Tag Archives: brutal

American attitudes toward animals are shifting

Ever since WiG added a pet section last year, countless stories have come to our attention demonstrating the surprising lengths that Americans go to care for their furry friends. At a time when senseless violence dominates the news, greed overwhelms our society and hateful, divisive rhetoric guides our political process, these stories remind us that the human heart still beats strong.

The manner in which people treat animals says a lot about them. Psychologists have discovered a strong correlation between cruelty to animals and a predisposition for violence toward people, marking them as a threat to society.

Although most animal abuse cases go unreported, those that do come to public attention face increasingly harsh penalties. Before 1986, only four states had felony animal cruelty laws on their books. Today, all 50 states have such laws, although punishments vary greatly in severity.

In addition to concern about their pets, a growing number of people are also questioning the treatment of the domesticated animals we eat. Scientists have discovered that mammals raised as food, like those bred for human companionship, possess the same levels of self-awareness, intelligence, personalities and emotions that pets do. That’s an uncomfortable thing for people who enjoy a pork chop or a steak to consider.

Until very recently the treatment of “farmed” animals was largely overlooked. A growing number of revelations about the brutal, torturous conditions under which factory farm animals suffer, however, has made it all but impossible to ignore the cruelty any longer.

Paul McCartney once said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all be vegetarians.”  Posing as slaughterhouse workers, members of groups such as Mercy for Animals have made and released numerous videos of the heinous abuse that awaits factory farm animals at the end of their miserable lives. They’ve lifted the curtains.

In response, Big Ag has given money to lawmakers to introduce so-called “ag-gag” bills that make it a crime to video or photograph abuse. Eight states have enacted such laws, but a federal judge struck down a bill in Idaho, raising First Amendment questions about all such laws.

Wisconsin Republicans planned to introduce an ag-gag law in the state last year but apparently decided to put the idea on hold.

The revelations about factory farms are changing how Americans eat. The number of vegetarians and vegans in the United States skyrocketed from 1 percent in 2009 to 5 percent — or 16 million people — last year. Raw Food World reports that roughly 42 percent of people who’ve given up consumption of animal products cite an educational film with prompting their decision. Sixty-nine percent said they chose to eat a vegan diet to support the ethical treatment of animals.

Food producers didn’t object to the cruelty, but they are responding to the shift in consumer behavior. In October, Starbucks joined McDonald’s, Unilever, Burger King, Walmart and other major food providers in setting a specific timeline to switch over to cage-free egg suppliers. Although the term “cage free” doesn’t mean what it sounds like, it’s better than the alternative.

But male chicks continue to be dumped alive into meat grinders.

Aware consumers are also influencing lawmakers. Nine states, including the agricultural behemoth California, have banned battery cages, which pile chickens together in such small quarters that many are crushed to death. States have also banned gestation crates, which confine pregnant pigs to cages so small that they can’t stand or move.

Those actions represent the start of a revolution in the way Americans think about the treatment of animals, and we urge readers to join in. Support animal welfare groups. Contact your elected officials are urge them to vote no on bills such as ag gag. Ask restaurants if they use “cage free” eggs and where they source their meat and dairy products.

As Czech writer Milan Kundera put it, “Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test … consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”

See also:

Majority of Ashland, Bayfield county residents oppose proposed mega hog farm

Petco drops small-animal supplier amid federal probe

Idaho appeals ruling against state’s ‘ag-gag’ law

The state of Idaho is appealing a federal court’s decision to overturn the state’s “ag-gag” law.

The law makes it a crime to videotape agriculture operations. Idaho lawmakers passed the law in 2014 after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of weak, dying cows being beaten and stomped on at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their business.

The vicious brutality caught on video sparked a consumer backlash, as did the images of sickly, terrified cows covered with ulcers and feces being prodded with electrical rods into slaughter tunnels.

The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, shot in 2012 at Bettencourt Dairy.

Similar conditions have been documented in other states, including Wisconsin. Republican “pro-business” legislators in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee and other states have either passed or tried to pass legislation similar to Utah’s in order to protect companies from public exposure of the squalid, brutal conditions under which animals are kept in factory farms/

A federal court invalidated Utah’s law in August, holding that it violates the First Amendment.

The state appealed that ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The picture shown here is known as a “death pile.” After being crammed into spaces so small they can’t move and loaded with steroids, hormones and anibiotics to make them grow, factory farm animals end up in piles like this before their parts are butchered and sold in shiny cellophane-wrapped packages on supermarket shelves. Their short lives are lived amid conditions of unimaginable brutality and squalor.

Mother convicted of murdering 4-year-old she thought was gay

Oregon jurors took a little more than an hour to convict a 25-year-old woman of murder in the death of her 4-year-old son. A prosecutor who emphasized that the boy’s sister had witnessed the fatal beating said earlier that a motive behind the violence was the woman’s belief that the boy was gay.

Sentencing for Jessica Dutro was set for April 18 in Washington County Circuit Court.

Little Zachary Dutro-Boggess died of intestinal tears caused by abdominal trauma, The Oregonian reported. He collapsed at the homeless shelter where his family was living southwest of Portland.

