Working at a slaughterhouse is 100 percent horrific »
Hey, I want to depress you, so let’s learn about slaughterhouses. Avi Solomon at BoingBoing has a big, interesting interview with professor Timothy Pachirat, who worked undercover at a Nebraska slaughterhouse for five months, and published a book about his experiences in November. Surprise, it’s a nightmare! But it’s a nightmare that illustrations lots of modern horrors:
Avi: Why did you choose to go undercover in a slaughterhouse?
Timothy: I wanted to understand how massive processes of violence become normalized in modern society, and I wanted to do so from the perspective of those who work in the slaughterhouse. My hunch was that close attention to how the work of industrialized killing is performed might illuminate not only how the realities of industrialized animal slaughter are made tolerable, but also the way distance and concealment operate in analogous social processes: war executed by volunteer armies; the subcontracting of organized terror to mercenaries; and the violence underlying the manufacturing of thousands of items and components we make contact with in our everyday lives.
Go read the entire thing, it’s intense, and fascinating. Modern life is rubbish.
Meat is murder and I don’t care yet »
I read this piece today on Treehugger, “Why Vegans Are Welcome to Call Me a Murderer” by Sami Grover. Just wanted to let you know what I’ve been doing with my day, that’s all. Just kidding! I have thoughts about it! You know me, always with the thoughts!
First let me say that Grover’s Treehugger bio says he’s a committed environmental activist. It’s my opinion that you’re not an environmental activist if you eat meat and dairy. It’s like being an environmentalist and driving an SUV, they just don’t go together. However, in Grover’s post he says he is an occasional, sustainable-meat eater. If he is actually diligent about this, it’s very impressive considering the minuscule (ed.: MINUSCULE) amount of meat that is raised sustainably. But I have to wonder, does he also only eat sustainable dairy? Dairy is TERRIBLE for the environment. Oy, that’s a lot of work. Might as well be vegan and not worry about it!
I always have to question a supposed environmentalist who eats meat or dairy. Does not compute. Grover’s main point is that maybe people are right to call meat murder but maybe it’s not helpful for the cause to actually say that. He finishes with this sentiment:
So while ideas like a weekday vegetarian diet may strike many non-meat eaters as hypocritical and strange (who says murder is OK on the weekend!?), I’d suggest they are a very real step forward—whether you believe we should eat less meat, or no meat at all. I recognize that is a hard step for those who believe in the murder-analogy to take, but it may be one that ends up saving a lot of animal lives.
I don’t disagree with Grover at all on these points. Meat is murder but society doesn’t view it as such and maybe you’ll turn more people off by telling them that. Like him, I’m not sure if this is true but I’ll give it a solid, “maybe.” And while in my heart of hearts, I can’t stand vegetarians (what makes one vegetarian that shouldn’t translate into being vegan?), I applaud and am very proud of my family and friends who have committed to Meatless Monday. For someone who isn’t a serious environmentalist and doesn’t have ethical qualms with eating meat to slow their roll, look at the environmental impact and try to reduce their meat consumption is a great step forward.
So now you’re like, “OK, Megan Rascal, where are these thoughts of yours?” Well, this post of Grover’s brings up what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately; so often, when we talk about veganism, it becomes a discussion about whether or not killing animals is wrong—I think this conversation is premature! The main reason I am vegan is because the way animals are raised for meat and dairy is inhumane and horrifying. Until all animals are treated in a humane manner up until the day they are killed, we are not ready to have the discussion of whether or not meat is murder.
Grover brings up the death penalty, which is a comparison I often use to explain my point. I’m against the death penalty—not necessarily because I don’t think the government should kill people but because the death penalty is RACIST and INNOCENT PEOPLE GET KILLED. When we have a 100 percent foolproof way to ensure that only guilty people get the death penalty and it is without a doubt sentenced fairly across race and class lines, only then should we begin to discuss whether or not the government should kill people at all. Until they find a way to do this, the death penalty should be abolished. In this same way, until it can be guaranteed without a doubt that animals are raised humanely, we haven’t reached the point where we need to discuss whether or not killing animals is wrong. As long as money and people are involved, I doubt all animals will ever be treated decently but while we wait, I think I’ll just be vegan.
[graph from the Death Penalty Information Center]
What ho! it’s this week’s charming, informative link-o-rama! »
Fulvio Bonavia, “Untitled”, A Matter of Taste, 2008
Eggplant shoes! This is from Beautiful/Decay magazine’s three-part series on food art. Not all of it’s vegan, of course, but a lot of it is pretty amazing. I especially like Han Bing’s “Walking the Cabbage” photos. More useless footwear are Mini Melissa, a new line of Vivienne Westwood for Melissa vegan shoes for babies. I am filling out adoption papers RIGHT NOW to acquire the babies to fill these fucking adorable shoes, $100-per-pair price be damned.
