Green Mountain College to make oxen burgers out of campus animal pals  »

This is what happens when “working animals” retire: they get slaughtered. Lou and Bill have worked the fields of Green Mountain College’s “sustainable” farm for ten years. Now, at eleven, the college wants to get rid of Lou and Bill. Apparently, at Green Mountain College, that means slaughtering them and eating them in hamburger form. 

Needless to say, many are not happy. But, on the other hand, the college people in charge of this sort of thing make a good point: if these students opposed to killing Lou and Bill eat meat, then why the hell shouldn’t they eat these guys too? And once again, we are back to cognitive dissonance. This is well-worn territory when we discuss omnivore “animal lovers.” In fact, it’s threadbare. Therefore I’m not going to go into it but I will go into how much I resent the way “working animals” are disposed of. 

Look at this video:

That doesn’t look super fun. They’ve done this for ten years. And after they’ve served the school for a decade, the thanks they get is to be made into a month’s worth of artery-clogging lunch. It’s just like dairy cows and racehorses and all the “working animals,” they serve these people and make them money and then they are thrown out like trash. I’m sorry, I can’t even say “working animals” without quotation marks because the idea is so ridiculous. It implies they a. volunteered for this “job” and b. were fairly compensated. Sorry bros: “working animals” don’t have resumes and they don’t get 401Ks. They get worked to the brink of death and then slaughtered for hamburger meat. 


Gary Francione on Philosophy Bites: Animal abolitionism is the only way  »

Gary Francione means business.

Humane treatment is a fantasy, it’s on an epistemological par with Santa Claus, bunny rabbits, Easter rabbits and things of that nature—silly. Humane treatment is impossible.

Philosophy Bites is a podcast series of short discussions of philosophical topics (duh). On Saturday, they had Gary Francione come discuss animal abilitionism.

If we take seriously the notion that we ought not to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals, the first thing we ought to do is all go vegan. … There’s something peculiar about discussing the moral status of animals when we’re killing and eating them for no reason whatsoever.

I strongly recommend you listen to the entire podcast—it is just under 17 minutes and it is pretty invigorating. They touch on the delightful (read: obnoxious) mollusk question, how disgusting Francione finds the concept of “happy meat,” and the effectiveness of abolitionism versus humane treatment.

So, let’s get into it: Where do you align yourself? Are you more of an abolitionist, or a welfarist?

One more quote to stoke the fire:

The most humanely treated animals are subjected to treatment which would be torture, which we would call literally torture if humans were involved.

There’s much more! Go listen, and let’s argue about the philosophy behind our vegan lifestyles.

[Photo by Keven Law via Flickr]


The Atlantic says merry Christmas, screw you non-meat-eaters  »

Nicolette Niman has a piece in The Atlantic where she and a few other idiots who have a vested interest in you eating meat talk about how great it is to eat meat. As Meave says, “so short, so full of horrors.” For real, I don’t even know where to start with this thing, it’s so full of stupid, gross speculation, and bad science. I wish Niman would stop espousing the virtues of eating meat. She married into a meat dynasty, of course she loves “ethical” meat! Just knock it off; stop pretending you ever understood what it means not to want to consume dead animals.

The point of the whole shebang is that eating animals is good for you, the environment, and for animals—if done in a very specific way that happens about one percent of the time. Great! The health and environmental points can be argued, but I simply will not concede on ethics. Eating animals is only ethical if you’re okay with killing animals—or more likely, letting other people kill animals—for your food when you don’t NEED to.

As for the health argument, these people are no more health experts than I am, and again, they have a vested interest in humans eating meat, so hearing them try to argue against the health of a vegan diet is just infuriating. I can link to studies from actual health experts about how easy it is to get B12 and how animal products are bad for you until I’m blue in the face. We can trade articles back and forth all day long arguing for both sides. You can be healthy eating meat and you can be healthy not eating meat, and the proof is all the healthy people who do both things and live long-ass lives.

Now, I’ll say something some of you won’t agree with and that’s fine, but you can also care about the environment and still eat meat, no probs. It’s much easier to care about the Earth and not eat meat, but if you are in the one percent of people who raise and kill animals on a super small scale, then you might be able to say you care.

However, the point I absolutely will not accept is their claim that you can love and respect animals while you’re eating them. GIRLFRIENDS! Don’t get it twisted. No animal wants to die for your meal, no matter how many days you let her graze in an open field of organic grass or how many free-range hugs you give her before you slit her throat. If I take good care of grandma until I murder her because I need her room for my new baby, I don’t love and respect grandma. Ya dig?

