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 ‘Us’ Category

Do Vegans Believe That Meat is Evil?

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

I overheard a friend of mine explaining to a meat-eater, “Yes, but vegans believe meat equals evil.”

This is another subtle but pervasive opinion of vegans which I take issue with.

A phrase like “vegans believe meat = evil” trivializes the belief that killing innocent beings is immoral.

“Evil,” these days, is a hard notion to take seriously. “Meat” is a faceless, tasty product that most of us in the United States grew up eating. Most importantly, I think, a phrase like this keeps the animal out of the picture and the emotionless product, meat, as the focus.

A non-vegan listening to my friend would likely construct in his head an image of a wobbly, little, pink cut of meat and a red-eyed fringe lunatic vegan screaming “evil” at it.

Many vegans think killing innocent beings is immoral. Meat is a product of killing those beings, just like a black eye might be the byproduct of getting punched in the face. No one would scream that black eyes are evil, yet nearly everyone would object to an old lady receiving one (unless she works at the DMV).

In all dealings with those who think like us and with those who disagree, we absolutely cannot forget about those who, for food and entertainment, are stabbed, bludgeoned, slit open, drown alive, electrified, gassed to death, prodded with hooks, chucked with their brothers and sisters into grinders, chainsawed and even thrown into pits of despair (for “science”). At this very moment, by the thousands, all of that and worse is occurring.

If we think anything is evil, that is it. Not “meat.”

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

The Magical Morality Organ

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Chick and Kitten

The one on the left will be ground up with about a thousand siblings so you can eat his mother's eggs.

Is it immoral to cut a dog’s throat because we like the sound of the blood gurgling onto the soil? To stomp on a box of kittens because the squishing under our feet is lovely and refined? To sever a lizard’s tail and legs, leaving her to bleed to death, because the trail of blood she leaves behind makes interesting patterns?

Most of us would say yes, these acts are immoral.  Would they be any better if the aggressor was paid to do it? If a young man is paid ten dollars every time he crushes a kitten to death, is the act then acceptable? How about ten thousand dollars? Of course not.

We agree that receiving pleasure from the sound, sight or feel of bloodshed is immoral (if not downright creepy), as is profit.

What if the pleasure is taste?

If the pleasures on our ears, under our feet, or upon our eyes are unacceptable reasons to inflict harm, why do we make exceptions for the pleasures of the tongue? It is just another organ.

Eye, nose and skin pleasure may be seen as entertainment.  If we agree that killing for mere entertainment is bad, then certainly crushing kittens to death is bad.  Stabbing a cow to death for entertainment, then, is also bad because a cow is no different a moral specimen than a kitten is.

The difficult part of talking to meat and dairy consumers is helping them understand that eating flesh and non-human milk are unnecessary.  Because these food items are not necessary, they are entertainment.  Buying steak at a grocery store which also sells beans and fresh vegetables is no more defensible than stomping on a box of kittens.

We must reject killing not just kittens, but also cows, chickens and all living beings, in pursuit of the specific sensations given to our tongues and noses.

There is no magic morality purifier device built into our taste buds. Criminals are not released on the condition that they greatly enjoyed the crime. And, despite what the bacon advertisements tell us, pigs are not happy to die today because a plate will hold their body parts tonight.

Our enjoyment is as irrelevant as profit. The price paid per kitten squished has no effect on the immorality of the act. Be it ten dollars or ten thousand dollars, funding murder is funding murder. In the same way, a tickle or a taste does not change the exploitation.

Let us be consistent with our beliefs. Being so is much easier than trying to explain to our children why assaulting kittens is bad, but assaulting pigs is okay, provided we eventually eat them, too.

A Tongue

Summary: Do not blame being an asshole on this organ.

See Also

Sucking Marrow

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

I had the opportunity to talk about veganism to a professor the other day. He responded without rebutting any one particular statement. Instead, he kept repeating that mankind is the most cunning, the most intelligent, and the most ruthless of all the creatures on earth. He toted these values incessantly (He also banged his fist on the table and raised his voice – but I can overlook that as a personality flaw).  It is thanks to these traits, he said, that we evolved from apes to man. Specifically, he said it was our ability to suck marrow out of discarded bones in the desert that helped us survive famines.

Spider Chasing a Lego Human

"Go back to banging rocks together, human!"

