaged MREs (meals ready-to-eat). Although MREs are an important resource for service members, and a poll shows that service members want plant-based options, plant-based MREs aren’t available in any military branch. The 2023 National Defense Authorization Act can address this.

If your member of Congress is on the House or Senate Armed Services Committee, please fill out the form urging them to require the military to offer plant-based MREs.

Ask restaurant chains to add more vegan options. 

It’s no secret that companies care about their bottom line and making a profit. That’s why as a potential customer, you’re a VIP to restaurant executives! It’s more important than ever that we let restaurant chains know of the demand for more plant-based foods. 

Fill out this form with a polite message, and the message will immediately be sent to the inboxes of 12 restaurant chains—including Sbarro, Jersey Mike’s, and Wingstop—letting them know that you’d love more plant-based menu items. 

Bonus action: Share this post! 

You’ve made it through all the petitions to help animals! How easy was that? You can make even more of an impact when you share this post with your friends so they can sign the petitions too! Together, we have the power to create a kinder world for all, starting with constructing a more compassionate food system.

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In July 2020, Mercy For Animals joined a federal lawsuit challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s inadequate response plan for highly pathogenic avian influenza (“bird flu”). Now, two years later, the USDA has finally settled this lawsuit! This is a huge win for both animals and people.

The lawsuit—originally filed by the Humane Society of the United States before including both Farm Sanctuary and Mercy For Animals—aimed to prove that the USDA’s current bird flu response plan is shortsighted and dangerous and to force the department to do a full environmental impact assessment before developing a new plan. In March 2021, the USDA tried to have our lawsuit dismissed. But a judge denied the USDA’s motion, and the lawsuit moved forward.

How we respond to dangerous pandemics could make all the difference for both people and animals. Three out of four emerging infectious diseases in people are zoonotic, passed from nonhuman animals to humans. Industrial poultry facilities and other factory farms are perfect breeding grounds for disease. With so many animals kept in crowded, filthy conditions, viruses can more easily mutate into deadly forms and spread, circulating among the animals or carried by workers, insects, and rodents.

Preventing the development and spread of dangerous pathogens should be a top priority for the federal government. The USDA could help reduce the risk of zoonotic diseases by limiting the confinement of animals in factory farms, such as requiring cage-free environments for laying hens, increasing the space available per animal, and lowering the number of animals allowed to be kept in the same facility.

Instead, the department’s current response plan essentially subsidizes cruel and dangerous factory farming by using taxpayer dollars to reimburse poultry farms that lose chickens to disease—disease the farms’ terrible conditions help promote. While its current plan includes encouraging farmers to consider reducing the number of birds in poultry houses, there is no evidence that this “encouragement” has actually had any impact.

The USDA’s plan also permits “depopulation,” or mass on-farm killing. This year alone, almost 38 million chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese have been killed in an attempt to stop the virus. Approved methods outlined by the American Veterinary Medical Association include a variety of agonizing techniques, such as ventilation shutdown. This brutal method involves killing all the birds in a barn at one time by turning off the ventilation system and increasing the heat. The terrified birds flap their wings and jump around, eventually collapsing and succumbing to heatstroke. This horrible death often takes up to two hours.

In settling our lawsuit, the USDA has agreed to go back to the drawing board and rework its avian flu response plan. This will involve assessing the plan’s environmental impacts—something the department should have done in the first place. Mercy For Animals and our partners will be watching closely to make sure the USDA does a better job protecting both people and animals in the future.

Help support our mission by sharing this good news with your friends and family! You can also do your part by making and promoting compassionate food choices. Download our FREE veg starter guide today.