Unlike some other animals, we have the exciting ability to not act on pure instinct, and we can and do thrive on animal-free diets. I eat amazing food that doesn’t include death or torture and that’s what I’m comfortable with. Just because you stopped being vegan to hunt deer doesn’t mean you have to push your compromised ethics on me. And yes, I do think they’re compromised, and I do think you’re disgusting for hunting. I recognize that hunting is in many ways superior to buying plastic-wrapped factory-farmed ground cows at Safeway, but I also think that it takes a special kind of creepazoid to shoot and kill a living creature. And I bet you’re not that good of a shot and that the animal suffers [ed. note: and poisons bald eagles, the symbol of freedom!], and that you’ve taken away moms and dads from their babies with your carelessness, you piece of shit.

You know what I think is worst of all? You have the MEANS to do better; you’re not ignorant to the realities of factory farming, and you choose to advocate a more ethical lifestyle by encouraging meat consumption. Get fucked.

Oh, well. At least The Atlantic has James McWilliams. I feel for you, bro!


Are “conscientious carnivores” only fooling themselves?  »

Of course it’s better for animals to live in comfort on a nice farm instead of a hideous feedlot before they’re slaughtered for food. However, James McWilliams notes in the Atlantic, the outcome is still the same: the animals are killed, and people eat them. That’s the contradiction inherent in “conscientious carnvorism”—your conscientiousness is limited by the violence of your diet. McWilliams’ essay is interesting; he asserts that focus on "happy meat" “narrow[s] our moral vision,” which is the same point abolitionists make when arguing against so-called humane regulations to meat industry practices.

It’s a valid argument, too. What do you think? Are you pro- or anti-conscientious carnivorism? What do you think of the Humane Society’s and United Egg Producers’ proposed legislation that would improve conditions for layer hens? Would it be more profitable for us animal advocates to work toward a vegan world, or making small changes to a system to which we are morally opposed?

Of course it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re all going to die of murderous stealth E. coli and antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea in five years, unless the Japanese people eating radioactive cow develop magical mutant powers and rescue us from the disastrous effects of global warming. The world is super fucking fucked.


No but for real: Simon Fairlie thinks eating meat can save the planet  »

There’s nothing the media love more than an “everything we thought was bad is actually good!” news cycle, and the latest comes from Time, discussing Simon Fairlie’s new book Meat: A Benign Extravagance. We have yet to receive the book for review, but the argument, that eating moderate amounts of meat is better for the environment than going vegan, is an eye-roller we just can’t get enough of. Whether it’s from the touchy-feely “slow food” movement or in more dangerous screeds like Lierre Keith’s Mein Kampf for carnivores (no, seriously: The Vegetarian Myth calls for both violent struggle and a swift reduction of the human population down to 600 million), justifying society’s bad habits is the most direct route to love-hearts and unicorns from the mainstream media.

By asking, “To save the environment, should you go vegan, or should you eat small amounts of grass-fed, humanely raised meat?,” Fairlie and others are fundamentally misreading the society we live in. Even in a veg-friendly city like San Francisco, ask people to maybe optionally consider taking Monday off from eating meat, and they show up with pitchforks and torches. Fairlie wants to pull out the calculator and compare the micro-efficiencies of our utopia vs. his utopia (“Animals kept on small farms also produce benefits, such as fending off predators and pests and fertilizing soil”). But when the rest of Western world is still eating pink goop spat out from factories that blend animals fattened up on soybeans as fast as industrial farms can grow them, the whole exercise seems pointless.

If we really want to save the environment, squabbling over a few chickens on the family vegetable farm isn’t going to cut it. We do know a few things: factory-farming animals and growing the feed to raise factory-farmed animals is wrecking the planet. And titles like How Eating Meat Can Save the Planet and Meat: A Benign Extravagance send exactly the wrong message. Keep doing what you’re doing! It’s fine. And if eating some meat is good for the environment, then eating more meat must be even better!

Unfortunately for Simon Fairlie, that is exactly how his message will be received. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt: I’m sure he sincerely believes that a small amount of family-farmed animals would benefit the environment in a mostly plant-based future, and he isn’t only trying to assuage his own guilt over becoming a “born-again carnivore.” 

But nuanced arguments like his have no place in today’s world, especially when they come packaged in “what you like doing but feel guilty about doing is actually GREAT.” The message people need to hear, over and over again, is stop eating animals, not “Let’s all eat meat!” with two paragraphs of fine print. Whenever omnivores finally get it into their heads that eating meat is no good, most will at least cut back. And less meat is better for the planet. Simple, right? If we’re sincerely wanting to Save the Planet, how about we get to the point where everyone is cutting back on the worst of their planet-destroying habits before worrying about the details.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go chain-smoke around some pregnant women. I hear it helps fetal brain development, didn’t you know? I read it in Time.


