For you did not see me die, and you did not see me bleed,
You did not hear me cry, for the meat that you don’t need.”
Not so long ago few people outside the animal agriculture community knew about ‘bobby calves’, the days-old dairy calves, mostly male and superfluous to the farmer’s requirements, who are either killed on farm or sent to the slaughterhouse. I myself became vegan overnight when I learned about these bobbies.
Thanks to the campaigning of animal activists, the fate of bobby calves is now well known – and it’s a PR disaster for dairy farmers. Nobody likes to think of frail baby animals being prised from their mothers and sent off to the Works, their umbilical cord often still attached. It is little surprise that it’s a sensitive topic in the Industry, a very inconvenient truth that won’t go away.
In the latest of a string of changes aimed at eliminating the worst abuses and improving the image of dairying, Fonterra have stated that from June farmers are prohibited from killing calves on the farm, unless the calf is sick. In the news item that aired on New Zealand TV last night, I was gobsmacked when mid Canterbury dairy farmer Paul Everest stated “(The calves) live an awesome four days, and then they’re down to the processor.” Yes you heard right. The baby cows, with a natural lifespan of up to 20 years, had four entire days to enjoy their existence, confined in a shed, pining for their mothers, sucking milk from an artificial teet before going to have their throats cut. Awesome? I don’t think so.
A few decades ago it was common for a farmer to take a hammer or crowbar to the heads of calves. Once bludgeoned they were then placed at the farmgate for collection, tossed into a grave, burned, or composted, all M.I.T. approved methods of dairy calf disposal. Then, in 2014, disturbing footage emerged of an award winning NZ farmer showing farm hands how to bludgeon calves to death in a NZ owned dairy operation in Chile. The bloodbath created a public backlash both in Chile and New Zealand, and in 2016 blunt force trauma to the head of dairy calves became illegal in this country. It was still fine for farmers to kill them on farm, but they had to be shot.
The irony is that this new law, that is also aimed at the eco lobby who like ‘everything to be used’, will be even harder on the baby calves. Even more of the approximately 2 million calves killed every year in New Zealand will be forced to undertake long, uncomfortable truck journies, hungry, anxious, and unstable on their little legs, only to confront the horror of the slaughterhouse and have their lives destroyed.
This move by Fonterra is dumb. Firstly, a prime time news item talking about sending babies to have their throat cut is no way to improve their image. Secondly, the new law could well backfire on them. Farmers are paid next to nothing for bobby calves by the slaughterhouse, and the cost and logistics of transporting them will be more of a burden. Who knows? Farmers could end up deciding they’ve had enough and go out of business.
Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
It’s great news, right? An unconscionably cruel method that treats sentient beings as production machines and denies their natural instincts is finally gone forever?
Battery cages are merely being replaced by slightly bigger prisons, called ‘colony cages’. Over the past ten years since the then National government announced a ban on battery cages from 2023, many egg producers have been re-housing their hens in colony cages, a caged system that includes “enrichments” such as perches, a nest area and a small rubber scratch pad. But the hens are still in a confined system, and still can’t adequately express their natural behaviours.
Even in free-range egg farming there is a shocking hidden cruelty that is economically necessary to making an income on eggs.
Egg farms can’t make a profit from hatching their own chicks so they purchase chicks from’ hatcheries’, where baby birds, as soon as they are peck out of their shells, are thrust into a frightening world of conveyor belts and metal machinery. As males can’t lay eggs, and don’t grow fast enough to be profitable for meat, they are killed just hours after hatching. They may be tossed into bins where they asphyxiate or slowly die of exposure and dehydration, or they are gassed to death. Sometimes they are thrown into a maceration machine. Yes, you read that correctly. Bouncing little baby male chicks are ground up alive.
“They may be tossed into bins where they asphyxiate or slowly die of exposure and dehydration, or they are gassed to death. Sometimes they are thrown into a maceration machine. Yes, you read that correctly. Bouncing little baby male chicks are ground up alive.”
As long as eggs are considered food, layer hens will be considered a food production unit rather than sentient beings, similar in many ways to you and I.
Will 2023 be the turning point where we stop considering other animals as food and begin to chart a course to veganism and a more humane, more sustainable world? If we truly care about living ethically, and do not want to cause suffering to others, then we must end not only industrialised farming such as egg farming, but all animal farming.
Neuralink, a company owned by Elon Musk, is under US federal investigation for potential animal-welfare violations. Whistleblowers state that the company’s policies are causing needless animal suffering and deaths.
