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Help the Mepkin Monks

posted by awelborn

As Gashwin details, the Trappists of Mepkin Abbey in  SC have been run out of the egg business – their primary source of income – by PETA.
You can help them by shopping at their store.



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Margaret

posted December 21, 2007 at 12:30 am


I’m sure PETA will find a way to launch a cyber-attack against the store– the monks sell leather goods…



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wolftracker

posted December 21, 2007 at 7:59 am


To bad someone hasn’t run PETA out of its business, which is extortion and tortious interference with business operation. Do I hear a RICO indictment coming down on them. No, but we should for their efforts are racketeering, among other things.



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Patricia Gonzalez

posted December 21, 2007 at 12:03 pm


Can you believe these PETA idiots!!! If my husband wasn’t using our car today, I’d drive to Burger King and order a Triple Whopper, or whatever the biggest one is. I’m an animal lover to the bone (as our 3 cats could tell you!), but PETA are a bunch of fascists in their action against these monks. Bah, humbug on the lot of them, and may Santa load their stockings down with coal.



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Meggan

posted December 21, 2007 at 1:14 pm


I don’t agree with PETA and think that if they are going to go after the monks at Mepkin, they ought to go after other people in the egg biz as well. BUT… knowing how these hens are treated (in all egg operations – not just Mepkin) makes me sick.
But I still eat eggs. Yeah, I’m a hypocrite. But maybe sometimes PETA does get it right.



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Jim Dick

posted December 21, 2007 at 1:52 pm


I think we must help Mepkin Abbey to weather this change. I have recently spent a week at Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey and I like to believe that the prayers of these monks (and cloistered nuns too) help the world in unrecognized ways, praise God continuously, provide vital missionary work, and deserve our support. But I have to say that maybe it is time for Mepkin Abby to get out of the egg business if they can not make the change to more humane technologies and practices of producing eggs.
The demonization of PETA is misguided and unloving. The ethical treatment of animals has a profound biblical and theological basis. What society considers the details of its public morality continually changes, as do other ethical views, such as the ethics of slavery.
When we produce animals and animal products we must do it humanely and use the best known practices.



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Mark R

posted December 21, 2007 at 1:57 pm


I am married to a vegetarian who is anti-PETA. The eating of eggs is objectionable to them because veganism is against eating any animal by-product (dairy, eggs, honey) in addition to meat and fish. This smells like a publicity stunt, since the victims are not ordinary egg farmers.



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antonia

posted December 21, 2007 at 3:14 pm


I don’t much like PETA, but am appalled at how many Catholics seem to feel that it’s OK to be cruel to animals. God gave us rule over the animals, but as His agents, we are supposed to model our rule after His way of kingship. This means caring for the lower creatures.
I am not a vegan. I believe it to be impractical, probably impossible, in the fallen world. But kindness is possible, and imperative for Christians.
Free range, the best option, is not possible for all farm operations, given space constraints, not to mention the monks lifestyle requirements. However, cage-free raising, which allows chickens to roam freely in a barn, is also an acceptable way of farming chickens, and surely would be possible for the monks.
Also, it’s good evangelization. We’re supposed to show the culture how things should be done, not join in the faults of the current money-at-all-costs way of the world.



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Robert

posted December 21, 2007 at 3:21 pm


One would think that a national organization that had “ethical” in its name would act ethically. Such is not the case with PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA’s targeting of Mepkin Abbey, a small monastic community in South Carolina, as a means of attaking the national egg industry demonstrates that ethics are not part of PETA’s operating values. For 40 years the brothers of Mepkin abbey have operated a small egg business as a means of earning their livelihood. In meeting their are monastic obligation to earn their own living through work, the Mepkin brothers met and exceed the highest standards of the egg industry. PETA, whose standard would require everyone to give up eating eggs totally, clandestinely videoed the Mepkin hen house under the pretext of attending a spiritual retreat. Such retreats are without cost and offered at Mepkin as they have been at monassteries for more than 16 centuries. The brothers tradition of hospitality made them defenseless against a bully like PETA, apparently affraid to take on an organization their own size and their real target, the national ad industry. The real victims of this sad saga are not the hens. The real victims are the brothers of Mepkin and the people of the region who will be deprived of enjoying a unique regional delicacy, Mepkin eggs.



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William

posted December 21, 2007 at 4:12 pm


If the good monks at Mepkin go through with ending the egg production, I would suggest that they have a big “Chicken Fry” and reach out to PETA by inviting them.



