Fowl Play on Netflix: Just Queue It!

| No TrackBacks
fowl_play_store_image.jpgMercy For Animals' award-winning documentary, Fowl Play, has been accepted by Netflix, the popular mail order video rental service with more than 10 million subscribers. But in order for it to become available for rental and/or instant viewing, enough Netflix subscribers must add it to their queues.

If you are a Netflix subscriber, please help make this groundbreaking documentary about modern egg production available to millions of egg-consumers by adding it to your queue today! If you are not a Netflix subscriber, you can sign up for a FREE trial period here. Then just search for Fowl Play and queue it. (note: not Foul Play, the 1978 comedy with Chevy Chase)

Mercy For Animals' Fowl Play takes viewers on an unforgettable journey behind the closed doors of some of the country's largest egg production facilities and graphically illustrates the heartbreaking plight of laying hens -condemned to lives crowded inside file-drawer-sized cages.

Through touching interviews with animal rescuers, undercover investigators, veterinarians, and animal behaviorists, we hear powerful stories motivated by kindness and courage from the dedicated individuals who are fighting to save the modern day hen - perhaps the most abused and exploited animal on earth.



Connecting the dots between consumer demand for meat, dairy and eggs and the perpetuation of animal abuse, Fowl Play leaves viewers with a groundbreaking message of personal responsibility and the potential each of us holds to change the world - one meal at a time.

Organize a Fowl Play Screening In Your Community!

| 2 Comments | No TrackBacks
fowl_play_store_image.jpgHelp bring Fowl Play, and its message of compassionate action on behalf of animals, to your community by organizing a public screening. Here are five simple tips to get you started:

1) Plan Ahead

Plan the event well in advance. A minimum of two months ahead of time is suggested to ensure a successful event.  Also make sure to order your DVD well in advance to allow plenty of time for shipping and handling.

2) Select a venue


Libraries, colleges, schools, churches, community centers, movie theaters and art houses are excellent places to hold screenings. Many venues are available free of charge.

3) Set the date and time

Check public calendars for community events, holidays, elections, school breaks, etc., to ensure that your screening does not conflict. Evening screenings should start between 6:30 and 8:00 p.m.

If you already belong to an organization with regular meetings (such as a student group, a church organization, a meetup group, etc.), see if you could show the film at an upcoming meeting. 

4) Provide Free Refreshments and Educational Materials


Free vegan food and drinks are a great motivator for people to come to a screening and a fantastic opportunity to share cruelty-free food with attendees. Serving food after the film is best. Also, providing attendees with free MFA literature is a must!

5) Spread the Word


Publicizing the event is vital to its success! There are many ways to spread the word:

  • Posters: Put posters up all over town! Coffee shops, vegan-friendly restaurants, health food stores, and library community boards are all great places to promote your screening. Click here to download a Fowl Play promotional poster to use in promoting your event.
  • Email announcements: You can send an email invitation to your friends and family asking them to pass on the invitation.
  • Post notices on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Meetup.com, blogs and other websites.
  • Contact MFA to let us know about your event and we might be able to promote it too!

For more detailed information on organizing a successful screening, please read Tribe of Heart's two-part movie screening guide.

Join MFA at the Animal Rights National Conference

| 1 Comment | No TrackBacks
BabyLamb1_dreamstime_1287671.jpgNext week animal advocates from across the country will converge in Los Angeles for the annual Animal Rights National Conference. Complete with nearly 100 acclaimed speakers representing 60 organizations and nine countries, this is the world's longest-running animal advocacy symposium.

Over 110 inspiring and informative sessions will be presented on topics ranging from animals and the law, grassroots activism, vegan campaigns, personal skill building, and updates on national efforts to protect animals used for fur, food, and vivisection. Delicious vegan cuisine and cruelty-free shopping opportunities also await attendees.

MFA's Executive Director Nathan Runkle will present on various issues at the conference, including undercover investigations, advertisement campaigns, grassroots outreach, and vegetarian campaigns.

Other noteworthy speakers include Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns, Karen Dawn of DawnWatch.com, Lorri Houston of Animal Acres, Elliot Katz of In Defense of Animals, Erik Marcus of Vegan.com, Jack Norris of Vegan Outreach, and Erica Meier of Compassion Over Killing.

For all of the exciting conference details, and to register for the event, visit www.ARConference.org.
We've just received word that Fowl Play will be screened as an official selection at the upcoming New Jersey International Film Festival.

Fowl Play will hit the big screen at the festival on June 13, and will join the company of dozens of other groundbreaking films from around the world.
The forthcoming MFA documentary Fowl Play has been called a lot of things, including "eye-opening," "moving," "inspirational," and "life-changing." Now a new title can be added to the film's growing repertoire - "award-winning."

