Perhaps the rising breast cancer rates (and the subsequent findings as to the potential significance of diet in causing the disease) offer us an opportunity to look at who we are as women, and who we want to become. Do we want to continue consuming products that not only are killing us and our families, but also require the systematic exploitation of beings who, in their essence, are not that different from us?
April 19, 2010
I remain confused by the fact that more people don’t turn away from animal products in response to the sheer horror and revulsion they feel at the idea of participating in the slaughter of an animal, but we humans have a truly frightening ability to shut off our awareness of what is ‘out of sight’, and thereby continue participating in something we are morally repulsed by.
February 6, 2010
“There is something almost primal about it,” gushes the former vegetarian, as though the word ‘primal’ is a noble quality to be embraced by virtuous people. It seems more likely though that the directors of the puppet show are aware that ‘primal’ is simply a concept that plays to the desires of the lowest parts of our selves, to our lust for blood. Let’s not forget that the word is almost synonymous with ‘primitive’, and could just as easily be used to describe cannibalism or rape.
December 3, 2009
The scale of the entire Gadhimai festival pales in comparison to a single day of animal sacrifice here in the US. To put the numbers into perspective, in the US alone we slaughter 10 billion land animals for food every year (more than the entire human population). That’s a number so large, it’s almost too vast to fully comprehend. To put it another way, for us to kill 500,000 animals for food would take us less than thirty minutes. In the two days of Gadhimai, while Westerners denounced the cruelty of the slaughter in Nepal, we were busy ourselves slaughtering 55,000,000 animals, while no one blinked an eye, and most people, in fact, were happily partaking of the flesh of the victims.
November 30, 2009
Since the definitions for the ‘free-range’ label are deliberately vague and hundreds of millions of turkeys are considered nothing more than economic commodities to both owners and regulators, regulating the conditions for animals in any meaningful way is impossible. In order to obtain approval for the ‘free-range’ label, poultry producers must only provide the USDA with a brief description of the conditions for their birds, and their claims are very rarely verified by inspections.
November 9, 2009
Because the dietary culture of our society revolves around meat, eggs and dairy milk, and because animal food industry lobbyists have been influential over the educational resources that many rely on for information about nutrition, it’s understandable that people are uncertain about whether a vegan diet is nutritionally adequate, especially for those who have specific health concerns, food allergies or unusual dietary requirements.
October 29, 2009
In an attempt to provide some guidance for those who are genuinely attracted to the values of veganism, but are not sure of how to go about making what might appear on the surface to be a quantum leap in behavior, I would like to try and shine a light on some of the myths that contribute to the common misconception that being vegan is too difficult, or even impossible for certain individuals.
May 11, 2009
“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
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
May 6, 2009
“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.
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