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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Comic: Pushy Vegans

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

Comic: Pushy Vegans

 

Even if you still eat meat, deviating even once from the social norms is going to get you reactions like this.  If you have no interest in going vegan, then at least try eating a conspicuously vegan meal a few times in mixed company.  For instance, vegetable fajitas when everyone else is having cow in theirs, or a veggie burger at a place which servers cow burgers.  Watching people’s reactions as they try to figure out why you’re not joining in on the meat eating is fun and philosophically profitable.

You may notice the jacket looks really familiar to a certain sweater worn in another webcomic.  For my first page, I wanted to pay tribute to Penny-Arcade, who have provided me with years of chuckles and a few outright guffaws.

Top Ten Lies I Hear

Friday, October 7th, 2011

Inspired by the currently trending #Top10Lies Twitter hashtag, here are the ones I hear most about vegan diets, motives and vegans themselves.

  1. “Veganism is expensive.” I build muscle on $4 a day. Grains, legumes, beans, veggies, etc., are incredibly affordable and nearly all the recipes can be cooked quicker than you can drive to a restaurant.
  2. “Vegans are elitist.” There is nothing more elitist than subjugating innocent beings and killing their children because you prefer the way their milk tastes.
  3. “Vegan diets just aren’t healthy.” This nearly always follows someone assuming you went vegan ‘for health reasons,’ and then trying to find some criticism when you tell them you stopped eating animals for ethical reasons. Vegan diets are incredibly healthy.
  4. “Plants feel pain, too.” You have to be out of touch with reality to utter this as a reason to eat animals. To produce a plate of animal-based food, you have to spend 20 plates of plant-based food and a tremendous amount of water. Eating animals means eating, by proxy, 20 times as many plants as a vegan does. Plants do not have any nervous systems.
  5. “Vegans cram their beliefs down other people’s throats.” No, foie gras is cramming your beliefs down throats.
  6. “Vegans are weak little waifs.” I can’t speak for Mac Danzig, Brendan Brazier and Robert Cheek, but they are not waifs. Anecdotally, I have been vegan four years and I still squat twice my body weight. Vegans are just people. If they lift weights and eat right, they get big. If they argue on the internet all day, they get pasty and skinny (or fat), just like meat eaters.
  7. “All vegans love PeTA and are domestic terrorists.” No, vegans want you to live longer, healthier, and to stop exploiting animals. Shoving 1,100 pigs down a killing line per day is a terror factory. PeTA has as much to do with vegans as the National Rifle Association has to do with eating chicken.
  8. “It’s too hard to be vegan.” Too hard to shove food in your face? Too hard to say ‘vegetable fajitas’ instead of ‘chicken fajitas’ when you are eating at a Mexican place? The ‘too hard’ excuse reminds me of all the excuses I heard when I was a personal trainer.
  9. “You can only get protein from tofu.” Tofu has protein, but you don’t need tofu to get all the protein you need. The world has gone protein crazy. People have been convinced through protein suppliers that a human needs 50g of cow-based juice every 3 hours or they will shrivel up and die. Don’t believe the hype. Do some research. You’ll be fine.
  10. “Growing plants causes field mice to be killed, therefore eating animals is okay, and vegans are hypocrites.” People forget that it takes tremendous amounts of plant material to feed 56 billion land animals every year. More field mice are killed feeding meat eaters than feeding vegans. And the idea that accidental harm justifies intentional and unnecessary harm is just stupid.

This update is a little grumpier and less polished than most of mine, so if I’ve offended you, please go vegan.

The Titus Connection

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010
If inflicting pain on any helpless creature, human or not, brings you unease, then I beg of you to cease eating animals.

Cows, chickens, fish, goats, geese, and all other individuals are every bit as deserving of justice and compassion as is any beloved family member.

In the wee hours of the pre-dawn morning, our cat Titus was struck by a car and killed. Judging by his wounds, and the fact that he crawled not an inch from where he was struck, we can guess he died instantly. I’d like to think so.

To help cope with his passing, I posted some pictures of him online as well as a video I made the night before, in which I scratched his belly and rubbed his head. He playfully batted at my hands, flipped himself over and over, and rolled around, alternating between swatting at me and hugging me. We will miss him dearly.

I don’t think anyone would say that the car which ran him over was a compassionate car, nor would they say that the act was exonerated if the driver got out and chanted or prayed or somehow showed respect to Titus. No, Titus is still dead, regardless of the means, intent or ritual around it.

Are baby cows any less worthy of our compassion simply because they had no humans to love them, to name them, and to dote upon them? Do they deserve freedom any less?

