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Posts Tagged ‘Farmed Animals’

This weekend I got into a rather passionate debate with some friends of friends about animal rights. One of them was pretty educated about the evils of factory farming, and said that she didn’t eat much meat because she had to know where it came from. Her husband on the other hand, didn’t know much about factory farming at all, though he was curious about what I had to say and was a good, respectful listener.

After a lot of back and forth about how animals are treated, how ethical meat consumption is, and why I’m vegan, we ended up with them stating that animals wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for humans to eat them – as in, they were put on this earth specifically for us to use as we see fit.  I said that I think animals exist for their own purposes, not for ours.  They exist to be pigs and cows and chickens and zebras and elephants.  I asked them why lions exist, since we don’t eat them (okay, maybe some humans eat lions, but I don’t think many).

“To eat zebras”, they replied.

“Um, ok, why do dogs exist?”

“To be our companions and protectors.”

“So why do humans exist?”

“To eat animals.”

“Wait – so everything on this earth exists to either eat other animals or to be

Here's my l'il doggy, just being his doggy self!

eaten by them? Or apparently, in the case of dogs, to be our buddies?”

They didn’t really have an answer to that.

It is kind of weird to think that we’re all just here to eat each other, isn’t it?  I mean, to be fair, I don’t know why the hell we’re all here either, but I certainly do not think it’s to eat or be eaten.

They also tried to tell me that veganism is no better because of all the animals that are killed in the process of harvesting vegetables and grains.  UGH. I am so tired of hearing that one.  Let’s walk through this: yes, small animals and insects are killed in modern agriculture in the planting and harvesting of various crops.  Those crops are then largely fed to “food animals”, which are then slaughtered and fed to humans.  So, logically speaking, we could kill significantly fewer animals by simply harvesting those crops and eating them directly, could we not?    And isn’t that better from an animal rights perspective than the alternative?  Yes, yes it is.  Plus, I don’t claim to be perfect – I step on ants and insects all the time, I’m sure. I hit them with my car.  I live my life trying to do the least harm possible, but I can’t claim I’ve done no harm to animals.

It gets exhausting fielding these same questions again and again to people, and yet I have to remind myself that I once thought that way, and if no one had ever explained things to me, I’d still be eating the standard American diet – SAD!  Do I think this couple is going to be vegan now?  Heck no, but at least I tried to explain my perspective to them, to show them that not everyone thinks that animals are here just for our selfish human purposes. Maybe eventually it will sink in, maybe it won’t, but I did what I could!

So, friends, why do we humans exist anyway?

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This is one of my favorite responses from omnivores when they find out that I would love it if the whole world stopped eating animals. “But what would we do with all the animals that are currently on farms? They’d have to die–we can’t possibly keep them all around if they’re going to serve no purpose.*  Is that what you want? You want all the farm animals to just die?”

Um…okay, really?  Yes, that is why I’m vegan – because I’d like all the farm animals to DIE!  Does that even make sense?

First of all, people aren’t going to go vegan over night – at least not the entire population. These kinds of things don’t just happen like that.  If they did, I guess I’d have to give some pretty serious thought to what would happen to the billions upon billions of animals that are currently suffering on farms everywhere.  Until that’s a real possibility, I’m not really going to stress too much about what we’d do with all the now “useless” animals.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that many farmed animals could likely survive if they were left to their own devices.  Those that couldn’t – like “broiler” chickens – would only find it difficult because of human intervention in their breeding.  Chickens who are bred for meat grow so large so quickly that even with the best of care, they do not live long.  My sister lives in Tampa, FL and she sees wild chickens all the time.  They live like any other normal wild bird, and are happy and free. Many farmed animals would be able to do the same if given the opportunity.

The last thing I’d say on this issue is that sometimes people say that these animals wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t breed them and eat them, and isn’t it better to have existed just for a little while than to never be born at all?  To that I’d like to say a BIG FAT NO.  If an animal never existed, s/he would never know s/he never existed, but when an animal lives in pain and fear every day of his/her short life, and then is brutally slaughtered at the hands of humans, s/he knows it.  That’s no way to live.  So, do I want pigs, cows, and chickens to exist?  Of course I do – but I want their existences to be ones of joy and comfort. And I don’t want them to die just because humans like the way they taste!

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* Someone actually told me that animals would “serve no purpose” if humans didn’t use them for food, clothing, etc. I did not do a very good job of hiding my shock.

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Last night HBO premiered a show called Death on a Factory Farm. This is a small segment. I haven’t seen the whole thing yet, and am not sure if I’ll be able to stomach it, but I do have a friend recording it for me.  Has anyone else seen it?  What were your thoughts?

Viewer discretion advised on the clip below…

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All too often even the most egregious cases of animal abuse go without any substantial punishment. This seems even more true when the victim is a “food” animal.  However, I saw some good news today that gives me some hope that times may be changing (slowly, but changing nonetheless).

Around Thanksgiving last year, People for the Ethical Treatement of Animals (PETA) released undercover video footage of Aviagen Turkeys Inc. slaughterhouse employees abusing live turkeys.   I am happy to report that last week three of those workers were indicted on  19 counts of animal abuse, 11 of them felony charges that could carry significant jail time.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Each felony charge is punishable by up to five years in jail and up to a $5,000 fine. The misdemeanor charges carry possible sentences of six months and up to $2,000 in fines.”  These punishments are unusually harsh in a farm animal abuse case, but given the severity of the abuse, I think they are totally appropriate.  Until people like this are held accountable for their actions and severe punishments are the norm, the abuse will continue.  Companies engaged in any kind of animal production or handling need to make it painfully clear that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated and our legal system  needs to punish people accordingly when such cases do arise.  I am glad that in this case it seems that the courts are taking this abuse seriously.