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William

posted December 21, 2007 at 4:14 pm


I should have mentioned that Mepkin is only about 30 minutes from me and I know that the monks take very good care of the “lay sisters”. :)



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bill bannon

posted December 21, 2007 at 5:42 pm


Brutality toward animals can be avoided but death cannot and is never pleasant and death itself is really behind some of this extremism…and is not to be shunned in itself ever since God in Acts 10 told Peter to “KILL and eat” certain animals and fish that had previously been forbidden to Jews since they symbolized certain qualities prior to Christ. Thus God INCREASED the number of creatures that could be eaten by the Jewish Christians in the New Testament not decreased them.
Lobster had been forbidden in the old to the Jews since it was a crawling creature and Aquinas explained that crawling creatures stood for the person who hugs this earth too closely…so it was forbidden ritualistically not healthwise or morally. Once Christ came such hidden meaning, ritual laws were void as to observance but perdure as to their meanings which is why Christ said that not one jot or tittle of the law would be void since their meanings perdure.
Mary offered two turtledoves or pigeons when the time of her purification was over and Mary was sinless and this was the sacrifice required of the poor.
Mary and Christ would kill and eat the passover lamb since Christ came “under the law”.
Christ told the apostles at the end of John where to lower the net whereby they caught 153 fish which fish I’m sure did not love gasping in vain for water for their gills. But Christ urged it and then served the apostles breakfast of fish and bread on the beach just as long before that, a man and woman…Abraham and Sarah…served calf, cream, milk and loaves to three strangers at Mamre who spoke with one sentence simultaneously and stood for God according to Augustine…the first clear Trinity hint.
First man served food to God symbolically then at Mamre and later Christ who said that the son of man came not to be served but to serve….He served the disciples fish and bread on the beach as Abraham and Sarah had first served three strangers who stood for God.
To be vegetarian on only killing grounds is really be against death of any kind…secretly our own. And we can understand this propensity but to carry out its implications by not killing at all is to place ourselves above Mary’s and Christ’s example….good luck with that.
We here are using on Christmas a slew of things that Peta would be horrified at…even in the side dish..shitake mushrooms and shallots in a heavy CREAM, sweet Marsala sauce….oh the horror. I’ll spare you the main characters of the meal….one from the sea…..and thus in line with Christ’s actions at the end of John.



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Mattheus Mei

posted December 21, 2007 at 6:32 pm


supporting their store is one thing, but these men will need a lot of seed money to start up some kind of new operation, and sadly they may have to sell off their land, does anyone know how to start an internet charity? I’m sure people would be willing to give at least $5 so the monks can get something started instead of them having to sell land to pesky developers!!!



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bill bannon

posted December 21, 2007 at 7:27 pm


Mattheus
I’ll be sending something but I suspect they are now in touch with other Trappist or Trappistine houses and will get aid…or instructions in other occupations…. or get absorbed by other houses who sell jelly….or chocolate (Trappistines) or bread (West Virginia). Do send but their solution will have to be far more grand than donations or they will get absorbed. I suspect they made this decision in light of the distributor suffering demonstrations also…not simply themselves.



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Meggan

posted December 21, 2007 at 7:39 pm


I saw a video about the chickens at Mepkin. Now, granted, it was an “undercover” video taken by a Peta member. But it does show the conditions in the chicken coop. (I guess you’d still call it a coop.)
But, what I want to say about the video is this – one of the monks talked about what they do with the chickens once they are of no use anymore. They are not good eating because they’ve been confined 4 to a cage all their lives. Their legs are kind of atrophied and they aren’t plump and juicy. Anyway, the monk says they send them off to be slaughtered. He mentioned that Campbells buys them for their soups.
I don’t mention this to necessarily complain about the chicken coop but to say UGH!!! No wonder Campbells soup tastes bad. Stringy atrophied chicken soup???



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cheryl

posted December 21, 2007 at 7:51 pm


The monks have some lovely items in their online store…in fact, I just bought something.
It’s hard to believe PETA didn’t have other motives for picking on these monks. There must be thousands of southern chicken farms that are bigger targets. The eastern shore area of Maryland alone is packed with them. By aiming at this monastery business however, PETA also gets to take a shot at the monks’ belief system and worldview. Kills two birds, so to speak.
And of course, everytime PETA makes a scene I find myself speculating about where the majority of “pro-animal” protesters stand on the issue of abortion….



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Mary Jane

posted December 21, 2007 at 7:53 pm


Mepkin Abbey’s land is now part of a large conservation land trust, so they are protected from succumbing to developers. At the same time, the monks have to eat and pay bills and they also have to cope with the medical costs of aging members of their community. Mepkin made a commitment several years ago to ensure that monks would be able to live our their lives in the tranquility that is such a part of their lives. None of this comes cheap.
At the same time, I know that many people love Mepkin Abbey and I am confident that they will find their way forward.



