Vicious beatings, crude instruments for prodding, verbal degradation, humiliation, chains and cuffs and megalomaniacal antagonists. While all of these sound like key elements from your humble narrator’s favourite Rob Zombie flick, they’re a part of everyday life for elephants in the Ringling Bros. Circus.

Last week PETA released the “fruits” of months of intense undercover investigation behind the largest and oldest traveling circus in the United States. Disturbing video footage screams loud and clear the heinous accounts of blatant animal abuse perpetrated against these gentle giants.

Former Jackass and circus entertainer, Steve-O, recently teamed up with PETA in this video to speak out against these crimes. If you can get past his silly laughter, he does make some good points.

A formal complaint has now been filed with the United States Department of Agriculture and all evidence collected has been submitted. It’s my hope that the beatings will stop and the elephants (and other animals) will instead be sent to sanctuaries to enjoy the rest of their lives in peace. If you’d like to lend your voice to the cause, please click here to easily send an e-mail to the USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture, Thomas J. Vilsack.


The other day, as I spooned myself a bowlful of yogurt with lunch, I decided to check out the ingredient list out of curiosity. I always like to know how much sugar I’m consuming. To my surprise, I discovered that my beloved Island Farms yogurt contains gelatin. After a quick e-mail to them, followed by a prompt and pleasant reply, I was happy to learn that a new line of 2% Pro-Plus yogurt was being introduced to the Island Farms family – and it’s gelatin-free! And not only that, Island Farms confirmed to me that all their ice cream is also gelatin-free. Phewf!

Island Farms Heaven

However, my discovery prompted me to do some further research into animal by-products in food. Imagine my upset over learning not only what rennet is, but also that it’s used in many, many cheeses to coagulate the milk.

What is rennet? A complex of enzymes derived from the inner stomach of baby calves and is therefore a by-product of the cattle slaughter industry.

Dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves are sliced into small pieces and then put into saltwater or whey, together with some vinegar or wine to lower the pH of the solution. After some time (overnight or several days), the solution is filtered. The crude rennet that remains in the filtered solution can then be used to coagulate milk. About 1 gram of this solution can normally coagulate 2000 to 4000 grams of milk. Today this method is used only by traditional cheese-makers in central Europe: Switzerland, Jura, France, Romania, and Alp-Sennereien in Austria.

Most hard cheeses, such as cheddar and Monterey Jack, list rennet as a key ingredient. Though thankfully, most varieties of mozzarella, brie (including Little Qualicum Cheeseworks’ brie), goat cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese, etc. is made without rennet. And further, many cheeses are now offered with a vegetarian-based coagulate. Read your labels, kids.

Lucky for me, all this means is being much more conscious about my grocery shopping selections instead of foregoing cheese altogether.

Jordy, Charley and myself are participating in this year’s BC-SPCA Paws For A Cause. Click here to read more about my personal fund-raising effort. If you would like to donate, hop on over to my personal campaign page. Many thanks for your generosity!

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  1. Are you sitting down? Gelatin and rennet aren’t the worst of the issues in the meat slaughter industry because they’re things we can suss out by reading the labels.

    Dairy cows must be kept pregnant in order to lactate regularly, providing us with milk for dairy products. Dairy, itself, isn’t without its issues related to the animal slaughter industry.

    Wikipedia ( says that 17% of the beef we consume has come from dairy cattle sources. We are all familiar with veal – calves that are produced from a dairy cow.

    Further, dairy cow life-spans are often cut short if the cow doesn’t produce a high enough amount of milk. These cows are bred on a 12-14 month cycle to ensure that they give as much milk as possible over their lives. They are sent to slaughter early if they fail to produce.

    We’re not generally made aware of the “goings-on” behind the scenes of our food supply; reading the label is only part of the story. It’s often difficult to get the real “scoop”, and find accurate information so that we can make truly informed choices for ourselves.

    Sorry for the downer!

    Breathe, and count to ten…. and don’t panic. There have to be choices and alternatives…. anyone?

  2. I think being conscious consumers is the best step we can take. The BC-SPCA has a page on their website that spotlights local companies and dairy, egg and meat producers that operate in a humane manner. This page can be found here.

    One thing I love about the Island is that many places allow you to visit and see the process first hand. I’ve visited a couple of farms that produce milk for Island Farms’ dairy products, and the cows are all free to roam in vast fields rather than being hooked up to milking machines 24/7. As such, I purposely go out of my way to obtain only Island Farms dairy products.

    None of us can be perfect in our personal pursuits, but every little bit helps and I’m grateful you shared this information!

  3. Hi Loxy.

    Oiler’s fan?

    I thought so.

    Keira. Would like to link to your blog. Oceanside Tourism speaks very highly of you.

  4. @Andrew – Thanks so much for stopping by! I’d be happy to do a link exchange with you. Consider your site added!

  5. Pingback: A Vancouver Island Girl’s Blog - » Blog Archive » 11TH ANNUAL ALPINE WINE FESTIVAL AT MOUNT WASHINGTON

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