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.

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Posts Tagged ‘speciesism’

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.

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.

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.

What if the Killing Was Painless?

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

People ask me how I would feel if the cows, chickens, geese, salmon, buffalo, ducks, salamanders, crocodiles, sheep, turkeys, goats, camels and dodo birds were killed painlessly. Would it be okay to eat the animals then?

Pain is irrelevant. There are four strong reasons that taking the life of a sentient being against her will is not justified simply because the method is painless.

First, she is being deprived of her further experiences. I rank this first because there is absolutely no working around it. If someone removes your mother from this world against her will, she will never again experience anything. The timeline is cut and cannot be mended. The presence or absence of pain caused by murder is irrelevant.

Second, killing a nonhuman is the murder of an innocent. This is unjust. The method of murder is irrelevant to result from the crime.

Third, it is a speciesist notion that murdering a chicken is acceptable while doing the same to a human is unacceptable. Modern-day court systems would not permit the murder of red-haired children or black children, because those kinds of appeals are racist, illogical nonsense. Like racism, all defenses of speciesism are faulty, if not absurd.

And forth, it removes her from her family. They absolutely will notice her untimely departure. At the idea of sparing one animal from physical suffering, you create suffering in the members of her family who mourn her. (This point could be argued against by suggesting we engineer single animals with no parents or siblings from test tubes; that we kill all the families and friends together at once; or otherwise engage in sterile yet psychotic behavior. The problem with these ‘solutions’ is obvious: they are speciesist. If these acts were committed against humans, it would be like a scene from a horror movie.)

You already know these answers, of course. Replace the nonhuman in your question with a human. Then, the reasons why we must show compassion are endless.

Gelatin

Monday, April 19th, 2010
"... aaaand that's why they call it Jell-O." -- Penny-Arcade

"... aaaand that's why they call it Jell-o." -- Penny-Arcade

Products like Jell-O and some kinds of desserts use gelatin for texture. Gelatin is made from pieces of animal corpses. Typically, it is the collagen extracted from bones and skin.

Some people believe it is okay to use gelatin, since the animal was going to be killed for her flesh anyway. That is, they believe it is okay to use product X taken from a non-human animal because she was already scheduled to be killed for product Y.

In other words, since I’m already raping you, I might as well steal your toaster when I’m done. That makes stealing your toaster morally acceptable, doesn’t it?

Of course not. But placing the crime into a human framework, equating the suffering and feelings of Us with the suffering and feelings of Them, will still cause many people (even some vegans) to hesitate.

Logically, it cannot be refuted that stealing a toaster is anything but stealing, regardless of the crimes you commit against the owner (and who owns her tendons and ligaments more than the calf, the pig or the dog?).

When a Snargleplexonian beams down to your kitchen to commit a crime against you, Multiplexing you into tasty pink oblivion, this horrific act is not an act exonerated if he also depletes you of your savings, land, and Iron Maiden posters. Conversely, depleting you of your Iron Maiden posters is not exonerated if he kills you first.

Clearly not trying to impress you with fancy words and references to metal bands, I can sum it up with: Two wrongs do not make a right. Not two Snargleplexonian wrongs against you, and especially not two human wrongs against non-human animals.
If you believe that living beings are worthy of moral consideration, and you do not wish them to suffer, then you must not advocate any demand for their flesh, secretions, fur, behavior (as entertainment), utility (such as pulling your romantic buggies through Cozumel), and so on. You must not consume them as products.

Let’s get real nerdy and illustrate some specific misconceptions with the thought of consuming gelatin (or any other “by”-product from a corpse):

  • “Gelatin is different from other products taken from the corpse.” — False. Demanding gelatin places the same death sentence on her as does demanding her muscle tissue.
  • “She would be killed anyway.” — False. The human demand for her flesh and milk condemns her. Remove the demand and you will prevent the killing.
  • “As long as we’re nice to her first, it’s okay to kill her.” — False. Treating someone nicely and then murdering them does not free you from the crime. This doesn’t make sense with a space alien blasting you to bits. It doesn’t make any more sense when you’re a human being subjugating a helpless little piglet.
  • People are always going to eat meat, so why worry about gelatin?” — False. People are not going to always eat meat any more than people will always own slaves.
  • You pick your battles, like meat and gelatin, but I focus on other things, like donating to charities and helping my mother weed her garden. It all balances out. — False. I do not murder people, nor would I ever state that abstaining from murdering humans takes too much time or is too inconvenient. The same is true for non-human animals. Comparing do-goodery with veganism is a mistake. More on this topic here.

