The Vegan Solution

May 23, 2009

In The Name of Science: European Union confirms torture is legal

Filed under: endangered species,ethical — by Angel Flinn @ 5:40 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

“The Parliament has produced a charter for the multibillion pound animal research industry to carry on business as usual, with scant regard either for animal welfare or public opinion…”
Michelle Thew, British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection

“Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances social knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.”
George Bernard Shaw

vivisection

Image: In Defense of Animals

Last year, the Executive Commission of the European Union proposed a range of measures to ‘lessen the suffering’ of the 12 million vertebrate animals used in experiments each year. The proposed amendments to the EU’s 20-year-old animal experiments law included important protection measures regarding our closest animal relatives, the Great Apes.

This year, on May 5th, Members of the European Parliament voted on the amendments proposed by the commission. What was the result? Aside from a few crumbs scattered at the feet of animal advocates, the MEPs voted with industry lobbyists, and the animals lost… again.

According to Reuters UK,
“Researchers can continue most experiments on mankind’s closest relatives — chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans — after European Union lawmakers watered down proposals to restrict testing.”

As stated by Stephanie Ernst on Change.org,
“The European Parliament has voted to allow millions of animal ‘procedures’ to go ahead throughout the EU each year without the need to seek formal approval… Despite MEPs having voted last year to phase out all primate experiments, months of intense lobbying weakened their resolve.”

According to the American Anti-Vivisection Society, wild populations of primates all across the world are being devastated to supply the research community.

On Mauritius, primates who are endangered or under threat of extinction are caught in the wild for the sole purpose of being exported for vivisection. Suffering in cages during captivity and in transit, they are often mistreated, beaten, and sometimes deprived of sufficient food. They are also transported in such dire conditions that many of them die of shock or hunger.

The Commission had proposed scaling back experiments on the 12,000 primates used each year, suggesting that they only be used ‘if the survival of their species was at stake or during an unexpected outbreak of life-threatening disease in humans’.

But according to a press release from the campaign ‘Make Animal Testing History’, “MEPs voted to continue to allow scientists the freedom to use primates in experiments with no direct application to improving human health…”

There were a few minor improvements to the law that were approved, including the decision to establish centers for developing non-animal alternatives. However, even if this does happen, and even if the meager ‘improvements’ are actually enforced (and I am not at all confident that they will be), these ‘victories’ appear to me to be little more than an opiate for the animal advocates and for the public.

Simply put, the lawmakers, at the bidding of industry lobbyists, have provided just enough positive movement to make the outcome appear balanced.

A press release from Make Animal Testing History states, “Sustained lobbying by the animal research industry has been intense, at times deeply disingenuous and certainly alarmist… “

As stated by Reuters UK, “one politician involved in drafting the laws took the unusual step of resigning her role in February, blaming excessive industry interference.”

As far as I can tell, the overall result is that animals used for experimentation are in virtually the same position as before: desperate and helpless in the unfeeling hands of those who view them as property, as tools of the industry to be used however ‘science’ deems fit. In other words, they have been betrayed, yet again, by those who have the power to protect them.

This leads me to question whether there is any point at all to advocating for animal protection at the legislative level. This defeat seems to be a perfect demonstration of the futility of fighting the animal industry where they are extremely strong and powerful. Industry lobbyists, with much to lose from the passage of tougher animal protection laws, will do everything in their power to make sure they remain free to obtain grants and funding for these procedures.

Meanwhile, our society remains in the dark ages about an issue of serious ethical concern. The individuals who carry out these procedures are, necessarily, indifferent to the suffering of non-human animals. Along with everyone who supports this practice, they must force themselves to believe in the fallacy that animals are not entitled to the basic right of a life free from unthinkable suffering. In this delusion, they are blind to the obvious truth that the eyes of these beautiful creatures are the windows into a soul that is pleading for mercy.

In order to keep the industry of vivisection going, we, as a society, demand that certain individuals desensitize themselves to a practice that most of us would experience as nothing short of a nightmare. In the name of science, barbaric practices are deemed not just acceptable, but necessary, ‘for the advancement of humanity’. Aside from demonstrating a very misguided understanding of ‘humanity’, this also indicates something deeply troubling about the ethical condition of our society.

If a person without a scientific agenda committed acts that even came close in brutality to the procedures that scientists and researchers do regularly, we would be rightfully concerned about their mental stability – specifically, about their ability to discern between right and wrong, and to empathize with others, the very qualities that differentiate a person of sanity from a psychopath.

For those readers who are under the impression that opposition to vivisection is a cause championed only by the animal-rights movement, consider the following quotes. These are but a few of many, which clearly indicate that vivisection has been opposed, throughout history, by many great minds, including some of the more enlightened individuals in the scientific community.

