Homosexual animals are not gay, OK! »
The biologists profiled in this week’s New York Times big Sunday Magazine article, "Can Animals Be Gay?" would like you, general public, to please stop associating the terms “gay” and “lesbian” with non-human animals. This is extrapolation that they, the disinterested scientists, do NOT do, and that we the general public should not do, as it muddles the very important distinction these scientists draw between non-human animals and human animals, and they do not want our anthropomorphism and judgmentalism and morality getting in the way of their scientific conclusions.
Fair enough, to an extent. I do not want horrible eugenicist bigots demanding that we isolate the so-called and still-debated “gay gene” and allowing for some kind of “gaythanasia” escape clause in their no-abortions-ever laws, and that is a possibility—touched on by one of the scientists interviewed—if we allow for the blurring of that line.
However, as a vegan, I believe that the more similarities we find between “natural” human behavior and “natural” animal behavior, the harder that will make for the general public to accept abuses such as animal testing (let alone eating animals—come on, son). Because we’re people, and, “As the biologist Marlene Zuk explains, we are hard-wired to read all animal behavior as ‘some version of the way people do things’ and animals as ‘blurred, imperfect copies of humans.’”
Now, as many “it thinks it’s people” jokes I may make, I do not believe that animals are “imperfect copies of humans” and find it, oh yes, offensive that others might. It’s cute when a non-human animal’s behavior reminds me of a human’s behavior, but that doesn’t mean that the dog is actually “trying to be” a person. It does have agency, however; it does have its own biological makeup, just as we have our own that allows us to feel and behave compassionately. So if you feel like maybe animals can be gay, like maybe that is an argument for the “naturalness” of homosexuality, maybe that should inform your behavior toward animals in other areas. If animals of all kinds share so many similar traits, how humane is it to make such clear distinctions between “us” and “them,” really?
[photo of rabbits by Jeff Koons for the NY Times]
The most adorable couple of all time is in the NY Times showing off their rad house and perfect life. Why are they on Vegansaurus, you ask? Oh, because they’re HELLA VEGAN TOO:
Despite a childhood of Southern-fried cuisine, Mr. Nesmith is a passionate vegan, as is Mr. Wong.
When it comes to producing meals free of meat, fish, poultry and animal products, Mr. Nesmith is a dab hand; he has so perfected his recipe for vegan biscuits that he claims that he could make them with his eyes closed.
His culinary skills serve him well when the two entertain, which they do with gusto, and on an impressive scale for a one-bedroom apartment. Last Thanksgiving they had 15 guests to dinner, plus a few extra for dessert, courtesy of a wooden dining room table that doubles in size when the leaves on either end are extended.
Keep reading and OMG they love Sonic Youth JUST LIKE ME. I can’t take it.
Be still, my heart. Marry me. Adopt me. Whatever, keep me in a crate in your garage I WANT IN.
Rabbit, delicious rabbit »
Welcome to our national nightmare: killing really cute animals, for the environment! What? Yes, and also to expand our narrow palates, which are so embarrassingly American (everything tastes like chicken!). If only we were as sophisticated as the French, while as self-reliant as migrant workers in a Dorothea Lange photograph (only less dusty because ugh)! Plus, the environment needs saving, and also Slow Food and eating locally and getting your food blog nominated for internet awards, plus being a total badass (read: getting a feature in Meatpaper magazine)—how can one person do it all? It is most perplexing.
Thank goodness The New York Times knows: kill, butcher, and eat your own rabbits! No, not even kidding a little bit; this is THE answer to all of the “problems” of wealthy, conscience-plagued omnivores with time on their hands and bloodlust in their hearts. It’s not evil, though, because the rabbits are raised on small farms, and the babies are left with their mothers for eight of the 12 weeks they live on those farms before they’re killed. It’s so humane! Serious Eats actually made a video of John Fazio’s rabbit farm, in which you can see some baby bunnies in a nest their mother made of her own fur. It’s super-great to see how “happy” the rabbits look in their tiny wire-floor cages! Honestly, I could not watch this video past 1:23, where Fazio reaches into such a nest to pet some of the babies; it was too depressing. You all are welcome to finish it, though, and report back on how it ends. This farm also features in the Times article; apparently his signature is selling rabbit carcasses with their heads still attached. Delightful.
