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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Posts Tagged ‘contemplation’

Omnis mundi creatura

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Quoted in The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, I find this inspiring and moving. There are deep connections between the state of earth’s animals and earth’s human animals.

Omnis mundi creatura
quasi liber et pictura
nobis est in speculum;
nostrae vitae, nostrae mortis,
nostri status, nostrae sortis
fidele signaculum.
All the world's creatures,
as a book and a picture,
are to us as a mirror;
our life, our death,
our present condition, our passing
are faithfully signified.

More info by A. G. Pluskowski.

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.

The Door is Not the Floor

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Building a Permanent Framework of Peace

There are hundreds of solid, logical reasons to go vegan. You love the environment? Great. Stop eating meat and lessen the demand for mowing down rainforests. You want to lose fifty pounds? Well, you could do that on a meat-eating diet, but, okay. Go vegan and lose fat. You’re abhorred by the zoonotic diseases chicken leaks into your body? Who wouldn’t be?

These are great reasons, but they are only doorways. They let you in but, alone, they won’t keep you vegan. Peace and nonviolence will. Compassion weaves the floor that will support you forever. When you construct your sincere, ethical framework in the well-being of animals, you will never turn your back on it.

I will take the room analogy a step farther. The entrance which piques your interest is also an exit.
You want to lower your bad cholesterol so you go on a “vegan cleanse” for three weeks. Goal met. Vegan agenda ditched. You might pick it up again if your LDL rises.

Some people, upon replacing heavy, fast food with healthy, vegan meals lose weight. And then what? You’re thin, and fit. After a night of drinking, do you order a portabella sandwich or a bacon omelet? If you’ve gone vegan to lose weight, and now you’re thin, what’s to keep you from eating the eggs?

Realistically, in the context of obesity and cholesterol, what is the effect one little piece of bacon per week on a fit, healthy person? It won’t kill you.

But what about something you’re morally opposed to? One rape per week? Is that acceptable? Of course not, it’s atrocious.

Would the following appeal work in trying to convince a serial rapist? “Hey, man. Lay off the rape. Think of all the gas you burn driving to the dark parts of town to find your victims. That’s so eco-unfriendly. Avoid rape for the environment.”

I don’t know any rapists, but I’ll wager it would not deter them, even if they were Eco-Friendly Rapists.

Peace is the unmovable base supporting consistent thoughts and behavior.

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.’

What If the Whole World Went Vegan Tomorrow?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

People come up with the strangest questions. It’s as if they run out of perfectly logical thoughts so, to keep the anti-compassion machine burning full steam, they dream up ridiculous scenes to fuel it. I wonder if they’re thinking, as I used to think, “Surely there’s some scenario in which eating living beings makes sense, isn’t there?” It seems any reason is acceptable even if it goes against every fiber of their core beliefs and requires tremendous amounts of twisted logic or outlandish scenarios, provided that reason permits continued consumption of animals.

Some of the questions I’ve been asked by earnest, well-meaning, and apparently very confused friends:

  • What if the whole world went vegan tomorrow? What would we do with all the animals?
  • What would you do if you were dying of hunger in the desert, surrounded by deer and nothing else edible for dozens of miles?
  • What if you went your whole life and never ate meat, then on your death bed you ate a hamburger and wished you had eaten one before? Won’t you feel foolish for missing out on all of those years of pleasure?
  • Hey, can I have some of that lasagna? It smells great. Oh, god, oh no! It doesn’t have any curdled teat milk in it. Never mind. Your plant-based lasagna is weird. It’s extreme. It’s crazy lasagna, that stuff. Get it away from me.

Except for that last example, such questions seem innocent enough, but they’re not. Let us expand their assumptions and meanings a little bit. I’ll pick on the “whole world goes vegan tomorrow” scenario.

Instant Vegan Evolution Globally (the iVeg)

Hog confinement

After iVeg, this hog confinement is history.