“Atrocities are not less atrocities when they occur in laboratories and are called medical research.”
~ George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“During my medical education … I found vivisection horrible, barbarous and above all unnecessary.”
~ Carl Jung, MD (1875 – 1961)

“I abhor vivisection…. I know of no achievement through vivisection, no scientific discovery that could not have been obtained without such barbarism and cruelty.”
~ Charles W. Mayo, MD (1961), son of the co-founder of the Mayo Clinic. (The Mayo Clinic is consistently ranked among the top three U.S. hospitals.)

Experimentation on live, fully-conscious animals exemplifies the callous disregard that we humans have for the suffering of others, which is the root cause of many of our most serious problems. The continued legality of this practice serves to reinforce the hardhearted attitude we hold toward non-human animals, and thereby serves to reinforce the hardhearted attitude we hold toward our fellow humans.

For this reason, the continuation of vivisection acts as an impediment to our evolution as a society. Maintaining that such horrifically barbaric practices are socially acceptable serves to keep us in the dark about the true nature of our fellow animals. That is exactly the opposite of what we need as a civilization.

As the EU animal testing defeat shows, it is disheartening to see the results of the attempts to change legislation that regulates torture. As long as animals are viewed as property, their protection will always be less important to society than the perceived rights of the humans who own them and who profit from their use.

In short, new legislation will not fix the situation, unless it comes as a result of a crucial change in perception.

As Albert Schweitzer so eloquently said,

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.”

Originally published on Care2

May 19, 2009

The Flu Lagoon: A Disaster Waiting To Happen

pigs

“The so-called ‘swine flu’ exploded because an environmental disaster simply moved (and with it, took jobs from US workers) to Mexico where environmental and worker safety laws, if they exist, are not enforced against powerful multinational corporations.”
– The Narco News Bulletin

“In 1997 [Smithfield] was the nation’s seventh-largest pork producer; by 1999 it was the largest. Smithfield now kills one of every four pigs sold commercially in the United States.”
– Rolling Stone Magazine

Could there be a clearer sign than the advent of the Swine Flu that animal-based food production must come to an end?

I know it’s hard for people to hear, but if we continue to insist on stubbornly clinging to our addiction to the products of animal exploitation, the results will come around, and the Swine Flu is simply a tragic sign of reaping what we sow.

It is no secret anymore that animals are confined and tortured all over the world, in intensive operations. It is also no secret that these vast animal concentration camps provide ideal breeding grounds for all sorts of infectious diseases.

When animals are deprived of basic requirements such as sunlight, fresh air and space, and their ‘living’ conditions are terrifying, stressful and filthy beyond belief, the only way the outbreak of disease can be kept at bay is by pumping the animals full of antibiotics. It seems obvious that this causes mutant strains of infectious diseases to develop, diseases that will eventually, one way or another, transfer to people.

Our society has chosen to close its eyes to the horrendous conditions in animal food production operations everywhere, and as a result, we must now learn our lesson. Some might call it a matter of karma. On another level, it is a simple matter of the fact that our careless, thoughtless and heartless practices have created this situation. We can only hide from it for so long. At some stage, the results must come to the surface.

As far as I’m concerned, the best piece of journalism I have seen so far on the Swine Flu came from Rolling Stone magazine. Anyone who wants to be informed about this issue ought to read this article. It is packed with information about the likely cause of the outbreak that everyone should know about.

Ironically, this foreboding exposé was written in December 2006. What author Jeff Tietz was warning us, over two years ago, was that an outbreak of disease, originating in one of these pork production facilities, was inevitable.

In his article, Pork’s Dirty Secret, Tietz describes the conditions of the pig production units owned by Smithfield Foods here in the US:

“Smithfield’s holding ponds — the company calls them lagoons — cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.”

Over four years, from 1991 to 1995, Smithfield’s North Carolina ‘lagoons’ spilled two million gallons of pig waste into the Cape Fear River, 1.5 million gallons into its Persimmon Branch, one million gallons into the Trent River and 200,000 gallons into Turkey Creek. In Virginia, Smithfield was fined $12.6 million in 1997 for 6,900 violations of the Clean Water Act — the third-largest civil penalty ever levied under the act by the EPA.

But the production unit alleged to be the source of the outbreak isn’t in the US. It’s in Mexico, where environmental regulations are much more lax, and much less frequently enforced.

In 1994, as soon as The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect, Smithfield Farms opened “Carroll Ranches” in the Mexican state of Veracruz.

From The Narco News Bulletin:

“Unlike… Smithfield Farms in the US, the new Mexican facility – processing 800,000 pigs into bacon and other products per year – does not have a sewage treatment plant.”

If the conditions in the US facilities are as bad as described in Rolling Stone, one wonders what on Earth the conditions in Mexico are like, where Smithfield Foods found a haven from the environmental laws of the US?

Amongst a wealth of information about the horrendous conditions in Smithfield’s US production units, Jeff Tietz offers the following:

“A lot of pig shit is one thing; a lot of highly toxic pig shit is another. The excrement of Smithfield hogs is hardly even pig shit: On a continuum of pollutants, it is probably closer to radioactive waste than to organic manure. The reason it is so toxic is Smithfield’s efficiency. The company produces 6 billion pounds of packaged pork each year. That’s a remarkable achievement, a prolificacy unimagined only two decades ago, and the only way to do it is to raise pigs in astonishing, unprecedented concentrations.”

