Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum Removes Pork Industry Propaganda

This is a guest blog by UARC member and supporter Lexi Purrington.

A couple weeks ago, I visited Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum with my mother and my 9-month-old son. During this trip, I was beyond disappointed to see a disturbing and misleading exhibit sponsored by the pork industry. This exhibit was not “educational” by any means. It was blatant corporate propaganda that has no business in a children’s museum.

Pigs are crammed into tiny cages on factory farms because it is more profitable to raise them in such inhumane conditions, but the sign stated that they were kept indoors to “protect them.” Even though pigs have their lives violently taken from them, the sign also said the “delicious” meat was “provide[d]” by the animals.

My son is vegan, and in our family we will teach him values of compassion and kindness towards animals. Thankfully, he is not yet old enough to understand the exhibit. But I had to wonder how many other kids had seen it. The sign wasn’t necessary nor educational, and it disturbed me, to say the very least.

Later that day, I wrote to Discovery Gateway to express my concerns as a vegan parent. I received a message back stating they were planning on updating their farm area in the future and would keep me updated. Honestly, I never expected much to come of it, so I went on with my days and avoided yet another place that exploited animals. I was pleasantly surprised when the Discovery Gateway Children’s Museum followed up with me a few days later to inform me that the sign had been removed.

I couldn’t believe it! I had never been the type to write a complaint because I always figured I couldn’t make a difference just by doing so, but here I am today with a huge smile on my face knowing that something so simple can. If you see something that you feel is wrong, take the time to speak up. Never be silent in the face of any injustice.

I’d like to personally thank Discovery Gateway for valuing my opinion and taking action. It’s a fantastic museum and I’m thrilled to be able to go back and enjoy it with my family.  No matter how small a victory, things add up. We are so much more powerful than we know.

Lexi Purrington is a vegan nutritionist, mother, personal trainer and animal lover based out of Salt Lake City.

12-year-old Organizes Fundraiser for UARC

When she wasn’t busy running (and beating the boys) in track tournaments, volunteering at the Humane Society of Utah, or building solar panels and helping stray dogs on a Navajo reservation, 12-year-old Addie spent her time this summer organizing a fundraiser for UARC.

Addie called UARC to tell us she wanted to do a fundraiser, and asked more about our mission. She loves animals, and was anxious to help. Before we knew it, Addie called 48 businesses and secured several donations from places like Megaplex and the Utah Grizzlies. She created packages from the donations, and organized an opportunity drawing outside of Harmon’s in Taylorsville. Not only did she raise $145 for UARC that day, she also likely saved one dog’s life, who was inside a shopper’s car on the 95-degree day. Addie knew exactly what to do and called Animal Services, who came out and helped the dog.

I had the privilege of meeting Addie when she delivered the money she raised. As someone who has organized countless silent auctions, I am blown away at Addie’s commitment and success at running this fundraiser completely on her own initiative and without any additional support from us. I’ve never met a more organized, compassionate, go-getter. And she’s only 12.

We can all follow Addie’s inspirational example by volunteering. Whether it’s organizing a fundraiser, walking the dogs at a local shelter, helping UARC at SLC VegFest, or cleaning up a trail, we can all do more to make the world a better place.

Thank you, Addie, for all that you do to help animals!

Taxpayers and Students Pay for Animal Experiments at the University of Utah. We Have a Right to Know.

This is a guest blog post authored by Maria Hiatt.

The federal government’s National Institutes of Health (NIH), with an annual budget of more than $30 billion, is the largest funder of animal experiments in the world. Though it is difficult to precisely determine how much of its budget supports experimentation on animals, about half of all NIH grants fund such activities.[1] So far in 2017, the NIH has awarded over $100 million to the University of Utah.[2]

The funding and implementation of animal experimentation at the University of Utah is opaque by design. When an incident at an animal lab led an employee to call the police and file a report, Students for Animal Welfare, of which I am the president, requested information about the experiment and this incident under Utah’s open government law, GRAMA. The University withheld several pages in their entirety regarding this incident, and other pages were heavily redacted.

The University of Utah claims that the “health and comfort of the animals has the highest priority.” If that is indeed the case, why all the black ink?

Now, to be fair to the university, some documents were a little clearer. We know the University paid out $462 to cover medical treatment for the employee who was bit by a mouse, but they refused to disclose who determined that amount. A department at the university—supported by your tax dollars and students’ tuition—funded the experiment gone wrong, but the university will not release which department made the grant. Another separate entity  also funded the research, but the university redacted the identity of this sponsor – we are not even sure if it’s public or private!

