Number of animals killed in the world by the meat, dairy and egg industries, since you opened this webpage. This does not include the billions of fish and other aquatic animals killed annually.

Based on 2007 statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' Global Livestock Production and Health Atlas.

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Archive for the ‘Perspectives’ Category

Vegans are Regular People

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Vegans are Regular People - the shirt!

It’s true. Our bowel movements are healthier and typically faster than those of meat eaters, but otherwise we are exactly the same.

Vegans are not super heroes. Although directly reducing the demand for animals to be exploited is a super thing to do, it’s easy. Veganism is a moral baseline; it’s not exactly heroic.

We do not possess superhuman willpower. If you want a demonstration, just tell a recently awakened vegan that Oreos have no animal products in them. See how long it takes before he looks like he just ate, well, a box of Oreos. We struggle with restaurant and junk food marketing like anyone does. We do have it a little easier in that area: most of the ads are targeting a different demographic.

Vegans have no keener empathic abilities than the rest of the world. We are not Cow Whisperers. We do not hear the cries of corn as it’s fed to pigs on feedlots. Vegans are not so delicate and refined that they run in terror from the company dinner table when someone orders steak. Nor do we possess the hardened, bleached souls of war criminals. Seeing graphic video footage of animal slaughter bothers us as much as it does anyone.

Like meat eaters, vegans are not necessarily eating perfectly balanced diets, either. A huge percentage of the United States suffers from Vitamin D deficiencies, despite what the dairy industry would have us believe their fortified products will do.

Vegans are Regular People

Owning 3 Chickens on 12 Acres

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

A friend of mine, let’s call him Dylan, recently asked:

I was wondering with regards to having chickens who lay eggs and then eating the eggs in a 3-6 chickens on 12 acres situation.  This is my situation.  Do you think that eating the eggs of chickens who have as good a life as any other house pet is bad because it contributes to permissive attitudes to other people eating eggs or demand for eggs in general?

I never really understood the anti-egg part of veganism, or, at least, I know that vegans in general hate battery chicken farms and the meat and eggs that occur as a result of that.  But, an egg is essentially a chicken’s period.  Even if it is fertilised it doesn’t start chugging towards life until the chicken has collected several eggs in the same place and it is the right season to do so.  A chicken will want to sit on many fertilised eggs to hatch a lot of chicks.

If the eggs are not fertilised, and the chicken tries to hatch them, she can die from malnutrition or thirst in a behaviour that I’ve come to known as brooding or being broody where she will sit on some egg(s) in a nest until they hatch even though there is no chance of such and won’t even leave for food or water, so perpetuating the lie that she will have children from unfertilised eggs is actually harmful to her.

Long story short, I’m asking if you can tell me whether each of these phrases below are morally true to a vegan:

  • Owning any animal as a pet is wrong.
  • Owning any animal as a pet that produces edible products and then eating the products is wrong.
  • Owning any animal as a pet because it produces edible products is wrong.

Further to this, how does this translate to, for example, alpacas?  Is shearing them and keeping or using the wool bad?  Or, should shearing only be used for their comfort and the wool be discarded to avoid promoting it’s exploitation and use?

I hope my reply to him was good. What do you think? Here it is.

Hi Dylan!

First, I wonder about the end result of thoughts like what you shared. Meaning, what comes out of these mental projects? I hope they are done in an effort to expand compassion and ease the suffering of others, rather than to navigate a maze of technicalities in hopes of justifying speciesism through some philosophical back door.

I tell people that “veganism” can be thought of as shorthand for “peaceful non-cooperation with any speciesist idea.” Speciesism is to animals what racism is to blacks (typically) or sexism is to women (typically). Speciesism, racism and sexism are all forms of discrimination, which ultimately end up in violence. No form of discrimination is based on any logical or morally-consistent criteria.

The three questions above ask about the technical aspects of owning sentient beings, and make the assumption that one can really own another.