Last night at the Fallbrook Film Festival award ceremony, hosted by animal-friendly actor Fred Willard, Fowl Play beat out the competition to claim the title of "Best Documentary Short."

Fowl Play, directed by Adam Durand, is currently revealing the depressing plight of egg-laying hens to attendees of film festivals nationwide, having already been screened at the Las Vegas International Film Festival and Show of Your Shorts Film Festival. The film is slated for public release in the coming months.

So, what's all the hype about? Here is summary of the film:

A battle is brewing over the ethics of our food choices.

Gone are the days of open pasture and idyllic barnyard scenes instilled in our minds from childhood. Today, the over 9 billion animals reared for food production lead short lives chronicled with deprivation, confinement, mutilation, and merciless slaughter.

The fallout is a growing movement of compassionate consumers who are rejecting factory-style farming and the exploitation of animals used for food. They are organizing, documenting the living nightmare that animals face, and speaking out against animal-based agriculture.

Fowl Play takes viewers on an unforgettable journey behind the closed doors of some of the country's largest egg production facilities and graphically illustrates the heartbreaking plight of laying hens - condemned to lives crowded inside file-drawer-sized cages.

Through touching interviews with animal rescuers, undercover investigators, veterinarians, and animal behaviorists, we hear powerful stories motivated by kindness and courage from the dedicated individuals who are fighting to save the modern day hen - perhaps the most abused and exploited animal on earth.

Connecting the dots between consumer demand for meat, dairy and eggs and the perpetuation of animal abuse, Fowl Play leaves viewers with a groundbreaking message of personal responsibility and the potential each of us holds to change the world - one meal at a time.

Fowl Play at Wake Up Weekend 2009

| No TrackBacks
Nathan Runkle and I will be in Grand Rapids, Michigan on January 23 & 24 for Wake Up Weekend, a regional conference about "Animals, Awareness, and Advocacy." And we'll be showing Fowl Play at a free screening on the evening of the 23.

Wake Up Weekend is my favorite animal rights event of the year. The interesting sessions, enthusiastic attendees, and varied perspectives create an inspiring environment. Grand Rapids serves as the perfect backdrop in the sleepy wintertime.

It's fitting that we're premiering the final edit of Fowl Play at this conference. I first spoke to Nathan about making the film in 2007, and our first screening of a working edit of the film was at Wake Up Weekend in 2008. I'm really looking forward to this year's event, and I'll be sure to post a dispatch to this blog after the screening.

Nominated for Best Documentary at Show Off Your Shorts

| No TrackBacks
Fowl Play is headed to Hollywood this February for the Show Off Your Shorts film festival! And we got word today that we've been nominated for Best Documentary at the festival, up against Maybe Me and My Longest Day. It would be an honor to win, and also nice to slap a "Best Documentary" laurel graphic onto our promotional materials, so wish us luck!

Testing the Fowl Play Trailer with Mechanical Turk

| No TrackBacks
I had heard of Amazon's Mechanical Turk project before, but it was all a little bit over my head until Andy Baio showed how it's done. Mechanical Turk is a way to micropay people to do various tasks that a computer can't do well. Andy demonstrates how to produce a transcript from an mp3 for $15.

I usually ask the people around me what they think of the projects I'm working on, but those people are usually fearful of my fiery temper or already a member of whatever club I'm trying to sign people up for.

So I decided to test the new Fowl Play trailer on an audience of 5 people, for the price of 2 dollars apiece. And I got some interesting feedback:

A new trailer edit for the Celebrating Compassion Gala

| No TrackBacks
Mercy For Animals has a Celebrating Compassion Gala event this weekend, so we've edited a new trailer to fire up the guests and get them interested in Fowl Play. If I embed it here it just starts playing recklessly, but you can watch it on the main Fowl Play site or on its page at Blip.tv.

Consuela's story

| No TrackBacks
This amazing story was originally published at madison.com, but the site isn't currently serving up the text properly:

Breaking Chickens For The Eggs
Rescued Hen Shows Harsh Factory Farm Life

The Capital Times :: FRONT :: A1
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
By SUSAN TROLLER The Capital Times

Liz and Garrett Perry were dropping off scrap lumber and old shingles from a garage roofing project at the Deer Track Park landfill when they saw what appeared to be a bloody chicken, darting between the big trash-bearing rigs roaring through the massive dump just off Interstate 94 near Johnson Creek.

It was a hot, windy day in May, and Liz Perry remembers being eager to leave the bleak moonscape of the landfill, where debris and dust blew in her eyes and mouth.

"It's pretty nasty in there, with the smell and the noise and everything," Perry said. "So I just shouted, 'Garrett, we have to catch that poor chicken!' "

They jumped out of their pickup truck, whipped off the brightly colored vests the landfill requires visitors to wear and began using the blaze-yellow garments as impromptu nets to capture the frightened bird.

