Sunday, 23 December 2007

Christmas Turkey

Do you really need that turkey?

Please read Viva's factsheet on turkey farming below. After all we should know the facts before making our choices. - Jill.

Turkeys - Viva! Fact Sheet

Turkeys in their natural state
Turkeys have a zest for living and, treated with respect, they become very friendly. Turkeys have large, dark, almond-shaped eyes and sensitive fine-boned faces. Wild turkeys live in North and Central America. They are striking and handsome, graceful and intelligent. They roost in trees and roam in woodlands, eating vegetation and insects. They live in harems - the mothers being very protective of their young. An adult bird can fly up to 50mph.

Conditions in turkey farms
There are two main systems of turkey rearing:
a. Windowless units. The most common system where as many as 25,000 turkeys are kept in one shed. The birds are crowded together like broiler chickens, on a litter floor. Many develop ulcerated feet and painful burns on their legs and breasts as they spend their short lives standing on litter which often becomes wet, dirty and produces ammonia. Lighting is dim to discourage aggression.
b. Pole barns. These allow daylight and ventilation but conditions are still grossly overcrowded. Stress causes fighting and birds attack each others eyes and toes.

Slaughter age
Turkeys would live up to 10 years in the wild. Farmed turkeys are usually slaughtered between the ages of 12 and 26 weeks, although according to DEFRA some are as young as eight weeks.

Mortality rate
6%- 15% of turkeys die in sheds each year. Many die because they never learn to reach the food and water points (‘starve-outs’). Others die from disease or as a result of growing too quickly.

Turkeys peck at each others feathers, toes and eyes when overcrowded. Sometimes their eyeballs are destroyed by the pecking. Cannibalism can be common in intensive farms. Turkeys are often kept in near darkness to discourage cannibalism. In the wild, turkeys would not be aggressive but on factory farms birds are driven to aggression by the conditions in which they are kept.

Debeaking is considered essential to many turkey rearers. 10% of all turkeys are debeaked (DEFRA, Oct 2001) When turkeys are only a few days old, their beaks are partially amputated, a section of the upper beak being cut off with a red-hot blade or with clippers. Potential breeding stock are debeaked again at around 16 weeks, and sometimes at a later stage too. Beak trimming is painful and can result in permanent pain. Research at the AFRC Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics Research, Edinburgh, indicates that debeaking results in chronic pain similar to ‘phantom limb pain’ in human amputees. Birds have been observed, over a 56 week period, to show signs of behaviour associated with long-term chronic pain and depression, following partial beak amputation.
(“Behavioral Evidence for Persistent Pain Following Partial Beak Amputation in Chickens” - Michael Gentle et al, Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 27 (1990) 149-157).

Toe removal is also performed on male breeding birds which can result in open wounds, blood loss and pain.

Desnooding is practiced to minimalise cannibalism. This is where the long fleshy appendage extending from the front of a turkey’s head over its upper back is removed with an instrument or pulled off.

When farmers want to prevent turkeys from flying, dewinging is carried out where the flight feathers of one wing may be clipped.

22 million turkeys are killed each year in licensed plants with an estimated 10 million being killed at Christmas (based on consumption figures, DEFRA, 23/10/2001).
Including small-scale enterprises which slaughter on premises, 35 million turkeys are killed in the UK every year. (Meat Hygiene Service, 1998)

According to the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), there are 50 slaughterhouses licensed to kill turkeys. 34 out of 50 plants stunning turkeys use the electric waterbath. Others use gas stunning and very low throughput premises tend to use an electric hand-held stunner.

UK slaughter legislation states that birds may be killed by decapitation or dislocation of the neck. These procedures do not require a license provided that they are carried out on premises forming part of an agricultural holding on which the bird was reared.

Decapitation is not widely practiced but neck dislocation is the most widely used method of slaughter on small-scale enterprises. Scientists Gregory and Wotton expressed concern about the effectiveness of neck dislocation in poultry. They tried crushing and stretching the necks of poultry (method 2 works in a similar manner to manual neck dislocation) and concluded that, “neither method consistently produced concussion and it is uncertain whether they cause instantaneous unconsciousness.”
(N. G. Gregory, S. B. Wotton, 1990. Comparison of neck dislocation and percussion of the head on visual evoked responses in the chicken’s brain. The Veterinary Record 126, 570-572).