What’s wrong with organic eggs?  »

As new photos reveal, PLENTY. I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds that eggs are one of the most difficult foods to talk people out of. We’ve all had that conversation with that person who insists that they are totally down with your veganism but you see, they eat organic eggs, so there’s no, uh, foul. Try as I might to talk about the essential meaninglessness of feel-good labels like “free range” or “organic,” it can be hard to combat those pleasant misconceptions without any shocking, awful photo evidence.

(Un)Fortunately, we now have it.

The Cornucopia Institute, an organization that promotes family farms and more sustainable farming, visited 15 percent of egg farms in the United States, and released a report titled “Scrambled Eggs: Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture.” While the report is aimed at protecting the interests of smaller-scale family farmers rather than ending animal agriculture altogether, it’s a useful read for vegans looking to combat the “happy egg” myth.

The conclusion of the report is something vegans should already know: most “organic” eggs aren’t really any different from regular eggs, with the sole exception that layer hens who produce “organic” eggs are fed “organic” food. The chickens are still kept confined in too-tight quarters, denied access to the outdoors, prevented from exhibiting their natural behaviors, and generally treated horribly their entire lives. To the large industrial farms examined in the report, “organic” is just another brand, and the current standards for what can be labeled as organic are a joke. The report shows how many of the larger producers are playing the system, providing “outdoor access” to chickens in the form of a tiny skylight or window.

What reports like this really mean is something everyone who eats food in this country needs to recognize: we can’t trust big agriculture to give us the food they’re marketing. If it’s cheap and convenient, chances are someone got screwed in its production. What’s the solution? This Vegansaur says cut it out with the eggs already. TOFU OMELETTES FOR LYFE!


Chipotle, I am skeptical of your “revolución!”  »

So, Chipotle is calling for an end to the mistreatment of pigs, and now I feel conflicted.

My attention was alerted to this call to arms by the very excellent Suicide Food Blog, which has written up the Mexican food chain in its Monday, Sept. 20 post. Chipotle has a new ad campaign, and it’s all about feeling good about what we eat. The ad in question is actually printed on Chipotle’s bags and features a hip, hand-drawn-looking manifesto, complete with cute little drawings and flourishes. The text reads:

¡Viva La Revolución! Okay Pigs, It’s time for us to get together and start fixing this system. We see the way that our pig friends get treated at their factory farms, and it’s time we fight so all pigs can have the same rights we have! No more tight, confining pens! No more antibiotics or non-vegetarian feed!!!!!!!! We can do it! Yours Truly, el Pig”

Now, I’m all for a total pig revolution, and failing that, I’m all for reforms that lead to better lives for pigs, but I’m not sure I buy it coming from Chipotle. As this post on points out, major companies that consume a lot of animal product calling for better treatment for pigs is a good thing with the potential to positively impact a lot of piggies’ lives. And that’s all well and good, but a slick, focus-grouped advertisement on a fast-food takeout bag does not an actual, accountable commitment to animal welfare make. Is Chipotle going to use meat only from pigs who were not raised in confining pens and were given vegetarian feed? Who knows!

I find this ad to be more of a call to complacency than anything else, which disturbs me. A major restaurant chain is co-opting revolutionary language and imagery to sell “ethical pork” to what it must know is an uneducated population—how many of Chipotle’s customers know about harmful pig-farming practices, animal welfare issues, or animal agriculture at all.

The Chipotle website dedicates a full section to “Food with Integrity,” which functions basically as their dictionary. According to Chipotle, “Naturally raised” means “raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones, and allowed to display their natural tendencies.” There’s a lot that that warm-n-fuzzy definition doesn’t cover: the contents of the vegetarian diet; how often the pigs are bred; how long they’re allowed to live before being sent to slaughter; and what kind of stockyards and feedlots they are sent to come slaughter-time. By creating their own animal agriculture lexicon, Chipotle gives customers license to feel good about eating their Chipotle pork products without any verifiable reasons to. The company’s ultimate goal is perfectly clear: “We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we’ve ever tasted.” And there you have it. While Chipotle may want pigs to lead better lives, their bottom line is how good the pigs taste, and that isn’t something I can get behind.

I’m not writing off this campaign completely. As I mentioned, if this move toward more humanely raised pigs is sincere, then it is a good thing; and more than most fast food chains are willing to do. Further, as the article points out, sometimes this kind of incremental, populist movement can be the thing that starts people down the road to veganism, and that’s great. Still, though, as a vegan, I’m uncomfortable with trumpeting a corporate happy-meat ad campaign as a real step forward, not to mention that I’d feel like a hella sellout carrying my vegan burrito in one of these cheeseball bags.


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