Feedlots and Waste Lagoons

Recently a Google Maps image of a cattle feedlot in Texas has been making the news. The photo of Coronado Feeders shows a beige grid dotted with cows near a bright red waste lagoon. It’s both horrifying and mesmerizing. And not all that unusual. You can find feedlots like this all across Texas.

Google Maps image of E6 Cattle Co

Google Maps image of E6 Cattle Co (Click on any photo to see a larger image)

For instance, here is the Google Maps image of E6 Cattle Co, which made the news in 2011 when a Mercy for Animals video (contains graphic images and sounds) highlighted abuses there.

Unnamed feedlot near the Texas-New Mexico border

Unnamed feedlot near the Texas-New Mexico border

Or this one near the New Mexico border.

Feedlot northeast of Amarillo

Feedlot northeast of Amarillo

Or this one near Amarillo.

In fact, it’s easy to spot feedlots in Google Maps pretty much anywhere in the Texas Panhandle. Pick a spot and search for the familiar grid and red pond in the pattern of circles (crops).

Texas is one of the largest cattle producers in the United States. These industrial feedlots are part of modern meat production, and they’re unsustainable. Animal waste can pollute rivers and underground drinking water, and according to the EPA, one dairy cow produces waste equivalent to 20 to 40 humans. Multiplied by the number of cattle in the above photos, that’s a lot of waste. The current scale of meat production is just too much for our environment to handle. In fact, the UN has urged the world to move toward a vegan diet in order to ward off the impending climate change disaster.

So why is this news? Because we don’t often see how our food is produced. If you’re eating a hamburger at most restaurants in the U.S., this is where it came from.

Sunny Day Farms Open Farm Day

Vladimir at Sunny Day Farms. He was a FFA club project who was spared from the slaughterhouse. Photo by Sunny Day Farms

Do you have plans for this weekend yet? If so, cancel them. Sunny Day Farms is having an Open Farm Day this Saturday from 11 AM to 3 PM. There will be story time, arts and crafts, and a scavenger hunt for the kids. Lunch will be provided by San Antonio’s all-vegan Vegeria, with proceeds benefitting the farm (i.e., bring cash). And of course, this is a great chance to meet the animals on the farm, like adorable Vladimir the Lamb above. You can RSVP on their Facebook page, though it’s not required to attend.

As always, I recommend donating to Sunny Day. It takes so much food and supplies to take care of these animals. They could use Tractor Supply gift cards, feed buckets, non-leather horse halters, lead ropes, and, of course, money. Have a rewards credit card? Use your rewards to get a gift certificate for Lowes or Home Depot for a painless donation.

Pygmy Goat Update

The situation with the goats is mostly good news. In summary

  • The goats (and now a few sheep) need to be moved quickly in order to ensure their safety.
  • Brooke would like to find homes for the goats, in socialized groups, in the Dallas area so the volunteers in the Waco-area who’ve worked to rescue these goats can visit them. If you know someone in the Dallas-area who could provide a good home to a few goats, please contact Brooke at 210.508.8302.
  • The volunteers, by the way, have worked a lot of magic. There isn’t an established Humane Society with lots of available resources in Waco like there is here in Austin. A handful of volunteers are using their personal resources and time to keep these animals safe and away from auction (which is what usually happens to seized farm animals).
Assuming you’re like me, you can’t take in a family of goats but the photos of them are haunting you. Here are ways you can help Sunny Day Farms help these animals and so many more with equally tragic stories.
  • Donate through Pay Pal. There isn’t a specific page set up for Sunny Day, but Pay Pal allows you to send money to an email address. So send what you can to info@sunnydayfarms.com. Any amount helps.
  • Bake for one of the two bake sales benefiting Sunny Day Farms this month. There’s one in San Antonio and one in Austin. If you can’t bake, spread the word to everyone you know about the bake sales and their worthy cause. More information about both sales can be found here.
  • The Sunny Days in Texas benefit zine is still available for sale. Buy one for yourself or a friend. All profits go to Sunny Day Farms.
  • Attend the Gathering of the Tribes in Austin this Saturday where there will be a raffle benefitting Sunny Day Farms.
  • Donate items or time. Sunny Day can always use veterinarian care, animal medication, hay, bread, fresh produce, animal crates, building supplies, wheel barrows, gardening supplies, and animal grooming supplies.
  • Have a credit card that offers points? Redeem them for a gift card to Lowes or Home Depot and donate it to Sunny  Day. Gift cards or checks can be mailed to Sunny Day Farms, 540 Country Road 5711, La Coste, TX 78039-2309.

Neglected Pygmy Goats Need YOUR Help!

The pygmy goats pictured above need your help. The goats were severely neglected in Waco and were found starving and living among the rotting remains of other goats who didn’t make it. Sunny Day Farms would like to offer these goats a home, but they need your help sponsoring the animals. If Sunny Day can’t find or make homes for these animals, they’ll be sent to auction, which means almost certain death.