Adorably, the Times Dining section photo editor also popped by to write a little post about all the different photos that Jennifer May took of the rabbits on Fazio’s farm. And with so many pictures, how to find the one that “carefully illustrate[s] this sensitive topic”—i.e., doesn’t make you rise up with pitchforks against everyone involved in the article? Turns out the ideal image is “the one that says ‘deal with it.’” HAR HAR, Dining section Photo Editor Tiina Loite! You are the wittiest! Just cold putting it out there, all that hard truth.
I think the best part of the pro-eating-rabbit argument is how it’s supposed to be all economic and awesome, but the “how to murder, cut up and cook bunnies” class cost $100 per person and some of its participants had to fly cross-country to attend. That is super-environmentally friendly, for sure. Beware the photos from this event—some of them are quite nasty. The Pasternaks, who run a rabbit farm in Marin County, actually “travel regularly to Haiti to teach families to raise rabbits on foraged food.” Clever! Of course, rabbits’ and humans’ diets do not differ so significantly, meaning that the food a rabbit is eating could be food for a human; “[a] seven-pound live rabbit might weigh four pounds cleaned;” and [i]n the kitchen, rabbit can be a challenge,” but YES, let’s teach poor people to raise rabbits for food. That is definitely a smart idea.
Whatever. Murder rabbits for fun and profit and patriotism and the economy and the environment and individualism and liberty and every other excuse you need to invent to get yourself through it. You know it’s disgusting. We know it’s disgusting. At least we can sleep at night, knowing our efforts to be better citizens of the world and eat lots of exciting foods don’t involve the slaughter of innocents.
Super-dog saves the day! »
Another heartwarming story of a lost child saved by the efforts of a loyal dog. Blue, a Queensland Heeler (shut up with your breedism!), went missing along with three-year-old Victoria in Cordes Lakes, Ariz. on Thursday afternoon. That night, temperatures went down into the 30s—that’s Fahrenheit, bitches. The girl and the dog were found by a helicopter on Friday morning. It was actually the dog that the rescue crew first saw, then the girl. Blue was looking for help! I know it! The police are saying he kept the girl warm through the night and protected her from god knows what animals they have in AZ. OMG SO CUTE. So it was a happy ending, plus, the dog totally got to ride in a helicopter. BONUS!
Every year or so I hear a story in the news like this—a kid wanders off and gets saved by the family dog. I love these stories! I mean, if dogs could learn to keep kids from wandering off, that might be preferable, but keeping them safe until people find them is the next best thing. And WAY CUTER!
I searched the internets to see when the last time something like this happened and look what I found! The New York Times has some old shit up, I know this, but I didn’t know they had a story from 1879 about a dog saving a drowning boy! Awesome! Check it out:
Is that not just the cutest shit ever?! YES DUH!
I’d argue that the person who doesn’t want China to eat dogs must logically NOT EAT OTHER ANIMALS. You don’t have to embrace a pig as a pet, you just have to recognize that pigs are smarter than dogs and if you can’t even do that much, at least acknowledge that they lead horrific lives and terrifying deaths. That’s where logic should get you. One of my favorite parts about Eating Animals is when Foer suggests that if we really gave a shit about sustainability, we would eat the millions of animals that are killed in our nation’s shelters each year. Real Talk.
I love how a lot of commenters (note to self: DON’T READ COMMENTS EVER) are totally all, “Oh I’d eat fluffy! Dish it up!” It’s like, okay go to the shelter, adopt a dog, and then murder it with your carving knife. Then skin, debone, and fry him or her up. What you’ll be doing is still a lot more humane than how it goes down right now in China.
Now, for me, I don’t want to deal with any of that shit and that’s why I choose to be vegan. The rest of you, enjoy Fido!
No dogs in the kitchen! »
The New York Times and the Times of London are reporting that there is a law proposal in the works over in China that would ban the eating of cats and dogs. Oh happy day! Now ads like the above will make sense in Chinese!
From the Times of London:
In what would be China’s first law against animal abuse, anyone caught eating cat or dog meat would face a fine of as much as 5,000 yuan (£450) and up to 15 days in jail. Organisations involved in the sale of either meat could be fined between 10,000 and 500,000 yuan. A draft law is expected to be sent to parliament, the National People’s Congress, in April, according to state media.
I know, right? The FIRST law against animal abuse! Yowza, this is a big deal! I checked Wikipedia and it’s reporting the same thing: no current laws against animal cruelty in China. I guess the stuff with tigers isn’t about cruelty.