Jurors were told that Zachary’s then-7-year-old sister watched her mother and her mother’s boyfriend beat the boy on Aug. 12, 2012.

“They beat up my brother, then he died,” the girl told her counselor. “I seen them.”

The boyfriend, Brian Canady, earlier pleaded guilty to manslaughter and assault for his role in the boy’s death.

The case drew widespread attention after prosecutors asked the court to allow Facebook messages from Dutro into evidence.

In one message to her boyfriend, Dutro wrote using a slur that Zachary would be gay. “He walks like it and talks like it ugh,” she wrote. That made her angry, she added, and directed Canady to “work on” Zachary “big time.”

Prosecutor Megan Johnson told the court the message showed Dutro’s motive for subjecting Zachary to a pattern of abuse. Judge Don Letourneau deemed the message admissible.

Defense lawyer Chris Colburn said the message did not prove any motive on Dutro’s part. Colburn argued none of the evidence tied Dutro to the crime.

In her closing argument, Johnson focused on the little girl’s words, rather than on the Facebook messages.

In his closing, Colburn addressed the Facebook comments and Dutro’s use of a slur.

What she wrote was meant as a joke, he said. While it was offensive, he said it would be ridiculous to draw a connection between the message and the little boy’s death.

Video shows police allow dogs to attack man, Amnesty seeks investigation

The Papua New Guinea authorities must carry out an independent investigation into alleged brutality by a police dog squad, after a graphic video depicted a seemingly defenseless man being repeatedly attacked, said Amnesty International. 

In the film, which has been shared on social media, the man is seen sitting on the ground, surrounded by officers holding three leashed dogs as they lunge and attack him.

While the footage has not yet been verified, it raises serious concerns about torture and other ill-treatment by police, said Amnesty in a statement to the press. Amnesty spokeswoman Rosean Rife said, “This appalling incident raises serious questions about police brutality.

“The Papua New Guinea authorities must act on this shocking footage and immediately initiate an independent investigation. Torture is unacceptable under any circumstances and those responsible must be brought to justice. The seriousness of this incident is highlighted by this man’s humiliation and his screams of pain. It is difficult to watch.”

A marked police vehicle and officers in uniforms are clearly visible in the video.

At the end of the film, the man manages to escape and runs off into the distance.

“It is unknown what injuries the man sustained, if he received any medical treatment after the ordeal, or if he was subsequently taken into custody,” Rife added.

The organization is calling for public assurances and actions to back it up by the Papua New Guinea government that torture and other ill-treatment by military, police or prison officers will not be tolerated under any circumstances.

On the Web: The video, with a warning about the images, is here.

Colleagues detained and released in death of gay activist in Cameroon

Police in Cameroon held two employees of a human rights organization for three days in connection with the killing of a prominent gay rights activist, their lawyer said, sparking criticism over how the investigation is being handled.

The two employees, Michel Engama and Cedric Mbarga, were released on July 30 without charge, said Michel Togue, a member of the legal team representing them as well as the family of the slain activist, Eric Ohena Lembembe.

Engama and Mbarga worked with Lembembe at CAMFAIDS, a human rights organization based in the capital of Yaounde, and were among the last people to see him alive on July 12, Togue said. Three days later, Lembembe’s body was discovered at his home bearing signs of torture.

Lembembe’s friends suspect he was killed over his activism. Just weeks before his death, he had warned about the threat posed by “anti-gay thugs” in Cameroon, one of the most hostile countries for sexual minorities in sub-Saharan Africa.

Human Rights Watch had earlier expressed doubt over whether law enforcement officials were willing and able to carry out a thorough, effective investigation of Lembembe’s death, pointing out that previous incidents of anti-gay threats and violence had only resulted in the taking of statements.

A law enforcement official in Yaounde, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, told The Associated Press that Lembembe’s colleagues had been arrested “to give the impression that headway is being made in the case.”

He said Lembembe’s case had “really embarrassed” President Paul Biya’s government. The killing drew statements of concern from France, Britain, the United States and the United Nations.

“There are fears that Cameroon may be further blacklisted by donors and denied foreign aid in the near future,” the official said. “But the investigation was flawed from the start. The interrogators arrived at the scene of the murder several hours late, and all they did was collect testimonies from the late Lembembe’s neighbors. I think they are onto the wrong lead.”

Togue said the two rights workers should not have been held for three days. Cameroon’s criminal procedure code says suspects can be held a maximum of 48 hours before being charged.

Law enforcement officials in Yaounde declined to speak on the record about the case.

The only official response from the government to Lembembe’s death was a statement on July 19 condemning the international media for tarnishing the country’s image and warning that future “provocative commentary” on the case would be illegal.

Jury convicts man in killing of transgender rapper in Milwaukee

One of five men charged in the gang-related killing of a Milwaukee rap artist has been convicted. 

A jury found 19-year-old Ashanti Mcalister guilty on June 27 of first-degree intentional homicide in the death of 22-year-old Evon Young, a transgender rapper who also was known as Yung LT. 