The question is, “What would we do with all the animals if everyone went vegan tomorrow?” Your curious friend wants, rephrased a little, your Official Vegan Ambassador seal on a solution. But not just any solution. A foolproof, easily-summarized response to a radical, global shift of consciousness, agriculture, eating habits, ethics, restaurant menus, animal welfare, law and circuses. Oh, and don’t take too long responding, because he has a conference call in a few minutes with Dave from accounting.

We’ll call the global awakening he has dreamed up the Instant Vegan Evolution Globally, or the iVeg for short.

Does your friend think you are qualified to answer such a question? Do you often provide bulletproof strategies for radical, world-changing shifts that occur overnight? Of course not. At least, not without a few beers in you, right?

Your friend doesn’t want a sincere answer. He might think he does, but he doesn’t. How can you be expected to give a sincere answer to an insincere or misleading question? Can the iVeg ever occur? Overnight?

What does he want, then? I can’t speak for all of your friends, or all the people who ask questions like this, but I can analyze this particular example.

It’s not a question at all. Rather, it’s a collection of statements and assumptions bundled and tucked into what your friend probably considers an innocent thought experiment. The real statements behind the question are:

  • Having fifty six billion animals released into the wild would probably result in a lot of starving and suffering (of animals). That is bad and wrong.
  • Killing all ofthe animals instead of releasing them is not something a vegan could advocate because vegans state killing is bad and wrong.
  • Therefore, since the imaginary scenario could not “work,” all tenets of a compassionate, plant-based diet must be invalid and rejected.
  • (Robot voice) Drop your veganism. You have 15 seconds to comply.

What could a vegan do to answer this question? For starters, don’t answer it. It’s outlandish. Do you really think the entire world is going to drop meat and dairy from their diets over night? That restaurants are going to replace their seven pages of pig, chicken, lamb, goose, bison, turkey, fish and cow selections with pepper, potato, bean, cauliflower, broccoli, yam, carrot, rice and greens? Hey, and while they’re at it, all the restaurants will cut back on portion sizes to help prevent gorging and obesity, right?

Some might assert that far-fetched questions like this have purposes besides trolling and taunting. Besides descending into an exercise in creative reduction-to-absurdity, I cannot imagine any other use. One might as well ask, “What if the whole world except three men went vegan tomorrow? How could those men eat all of the remaining delicious, cancer-causing hot dogs?” This question is just as pointless.

The Accidental Troll

Animal welfarists would have us believe this contraption is humane, because it's padded, and we're playing classical music in the background.

Here comes the compassion!

Here’s the easy part: Ask yourself, “What is the purpose of this particular fantastic what-if scenario?” You’ll realize there is none. It’s just trolling. We are not talking about a journalist asking you questions as you deliver your groundbreaking twenty-year research results. We are talking about everyday conversation.

Here’s the hard part: breaking it to your friends that they’re trolling you when they probably didn’t even mean to.

If you’re like me, you’re thrilled that a meat-eater even wants to discuss a reduction in meat, much less veganism. A lady at work once borrowed a vegetarian cookbook, and I was so happy I nearly multi-grain pooped myself on the spot. However, when someone invents a topic like this, they might as well be asking, “Well, what if… I don’t know… what if real, live jackals took over the government? And we had to kill their natural enemies, the noble and gracious lions, in order to get jobs? And to secure land? What would you do then, smarty vegan pants? I saw The Lion King. I know what goes on.”

Dreaming up scenarios like the iVeg sounds a lot like the jackal scenario in my head. It’s ridiculous. It follows the same kind of talk as, “You want to drive a car? What if a piece of the moon breaks off at just the right angle, flies down and crushes your car? Don’t look at me like that, young man, it’s possible the moon could do that. Therefore, driving is unsustainable. Stay home and eat your meat. Oh, you want to write a magazine article about sport cars, instead? What if a driver reads it instead of paying attention to the road, then wrecks and dies? Don’t you even care about your fellow man? Here you are, passive-aggressively trying to kill motorists with your articles. For shame!”