There is no need to torture and kill sentient beings in the name of science in this day and age. You would think the world’s richest man would invest in other ways to develop medical science products.
-Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
This article, by Jackie Norman, was first published in New Zealand Vegan and Plant-Based Living magazine.
When self-confessed ‘book junkie’ Maya Cohen-Ronen went vegan, she encountered an unexpected problem. Coming up with the solution has turned her into one of the most globally acclaimed and loved vegan authors in the movement.
Author and activist Maya Cohen-Ronen went vegan overnight in 2012, after realising the horror inflicted on animals by the dairy industry. ‘At the time I was the mother of a young baby and after losing a baby mid-pregnancy myself five years earlier, I couldn’t fathom causing so much pain to another being, a grieving mother, regardless of whether she was a human or cow. Changing our entire household into a vegan one was the best decision I ever made and brought about other positive changes in my life. I made new friends in the local vegan community, I turned to activism and felt more determined and empowered to speak up’.
A gaping void in ‘safe’ fiction
There was however one downside she had never considered. ‘I had always been a book junkie. Fast-paced, suspenseful thrillers, full of plot-twists and cliff-hangers that made my heart race were my preference. Suddenly, now I was vegan, I could no longer find any reading material – at least, not anything that was ‘safe’. Every bacon sandwich casually eaten by an otherwise likeable protagonist, every glass of milk they drank, every sausage they fed to their beloved family dog, screamed at me from the pages.
There was blatant animal cruelty, stretched beyond the simple, casual, banal depiction of everyday speciesism. A protagonist who hunted defenceless animals. A would-be human murderer who built up their courage by torturing cats. Or, as more novelists came to know more vegans, they incorporated them into their fiction as characters used as mockery. Slowly I found myself reading less and less. The wonderful door to a plethora of imaginary worlds was closing.
Until it hit me. If it didn’t exist, I would write it myself! Ever since childhood I had written stories. I’d even completed a manuscript once; it’s still gathering dust in the drawer. I knew I had the writing skills, I had just never had a strong enough incentive to use them. Until now.’ Maya’s mission? To write an incredible fiction book that was safe for vegans to read. A dystopian thriller with plenty of suspense, plot-twists and cliffhangers, just like the genres she enjoyed most.
Not just a book – but an outreach tool
That book was ‘The Shed’, which was written under the pen-name M.C Ronen. I confess, I was a little wary of reading it at first, in case it was too horrific or graphic. That was not Maya’s intention, however. ‘I wrote ‘The Shed’ in a way in which it could also be an outreach tool powerful enough to help pre-vegan readers make the connection, as well as an exciting read for vegans. The vegan message is there, the animal rights message is there, but it’s subtle, she explains.
Was it also part of her plan, to write a trilogy? ‘In the beginning, I wasn’t confident I could even complete a single book! While writing The Shed, I sensed the story could potentially develop into sequels, but I wasn’t sure how the book might be received by readers, so was in no hurry to start writing the next one. When they started to respond enthusiastically, however, and demand to have the story continued, I felt obligated not only to my readers but also to Sunny, my protagonist, and to the animals she represented, to give it more.’
With the release of the second book, ‘Liberation’ to an eagerly awaiting audience, readers were again transported into Sunny’s world, where reality and exploitation is turned on its head. We see Sunny evolve from an innocent girl to a fully-fledged activist and strategist; a leader. We also get to indulge in some vicarious badass activism. ‘The gloves come off and the messages are blunter’, Maya tells me. The author’s love of a fast-paced, suspenseful plot spills gloriously into her writing and many times while ferociously turning the pages I thought to myself, ‘How did she even think of that?’ Still, there was more to come.
‘I felt I had left Sunny in a good place at the end of ‘Liberation’ and was going to take a break’, tells Maya. ‘However, again readers demanded the final instalment of the story and were unrelenting. I knew I needed to provide them with catharsis, which I hadn’t given them yet with the second book. This set the scene for ‘It Was In Our Hands’; the third and final instalment, in which Sunny’s story is brought to a close in a powerful crescendo of events.’
‘It Was In Our Hands’ was released in 2021. The opening chapters was quite literally jaw dropping. I couldn’t believe what I had just read! Even more unnerving, was the small flicker of awareness that it could actually happen. It’s not impossible and all too harrowingly easy to picture. As for the ending? You’ll have to read it yourself but it will keep you guessing right until the end and again, it really could happen. One day.