Young disappeared New Year’s Day. Police maintain that Mcalister and four others killed Young and disposed of him in a trash bin, but his body was never found. 

According to testimony, Mcalister delivered three shots to Young’s lifeless body after he was suffocated and strangled in the basement of his own home. 

Sentencing is set for Aug. 12. 

Another defendant testified against Mcalister as part of a plea deal, according to the AP.

A jury deadlocked in another defendant’s trial earlier this month. A new trial has been scheduled for September.

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3 get plea deals in anti-gay crime in NYC

Three reputed members of a New York City street gang accused of brutal anti-gay attacks on a teenage recruit and two others pleaded guilty to lesser charges this week after prosecutors said the victims wanted to avoid testifying at a trial.

The three members of the Latin King Goonies were initially charged with crimes including aggravated sexual abuse and assault as a hate crime, gang assault and burglary, prosecutors said. Their pleas June 20 ranged from burglary to attempted assault.

“The pleas were offered after lengthy consultation with the victims who wished to avoid having to testify, which might have had the effect of victimizing them again,” the District Attorney’s Office in the Bronx said in a statement. “Assistant District Attorney Theresa Gottleib told the court the people believed the pleas serve the interest of justice from society’s perspective as well as that of the victims.”

Prosecutors said that in October 2010, members of the gang went berserk after hearing a rumor that one of their new recruits, a 17-year-old from the Bronx, was gay. The teen was stripped, beaten and sexually assaulted with a plunger handle until he confessed to having had sex with a 30-year-old man who lives a few blocks away, prosecutors and police said at the time.

Then, the group grabbed a second teen they suspected was gay and tortured him, too, authorities said. Finally, they invited the 30-year-old to an abandoned house they used as a hangout, telling him they were having a party. When he arrived, they burned, beat and tortured him for hours, and the attack included sexually assaulting him with a miniature baseball bat, prosecutors said.

At the time, the case was one in a spate of alleged anti-gay attacks across the region, and it sparked horror and outrage among city lawmakers and the public who demanded justice.

Ten people were initially arrested, but charges against three were dropped. On June 20, David Rivera, 24, pleaded guilty to the most serious charge of burglary, admitting he went into the homes of two of the victims, flashed what appeared to be a gun and took cash, credit cards and electronics from the home. He will be sentenced to 13 years when he is sentenced July 29. His lawyer didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Nelson Falu, 20, pleaded guilty to robbery, admitting he stole from one of the victims after threatening them with a baseball bat. He will serve seven years behind bars when he is sentenced Aug. 9. His lawyer didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

Elmer Confresi, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted gang assault after admitting he injured one of the victims held in the basement. He will be sentenced July 29 to four years.

“He was minimally involved,” said his attorney Patrick Bruno. “I think the district attorney was equitable. They made the distinction.”

Charges against four others are still pending.

Gay New Yorker removed from life support after brutal attack

Doctors have removed a gay New Yorker from life support after he suffered a brutal beating on the streets of New York’s Queens borough.

A Greenwich Village music school administrator, Lou Rispoli is in hospice care at Elmhurst Hospital following an attack at on Oct. 20 near his Sunnyside home. Rispoli worked at the Greenwich House Music School.

New York City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who is gay and represents Sunnyside, fought back tears at an Oct. 25 press conference, reported Gay City News. He said the assault on Rispoli, whom he knew as a friend and someone who worked on his 2009 campaign, “is a tragedy for our neighborhood and our city.”

Friends told reporters that Rispoli was an insomniac who liked to take walks at night. They said he had left his house around midnight.

Witnesses said two men approached him around 2:15 a.m., and one hit him in the head with a stick.

Rispoli is 62 years old.

Police said no arrests have been made, although Van Bramer said it was hard to believe that someone would get away with the crime.

Gay bashers storm bar in Moscow

Two dozen masked men stormed one of Moscow’s most popular gay bars early Thursday morning and brutally beat patrons — most of them women — with fists and bottles. More than 10 people were injured, and three women and a man were hospitalized after the attack, which coincided with a “Coming Out Day” party, The New York Times reported.

Russia has been heavily criticized by members of the European Union and other nations for its blatant, institutionalized discrimination toward LGBT citizens.  In the past year, three cities, including St. Petersburg, passed laws criminalizing “homosexual propaganda” – i.e., writing or saying anything about LGBT people that is not condemning. The Russian Orthodox Church is attempting to nationalize the laws.

Moscow’s highest court upheld a law in August that bans gay Pride parades in the city for a century.

At the time of Thursday’s gay bashing, more than 50 people were celebrating at the bar 7freedays. According to witnesses, attackers wore surgical masks and hoods.

The men yelled, “You asked for a fight? Now you’ll get it,” and attacked, according to one witness. After beating everyone they could reach, the attackers ran out of the club before police arrived.

Nikolai Alekseyev, the founder of the Moscow Gay Pride movement, said the brazenness of the attack shows that anti-gay groups are  becoming increasingly aggressive. “They believe that they won’t be caught and won’t be punished for this,” he said.