This is a heartbreaking story, and the photos are hard to look at. But you can help. Do you know someone capable of caring for a goat or two? Can you pledge money to Sunny Day to help with their upkeep? Do you know a farm animal vet who could offer free or reduced cost treatment? Even if you don’t have the means to help personally, you can help spread the word to those who can.

If you know of a potential home for a goat or can offer an in-kind donation, contact Brooke through the Sunny Day Farms Facebook page. If you’d like to donate money, send it through Pay Pal to info (at) sunnydayfarms.com.

Sigh. Well, Um..

When I started writing for Lone Star Plate, I vowed I would never mention a certain famous and flashy vegan group. No matter how demeaning or obnoxious they were. But, well, one of their demeaning, obnoxious protests has a very good point behind it that I think is getting lost.

So, if you got here by googling “Why the hell are naked women showering outside my office building and what does meat have to do with the drought in Texas,” here is the connection between meat and water usage.

  • First, as I’m sure you know, Texas is in the midst of a huge drought. Many places are 20 inches below their average rain fall. Average rain falls aren’t a whole lot more than 20 inches to start with in much of Texas. (LCRA and National Atlas)
  • Fertilizer and pesticide runoff from crops grown to feed food animals gets into waterways and creates dead zones where no animal life can survive. (Read about the Chesapeake Bay, for instance.)(Environmental Working Group, which is not a vegetarian organization)
  • Slaughterhouses produce a huge amount of pollution in our waterways. In fact, eight slaughterhouses consistently number among the top twenty polluters of surface water. (EWG)
  • And quoting directly from the EWG: “A California Water Education Foundation study found that one gallon of tofu requires 219 gallons of water per pound, compared to 477 gallons for eggs, 896 gallons for cheese and 2,463 gallons for beef. A frequently cited global study estimates that it takes 1,857 gallons to produce a pound of beef, and 469 gallons for a pound of chicken (not including processing).”
  • Texas is the largest beef producing state, producing about 16% of the U.S. beef supply. (USDA and EPA)
So what does this mean? Well, obviously livestock production isn’t causing the drought in Texas. The drought is happening because it isn’t raining. But how livestock production factors in is our water use and the availability of clean water. 
Growing livestock for consumption uses up a lot of water. Think about it. That cow you’re eating had to eat a lot of grain (or possibly grass or hay) to get to the size it did. And if it’s eating grass, it had to eat even more since it takes longer for grass-fed animals to reach full size. The water used for all that animal feed could be put to much better use.
Beyond this, water is polluted at every stage of the process. Fertilzers and pesticides pollute waterways and cause dead zones, grazing pollutes streams with manure, feedlots concentrate water pollution into a small area, slaughter produces toxic waste which is dumped into our waterways, and in the end, 20 percent of the meat produced ends up wasted in landfills.
Eating meat is unnecessary. You can get all the calories and nutrients you need from plants. And you’ll likely improve your health if you replace meat with beans, whole grains, vegetables, and beans. And trust me, vegan food really can taste good
In the end, it isn’t necessary to eat meat, and we need to take our food production and consumption into account when we talk about ways to converse water. Not getting a glass of water when you sit down at a restaurant is piddling when we talk about the amount of water used in growing animals for food.

Texas Animal-Friendly License Plates

Did you know you can get a license plate that supports Texas animals? I didn’t. At least not until someone mentioned a Sea Turtle license plate, which got me very excited. Unfortunately, those are only available in Florida and Georgia.

In Texas, we can get “Animal Friendly,” the proceeds of which go to spaying and neutering animals. A really important cause. Also, then you get to advertise how much you love animals without worrying about someone writing “People Eating Tasty Animals” in the dust on your filthy windows.

There’s also this neat Horned Lizard license plate. The money from this one goes to Texas Parks and Wildlife to protect, “native, non-game species” like the horned lizard.

And just because sea turtles are adorable, check out the Florida sea turtle plate:

Austin Humane Society Rescues 150 Dogs

One of the many dogs rescued by Austin Humane Society this week. Photo from Austin Humane Society

This is a heartbreaking story of more than 150 dogs who were kept in a Bastrop County home without spaying, neutering, adequate medical care, grooming, or clean living space. The couple keeping the dogs voluntarily gave them up to the Humane Society because they couldn’t care for them. Obviously.

Animal hoarding stories are so sad. It’s obviously a sickness on the part of the humans, and I know I feel helpless thinking about all the care needed for such a large number of animals. But, we can help. You can help. Donate money to provide for all these animals. Donate items such as dog crates, animal carriers, towels, or any of the items on the Austin Humane Society wish list. Donate your time. The Humane Society needs dog groomers, and, I imagine, vet care for all of these animals. And above all, always get your pets from a rescue and never from a pet store breeder. If you’ve been considering adopting a dog, now is the time.

UPDATE: Check out photos of the dogs on the Humane Society’s Facebook page.