Okay.

He seemed to take a great deal of pleasure in repeating the words “ruthless, cunning,” and “intelligent.” I imagine if we knew him better, we’d find out that he cherishes these aspects of consciousness most about himself, as well. Isn’t that obvious? Why else, with such gusto and satisfaction, would he dwell on them?

He might be right. In a starved, desperate, depraved past, eating marrow may have brought us biologically up from early hominids into homo sapiens. But he is very wrong if he thinks that same kind of behavior will move us forward.

Cunning and ruthless savagery are for war and killing. War and killing is out of control and will cause the extinction of man. Or, indirectly, soak up so many resources that man cannot afford to fight natural pandemics.

Compassion, communication and cooperation are our only hope.

When was the last time you employed cunning and ruthlessness to fall in love or do anything really meaningful?

It won’t be marrow-sucking, lethal cunning and remorseless intellect that keeps our civilization alive. These traits do nothing but threaten our existence. We are apes no longer.

Here’s another way to look at it. Ultimately, even if eating flesh – practically lethal to us unless cooked – nudged us up a branch in the evolutionary tree, we are not obligated to continue doing so. Continued eating of meat won’t help us make the next jump any more than throwing our own feces or swinging from trees will.

We Are Omnivores

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010
A Buffet of Fruits and Vegetables

Plants provide all of the protein we need. To state we need only animal flesh for our amino acids is akin to stating we need kiwi, and not oranges, for vitamin C.

One way people casually dismiss suggestions to drop meat from their diet is by hoisting up the fancy word omnivore.  “But we’re omnivores,” they state with a hefty, steak-sauce covered dollop of pride.  “We must eat these animals.  That’s what omnivores do.”  It sounds very scientific, doesn’t it?

Omnivore does not mean “must eat meat” any more than it means “must eat cockroaches.”  It is laughable (to us, certainly not to the cows and chickens) to suggest that omnivores, who by definition can eat nearly anything, must eat one particular thing: flesh.

Being omnivores, we’re highly adaptive.  It means we can obtain nutrients from both plants and animals.  It does not mean that we’re enslaved to a particular type of fruit or creature for nutrition.

Because we can does not mean we must.

Plants provide all of the protein we need.  To state we need only animal flesh for our amino acids is akin to stating we need kiwi, and not oranges, for vitamin C.

Our status as omnivores, in fact, is exactly the perfect argument in favor of a plant-based diet.  We have a buffet of food choices.  To restrict our intake to one particular item, flesh, when more affordable, compassionate alternatives exist, is blind, wasteful and cruel.  To pretend that the buffet does not even exist, that we are trapped into eating but one source of protein, is not just incorrect, it is insane.

Soymilk is So Strange

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

Let me get this straight. We artificially inseminate cows. We steal their babies and hook up machines to steal their milk. We pasteurize the milk, ship it across the country in chilled trucks to prevent curdling, feel sick to our stomachs when we consume it, must take pills to prevent gastrointestinal upset when digesting it, wouldn’t dare drink it if it sat on a counter for a day straight, and we think this is natural? Meanwhile, we see plant-based creams (soy, almond, rice) as strange?

Omnivores and Cockroaches

Saturday, August 28th, 2010
Cockroach for dinner? No, thank you.

Omnivore does not mean "must eat meat" any more than it means "must eat cockroaches."

If we really are omnivores, then this is an even stronger argument in favor of eating only plants.  We can thrive on them.  We don’t need meat.  We are omnivores.

Vegans are omnivores. People who eat meat are omnivores. Maybe you eat cows and chickens. Maybe she eats only plants. Our culinary behavior does not change our biological capability to digest darn near anything we cram in our hinged, grinding little mouths.

It is important to press the issue that vegans are omnivores, too. Too often in the world of vegan discussions do people say things like, “My omni friend said…” I don’t know about you, but I’m reluctant to stop “being an omnivore” and start “being a vegan.” No offense to sissies, but it makes me sound like a sissy.

To even hint that you are no longer an omnivore makes it sound like you’ve given up an innate aspect of your humanity. To give up being an omnivore, if such a thing were possible, sounds like giving up your nature, doesn’t it? You’re less than human, then. You’ve resigned from your birthright as an Eater of All Things. Therefore, you’re less likely to survive in situations where eating disgusting things is necessary. If you’re less likely to survive, who the heck wants to be you, mimic you, or even produce children with you?