"Once we caught her, we realized she wasn't really bloody but just horribly sunburned because she was missing so many feathers," Perry explained. As the Perrys pulled out of Deer Track Park, Garrett asked a worker why there were live chickens in the landfill.

He was told that large egg farms dump hen carcasses and that occasionally the loads contained live chickens that apparently had survived the gassing process that was supposed to euthanize them.

"She didn't seem particularly surprised," Liz Perry said.

When Garrett asked what commonly happens to the leftover survivors, he was told they were run over by trucks.

The chicken the Perrys found was likely a hen from a load of what are known as "spent" hens sent from Creekwood Farms Inc., a large egg farm located outside of Lake Mills that regularly uses the landfill to dump its chickens. The bird they found had been debeaked, which is common among factory birds to prevent them from pecking other chickens.

FROM EGGS TO LANDFILLS: Creekwood is one of several Wisconsin high-volume egg farms with more than a million birds laying eggs every day. Spent hens are chickens that are no longer producing enough eggs to be profitable and are a regular byproduct of egg farms, according to Ron Kean, a poultry expert at the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Generally, he said, factory birds begin laying eggs at about 18 weeks and go through two laying cycles before their production begins to wane. Often before they are 2 years old they are euthanized with carbon dioxide, and the carcasses are sent to landfills like Deer Track Park.

Lynn Morgan, a spokesperson for Waste Management Co., which operates Deer Track Park, confirmed that Creekwood is now the landfill's only egg farm customer. She said that in 2006, Creekwood brought containers of dead chickens to the landfill during four different months, and that so far in 2007 they delivered carcasses during two months.

Morgan said the carcasses are delivered in large containers similar to those commonly used at construction sites.

"It certainly would be our expectation that the loads of chicken carcasses we receive would be fully deceased," she said. "I would hope it was an isolated incident."

Gassing is a euthanasia method approved by the Association of Veterinary Medicine Association as humane. The bodies of the spent hens are often landfilled rather than used for food or other products because processing small, thin birds like those used for producing eggs is too expensive to justify the cost, Kean said.

According to officials from the state Department of Natural Resources and compliance officers from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, state law prohibits dumping live animals at a landfill.

The numbers of chickens dumped from big egg producers like Creekwood Farms can be large. Kean estimated that as many as 100,000 hens at a time can be removed from an entire chicken shed and euthanized.

That is not only an acceptable practice but a preferred practice, according to Kean, because it means the birds' housing can be thoroughly cleaned before a fresh group of young hens is brought in.

Creekwood Farms is owned by ESI Holding Corp., a Wisconsin corporation. ESI is wholly owned by Cham Food Ltd. of Israel.

Lee Felmlee, Creekwood general manager, said she was shocked when she heard that chickens were not entirely euthanized when they were delivered to Deer Track Park to be landfilled.

"We have zero tolerance for this," she said.

She explained that the crew doing the euthanasia apparently did not go through a full kill process, and that farm management was looking into how it happened and who was responsible. "We're acting on it quickly so it will not happen again," she said. She said it was an isolated incident.

But when a reporter delivered trash to Deer Track Park recently and asked about live chickens at the landfill, a worker confirmed what the Perrys were told. He said he had seen as many as nine live birds at a time that he thought were "wore out chickens from the egg farm."

THE RECOVERY OF "CONSUELA MAY": Liz Perry was barely out of the landfill when she decided to try to save the chicken they'd found and keep it as a pet, if possible. Because she didn't know what the hen's condition actually was, her first stop was at a veterinary clinic.

"I've never examined a bird so incredibly thin," said Dr. Jody Bearman of Animal Holistic Care Specialists of Wisconsin in Marshall. The bird was dehydrated, frightened and missing many feathers, but did not appear sick, Bearman said. She recommended good food and water, a quiet environment and holistic care such as acupuncture and herbal remedies.

Perry wanted to take her chicken home to Waterloo, but local ordinances forbid keeping chickens in the city. In Madison, however, a relatively recent ordinance allows city dwellers to keep up to four hens on their property, and Perry was able to find a foster home for her bird in a quiet coop off East Johnson Street.

Perry, who owns Nutzymutz and Crazycats, a Madison natural pet food and supply store, sees her new chicken frequently.

In less than three months, the small White Leghorn hen has grown her feathers back and has gained weight. She shares her coop with another pet chicken named Cosette and lays eggs nearly every day. Perry named the rescued hen Consuela May.

"Consuela means consolation. And May is when we found her," Perry said.

Local independent filmmakers Robert Lughai and Tashai Lovington are working on a feature-length documentary called Mad City Chickens that focuses on backyard chicken enthusiasts and urban chicken flocks.

It's not just a Madison phenomenon.

"Seattle, Los Angeles ... it's going on in cities all over and it's growing. In a lot of cases, I think people want more control over their food. Well, and some people have chickens as pets instead of a parakeet," Lovington said.

