The Vegan Solution

October 15, 2009

A Call to Environmentalists


No matter how strong the current opposition, it will soon have to be accepted that the vegan solution is our hope for the future, as it contains the power to address, all at once, the many different yet interconnected issues – from the environmental devastation we are causing, to the global pandemic of violence. These crises are crippling our civilization and threaten not only our survival, but the survival of the many other species that populate the planet.

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June 7, 2009

I Couldn’t Wait To Get My Elephant ~ Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman


“To live without killing is a thought which could electrify the world, if men were only capable of staying awake long enough to let the idea soak in.”

Henry Miller, The Henry Miller Reader (1959)

I’ve written before about my disbelief and sorrow that it is still legal to hunt endangered animals in certain parts of the world. But when I read recently about the widely publicized case of the elephant shot and killed by American hunter Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman, I couldn’t help but feel driven to write about this subject again.

For those who don’t know the story, Teressa shot an elephant in response to a challenge from a fellow hunter, who told her that no woman had ever killed an elephant with a bow. In her own words, “I couldn’t turn down the challenge… I couldn’t wait to get my elephant.”

Hunting elephants for sport is legal in some parts of Africa and many tour companies allow tourists to visit on organized hunting trips. In the US, it is perfectly legal to bring home the body parts of an endangered animal.

Hagerman’s trip was paid for by several sponsors including the bow company, PSE, and Foxy Huntress, a company that makes hunting clothing for women. Hunts of a Lifetime states on their website that they are “proud to be a sponsor of Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman on her recent elephant bowhunt… and wish Teressa well on her next big-game adventure!”

Mail Online describes the elephant’s fall: “The injured creature staggered 500 yards, leaving a bloody trail, before crashing to the ground.”

What seems to incense many people about this story is the fact that Teressa killed an elephant, an animal whose species is bordering on extinction, and an animal that people tend to care about. Elephants are endearing creatures – gentle giants who delighted us when we first discovered them as children. They’re intelligent, sociable and loving to one another. They can live to the age of 70, and they often live with the same tribe for their entire lives, caring for each other’s young. Many people are aware that elephants in the wild will likely be gone forever within 10 years or so. It is perhaps for this reason that many of us allow ourselves to care about them.

In Africa, where they eat elephant meat, it’s likely that they don’t think any more of it than we think about eating venison or goose in the west. As stated by Gary Francione in his book ‘Introduction to Animal Rights’, hunters in the US kill “at least 200 million animals a year, not counting the tens of millions that are wounded and not retrieved.” Many private game preserves offer hunters the opportunity to kill exotic animals who have been purchased by the landowner from a circus or a zoo, and some of these preserves advertise that they will custom-order species ‘not already in stock’.

According to the website of the US Fish and Wildlife service, the most recent survey report in 2006 indicated that 12.5 million people, 16 years old and older, “enjoyed hunting a variety of animals within the United States”. They hunted 220 million days and took 185 million trips. Hunting expenditures totaled $22.9 billion. An estimated 10.7 million hunters pursued big game, such as deer and elk. There were 4.8 million hunters of small game including squirrels and rabbits. 2.3 million hunted migratory birds such as doves or waterfowl, and 1.1 million hunted other animals such as woodchucks and raccoons.

On the Hunts of a Lifetime website, “almost any type of hunting or fishing trip can be arranged”. Hunters are invited to plan “an outdoor adventure that you cherish and remember the rest of your life.”

I once spent a short time working at a small, quaint motel near a National Forest, which was popular with hunters during the killing season. I did my best to avoid the gazes of the slaughtered deer on the walls. To me, they seemed to be trapped in the eternal hell of never being laid to rest, forever to be displayed as ‘trophies’ to celebrate the great achievements of their own executioners. They would stare at me when I entered a room, still silently pleading for their lives, forever frozen in the sorrow of their final moment. I couldn’t ignore my sadness or guilt, though I tried not to look into the eyes of those who were once majestic animals, members of a family and a tribe, innocent beings with feelings and even emotions, whose lives had been cut short by one of my own kind.

Teressa is not alone in her bloodlust, nor in her callous disregard for the sanctity of another life. She is simply the product of a society that thinks absolutely nothing of killing the defenseless innocent for pleasure.

As Mark Twain said,

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is unknown to the higher animals.”

With all the advancements of human ‘civilization’, our addiction to killing keeps us in the dark ages, in the world of savages. It stops us from cultivating our capacity for kindness, empathy, and justice; the very qualities we need to develop if we are to move forward into a safe and prosperous future, in which we do not fear one another.

It has been 2500 years since vegetarianism was promoted by both the Buddha and Pythagoras, as they simultaneously introduced to the world the noble idea that humankind has an ethical duty toward our fellow creatures, and that duty includes abstaining from eating them. Pythagoras, considered by many to be the father of vegetarianism, said to his followers, “For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.” The Buddha, living in the East at the same time as Pythagoras was living in the West, said to his followers, “All beings tremble before violence. All fear death. All love life. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?”

Originally published on Care2

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


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,
“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

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