Utah Animal Rights Coalition | Fighting Speciesism and Cruelty to Animals in..
Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting veganism and ending cruelty to animals. UARC is primarily an education and advocacy organization with an emphasis on issues facing communities in Utah.
This Saturday, thousands of vegans and veg-curious people will descend on the Salt Lake City Main Library Plaza for the 3ndannual SLC VegFest, a festival presented by UARC. SLC VegFest 2018 will feature food, a beer garden sponsored by Ice Haus & Piper Down Pub, live music, a kid’s area with inflatable bounce houses, and informational sessions about the benefits of veganism. All of the food at SLC VegFest is 100% vegan, and the event has free entry.
More than 50 exhibitors and vendors will be present, including nonprofit organizations, restaurants, bakeries, & food trucks. Local vendors will be selling a wide array of food options, including vegan “fish” and chips, “wings” from Vertical Diner, paninis, gyros, and Philly “cheesesteak” sandwiches. Additionally, attendees can buy vegan desserts like pastries from Passion Flour Patisserie, City Cakes, and Big O Doughnuts, and gourmet ice cream cones from Monkeywrench.
“Last year, we had more than 4,000 attendees at our event from several different states, and we expect an even bigger crowd for 2018. VegFest is a fun event for people of all ages, as well as a great resource for anyone interested learning more about veganism or animal rights,” says Amy Meyer, Director of SLC VegFest.
Attendees will also have the opportunity to watch a free film and listen to a variety of speakers inside the library auditorium, including a first-of-its-kind Vegan Kids discussion panel! SLC VegFest will feature a keynote address from lauren Ornelas, founder and director of Food Empowerment Project, who will be giving a talk titled “Food Justice: The Power of Your Food Choices.”
What: SLC VegFest 2018
Where: SLC Main Library, 210 E. 400 South
When: Saturday, September 8, 12 Noon – 8 PM
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a scathing animal welfare inspection report against Lagoon, citing the park with a “critical” violation, the most serious level of offense that can be assessed by an inspector. The violation stems from an incident when an elk escaped through a hole in his enclosure and was gored by a bison in an adjacent enclosure. The injuries were so severe that he was euthanized. Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC) has submitted FOIA and GRAMA requests with state and federal authorities to learn more about the incident.
“Lagoon has a long history of providing inadequate enclosures for their captive wild animals,” said Amy Meyer, Director of UARC. “It’s past time for Lagoon to stick to what they know best – rides – and allow UARC to help them relocate their wild animals to accredited sanctuaries that have already offered to provide the safety and quality of life these animals deserve.”
UARC has also scheduled an emergency protest outside Lagoon on Sunday, July 22nd at 11 AM, which will be the 5-month anniversary of the elk’s death. Following the demonstration, the protestors will walk to the site of the death and lay flowers in memoriam.
There are large industries in Utah that prefer to stay in the shadows. Out of sight, out of mind. They don’t want you to know where they are, or that they even exist. After seeing them with my own eyes, I understand why.
This spring, on behalf of Utah Animal Rights Coalition (UARC), I partnered with Lauren Lockey from Sage Mountain with a shared vision. We wanted to pull back the curtain on Utah’s massive animal factory farms and show the public where these places are and what they look like, in graphic detail.
This was not a completely new experience for me. In 2013, the City of Draper prosecuted me under Utah’s “ag-gag” law, after I filmed a sick cow being pushed with a front-end loader outside a slaughterhouse. Utah’s “ag-gag” law made it a crime, punishable by up to 6 months in jail, for me or anyone else to film or photograph animal agricultural operations. After I and several co-plaintiffs mounted a vigorous legal effort against this law, it was finally declared unconstitutional last year. Having fought a lengthy and hard-fought battle in federal court, I wanted to make the most of our re-established constitutional rights.
Lauren and I spent dozens of hours driving all across the state of Utah to document the conditions on animal farms. I was shocked by the amount of cruelty and death we were able to witness and document without ever stepping foot on their property or entering any of the buildings.
Sanpete County is the one of the worst counties in the country to be a turkey. With nearly 50 individual farms, approximately 4.5 million turkeys are killed in Utah every year. Looking over the valley from the small town of Freedom (ironic, I know), I saw dreary, often old and run-down sheds in every direction. Turkeys on factory farms live an unnatural life inside these crowded sheds. To keep them alive long enough to make a profit in such confined conditions, factory farm workers cut off part of their sensitive beaks and toes so that they do not kill each other. Turkeys have been drugged, selectively bred, and genetically manipulated to grow unnaturally large and fast, often causing their legs to break under them, leaving them immobilized.
I knew the bodies of dead turkeys were worthless to the industry. But it was still shocking to see dumpsters for the dedicated purpose of body removal at the farms. When we found a couple on public property that we were able to peer into, the sight and smell of decaying bodies made me so nauseous it was challenging to even snap photos.