Alicia Rheal is the president of MadCity Chickens, a loosely organized group of backyard chicken farmers.

In an e-mail she wrote, "I think I can speak for most, when I say we chicken owners are anti-corporate eggs. ... The treatment of these animals is horrendous, and the quality of eggs is poor ... and you just don't know what is being fed to the hens."

STANDARDS OF INDUSTRY: Americans ate 256 eggs per capita in 2006, according to statistics from the American Egg Board. The vast majority of the approximately 80 billion eggs come, not surprisingly, from mass production factory farms.

Poultry specialist Kean said he has been in many large-scale egg operations that he thinks are well-run and comfortable.

"I've been in (chicken) houses that are very nice. But you only see the bad situations when there's some kind of problem," he said.

As for Perry, she says she is trying to learn about factory farming issues, particularly when it comes to chickens, ever since she picked up Consuela from the landfill.

"It's horrible that live chickens would be in containers with a whole bunch of dead chickens, and then would run around, suffering in a landfill until they die one way or another," she said.

She says she sees some of the big egg farms' routine practices as almost equally disturbing.

"These laying chickens aren't bred for anything except producing eggs, so the little male chicks have no value at all. They are killed when they are just a day old, and the usual practice is to grind them up alive and turn them into mink or other animal feed," Perry said with a shudder.

The UW's Kean confirmed that this was, indeed, common, but that generally the chicks were fed into a vacuum tube that had them hit a plate before they went into the grinder so they would be stunned and unconscious prior to death. The practice is called maceration, and when administered properly, is considered humane by the standards established by the AVMA.

Perry also said that chickens at many egg factory farms are kept in what are known as battery cages, which the Humane Society of the United States calls "one of the worst factory farm abuses."

"These cages are so small that the hens can't stand fully upright, or engage in activities like stretching their wings, or preening, or bathing in the dust. They are deprived of any of the normal behaviors that chickens need to do," Perry said.

In Europe, the use of battery cages for hens is being phased out, with a deadline for their complete elimination in 2012.

Another egg farm practice Perry cited as particularly harsh involves withdrawing food from the hens to force a molting period for the birds. After molting, there is a surge in egg production.

According to United Egg Producers, 85 to 90 percent of U.S. egg farms abide by a set of scientifically developed and industry-designed standards for animal welfare that discourage food withdrawal as a method to encourage molting. All standards relating to how chickens are housed and handled are at this time entirely voluntary.

HANDLING EGGS, CREEKWOOD FARM: After hearing of live chickens at the landfill, Barb Palecek, of the DNR, said she was immediately concerned that it sounded like a case of animal mistreatment that went beyond her jurisdiction with trash disposal issues.

Palecek contacted Deer Track Park management, and she also alerted Cindy Partridge, a compliance officer in the animal health division of the DATCP.

Partridge said she sent an investigator out to Creekwood Farm the day after she heard from Palecek. "I want to make it clear that this kind of practice is not in any way acceptable, and I think the farm is taking this very seriously," Partridge said. "If they had not been responsive, we would have involved the local police as a 'crimes against animals' case."

Dr. Yvonne Bellay, the state's humane officer, confirmed that the use of carbon dioxide gas for killing poultry is a widely accepted practice approved by the AVMA when properly administered. She said that the law relating to cruelty to animals in Wisconsin is fairly broad and fairly general.

"If people are looking for standards (regarding treatment), generally they need to look at industry standards," Bellay said.

"In general, I think there's more of an awareness of animal welfare in agriculture. The best example is the changes we're seeing in the fast-food industry," she said. There seems to be increased pressure, she added, from consumers who want to believe their food was raised properly and humanely.

But she also said that people want and depend on a system that provides reliably available and inexpensive food.

This spring, the UW-Madison Food Service Department and the local franchise for Bruegger's Bagels earned kudos from the Humane Society of the United States when they joined an expanding number of universities, restaurants and retailers that require that all the eggs they use come from cage-free hens.

Fran Onofrio, a spokesman for Bruegger's, said they have gotten positive comments for the change in policy, but have seen no sales increase. "We'll keep monitoring it," Onofrio said.

Lori Nitzel, an attorney and director of the Madison-based Alliance for Animals, said that she was not surprised that a live chicken was dumped in a landfill with carcasses.

"In the industry, it's not atypical. I just hadn't heard about it before in Wisconsin," she said. "Overall, these (factory) chickens are not seen as animals. They're simply a commodity and are not treated as living beings," Nitzel said.

She noted that chickens, particularly, have few protections, although they make up 90 percent of the animals in agriculture in the United States. "They don't exactly invite us in, and so it's really hard to lift the corporate veil to see what the conditions actually are for the birds."

"Basically, if you're a chicken," Nitzel said, "you want to be born in Europe."

stroller@madison.com