My answer to most what-if questions about veganism can be anticipated by replacing the animal in the question with a human. A young girl makes great replacement example, because most of the animals we have enslaved are, in their years as relative to humans, teenage girls.

When I read over your questions I translate them like so: If I paid for a black girl fair and square, is it wrong to shave her head and make wigs out of it whenever I feel like it? Shaving her doesn’t hurt her, and she’s got it as good as any other pet. Would it be okay for me to own her if I didn’t shave her head?

Of course no one in these days really would admit to “owning” another human being.

Is it any different with chickens? Using a chicken as an object, an egg-producing device, requires mentally reducing that chicken from an individual down to a non-individual.

I asked a relative about this email and my reply and such. She asked me what you’re going to do when those chickens die out. Will you keep eating eggs?

You have chickens at home, which are basically rescued (I guess?) pets that happen to produce edible foods which you take from them. In your example, these chickens probably have all sorts of food and water, maybe even access to good veterinary care, and plenty of room to run around, hunt for worms and socialize.

I think that’s great. If you’ve rescued them, you’re providing them a peaceful, lovely end to their days. Hopefully you’ve got them neutered (or keep them far from roosters) so they don’t overpopulate in an area which, without your income and human-provided infrastructure, I’m guessing they could not survive.

Your wool example is great. Animals which produce wool are not simply left to wander, randomly fed whatever food naturally grows nearby (and starved if no food is present?), given medicine, and occasionally sheared to their comfort. They are turned into wool machines. They are fed specific grains, grasses, vitamins, kept lit and in the dark at certain times, and sheared at specific intervals. They are units of production who, at the end of their profitability, are killed anyway. The same is true for a chicken. As soon as she is unprofitable on the egg line, she is killed for her flesh.

There are two schools of thought on animal issues. People like PETA are animal welfarists. They assert that killing animals is A-Okay, as long as we’re “nice” to them for a little while first. I initially was a welfarist, because, to be perfectly honest, the bulk of the material out there is written by people who think this way.

The other school of thought is animal rights. This kind of thinking says that animals are not property. Treatment of the animals is not the problem. Use of the animals is the problem. Until we stop using them, they will always be subjected to horrible lives. Furthermore, using them at all is indefensible morally; every argument in favor of animal use with happy treatment keeps animals defined as property. Until animals are no longer considered property, use of them will never cease. It does not matter how well they are treated. Ultimately, we remove their ability to live their lives in a manner they see fit. That is not our call to make.

There are so many interesting things to say about veganism. Gary Francione’s web site has an FAQ that might interest you greatly.

Dexter

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Today I heard a man telling a group of people how his mother abhors and shuns all bloody, violent television. It makes her ill and she refuses to watch such shows. However, she makes an exception for Dexter, which, she assures her son, is not really all that violent and is very enjoyable.

If you’ve never seen Dexter, you may be surprised at her description of “not really all that violent.” The show is about a serial killer and features all sorts of slaughter of human beings.

He astutely observed that his mother is rationalizing her love of the show by downplaying the violence in it. He then stated in very clear words, “I guess if some people gain some amount of pleasure from an activity, they can rationalize whatever suffering it might be inflicting.”

How right he is! He also eats meat.

Plutarch, Moralia

Friday, February 5th, 2010

There is a collection of Plutarch‘s essays known as the Moralia. I found this quote on the Armchair Enlightened Despot:

You ask me why Pythagoras abstained from eating the flesh of beasts, but I ask you, what courage must have been needed by the first man who raised to his lips the flesh of the slain, who broke with his teeth the bones of a dying beast, who had dead bodies, corpses, placed before him and swallowed down limbs which a few moments ago were bleating, bellowing, walking, and seeing? How could his hand plunge the knife into the heart of a sentient creature, how could his eyes look on murder, how could he behold a poor helpless animal bled to death, scorched, and dismembered? how can he bear the sight of this quivering flesh? does not the very smell of it turn his stomach? is he not repelled, disgusted, horror-struck, when he has to handle the blood from these wounds, and to cleanse his fingers from the dark and viscous bloodstains?