Another interesting bit: apparently cat meat isn’t as popular as dog meat because some people believe the cat “will return at night to wreak revenge.” HO DAMN! That reminds me of this scary song my dad used to sing at my elementary school, “The Cat Came Back.” It’s about this guy trying to get rid of his cat but it keeps coming back to haunt the guy and scare my third grade class. SPOOKY!
Now, I’m not really down with making some silly animal hierarchy about who’s better or worse to eat, but at the same time, I love my dog and cat! So I must rejoice! Also, if this legislation gets passed and is the first anti-cruelty law, it would be a pretty big deal for all animals in China!
Yoga, Veganism, and Complaining: I Love Them All So Much »
I’m a yogi, in the American sense: a couple times a week, I go to a class to practice Hatha yoga, mostly for strength and flexibility. I try to meditate at the appropriate time, but it’s hardly the focus of my practice. There’s a big difference between what I do and what real yogis do: they are trying to reach a pinnacle of meditative ecstasy and therefore achieve “liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death.” I am trying to look good with my shirt off.
When I read the New York Times article about food and yoga, I thought “now I know how new vegetarians feel when they listen to grumpy old vegans talking about honey.” People really criticize each other about this stuff? Don’t they have anything better to do? What happened to the worldly suffering? But if you think about it, that’s intimately related. The first proscription of yogic teaching is ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence towards living things. How can one be liberated from suffering if one does not embrace nonviolence?
Good question! Let’s ask Sadie Nardini, who apparently started this whole shitshow by writing a somewhat schizophrenic piece about her yoga-practicing, meat-eating ways in the Huffington Post. The Times piece is about the rift in the yoga community between those who eat anything they please, and those who think yoga compels practitioners to (at least) vegetarianism. But below the surface, it’s just as much about the culture of judgment some find in the community.
Nardini’s piece is all about that judgment. Making a fairly offensive Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell comparison, she argues that meat-eaters need to “stay in the closet” to reach the good graces of top-tier yoga instructors. It’s easy to imagine that she wrote the piece to drum up publicity: “I’m risking a lot doing this, as I am moving to a larger arena in my own teaching, and could turn off the very people who are taking me there” [emphasis mine]. But motivation regardless, do yogis need to be vegan? If they’re not, do they need to hide their diet? Can yogis judge each other for this stuff?
Here’s the thing: the rules are pretty clear. Even Nardini, in her rejection of vegetarianism, makes an argument from ahimsa. It’s a spurious one: she brings up all the canards we’ve heard a thousand times before, about plants feeling pain and insects being killed with the harvest of grain and really it’s fine if you just honor the animal you’re eating and first and foremost, some people just need to eat meat or else they feel yucky and self-harm is the worst of all. Of course, we know the answers to all of these ridiculous objections. If you clear them out of the way, ahimsa is pretty straightforward: avoid doing violence.
Yoga, the real kind, is like any other discipline. There are rules you have to follow. It’s certainly not desirable for yogis to pass judgment on each other for failing to adhere to the rules; ideally, that would be an internal drive. But the thing is, if you’re not following the principles of yoga, you’re doing it wrong. No judgment need be attached to that; it’s just an evaluation of the rules. Much as with “vegetarians” who eat chicken, or “vegans” who eat eggs, it doesn’t matter if your reasons are good. And it doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person.* It just means you’re not living up to the title you claim.
You can’t make the argument from ahimsa that it’s ok to eat meat; it doesn’t hold water. Eat whatever you want, but don’t pretend that you’re living up to the ideals of a yogi. Start your own thing, be a flexiyogini or whatever, but don’t dilute a meaningful term just because you want the benefits without living up to the responsibilities. We see enough of that already.
*OK yes it does, but because you’re killing chickens, not because you’re breaking rules.
Feathers the color of storm clouds and breaking sky. I know it’s animal photos time in animal photos town today at Vegansaurus but me = in love with the blue Andalusian* chicken. The photo is part of a creepy set of misfits of modern agribusiness photos SLOW FOOD ARG.
[via fancymeetingyouhere / ph: Mergen for NYT]
*I know how to spell that because of The Pixies! So, you see, it was smart to miss all those classes to listen to music and NOT DO DRUGS HI MOM.
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.