Vegans are not giving up omnivore status, if such a thing were even possible. Omnivore is something we are. Veganism is something we do.

You now have a solid reply when someone says, “Sorry, I couldn’t be a vegan. I’m a hard core omnivore.”

“I’m an omnivore too.”

“Huh? You don’t eat meat.”

Can-eat-anything does not mean must-eat-meat.” Or, to put it my favorite way, “Omnivore does not mean we must eat meat any more than it means we must eat cockroaches.”

Sleight of Ham

Monday, August 16th, 2010

B12, Pigs, Multivitamins and You

A common misconception is vitamin B12 is produced by animals. This is a main objection meat eaters have to veganism. Their reasoning goes, “If only animals produce it, and we need it, then we need animals.” This sounds like a good point, but, like most other meat and dairy arguments, it falls short if we dig a little deeper.

It is true we need vitamin B12. It is correct to say that of all the things humans who buy their food from grocery stores eat, only animal products naturally contain vitamin B12 nowadays, but it is incorrect to state that animals create B12.

Vitamin B12 and its relationship to animals is best summed up by Reed Mangles, Ph. D., R.D.[1]:

“Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foods contaminated with vitamin B12 and then the animal becomes a source of vitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms or have vitamin B12 added to them.”

This still sounds like a straight-forward argument to eat meat, doesn’t it? It’s exactly the opposite.

First, the content of vitamin B12 in the muscle tissue of slaughtered animals is questionable. If you think pigs, for instance, are eating whole, natural foods swimming with plenty of the vitamins and minerals they need, you are wrong (and you haven’t been paying attention so far on this web site). In concentrated animal farming operations, pigs and other animals are frequently given vitamin B12 shots[2].   This is necessary for them because the food they are eating does not have adequate B12 in it any more, and some gruesome studies[3] show that B12 supplementation makes the meat “better.” Remember, these poor creatures are forced to consume fish meal, corn and grains they would never eat in the wild.

They have to get their vitamins from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually from the business end of an injector.

Therefore, if we eat animal products from grocery stores because it is a “natural” way to fulfill vitamin B12 requirements, we are being fooled. What we are really doing is using the defenseless pig as a proxy for taking a multivitamin.

Once again we see that if pig flesh wasn’t bled, salted, altered with fire and smoke, you’d find few sane people arguing that we need to eat it for survival.

We are not chained to eating animals to gain our microscopic vitamin B12 requirements. We have options. Common breakfast cereal is a wonderful source of B12. Almost all grain products in the United States are enriched with vitamins, B12 especially. Oatmeal, corn flakes, and rice puffs are good sources.  Even the sugar-drenched diabetic horrors that are most breakfast cereals have 35% of your daily B12 requirement.[4] That’s five times the B12 provided by half a chicken breast[5].

Don’t like cereal? Get what you need from multivitamins, nutritional yeast flakes, breads, tortillas, even pancakes.

Arguing that we need to eat animals to get vitamin B12 is like the Snargleplexonians arguing that they need to eat our babies to get their creamed peas.

Creamed Peas

Eating babies is natural because there is no other way for Snargleplexonians to get their blended pea supplement.

References:

  1. Vitamin B12 in the Vegan Diet, Reed Mangels, Ph.D., R.D., http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/b12.htm, Accessed 2007/04/24
  2. Minerals in Animal and Human Nutrition, L. R. McDowell, Published by Elsevier Health Sciences, 2003 ISBN 0444513671, 9780444513670
  3. Comparative effect of low levels of dietary cobalt and parenteral injection of vitamin B12 on carcass and meat quality characteristics in Omani goats, I. T. Kadim, , O. Mahgoub, A. Srikandakumar, D. S. Al-Ajmi, R. S. Al-Maqbaly, N. M. Al-Saqri and E. H. Johnson. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2003.08.003
  4. General Mills: Lucky Charms product data, http://www.generalmills.com/corporate/brands/brand.aspx?catID=69, Accessed 2009/01/05
  5. Vitamin B12. (2010, August 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:44, August 25, 2010, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vitamin_B12&oldid=380795116#Foods

Ignorance, Bliss and Morphine

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Ignorance is bliss. We’ve heard that before.

