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URGENT: Ask the Seattle City Council not to increase the limit on Urban Chickens

(Note: the vote on this measure takes place at 2:00 pm Tuesday, August 3rd)

The Seattle Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is proposing code changes to support and encourage urban agriculture.

Please help local chickens by asking the Seattle City Council not to raise the limit on the number of chickens that may be kept in Seattle, and not to ban roosters. Animals—especially those viewed as a disposable food source—suffer terribly and needlessly at the hands of an ever-increasing number of inexperienced “urban farmers.”

Seattle Animal Shelter already takes in 20-30 unwanted roosters and some hens per year, and local area veterinarians are dealing with an increase in surrendered, sick urban hens from people who don’t want to pay vet bills for “food animals.” Approximately 80% of coop owners are already above the current limit. Raising it further may cause more over-population problems.

Let’s help the Seattle City Council keep compassion for animals in mind as they help improve the options for urban farmers in Seattle. (More information below.)

Please be sure to mention that you do not support raising the fowl limit from 3 to 8.

Contact:
Richard Conlin
richard.conlin@seattle.gov
Seattle City Council

You can learn more about the full measure at this link:
http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/UrbanAgriculture/Overview/

Issues:

  • Pens are often not predator proof: Dogs and raccoons will attack chickens, and raccoons can eat parts of them alive through wire fencing, without even entering the pen.
  • Feed attracts rodents: Poisoned rodents can in turn poison wildlife that eats them (such as birds).
  • Yard safety: Many yards are not fenced, allowing predators in and allowing chickens to roam the neighborhood
  • Health problems: Chickens can develop a number of health problems: feather mites, egg-laying issues (which may cause prolapse or infection), eye and head injuries (from pecking), foot infections (such as septic arthritis or bumblefoot, from poor surfaces or improper perches), pneumonia (from unclean or poorly ventilated coops).
  • Lack of veterinary care: People often buy chickens for eggs or meat to save money. When the birds get sick, their keepers are less willing to pay for expensive vet care.
  • Poor Feed: There is currently bad chicken feed circulating in Seattle, which has caused an increase in egg-laying issues in hens. Local farm coop feed is likely to blame–it is not nutritionally balanced for chickens, and it is not properly formulated into a pellet to provide even nutrition in every bite. (Bad feed is also being sold at Bothell Feed Center.)
  • Unwanted Roosters: Roosters are noisy, but they make up 50% of all eggs that are hatched. Hatcheries toss live male baby chicks into grinders to get rid of this “problem”, as most people only want hens. Banning roosters will only increase their suffering.

NARN Halloween Party 2009

NARN’s first Halloween Party was a smashing success! The studio was creeped out, the attendees were costumed, and the building was set up for Día de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”). Bethany provided us with awesome food to snack on, Pete with awesome music, and Katrina with an awesome (and free!) space. Thanks to them, and to everyone who came! Hopefully it was worth the drive to Beacon Hill.

We’d like to apologize for not holding a costume contest, since we know some people were looking forward to it – time flies when you’re having fun, and in this case it flew right past us since we hadn’t picked a time to hold the contest.

However, a couple of the best costumes are pictured below! Be sure and check out Jeff’s outstanding Edward Scissorhands – in terms of effort and craftsmanship, we can safely say he was the winner, but there were some other great costumes (like Mark’s costume inspired by V for Vendetta – also pictured below).

The witch’s pantry game winner was the board’s own Jenn, closely followed in second by Amith. Congratulations to both on a superior sense of smell!

We hope everyone had fun, and will consider coming out the next time we have a party – it’s sure to get even better!

Bryan
NARN Board


Dancin’, or just hangin’ out:

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

NARN Board President “V”. Animal oppressors beware!

V: NARN Board President

This is the country and western table – we’re not sure how the NRA got in:

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

And over here, the undead and a nice young man with scissors for hands:

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

In this corner, it looks like it’s still the 1940’s (minus all the CD’s):

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

It really wasn’t just the younger folks dancing, I swear!

