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 ‘The Act’ Category

Is a Matter of Personal Choice

Thursday, April 21st, 2011
Calf Roping

Whose "personal choice" are we talking about? Pictured above: a calf roping at a rodeo.

The act of exploiting animals is often justified as a “personal choice,” but personal choices stop being personal when they affect others.

When we eat a vegan diet, when we refuse to attend rodeos and zoos, when we pass up leather jackets, wallets and shoes in favor of synthetic or plant-based goods, we are practicing peace.  We are behaving consistently in a manner that directly fosters justice.

It is ironic to hear people use their power of choice (typically, only as consumers) in and of itself to justify harming animals.  “It’s my choice to eat or not eat animals,” they assert.  But this directly violates the freedom and choices of another living being who has every right not to suffer.

Only the aggressor, or the more powerful, can choose to inflict misery and death upon others.  By definition, victims are victims, they do not have a choice in the matter of being used.

What about crimes against our fellow humans?  We do not say that rape is permissible because rapists are “making a personal choice,” yet rape is absolutely what is done to female cows to force them into pregnancy and thus eventual lactation.  We do not say thieves and murderers are excused of their crimes because they chose to commit them.  Yet what is more theft and murder than stealing breast milk and killing the children, then their mother when her body is too worn out to produce milk at a profitable rate?

The aggressors want to wiggle out of the truth of using words like “rape” and “murder,” because of a simple speciesist view that only rape and murder can be done to humans.

One fact which cannot be wiggled out of is by enslaving others, we strip them of their most basic choice: to be free.  Actions we take are only a “personal choice” until they infringe upon the freedoms of others.  Freedom to move about, freedom to avoid pain, freedom to reproduce (or not) at will: these are all choices denied to enslaved animals who would naturally make them if left alone.  When we confine and eventually kill our powerless captives, we deliberately and irreversibly engage in violence that annihilates all of their choices.

We all have the capacity to inflict harm.  We all have the capacity for enormous good, as well.  Abraham Lincoln put it perfectly when he said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Well, It Could Have Been Worse

Saturday, March 19th, 2011
Crime

This scene is acceptable because it could have been worse. The attacker could have been driving a dump truck over infants while shooting the man on the left. That imaginary scenario makes everything better.

The could-be-worse reasoning is applied every day to attempt justify exploiting cows, chickens, geese, sheep, mice, rats, dogs, elephants, women, minorities, the old and the young.  With animals, people compare current, “humane” slaughter methods to some horrible alternative, and then state that snuffing out the life of an enslaved, helpless creature is now honorable and free from any moral condemnation.

Let’s go back to the analogy of theft.  If I steal your television, I don’t get out of jail by stating I could have also emptied your bank account.  When we do something wrong, we do something wrong.  It’s as simple as that.

Moral relativity to encourage animal exploitation is simple manipulation to keep us dim-witted and spend-thrifted (say that five times fast).  Many people want to believe they can make a difference without changing a thing.  As Gary Francione says, the “happy meat” and “humane” slaughter ideas are nothing more than the modern day equivalent of the church selling indulgences.

When we hear ourselves or others saying, “well at least I buy organic eggs,” or “at least this was free-range beef,” we need to remember that those allegedly great strides in animal freedom are illusions.  We do not free animals by encouraging people to eat more of them.  “Free range”, “grass fed”, “organic” and “humane” labels encourage consumption.  These labels move us in the exact opposite direction of liberation and justice.

At the core of this issue is the notion that people are still okay with using the animals, it’s the “excessive” suffering they’re uncomfortable with.  This is simple speciesism.  Except in extremely trivial cases, no one would wave away a crime against a human because “it could have been worse.”  That would not even work in small claims court.  When the crime is against those who cannot speak for themselves, it seems, we sing a different tune.

The could-have-been-worse perspective backfires on meat eaters and works against exploiting animals; we can always define “do not interfere with them at all” as the relative comparison.  Why must the relative marker be placed closer to torture, and not closer to amnesty?  Easy:

The goal of arguing in favor of exploiting animals is never on behalf of the animals.

It is our duty to remind people that treatment does not need to be “worse than” to be wrong.  Slavery is slavery.  Nutrition options exist.  Let’s use our options, not individuals.

No justice exists when crimes are dismissed by simply dreaming up “worse” crimes that could have happened instead.

The Hidden Vegan Agenda

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010
A Dog on the Beach in a Sombrero

The hidden vegan agenda: having fun and being kind.

