World Vegetarian Day, World Farm Animals Day Observed at MIT

by Laura Dilley and Matt Krom

The MIT Vegetarian Support Group and Students for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (SETA) jointly staffed a booth in the Student
Center on Monday to celebrate World Vegetarian Day and observe World
Farm Animals Day.  The booth included free vegetarian food samples,
provided by MIT Food Services. The groups passed out information on
factory farming and screened John Robbins' video "Diet for a New
	A related local event on Monday was a panel discussion on
vegetarianism sponsored by the Boston Vegetarian Society.  According
to Evelyn Kimber, Boston Vegetarian Society president, education is
the aim of their outreach events.
	"[We hope] to bring greater public awareness to the many
benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle-spiritually, ethically, health
wise, and environmentally," Kimber said.
	World Vegetarian Day is held annually on the first day of
October as a worldwide celebration for vegetarians.  The day was
established in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society, and is
intended to promote the joy, compassion, and life-enhancing
possibilities of vegetarianism.
	"World Vegetarian Day is a celebration, life-affirming,"
Lawrence Carter, volunteer at Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM),
said. "World Farm Animals Day is the other side of the coin."
	World Farm Animals Day, held annually on October second, is
sponsored by FARM, a Bethesda, Maryland-based non-profit organization
dedicated to alleviating and eliminating animal abuse. The purpose of
World Farm Animals Day, according to FARM, is to expose as many people
as possible to the suffering of farm animals and related damage to the
environment and human health.  The day was first observed in 1983 as a
grass-roots outreach event and has grown to include over 250
observances nationwide this year.
	"Factory farming" is the name given to the method of producing
animals for food in which cost is minimized and profits are maximized,
to the detriment of animal and human health. Factory farming has come
to be the main method of meat production in the US-essentially
replacing small, family-owned farms. Nearly all of the nation's meat,
milk, and eggs are now produced using this approach. In contrast to
images of green pastures, barnyards, and pigpens, today's farms are
made of concrete and steel, and today's farm animals are given
doses of drugs on a daily basis, cramped, mutilated, and abused. Such
extravagances as bedding and natural light have been eliminated from
the lives of these animals. Farm animals are specifically excluded
from all humane legislation at both state and federal levels,
according to FARM.
	Several books have sought to increase awareness of the animal
abuses inherent in factory farming, including the Pulitzer
Prize-nominated book "Diet for a New America," by John Robbins
(Stillpoint, 1987). According to the book, the efforts to maximize
production have resulted in the exhausting of animals' natural
capacities for growth and reproduction.  Chickens, for example, are
kept in mesh cages that restrict their movement.  These conditions
breed stress and disease, and the birds often react by mutilating or
killing each other. The conditions are ideal for the spread of many
diseases, including salmonella.
	Farmers have resorted to treating chicken feed with doses of
antibiotics, which weaken the natural immune systems of the chickens
and cause antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria to appear, thus
compounding the problem. A vicious cycle emerges, in which stressed
animals living in diseased environments are drugged, engendering
ultimately more stress and disease. The trade journal Poultry Science
reported that 90% of the dressed product from a poultry processing
plant was contaminated with salmonellosis.
	Instances of animals attacking each other as a result of their
inhumane treatment has become commonplace. For instance, pigs have
been known to bite at each others' tails and rears, sometimes killing
each other. The standard practice to deal with this problem is to cut
the pigs' tails off. Another "preventive" measure used to keep
chickens from pecking one another to death is "debeaking," or
cutting off the birds' beaks at birth. Painful growths result,
which render some birds unable to eat.
	The form of observance of World Farm Animals Day is left
completely up to the individual action sites, according to
Carter. Observances in larger cities have included funeral processions
in New York City and Washington, D.C., and candlelight vigils outside
slaughterhouses and the US Department of Agriculture. One former
livestock raiser in Knoxville, Tennessee, performs a dramatization of
Abraham Lincoln reading an emancipation proclamation-for the animals.
	All concerned would like to see legislation enacted to protect
farm animals.  "The easiest kind of reforms are the individual
reforms," Carter said.  "[This happens] if someone becomes aware of
the pain that goes into that food, and looks at the subsidies that we
[as American taxpayers] are paying to the meat industry, and at the
deficiencies in USDA inspection, and says 'I don't want to be a part
of that.'"

Sources include: 
	"Diet for a New America," John Robbins, Stillpoint Publishing, 1987.
	Farm Animal Resource Movement, Bethesda, Maryland.
	"Salmonella Contamination in a Commercial Poultry Processing
Operation," Poultry Science, 53:814-21, 1974.  North American
Vegetarian Society, Dolgeville, New York.

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