The highs and lows of vegan publishing
Maya’s story is an inspiring example of how we vegans can triumph in overcoming obstacles in our movement. Having taken the seed of an idea and brought it to fruition in the form of three powerful activist novels, I was interested to know more about the publishing process. ‘It was challenging’, recalls Maya. ‘The Shed was ready to publish at the end of 2016, however literary agents were afraid of the messages embedded in the story. One enthusiastic agent who loved the book confessed she wouldn’t know how to represent me to the established publishing houses, as they would see it as a ‘vegan book’ and therefore one that applied to only a small ‘niche’ market.
I found the fear of my book hard to comprehend. For one, ‘The Shed’ is not a ‘vegan book’ and isn’t intended only for vegan readers – but even if it was a ‘vegan book’, the vegan community worldwide is growing exponentially at incredible speed. It is not niche but a market share of phenomenal potential! It was incredibly frustrating, and I had almost given up on publishing it, until I found out about Amazon KDP, a platform for self-publishing authors, that was easy to use, free and very supportive. When ‘Liberation’ was complete, I didn’t think twice and used KDP again. I’m well aware Amazon is considered the big bad wolf, but without it, it’s safe to assume my books would not have seen the light of day. I feel that using this platform, warts and all, for publishing change-inspiring literature, is still a positive outcome.
Using KDP also meant I had no oiled and experienced public relations and marketing machine behind me and had to do it all myself. It was not an overnight success, but I feel extremely proud of myself. For a previously unknown first-time author from New Zealand, to make it into top-notch magazines and podcasts, receive five-star reviews and be awarded with a gold-star Literary Titan book award – that’s something I could only dream of before. To would-be vegan authors I say – don’t be afraid, unleash your creativity! There are avenues open to you for publishing your books out there. Maybe the established publishing houses have changed since I started, and if not, there are other platforms. Audio books are doing very well too, another channel to explore. If you invest your inner fire and your drive into it, you will reach your readers.
Having received many accolades for her work, I asked Maya to share her favourite highlight. ‘The most notable and profound highlight I still experience from this journey is the connection I have with my readers. Giving the vegan community books they can read and feel proud of, celebrate, and cherish, was my key motivator from the beginning, so receiving the recognition and gratitude from vegans is in itself a huge highlight. I am also continuously surprised at the number of pre-vegans who read my books and were deeply moved by them. I receive messages from readers thanking me for making them understand. Pre-vegans who told me they were sharing the books with their friends and family members to spread the message. I feel so humbled by it. This was the reason I started writing, it is also the biggest reward. It proves that we can successfully use vegan fiction as a form of outreach, without hiding’.
The Liberation Trilogy is available worldwide on Amazon. You can also visit Maya’s website: https://mcronenauthor.com
Our guest writer, Christine Rose, is Lead Agricultural Campaigner at Greenpeace Aotearoa
Initially, people would make inappropriate jokes that she was ready to roast. But many who met her recognised her lovely nature and physical beauty. When the rest of the wild flock were passing in nearby paddocks, we thought she might join them. We were part-hopeful and part-sad at the thought. And we were worried she might have chicks in the garden where she was born. One turkey in the garden is manageable, but five, as we found when she was there with her tribe, are quite hard to handle. She was a welcome and honorary resident on her own. It’s surprising how attached you can get to a turkey-girl over months of company.
Turkeys were released into New Zealand in the 1860s. They are now ‘feral’ across an expanded range, throughout the lowlands of the North Island, the Marlborough Sounds and eastern South Island. Flocks are usually around 10 birds, but in breeding season a male will form and defend a harem of four to five females. They form larger flocks when they are young, though older males are often solitary. The chicks are particularly vulnerable to dogs, cats, ferrets and kahu/harrier hawks. As adults, they are mainly vegetarians/herbivores eating seeds and fruits but also ground invertebrates. The chicks mainly eat insects. The number of turkeys across the country are unknown, though they are a common sight and sound in my part of the world.
Sometimes people ask on local social media pages, ‘who owns the turkeys’, and ‘could they keep them contained’. No one owns a wild turkey, but Turkey-girl seemed to own us.
One morning, as I went to work she was her usual confident self, trying to get into the house as I was leaving. By 10am she was dead. She had that odd, distracted look a chook gets when she’s on her last legs. My kind and loving husband recognised the ominous signs, and sat with her, comforting her gently while she died. He gave her a respectful burial at the back of the garden, which was her home. We miss her still.
(Article first published in Local Matters/Environment)
by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
I am not vegan because it is a more sustainable solution to the world’s problems. I am vegan because for me it is a moral baseline. It is wrong to inflict pain and suffering on other sentient beings. End of Story.