People say “veganism has a hidden agenda.”

Every aspect of animal consumption and slaughter takes place with a hidden agenda.

Starting with our children, we hide the truth about what the animals feel. We tell them that animals are meant for us to kill, that we are showing the animals “respect,” that the animals don’t feel anything at all. We tell our children that it is okay to murder other children, just not human ones. We hide the videos of dairy cows butchered because their tired glands cannot produce milk at a profitable rate any more. Our agenda is teaching children to eat meat and dairy and, to teach them this, we must hide the truth lest it trigger their natural feelings of disgust, sadness and horror.

A child who pleases himself by burning dogs with a blowtorch[1] is considered highly troubled and possibly insane. A child who pleases himself by eating chicken nuggets is considered normal. Who created this illogical schism? We did.

As a slightly more risque comparison: for good reasons we do not want our children to have sex. We would never show them sexual videos. Likewise, we hide videos of animal slaughter from our children. The difference is we want our children contributing to the slaughter, we just don’t want them knowing that’s what they’re doing until they’re too set in their ways. This is indoctrination, and is the most obvious kind of hidden agenda.

From the animals as babies, we hide our intentions behind a lifetime of feeding and tending. But as we pet them and guide their faces to their food, we give no hint about their grisly fate. Maybe in some perfect world with unlimited resources and space, we could populate the thousands of square miles it would take to hold the billions of Free Range Animals. And even in those rolling hills, with their perfect weather and clean, fresh water, we would be hiding the agenda of killing them. Every. Single. One.

Maybe, in the dark, jammed, hellish corridors of factory farms, these animals have a good idea. But even then, likely they do not know what’s in the next building. In the slaughterhouses, we hide the upcoming rooms from the animals with twisting, angled chutes. We do not want them causing a ruckus and damaging the product, their flesh, or the machines which grind them into it. Our agenda, as always, is profit.

For the final act, we hide our agenda of clumsily missing with an underpowered stun bolt, skinning the animals alive, horse, cow and bear. We hide what’ saround the next corner, becasuse if the animals knew, they’d run[link to youtube turnaround vid] in rightful panic. Run as far as they could, at least. And maybe someone would be there to “rescue this brave little guy”[2].

From the public, we hide the lagoons of shit that leak bacteria and diseases into the water supply. We cover up the sources of E. coli and salmonella, nearly always from animals, and claim that there is an “outbreak” in tomatoes, spinach, or whatever other crop was unlucky enough to be near the factory farm run-off[3].

From the public, we hide what goes on behind the factory walls. We hire illegal migrant workers and abuse them, knowing there is little to no recourse they can legally take. From the workers we hide our trump card: turn them over to INS if they so much as squeak.

Most obviously, the slaughter is done in secrecy, hidden from the delicate and refined senses of the consumers, for as Paul McCartney says, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a [vegan].”[4] (He says vegetarian, I say vegan).

The killers themselves are the modern equivalents of slaves forced to do the dirty deeds[5]. They must shield their psyches from the disgusting and unnatural acts they commit. Nearly all workers report that they “can’t think of it like a living being, it’s just an it, just a machine that makes noise, because otherwise you’d go crazy.” These are adults, and they must hide from themselves what they are doing. The agenda? Staying sane while making a dollar. If we did not demand meat, we would not create jobs for butchers.

As consumers, we even try to hide the reality of the products we claim to want to ingest. We cannot, at every meal, with every bite, sanely contemplate the source. So the body parts come packaged in little red and pink squares, de-boned, de-veined, bloodless, not too fatty, salted, cooked, and spiced. They are shaped into nuggets, patties, hot dog tubes and McRiblets. Even their names are hidden. It’s not a baby, it’s “veal.” It’s not mentrual cycle excess, it’s an “omelette.” Pork, poultry, beef, and so on. We don’t want to remind each other of what it is, where it came from.

At the most basic psychological level, we don’t even want to admit that it was a who.

Contrast this with eating a plant-based diet. There is nothing hidden about veganism. Everything we grow, everything we eat and discuss, is quite literally out in the open with anyone at any age.

Things to See:

These aren’t all strictly citations, as some just expand on the point I made:

  1. Simon the Sadist
  2. Typical article about escapees.
  3. Google results for factory farm runoff lagoon
  4. Paul McCartney video
  5. Blood, Sweat and Fear, from Human Rights Watch. Jump to about page 165.