Oh my gosh, it’s here! The third East Bay Vegan Bakesale is here! Tomorrow, Saturday June 26 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Issues—20 Glen Ave. at Piedmont Avenue—in Oakland! Selling vegan deliciousness from Cinnaholic, Fat Bottom Bakery, Pepples Donuts, Sugar Beat Sweets, Violet Sweet Shoppe, Wholesome Bakery, and lots of non-professional volunteers!
After hitting up the EBVBS, head over to Harvest Home Sanctuary for the summer open house! There’ll be guided tours, a presentation by author Mark Hawthorne, and vegan snacks. HHS asks that you please register for the event, whereupon you’ll receive driving directions.
PETA and the San Francisco Vegetarian Society have combined forces to leaflet in front of the KFC at 4150 Geary Blvd. at 6th Avenue. Be there on Sunday, June 27 from noon to 1 p.m.; materials provided by PETA; lunch at Golden Buddha to follow.
On Monday, June 28, attend “Perspectives on Liberation and Oppression,” with former prisoner (SHAC 7!) and animal-rights activist Andy Stepanian. The event will be held at Station 40, at 3030B 16th St. at Mission Street in San Francisco, and begins at 7 p.m.
Articles and such for vegan reading!
Let’s look at this week’s restaurant reviews in the Chronicle! Well well well, Michael Bauer enjoyed his meals at Gracias Madre! Possibly more than your Vegansaurus has (thus far). Can you imagine!
Check this out: tacos de vegetales from Taco Station in Los Angeles. Did you know that there are many delicious AND traditional (YES, TRADITIONAL) Mexican recipes that are vegetarian and/or vegan? LA Weekly does. [photo by Dommy Gonzalez, LA Weekly]
Hey here’s some news: eating meat will kill you! Possibly sooner than you think—the South Gate Meat Co. recalled almost 40,000 pounds of ground beef this week because of E. coli contamination! It also apparently makes you fucking stupid, as evidenced by the National Pork Board’s lawsuit against the TOTALLY FAKE Radiant Farms’ canned unicorn slogan: “the new white meat.”
It’s fun to make fun of animals, right? Check out these lemurs who live in Whipsnade Zoo in England: they’re totally playing soccer, just like the World Cup! Look, they even have red cards! HA HA ANIMALS SO FUNNY!
Let’s take the edge off with the best fucking story of the week: Mel, one of the “bait dogs” rescued from Michael Vick’s compound of death, has been adopted; he now has a loving family, a new best dog friend, and a stuffed monkey he uses as a “security blanket.” You’re crying right now, aren’t you? Well, read the article and then try to hold back the tears. OK, how about this story about Oscar the cat, who got “bionic” back legs after someone (the article doesn’t say!) hit poor Oscar with a combine harvester.
The New York Times Magazine’s big feature is called “Tuna’s End” and probably of interest to those of us who give a fuck about not ruining the world’s oceans. I can’t give you any further sardonic commentary because I haven’t had time to read it yet.
Frantic rationalizer alert! »
[Ed. note: please also read this lighter-on-the-swears response from Vegansaurus pal Tim.]
Hey guys! You’ll never guess what! Didja know? Plants have feelings!!! Yet another New York Times fuckface has come out of the woodwork this holiday season to rationalize her lack of dietary ethics and consistency. Citing many of the admittedly complex and impressive defense mechanisms plants possess, the author makes the case that because plants have impressive and complicated defense mechanisms, they somehow have a desire on par with that of animals in possession of central nervous systems and pain receptors to remain alive.
Now, before I begin, just let me say that I don’t think all meat eaters are fuckfaces. I’m not some crazy vegan fascist who only associates with other vegans and would force my unholy lifestyle on everyone against their will given the slightest chance. No. The problem I have is when people frantically try to dress up their lack of giving a shit as some kind of perfectly rational and justifiable ethical framework. It’s kind of like Sarah Palin’s “common-sense conservatism;” that is, it’s all just a bunch of bullshit made up by people who are too stupid or too lazy to get a real clue and actually change things, or at least own up to the fact that they just are kind of assholes. Now that I’ve got that off my chest, here’s why even if I concede to Ms. Fuckface that plants have just as much of a legitimate interest in keeping their “lives” as animals do (which, um, they don’t), being vegan is STILL the only ethical choice.
