October 26, 2016
[Press Office note: The killing of animals for food cannot be justified
when completely unnecessary in our current society. Indeed, not only is the
process cruel, demeaning and immoral, its also harmful to human health, and
greatly degrades the environment. Teaching children it is acceptable to
murder animals for the delight in tasting their flesh is abhorrent, and
should be resisted whenever and wherever possible. For more information on a
plant-based diet free of animal flesh, visit this site: http://www.adaptt.org/
Urban farming nonprofit vandalized by
animal-rights activists over slaughtering of 3 pigs
Sometime over the weekend, someone spray-painted the word "MURDERER" in
bright-red letters on the front of Garden City Harvest’s headquarters on
Hickory Street in Missoula, and employees have been inundated with vulgar,
threatening and expletive-laden emails and calls.
The vandalism was
signed with the word "ALF", with the A in the form of an anarchy symbol. The
Animal Liberation Front is a loosely organized animal rights organization
that has been accused of engaging in illegal direct action in the past.
Though nobody has been arrested in connection with the vandalism, it
appears to have been a protest of the butchering of three hogs for
educational purposes. The nonprofit Garden City Harvest operates a youth
education program at its PEAS Farm in the Rattlesnake, and three to five
pigs are raised every year. Kids in every grade level are allowed to see and
touch the animals as part of a curriculum that aims to give them insight
into their local food system.
"We see 2,500 school kids a year as
well as adults and college students," said GCH executive director Jean
Zosel. "Having the pigs on the site, they can see where meat comes from.
Some kids think meat comes from Albertsons. That’s part of our
farm-to-school work, is helping people learn where their meat comes from.
"And we have conversations about humane treatment of farm animals and
whether that makes someone decide they are fine with that or become a
vegetarian, we start the conversation, which is not happening anywhere
else," she said. "And when the hogs are about seven months old, the hogs are
taken to a facility and then they’re harvested."
Much of the meat
goes to the Missoula Food Bank, Zosel explained, and some of it is sold
"They have this big huge pen to walk around in, lots of
fresh water, food, scraps from the farm and you know, it’s the right way to
raise animals for meat in my opinion," she said.
However, a student
organization at the University of Montana called Advocates for Animals
started an online Change.orgpetition last spring called "Urge PEAS to Stop
the Senseless Slaughter of Pigs." The petition had 7,212 supporters as of
Kristian Cantens is the UM student who wrote the
originalChange.org petition, and co-founded Advocates for Animals at UM. He
said he’s "appalled" that the GCH’s headquarters was vandalized. He said he
personally spoke to Zosel and made it clear it’s not something he condones
"That was fine," Zosel said of the petition. "Advocates
for Animals would prefer that animals not be used for meat. This fall they
came back and had a protest and some tables in front of the Environmental
Studies building. At one point we had seen their petition and told them,
‘Hey, there’s a lot of inaccuracies in here, this is the correct
information’ but they didn’t change anything."
One of the group’s
members had a connection with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,
an animal rights organization based in Virginia that claims between 3
million and 5 million members and supporters.
The international PETA
website posted an "action alert" for followers to "urge the University of
Montana to Stop Slaughtering Pigs" and the deluge came in to the GCH’s
offices shortly thereafter.
One caller, from Florida, left an angry
voicemail calling the GCH staff "godless pieces of (expletive)" and a "bunch
of (expletive) killing animals for no reason." Most of the other words in
the message are unfit to print.
"We’ve stopped taking calls from area
codes that aren’t in Montana," Zosel said. "I think everyone deserves to
have their voice heard, but that was upsetting."
Marsh, the community outreach director for GCH, said that in industrial
feedlots, hogs are kept in terrible conditions. She said the PEAS Farm
workers take care to give the pigs everything they want.
"It is our
intent that through a mindful approach to farming and animal husbandry, we
will achieve healthier lives for the people and animals involved as well as
the greater community," she said in an email. "We are committed to making
sure all our animals live happy, healthy lives at our farms."
PEAS Farm is not owned or operated by the university, but a class of
Environmental Studies students works there every semester.
who wrote the petition, said of the vandalism, and the calls and emails,
"I hope that I speak on behalf of everybody in my club when I say this isn’t
something that we wanted. In our discussions, we never talked about anger or
retribution or getting back at them somehow.
"We put a lot of work
into that campaign, and we were just concerned about the pigs. This came out
of the blue. This is not what we stand for. This is contrary to our message,
and I had no idea this was happening," he said. Cantens, who said he stands
for pacifism, said he doesn’t know of anyone who would be capable of
vandalism like that. "Of course, I don’t know what people do in their spare
time," he said.
Cantens said he helped get the issue on the radar of
"We felt like we weren’t really being heard as a group, and of
course if you bring PETA in you get more attention," he said. "So we asked
for help. And they wrote the call to action and everything. It was just a
way of bringing more attention to this issue."
Cantens called the
inaccuracies that Zosel pointed out to him "nitpicky" things. "We used the
term ‘babies’ for a six-month-old pig, and they disagreed and said it was an
adult," he said.
Jessop Marsh and Zosel said the pigs at the farm are
actually sexually mature adults before they are butchered. "We’re not doing
something that’s unusual, except that they have a good home and they’re not
factory farmed," Zosel said.
In any case, Cantens wanted to make
clear that he agrees with GCH’s overall mission.
against their character," he said. "They do great things for the community
and our only disagreement was the killing of the pigs. We offered to find a
sanctuary for the pigs and offered money to overwinter them."
asked why his organization chose to single out a nonprofit over three pigs
as opposed to large feedlots that slaughter thousands of animals every day,
Cantens said his group is not exclusively focusing on the PEAS Farm.
"The pigs there matter, and just because it’s three as opposed to thousands
doesn’t mean they don’t matter," he said. "It’s something that’s involving
faculty and students and supposed to be serving the interests of the
community at large. We care about larger issues as well. We’re focused on
supporting the trapping ban. This is just one of our campaigns."
PEAS Farm has been raising and harvesting pigs for more than a decade. Back
in 2008, a neighbor complained that workers used a gun to slaughter the
animals, so now they are sent to a facility to be processed. Zosel said the
organization has no intentions of stopping the program because it provides
so many benefits to kids who tour the farm.
"The animals are always
their favorite part," she said. "Kids learn that no, meat doesn’t directly
come from Albertsons. They learn that a cow has four stomachs and they learn
all these things. Then they go to the farm and see pigs and chickens and
understand that those are food sources for some people. Not everyone is a
vegetarian or a vegan. So there’s an opportunity here to help people
understand some differences in the food industry. We feel that that’s an
important message to convey, because it meshes with our mission."
Contact: (213) 640-5048
Animal Liberation Press Office
Los Angeles, CA 90039