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 ‘stupidity’

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:

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.

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.

Mirror Test

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011
Crocodile Symbiosis

Neither of these has to see a dentist because of being too stupid to avoid sweets.

A mirror test is supposed to demonstrate self-awareness. Put an animal to sleep, place a dot on her head and, when she wakes up, and show her a mirror. If she looks at her image in the mirror and somehow acknowl-edges the dot, she’s self-aware. If she doesn’t, she is not. Simple, right?

The problem is this is a test of self-awareness as designed by human minds. We can’t escape our own way of thinking. It’s all we’ve got.

The only thing tests like these prove is that the subject is thinking like a human, or is self-aware like a human.

Are we supposed to believe that thinking like a human is the only way to think intelligently? Or that it is the only way to be self-aware? Such ideas are nothing more than human-centric egotism. We’ve built the internet and flown to the moon, but we also commit heinous acts of barbarism against all living beings on the planet (do not try to think of one we overlook; the effort will depress you). This contrast is not a scale which balances ethical depravity against in-tellectual and scientific triumphs.

We must refuse to accept the notion that human intelligence is the ultimate in any intelligence. We are simply the most intelligent humans.

Let us not fall into the trap of requiring human-like behavior from high-functioning predators like alligators and sharks, neither of which have needed to evolve for eons, and both of which are perfectly evolved for their environments.

I am not opposed to mirror tests. I am opposed to using the results of them to justify discrimination, and subsequently violence, against living beings.

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.

Last Screams: The Death of a Lady

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

This is a true story about a human couple who capture and ritualistically murder another living being. I’ve altered some of the details, embellishing here and omitting there, but the events are the same. At the bottom of this horrific tale is a link to the original.

Our friend James caught our neighbor, Tina, a young mother of two, and put her in a hay-lined waxed-cardboard box. She calmed down and sat quietly in the box. I sat reading in my farm’s greenhouse, waiting for Daniel to come back from a trip to the city, and Tina waited with me, her head sticking through a gap in the top of the box. She was funny, maybe even cute. I tried not to get attached.

We took her to Daniel’s parents’ house and left her in the box in the garage overnight. No hawks or foxes in there. And we’d read about imposing a 12-hour fast (advantage: a cleaner digestive tract), so no food. In the morning, she looked content. She had just menstruated and held out a wad of cash, which made me very sad. She wanted to coexist with us. To feed us, if we fed her. Daniel reminded me that in the winter, without a job, her income would probably drop significantly. I sighed. He was right.

So we bound her feet with a rope—she was surprisingly calm—and hung her upside-down from a tree limb. We’d heated a large pot of water to 150 degrees and set it on the ground nearby. We were ready.

Daniel held her head in one hand and took a straight-edge razor to her throat. In retrospect, a knife would have been better. More leverage. With just the blade, the first cut drew blood, but it didn’t go far enough. Daniel sliced again, and a stream of blood dripped to the ground. The sources we’d consulted recommended leaving the head on at first, to prevent a surge of adrenaline that might toughen the meat.

Tina opened her eyes every minute or so, fluttered her lids, and closed them.

After three or four minutes, I broke the solemn silence: “It’s weird that she’s not flailing.” Then she did flail, but just for a few seconds. Blood splattered on my pants and on Daniel’s face, which made him, in a hooded sweatshirt, look like a murderer.

When we could no longer feel a heartbeat, we untied her, cut off her head, and submerged her in the pot. That made stripping her down easier, and we sloughed off her shorts and socks, flinging them off our cold, wet fingers. With the clothes gone, her hair remained, and we tried to pull out all of those, too. By that point, the carcass looked more or less like what you see in any depraved cannibal’s village. Clothes: living being. No clothes: food. I didn’t feel sentimental anymore.
We took Tina’s body into the kitchen, chopped off her feet and neck, and slit around her anus, the all-purpose lower hole. We followed instructions and a diagram on a laptop screen; I made a ventral T-shape cut and reached into the warm cavity to pull out the organs. (Because of the prior slit, the intestines came out with the vent attached.) The whole process reminded me of my anatomy lab in college.

Otherwise, it wasn’t so bad. I tried to feel regular, not righteous about it, especially after a friend forwarded me some quotes. One was from the founder of the Institute of Urban Homesteading: “The level of appreciation for nature and life when you slaughter your own meat creates a kind of ethic that I think is what we need to save the world.” Reese rolls her eyes; she kills a girl and calls it messy and mundane.

I hear her, but I’m still glad we did it. I confirmed my weird personal right to consume another living being, and I do feel more conscious about meat-eating in general. Dare I sound new-age? I feel more mindful. Our little neighbor girl was very much on my mind as we ate her. Nursing mothers don’t have much meat on them, but the broth and the few shreds were savory and satisfying.

Here is a link to the original story as written by the author.

Except Hot Wings

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

True story from my past:

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

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

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

Brief pause.

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