Last week, we filed paperwork to appeal the university’s attempts to keep their animal research activities in the shadows, and we intend to relentlessly pursue information about experiments the public is paying for. Though we have not yet been able to uncover so much about the U’s secretive laboratories, we are publicly releasing what we have obtained here.

Public business must not be conducted in secret. We have a right to know.

Maria Hiatt is a resident of Salt Lake City and a student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in public policy. Maria is the president of Students for Animal Welfare.

[1] Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. 2012. International Animal Research Regulations: Impact on Neuroscience Research: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13322. p. 23.

[2] NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORTER) online database. https://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm.

UARC CELEBRATES DECISION STRIKING DOWN UTAH’S ‘AG-GAG’ LAW AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL

Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) is celebrating today after the United States Federal Court for the District of Utah declared Utah’s “ag-gag” law unconstitutional. Utah’s ag-gag law made it a crime punishable by imprisonment to photograph or record abuse of animals on factory farms. In his decision, Judge Robert J. Shelby stated that this law was a clear violation of our First Amendment right to gather information and speak out on matters of significant public interest.

“Four years ago, I stood outside a slaughterhouse in Draper and filmed a sick cow as she was being pushed with a front-end loader, as though she were nothing but a piece of garbage,” said UARC Director and plaintiff in the case, Amy Meyer. “I was shocked when I was the one charged with a crime instead of that animal’s abusers. It should never be a crime to tell the story of an animal who is being abused and killed, even if it’s for food. Today’s court ruling is a vindication for anyone who stands up for what’s right and tells the truth.”

Judge Shelby noted in his decision that Utah and other states only started passing these laws after animal advocacy organizations filmed horrific abuse at some of the nation’s largest factory farms. One investigation showed sick cows being abused and slaughtered, which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history, including thousands of pounds of beef that was being served in Utah public schools.

UARC encourages Utah state legislators to start working to stop the unconscionable abuses and public health crises, rather than crafting unconstitutional laws in a pathetic attempt to shield one particular industry from legitimate public criticism.

UARC and the animals are indebted to the wonderful attorneys who litigated this case on behalf of the plaintiffs, including UARC Director Amy Meyer. These attorneys include Matthew Strugar, Justin Marceau & Alan Chen of the University of Denver, Stewart Gollan of the Pioneer Justice Center, and Matthew Liebman of Animal Legal Defense Fund.

FOR FURTHER COMMENT, CONTACT AMY MEYER: 385-275-8341

Saving Chickens One Vegan Order at a Time

Unless you’re gluten-free, you’ve probably tried some version of Cali’s Natural Foods’ “Tender Tigers”. These vegan wings aren’t just available at Sage’s, Vertical Diner, and Vertical Pizza, they’re at several restaurants across the valley like Piper Down, Ice Haüs, The Green Pig, Funk N Dive, The Garage on Beck, and Trolley Wing Company. Which got us thinking, just how much Tender Tiger is being eaten in SLC? The answer, we learned from owner Ian Brandt, is an average of 550 pounds every week. Let’s break that down.

 

We hate talking dead body parts, so in brief, it costs one bird’s life for only four pieces of chicken wings 1http://theplate.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/30/wings-for-the-super-bowl-and-what-happens-to-the-rest-of-the-bird/. Factory Farms breed chickens to grow so large so quickly that their bodies often fail before they leave the crowded warehouses, and those who make it are only 5-7 weeks old when they are thrown onto transport trucks and hauled to the slaughterhouse2https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/chickens/. Two birds suffer and die needlessly for just one serving of wings. But onto the good news!

 

With local Tender Tigers from Cali’s alone, 67 chickens are saved every week by people choosing to order vegan instead of chicken wings. That’s nearly 3,500 chickens each year, and with awards like PETA’s Top 10 Wings in the Country, it’s bound to only grow from hereAnd with vegan options like Tender Tigers showing up in menus in restaurants that serve meat, some patrons are surely choosing to replace meat with cruelty-free versions of familiar foods, sparing animals at every meal.

 

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of depressing images and stories about the many ways animals suffer in our society. But together, with our simple consumer choices, we are making a difference. Think of the 67 chickens who didn’t have to die for wings cravings in Salt Lake City this week.

