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 ‘speciesism’

“Eat Like You Care” and Michael Vick

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

via Prof. Gary Francione’s Facebook page update:

This morning (from the U.K.):

A wonderful book. One of the reviews mentioned that rather than to persuade the reader of your position, you get the reader to see that they already believe carries the implication that they should be vegan. Brilliant! It is clearly written. I loved it and plan on buying a dozen print copies as gifts when they become available. A wonderful job!

And a portion of a new Amazon review:

The prominent theme throughout the book is the connection Francione and Charlton make between Michael Vick’s dogfighting and the similarity to the consumption of animals and their products. From their impeccable logic, the reader realizes that Michael Vick’s dogfighting was wrong because he imposed suffering and death on dogs for no reason other than he wanted to; omnivores consume animals and their products for exactly the same reason – they simply want to. Both dogfighting and consuming animals and their products imposes suffering and death on animals for no ‘good’ reason. Therefore, the only logical response to this is to go vegan.

www.eatlikeyoucarebook.com

Of Course Pit Bulls Mourn Their Dead

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In an MSN article today – a headline article – a Pit Bull mourned his friend for fourteen hours after she was killed by a car.  Here’s the link, if you want to depress yourself for a while.  This is front-page news because people still want to believe that only humans have “higher” emotions such as grief and love, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

When people write, discuss and link articles like this, it is usually because they are saying, “Well of course the dog feels that way,” and “How sad!”  It is not until they think about what they eat that people will cite some outlandish fallacy to describe why this dog is different, and eating a pig or drinking cow milk is perfectly fine.

I disagree strongly with the idea that dogs mourn while chickens do not, and science backs up my belief.

When news articles and discussions like this come up, it’s a good time to interject some observations.  Before people get to the point of citing inherited cultural stupidity as if it were their own (“Jesus ate fish 2,000 years ago therefore yay bacon and foie gras“), this is an excellent time to bring up a few discussion points:

  • All animals mourn the losses of their loved ones.  (See also: my “bear machines” article).  These dogs are no different than pigs.  What makes us so certain that we can inflict this kind of mourning on innocent animals?
  • Killing the dog painlessly still inflicts a harm upon her friend, the survivor, even if you do not accept that removing all future experiences from killed animal is a harm.  (Try telling a grieving family member that their grief is not suffering).
  • Pigs are allegedly smarter than dogs.  (Not that it matters).  When we eat pork chops, bacon, pig lard, we create scenes like this for them.
  • The location could change but the grief would be the same.  Standing in line waiting to be slaughtered does not magically render the animals happy to smell blood and hear the screams of their friends and loved ones ahead of them in line.
  • Going vegan= eliminates, among other things, the mourning a mother cow does when her child is ripped away so humans can steal her milk.

Many of us accept that animals love, play, fear and fight.  We need not eat them to survive, therefore we cannot justify eating them for pleasure.

Open Letter to Ariel Kaminer and the New York Times

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Dear Ariel Kaminer,

I am writing in response to your contest, “Calling All Carnivores.”

Why must the NY Times encourage readers to eat meat?  Why was the contest not called, “Ethical Reasons to Stop Eating Meat?”

Those two are rhetorical questions.  The answers are because the NY Times does not want to award people for insisting eating meat is unethical.  On the contrary, this contest is strong evidence the NY Times wants to reward people for insisting eating meat is ethical.

In your article, you assert that “those who love meat have had surprisingly little to say.” How can you make this assertion and live in the United States, where every meal is pig, chicken, fish or cow, and where bookshelves are crammed with titles encouraging popular but illogical “compassionate carnivorism?”

My complaint is not that you believe meat fans are silent, or under-represented. As a meat eater, you are likely as unshaken by Turduckens and bacon as the rest of America, so your belief that meat-eaters have “had surprisingly little to say” is understandable.

My complaint is about the end goal. The result of this contest, intentional or not, is an article which causes readers to think, “Ah-hah. So that why eating meat is ethical. I knew I was right for doing it.”

The world does not need more reasons to eat meat, much less a contest recruiting the most convincing and popular logical fallacy.  The world is not better for increased demand of dead or dying animals.

The world needs people who, as you said in another article, feel crummy when unnecessarily ending the life of another, and it needs articles from those people saying why they refuse to repeat the act.

Related reading:

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.”

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:

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.

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.

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