“The drugs Smithfield administers to its pigs, of course, exit its hog houses in pig shit. Industrial pig waste also contains a host of other toxic substances: ammonia, methane, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, cyanide, phosphorous, nitrates and heavy metals. In addition, the waste nurses more than 100 microbial pathogens that can cause illness in humans, including salmonella, cryptosporidium, streptocolli and girardia. Each gram of hog shit can contain as much as 100 million fecal coliform bacteria.”

These ‘lagoons’ are far from a safe way to store such highly toxic waste. As for the name, I can’t help but wonder how the pork industry managed to come up with a name that is the veritable epitome of euphemism. The word conjures up images of submerging oneself in a tropical pool of water in the heat of summer… But at the end of the day, these lagoons, by any other name, would smell…like… Well, you get the idea.

“Even light rains can cause lagoons to overflow; major floods have transformed entire counties into pig-shit bayous. To alleviate swelling lagoons, workers sometimes pump the [waste] out of them and spray that waste on surrounding fields, which results in what the industry daintily refers to as ‘overapplication.’ This can turn hundreds of acres — thousands of football fields — into shallow mud puddles of pig shit. Tree branches drip with pig shit.”

“Some pig-farm lagoons have polyethylene liners, which can be punctured by rocks in the ground, allowing [waste] to seep beneath the liners and spread and ferment. Gases from the fermentation can inflate the liner like a hot-air balloon and rise in an expanding, accelerating bubble, forcing thousands of tons of feces out of the lagoon in all directions.”

“According to the EPA, Smithfield’s largest farm-slaughterhouse operation — in Tar Heel, North Carolina — dumps more toxic waste into the nation’s water each year than all but three other industrial facilities in America.”

What does this pollution actually mean for the rivers themselves? Basically put, the waste from an industrial hog farm can kill the life in a river… Fast.

“Toxins and microbes can kill plants and animals outright; the waste itself consumes available oxygen and suffocates fish and aquatic animals; and the nutrients in the pig [waste] produce algal blooms that also deoxygenate the water.”

“In North Carolina, much of the pig waste from Smithfield’s operations makes its way into the Neuse River; in a five-day span in 2003 alone, more than 4 million fish died. Pig-waste runoff has damaged the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound, which is almost as big as the Chesapeake Bay and which provides half the nursery grounds used by fish in the eastern Atlantic.”

In 1995, a 120,000-square-foot lagoon (owned by a competitor of Smithfield) ruptured, causing the biggest spill in the history of corporate hog farming. This spill released 25.8 million gallons of waste into the headwaters of the New River in North Carolina.

“It was the biggest environmental spill in United States history, more than twice as big as the Exxon Valdez oil spill six years earlier. The sludge was so toxic it burned your skin if you touched it, and so dense it took almost two months to make its way sixteen miles downstream to the ocean. From the headwaters to the sea, every creature living in the river was killed. Fish died by the millions.”

“Corporate hog farming contributes to another form of environmental havoc: Pfiesteria piscicida, a microbe that, in its toxic form, has killed a billion fish… Nutrient-rich waste like pig [feces] creates the ideal environment for Pfiesteria to bloom… Pfiesteria is invisible and odorless — you know it by the trail of dead. The microbe degrades a fish’s skin, laying bare tissue and blood cells; it then eats its way into the fish’s body. After the 1995 spill, millions of fish developed large bleeding sores on their sides and quickly died.”

“Fishermen found that at least one of Pfiesteria’s toxins could take flight: Breathing the air above the bloom caused severe respiratory difficulty, headaches, blurry vision and logical impairment. Some fishermen forgot how to get home; laboratory workers exposed to Pfiesteria lost the ability to solve simple math problems and dial phones; they forgot their own names. It could take weeks or months for the brain and lungs to recover.”

The question remains: Is it possible to raise pigs for pork without these kinds of atrocities occurring? The answer… Not in the quantity that our ravenous human population requires. Without a major reduction in global meat consumption, these massive operations will remain necessary to feed our growing population.

The Smithfield conditions are not the exception; they are an example of the rule. What is the rule? It’s simple. In order to feed our vast human population animal products, we must raise animals in horrifically intensive operations. And in order to turn a profit, these companies will continue to act irresponsibly. To do otherwise would not just mean less profit, it would actually mean no profit at all.

“Smithfield estimates that its total sales will reach $11.4 billion this year. So prodigious is its fecal waste, however, that if the company treated its effluvia as big-city governments do — even if it came marginally close to that standard — it would lose money.”

“There simply is no regulatory solution to the millions of tons of searingly fetid, toxic effluvium that industrial hog farms discharge and aerosolize on a daily basis. Smithfield alone has sixteen operations in twelve states. Fixing the problem completely would bankrupt the company… From the moment that Smithfield attained its current size, its waste-disposal problem became conventionally insoluble.”