The ones who manage to survive don’t feel the sun on their backs until the day they are stuffed into transportation trucks and taken to the slaughterhouse, at about 5 months of age. Outside the Norbest turkey slaughterhouse in Moroni, the sides of the road are blanketed in turkey feathers. These feathers are all that remains of millions of animals who never had the opportunity to experience anything natural or important to them, like roosting and raising their young.
Turkeys aren’t the only birds suffering on Utah farms. According to USDA statistics, nearly 4 million hens are confined inside just 5 egg factory farm operations in Utah. We drove by four of the five on this trip. As if the security guards and biosecurity hazard signs weren’t enough, we were approached by workers at two of these facilities, who made it very clear that we were not welcome there.
While the outside of these egg factory farms smelled awful, nothing could prepare us for the smell outside of the Smithfield pig factory farms in Beaver County. Driving on Thermal Road, where we saw some of the sheds and waste lagoons, made me lightheaded and stung my eyes even before we even stepped out of the car.
More than 2 million pigs are killed in Beaver County every year. These are animals who may be more intelligent, and certainly just as capable of suffering, as the dogs we share our homes with and consider members of the family. The farms are tucked back and away from where most people ever drive. This is surely intentional. Many of the sheds can only be seen if you drive down private roads. Thousands of pigs are crammed into these sheds, as documented last year in a Direct Action Everywhere investigation and open rescue. That investigation showed exactly why the industry is trying to hide.
Photo Credit: Direct Action Everywhere
Utah proudly boasts having around 200 dairy farms. Unlike egg, chicken, turkey, and pig factory farms, much of massive dairy farm operations are outside, which allowed us to get a glimpse inside the life of a typical cow on a Utah dairy farm.
The massive dairy operations we were able to document are simply too large to even photograph, and similar to standing outside the waste lagoons of the Smithfield pig factory farms, our throats, eyes, and lungs burned from the overwhelming stench. We resorted to filming what it was like driving by some of them to try to show the full picture of how many calves are torn from their mothers at birth and confined in lonely hutches for months. These places look like graveyards – only the hutches are filled with calves who are still alive.
I have dedicated my life to animal advocacy for 13 years. I have watched countless hours of extreme animal cruelty inside factory farms, laboratories, circuses and other industries that use and abuse animals. I’ve witnessed a live, downed cow hoisted out of a slaughterhouse by a frontend loader and dumped as if she were nothing more than trash. I’ve read hundreds of descriptions of hideous experiments on primates and dogs, hidden behind cold, scientific jargon. To some extent, this experience has desensitized me, and I thought I had the strength to do this tour without feeling deeply emotionally drained. But it hit me on day one. Lauren and I, friends for a few years now and usually with so much to talk and laugh about, spent the majority of the trip in silence, trying to emotionally process what we were witnessing. When we got back home, seeing rain drops fall off a patio fence completely broke me, as visions of this calf immediately flashed back to me.
Reality set in: these animals are all still there, living their own versions of hell. I have the privilege to escape to a comfortable life. Millions of animals in Utah will never have this luxury. Although veganism is growing in popularity, we still have not convinced people fast enough that animal suffering is real, it’s important, and it’s avoidable by simply leaving animals off our plates. No matter how hard these industries try to hide behind private property, intimidating signs, unjust laws, and lies that animals are somehow so different than us that their suffering is justifiable, we can’t turn a blind eye to animal suffering.
Please, for them, use our interactive map to see where these farms are located. You can see with your own eyes what we witnessed at each farm. We plan to improve on this resource to include data, like the amount of tax subsides they receive, how many animals are killed, which corporations they supply, news stories of human trafficking and worker deaths, and more. Consumers not only have a right to know this information – it should be easily available for them, so they can make informed decisions about what we feed ourselves and our families.
Lagoon Amusement Park has one of the most deplorable “zoos” in the country. Nearly 60 wild animals, including tigers, lions, and kangaroos, are crammed inside small wire and cement enclosures, pacing constantly in circles. Even the Standard Examiner has recognized the problems with this antiquated animal prison:
“The lions are kept in metal cages at Lagoon. There is no fake grass or even real grass to keep them content. A horrifying thought to think about is has this king of the jungle ever had the chance to explore through the grass? Have the lions and lionesses ever felt anything on the pads of their feet other than cool cement?”
Over the past few months, we have built relationships with internationally renowned animal protection organizations that specialize in wild animal issues. We found an organization that is willing and able to secure placement at reputable sanctuaries for Lagoon’s big cats, and potentially many more of the wild animals in their shameful wild kingdom ride. Unfortunately, Lagoon refused to meet with us to discuss this option further, and told us they have no intention of retiring their animals.
We tried to do this the nice way. Now it’s time for action. UARC is launching a full-scale campaign against Lagoon, and we need your help.
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.