The Perseverance Issue, our 8th edition, is here to uplift you, give you strength and remind you that we are at our best when we help one another. We are at our best when we serve our communities and when we unite to protect our sacred planet and all of its inhabitants. Grab your print or digital copy in our Online Shop now.

Our cover features the LA-based vegan chef and community activist Lorena Ramirez who is proudly centering her Mexican heritage in her mission to make veganism inclusive to all. Inside are stories of activists, animal rescuers and vegan creators who embody the spirit of resilience and determination.

Throughout the issue, we celebrate courage, fortitude and altruism.

There’s comfort, inspiration and healing through stories and interviews with the likes of Genesis Butler, Morgan Mitchell, Lauren Toyota, Beca Lew Skeels, Brenda Sanders, and many more community builders. We delve into the realities of full time animal rights activism, offer in depth reporting on the devastating impacts of animal agriculture, and on vigilance in upholding equality and justice.

WE are here for you. We are steadfast in our mission to shift society through art and to inspire others to reject exploitation in all of its forms. LAIKA’s 8th issue is available in our online store in print or digital.

On the Cover: Photographed by Maria Del Rio for LAIKA Magazine; creative direction by Julie Gueraseva; prop styling by Lauren Santos. 

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Sunday, November 3, 2019

Why Laika the Space Dog is All Animals

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On November 3, 1957, Laika became the first living being to orbit the Earth. She was launched on Sputnik 2 as part of the Soviet space exploration program, with the USSR locked in a heated race against the United States to conquer space.

A stray mutt from the streets of Moscow, Laika was described as being calm and quiet, complying obediently with her training. It included standing still for long periods of time, wearing space suits, being placed in simulators that replicated the high acceleration of a rocket launch and being kept in progressively smaller cages to prepare her for the confines of the space module. Oblivious to the plans set in place for her, Laika unequivocally trusted her caretakers, who ended up betraying her. The space shuttle was designed to not be retrievable.

Laika in the midst of her training.

Laika in the midst of her training.

She died within hours of the launch from extreme stress and overheating. Her heart was beating at triple its normal rate, and she was subjected to temperatures topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit as the capsule’s cooling system failed to be effective. Sputnik 2 continued to orbit the Earth for five months with her remains, disintegrating upon reentry into the atmosphere.

Laika in her capsule, in preparation for her launch.

Altogether, the USSR sent 48 dogs into space. Three years after Laika’s launch, Oleg Gazenko, a senior Soviet scientist involved in the project, adopted a dog from another space mission – Krasavka. She lived out the rest of her life with his family for 14 years. Gazenko carried the guilt of sending Laika to her death for decades. “The more time passes, the more I’m sorry about it. We shouldn’t have done it. We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog,” he stated during a Moscow press conference in 1998. “When you understand that you can’t bring back Laika, that she perishes out there, and that no one can bring her back…that is a very heavy feeling. After I returned to Moscow from the launch, I left town. I wanted to isolate myself,” he told a Russian reporter at the time.

During many years of Soviet state propaganda, Laika’s launch into space was lauded as heroic, even though she never gave consent to participate in her own demise. Monuments were built in her honor, and her likeness was used to sell everything from cigarette cartons to children’s toys.

So why does Laika’s story still matter so much? Because every year over 50 billion farm animals are sent to their untimely deaths – nearly eight times the human population. These numbers don’t include the billions used for fashion, sport and entertainment. Their suffering is as profound as Laika’s was in that space capsule. And just like Laika, they are commodities who are turned into products for human use, whose needs are disregarded and whose innate status as sentient beings is erased.

Sheep Animal Agriculture

A sheep at a stockyard being sold for slaughter. (Photo: Bear Witness Australia)

Laika’s story represents not only the continued needless exploitation of animals at the hands of humans, but our paradoxical and arrogant relationship with them. In their innocence and vulnerability, they look to us for mercy and protection. But we betray them. In so many ways, we are just like that guilt-ridden scientist; we search for loopholes in our conscience, like “humanely-raised meat.” But there is no humane way to force your will on another. There is no gain in exploiting other living beings, there is only loss — the loss of our humanity.

LAIKA Magazine is a tribute to Laika the space dog and to all animals treated unjustly. It is a message of hope that we can repair and rebuild our relationship with our fellow earthlings. In the pages of LAIKA lies proof that it is entirely possible to live a life free of harming others. This life is possible for each one of us, thanks to our sense of compassion and our ability to discern between right and wrong. Veganism is simply an actionable way of following what’s already in our hearts.