To be vegan for the animals is also to be vegan for justice. Veganism recognises that non-human animals have rights, their lives are valuable, and that it is wrong to bring suffering upon their innocent heads and exploit them for our benefit. Speciesism, that states it’s fine to ‘love some and eat others’ is clearly unjust, as animals are equally sentient.
Food is the primary reason why we use animals, and it causes the most suffering and destruction of life. This is especially true in factory farming. Personally, I campaign for the end of all farming, not just factory farming. Every individual matters, not just two-thirds or four-fifths of individuals, and not just those we like, such as our pets and elephants.
However, I am reasonably realistic about the way social change comes about. This is why I’m heartened to see that high-profile leaders and visionaries put their names to an open letter calling on world leaders at the COP27 climate conference to end factory farming. In the letter there is no mention of animal rights or wrongs. The rationale is that intensive animal agriculture threatens our survival because the livestock sector produces more greenhouse gases than transport. Encouragingly, they are calling for a ‘food transformation,’ that has implications for a vegan future.
As an animal activist who has been inside a broiler farm, and a piggery, and seen the suffering with my own eyes, I am committed to ending the abomination that is factory farming.
We will continue to work towards a world where no animal is made to suffer at our hands, and meanwhile, abolishing the extreme cruelty of factory farming is a huge leap in the right direction.
Every year in New Zealand, millions of days-old ‘bobby’ calves – mostly males, but also females superfluous to requirements – are slaughtered. It is the most tragic practice in an Industry that severely exploits dairy cows.
Fortunately there are individuals who rescue them. They pay the farmer for them, look after them until they find a forever home paying for food and veterinary expenses, and sometimes they even continue to monitor them for the rest of their lives.
One of these individuals is Lynley Tulloch of the Starfish Bobby Calf Project.
Read Lynley’s article about New Zealand bobby calves here, first published by Vegan FTA.
(Featured image by Emere McDonald)
by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
The world’s largest meatpacker has been in the news again. JBS Foods, previously involved in widespread corruption and ‘slave labour’ charges, are now embroiled in child labour allegations. Packers Sanitation Services Inc. LTD, JBS’ cleaning contractors, have been caught employing children as young as 13 to clean JBS US plants. The children are employed late at night, and their job includes handling toxic chemicals and cleaning dangerous equipment such as – wait for it – a heavy duty head splitter.
José Batista Sobrinho
Slaughter megacorp JBS was founded by José Batista Sobrinho, a cattle rancher in the central western city Brazilian city of Anápolis, who opened a butcher’s shop with his older brother in 1953. The brother would buy ‘best quality’ cattle, and José would kill them. Profiting from the establishment of nearby Brasilia as Brazil’s capital in the 1960s, their business expanded to acquire other slaughterhouses in Brazil and South America, and in 2007 they became a public company.
Joesley (l) and Wesley Sobrinho
From 2007 to 2015 with Jose’s driven sons Joesley and Wesley at the helm, JBS swallowed up some of the largest meat companies in the United States, Canada. and South America. The now 88-year-old Sobrinho has said” ‘It’s a joy to watch’ how his single butcher’s shop has become the largest slaughterhouse chain in the world, killing a staggering 13 million animals every day.
Whether gigantic or small, the barbaric and desolate factories of pain, despair and destruction that are slaughterhouses are embedded in every society, demanded by the consumer and propped up by the taxpayer’s dollar. We consider it a normal part of society that just one organisation can be responsible for snuffing out the lives of 13 million sentient beings every single day. Nothing will change until people cry ‘Enough’, and begin to transition to a healthy, sustainable and humane vegan diet.
Ninety seven percent of all life on earth are invertebrates, a category that includes life forms from sponges to insects, to octopi. Some mollusks (soft bodied invertebrates) are amazingly intelligent. Recently, one species of octopi was seen digging up and using discarded halved coconut shells and using them as a shelter. Well I guess you need to do something with all those arms.
Seriously, we have until recently thought of invertebrates as completely instinctual lacking the ability to think or have emotions. As we look more closely into their world we are beginning to understand that there is much more to a squishy body than we previously thought.
Read the article about football playing bees.
by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
Art: Barbara Daniels Art
Once I was explaining to a class of English language students the meaning of the Golden Rule . I was surprised when most of them said: “We also have that golden rule in our language too.”
‘Do Unto Others’ is a universal law. I have often wondered what kind of world we would have if we actually practised it. And if we applied it not only to humans, but to all sentient life.