I met a few turkeys when I visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen.  Having heard my whole life how stupid turkeys are, I was surprised to see that they’re actually quite bright animals, and that they, like pigs, cows, dogs, and other animals, have rich emotional lives.  They are sweet, kind animals, and I am so happy I got to meet some of them. It reinforced even more why I choose not to eat them.  Look at how beautiful they are!

Turkey being petp5094349p5094317

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A while back PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) offered $1 million to any company or person who could come up with a cost effective way to produce cloned meat on a large scale, the goal being that people could still satisfy their meat cravings, but that animals wouldn’t have to be slaughtered for that purpose.

Well, it looks like we’re getting closer and closer to being able to produce “meat with no feet”.  “The Washington D.C. research firm New Harvest is just one group developing the technology to actually clone meat cells without the need, expense, or health concerns of raising entire legions of beasts to slaughter.” If we could produce cloned meat in controlled environments, it could mean amazing things for our environment, human health, and for the animals that people currently eat.   In this country alone, we raise about 10 billion animals each year for food.  Those 10 billion animals have a profound effect on the environment during their lives, but that could all be avoided with cloned meat.  More importantly, those animals suffer greatly during their short lives, only to end up at a slaughter house where they will be killed for food.  They experience pain and fear just like you and I would, and they want to live just as much as we do. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could?  I mean, I’d prefer if humans just stopped eating animals out of their own morality, but second best would be if they ate meat that didn’t come from a tormented soul, but rather from a petri dish!

So, would I eat meat with no feet? Would other vegans and vegetarians?  If I knew that the meat was humane and safe, I wouldn’t have a problem with it ethically at all.  The thing is, I think I’ve lost my taste for meat now. I know I have, actually.  So I’m not sure I’d go back to eating it even if I knew no one had to die to produce it, but that’s mostly just out of personal preference now — I wouldn’t have a problem with anyone else eating it.

What do think? Is it too weird?  Would you support this research?  If you are vegan or vegetarian, would you want to eat this meat? If you’re an omnivore, would you make the switch?

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At the moment our human world is based on the suffering and destruction of millions of non-humans. To perceive this and to do something to change it in personal and public ways is to undergo a change of perception akin to a religious conversion. Nothing can ever be seen in quite the same way again because once you have admitted the terror and pain of other species you will, unless you resist conversion, be always aware of the endless permutations of suffering that support our society.
~Arthur Conan Doyle

This quote kind of says it all, but because I’m a loud mouth, I’ll happily add my own two cents to it!

People often ask me why I made the decision to go vegan.   I can point to certain events leading up to that moment that are helpful in explaining how I got here, but at the same time, when I really think about it, it’s almost as if it wasn’t a choice at all. Of course I wasn’t forced to be vegan – that’s not what I mean. What I mean is that it was almost like I had been asleep before and suddenly I woke up and saw the cruelty and suffering around me; being vegan seemed like something I simply had to do. I couldn’t ignore the fact that I had been contributing to animal suffering for 26+ years. I couldn’t look the other way anymore and continue to act as though I hadn’t just had a complete change in perception.

One of my favorite parts of Doyle’s comment is when he states that “nothing can ever be seen in quite the same way again”. We all experience awakenings throughout our lives, whether it’s because we fall in love or get our hearts broken, find religion, have children or any number of other major life events. These things change us permanently and profoundly–just as my awakening changed me. You see, I had always considered myself to be an animal lover, and yet I ate some animal or animal product every single day. What I really was was a dog and cat lover. Then, somehow I opened up my eyes to the beauty and wonder of all non-human animals; I forced myself to imagine the pain and suffering that farmed animals must experience every single day on factory farms, how excruciating each day must be for them… For me, it was virtually impossible not to have a complete change in perception.

I believe that most humans have the capacity to connect with non-human animals, but that we are discouraged from doing so from a very young age. We are taught that dogs and cats are companions, and cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, turkeys, etc. are for eating and/or using in some other way.  It isn’t always easy and it can be scary (as change often is), but if you can open your heart up to the joy and beauty of other non-human animals, you will realize that they are not here to serve human purposes, and they most certainly are not here to endure senseless pain and cruelty only to be brutally killed for our dinner. They are here for their own reasons: to play in wide open pastures, to forage for food to nourish their own bodies, to create and nurture their families, and just to enjoy life. Who are we to take that from them?

My hope is that more people will allow themselves to see animals for the amazing individuals that they are; that more people will have their very own vegan awakening.

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Designer Karl Lagerfeld recently attempted to defend his use of fur in his clothing lines.  What was his brilliant argument, you might be wondering?  “In a meat-eating world, wearing leather for shoes and clothes and even handbags, the discussion of fur is childish” and that hunters are only “killing those beasts who would kill us if they could.”  Um….because bunnies and minks are violent human killers!  VIOLENT, I tell you!  I mean, look at these things:

I, for one, am terrified just looking at this picture.  Those eyes are saying “I’m gonna eat you, human!”

Oh wait a minute, they’re not??  Weird. Because if Karl Lagerfeld, an animal behavior expert idiot, says they would, then surely they would, right??

This argument is one of the most irritating I hear from people who try to justify eating, wearing or hunting animals.  The animals we use for our own purposes are generally the most docile animals there are – not to mention the fact that the majority of them don’t even eat meat themselves (rabbits, deer, cows, for example).  Those who do only do so for survival, whereas humans (in general) can easily survive without using animals for food or clothing.

And newsflash to Mr. Lagerfeld: most fur these days isn’t hunted – it’s raised in factory fur farms where the animals (often dogs and cats) are skinned alive.  Maybe he should watch this video so he can see where the fur he’s using actually comes from (note: the video is very disturbing).

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