The scorched skins wriggled upon the ground,
The shrinking flesh bellowed upon the spit.
Man cannot eat them without a shudder;
He seems to hear their cries within his breast.

Thus must he have felt the first time he did despite to nature and made this horrible meal; the first time he hungered for the living creature, and desired to feed upon the beast which was still grazing; when he bade them slay, dismember, and cut up the sheep which licked his hands. It is those who began these cruel feasts, not those who abandon them, who should cause surprise, and there were excuses for those primitive men, excuses which we have not, and the absence of such excuses multiplies our barbarity a hundredfold.

‘Mortals, beloved of the gods,’ says this primitive man, ‘compare our times with yours; see how happy you are, and how wretched were we. The earth, newly formed, the air heavy with moisture, were not yet subjected to the rule of the seasons. Three-fourths of the surface of the globe was flooded by the ever-shifting channels of rivers uncertain of their course, and covered with pools, lakes, and bottomless morasses. The remaining quarter was covered with woods and barren forests. The earth yielded no good fruit, we had no instruments of tillage, we did not even know the use of them, and the time of harvest never came for those who had sown nothing. Thus hunger was always in our midst. In winter, mosses and the bark of trees were our common food. A few green roots of dogs-bit or heather were a feast, and when men found beech-mast, nuts, or acorns, they danced for joy round the beech or oak, to the sound of some rude song, while they called the earth their mother and their nurse. This was their only festival, their only sport; all the rest of man’s life was spent in sorrow, pain, and hunger.

‘At length, when the bare and naked earth no longer offered us any food, we were compelled in self-defence to outrage nature, and to feed upon our companions in distress, rather than perish with them. But you, oh, cruel men! who forces you to shed blood? Behold the wealth of good things about you, the fruits yielded by the earth, the wealth of field and vineyard; the animals give their milk for your drink and their fleece for your clothing. What more do you ask? What madness compels you to commit such murders, when you have already more than you can eat or drink? Why do you slander our mother earth, and accuse her of denying you food? Why do you sin against Ceres, the inventor of the sacred laws, and against the gracious Bacchus, the comforter of man, as if their lavish gifts were not enough to preserve mankind? Have you the heart to mingle their sweet fruits with the bones upon your table, to eat with the milk the blood of the beasts which gave it? The lions and panthers, wild beasts as you call them, are driven to follow their natural instinct, and they kill other beasts that they may live. But, a hundredfold fiercer than they, you fight against your instincts without cause, and abandon yourselves to the most cruel pleasures. The animals you eat are not those who devour others; you do not eat the carnivorous beasts, you take them as your pattern. You only hunger for the sweet and gentle creatures which harm no one, which follow you, serve you, and are devoured by you as the reward of their service.

‘O unnatural murderer! if you persist in the assertion that nature has made you to devour your fellow-creatures, beings of flesh and blood, living and feeling like yourself, stifle if you can that horror with which nature makes you regard these horrible feasts; slay the animals yourself, slay them, I say, with your own hands, without knife or mallet; tear them with your nails like the lion and the bear, take this ox and rend him in pieces, plunge your claws into his hide; eat this lamb while it is yet alive, devour its warm flesh, drink its soul with its blood. You shudder! you dare not feel the living throbbing flesh between your teeth? Ruthless man; you begin by slaying the animal and then you devour it, as if to slay it twice. It is not enough. You turn against the dead flesh, it revolts you, it must be transformed by fire, boiled and roasted, seasoned and disguised with drugs; you must have butchers, cooks, turnspits, men who will rid the murder of its horrors, who will dress the dead bodies so that the taste deceived by these disguises will not reject what is strange to it, and will feast on corpses, the very sight of which would sicken you.’