Researcher Roger McCamley says that, “There is certainly a potential for welfare problems to arise when small scale seasonal producers kill large birds by neck dislocation. Usually, no training will have been sought or received and because of the small number and infrequency of slaughtering, little expertise in slaughter will be obtained.”
R. McCamley, 1992. The welfare aspects of poultry slaughter on farms. The Meat Hygienist, December edition, 5-11.

If turkeys are not killed on the farm at which they are reared, they are transported live to a processing plant. Turkeys are caught from the rearing sheds and stuffed into crates for transportation to the slaughterhouse. Rough handling often causes severe bruising and injury. At the slaughterhouse the birds are hung upside down with their feet in shackles for up to six minutes before they are stunned (DEFRA, 2001). Birds are in great distress at this time, especially those with diseased hip joints or legs.

The shackled turkeys move to an electrically-charged water bath through which their heads and necks pass. The electric shock is meant to stun the birds. Turkeys tend to arch their necks at slaughter and may not be stunned before they reach the neck cutter. Each year, conservative estimates suggest that around 30-40,000 will enter the scalding tank alive. Around 43% of birds will receive painful electric shocks before being stunned because their wings touch the electrically-charged waterbath.¨

Only a few breeding companies now supply most turkeys reared worldwide - British United Turkeys, Nicholas and Hybrid Turkeys. Reproduction in today’s turkey industry is by artificial insemination (AI). The modern turkey, like the broiler chicken, has been genetically selected to put on weight twice as fast as its counterpart in the wild. Now, male turkeys are too broad-breasted to mate naturally. In the wild, the turkey can fly up to speeds of 50mph, yet the modern male farmed variety cannot fly. Breeding turkeys can weigh as much as an 8-9 year old child (60lbs).

Collecting the semen
2 or 3 times a week the males are ‘milked’ of their semen by teams of operators whose jobs are to manipulate the males’ anal area until the phallus is erect (a form of human-to-bird masturbation) and semen is ejected, helped along by the pressure on the lower abdomen.

Insemination of the females
Female turkeys are caught and held upside down, while semen is introduced into the vagina by hypodermic syringe or the operator’s breath pressure, through a length of tubing. The repeated stress imposed by AI is extreme and unacceptable in welfare terms.

Eggs and chicks
All factory farmed turkeys never meet their mothers. Fertile eggs are transferred to the hatchery. After 28 days in an incubating cabinet the poults are hatched. At a day old the turkey chicks are transported to growing sheds with up to 25,000 chicks the same age. The lighting is dim and the heat is kept permanently high. Many chicks die from heat, stress, heart attack or bullying.

Most turkeys suffer from degeneration of the hip joints. In the ball and socket mechanism of this joint, much of the weight is distributed through a pad of cartilage. Under the stress of carrying an unnaturally heavy body, the structure breaks down, leading to degeneration of the joint. This leads to severe lesions and pain. Dr Colin Whitehead of the Agricultural and Food Research Council states that 70 per cent of the heavier birds are ‘suffering pain rather than just discomfort’.

The last decade has thrown up numerous examples of new diseases in turkeys. These include Rhinotracheitis, Paramyxovirus 2, and Salmonella enteritidis - a major new bacterial source of human food poisoning that can cause arthritis, blood disease, impaired immunity and death. Other diseases include Blackhead disease, Ornithobacterium rhinotracheale and Avian Influenza.

Turkeys are reared to be pathalogically obese. They have clogged coronary vessels, distended fluid-filled pericardial sac, abdominal fluid and a gelatin-covered enlarged congested liver. Their hearts can actually explode.

Artificial insemination spreads fowl cholera, a major bacterial disease of intensively reared turkeys.

Throughout their lives, turkeys may be given antibiotics and other drugs to prevent or treat infections caused by worms, fungi, bacteria and other microbes. More than a dozen antibiotics are approved for use in chickens and turkeys, including erythromycin, penicillin, tetracycline and virginiamycin.

Help stop the suffering - Action:

  • The most effective step that you can take is to stop eating turkey and to ask your family to have a meat free Christmas. Contact Viva! for free veggie Christmas recipe leaflets - view them online here.
  • Viva! has organised a nationwide door drop asking people to have a turkey free Christmas and offering free Christmas packs. Please help Viva! get the ‘cruelty free Christmas’ message out by distributing Viva! turkey leaflets through doors in your neighbourhood. Contact Viva! for free leaflets.
  • Give out ‘Turkey free Christmas’ leaflets outside your local supermarkets and butchers shops. Contact Viva! for posters to make placards and to put in your window at home.
  • For more info on turkeys and for information on how to go veggie and other campaigns, look on our website or phone or write to Viva! for a free veggie info pack.