Skin Deep Studio Halloweenified!

9/19 Demo to Oppose Primate Research at the UW

Despite the rainy weather, the Demo to Oppose Primate Research at the UW went forward as planned on Saturday. Armed with 5 signs and 2 banners, I got to the corner of NE Pacific and Montlake just before 11am. I knew that the rain might keep some protesters away, so I found a spot just off of the sidewalk that gave me a good view of people walking by, and made me visible to passersby. While I waited for the other activists to arrive, I held a sign that read “Cruelty is Criminal” above a picture of a monkey looking through cage bars. Plenty of people walking by looked at my sign, and I couldn’t help but think they must have thought it was strange that I was the only one standing there with a sign.

After 15 minutes or so passed, no other activists showed up to join me, and I thought about leaving, but a middle aged man came up to me and said “I support what you are standing up for”. This comment pleasantly surprised me, and the rain had tapered off, so I decided to stick it out. Before too long, another man – a guy some might refer to as looking like a stereotypical football fan – approached me and said that he was glad that I was out there. I had been out there by myself for 30 minutes and the only reactions I had gotten so far were positive ones.

By the time 12:20 rolled around, I had distributed numerous leaflets, had a woman tell me that she worked near the UW’s Primate Research facility on Western, and my sign had been seen by hundreds of people. I truly felt that my time had been well spent, and despite the low turnout for the demo, it had been effective. One person can in fact make a difference.

I’ll be out there for the next UW Husky Football home game, to greet attendees with my sign and information about the horrible research that goes on behind closed doors at the UW. I hope this time others will be able to join me.

Work Party to Precious Life Animal Sanctuary

On Saturday August 29, a group of about 15 people who love animals took a trip to the Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, Washington.  The Sanctuary, which is run by two dedicated animal lovers, Ralph and Caryl Turner, is the happy forever home to many animals.  The group of volunteers included families with children, a few dogs who enjoyed a day on the farm, and many hard-working folks who enjoyed the fresh air and outdoor activity.

We made sure the barn for the sanctuary’s only pig was clean and prepared with fresh hay. The kids and adults played with the newly rescued “baby” cow, who is already bigger than he thinks he is and when he rubs the top of his head on the legs of the volunteers, some of us had trouble staying on our feet!  But he was playful and gentle and clearly loved the attention.  We fed carrots and apples to the group of horses and shaggy burros, many of whom first required the humans to earn their trust.  Once we did, the beautiful animals rewarded the humans with affection and they allowed us to rub the soft parts of their noses!

The treat of the day was reconnecting with the 90 rabbits who were rescued from Greenlake and Woodland Park by Carrie and Mark.  The rabbits have a fortress of security to protect them from other animals, and they safely and happily ran and played in the thistle and grass while the workers tidied up their space and left carrots for their later enjoyment.

Thanks to all the volunteers and to the hospitality of Ralph and Caryl who provided an abundant lunch to all the volunteers!

Precious Life is often looking for volunteers to come up for a day and NARN will likely host another volunteer work party soon.  More information on the sanctuary may be found here:

www.preciouslifeanimalsanctuary.org



















A Niche I Love or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the blog

Over the past year, my involvement in NARN has lead me down an interesting and somewhat painful path to self knowledge. It’s taken time, but I’ve had to define and redefine the nature of my activism, and my place within the animal rights movement. A lot has changed for me since I became an activist, especially because I live with a form of muscular dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disorder causing muscle weakness and wasting. (I’m lucky to have a mild form of the disease.)

For over a year now, I’ve been attending demonstrations despite the fact that it’s physically difficult and exhausting for me (and if I’m not very careful, painful afterward). Some people might be tempted to view this as admirable or determined, but it was largely my stubbornness and slowness to learn that were responsible, along with a slight disregard for my own health.