Abandoned Slaughterhouse

The only sustainable slaughterhouse is an abandoned slaughterhouse.

The Real Answer

I said I would not provide a sincere answer to the iVeg, but I will anyway. Here is an easy solution to the questions, “What if the whole world went vegan tomorrow? What would we do with all the animals?”

Since we’re dealing in imaginary, far-flung scenarios, we can simply feed the animals forever on the free Infinity Food space aliens drop off for us. Problem solved. Oh, and we’ll use shrink rays so those pesky animals don’t take up too much space any more.

What? Your friend won’t like that answer? Okay, okay. You want to keep your friends, not alienate them. Fine, I’ll give you a real answer. But before I do, please dwell for a moment on the difference between a meat-eater being able to ask asinine questions and expect to be treated like a deep thinker, worthy of serious responses, while the “crazy” vegan would be judged for answering in a similar fashion.

The serious answer is that we would kill all, or at least most, of the pitiful last generation of food animals. Gasp! Did some vegan guy just recommend we slaughter the last vestiges of our captive, thinking, feeling animals? Isn’t that hypocritical?

Yes, I did and no, it’s not. In the iVeg scenario, no one has room, food or water for the animals. They are, I gather, either killed this week or released into parking lots and grade school playgrounds across the world. In imaginary world that is the iVeg scenario, either all of the animals are “dealt with” or the iVeg cannot happen.

Let’s get some numbers for this scenario, and why I recommend killing all of those in the last generation of victims. Fifty six billion animals are killed each year for their flesh, secretions and other pieces. Some lazy math, for the sake of argument, spreads out the average lifespans, slaughter ages, and such. The number we arrive at is one billion animals enslaved and ready for execution on the day of iVeg. If this number doesn’t work for you, pick another. The exact amount is irrelevant, imaginary, and subject to change based on which bearded expert you query this week.

Here we are, at the dilemma your friend wanted. Either we release one billion animals into the wild or (gasp!) kill them. These animals were going to be (gasp!) killed anyway, so what’s wrong with them being killed now? Seriously. This is one final, the final, swing of the glutton’s ax.

If the iVeg never occurred, those animals would be killed anyway. But it wouldn’t end there, would it? No. There is a cycle of rape (how do you think cows are bred? Through courtship?), abortion, veal crates, genetic manipulation, accelerated growth into salable weight, and eventual slaughter.

This cycle is what must end. When it ends, and whether it ends in an iVeg moment or over the course of fifty years is less important. We must acknowledge: the cycle must end. One way or another, we cannot sustain animal agriculture and continue to grow the human race.

If you spread the iVeg out so it is not an instantaneous transition, but rather one that takes a couple of hundred years, then you have a couple of hundred years of tapering death counts. That’s a long, long tail. It adds up to many more than one billion animals.

From a utilitarian approach, the iVeg which culminates in slaughter by the billions is a heck of a lot better than the slow weaning from blood and milk. A gradual transition to global veganism forces exponentially more animals to die in hopeless, lightless captivity where the only sounds are those of their fellow inmates bleating, moaning, and being skinned alive.

The gradual transition is what is occurring right now. People are waking up from the meat-is-necessary-and-or-ethical illusion. Sure, as countries and regions gain affluence they also increase their meat consumption. But that is the way things are in human history at this time. All societies have some threshold at which point they will no longer increase their meat consumption. Once that threshold is met, demand for meat drops off and will eventually taper down to the civilized, enlightened level of zero.

My answer is probably not the one a meat-eater would expect from a vegan. The image of vegans is that we all want to dance in daisy fields and hold hands and that none of us have any grasp on “reality.” (Somehow the people who cannot connect drinking milk to the veal industry have a tighter grip on “reality” than vegans do.) It may be difficult to imagine a guy such as myself who won’t even eat Chex Mix, due to the milk in it, advising that we slaughter all of the animals in one fell swoop.

City of Bone

Mass Grave

A mass grave.