The article written by Jeff Tietz in Rolling Stone describes food production conditions that the average person would be horrified by. The brief excerpts that I have quoted represent only a small portion of the sickening picture that he paints of modern pork production.

The revelations in Tietz’ article appear to provide overwhelming evidence of the irresponsible practices of the pork industry. In the meantime, on the Smithfield website, one of their press releases declares, “Based on available recent information, Smithfield has no reason to believe that the virus is in any way connected to its operations in Mexico.”

This strangely Orwellian attitude is appropriately reflected in their motto, which seems, in light of this information, ridiculously ironic, and at the same time, terribly sad:

Smithfield Foods – Good Food. Responsibly.

Originally published on Care2

May 12, 2009

killing animals

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Angel Flinn @ 10:08 pm

Killing animals, in factory farms or otherwise, is an affront to the sensitive nature of the human conscience.

Imagine the impact it has when a killing is witnessed by a child (or someone of any age, for that matter) who is not desensitized to it, as those who kill have to be.

We are not blood-thirsty predators who salivate at the sight or smell of blood. We are sensitive beings with the ability to reason and to empathize with others. These attributes are what make us love and be loved by each other, yet they are repressed by a society that wants to harden us, so that we are even willing to kill each other, if the politics of the day deem it necessary.

Underneath it all, we are caring, kind people who don’t want to see others suffer.

Over the course of centuries, we have altered our body’s chemistry by consuming flesh and blood, instead of the goodness of plant foods, creating a society of people who are de-sensitized to the suffering of other creatures, who feel pain just as our dogs and cats do.

We are just as capable of altering our body’s chemistry the other way, by making actions that are motivated by humanity’s higher qualities: compassion, kindness, and mercy toward those who are powerless in our hands.

I believe that the time is now for us to make choices that will help us evolve into a community of more ethically-driven people. What that will require is a willingness to depart from our old ways of thinking and behaving towards others, including animals.

May 11, 2009

A Change of Heart

“We cannot win this battle to save species and environments without forging an emotional bond between ourselves and nature as well—for we will not fight to save what we do not love.”
—Stephen Jay Gould

change-of-heart

The idea of the Earth at the center of the universe seems ludicrous to us today, but the fundamentally self-centered belief system that created that theory still exists. We still believe that all life revolves around human life, and that everything else should bend to our will.

Few people would argue against the assertion that humankind is critically separated from the natural world. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our way of living is at odds with nature, and is a severe threat to the natural systems that support us and the rest of life on this planet. In addition to this, many people are becoming aware that this separateness is causing us to feel an emotional and spiritual distance from nature, and from life itself.

How did we come to this point? How did humans, who are, in many ways, Nature’s most advanced species, come to be so very isolated, so completely cut off from our origins?

Out of a natural desire to protect our fragile selves from the dangerous and hostile elements of untamed nature, we have spent our time on the planet developing knowledge, skills and technology that have enabled us to escape the terrifying world of the predatory paradigm. By creating a safe distance between ourselves and the natural world, we have, for the most part, successfully removed from our reality the fears that wild animals live with constantly.

It is undeniable that this has served an important purpose – that of creating a sanctuary for humans where we have been able to further our evolution. The great accomplishments of human history, as well as the basic conveniences of living in our society are made possible by the fact that we have transcended the requirements of basic survival that the rest of the animal population must live according to – finding food and shelter, avoiding predators, and everything else that makes life in the wild so very tenuous.

But, as I said in an earlier article, rather than using our position of advantage to help our fellow animals, we, who claim to be creatures of moral conscience, have used it to exploit them, by forcing them into lives of even more fear, more pain, and more suffering.. It is for this reason that we feel guilty when we look at animals, because something inside us knows that we have betrayed them, and we continue to betray them, on a grand scale. What do we do in response to the guilt that nags at our conscience? We keep killing them, keep hurting them, keep terrorizing them, and keep oppressing them.

Caught up in this cycle of oppression, we forget that we are animals ourselves, who also rely on the mercy of those who have the power to harm us. It is the guilt we feel as a result of withholding our compassion from those who are at our mercy that makes it impossible for us to look more deeply into the true nature of animals, and the rest of the natural world that they rely on for survival.

For some time now we have been at war with the world of nature and animals, and increasingly, it seems that we are beginning to be on the losing side. We are beginning to learn that we are not, in fact, above the laws of nature. Thus, we now find ourselves on the receiving end of the violence we have inflicted, in our self-appointed role as the dictators of the future of all life on our planet.

The only way we will be able to change this perilous course, is to be willing to change the actions that created it. The choices of each individual, on every level from procreation to dietary practice, have to be examined, but not through the filter of one’s personal desires, rather through the filter of their impact on the rest of the planet. If we continue to stubbornly cling to the lifestyle that has led us to this point, we will find that we too are destroyed.