 

by Julie Gueraseva

Imagine being removed from your mother’s care at birth. As you instinctively long for the nurture that only she can provide, you are instead deposited into a filthy plastic hutch and angrily force fed from a plastic bottle. And if you don’t drink, you are kicked in the face. This is the kind of brutality that was uncovered by the non-profit Animal Recovery Mission [ARM] at Indiana’s Fair Oaks Farms, the flagship dairy farm of Fairlife, a Coca-Cola subsidiary. In two videos released earlier this month, Fair Oaks employees are seen inflicting astonishing abuse on newborn animals and mother dairy cows. The two-part investigation — Operation Fair Oaks Farms Dairy Adventure and Operation Fairlife — is the largest ever conducted into the dairy industry and took place over the course of several months in 2018 and 2019.

 

Fair Oaks Farms has long billed itself as an industry leader in animal welfare. Here, they claimed, calves were “spoiled,” and employees were rigorously trained to provide “utmost respect” to cows. But ARM’s footage and subsequent 125-page report reflected how on a routine basis, calves were allowed to starve, denied medical attention, subjected to extreme temperatures, punched, thrown, slapped, and burned with hot branding irons by Fair Oaks employees. Mother cows were documented losing their voice from screaming for their offspring, left to suffer from broken tails inflicted by frustrated workers, being beaten for not entering a milking carousel and then getting caught in machinery.

An agritourism destination geared at families, where for $29 you can go on a Dairy Adventure tour and “enjoy” live birthing exhibits, 4D movies and even a rock-climbing wall, Fair Oaks Farms has always publicly denied that its male calves are killed for veal. However, the investigation revealed calves being crowded into trucks and transported to MidWest Veal.

Since being released, the horrific videos have been viewed by millions, shared by the likes of singer Billie Eilish, and received unprecedented media coverage. Protests have taken place in Chicago and Atlanta, pressuring Coca-Cola to drop Fairlife, with more scheduled. Three Fair Oaks workers have been charged by the Newton County Sheriff’s Office with a Class A misdemeanor; one has been arrested, and two are still at large. Four proposed class action lawsuits have been filed against Fairlife for engaging in consumer fraud, one of which names Coca-Cola as a co-defendant. Many grocery chains, including Jewel-Osco, have pulled Fairlife from shelves.

Fairlife dairy cruelty

At Fair Oaks Farms, calves are kept exposed to the elements, whether boiling heat or freezing cold. Here, ARM’s undercover investigator documents a temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit. There have been no plans made by Fair Oaks or Fairlife to eliminate this form of confinement, as that is “standard practice” in the dairy industry. (Video still courtesy of ARM)

Fair Oaks Farms, Fairlife and Coca-Cola have all put out statements promising various measures like imposing zero-tolerance animal cruelty policies and unannounced audits to ensure “there are no systemic animal welfare issues.” According to ARM, the Fair Oaks facilities were already equipped with their own surveillance which did not deter cruelty. LAIKA spoke with ARM’s founder Richard “Kudo” Couto about the impact of the investigation and why the dairy industry is by definition an animal welfare issue.

LAIKA: How would you describe your big picture outlook?
Richard Couto: As an investigator, I investigate to put the bad guy in jail or in prison. But with factory farm investigations, [the goal] is more towards educating the public on what’s really going on in the world of animal agriculture and what’s been hidden — the lies that people have been told for so long. Especially in the dairy industry. I’ve been lied to most of my life, and I feel betrayed. Which is why I’ve taken on the dairy industry the way I have. My plan is to end the dairy industry. And, listen, with ARM or without ARM, it’s around the corner. It’s an industry that’s failing. People are starting to understand the health implications, the environmental implications. And now, with ARM and other defense organizations’ investigations, people are understanding how the animals are treated, that there are no happy cows in dairies. It’s a fallacy. It’s a fictitious story made up by the industry.

“My plan is to end the dairy industry.”

Do we as a movement push for welfare reform and more humane conditions or direct our energy towards, like you said, just shutting the whole thing down?
There’s no welfare reform in a dairy operation. It doesn’t exist. I am a professional investigator. If I knew that there were ways to reform the dairy industry, I would be the first one to do it. Unfortunately, that is not reality. Just ripping a baby away from its mother — I don’t care what [animal] it is, a dog, a cat or a cow — puts that animal and that baby in jeopardy and is inherently cruel. And as many are starting to understand, that’s the real basis of the dairy industry. So how do you change that? You don’t, you can’t.