The natural follow-up troll question to the iVeg scenario is, “What would we do with all the corpses? If everyone is vegan, no one would eat them.” Since vegans are tasked with solving all of the world’s problems, my answer to that is also easy:

We’d feed the flesh to our pets and back to the wild.

With the bones, we’d build a horrific city out of them. We’d decorate alleys and buildings and street corners with skulls, hip bones, horns and beaks. To each corpse we would attach a little sound system playing the heart-breaking, bloody squeals of their final moments. Billions of little music players bleating, mewing and gagging over red-stained tile. Video screens would loop high definition footage of the final days of slaughter. It would show calves watching their mothers die of starvation and disease, wallowing in the feces-soaked mud, while in the distance a river of blood gushes from the slaughterhouse on the hill and pumps into our soil, seeping into our water supply.

The city of bones would be a testament to the greed and unfathomable depths of denial of which humans are capable. Who knows? Maybe we could turn it into an 8th wonder of the iVeg world, and use the proceeds to fund a compassionate education.

Sound grotesque? It may be. What is more harrowing and disturbing, though? Forming a reminder of the killings of the past or continuing to eat animals, silently hiding our consciousness from reality. To me, refusing to admit to ourselves that we are creating cities of bone many times over, and hiding from that fact, is more disgusting.

What Kind of Man is Afraid to Look at the Consequences of His Actions?

Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Why does it matter to honestly reflect on your food? Contrasting bond-building with meat-eating.

The food on our plates radiates information upward and, if the message can make it through the thick, pink, mind-controlling layers of our tongues, it may very well lodge in our brains (likely into a wrinkle next to the Indiana Jones theme song).

What messages are your meals radiating?

Think of Valentine’s Day on Snargleplexon. The buttered corpse of the Gerber Baby mouths an organic apple crammed in his maw. Two green aliens coo over each other while, on their plates, the ribs of other human babies lay steaming, slathered in barbecue sauce.

Silly, isn’t it? Grotesque, even. Certainly not romantic.

Yet plenty of human couples renew their bonds over steak, veal and chicken dinners on anniversaries, during first dates, on holidays, and in celebration of other major events such as graduation, retirement, births and even, maybe as the ultimate in irony, at funerals where we grieve the loss of a loved one.

How is a “traditional” steak dinner any less disturbing or comical than the Snargleplexonians munching on human infants? The charred remains of a raped and murdered mother send a strong message, but is anyone listening when that mother is “just a cow?” It would pain us to contemplate the misery she endured.

So what do most of us do? Most of us block out those thoughts. There we sit, in love, holding hands and misquoting bad poetry while below us the salty, pink pools of diluted blood leak across our plates.

Why It Matters

We are not machines. Thoughts are not compartmentalized units of cogitation. They do not sit neatly in one activity, cleanly boxed-in with no spill-over into the next. Consciousness is messy and defies entrapment. Thoughts wander. Feelings simmer for hours, weeks, years. We fall into habits, and through habits we reinforce whatever stokes them.

Turning a blind eye to the suffering of the weak, to those most vulnerable, means becoming callous and indifferent in other areas as well. Rehearsing a state of mind multiple times per day makes it easier to enter that state. Denying and repressing thoughts of the suffering your culinary whims are causing will spill into other parts of your life.

The result of training is reflexive action. You cannot control your reflexes. Why would you train yourself to reflexively deny and repress feelings of compassion? Compassion aside, why would you train yourself to ignore the truth? What kind of man is afraid to look at the consequences of his actions?

If thinking about your dinner disturbs you, and you eat it anyway, something is very wrong.

What does it say about us if we are afraid to contemplate the origins of that which give us the greatest pleasure?

Kick the animal bits off your plate and replace them with tasty plant alternatives. It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s fun to eat something new and different.

Romance, friendship, family bonds, and the meals over which they all blossom, must be an expression of joy – all the way to their sources. When you eat vegan meals, you are free.