What if the Killing Was Painless?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

People ask me how I would feel if the cows, chickens, geese, salmon, buffalo, ducks, salamanders, crocodiles, sheep, turkeys, goats, camels and dodo birds were killed painlessly. Would it be okay to eat the animals then?

Pain is irrelevant. There are four strong reasons that taking the life of a sentient being against her will is not justified simply because the method is painless.

First, she is being deprived of her further experiences. I rank this first because there is absolutely no working around it. If someone removes your mother from this world against her will, she will never again experience anything. The timeline is cut and cannot be mended. The presence or absence of pain caused by murder is irrelevant.

Second, killing a nonhuman is the murder of an innocent. This is unjust. The method of murder is irrelevant to result from the crime.

Third, it is a speciesist notion that murdering a chicken is acceptable while doing the same to a human is unacceptable. Modern-day court systems would not permit the murder of red-haired children or black children, because those kinds of appeals are racist, illogical nonsense. Like racism, all defenses of speciesism are faulty, if not absurd.

And forth, it removes her from her family. They absolutely will notice her untimely departure. At the idea of sparing one animal from physical suffering, you create suffering in the members of her family who mourn her. (This point could be argued against by suggesting we engineer single animals with no parents or siblings from test tubes; that we kill all the families and friends together at once; or otherwise engage in sterile yet psychotic behavior. The problem with these ‘solutions’ is obvious: they are speciesist. If these acts were committed against humans, it would be like a scene from a horror movie.)

You already know these answers, of course. Replace the nonhuman in your question with a human. Then, the reasons why we must show compassion are endless.

Gelatin

Monday, April 19th, 2010
"... aaaand that's why they call it Jell-O." -- Penny-Arcade

"... aaaand that's why they call it Jell-o." -- Penny-Arcade

Products like Jell-O and some kinds of desserts use gelatin for texture. Gelatin is made from pieces of animal corpses. Typically, it is the collagen extracted from bones and skin.

Some people believe it is okay to use gelatin, since the animal was going to be killed for her flesh anyway. That is, they believe it is okay to use product X taken from a non-human animal because she was already scheduled to be killed for product Y.

In other words, since I’m already raping you, I might as well steal your toaster when I’m done. That makes stealing your toaster morally acceptable, doesn’t it?

Of course not. But placing the crime into a human framework, equating the suffering and feelings of Us with the suffering and feelings of Them, will still cause many people (even some vegans) to hesitate.

Logically, it cannot be refuted that stealing a toaster is anything but stealing, regardless of the crimes you commit against the owner (and who owns her tendons and ligaments more than the calf, the pig or the dog?).

When a Snargleplexonian beams down to your kitchen to commit a crime against you, Multiplexing you into tasty pink oblivion, this horrific act is not an act exonerated if he also depletes you of your savings, land, and Iron Maiden posters. Conversely, depleting you of your Iron Maiden posters is not exonerated if he kills you first.

Clearly not trying to impress you with fancy words and references to metal bands, I can sum it up with: Two wrongs do not make a right. Not two Snargleplexonian wrongs against you, and especially not two human wrongs against non-human animals.
If you believe that living beings are worthy of moral consideration, and you do not wish them to suffer, then you must not advocate any demand for their flesh, secretions, fur, behavior (as entertainment), utility (such as pulling your romantic buggies through Cozumel), and so on. You must not consume them as products.

Let’s get real nerdy and illustrate some specific misconceptions with the thought of consuming gelatin (or any other “by”-product from a corpse):

  • “Gelatin is different from other products taken from the corpse.” — False. Demanding gelatin places the same death sentence on her as does demanding her muscle tissue.
  • “She would be killed anyway.” — False. The human demand for her flesh and milk condemns her. Remove the demand and you will prevent the killing.
  • “As long as we’re nice to her first, it’s okay to kill her.” — False. Treating someone nicely and then murdering them does not free you from the crime. This doesn’t make sense with a space alien blasting you to bits. It doesn’t make any more sense when you’re a human being subjugating a helpless little piglet.
  • People are always going to eat meat, so why worry about gelatin?” — False. People are not going to always eat meat any more than people will always own slaves.
  • You pick your battles, like meat and gelatin, but I focus on other things, like donating to charities and helping my mother weed her garden. It all balances out. — False. I do not murder people, nor would I ever state that abstaining from murdering humans takes too much time or is too inconvenient. The same is true for non-human animals. Comparing do-goodery with veganism is a mistake. More on this topic here.