The global environmental crisis offers us a wealth of opportunities. They are opportunities for change, for conscious evolution of ourselves, which is something we humans collectively resist as much as anything. Changing oneself requires an admission that something in us needs to change, and that is a challenge for anyone.

All of us would like to see change occur on a global level, but first, we need to accept the fact that global change has to begin with personal change. We need to begin acknowledging that our personal actions affect the rest of the planet, and we must take into account this wider impact in all our choices.

For too long, we have luxuriated in the pleasures of an unsustainable self-indulgence, using the resources of the planet, as well as its other inhabitants, however we please. The outdated mindset that man is at the center of the universe and everything exists to feed, clothe, house, entertain and please us has got to be overthrown, and this has to occur in people’s own hearts and minds.

It seems that our grand experiment is coming to a climax. We can no longer continue to worship a lifestyle that promotes the hedonistic desires of a human population that is convinced that the entire planet exists to serve our pleasures. We must take responsibility for our mistakes, make peace with the rest of the world, and come to understand and embrace our place in the natural order of things. This change of consciousness will not occur without the change of heart that we desperately need.

Originally published on Care2

telling others what to do…

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Angel Flinn @ 9:48 pm

I’d like to see an end to the complaints about what animal advocates are saying to others. What’s much more important, in my opinion, is what meat-eaters are doing, to innocent animals, every time they sit down to eat.

Unfortunately, as with most (if not all) other atrocities in the world, advocating for an end to animal slavery requires us to suggest that others change their lifestyle.

Animal slavery exists because people eat animals and their products. Period. The only way it will end is if people are willing to change their habits. The only way that will happen is if they are properly educated about the sources of their ‘food’.

Isn’t advocacy for any cause an attempt to persuade others to adopt your ideals?

Wasn’t it the tireless advocacy for equality and basic rights for all people that put an end to widespread human slavery? It too, was violently opposed by those who had a personal stake in its continuation.

If the message is one of compassion, kindness and non-violence, then sharing that belief with others, and yes, even advocating for others to adopt the same belief is not something to be angrily opposed.

The animal industry, aside from inflicting horrific suffering on vast numbers of innocent creatures, is a major contributor to many of the worst problems our planet is facing, from global warming to species extinction. It also takes food out of the mouths of starving people all over the third-world.

Those who speak out about the vegan cause with the intention of abolishing animal exploitation are making a stand that is noble. The fact that we want everyone to do as we do is completely understandable. Meat eating is destroying the planet that we all share.

For more information, read another of my posts,
The Vegan Solution – An Ideal Whose Time Has Come

It is obscene that vegans and even vegetarians have to fear the catastrophic fate that meat-eaters are forcing on us all.

May 10, 2009

animal holocaust

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Angel Flinn @ 10:24 am

The animal holocaust is a horrific global crime that will eventually have to come to an end. When this happens, it will be because of the efforts of those who speak out about it and raise public awareness of the situation.

All over the world, animals are imprisoned, enslaved, tortured and killed violently, and all over the world, people go on as if this is just fine with them. Everyone is complicit in this crime, except for those who reject the products of the animal holocaust, embrace the vegan ideal, and choose a life where harming others is not an option.

While we are waiting for the vegan ideal to be accepted for what it really is – the answer to so many of our world’s biggest problems – everyone who consumes and uses the products of this industry ought to truly learn the facts, honestly examine their personal conscience and act accordingly.

May 8, 2009

evolution

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Angel Flinn @ 11:38 pm

I am quite confident that humans are capable of evolving into a vegan species within a very short time.

There is evidence that quantum evolutionary leaps occur in times of crisis such as our global population is experiencing.

So, I see the vegan cause as a very winnable battle.

The vegan ideal also contains within it the power to solve a multitude of human problems (perhaps all of them, if you think about it honestly enough), as I explained in a previous article, The Vegan Solution.

If our species became herbivorous (which could end up happening soon, due to necessity, if nothing else), it would indicate such a major advancement in our collective mentality that the future would suddenly appear amazingly hopeful, in ways that we can not yet imagine.

I think the evolution of the population towards a herbivorous diet is not just imminent, but it is already occurring. The growth of the vegan population, and the increasing occurrences of animal-based diseases are signs of the change that is coming.

I also believe that the time is approaching where we will have no choice but to embrace the vegan way of life. It won’t happen all at once, but it might happen a lot sooner than we can currently imagine. This is how evolutionary leaps occur.

As John Stuart Mill articulated so eloquently:

“It often happens that the universal belief of one age, a belief from which no one was free, or could be free without an extraordinary effort of genius or courage, becomes to a subsequent age, so palpable an absurdity that the only difficulty is to imagine how such an idea could ever have appeared credible.”

May 6, 2009

Sarah Palin: What is it about killing that you enjoy?

wolves

“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
– Immanuel Kant, German philosopher

When last year’s presidential election campaign ended, I would have been happy if I had never heard the name ‘Sarah Palin’ again. What scares me the most about her is the attitude she holds toward animals. Unfortunately, despite her defeat in the presidential election, as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin still has the power to kill wild animals on a massive scale. Now, she and her friends are gearing up for an escalation in their slaughter of wolves.