Several months into the foie gras campaign, the frequency of the demos picked up, and after attending two in the same weekend, I was left completely exhausted well into the next week. That’s what it took to make me realize that I might need to take my condition and health more seriously. I was emotionally burned out, too, and it was clear I needed to reconsider my role within NARN. The obvious answer was to spend more of my time doing technical work, particularly on the NARN web site.

There’s never a shortage of things to do for the VegSeattle and NARN.org websites, and I was already having a hard time keeping up, so it was the obvious choice. But it still wasn’t easy to talk myself out of demoing in favor of sitting at my desk–I do enough of that at my day job–but I was left with little other choice if I was to take proper care of myself. Although somewhat resigned, I stuck to my decision.

This is perhaps the first major lesson many activists must learn: take care of yourself first. I believe Kim McCoy (of Sea Shepherd) emphasized this at the opener for the Let Live Animal Rights Conference in Portland, Oregon. It’s clear why this is advice that should be taken to heart: if you don’t find a balance in your life and take care of yourself, you won’t be an effective animal advocate. There was a lot of talk at the conference about knowing your strengths, doing what you’re good at, and constantly re-evaluating what you’re doing to see if it works. While a lot of this was focused at the campaign level, it clearly hit me on a more personal level.

Other aspects of Let Live helped me gain additional perspective on my situation, and renewed inspiration. It felt like I gained a new lease on life, although it also left me exhausted (from the drive to Portland, not getting enough sleep, and the sheer number of people attending). I also found it difficult to socialize in this state, which led me to realize that perhaps I wasn’t cut out to network on behalf of NARN–so the same big questions were on my mind that weekend and I plenty of time to ponder them: what was my role? What were my strengths? It was pretty clear that web sitework was one. Writing has also long been a passion of mine–fiction and otherwise–and Let Live provided me with a few pathways to learn more about how these areas intersect with activism.

I attended workshops on design (by Josh Hooten of Herbivore, whose clothing I wore on several occasions during the conference) and writing (by Jasmin Singer of Farm Sanctuary). What both of these had in common was behind-the-scenes work. While often less glamorous and less recognized, supporting the infrastructure of the movement is as important as having people at protests. It also offers opportunities for nearly anyone to be involved—regardless of their abilities. The internet has opened Pandora’s box on this front: blogs, social networking sites, content writing and IT work for websites; the list goes on. And this is on top of other forms of office activism: preparing literature, sending letters and emails, doing basic administrative and financial work for animal rights organizations, etc. The possibilities are almost unlimited.

So if you’re new to activism and looking to get involved, realize that you have a host of options—including things as simple as encouraging friends and families to adopt a more compassionate lifestyle, the most basic form of activism. Prospective activists should also be made aware of the various ways in which they can contribute, although demand for such work usually ensures that it’s sought out (NARN certainly has some such opportunities, and we’re happy to accept help from volunteers). What’s more, this can make it easier to participate in animal advocacy without leaving your home, and without having to so much as leave your comfort zone. You can work when you want to on your own schedule, and if I sound like an ad for a job stuffing envelopes at home, it’s only because I’m excited about my new found focus on this sort of work.

I hope my experiences will inspire anyone reading this to do more – and do whatever you can to help animals. I wrote above that you don’t have to leave your comfort zone to do activism, but I hope all activists will choose to challenge themselves: you can always do more by trying things you’re not initially comfortable with. You might feel like you’re too shy or otherwise not good for front line activism, but don’t discount it without trying it. If you don’t like it, try it again, and remember that some forms of activism will never be comfortable or easy–but they are worthwhile. Even if it was unhealthy for me, I value what I learned about the movement and myself on the front lines.

So do what you can–and don’t run yourself into the ground. Remember, the animals are counting on us to be our best.

-Bryan Schultz

Tonight's NARN Social Discussion

Note: this entry has been edited since its initial posting.