Some want to believe that consuming gelatin is a more or less innocent act, but even those sterile, generic-looking little packets of gelatin increase demand. Any demand for a good or service from living beings places monetary value on their lives. This is true for pigs, cows, geese, dogs, cats and even human beings. Here are four examples where the demand for “by-products” body parts has created wholesale slaughter, even when the meat and skins are not eaten:

  • Bison tongues: The honorable Sioux slaughtered somewhere between one and two thousand buffalo purely for their tongues. For what? To trade for whiskey.
  • Shark fins: Surely you’ve heard of shark fin soup? Well the whole shark is too damn heavy, so people just lift him up, cut the fin off, and toss him back in the water to bleed to death.
  • Elephant tusks: Outlawed. Still being hunted. Still being sold as “pre-outlaw” ivory. As long as you buy ivory, people will shoot elephant children and mothers for you.
  • Rabbit eyes: Sadly, still attached to the rabbit, eyes are sprayed with toxic chemicals to help people understand human accidentally spray themselves in the face with caustic goods. Really, guys? You can’t find anything else?

I hope these examples give you an idea of how any demand for the body parts of living beings is a very, very bad idea.

Solutions

And here you thought I was just going to cry my little vegan eyes out while offering no alternatives to gelatin. Hardly! Next time you’re thinking about buying a packet of the stuff, put it down. Get some of this, instead:

It’s not acceptable to inflict suffering and death onto animals by consuming them. With the above solutions, you do not need to exploit animals to get gelatin. You can have the foods you enjoy, while not contributing to the mass murder of innocents.

Now for a final comparison as equally disgusting and reprehensible as consuming human or non-human animal corpses. The next time someone asks you why using gelatin isn’t “okay,” ask them: Would it be okay to wear leather coats made from the skin of human prisoners of war? They “were dead anyway,” right?

As an aside, Penny-Arcade calls gelatin what it is.

Related posts: Recycled Speciesism

Recycled Speciesism

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Here is a good example of why people think veganism is a vain, shallow or pointless endeavor.  And here is another way to discuss why that perception is incorrect.

When discussing veganism with people, you  may encounter someone who brushes aside the idea because “it’s just another way of doing something good.”  They will cite examples such as recycling, buying fair trade coffee, and composting to reduce waste as equally useful and compelling steps toward improving our planet.

At first, it sounds reasonable, especially if you are vegan to improve your health, lower your cholesterol, “go green,” or meet some other end or reach some other status.

Let me ask you something.  If you were taking about the rape and murder of human children, could you imagine anyone even trying to compare those atrocities with recycling?  With buying fair trade coffee?  Of course not.  Because juxtaposing suffering and death next to tossing your Pepsi can in a green bin is ridiculous.

This is the kind of power thinking like a speciesist (or racist or sexist) exerts over the ability to think clearly.  And this is exactly why these people think vegans are flakes.

Wouldn’t you?  Imagine a rabid acolyte telling you that recycling is so important, everyone should be doing it, you’re a monster if you don’t do it, and don’t you even care that some city you’ve never heard of is ugly due to plastic water bottles?  Sure, you might think, but why all the theatrics?  You do your part.  Isn’t that good enough?

Bring it back to the speciesism.  Highlight it.  Don’t be distracted by minutia.  Don’t fall into the pointless trap of debating how many tons of carbon are squirting out of an organic beet farm, how many thousands of studies have come out this week showing eating animal meat will clog your veins and give you cancer (if you don’t get sick from E. coli or salmonella first).  All that is true, but is misses the point.

Common do-goodery has no place in comparison to the killing of animals, human or not.

Last Screams: The Death of a Lady

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

This is a true story about a human couple who capture and ritualistically murder another living being. I’ve altered some of the details, embellishing here and omitting there, but the events are the same. At the bottom of this horrific tale is a link to the original.

Our friend James caught our neighbor, Tina, a young mother of two, and put her in a hay-lined waxed-cardboard box. She calmed down and sat quietly in the box. I sat reading in my farm’s greenhouse, waiting for Daniel to come back from a trip to the city, and Tina waited with me, her head sticking through a gap in the top of the box. She was funny, maybe even cute. I tried not to get attached.

We took her to Daniel’s parents’ house and left her in the box in the garage overnight. No hawks or foxes in there. And we’d read about imposing a 12-hour fast (advantage: a cleaner digestive tract), so no food. In the morning, she looked content. She had just menstruated and held out a wad of cash, which made me very sad. She wanted to coexist with us. To feed us, if we fed her. Daniel reminded me that in the winter, without a job, her income would probably drop significantly. I sighed. He was right.

