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Ahimsa

Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World

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factory farming

Chinese law against eating cats and dogs

A law may be passed in China in the future which would make the consumption of cats and dogs illegal. Both animals have been eaten in China for centuries, and are seen by some as a delicacy.

This is all well and good, but I’m afraid it just proves how shallow people are when it comes to animal abuse. Apparently in China there have been protests and activists fighting for the end of dog- and cat-eating. Even people in America usually get upset at the thought of Chinese people eating such adorable creatures. The question all these people need to be asking themselves is why they should protect certain animals and not others.

When it comes to suffering, there is no difference in the pain experienced by dogs/cats and chickens/pigs/cows in the slaughterhouse.  So if someone says something along the lines of  “Oh, but those poor cats! They shouldn’t have to suffer so unnecessarily!”, you can tell them quite correctly that many more chickens are suffering just as much abuse.

I try not to pass judgement on people who eat meat, mainly because I used to be one of them. It’s hard for me to say “meat-eaters are cruel.” But I wish people would realize that all animals suffer, even if they aren’t as cute as a fuzzy little kitten. If people are really passionate about animal cruelty, they would be concerned with the suffering of all animals.

Caged eggs are super awesome!

Not really. The way conventional eggs are produced is cruel and unnecessary. However, thanks to the very awesome Erik Marcus at Vegan.com, we now have a video hosted by Mike Rowe that shows how clean and efficient battery cages are. Erik does a fantastic job at disproving the video, so you should definitely check out how post.

The video makes some pretty outrageous claims. For example, the video refers to a study from Sweden that suggests that cages are safer than free range because there are fewer chicken deaths, cannibalism is less frequent, and there are lower levels are bacterial and parasitic diseases. Can this really be true?

Battery caged hens are subjected to terrifying conditions. They have little to no room to move around, they are unable to function as hens normally would, and they have to deal with very unsanitary conditions. Don’t let the video fool you – egg operations are not that clean. Just like with humans, unsanitary living conditions lead to disease. The Vegetarian Society cites bronchitis, fatigue, leukosis, egg peritonitis, avian coccidiosis, salmonella, and campylobacter as examples. And we’ve all heard of bird flu.

Something from the video really bothered me – Paul Thompson, one of the people interviewed, made a statement about ethics. He said, “the price of eggs actually is an important ethical consideration.” It is all too clear that egg producers and their supporters do not care about the welfare of the hens. The only thing that matters is profit. That is a terribly sad realization.

For much more information about the conventional production of eggs and the treatment of hens, visit Compassion Over Killing.

“There is no church of vegan”

Ari Solomon has written a wonderful article for the Huffington Post entitled “Who You Callin’ Vegangelical?“. He takes a look at the way vegans are perceived by omnivores – as preachy and fanatical, for example. All vegans have encountered unfriendly meat-eaters who label us as crazy and try to condemn our lifestyle and/or try to make excuses for their consumption of animals by using poor arguments such as “I do care about animals, but as humans we’re meant to eat meat.” Um, no.

Solomon’s article really nails why omnivore’s delusions about “fanatical” vegans are false. I’m also very pleased that he targeted people who think that eating free-range or organic meat means they aren’t a part of the suffering faced by animals raised for food:

Now, before you start at me with some “humane meat” “happy meat” bullshit please take not that all animals, whether they are raised in the nastiest of factory farms or grass-fed, free-range, blah blah blah, are all sent to the same slaughterhouses. That’s right, your organic steer is being sent to the same hell as a downer cow and will meet the same ghastly end. If you are a “humane meat” consumer, please take a moment and meditate on the whole concept of humane killing… bloody, fearful, struggling, screaming, despairing humane killing. It’s never pretty and it certainly isn’t “humane.”

Well said. Companies that raise so-called “humane” meat are really pushing false pictures of how these animals are raised and killed onto consumers who probably do feel a little bad that their hunger is causing pain to other sentient animals. However, they still have the blinders on. My favorite thing about this article is that Solomon makes a point to portray vegans not as crazy radicals who are pushing their ideals onto others, but as conscientious consumers who are speaking for those that cannot. The easiest way to end the cruelty of animals raised for food is quite simple: education. Once people can no longer ignore what is going on behind the doors, they will be more likely to opt for a cruelty-free dinner plate.

Swine Flu

pig-factory-farmsI wanted to wait a little while for things to pan out before I wrote about the latest worldwide pandemic, the swine flu. So far in the United States, 286 people in 36 states have been affected by this new influenza strain, which originated with pigs farmed in Mexico. However, despite the fact that the World Health Organization raised the pandemic alert to a level 5 alert on a scale of six, some Mexican officials in charge of dealing with the flu have begun to say that things might be slowing down. Apparently, even though people have been panicking and even Vice President Joe Biden made the statement that he didn’t want his family taking closed-in public transportation or travelling, the flu is not as bad as most people perceive it to be. Most US cases have been mild, and if the WHO does happen to raise the alert level to a 6, “that would be a statement about the geographic spread of the virus, not its severity.” That’s not to say people shouldn’t take certain measures to ensure their health, like eating foods that boost your immune system and washing your hands, but don’t freak out.