Is it blissful to stay ignorant of animal suffering? Maybe. But who among us is truly ignorant that animals suffer at our hands? On this topic most of all, 99% of us live in a state of willful ignorance.

Intentionally denying and ignoring the truth is willful ignorance, and is anything but bliss. Willful ignorance is artificial numbness. Numbness to what? To the pain caused by refusing to act.

The truth does not set us free. Not from this kind of pain. Simply knowing the truth about suffering does not set anyone free. Acting on the truth does.
The truth is that we all have the power to alleviate the suffering of sentient beings. Knowing this truth and taking no action causes our own suffering. Intentionally contributing to the unnecessary misery of others puts a heavy burden on us, and it takes a lot of energy to deal with.

Nope, nope, don't feel a thing. Nope.

Willful ignorance is like taking morphine rather than removing your hand from the stove, as if in a state of paralysis. The burning is knowing we can help someone with very little effort on our own parts, and not doing it. The paralysis binds us to our own suffering, and will not depart until we take action.

Compassion does not exist thought alone; that is called fantasizing.

In the case of eating, wearing, experimenting on and otherwise using animals, we actually can change their fates. We can reduce the demand for them as inbred Yorkshire puppies, as easter bunnies, as cows turned to “steak” and lobsters into bisque.

Willful ignorance compounds the suffering. Maintaining willfull ignorance requires great amounts of energy, because every time we kill one animal but keep another as a companion, we contribute to a split personality, and we reinforce the paralysis that keeps us tied to the stove, burning ourselves.

Why would someone stay in this state?

It’s not because they’re evil. It’s not because they’re stupid.

They’re scared.

Replacing meat and dairy requires making changes.

Making changes requires exploring the unknown.

Fear is always about what’s coming. It’s never about what’s here, what’s happening now.

Most of all, I think, people fear the lack of “payoff” of veganism. Pizzas and hamburgers are bound to nearly limitless cultural references, habits and memories. Will vegan pizzas be better? Will the soy milk taste just as good as the kind the posters tell us the mothers happily give up to their benevolent, caring, and gentle human masters?

That’s the funny part. People really do not know. Here we are, as vegans, eating delicious, affordable, compassionate meals that could literally be grown in hydroponic labs in the most cramped of space stations. And our friends, relatives and neighbors really do not know how good our lives are, how little we’ve had to give up. They simply don’t get it.

All because they’re afraid of giving up hamburgers.

Help two someones out, and share your meals. You’re helping the animal and you’re helping the human animal who grabs your tupperware. Cook a little extra, and give away food without asking permission first. Who cares if it’s not perfect?

It’s up to us to help people take their hands off the stove.

Welfarism is Speciesist

Friday, July 16th, 2010
Hmm, well, at least the killer gave her a car and a nice home for a while. That's ethical, sustainable and compassionate.

Hmm, well, at least the killer gave her a car and a nice home for a while. That's ethical, sustainable and compassionate.

Take a moment to understand how speciesist welfarism truly is.

All that welfarism (“make the cows happier before we kill them!”) does is make people feel better about consuming them.  It does absolutely nothing to reduce demand, and demand is the problem.

Cage free eggs?  Bullshit.  Organic milk?  Bullshit.  None of this reduces demand.  And, furthermore, they are typically lies.  I wish I was making this up.

Demand is the problem.  A soft room with Mozart playing while chickens are gassed to death is ridiculous and accomplishes nothing.

For every dollar and every minute spent making chickens “happier” during their torture, that is one dollar and one minute not spent educating people about how unbelievably easy it is to go vegan.

I’m sorry if this rant annoys you, but it really irritates me when good, sane, helpful, caring people get sucked into welfarist beliefs.  Providing bigger, comfier cages is completely counter-productive.  There is absolutely no evidence that it does anything to move us toward zero animal use.

Now – why is a welfarist attitude speciesist?

Because you would never, ever suggest to a human mother of four children that it’s okay for your company to enslave and beat her children simply because they’ll be on a nice plantation with lots of room to move around.  You would never tell her that child abuse “isn’t going away any time soon, so we might as well make things as nice for the children as we can.”

If your suggestions are barbaric and nonsensical when inflicted on humans, they are barbaric and nonsensical when inflicted on any sentient being.