Tonight’s NARN Social was a great time. We had some new faces (both were new to me, at least), and some spirited discussion.

The topic I came up with at the midnight hour–literally at midnight last night–was: How can we reconcile animal liberation and animal interests with animal welfare regulation in the agriculture and food industries? How much confidence can we have that changes will be made for the better when Smithfield Food’s phasing out of gestation crates has been delayed, and the veganness of KFC Canada’s veggie chicken sandwich is in question? Does it ultimately matter in the long term, or are these dead-ends on the road to animal liberation?

That’s a mouthful. It was all I could come up with, but it’s a huge issue. I framed it in a way that asks more of a practical question I was too tired to realize when I wrote it: can we regulate animal industries? There are certainly limits on what we can regulate–but the limits on what we can abolish are greater, at least logistically and politically.

Some great points were made in discussion tonight, once we hit on the topic: all social movements have ups and downs, gains and losses, and they all need different kinds of people working on things. I was glad the newcomers had interesting perspectives to share from queer rights and other, more historically established social movements. It was another good reminder (in the wake of Let Live) that all of us working to help animals are chipping away at a larger edifice of exploitation, and that change takes time.

I would go so far to say that it’s a myth that animal welfare and abolition of animal exploitation are exclusive or incompatible with one another. If we only sought to protect animals while they are still being exploited, we definitely wouldn’t get anywhere on the animal rights front. Fortunately, the movement as a whole is not taking things on in such a manner, but instead with a variety of positions, groups, and approaches. This diversity is a good thing. Besides that, animal liberation is probably a long way off if it’s going to happen–so it’s a worthy goal to relieve the more egregious animal suffering that’s out there.

(Note: It’s not that I don’t believe in liberation, it’s just that I’m skeptical about the progress humanity will make on this or any front–but still hopeful.)

I might also make the argument that if we could persuade more people to take action to make animals used for food suffer less (eating fewer of them, not intensively confining them, etc), it might cultivate more awareness and compassion, which might make people easier to reach and persuade to stop exploiting animals altogether.

There is certainly a concern that people becoming comfortable with so-called “Happy Meat” could entrench meat eaters and others who might otherwise be persuaded to go vegan. It’s my feeling that this depends on how pressured people are to give up their (fictional) humane meat.

But in the sense that it reduces suffering, efforts by PETA and HSUS to improve farming conditions is a good thing. But it’s far more important that the vegan message be promoted. I have no doubt that if factory farming was abolished tomorrow, all activist efforts focused on welfare would go towards promoting veganism. (I have yet to read Francione’s entire blog entry about this, which I linked to above, so I may write more on this subject once I have.)

(Edit: Before editing, I erroneously implied that PETA and HSUS both support veganism. HSUS doesn’t particularly support veganism, but PETA does. My point was: it’s good that welfare improvements are underway, but if there was no effort to spread the vegan message, it obviously would not help end animal exploitation. The converse is not so, however–animal liberation would end any need for animal welfare campaigns in the current sense)

It might be a harder sell without the horrific imagery of factory farms, but the situation would be less dire in terms of animal suffering, and abusive agricultural practices (not to mention exploitation) exist independent of factory farms. This movement may not have gotten the kick start it needed if factory farming hadn’t come into its heyday, but I would certainly celebrate if those dank sheds disappeared from the landscape–even if they were only replaced by somewhat less brutal farms.

In its current guise, the movement, like the factory farm, is not old. As someone said tonight, and as many others have said in the past: it’s going to take a lot of smaller steps before animals are truly free.

It’s always heartening to be reminded of the quantity and quality of people who are in it for the long haul.

-Bryan

Foie Gras Campaign Update: Why is Quinn's Afraid of the Truth?