Non-human animals suffer at our hands to a scale that is absolutely staggering. I was reading the other day that JBS Foods, one of the largest American meat companies, slaughters 13 million animals a day. Yes, you read correctly. Just one company. Just one day.
Every year trillions of sentient beings on land, sea and air are deliberately destroyed by humans. Inumberable others are dying because of the results of our activity, for example global warming and habitat and food chain disruption. How did we get in such a pathological state that we see this as normal?
Christians point to Genesis 1:26 that states humans have ‘dominion’ over the animals. But Dominion doesn’t mean ‘Carnage’ and it doesn’t mean ‘Domination’.
In his book “Dominion” Matthew Scully says we should find it in our hearts to have mercy for all animals, not just a few: “Go to the largest livestock operation, search out the darkest and tiniest stall or pen, single out the filthiest, most forlorn little lamb or pig or calf, and that is one of God’s creatures you’re looking at, morally indistinguishable from your beloved Fluffy or Frisky.”
Dominion calls us to be wise and compassionate stewards of our planet and all the life it supports. It doesn’t mean to destroy, pillage, enslave.
After all, what if the roles were reversed? What if we were the exploited species? How would we feel then?
by Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze
Our response to climate disaster has been compared to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s an apt analogy. For far too long the world, convinced our Mothership is ‘unsinkable’, has refused to take climate change seriously. Instead of clear, decisive, early action we are inclined to small, futile gestures. If we continue along these lines it could, in the words of leading NZ Climate Scientist Professor James Renwick, “upend our communities and our societies at almost incalculable cost”.
Warnings that burning so many fossil fuels would change the Earth’s climate were first sounded by scientists as far back as the 1960s, based on science understood since the turn of the 20th century. In the intervening decades, especially in the last thirty years, we have seen predictions of more extreme weather events realised at an increasing rate. Yet wealthy nations are still behaving like entitled first-class passengers on the Titanic. Unwilling to make changes to our privileged lives, we have given no thought at all to the plight of third world nations – the ‘steerage classes’ – whose contribution to global warming is significantly less than our own, but who inevitably end up paying the heaviest price.
Unwilling to make changes to our privileged lives, we have given no thought at all to the plight of third world nations – the ‘steerage classes’ – whose contribution to global warming is significantly less than our own, but who inevitably end up paying the heaviest price.
For the last quarter of a century that yearly COPs, or ‘Conference of Parties’ have taken place, the world has seen record heatwaves, sea ice and glacier melts, sea level rise, severe droughts, out-of-control wildfires, devastating floods, intense storms and other catastrophes. These events have caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, with millions of the most vulnerable in developing countries losing homes, livelihood and food security. They have also condemned thousands of domestic animals and millions of wild animals to cruel deaths by fire, drowning, starvation and habitat loss.
Ahead of COP27, currently being held in Egypt, the June Bonn Climate Change Conference shared data showing that addressing animal agriculture is key to combating climate change and meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement. At this summit the Humane Society International hosted a side event focussing on how plant-based protein can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Agricultural emissions are very significant globally, and especially here in New Zealand. It follows that the agricultural sector is a major lever to combat the worst effects of climate change, but while a lot of attention has been given to the transport and energy sectors, in previous COPs food has only been addressed tangentially. I was pleased to note that in COP27, food system transformation, along with help for poorer nations most affected by climate change, has finally made it to the Agenda.
Last month our government released the farmgate emissions pricing scheme. Greenpeace lead climate campaigner Christine Rose calls it ‘greenwash’, as it fails to address the problem of our enormous agricultural emissions, favours intensive dairy, and doesn’t properly regulate, price and cut methane emissions.
Last month our government released the farmgate emissions pricing scheme. Greenpeace lead climate campaigner Christine Rose calls it ‘greenwash’, as it fails to address the problem of our enormous agricultural emissions, favours intensive dairy, and doesn’t properly regulate, price, and cut methane emissions.
As part of their measures to address the problem caused by animal agriculture, the Government has recently established the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. This is bound to be another waste of money and precious time – time we may not have. For example, for more than two decades there has been ongoing research on alternative feeds that lower the amount of methane released from livestock farts and burps, and a breakthrough still hasn’t been achieved. Instead of remedial measures, what is needed is for our government to go to the heart of the problem – – animal agriculture is inefficient and unsustainable – and begin to transition our farmers to climate-friendly crop growing and horticulture.
Our Earth is in deep trouble, and who is to say when we reach the point of no return? It is time for our government to think food transformation, not tax levies. Climate change doesn’t only affect humans, it affects all life on earth. It’s not just our Mothership we’re destroying. It’s theirs too.