So we bound her feet with a rope—she was surprisingly calm—and hung her upside-down from a tree limb. We’d heated a large pot of water to 150 degrees and set it on the ground nearby. We were ready.

Daniel held her head in one hand and took a straight-edge razor to her throat. In retrospect, a knife would have been better. More leverage. With just the blade, the first cut drew blood, but it didn’t go far enough. Daniel sliced again, and a stream of blood dripped to the ground. The sources we’d consulted recommended leaving the head on at first, to prevent a surge of adrenaline that might toughen the meat.

Tina opened her eyes every minute or so, fluttered her lids, and closed them.

After three or four minutes, I broke the solemn silence: “It’s weird that she’s not flailing.” Then she did flail, but just for a few seconds. Blood splattered on my pants and on Daniel’s face, which made him, in a hooded sweatshirt, look like a murderer.

When we could no longer feel a heartbeat, we untied her, cut off her head, and submerged her in the pot. That made stripping her down easier, and we sloughed off her shorts and socks, flinging them off our cold, wet fingers. With the clothes gone, her hair remained, and we tried to pull out all of those, too. By that point, the carcass looked more or less like what you see in any depraved cannibal’s village. Clothes: living being. No clothes: food. I didn’t feel sentimental anymore.
We took Tina’s body into the kitchen, chopped off her feet and neck, and slit around her anus, the all-purpose lower hole. We followed instructions and a diagram on a laptop screen; I made a ventral T-shape cut and reached into the warm cavity to pull out the organs. (Because of the prior slit, the intestines came out with the vent attached.) The whole process reminded me of my anatomy lab in college.

Otherwise, it wasn’t so bad. I tried to feel regular, not righteous about it, especially after a friend forwarded me some quotes. One was from the founder of the Institute of Urban Homesteading: “The level of appreciation for nature and life when you slaughter your own meat creates a kind of ethic that I think is what we need to save the world.” Reese rolls her eyes; she kills a girl and calls it messy and mundane.

I hear her, but I’m still glad we did it. I confirmed my weird personal right to consume another living being, and I do feel more conscious about meat-eating in general. Dare I sound new-age? I feel more mindful. Our little neighbor girl was very much on my mind as we ate her. Nursing mothers don’t have much meat on them, but the broth and the few shreds were savory and satisfying.

Here is a link to the original story as written by the author.

Hair-Splitting and Buddhism

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Buddhist ethics are not a legalistic system that allows us to justify behavior on the basis of loopholes, technicalities, or a strict construction of the text. Buddhist ethics are based on motivation and intent. An ethical act is one that is driven by love and compassion and guided by the desire to do the least harm possible to any living being in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. An unethical act is one that is driven by craving, fear, or anger and guided by the desire to benefit ourselves by harming another living being. Thinking like a lawyer or an academic logician and claiming that it is acceptable to harm another sentient being for our own selfish benefit based on hair-splitting distinctions and nimble logic is contrary to the teaching of the Buddha.

Emphasis mine.

From: The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights (Norm Phelps)

Add Variety by Replacing Meat

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009
Dish variety expands tremendously when you replace meat

By replacing meat and dairy with plants, meal variety explodes

Dropping meat and dairy is the easiest thing you can do to add variety to your meals.

One of the hesitations most people have to replacing flesh and animal milk is the fear of meals becoming bland, colorless, tasteless, repetitive or boring. This perception is happily dispelled by anyone who has gone vegan for a year or two, but why should it take so long?

When meat must be included at every meal, your main dish is by definition restricted. How is eating the same four animals variety? Going vegan, one is forced to eat something other than the Five Main Corpses: cow, chicken, pig, fish, or a random creature which tastes like any of the previous four.

There is such variety in the plant kingdom!

Upgrade from five flesh options to literally hundreds. Factor each option by the dozens (hundreds, if you’re a good cook) of ways to spice and flavor any food, and you’ve just increased your menu from a dozen to a thousand delicious, unique meals.

Go vegan. Your meals will be zestier, more flavorful, colorful and varied. If you don’t want to go vegan for the animals, do it for your taste buds.

Raw Bruschetta from Cashew "Cheese" on a Multi-Seed Base

Raw Bruschetta from Cashew "Cheese" on a Multi-Seed Base