“There’s a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig – an animal easily as intelligent as the dog – that becomes the Christmas ham.“ ~ Michael Pollan
For the Animals.
Why is it that no one can stand the suffering of a pet (cat, dog, bird) but that cruelty laws rarely apply to farmed animals, those born and raised solely for the purpose of feeding us? Any laws currently in place are for our protection — not theirs — and some of the most offensive and egregious practices of animal cruelty are but normal SAP. That’s right: Standard Agricultural Practice.
Consider how the human slave trade might have fared if not for the constant pressure of abolitionists at that time pressing for legislation to abolish it. It is through the activism of a few committed individuals that affect change in the world, not governments and their regulatory agency.
America is market-driven. The collective ignorance of a populace paired with subsidies for cheap and abundant food perpetuates the industry in the form that it is. It’s our fault things are like they are, a lose-lose situation for both the humans and non-humans when all impacts are assessed. Cheaper is not always better, and we perpetuate it by buying into it every single day.
So stop buying into it.
speciesism (spēˈshē-zĭz-əm) noun — Human intolerance or discrimination on the basis of species, especially as manifested by cruelty to or exploitation of animals.
If you have an hour, the video embedded below by Animals Rights Foundation of Florida outlines all the reasons vegans are who they are, without being preachy or judgmental. Remember: just about all of us were non-vegans before we ever became vegans. Watch it and you’ll better understand why our traditions and culture have been re-evaluated.
If you don’t have the time, watch this enlightening (but not-so-shocking) 10-minute video by Farm Sanctuary instead to ease into the reality of your animals-for-food purchases.
If you would like a deeper understanding of our place as it is shared with others on this planet, watch Earthlings — a powerful narrated by Joaquin Phoenix — in its entirety via YouTube. It is a profound film, but due to its explicit content, viewer discretion is advised.
For the Earth.
Have you stopped to think about the impact billions of breathing, eating, pooping animals have on our environment? What of its effect on air quality (filled with methane), land and forests (cleared for grazing or for planting feed crops), or the limited fresh water resources (millions upon millions of gallons each year!) required to sustain the entire process? The numbers are staggering; they cannot be ignored any longer.
With farmed animals, an extraordinary amount of energy is put into the system, resulting in very little energy [as kilocalories] in return for what our bodies actually use. It may seem like efficiency is at work in factory farms, but when all factors are considered — food crops, land use, water waste, air pollution, microbial impact — all bets are off for continuing animal consumption at our current rate.
- Food Empowerment Project — FoodIsPower.org
- NPR’s Salt Blog – Three Piece Series called “Meat Week” (July 2012): 1) We Evolved To Eat Meat, But How Much Is Too Much? 2) The Making of Meat In America, and 3) A Nation of Meat-Eaters: See How It Adds Up
- US Census Bureau – 2012 Statistical Abstract: Agriculture
- US Environmental Protection Agency – AG101, Dairy Production
- USDA — Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Outlook (2012)
For Your Health.
It was easy for me to switch to a predominately greens-based diet by simply thinking of the “others” before myself. However it is you feel about it, the health benefits of adopting a plant-based diet cannot be refuted. Given the right environmental circumstance, it is entirely unnecessary to consume animals [or their by-products] in any amount.
- Preventive Medicine Research Institute
- Crazy, Sexy Life
- T. Colin Campbell Foundation
- Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease
- ChooseVeg.com — great 100% plant-based recipes here!
- PETA.org — fantastic 100% plant-based recipes here.
You simply cannot go wrong going vegan. Food is delicious, satisfying, never depriving our taste buds and need for dietary pleasure. And, of course, none of the suffering caused to others.
Great Reads. Try One.
Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat (Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals) by Hal Herzog
Having a science background, this author goes into great detail exploring the ethics behind animal use and the ways in which we (irrationally) justify our cruelty upon others.
‘A community-driven effort dedicated to correcting misconceptions about veganism in approachable and unambiguous ways.’ Nearly all of the questions surround the vegan lifestyle and ethical/logical support can be found here.
Mind If I Order The Cheeseburger? by Sherri Colb, ISBN 1590563840
Once vegan, you will no doubt have your ethics and ‘argument’ challenged by non-vegans. Colb addresses each question in terms of logical and thoughtful analysis. From dairy to eggs to ‘we have always eaten animals,’ she makes a clear and concise case for why eating animals in the 21st century is no longer necessary.
The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals, by Jenny Brown, ISBN 1583334416
The book that started it all for me, this author tells her life story from the perspective as a cancer-surviving amputee turned animal abolitionist. Light-hearted and deeply personal, her life’s circumstances led her to activism for animals who “have no voice” and finally to the creation of one of the country’s top farm animal sanctuaries. If Jenny Brown doesn’t make you want to give up milk and cheese, I don’t know who will.
Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan, ISBN 0143038583
The author takes the natural history of four meals and dives into the ethics of American’s food addiction, politics, and how we’ve come to view animals as a commodity rather than as sentient beings. Michael Pollan, though no animal rights activist, goes out of his way to gently lift the curtain so we can get a glimpse of how things are in the animals-for-food industry.
Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer, ISBN 0060011572
The author does a detailed ethical analysis of just how it is humans have come to both use and depend upon other animals and for our existence. He is the first (I believe) to coin the phrase “speciesism,” which is both similar and related to other forms of human oppression including racism, sexism, and ableism. He advocates for the voiceless through the larger moral picture of our direct cause of animal suffering as it applies in, but not limited to, our food, cosmetics and commercial products, and medical and government testing.
The Oxen at the Intersection: A Collision, by pattrice jones, ISBN 1590564626
The author tells the story (from her sanctuary perspective) of how an entrenched belief system all in the name of sustainability over-determined the fate of the two oxen. One was killed and the other sent to live out his life in sanctuary, but the question to the mystery remains: where is the body? Her account of how the intersection of sexism, racism and speciesism resulted in the final outcome also explores the psychology of humans and the ethics of Vermont’s economic choice to use animals.
Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals, by Gary L. Francione and Anna Charlton, ISBN 1492386510
Assuming that most people believe in two principles, he argues the case that even a speciesist should adopt a vegan diet. These two principles are that a person 1) has a moral obligation not to impose unnecessary animal suffering, and 2) believes that, although animals matter morally, humans matter more. This book does not go into the matter of animals’ rights to live or humans’ rights to eat them, only that given these two values alone, everyone is obligated to adopt a vegan diet to be consistent.