According to the Care2 campaign team,

“…defenseless wolf pups and their families will soon face death from deadly snares and poison gas in and around their dens in Alaska. It is part of an escalating attempt by the Palin Administration to slaughter wolves at record numbers via helicopter, spotter planes, aerial gunners… and the unprecedented and extreme method of gassing wolf pups to death in their dens in the weeks ahead.”

The e-mail circulated by Care2 announced that during Alaska’s recent spring Board of Game meeting, the board approved a proposal to allow the use of gas bombs to kill wolves and wolf pups in their dens.

“The Board has consistently voted for unprecedented and increasingly extreme methods of killing wolves, and many in Alaska now question the make up of the board and the magnitude of their vendetta against wolves.”

At the end of March, 66 wolves were slaughtered in one week, shot down from helicopters, spotter planes and aerial gunners. Even wolf packs that live near a National Park Service preserve were targeted, despite the risk to wolves in the preserve that have been studied for nearly two decades of research.

“Governor Sarah Palin and her allies have worked to expand the aerial killing program by removing the few remaining scientific requirements from the program.”

There is something terrifying to me about someone who is so completely heartless when it comes to animals. I think it is a sign of something deeply disturbing, not just on a personal level, but on a societal level as well. To me, the hatred of animals that Sarah Palin demonstrates is not a simple matter of an individual being unwilling to feel compassion for members of another species. I believe it represents something much bigger. She is a public symbol of the part of us that has shut off the essential human qualities of kindness, empathy and compassion.

Indifference toward the suffering of other creatures is an accepted societal norm that is alarming to contemplate, but I’m starting to recognize something that is even more troubling. I’m beginning to believe that there is a part of the collective human consciousness that actually hates animals. If this sounds hard to believe, readers should make an investment in the small amount of time it takes to watch some of the more controversial footage of animal exploitation, where people have been filmed treating animals with abhorrent callousness, and seem to actually take sadistic pleasure in it. If that seems extreme, consider the famous picture of Sarah Palin smiling proudly beside the blood-soaked body of a moose that she had slain and was preparing to disembowel.

Why would this be, when so many of us feel such a strong bond and love for animals? Animals remind us of our own connection with (and separation from) the natural world, a world we once shared with them, where we constantly struggled to survive. Out of our intense desire to leave behind a way of life where daily survival had to be fought for, we managed to climb out of the world of nature, and thereby transcend the food chain, leaving behind the animal world and the terror of being preyed upon.

Rather than using our position of advantage to help our fellow animals, we have used it to further oppress them, and to push them into lives of even more fear, more pain, and more suffering, this time at the hands of those who claim to be creatures of moral conscience. It is for this reason that we feel guilty when we look at animals, because something inside us knows that we have betrayed them, and we continue to betray them, on a grand scale. What do we do in response to the guilt that nags at our conscience? We keep killing them, keep hurting them, keep terrorizing them, and keep oppressing them, perhaps in the hope that we will convince ourselves that it is simply what they deserve, what they were made for.

As long as we keep treating animals as insentient objects that were put on this planet to serve our desires, we will continue to oppress them, continue to hurt them, and continue to torture them. This causes us to be plagued by the guilt that lies like a blanket of anguish over the collective conscience of humanity. All over the world, animals are imprisoned, enslaved, tortured and killed violently, and all over the world, people go on as if this is just fine with them. Everyone is complicit in this crime, except for those who reject the products of the animal holocaust, embrace the vegan ideal, and choose a life where harming others is not an option.

Eating Our Planet to Death?

eating1

I recently discovered a fantastic article called Vegetarian Is The New Prius, written by Kathy Freston, author of Quantum Wellness. Some may remember Kathy Freston from her appearances on Oprah and Ellen, where she made a substantial impact on the lives of both of these women. After interviewing Kathy on her Soul Series, Oprah was so moved by what she read in Quantum Wellness that she embarked on a 21-day cleanse diet, cutting out all animal products, alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars and gluten.

What moved Oprah to make such a radical shift in diet (albeit temporarily) was Freston’s way of explaining what it means to eat “consciously.” In her blog, Oprah described how deeply affected she was by Kathy’s descriptions of the harm we do to animals used for food. But the article I just read is not about animal welfare or the conditions under which farmed animals suffer at the hands of humans. It focuses instead on the 2007 UN report about the environmental impact of animal farming, and her short article makes a powerful case for the ecological imperative of transitioning towards a plant-based diet:

In 2007, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: ‘The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.’ It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.

According to the UN report, almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock, which equals more emissions than come from all of the world’s transportation combined.

To someone who hasn’t heard these statistics before, it could be hard to imagine how this is true, until you become aware of the vast scale of the animal industry.

