Thursday, November 24, 2011

An undeniably gruesome image...

...but at least it captures your attention. And it makes you think. People need to think more. They need to connect the dots. They need to understand the impact of their decisions. Images such as this one help us tear down the wall of denial.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, family and loved ones. I hope it's a great Thanksgiving Thursday.

Hopefully, too, Thanksgiving will present a moment to reflect and think about what you're thankful for.

Most of us are thankful to be alive, to be living and breathing, to experience the joys of life.

Turkeys feel the same way we do about living. They love life. They don't want to be fattened up to be murdered. They form bonds with each other. They experience pain. And joy.

Last year, I posted on this very topic in a post titled, "The Tragic Fate of Ben Franklin's Beloved Birds." The title is pretty self-explanatory. It was about the gruesome fate that awaits turkeys that are bred for their meat. Ben Franklin, who loved the turkey (not the taste of his meat, but his innate dignity), wanted the bird to be a national symbol.

Alas, we didn't listen to Franklin. That's a shame. Turkeys are majestic beings. They deserve to live. If we are truly thankful at Thanksgiving to be alive and blessed with loved ones and families, surely we can connect the dots and appreciate the sanctity of all life, including that of the turkey.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two Years as a Vegan

I am about to celebrate an anniversary: Two years as a vegan. Going vegan is a decision that has been a tremendous source of happiness for me. It has changed my life for the better. It has improved my general outlook on the world. It has helped me to feel better, both physically and emotionally. Most of all, the burden of having a diet based on the mass murder of innocent beings is now off of my shoulders. It is a great feeling.

The decision to go vegan grew out of an increased awareness on my part about the right of animals to live freely, without being exploited or butchered en masse. This heightened sense of consciousness about the rights of animals has been a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because I've been freed from the confines of my earlier ignorance. It is a curse because once you open your eyes, you begin to see the extent of the suffering and the ferocity of a system that commodifies animals. You realize the truth of that old Antonio Gramsci, about the necessity of remaining pessimists of the intellect and optimists of the will.

You begin to see the world in an entirely different way when you adopt a vegan/animal rights lifestyle. In my past life, I never noticed livestock trucks on the freeway hauling their passengers to death. Now I do. In my past life, I didn't understand that putting ham in my mouth or chicken in my mouth or turkey in my mouth or beef in my mouth comes at far too high a cost: the life of a sentient being. Now I get it. In my past life, I failed to grasp the deep contradiction of supporting human rights and eating animals at the same time. Now I comprehend the vast gulf between the humanistic worldview and the belief that it's OK to breed animals for the purpose of exploiting them, eating them, wearing them, confining them to dark spaces, tearing them apart from their loved ones.

We cannot have human liberation without animal liberation. Human rights without animal rights is a travesty. Supporting a socio-economic system that is based on using and murdering sentient beings is not acceptable. Arriving at these conclusions can be a deeply freeing experience.

But how do you change a system that seems like an impregnable fortress? How do you transform customs and traditions and mentalities built on using and harming and destroying innocent beings? How do you open the eyes of others who may or may not be prepared to embark on the same odyssey that you are experiencing? How do you stay sane while you're driving on the freeway and you look through the holes in the livestock trailer and see all of the eyes and snouts and you can feel the fear of animals in the last days of their lives?

I don't have the answers to these questions. But I do have the answer to one question: What does it feel like, as one person, to disengage - as fully as you possibly can - from this odious system?

Answer: It is but the first step on the road to reclaiming one's own humanity. It's a long road, full of twists a turns, but also a joyous one to finally be traveling. Think of the poor souls who never find it, who aren't willing to break the shackles, and who never reach a level of consciousness that moves them in the direction of reclaiming their humanity.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

This Damned Human Race: The United States Supreme Court and Pigs... Or: Remind me of the meaning of the word "humane" again?

Did you hear about this case going to the United States Supreme Court?

The National Meat Association is challenging a California law that says that pork producers have to "humanely euthanize nonambulatory pigs." Translation: Pigs that cannot walk.

In a universe full of bloodletting and murder, it is one teeny-tiny-itty-bitty glimmer of humanity. If a pig can't get up, find a way to put it out of its misery with minimal pain to the animal.

FOUL! cried the National Murder-er, uh, Meat Association. They say pigs are often lazy and don't like to get up, and the current California law would force them to "humanely euthanize" those beings, which would be a huge financial expense for the producers. Seven Wells, a legal eagle for the Association told the press: "Sometimes the pigs are stressed or fatigued from the trip, or they're just stubborn. Usually, they recover, and if they're fine, they go into the food supply." (Source)

"Go into the food supply." There's a euphemism, if ever there was one. If he had a shred of honesty, he'd say, "Uusually, they recover, and if they're traumatized but not so completely horrified that they can stand on their four legs, they're taken off, occasionally stunned (especially if there are meat inspectors or journalists present) and then have their cartoid artery and jugular vein severed, whereupon they flop in agony while the life blood is drained out of them, feeling excruciating pain the likes of which you and I can never imagine, and the last thing they ever see is a cold, concrete, blood-saturated world before they lose all consciousness. At which point, they go into the food supply."

On second thought, maybe the Orwellian explanation is better for the pork producers.

The state of California passed the law about three years ago to pressure the industry to euthanize sick pigs. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal welfare groups have applauded the law and they're critical of the National Murder Association (hell, I'm not even going to correct it this time) for challenging the California law before the highest court in the land.