Some want to believe that consuming gelatin is a more or less innocent act, but even those sterile, generic-looking little packets of gelatin increase demand. Any demand for a good or service from living beings places monetary value on their lives. This is true for pigs, cows, geese, dogs, cats and even human beings. Here are four examples where the demand for “by-products” body parts has created wholesale slaughter, even when the meat and skins are not eaten:

  • Bison tongues: The honorable Sioux slaughtered somewhere between one and two thousand buffalo purely for their tongues. For what? To trade for whiskey.
  • Shark fins: Surely you’ve heard of shark fin soup? Well the whole shark is too damn heavy, so people just lift him up, cut the fin off, and toss him back in the water to bleed to death.
  • Elephant tusks: Outlawed. Still being hunted. Still being sold as “pre-outlaw” ivory. As long as you buy ivory, people will shoot elephant children and mothers for you.
  • Rabbit eyes: Sadly, still attached to the rabbit, eyes are sprayed with toxic chemicals to help people understand human accidentally spray themselves in the face with caustic goods. Really, guys? You can’t find anything else?

I hope these examples give you an idea of how any demand for the body parts of living beings is a very, very bad idea.

Solutions

And here you thought I was just going to cry my little vegan eyes out while offering no alternatives to gelatin. Hardly! Next time you’re thinking about buying a packet of the stuff, put it down. Get some of this, instead:

It’s not acceptable to inflict suffering and death onto animals by consuming them. With the above solutions, you do not need to exploit animals to get gelatin. You can have the foods you enjoy, while not contributing to the mass murder of innocents.

Now for a final comparison as equally disgusting and reprehensible as consuming human or non-human animal corpses. The next time someone asks you why using gelatin isn’t “okay,” ask them: Would it be okay to wear leather coats made from the skin of human prisoners of war? They “were dead anyway,” right?

As an aside, Penny-Arcade calls gelatin what it is.

Related posts: Recycled Speciesism

Recycled Speciesism

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

Here is a good example of why people think veganism is a vain, shallow or pointless endeavor.  And here is another way to discuss why that perception is incorrect.

When discussing veganism with people, you  may encounter someone who brushes aside the idea because “it’s just another way of doing something good.”  They will cite examples such as recycling, buying fair trade coffee, and composting to reduce waste as equally useful and compelling steps toward improving our planet.

At first, it sounds reasonable, especially if you are vegan to improve your health, lower your cholesterol, “go green,” or meet some other end or reach some other status.

Let me ask you something.  If you were taking about the rape and murder of human children, could you imagine anyone even trying to compare those atrocities with recycling?  With buying fair trade coffee?  Of course not.  Because juxtaposing suffering and death next to tossing your Pepsi can in a green bin is ridiculous.

This is the kind of power thinking like a speciesist (or racist or sexist) exerts over the ability to think clearly.  And this is exactly why these people think vegans are flakes.

Wouldn’t you?  Imagine a rabid acolyte telling you that recycling is so important, everyone should be doing it, you’re a monster if you don’t do it, and don’t you even care that some city you’ve never heard of is ugly due to plastic water bottles?  Sure, you might think, but why all the theatrics?  You do your part.  Isn’t that good enough?

Bring it back to the speciesism.  Highlight it.  Don’t be distracted by minutia.  Don’t fall into the pointless trap of debating how many tons of carbon are squirting out of an organic beet farm, how many thousands of studies have come out this week showing eating animal meat will clog your veins and give you cancer (if you don’t get sick from E. coli or salmonella first).  All that is true, but is misses the point.

Common do-goodery has no place in comparison to the killing of animals, human or not.