Viva! Vegetarians International Voice for Animals
8 York Court, Wilder Street, Bristol BS2 8QH, UK
T: 0117 944 1000 F: 0117 924 4646 E:

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Christmas parties

Well it's official. Heidi has a better social life than we do!

On friday she was at her kindergarten party and today we had to cry off a party at a friends due to Heidi having an ear infection. Friday was lovely, she was at the party in the morning - and yes I did take a vegan cake (chocolate this time) so she wouldn't feel left out. I think I'm the only mum that makes so many requests at nursery school but the staff are really supportive. It's a whole different subject but as we are not religious we also don't want Heidi growing up to believe religion like it was fact so we ask for her not to join in bible stories and church visits too. Maybe some of the teachers hide when they see me coming!

I am hoping to get out for one night out this year, friday is looking promising but as any mother of small children knows, anything might happen!

So now I am planning for packing and for the trip. I called the airline to request vegan meals for us but they don't have them on the routes we are taking so I guess I have to take food (dried food only) on the, bread, crackers...doesn't sound so appealing and of course I can take baby milk as long as I taste it first...which takes better, breast milk or formula..will have to guess at that, formula smells quite horrible and just the idea of drinking my own milk is not filling me with joy. We have bought Heidi some new activity books for Christmas which we hope will keep her occupied but Miller is cruising now and almost walking and keeping him on my lap will be truly difficult and I don't envy anyone sat near us at all!

All parents are rallying round in a splended fashion trying to get the things we might need when we arrive, baby formula, soya milk etc. I think my mum has been studying labels on buy food for weeks which is really positive.

As an aside, I smelt a normal yogurt yesterday for the first time in a few months and it smelt so strong and pungent to me after not eating dairy for some time. It reminded me of something I heard some time back about the Japanese saying that westerners smell of milk, well, there is truth to it but much worse is that meat eaters do smell of rotting meat, that I noticed soon after becoming a vegetarian, I'm sorry to say it but it is true, maybe not all, all of the time but it's quite distinct.

Well, this blog is full of tangents so I'd better leave it there seeing as I have no coherent point to make!

Enjoy the run up to Christmas!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Vegan Christmas

Well I'm just getting organized for Christmas. We have the snow and most houses have little lights or candles in the windows which looks really pretty. Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve here in Norway, with Santa arriving around dinner time and the opening of presents just after that. We have chosen to mix both cultures and have some presents on Christmas Eve and still have a somewhat traditional English Christmas Day on the 25th....minus the turkey, chippolata sausages, prawn cocktail etc etc!

Last year we drove to Sweden for supplies and bought some vegetarian fillets and made a traditional dinner otherwise, with vegetarian gravy, roast potatoes, roast parsnips and carrots. We even had Christmas pudding arrive from friends in the UK! This year we may take a total change and have something completely different, not sure as of yet! We don't want to get too much in as we fly to the UK on the 27th for 2 weeks. We have to leave the dogs here but they are being cared for by one of our neighbours - last time we left them here with other friends they got used to lounging on their sofas and thought it was the height of rudeness when we returned and reminded them what a dog bed was!

So, we are excited about our trip and looking forward to catching up with family and friends and being able to go to a vegan restaurant (so looking forward to that!). We hope to make the most of the babysitting options with family and have maybe our first night out alone without the children since Miller was born!

Not so looking forward to the noise, traffic, crowds, keeping a tight watch over the children in busy places and so on - I was back last November and it was a culture shock then. Matthew has not been back for 2 years so I think he will see a big difference to the lifestyle we have now. We have tried to save up a little so we can bring some things home with us but yesterday old Bente (our volvo) broke down twice so maybe we have to start growing magic beans...!

Miller is just waking from his nap so back on duty! .... However, if you follow yoga baby ( you can tune in next week to see a special edition - 'Yoga Grandma' - filmed when Matthew's mum was here....she told me not to tell anyone but I think that means anyone she knows personally...!

Have a compassionate day!

Friday, 7 December 2007

Mad Cow

Am I mad to be vegan? Read on...

Article from

Mad Cow Disease: It’s Mad to Eat Meat

Downed Cow
According to a 2006 report by the USDA inspector general, USDA slaughterhouse inspectors are still allowing many “downed cows”—who may be infected with mad cow disease—into the human food supply illegally.