What is unfortunate is that much of the media is still dancing around the fact that the reason this virus is threatening us is because of humanity’s desire to eat animals. Factory farming, where animals are bunched so closely together with little circulation of air and with little to no decent sanitation, is just a breeding ground for dangerous diseases such as the swine flu. It is unlikely that we would see these viruses arise in a world where people depended on a herbivorous diet.

I was quite happy to see that The Times confronted this fact in a recent article:

…once humans invented farming and learned to cultivate animals, we made a bad situation much worse. All at once, chickens, ducks and pigs – which never had much to do with one another – began living cheek to jowl in high numbers and often unsanitary conditions. Farm families and people working in live markets then began mingling with the critters. That’s a pathogenic speed blender, and the viruses have taken full advantage of it.

If people were seriously concerned with how to diminish viruses and diseases such as the swine and avian flu, they must first realize that factory farming is the main culprit. Only by removing factory farming will we be able to ensure more healthy lives to all the people in this world.

How Many Animals Are Dying?

The following graphic is from Animal Visuals, and it’s quite striking- especially the number of chickens killed.

edit: I can’t figure out how to post the graphic on this blog, so to see it just go to the site.

Dairy Cows and their Calves

Kelly over at easyVegan.info has written a piece about the seperation anxiety experienced by the mother cows and their calves when they are split up on farms. This beautifully written piece is enough to bring tears to your eyes, and I would highly encourage this to be passed on to any omnivores you know. Unless someone is essentially emotionally dead, it would be hard for them not to second-guess their choices. “A cow is so much like a woman” also explores dairy farming in detail. There are far too many people, including vegetarians, who either choose to ignore or are ignorant toward how dairy cows are treated. Unfortunately, dairy farming is generally thought to be the “kind” side of factory farming – mainly because the animals, as far as most people are concerned, are not killed. This is completely false, however, as the cows are slaughtered for meat as soon as their milk/baby production slacks off.

One particularly interesting aspect of this article is the way the author examines how similar cows are to people. They experience emotions and grieve when their calves are taken away. In an excerpt from Jeffrey Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, a farmer talks about the worry and surprise that she has personally seen. Of course, emotions are definitely not restricted to cows. Everyone who has a companion animal, who has spent time at shelters, or even those who have simply observed animals in nature, can attest to seeing animal equivalents of human emotions. For example, about five years ago my family and I were “adopted” by a family of stray cats. Some of these cats had a bad habit of running across the road to the woods, and one of them got hit and was killed. The brother to this cat walked over to him and patted him with his paw. Then started meowing. This was clearly grief. Anyone who claims animals don’t feel the same emotions as we do is in denial.

My favorite (and the most intriguing) part of Kelly’s post is the following excerpt:

Non-human animals, some of whom may be unable to make sense of their suffering (clearly, this varies widely from species to species), may actually have a greater capacity for suffering than humans. When the source of this suffering is the rupture and violation of deep, evolutionary instincts – such as the drive to reproduce and parent – the pain, panic and terror may be impossible for us to comprehend.

I will be completely honest and say I’ve never, ever considered this. It is an amazing point to consider. We know that animals can suffer, however, we cannot fathom how deep this suffering is. What we can do is guess at it, and it’s not pretty. Consider, for a moment, that you became disoriented and woke up in a familiar place. Obviously, you would be worried or scared, but the fact that you know where you were would be comforting. Now, what if you woke up disoriented, but you were someplace you’d never been or seen. You would be terrified. In the same way, animals who cannot figure out what is happening may be suffering even greater than a human would be.

Like I said at the start of this post, this is a beautiful, thought-provoking, and well-written piece of animal rights literature. Please take a look at it and then forward it to your omnivorous friends.

easyVegan.info – A Cow Is So Much Like A Woman

Chinese Bile Farms

Chinese bile farms. I’m expecting that I won’t be the only person who saw that for the first time and had no idea what it meant. But thanks to an article from Planetsave (13 Asian Black Bears Rescued From ‘Bile Farms’) I am now aware of this almost thirty-years-old practice.