The United States alone slaughters more than 10 billion land animals every year… . Land animals raised for food make up a staggering 20% of the entire land animal biomass of the earth. We are eating our planet to death.

Then there is the fact that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and eggs requires around ten times as much grain as we’d need to feed the population a plant-based diet. When you add the environmental cost of transportation and refrigeration, it turns out that a calorie of meat protein requires ten times as much in the way of fossil fuels as a calorie of plant protein. On top of that, the production of that same calorie of protein releases more than ten times as much carbon dioxide.

The researchers found that, when it’s all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.

Kathy Freston goes on to discuss the vast quantities of land required for animal farming.

Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world’s forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder.

As the forests of the planet are designed to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, burning them not only destroys the very systems that are designed to process all the gases we are producing, but it also releases all the stored carbon dioxide, “in quantities that exceed by far the fossil fuel emission of animal agriculture.”

And of course, most people are aware now that as well as carbon dioxide, there are other greenhouse gases that are produced in large quantities by huge herds of farmed animals. According to Freston’s article, methane and nitrous oxide have “23 and 296 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, respectively… while animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, it emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide.”

She goes on to explain how farming food animals is also one of the biggest causes of some of our other global environmental problems:

Animal agriculture accounts for most of the water consumed in this country, emits two-thirds of the world’s acid-rain-causing ammonia, and is the world’s largest source of water pollution–killing entire river and marine ecosystems, destroying coral reefs, and of course, making people sick.

All of these statistics seem to add up to one profound conclusion: We simply cannot go on like this. The ethical question of vegetarianism in regard to the animals who are the innocent victims of our eating habits has been debated for centuries, leading to a growing population of ethical vegetarians and vegans. Now there are other issues to be considered, issues which are extremely time-sensitive when it comes to the future of our planet and the human population.

It seems that we have created a situation for ourselves where, if we want to turn this global catastrophe around, we simply must re-examine our old ways of thinking, and the biggest thing we need to address is the way we eat. Fortunately, in today’s society, the options are plentiful, information is readily accessible and the choice is easier than it has ever been.

Originally published on Care2

As We Soy, So Shall We Reap

soy

I’m beginning to notice a recurring theme in the discussion thread of my last two posts. It appears that some readers are under the impression that plant-based diets are less environmentally-friendly because of the perceived vegetarian/vegan reliance on soy products.

There seems to be a growing movement, promoted by environmentalists themselves, that is against vegan diets, for reasons of environmental sustainability. This trend is encouraged by the strange idea being promoted that vast quantities of soy are required to produce foods for the vegetarian population. In other words, the impression is being created that it is tofu, soy milk and fake meats that are destroying the planet, not animal foods. This scenario paints vegans as being perpetrators of the massive environmental devastation that is, indeed, occurring worldwide as a result of the growing demand for soy.

When examined just a little more closely, it becomes clear that this theory is quite ludicrous. There is no way that the current population of vegetarians and vegans could possibly create such demand for soy. In fact, the disturbing reality that is being revealed about the ecological destruction caused by commercial soy sounds more like something one would associate with… well… the animal industry. The emergence of vast monocultures that are destroying huge tracts of Amazon forest, catastrophic depletion of water and other resources, colossal pesticide usage, enormous reliance on genetic engineering… It sounds like yet another illustration of the callous disregard for the future of our planet for which the animal industry has become infamous.

Feeding cattle and other livestock is the number one use of soy worldwide, and it outweighs the other uses of soy by a long shot.

According to http://www.soyatech.com:

“About 85 percent of the world’s soybean crop is processed into meal and vegetable oil, and virtually all of that meal is used in animal feed.  Some two percent of the soybean meal is further processed into soy flours and proteins for food use… Approximately six percent of soybeans are used directly as human food, mostly in Asia.”

Of the small percentage of soy being used to feed people, don’t be fooled into believing that the majority of it is used to make meat or milk substitutes to feed vegans and vegetarians. As pointed out by Mary Vance, in The Dark Side of Soy,

“Soy is everywhere in our food supply, as the star in cereals and health-promoting foods and hidden in processed foods. Even if you read every label and avoid cardboard boxes, you are likely to find soy in your supplements and vitamins (look out for vitamin E derived from soy oil), in foods such as canned tuna, soups, sauces, breads, meats (injected under poultry skin), and chocolate, and in pet food and body-care products.”

According to Vance, the reason for the ubiquitous presence of soy is simple:

“These days the industry has discovered ways to use every part of the bean for profit. Soy oil has become the base for most vegetable oils; soy lecithin, the waste product left over after the soybean is processed, is used as an emulsifier; soy flour appears in baked and packaged goods; different forms of processed soy protein are added to everything from animal feed to muscle-building protein powders.”

Soy is grown in vast monocultures, causing massive environmental degradation, wasting huge quantities of water, and destroying wild lands.

From a 2009 article, More Soy, Less Forest – and No Water:

“According to the National Directorate of Forests, Argentina is experiencing the most intense deforestation in its history due to the replacement of forests with soy plantations, and Córdoba is the province where the most devastating environmental damage has occurred.