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Old Zhou

posted December 21, 2007 at 8:45 pm


I’m no fan of PETA.
However, I think I heard the monks talking about
“life after chicken farming” back in 2003 while we had dinner.
Then Abbot Francis died last year, and the new abbot
said something about reconciliation and environmental concerns. Maybe that was another hint at the end of the
chicken road.
Given the general state of Benedictine closeness to the modern environmental, peace and vegetarian movements, it seems that the chicken biz was a bit of a holdover from an earlier era, say before 1970.
Would there be such an uproar if it was Sr. Joan’s Benedictine Sisters that are giving up work with 40,000 or so chickens, instead of Mepkin? What about the Sisters with the llamas? I don’t think they are in danger from PETA for harvesting wool.
No, the chicken biz is a monstic activity whose time is over.
I belive the monks knew this before PETA got involved.
-OZ



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Dennis Martin

posted December 22, 2007 at 6:05 am


Antonia, the scale here is the problem. 38,000 hens in however many barns (huge chicken coops) is simply not competitive. The cost to heat enough enclosed space to handle that many hens (and 38,000 is a small caged operation) alone would eliminate any profit, not to mention the immense labor involved to gather the eggs. Yes, enclosing uncaged hens in large coops makes finding the eggs easier than when the hens range freely outside and lay them in obscure places (by instinct), but still, harvesting eggs from 38,000 uncaged hens would be impossible.
Yes, you could perhaps sell the eggs for a higher price but under what label? They wouldn’t be free range, really. Organic? Perhaps. But even at a higher price, I doubt they could cover the extra costs for labor and utiltiies, not to mention capital costs for constructing “barns.”
No, it’s either a caged operation or none at all. That’s the reality of egg production today. That’s why you pay a dollar or two for a dozen eggs at the supermarket instead of ten dollars.



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Dennis Martin

posted December 22, 2007 at 6:10 am


I should clarify–it’s a caged operation or none at all for these monks. Smaller organic/free range operation do exist and can be competitive, within the specialty market. And that of course is how a lot of monasteries operate–speciality goods at higher prices. But that won’t work for perishable staples like eggs where competition from other producers keeps the prices low. Free-range organic egg operations are more labor intensive and that’s exactly what the monks were trying to avoid. A caged operation fit their requirements well.



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bill bannon

posted December 22, 2007 at 8:36 am


Dennis
That explains a lot of economic reality and helps us city folk see the predicament of the monks as to caging. Thank you.



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dymphna

posted December 22, 2007 at 9:14 am


The PETA folks are fanatics. When we let them get away with their antics we all lose.



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Tom Kelty

posted December 22, 2007 at 9:41 am


As an alternative to produce income, maybe it is time to revive the Scriptorium. Monasteries down through the centuries labored to produce hand lettered copies of Scripture as a service to the church and a means of income. There will always be a market for for such high-end items. Just a thought.



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Dennis Martin

posted December 22, 2007 at 10:09 am


I suppose in South Carolina one might need much heat; chickens in a reasonably small coop generate a lot of their own heat. But the more you want them to provide their own heat the more closely you have to confine them even if not in cages–there are limits to how much non-caged concentration one can induce before you get negative behavior. But the point remains–the only possible way to run a non-caged operation is some sort of specialty approach which means higher labor and getting-the-product-to-market costs combined with a smaller (more local) market.
For Tom Kelty, I’m not so convinced about a market for handlettered Bibles. Once people realize how much it would really cost for a truly handlettered Bible, the potential market shrinks rapidly. People underestimate just how much labor it takes and then they think a price set to cover costs and make money is unreasonable. Even the St. John’s Bible which has a handlettered master copy and then markets all sorts of high-end and not-so-high end facsimile spin offs was initially subsidized. I’m sure the Collegeville monks will be making money off the residuals but how many times can that sort of market be recreated? Part of what makes it work is the uniqueness of the master copy and the very high end original artwork etc. Sure, if one found just the right in between approach, maybe.
None of us needs to give instructions to monastic communities about potential new sources of income–they’ve been trying out anything they can think of for a long time now. The Cistercians in Wisconsin who do the Lasermonk business seem to have found a niche, employing the same basic business model used by office supply firms (including even spam emailings offering special deals, restaurant gift-cards etc. to previous customers–which has the advantage of being automated and not requiring distracting personal phone or other sales interaction with customers; in their defense also is the fact that they donate a percentage of their gross receipts to other charities) . Web-design, other forms of computer-based “copying” services represent a more modern version of the ancient scriptorium, but in today’s business climate, the key ingredient for any small business to work is entrepreneurial insight and management. Even where monks may have it (the Lasermonks are a good example), just how well it comports with contemplative life is a big question mark. Finding a way to interface with customers without sacrificing contemplative solitude in an economy that favors self-presentation and heavy marketing is a challenge. The ancient abbeys didn’t have that problem, though they had, I suppose, an equivalent source of distraction: being landlords, even judicial lords, for the peasant population working their estates.