Bile farming is the Chinese practice of extracting the bile of moon bears by extracting it from their gall bladders. The bile is then used in traditional Chinese medicine. Here’s the description from Planetsave:

Bear farming began in the 1980s as a way to collect bile from moon bears without killing them. To harvest bile from the gallbladder, a connection (or fistula) must be made between the gallbladder and the skin’s surface. The connection is usually a metal or plastic tube that is often installed by untrained individuals. These impromptu surgeries commonly lead to internal and external scarring. After the ‘fistula’ is established, the animals are confined to a cage hardly larger than the body in order to keep the connection open. Such severe confinement leads the bears to develop disfiguring injuries from lack of movement. One of the rescued bears had spent approximately 25 years confined in a cage and suffered stunted bodily growth as a result.

So essentially these bears are living lives similar to those of livestock in factory farming. They can’t move in the same way that pigs can’t turn around in their small, tight cages. The difference is that because these animals aren’t killed, they are forced to endure years of repeated “tapping.” I’m not saying their pain is any worse than the pain of animals in factory farms, just that it’s important for non-animal rights activists to realize that a long life of pain is just as bad as a sort time experiencing pain. We all know there are people in this would who would call these bile farms “animal friendly” simply because the bears aren’t being killed.

Tyson Lying About “Antibiotic-Free” Label

tyson_foods_logo1

Although Tyson Foods has been selling their meat products under the antibiotic-free label, it turns out that their claim is in fact not true. It turns out that Tyson has been injecting antibiotics into unhatched chicks, and the USDA is not too happy about it. However, Tyson feels that their practice is alright, and they are actually suing the USDA in order to keep their antibiotic-free label.

According to Natural News, this is not the first time Tyson has had issues with the USDA for not keeping their antibiotic-free promise:

After Tyson began labeling its chicken antibiotic-free, the USDA warned the company that such labels were not truthful, because Tyson regularly treats its birds’ feed with bacteria-killing ionophores. Tyson argued that ionophores are antimicrobials rather than antibiotics, but the USDA reiterated its policy that “ionophores are antibiotics.”

People have the right to know what they are putting into their bodies, and the false claims made by Tyson and other food (including but not limited to meat) companies only serve to frustrate and confuse consumers. For example, the “Natural” label on a product is practically meaningless. There are some strong requirements for selected foods, such as certified organic products, but the labels do not yet go far enough. We need strict guidelines that let the customer know exactly what they are getting with a product, such as labels that explicitly explain what “cage-free” and “free range” mean.

Treehugger

What does eating meat have to do with global warming?

In celebration of Earth Day, I want to talk about a huge contributor to pollution and global warming – factory farming. The UN determined a couple of years ago that factory farming is one of the leading causes of global warming, producing around 18% of the CO2 responsible for climate change.

Factory farms are huge. Some of the largest hold over 1,000 cows, 2500 pigs, or 125,000 (!) chickens. One of the obvious forms of pollution is urine and manure, which is usually made into fertilizer to spray on crops. However, much too often it runs into rivers and groundwater, and threatens fish, animals, and humans. Remember the story that broke in the news a couple of weeks ago about how our drinking water was full of antibiotics? The animals raised in factory farms are full of chemicals and hormones that farmers use to make them grow faster and larger. These chemicals make it into the groundwater too (not to mention the steak you buy from the supermarket).

Even though promoters of factory farming claim these institutions are efficient in size, too much land is lost through animal agriculture. The rainforest is being cleared in South America to make room for the animals that will end up on your plate as hamburgers. The last thing we need when we’re on the brink of the  unimaginable consequences of climate change is the destruction of something that will protect us and slow down global warming. Also, all of those thousands of animals need food. Thus, thousands of acres of food is used to feed them. A better use of that land would be to grow enough crops for hungry people. If we used all the land currently being used for animal agriculture for vegetarian sources of food, we could provide enough food to feed everyone – plus enough to make ethanol without food prices going up too much.

Factory farming is dangerous for both living beings and the Earth. I would love for everyone to stop eating meat completely, but I’m enough of a realist to know that some of the meat-eaters reading this post isn’t just going to stop. So, if you’re unwilling to go vegetarian, at least eat less meat. You don’t need meat at every meal. You could also try free-range meat instead of factory farmed. Overall, just be aware of where your food comes from and its environmental impact.

A REAL Humane Meat?

PETA is making the news due to a polarizing new campaign: $1 million dollars for humane meat.

Scientists have been working on producing in vitro meat. This means that meat could be produced in a laboratory without killing animals.

This news has surprised a lot of PETA members, and Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s president, has acknowledged that there is going to be internal conflict over this.

The creation of in vitro meat is a complicated issue for vegans and animal rights activists. On the one hand, animals would not have to be killed for human consumption. However, people would still be eating meat (not to mention a boat-load of chemicals).

I love the idea of animals not being killed for food, and success in producing lab-meat would shut down factory farming. However, I would personally never eat meat, whether it be from an animal or a test tube.

What do you think?

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