“Over the past decade, as the output of soy rose steadily, the province lost an average of three percent of its native forests annually. Of the 10 million hectares of forests found in Córdoba a century ago, only 12 percent are left.

“The worst destruction has been seen in the hills and mountains in the region, where only two percent of the native forest cover has survived.”

Naturally, as the forest cover is destroyed in these areas, the rain water, once absorbed by the forested mountains and released throughout the year, now simply pours down the sides of the mountains.

“In the mountainous region known as the Sierras Chicas, where several large towns and small cities are located, water shortages have led to water cuts in the last few months. The La Quebrada dam, which supplies the entire area, is at present only able to meet half of the current level of demand.”

“But Córdoba, Salta and Santiago del Estero are just three of the seven Argentine provinces where the destruction of native forests ‘is most intense’, says a report by the National Directorate of Forests, which warns that around 200,000 hectares of forests are being irrevocably lost every year.”

As if this wasn’t bad enough, soy is also one of the crops most commonly produced using genetic modification, which is of serious concern in regards to both health and environmental issues.

According to Grist.org:

“As of 2004, 85 percent of the U.S. soy crop was genetically modified, accounting for some 63.6 million acres of soybeans. Statistics for 2003 indicate that at least 55 percent of soy worldwide is now genetically modified.”

According to another source,

“In 1997, about 8% of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2006, the figure was 89%”

Grist.org goes on to state:

“Some would like us to believe that … ‘herbicide-tolerant’ soy has led to less need for the herbicide. This is not the case. The use of Roundup and other pesticides and herbicides on genetically modified crops in the U.S. from 2001 through 2003 increased by tens of millions of pounds compared to non-GM conventional agriculture.”

This is bad enough on an environmental level, but what about the health effects of eating foods that are contaminated with genetically modified organisms? For those who are concerned about consuming genetically engineered foods, it would be worth giving some thought to the fact that when these GM soybeans are fed to animals, they end up being eaten by humans, through the animals’ flesh, eggs and milk. What’s even worse, is that once the beans are eaten by animals, there is no way to test for the presence of the GMOs.

According to www.gmo-compass.org:

“Despite methods that are becoming more and more sensitive, tests have not yet been able to establish a difference in the meat, milk, or eggs of animals depending on the type of feed they are fed. It is impossible to tell if an animal was fed GM soy just by looking at the resulting meat, dairy, or egg products.”

Genetic engineering is a common concern for those who are considering giving up animal products in favor of vegetarian options. With the prevalent misconception that vegetarian diets are necessarily high in soy products, many concerned consumers question whether a vegetarian diet leaves the individual more exposed to genetically engineered ingredients. But companies that make products aimed at consumers who are concerned about food issues (like vegans and vegetarians) tend to market their products accordingly. Vegetarian and vegan products are frequently labeled as being produced using non-GMO soybeans. For that reason, it is far easier to avoid GM soy in products such as soy milk, tofu, and meat analogs, than it is to avoid GM soy in the flesh, eggs or milk of an animal.

As a final point, for those who are under the impression that the answer is to avoid beef, and switch instead to poultry products, consider this from the North Carolina Soybean Producers Association:

“Over half of the soybeans processed for livestock feed are fed to poultry, about one-quarter is fed to swine, and the rest is used for beef cattle, dairy cattle and petfood.”

Once again, examined from yet another angle, vegan options win out as being more environmentally sustainable. One way or another, the information about the environmental impacts of animal ‘agriculture’ will have to become known. The world stands at a turning point, where we simply can not go on as if our old ways can continue to sustain us. As environmentalist John Grant states in The Green Marketing Manifesto, “our lifestyles need to change beyond recognition.” (Emphasis in original).

The vegan ideal is so clearly an evolution from where we are today. There is no way that its benefits can be reasonably refuted from any angle, because vegan represents a step forward, a step into a way of living that is more suited to the nature of people who care about the suffering of others, and who can empathize with another’s pain.

For those of us who want to secure a future for our species, and perhaps for the planet itself, it is time that we joined together and put our efforts behind the changes that will make the difference we need. Vegan stands at the forefront of this movement for change.

If we want to move forward into a new society, a culture of sustainability that leaves behind the destruction that humanity has wrought on the planet, we must be willing to change ourselves, our ways of thinking, and the ways in which we live, including our eating habits.

This quantum leap may seem unlikely from the perspective we hold today, but it is within this very change that our hope for the future lies. There is nothing hopeful about looking ahead to a future where we are not vastly different from whom we are today. The evolution of our species hangs in the balance. If we are to have a future, the people who inhabit it will not be addicted to the products of exploitation, suffering and environmental destruction. They will not source their food from feedlots, factory farms or slaughterhouses. The people of this future will be kind, compassionate, gentle and just. And yes, however controversial it may be to say so, there is no doubt in my mind that the people of the future will be vegan.

Originally published on Care2

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