References   [ + ]

2017 Utah Legislative Session – UARC Official Position Statements

S.B. 56 – Animal Shelter Amendments – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Senator Knudson, would require animal shelters in the state of Utah to euthanize animals only by means of an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital. S.B. 56 also would institute common sense standards requiring shelters to have a euthanasia training program in place.

UARC stands in agreement with virtually every other animal protection organization and veterinary association that euthanasia by injection is the most humane and cost-effective method of euthanasia. Seven shelters in Utah still kill at least some animals via the use of a carbon monoxide gas chambers. At two shelters, this cruel method is the exclusive means of killing animals. That is unacceptable.

Animals placed in a gas chamber can take as long as 45 minutes to die as they bark, meow, or howl in fear as the chamber fills with gas and they slowly suffocate. There have even been instances when animals have survived this terrifying process and must be gassed again. For these reasons, UARC even rejects the use of the term “euthanasia” in association with this barbaric practice. We urge Utah legislators to support S.B 56.

S.B. 136 – Animal Shelter Revisions – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 136, sponsored by Senator Davis, would strengthen Utah’s cruelty to animals statute by ensuring that animals who are left at the end of a chain have access to minimal shelter during times of inclement weather. The bill also establishes common sense standards as to what constitutes “shelter,” making clear that a crawl space under a porch or the area under a motor vehicle are insufficient.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund releases regular rankings of each state’s animal protection laws. In its most recent assessment, Utah is ranked 47th. This abysmal ranking would be greatly improved if we strengthened our state cruelty-to-animals law, and passing S.B. 136 would go a long way towards meeting that laudable goal.

S.B. 179 – Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week – SUPPORT

Senate Bill 179 would designate a week in April as “Animal Care and Control Appreciation Week.” While this bill is largely symbolic, it is important to acknowledge that animal control officers have an incredibly difficult job and must juggle a number of responsibilities, including protecting the public from aggressive animals and enforcing humane laws. Many animal control agencies also are tasked with operating an animal shelter, a difficult and often thankless task. UARC regularly reaches out to animal control agencies when we are notified of a report of animal cruelty, and these officers are on the front lines responding to these public complaints. UARC thanks them for their assistance, and agrees that animal control officers deserve a great deal of respect and commendation.

H.B. 298 – Free Expression Regulation by Local Government – SUPPORT

House Bill 298, sponsored by Rep. Thurston, would require local municipalities to ensure any ordinances are consistent with established First Amendment case law, which protects the right to peaceably assemble and demonstrate.  UARC is taking a position on this bill because our organization frequently exercises our First Amendment rights to protest and demonstrate. In fact, over the years, UARC has filed a number of lawsuits in federal court against political subdivisions in Utah to ensure our organization’s rights are respected.

In one sense, H.B. 298 is duplicative, because neither state law nor local ordinance can supersede federal constitutional law, which already protects this right. However, UARC supports H.B. 298 because it may help put local governments on notice, thereby preventing an unneeded legal dispute from arising in the first place. Additionally, H.B. 298 may also help protect the First Amendment rights of individuals who may not have access to legal representation and the courts.

H.B. 54 – Campus Free Speech Amendments – SUPPORT

House Bill 54, sponsored by Rep. Coleman, clearly defines all outdoor gathering areas on college campuses to be “traditional public forums” for First Amendment purposes. UARC frequently protests animal research and circuses on college campuses, and we support this bill to ensure our right to continue these demonstrations is protected.

UARC has no official position on any other pending bill in the 2017 session.

RELEASE: Thousands of Attendees Expected at Inaugural SLC VegFest this Saturday at SLC Library Square

September 6, 2016 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Amy Meyer, amy@slcveg.com

This Saturday, thousands of vegans and veg-curious people will descend on the Salt Lake City Main Library Plaza for the inaugural “SLC VegFest,” a free festival presented by the Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC). VegFest will feature food, a beer garden, live music, and informational sessions about how going vegan can improve your health, fight climate change, and save the lives of more than 100 animals every year. More than 20 exhibitors will be present.

“There is growing awareness about how the meat and dairy industries are cruel to animals and a disaster for the environment,” said Amy Meyer, Executive Director of VegFest. “VegFest will be a fun event for people of all ages, as well as a great resource for anyone interested in going vegan but needing help learning how to do so.”