Several weeks ago, when NARN first began campaigning against Quinn’s Pub, Quinn’s owner Scott Staples told us that the foie gras he serves comes from Hudson Valley Foie Gras. In fact, he even said that he had personally visited the farm. But when confronted this week with a New York Times exposé about how Hudson Valley Foie Gras exploits its workers, Quinn’s story changed. Its sister restaurant, Zoe, also owned by Scott Staples even changed its website, which up until Sunday said that it served Hudson Valley Foie Gras. When there is a news story about the terrible conditions at Palmex, the supposed new supplier, will Quinn’s change its story again?

Foie Gras Campaign Update: Hudson Valley Lacks Sympathy For Its Workers, Too.

Scott Staples, owner and chef at Quinn’s Pub, has told us that he does not take issue with gavage, the cruel practice of force-feeding ducks to produce foie gras. If he has no compassion for animals, we hope that he will drop foie gras from his menu after reading the shocking exposé about how Hudson Valley Foie Gras–Quinn’s foie gras source–mistreats its workers. According to a New York Times column, Hudson Valley‘s workers are “gruesomely exploited,” forced to work long hours with no paid overtime, no paid vacation or sick days, and barely any time to sleep. Hudson Valley‘s owner, Izzy Yanay said of his workers, “This notion that they need to rest is completely futile. They don’t like to rest.” It is unsurprising that someone with no sympathy for his employees would have no compassion for animals either.
The U.S.’s other major foie gras producer, Sonoma Foie Gras–which Lark’s foie gras is sourced from–is in hot water as well. After several years of pretrial motions, a defamation trial against it is scheduled to begin next week. Sonoma will have to defend its false claim that animal rights activists staged the investigation at its California facility–which found horrid conditions–before a court of law. Best of luck to Bryan Pease, founder, director, and attorney of Animal Protection and Rescue League, in bringing Sonoma to justice!
In the meantime, there is still time to register for our foie gras demo competition. Please email Jenn at jenn[at]narn[dot[org] for more information or to register for the chance to win a pizza party at vegan pizzeria Pizza Pi!

Foie Gras Campaign Update: Quinn's Pub Desperate to Sell Foie Gras

The scene at Quinn’s Pub on Friday nights is vaguely reminiscent of a forlorn going-out-of-business sale. At 1001 E Pike St, foie gras appears to be on clearance. Not only does Quinn’s owner Scott Staples offer to donate 10% of foie gras sales on Fridays to charities to boost sales (the first four weeks’ worth of contributions were rejected), but now he is even attempting, rather unsuccessfully, to give it away. As free samples sit untouched outside the Pub’s door, Scott Staples’ desperation to sell the engorged livers of force-fed ducks is almost pitiable. Meanwhile, thriving protests continue at Lark, where NARN supporters educated diners about the cruel methods of foie gras production three times last week.

NARN Rejects Quinn's money: blood money

During last Friday’s weekly foie gras protest of Quinn’s in Capitol Hill, NARN returned a donation check from the owner of the pub, Scott Staples.

Quinn’s has displayed a banner advertising that 10% of foie gras sales will be donated to NARN (see picture below).

The NARN board of directors unanimously rejects any such donations. It would show neither consistency nor integrity for an animal rights organization to benefit from animal cruelty – especially by profiting from foie gras, a product we’re actively campaigning against.

After the check was returned to him, Mr. Staples replied that he would “never take [foie gras] off the menu”, but that he was “proud of [NARN]” for rejecting the donation. I’m sure he’s happy we won’t accept money for what he considers our “support”.

We will not be swayed. The demonstrations will continue, and perhaps one day this so-called “delicacy” will be a thing of the past in Seattle eateries.

NARN President Mark shares information on foie gras production with a patron of Quinn's

Remember, if you want to help us stop restaurants from serving this inhumane dish, we need you to contact them and politely request that they remove it from the menu. While the protests keep pressure and attention on them, they will ultimately only listen to public pressure. So drop by, call, or send e-mail to Quinn’s and Lark and ask them to remove foie gras from their menu, and make a difference for the ducks.