Mad cow disease is one of the most frightening diseases of our generation. Also known as “bovine spongiform encephalopathy,” it is a member of a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These diseases, which cause the brain to degenerate until it becomes “spongy” and lead to eventual death, are caused by misshapen proteins called “prions.”1 Researchers have traced massive outbreaks of the disease on factory farms to the meat industry’s cost-cutting practice of mixing the brain tissue of dead farmed animals into the feed of other farmed animals.…

Any animal with a brain has the potential to become infected with a prion disease and could pass the disease on to humans who eat the animal’s flesh. Scientists have already identified mad cow disease variants in humans, fish, sheep, minks, cows, deer, and cats.2,3,4 Although illegal in Japan and Europe, in the U.S. and Canada it remains common to include the blood, bone, and unwanted flesh of all types of farmed animals in the feed of chickens, turkeys, and pigs. Of all the animal flesh and bone meal that is processed into food for farmed animals, almost half is fed to chickens and turkeys, 13 percent is fed to pigs, and 10 percent is fed to cows.5

How Do People Get Mad Cow Disease?

When people eat infected animals, they can develop the human version of spongiform encephalopathy called “new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease” (nvCJD). This disease eats holes in the brain (which results in a spongy appearance), initially causing memory loss and erratic behavior. Over a period of months, victims gradually lose the ability to care for themselves or communicate, and they eventually die. There is evidence that a large number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may in fact be victims of CJD.

Eating contaminated meat has caused more than 150 deaths worldwide. Thousands more are likely infected but do not know it yet, according to a study published in The Journal of Pathology, and it can take years for symptoms to develop.6,7 Millions of cows developed the disease in Europe in the 1990s and were killed and their bodies burned—although burning does not destroy prions. Hunters in the U.S. and their families may have contracted the disease by eating infected deer they killed.8

Order a free vegetarian starter kit to protect yourself and your family from mad cow disease, as well as heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Daily eating habits

Are we getting all we need?

It's easy to read books on nutrition but a bit harder putting things into practice when you are a new vegan family. I thought it might help if I made a list of our daily eating habits and if I'm missing out something major I guess I'm hoping you will point this out to me!

However, if I'm doing pretty well then you can use this as a guide!

Heidi - aged 2.
Breakfast: Sinlac dairy free infant porridge made with Soya milk fortified with B12- I add linseeds (for omega 3) and vitamin D drops. Fruit juice (no added sugar, half water *I cannot get Heidi to drink soya or rice milk so add to her food)
Snack: Toast with plant margarine &/or banana. Fruit Juice.
Lunch: Tomato & Lentil Soup / Potato cakes / Crackers & grapes (depends, sometimes she is not so hungry at lunchtime)
Snack: Almonds & grapes / Vegan biscuit
Dinner: Pasta with mushrooms, onion, leek, tomatoes / Veggie chilli made with kidney beans, lentils, soya flakes / Paella made with rice, squash, mushrooms, asparagus / Potato wedges and grilld marinated tofu (the latter she doesn't et much of). Fruit or soya yogurt
Supper: Toast or fruit

Miller - aged 8 months.
*Takes 3 nursing feeds per day plus 2 formula feeds
Breakfast: Infant non dairy porridge made with hot water or soya milk with B12 (I take a B12 supplement so he gets this in my milk too)
Snack: Toast strips or cheerios
Lunch: Same as Heidi or something simple like sliced cooked carrots
Snack: Cracker or rice cracker, banana
Dinner: Same as Heidi or mashed potatoes with veg
Supper: Biscuit or fruit yogurt

Matthew and I:
Breakfast: Cereal & or toast
Lunch: Crackerbread and tofutti spread / veggie sandwiches / soup /beans on toast / pasta and veg with tomato sauce
Dinner: Casseroles / Chilli / Pasta & veg / Vegetable Rice / Veggie sausages & mashed potatoes / Cheese free pizza / cottage pie / Stir Fry

Add to that the odd piece of cake and that pretty much sums it up!

Comments welcome, especially if you are longing to share a recipe! Remember thought that we cannot get a lot of items - no vegan cheese, flaxseed oil, only one type of tofu etc.... But I'm always up for trying something new!

I have been asked for my carrot cake recipe 3 times in the past 2 weeks so I must be doing something right!

Til next time..

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