That’s the foundation of their business model.
Well it is. Yeah. My question to [Fair Oaks owner] Mike McCloskey was, ‘I’ve shown you behind the scenes of your own operations and the brutality and the jeopardy that you’re putting the newborn babies in. [Will] you keep the babies right when they’re born with their mothers, at least until they’re weaned which is about three or four months old?’ And he hasn’t responded to me and that’s why he hasn’t gone public in person or given interviews. Because he’s going to be asked questions that he just cannot answer as a dairyman.

What was your reaction to the video that McCloskey put out where he was on the verge of tears?
Mike McCloskey is a dairyman and has been all of his life. He knows exactly what transpires in a dairy. He knows how calves are loaded up for transport, how frustrated the workers become when the babies won’t eat. He knows many of the babies won’t eat. He knows the extreme temperatures in summer and winter that they’re dying from. What we have shown him, what we have shown the world, is nothing new to the dairy industry. As far as him tearing up, it was a show. Michael McCloskey has built a multimillion dollar company, and I know the guy is a genius businessman. He is in damage control mode right now. So he, I’m certain, is surrounded by PR companies, by his attorneys. It is so incredibly unprofessional and childish to address such an immense issue through a YouTube post. It’s laughable.

That behavior is emblematic of the dairy industry’s deception in many ways, isn’t it?
It’s a guilty party addressing the public is what it is. It’s someone that needs to make sure that the message is correct. Which is why it was edited and why they don’t want Q & A’s. Because [McCloskey] can’t properly answer them.

Some people might ask why not go public at the first instance of abuse. What’s your take on that?
The first investigation ended in November, but we had other investigations going on simultaneously and after. I don’t go public with any case until all of my investigators are out of the field if we’re investigating one company or one geographical area. I’m responsible for the safety of those investigators. Until everyone is finished, no one goes public. Our ID can’t be blown until I have all my guys out of the field. Our job as an investigator is to get to the root of the issue, to show [that it’s] not just one kick of an animal, but that it’s an ongoing issue. And it’s an industry issue, which is why we did more than one investigation at once on Fairlife.

You’ve called for charges to also be brought against McCloskey. Why is that important?
If you have a individual that is paying people, and they’re committing crimes against animals, and it’s not just one or two crimes, but it happens on a daily basis, on an hourly basis for months and months, then that owner should be charged legally. And, you know, of course it’s not gonna happen. Fair Oaks Farms basically controls the town of Newton County, Indiana. [Because of ] the connections that they have with [authorities], it would never happen.
From the editor: Since our interview with Couto, the Newton County prosecutor’s office has alleged that ARM “coerced” the violence they recorded. ARM categorically denies the claims and points to prosecutor Jeff Drinski’s conflict of interest (his daughter is a Fair Oaks employee, his family is a member of the “We Stand With Fair Oaks Farms” Facebook group, and Drinski himself is a partner in a beef cattle operation.)

Aside from the media coverage and the convictions, what is your hope for the outcome from the Fairlife investigation?
Knowing how easy it was for me to give up dairy and go plant-based — it was so easy, and I was such a big, big dairy consumer, I loved it — [it] is to see alternative dairy products skyrocket from this investigation. Your average family is now sitting back and saying, ‘Okay, this is a really bad investigation and that abuse was awful. But we’re also hearing that all the milk brands are awful, so maybe we should try almond milk this week.’ So [I want] for that really to radiate around the world. This investigation, [and] ARM, were specifically put together to get to your average American Joe and Jane. We are very relatable to those people because most of us are those people. We were big meat eaters and dairy consumers not too long ago. A lot of people don’t put themselves in that animal’s position. But I think once you do that, you get it, you know?

Story and interview by Julie Gueraseva


Go Dairy-Free

If you’re looking to eliminate dairy cheese, try these brands:
Miyoko’s Creamery, Follow Your Heart, Daiya, Kite Hill, So Delicious, Treeline, Violife.

If you’re looking to eliminate dairy milk, try these brands:
Oatly, Silk, Califia, Ripple, Edensoy, Elmhurst, So Delicious, Rice Dream.

Make this delicious vegan ice cream sandwich at home!