Follow-up: Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale 2011

All five Texas Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales took place this weekend. Don’t they look fabulous?

El Paso raised $400 for Animal Rescue League! Among the other goodies were these tasty-looking pumpkin spice cupcakes. Photo by El Paso Veg Snob
Box of goodies at the Dallas bake sale. Rumor is the kolaches were a big hit. Dallas raised over $2500 for Direct Relief International in Japan. Photo by sunnybear
Donuts and chocolate cookies flew off the table at the Austin sale. Austin raised over $1000 for Sunny Day Farms Animal Sanctuary. That’s enough money to pay for half a month’s food for the over 300 animals at the farm. Photo by Come and Fake It
The Vegan Society of Peace bake sale raised $811 for VegFest Houston, Food for Life Global, and Kinship Circle. Way to go Houston! I haven’t heard back from San Antonio yet. Green, how’d y’all do?

In total, Worldwide Vegan Bake Sales in Texas raised nearly $5000 for seven charities. This is the most successful year yet!

UPDATE: Green sold 163 desserts and donated $1 from each dessert sale to SARA. News is their desserts were just voted 3rd best in all of San Antonio by San Antonio Current readers. Awesome!

Farm Sanctuaries in Texas

Sweet Pea, from Sunny Day Farms. Sweet Pea was lucky enough to be found by the kind folks at Sunny Day Farms, rather than “euthanized” with a pick ax by workers at E-6 Cattle Company. Photo from Sunny Day Farms

Farm animal abuse videos are really important. There’s evidence that they decrease the amount of meat people eat. On average, people who see these videos don’t just switch from, say, beef to chicken, but actually reduce the total amount of meat they eat.

But they’re hard on animal advocates, who already know all the terrible things that can happen to animals raised for commercial use. I really admire the people who can take these undercover videos, since I can’t bare to watch even thirty seconds of them, much less experience it in person.

Confronting images of animal abuse can get you down if you’re already doing what you can to end animal cruelty. I think it’s a good idea for animal advocates to recharge through positive experiences with animals. Farm animal sanctuaries are a great way to do that. They allow people to interact with animals, learning that, yes, a pig does have a personality, just like a dog or cat. And they have the added benefit of not making you want to curl up in a ball in your bed for a week.

Texas has three farm animal sanctuaries devoted to caring for abused and unwanted farm animals. I’ve talked a lot about Sunny Day Farms in La Coste, outside San Antonio. A big part of Sunny Day Farms’ mission is to introduce kids to farm animals. You can schedule a school field trip or Farm School, an age-appropriate introduction to life on the farm through stories, activities, and interaction with the animals.

Willey at Serenity Springs Sanctuary. Photo by Serenity Springs Sanctuary

There’s also Serenity Springs Sanctuary in Forestburg, Texas, northwest of DFW. Serenity Springs has a variety of farm animals at their sanctuary, though they specialize in pot bellied pigs. These pigs are increasingly kept as pets, and often owners find out quickly that they’re not up to caring for a pig.

Chester at Dreamtime Sanctuary. Photo by Dreamtime Sanctuary

Dreamtime Sanctuary is just outside Elgin, a little east of Austin. Dreamtime Sanctuary began when Nancy Jensen-Case and her daughter wanted to help abandoned horses in a neighboring pasture. With a little help from a sanctuary in Arizona, Dreamtime is now the home of 14 horses, 3 burros, 30 sheep, 8 goats, 18 pigs, 8 dogs, and 14 cats.

All three organizations encourage visitors and volunteers, though it’s a good idea to schedule a visit ahead of time. Volunteer with some friends. Take your favorite kid to pet the animals. Or plan a bake sale to raise money for your favorite sanctuary.

Mercy for Animals Video: Hart, Texas

I really hate to write about this, but I don’t think it’s something I can leave unsaid. Mercy for Animals has done another undercover animal investigation, this time of a calf farm that raises animals for use in dairy farms. The farm is in Hart, Texas, between Lubbock and Amarillo. The video they released yesterday is horrifying. I was only able to watch the first few seconds of it, and even that haunted me all last night.

According to Mercy for Animals, the video shows workers
  • Workers bludgeoning calves in their skulls with pickaxes and hammers – often involving 5 to 6 blows, sometimes more – before rendering the animals unconscious
  • Beaten calves, still alive and conscious, thrown onto dead piles
  • Workers kicking downed calves in the head, and standing on their necks and ribs
  • Calves confined to squalid hutches, thick with manure and urine buildup, and barely large enough for the calves to turn around or fully extend their legs
  • Gruesome injuries and afflictions, including open sores, swollen joints and severed hooves
  • Ill, injured and dying calves denied medical care
  • The budding horns of calves burned out their skulls without painkillers
  • MFA has turned their evidence over to local law enforcement, but how many other similar farms are there out there without undercover investigators documenting cruelty like this?

    The video is here on MFA’s website. It plays immediately when you click on it.