SLC VegFest is a 100% vegan event. Several restaurant vendors will be on hand preparing and serving delicious vegan meals, including Piper Down Pub, Ice Haus, Sage’s Cafe, and Soul Traveler Foods. These vendors will be selling a diversity of options, including vegan “fish” and chips, shepherd’s pie, brats, tacos, mac and “cheese,” Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, and tofu-eggs benedict. Additionally, attendees can buy vegan pastries from Passion Flour Patisserie and Big O Doughnuts, cold-pressed juice from Vive Juicery, and gourmet cashew “cheeses” from Zest Kitchen.

Attendees will have the opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers inside the library auditorium. Speakers will present information about why and how to go vegan, including a keynote address from Matt Ruscigno, MPH RD, who will be giving a talk on how going vegan doesn’t mean you have to prepare expensive or exotic foods.

With a designated kid’s area featuring an inflatable slide, VegFest is an event for families and people of all ages. VegFest also features an Athlete Expo exhibition area, where athletes demonstrate their physical prowess and answer questions about how vegan athletes can best satisfy nutritional needs. The athlete expo will also offer free fitness and yoga classes to attendees.

SLC VegFest will take place Saturday, September 10 from 11 am – 6 pm.
For more information, visit www.slcveg.com

 

The Shameful Bear Circus at the Salt Lake County Fair

Following an investigation by UARC on opening night at the Salt Lake County Fair, we urge our supporters to join us in pressuring the fair organizers to immediately cancel all future scheduled performances of “The Great Bear Show,” a bear circus currently featured at the event. This morning, UARC filed an urgent complaint with USDA officials, alleging violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) at the Salt Lake County Fair.

metal chain hangs from black bear forced to stand on back legs
Steele keeps a metal chain around the bear’s neck while making them perform tricks. Photo: UARC

UARC investigators observed handlers tie an iron chain around the bears’ necks, where the bears appeared to be missing patches of hair. The bears were also pacing neurotically in their cages, a sign of significant stress. The animals were allowed close and unsafe contact with audience members who paid to have their pictures taken with the bear.

bear next to family separated by thin plexiglass
A flimsy plexiglass barrier is all that separates an unrestrained full-grown bear from families as their photo is taken. Photo: UARC

A closer look into Bob Steele, the owner of “The Great Bear Show,” reveals even more cause for concern. The USDA has issued Steele citations for violating the AWA on March 12, 2012, February 5, 2015, August 26, 2015, and March 7, 2016. One of his repeat offenses is failure to provide adequate  veterinary care, demonstrated by significant hair loss on Barney, a young black bear in his care. Despite being cited just months ago, Steele continues to wrap an iron chain around Barney’s neck, where much of the patches of hair loss have been documented, and make him perform tricks in front of small crowds of fairgoers. The Montana Standard also noted Barney’s hair loss at the Butte-Silver Bow County fair just two weeks ago.

Great Bear Show
Steele pulls on a metal chain wrapped around one bear’s neck to make him do tricks for the audience. Photo: UARC

It is deeply troubling that Mr. Steele is still allowed to conduct business with animals despite his continued violations. The AWA enforcement system is profoundly broken and fails to protect animals.

Animal abuse is inconsistent with the values of Salt Lake County.

Take action:

  1. Call the Salt Lake County Fair at (385) 468-3247 and politely ask that they cancel all the currently scheduled appearances of “The Great Bear Show.”
  2. Sign UARC’s change.org petition asking that the County prohibit the use of all exotic animal circuses and performing animal acts at county-owned facilities. 
  3. Share on social media and encourage friends to sign.
  4. If you are a resident of Salt Lake County, contact your County Councilmember directly to tell them you support UARC’s efforts to prohibit exotic animal circuses at the equestrian park.

Crowdsourcing Transparency in Government

In May 2016, the University of Utah was cited by federal authorities for violating the Animal Welfare Act  when a monkey was  burned during a procedure. Written protocols called for a warming blanket to be used and for the animals’ temperature to be continuously monitored. Neither precaution was taken. In a desperate attempt to bring the animal’s temperature back to normal, the monkey was severely burned with a “hot air” tube. The animal was subsequently euthanized. Failure to comply with simple written instructions was an act of extreme negligence on the part of university staff, and this monkey paid the price for that negligence with his or her life.