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Dennis Martin

posted December 22, 2007 at 10:10 am


Sorry, in South Carolina one might not need MUCH heat.



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elizabeth

posted December 22, 2007 at 11:15 am


Veggies CAN eat eggs – but they must be infertile…



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Margaret Duffy

posted December 22, 2007 at 1:28 pm


This is really rather off-topic and somewhat trivial, I suppose. Btu one thing has always struck me as odd about vegans. How do they justify eating vegetables? After all, they have to be cut off from the soil or from the plant in order to be eaten. Isn’t that killing them as surely as killing an animal?



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Thomas Hart

posted December 22, 2007 at 4:17 pm


Samuel Butler pointed out over a hundred years ago that the ultimate logic of vegetarianism also requires that we abstain from eating vegetables. Just because a potato has a different consciousness from ours is no reason to subject it to a violent death by boiling it, and then to subject it to further desecration by mashing it, or subjecting it to other mutilation.
The only ethical diet then is the air and water diet, though even that may have problems. After all, remember Ford Prefect’s reply when asked what was wrong with being drunk, “Ask a glass of water.”
Personally, I intend to enjoy a dinner consisting of the mutilated grain, vegetables, miscellaneous meats, and the remains of micro-organisms, i.e., pizza and beer.
Here’s to the unethical life!!!



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Meggan

posted December 22, 2007 at 10:39 pm


“How do they justify eating vegetables? After all, they have to be cut off from the soil or from the plant in order to be eaten. Isn’t that killing them as surely as killing an animal?”
The answer to that is Fruitarianism. Fruitarians eat only the fruit, seeds, some nuts and grains. I’m not sure if all fruitarians eat only raw foods, but I know that some do.
Fruitarians eat foods that are “given foods.” According to the website where I found this info, fruitarians want to avoid the “death, wounding or maiming of any other life forms.”
Yikes! Just a little while ago I ate a maimed potato. Cut up and fried, it was. I think I heard it weeping.



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Dismas

posted December 22, 2007 at 11:21 pm


For Mr. Kelty: Handlettered Bibles might be a little too niche, but I’ve heard of at least one monastic community that specializes in data entry (I believe it’s MARC coding for libraries).



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Tom Kelty

posted December 25, 2007 at 2:35 pm


I agree with those who opine that the monks will find their own way out of this. Also, I point to The New Skete Communities in Cambridge NY. About 35 years ago they developed skills in dog raising, (German Shepherds) and the Nuns make gourmet cheesecakes that sell very well year round. They dabble in Icons and maintain a vibrant community. Google New Skete to see for yourself. They started on a shoestring. The monks did yard work and carpentry in the local community, some did house cleaning and painting. The monks were better liked when they found income that did not compete with the locals.



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Maureen

posted December 26, 2007 at 8:44 am


Re: old chickens
As the Good Eats host recently pointed out, young chickens don’t have much flavor. Stringy old chickens are the best eatin’, even though they take more cooking to make them soft. If you want to make good chicken soup or coq au vin, an old stringy hen or over-the-hill rooster is exactly the chicken you want.
Sadly for American gastronomy, by law one cannot buy old chickens at the market, just as one cannot buy mutton or most of the tasty innards of animals.



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bamaCatholic

posted December 27, 2007 at 3:09 pm


Unlike most people in the world, even those who lived in Europe after WWII, we simply don’t know what it’s like to be hungry. I went through just several months of only getting a few meals a week, and it changes your perspective.
Most of the world simply can’t get enough protein without meat and eggs in their diet. It’s true we can in America right now, but our foreign dependency on food may soon follow our foreign dependency on energy as tens of thousands of farms close down every year.
Those who attempt to portray PETA as following Christianity are misguided. PETA thinks it is just raising animals to the level of humans, but in the process it is really lowering humans to the level of animals, as demonstrated by it’s disguisting advertisements equating the killing of chickens to the Holocaust of the Jews. There is no more anti-Christian group in the world than PETA, so it’s no surprise they would pick on an Abbey.



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