When we can mourn the passing of a neighbor’s cat, yet feed our children the milk of a mother cow, we are denying the connection between them. When we snack on the dessicated remains of sentient beings (“beef jerky”) on the way to the veterinary clinic, we practice numbness and denial. The animals we consume are every bit as deserving of life as my cat was, and in consuming them we reinforce a disharmony and a confusion in ourselves that reverberates with every meal.

If inflicting pain on any helpless creature, human or not, brings you unease, then I beg of you to cease eating animals. If we are ever to experience the world honestly, without fear, and without denial then we must begin by facing our actions toward all animals that way.

The murder of “food animals” is more tragic than accidentally flattening them with our cars because these unnecessary deaths are intentionally ordered. We pay individuals to kill individuals. We crush them under our own machinery for absolutely no good reason.

Let me leave you with a deeply salient point Dr. Will Tuttle makes in his book, The World Peace Diet:

Most of us have had the experience of receiving pain at the hands of doctors or dentists, yet the hands that administer the pain are, we feel, ultimately well-intentioned. The fact that they are doing these painful things for our own good makes the infliction of pain tolerable and gives it a meaningful context. To imagine those same hands performing painful procedures on our bodies with the sense that these hands do not care at all about our good, but are causing us pain simply because it profits them or they enjoy doing so, is horrifying in the extreme, particularly if we are powerless in their hands. When we put animals in this position by purchasing their flesh, fluids and eggs, we must bear responsibility not only for their suffering but for the hardening of the human hands and hearts that inflict this suffering.

They Have No Emotion

Sunday, August 29th, 2010
Here, the complex and mysterious Bear-Machine grooms another machine purely because a complex part of it's "instinct" tells it to do so. Note the proper usage of 'it' when applied to fur-covered machinery, such as these two Bear Machines.

Here, the complex and mysterious Bear-Machine grooms another machine purely because a complex part of it's "instinct" tells it to do so. Note the proper usage of 'it' when applied to fur-covered machinery, such as these two Bear Machines.

Famous vivisector René Descartes wanted us to believe animals are mere machines, incapable of feeling pain.  He and others had many wordy ways of explaining why the animals squealing in pain were not really in pain, and why their preference for one food versus another was mindless “instinct.”  (Descartes did some good for the world, but my focus here is on his vivisection and philosophy toward animals)

The belief that animals cannot feel emotion, much less pain, is an anthropocentric bias, contrived in arrogance and directly straining the reader away from their own experiences with animals.  It is also suspiciously complex, and not what most of us would consider “common sense.”

What is more simple? That non-human animals can also feel anger and affection? Or that they are complex machines operating in a sterile vacuum of “instinct,” behaving in ways that even they do not understand, that they are machines, and that the supposedly great human capacity for emotion is generated spontaneously.

Animals are individuals with as much capacity for joy, rage and fear as we are.

We condemn people when we say they are behaving “like animals.” Usually the context indicates depraved, senseless violence, lacking the refined acumen of their human superiors.

We condemn emotions as simple, base things, as those of the uncontrolled and inattentive.

And then, in a special kind of obliviousness and arrogance, we find situations to assert that animals do not even possess feelings. That, as depraved as they are, they possess neither our brilliance nor our capacity for emotion.

So, we are to believe, the chicken cares nothing for her chicks. She cannot “care,” we are told, she can only do as instinct tells her. Only human mothers can possibly feel anything for their young. And what of dominance urges, for instance in turtles? What would the urge to attack a member of your own species feel like, if not fear and rage? And has anyone ever crossed between a mother bear and her cubs and thought, “Boy, am I glad she doesn’t have the capacity for emotion.”

Part of us is desperate. We will gladly believe anything which reinforces the illusion that animals are machines – and this illusion slides in nicely next to our guilt, next to the burning we feel when we repress the truth – the truth that we really do not want to treat them like machines because it does not even make sense to think of them that way, that our subconscious cries out to us to stop trying to believe confusing, cruel nonsense.

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

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.

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.

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.

Except Hot Wings

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

True story from my past:

Coworker: “Oh, man. I just can’t eat chicken. I mean, the conditions they’re kept in… it’s just awful. Did you know most of them can’t walk? I mean, they can’t even spread their wings, for god’s sake. It’s horrible.”

Me: “I know! Isn’t it? I’m so glad I stopped eating them.”

Coworker: “Yeah. I mean… gosh, I can never eat chicken again.”

Brief pause.

Coworker: “Well, except hot wings. Mm… man, I love hot wings. Gotta have those.”