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Posts Tagged ‘power’

Why The Dalai Lama is Full of It

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

The Dalai Lama eats meat.  Why this bothers me can best be summed up by my favorite quote from Norm Phelps in his book, “The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights“:

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.

I ate meat for 32 years. It wasn’t until then that I read enough to realize that animal flesh simple is not necessary for humans. What a relief! To know that eating meat (and obviously dairy) wasn’t necessary. I can’t tell you how good it felt to find that out.

Since we don’t need it, and there are alternatives everywhere, eating it is really only an act of preference. Okay, some people prefer it, that’s fine. They’ll come around.

The Dalai Lama eats animals. Having people kill animals for him to eat is the opposite of compassion.

Battlestar Galactica S2:E5, “The Farm”

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Spoiler alert.

Season 2, Episode 5 of Battlestar Galactica is called, “The Farm.” Kara Thrace wakes up in a ‘hospital’ which turns out to be a breeding ground run by Cylons.

She is asked by a woman prisoner to cut the power and kill her, because she “can’t live like these. We’re baby machines.”

Kara and, hopefully, the viewers are sickened and probably enraged at this disgusting mistreatment of human beings. They should be.

The same goes for our treatment of animals. The same garbage discrimination is used by humans to enslave animals in real life as was used by Cylons to enslave and breed humans in Battlestar.

Hulu offers the show if you’re willing to watch 90 minutes of commercials first. Here, I’ve embedded the scene for your viewing pleasure:

They Have No Interest in the Future

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Elephants mourning their dead. This must be some kind of robot-instinct acted out in a stupid, robotic, 'instincty' kind of way. Photo by Kelly Landen.

Some want to assert that because animals have “no interest in the future,” or “no concept of the future,” it is morally acceptable to enslave and kill them.

Robber Barons

We can say killing someone steals their future. Stealing from an individual, whether or not they have a sense of the loss, is still stealing from them. Just like burning someone with congenital analgesia (insensitivity to pain) is still burning them.

It is the dream of the exploiter to find a blanket statement which permits them to continue the exploitation. The more philosophical and abstract the statement, the better, it seems.

Animals Actually Do Have an Interest in the Future

Why do we remember things? In the case of stoves, we remember they may be hot even when they look inactive because, otherwise, we might get burned. Strawberries are tart and sweet. A red light means stop.

Memory serves the purpose of decision making. The hot stove is not touched and the strawberry is eaten to extract its flavor. Our most basic interests are in avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure.

We remember things because we want to change the future.

Pleasure from anticipated strawberries and pain from anticipated shock collars exist in the future. If they exist in the present, we might salivate or twitch or jump out of reflex, and reflexes are one of the few things we do without decision-making. But reflex is done without cognition, as far as we know. It need not consult memory.

When we spy the hot stove or lay our eyes on the red of a shining, freshly washed strawberry, we are contemplating the future.
One with memories is one with an interest in the future. Even interests as simple as “eat until full” and “avoid hissing cats” concern themselves with the future. And this future always includes one thing: the entity thinking about it.

Do dogs have memories? Of course they do. Pavlov’s experiments prove dogs can be conditioned. And where are they be conditioned but in their minds? The dog who salivates at the ring of a bell because she hears it every time dinner is served is thinking about the past (or, at least, considering it) and preparing her body for the future. She expects to receive food.

The sound of the bell is as good as the smell of a fresh meal. Be the input through ears or nose, something is telling her food is near.
What chicken, as “dumb” as they are supposed to be, would forget the sweetest patch of land with the most worms in their pecking ground?
There is a long-held belief that birds are simply too stupid to remember coastlines and geographic landmarks, that they migrate by “pure instinct,” whatever that is. But even this is in question now, with evidence showing that some birds navigate by memory and reason.

If a creature, bird or bear or hare or fish, has a memory then that creature has self-interest and self-awareness. Why else remember anything? Why remember if not to alter the future?

Penguins mourning their dead children. This must be some kind of robot-instinct acted out in a stupid, robotic,'instincty' kind of way.

The Herd Has an Interest in Its Future

Is gassing a nursery full of infant morally acceptable? Of course not. How about gassing one of them? Again, no.

In the dreamworld where each animal “has no interest in his or her future,” it is easy to overlook the fact that animals do mourn. They need social structures, and dropping in Chimp 520 to replace Chimp 519 does not work. Animals are not machines; they are living beings. Even if the fanciful interest-in-future criteria was morally acceptable, which logic suggests it is not, removing the individuals has a profound impact upon their families and social circles.

It makes no difference that the individuals are black, white, Jewish, cows, chickens or salmon. The type of organism is irrelevant to the crime being committed against his or her group. Unlike the survival situations of lions chomping on gazelles, humans committing acts of violence and enslavement against animals is a crime because the act is completely unnecessary to our survival.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.