Fox 13 News initially reported on the U’s violations. Despite the fact that the story was accurate, and that the photographs were indeed taken inside the University of Utah, university spokespersons misled the station’s news director claiming that they were simply “PETA stock photos.” The story was scrubbed from the internet. The university’s effort to bury this embarrassing story worked. At least in the short term.

There are still a lot of details we don’t know about this incident. We don’t know how this breakdown of oversight happened, nor do we know if anyone was held accountable. We don’t know the nature of the experiment the monkey was used in. The university has not even released this poor monkey’s name (if she has one).

In an effort to learn more about what happened to this animal in this taxpayer-funded laboratory, Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) has filed an open records request  under Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act (GRAMA). We requested internal memos, correspondence, veterinary records, and written protocols related to this monkey and the incident where the U broke the law.

The U of U’s legal department responded to UARC’s request by demanding $325 in fees. In consultation with counsel, UARC considered our appeal options, but it was determined an appeal would not likely succeed.
Unfortunately, GRAMA’s fees provisions are incredibly weak. The law allows government agencies complete discretion as to whether or not fees are waived, even if the records are related to a matter of significant public concern. Obviously, when the records would embarrass an agency, fees are rarely waived. There have been legislative efforts to strengthen GRAMA in this respect , but so far these bills have failed.

We think it us vital to acquire these records so we can tell the story of what happened to this animal. The public paid for this experiment, and the people deserve to know the truth, especially when misconduct or negligence occurred. UARC also wants to demonstrate to the university that the public cares about this issue, and that the school’s refusal to offer transparency is unacceptable.

UARC is not aiming to raise any funds for our organization off this tragedy. We are only raising the necessary fees that the school is demanding for the records related to this incident. It’s unfortunate that transparency in government requires a crowdsourcing campaign like this one, but that is where we are.

We know the U will never release these unflattering records voluntarily. It’s on us to raise these funds so that the truth can see the light of day. Thank you.

DONATE TO THE CAMPAIGN HERE: https://www.gofundme.com/UofUMonkey

UARC Volunteers Serve Vegan Dinner to Teens at Youth Resource Center

On Saturday evening, a group of ten UARC volunteers cooked and served a vegan dinner at the Youth Resource Center.  Operated by Volunteers of America, the Youth Resource Center is a safe place for youth ages 15-22 years of age who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. They provide emergency overnight shelter, services and case management. Each year they serve 800+ teens through this facility.

Being able to help out my community by feeding the less fortunate compassionate & healthy food is a great opportunity I’ll never pass up.
– Leigh Harris, volunteer

plate of vegan sloppy joes, pasta salad, and watermelon

It was a win-win for everyone – teens enjoyed a healthy vegan meal, while volunteers learned how to cook new vegan recipes and met other like-minded individuals. We prepared to serve 50 individuals vegan sloppy joe’s, pasta salad, and watermelon.

I think reaching out to people and showing them how delicious food can be without animal products is fantastic. It was my first time at the youth center, which had a profound affect on me. The kids were great and I can’t wait to serve them again soon. 
– Michelle Johnson, volunteer

Staying within our $100 budget while serving fresh vegan dinner proved easy, with cheap fresh produce plentiful at Rancho Market and quality vegan buns and TVP for the sloppy joe’s found at Smith’s Marketplace.  Cooking vegan is not just healthy and delicious – it’s affordable too!

giant pot of vegan sloppy joes made with TVP

I was a little worried the kids wouldn’t care for our vegan Sloppy Joe’s, but judging from all the clean plates, I think they were a great success!
– Shawn Harris, volunteer

The sloppy joe’s recipe came from the New Farm Vegetarian Cookbook, a vegan classic. See the recipe here and try it yourself! We recommend substituting ketchup for half of the tomato sauce, and adding minced garlic.

volunteers chop veggies in kitchen at youth resource center salt lake city

I have never met a more compassionate and dedicated group of volunteers. They jumped right in to dicing pounds of vegetables and fruit, cooking sloppy joe’s, and scrubbing dishes. As soon as a task was realized, someone was on it. Their hard work paid off as soon as the kids, who were anxiously awaiting to eat what they could smell for the last two hours, started coming back for seconds.
– Amy Meyer, UARC Board Member

UARC will continue to serve vegan dinner at the Youth Resource Center once a month. You can support our work by donating to UARC to cover food costs, or sign up to join the next volunteer group.

 

Fighting Speciesism and Cruelty to Animals in Utah