We got to eat. Don’t ask me to cite where I’m getting this from, but human beings have to eat to stay alive. Given that the only food sources we have on the planet right now are either plant or animal derived, we’ve got an un-opt-out-able situation. Until we develop those things they have on Star Trek (you know, “tea, Earl Grey, hot,” those things), either the plants get it or the animals do, or some combination of both.
If we concede that all living beings, plant and animal, have an equal interest in staying alive and that we should consider those interests equally when deciding what we should eat, we need to consider not just what we eat directly, but what is consumed in the production of what we eat. That is to say, that duck you’re munching on? It sure as shit ate something to stay alive long enough for you to eat it. What it ate was most likely plant matter of some kind. To trot out the tired old John Robbins statistic that every thinking person who ever talks about food and how mean the vegans are to plants should know by now, it takes about 16 pounds of edible grain to produce a pound of edible beef flesh. So even if you needed to eat twice as much grain as beef to meet your nutritional needs and fill you up, you’re still killing eight times less plant volume if you just eat the plants and not the meat that eats the plants. If you conservatively estimate that it takes 10 plants to make a pound of grain, then that means you’re killing 80 plants to produce that pound of flesh.
Of course, this is assuming that the animals we’re killing and eating are being fed only natural, plant-based foods. In today’s agriculture, most food animals are actually fed ground up bits of other animals mixed in with their plant-based food. Take a minute to figure out how many pounds of plant matter it takes to raise a pound of beef if the cow it’s coming from is eating feed composed of three-quarters plant matter and one-quarter ground-up cow, assuming, charitably, that the dead-cow matter decreases me amount of food necessary for producing a pound of edible cow flesh from 16:1 to 10:1. That’s right—if you’re getting a pound of beef from a cow eating feed of three parts plant matter for every one part animal matter, and that animal matter comes from cows who ate a similar diet, that pound of beef cost the lives of 26.25 pounds of plants (1:26 beef-to-plants ratio). That means that if you’re eating meat, you’re not just killing the one animal you consume. You’re also ending the lives of the countless plants required to feed that animal.
Now, before someone pipes up and tells me that the 16:1 figure is inaccurate and blah blah blah, I looked up the pounds of grain per pounds of beef figure on some pro-animal-agriculture websites too. The lowest figure I found listed a pound of beef being produced at a cost of 2.6 pounds of grain (the grain feed, according to this website, being supplemented with “animal matter”). Even if you leave out the plants killed to feed the “animal matter” fed to these cows to reduce their plant intake, you’re still killing a whole lot more plants to produce the meat than you would be if you just cut out the middle man and ate the plants—even if you look at the “feel good” statistics generated by the meat industry. Oh, and all this goes for chicken and all that shit as well. Chicken is about 5 pounds of grain per pound of chicken flesh, per John Robbins in Diet For a New America.
In addition to all that, the author also seems to have forgotten that until humans evolve titanium kidneys and much abbreviated digestive systems, even if we do eat meat, we will also need to eat plants to meet our nutritional needs, so really, all that fussing about the lives of poor plants is pretty disingenuous, considering that next to that duck à l’Orange will inevitably be some murdered onions or dismembered celery, which brings the total death toll even higher.
There simply is no reality in which it spares more plants lives to eat meat than to be vegan , so if you’re really and truly concerned with the welfare of Brussels sprouts, you’d best go vegan.
This is an interesting essay on “a course focused on the slaughtering and processing of meat animals” by a food science grad student. The author was and remains an omnivore.
What do you think, vegans? One of the commenters on The Ethicurean argues that “a short happy life” that ends in “a humane death” is preferable to living in the wild and “dying of starvation or cold in the winter,” or “at the claws and teeth of a [predator].” I would say, That’s a lot of assumptions you make there, commenter “Walter Jeffries,” that 1) we can and do give domesticated animals happier lives and more humane deaths in slaughterhouses than they’d otherwise have; and 2) the only alternatives to slaughterhouse murder are bad-but-natural deaths in the wild. What about sheep and goats kept just for wool? What about horses? There are plenty of farm animals that have long and happy lives that don’t end in terror or pain.
But omnivores—and this is a point that Jake Lahne, the author, makes in his essay—are willfully myopic about such options; their desire to eat meat will trump all other considerations. When hasn’t it? When was the last time your closest animal-eating friends/relations refused to eat meat because the animal was raised on a factory farm? When did they last turn down cheese because it came from dairy cows, producers of veal calves? Anyone?
I thought not.