Thousands of animals have been unlucky enough to find themselves here. It's no place to be.

The issue of animal testing is a hot one, but what's going on here is stunning by any measure. And we're funding it.Trigger warning: This post describes animal mistreatment, and the video below contains descriptions and scenes some may find disturbing.

50 years ago, Congress decided to bring together all of the agriculture research conducted by the Department of Agriculture.

Congress created the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, or USMARC.

USMARC's work is about keeping the meat industry in the game as sales shift to poultry, fish, and produce. This little-known complex outside Clay Center, Nebraska, does help to check the spread of livestock diseases and promote food safety standards. But many of its efforts involve finding new ways to make beef, pork, and lamb cheaper to produce and taste better.


Some of USMARC's experiments have been revealed as shockingly brutal.

The landmark Animal Welfare Act passed by Congress in 1966 protects the rights of animals to some extent. It's an important law for people who care about animals.

But there's a giant loophole in the Animal Welfare Act:

It doesn't apply to farm animals raised for food.

They're on their own. And it's this giant loophole that makes USMARC's horrifying experiments legal.

The Department of Agriculture hasn't seemed interested in policing USMARC, and so it does what it wants.

They've been engineering pig reproduction.

The center has been operating on pigs' ovaries and brains to make the pigs more fertile.

Scientists who aren't surgeons operate on the animals.

Sows now produce up to 14 piglets at a time; eight is the natural size of a litter. The piglets are weak, though, and the pork industry finds that about 10 million piglets are accidentally crushed to death by their mothers every year, with these larger litters being a factor.

Some of the experiments create new problems the center then tries to fix with yet more experiments. For example, they've bred pigs that produce leaner meat, but they're infertile.

They've been breeding cows to produce twins and triplets.

Normally, cows birth one calf at a time. The twin and triplet calves are often born sickly or deformed, and many of them die.

Then there's the "easy-care" sheep.

Maybe the most heartless treatment of all is reserved for the sheep. USMARC is attempting to take this domesticated animal and breed it to take care of itself in the wild to save ranchers money.

In the program, sheep give birth outside, and the center watches to see if ewes protect their newborns from predators, starvation, and weather. They're hoping that if the babies become desperate enough, their moms will respond.

Sheep are notoriously disinterested mothers, though, so they mostly don't. And on some days, 30% to 40% of the newborns are dead within a day, with others not lasting much longer. On Mother's Day 2014, for example, researchers retrieved 25 bodies. This has been going on since 2004.

Whistle blown.

If veterinarian and scientist James Keen, who worked at USMARC for 24 years, hadn't approached the New York Times a year ago with the story, we'd probably still know nothing about what goes on inside USMARC's locked security fences. His information led to a harrowing article in the Times.

Here's the Times' interview with Keen:

The article has gotten people's attention.

In February 2015, government officials finally started dealing with USMARC as a result of the Times article.

Lawmakers from both parties and in both houses of Congress introduced the Aware Act, which for the first time would extend protections to farm animals like those at USMARC. This level of agreement between the political parties is surprising — and awesome, really.

In the meantime, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has begun an inquiry to help bring this abuse to an end quickly.

This is all great news.

It's important that the politicians know that voters care about these animals. After all, proposing a law is one thing. Getting it passed is another. And the battle's not over until that happens.

If you can, contact your legislators to let them know how you feel about USMARC and the Aware Act. Let's get this done.

Heroes
Youtube

Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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