If you think about it, this sad legal case - like the animal welfare movement in general - has taken one of the most important words in the English language - HUMANE - and made a mockery of it.

Let's break this down and see if we can understand it: So it is HUMANE to euthanize sick animals who can't walk to slaughter, but it's perfectly OK to violently butcher healthy and alert ones who can make it on their own to the gigantic mincing grinder that is the killing line?

Where's the humanity again? Someone please explain. Because in all of this madness, in all of this murder, in all of this systematic black nightmare that we human beings have created and perpetuate on a daily basis, I see NO sign of any trace of anything that could vaguely be described as HUMANE. Is it just me? Are you finding the "humane" anywhere in this equation?

Of course, the legal experts defending the California law think they're doing the "humane" thing. As California Deputy Attorney General Susan K. Smith explained: "We're not concerned about a pig who is taking a nap. Our definition of a nonambulatory pig is one who is unable to stand and walk without assistance." (Source)

In case you've missed it, the key part of that sentence there is "we're not concerned..."

"We're not concerned..."

Say it again: "We're not concerned..."

One more time: "We're not concerned..."

For good measure: "We're not concerned..."

Time to rephrase that: "I am concerned." I am concerned about pigs that are napping. I am concerned about pigs that are too sick to walk. I am concerned about pigs that are healthy and can walk and are terrified of this dark world that is the only world they'll know in the last moments of their lives. I'm so concerned, in fact, that I'll never again touch bacon, or ham, or any other product made out of pigs. I'm so concerned that I'll do everything in my power to nonviolently resist this scourge that is the pork industry, and expose their lies and their doublespeak and their violent agenda, full of death and misery and blood.

I am concerned.

This case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court. And unless the highest court in the land rules that murdering a pig is illegal as well as immoral, then - once again - the real victims of this sick and depraved and violent system will be the weakest, the most vulnerable, the voiceless - the pigs themselves.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vegan Art That Really Brings the Message Home...

"The Last Thing You Will Ever See"
Painting by Dan Dunbar

A Great Graphic From Our Comrades in Australia

What else is left to add?

McRib=McHell for Pigs

It should come as no surprise that McDonald's is coming under fire for buying meat from a producer that abuses its animals. Smithfield Farms in Virginia is especially notorious for the way it abuses and exploits pigs.

So notorious, in fact, that the company produced a slick piece of propaganda called "Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production." This surreal short appeared on this blog earlier in the year. It featured Dr. Temple Grandin - a shill for the biggest mass murderers on earth - defending Smithfield's procedures. It would be downright laughable if there weren't so many lives at stake.

Now the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is filing a lawsuit against Smithfield for its terrible treatment of pigs, including routine castration without painkillers and keeping the poor beings confined to gestation crates. As Paul Shapiro of the HSUS noted:

They make outlandish claims: that their pigs live in ideal living conditions, that every need of the animals is met. It's hard to imagine that a pig crammed into a cage where she's unable to turn around for months on end would consider that to be ideal.... It doesn't take a veterinarian to know that locking up a 500-pound animal in a cage barely viable for movement is inhumane. (Source)
The HSUS's lawsuit is laudable in many respects. It has received a lot of publicity. It has made McDonald's look bad. It has spoken truth to power. How anyone can put a McRib sandwich in their mouth, even if the murdered pigs were treated "humanely" during their short lives, is beyond me. But the fact that the pork used in those ghastly things is saturated with pain and misery makes it doubly perplexing.

Equally perplexing to me is the insistence by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the HSUS that getting rid of gestation crates is all that is required to remove McDonald's and Smithfield Foods from the shit list. As Shapiro stated, "It's time for McDonald's to make gestation cages part of the company's past."

Agree. But it's also time to make mass murder and the exploitation of animals part of the past. It's time for McDonald's to stop the assembly-line slaughter of pigs and chickens and cows.

Condemning McDonald's for using pigs raised in gestation crates sends out the wrong message. You know what will happen? McDonald's will get a little bad publicity. The gestation crates will be jettisoned. The bad publicity stops. The mass murder continues.

In the past, McDonald's has actually been praised by animal welfare groups for using "humanely" treated animals. In 2005, the BBC reported that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals singled out McDonald's for using "humanely" killed animals:
Burger giant McDonald's has won an award for its humane animal treatment. Firms which promote better treatment of animals were recognised this week at the RSPCA's first Alternative Awards held at the Natural History Museum. McDonald's was praised for changing egg suppliers to those that use only free range eggs, and its cattle handling standards also drew RSPCA plaudits. Now McDonald's can use the RSPCA's logo to identify it as a business committed to higher welfare standards. (Source)
Is this really the message that we want to send out to McDonald's? Just tweak a few of the worst animal abuses and then mass murder is acceptable?

Think about it. What message does that send to the millions and millions of pigs that are sent into this Kafkaesque hell? It says that human beings are concerned only with cosmetic "feel good" measures that - once instituted - make it perfectly acceptable to butcher pigs en masse.

There is an alternative message: Stop the killing now. Stop the exploitation now. It is immoral to murder pigs. It ought to be illegal to murder them. The McRib sandwich will still taste of misery and heartache and pain, of life cut short, even without gestation crates, even if pigs are anesthetized before being castrated.

As long as human beings exploit and murder animals there will be no peace. Do not give McDonald's and Smithfield a way out by only cleaning up their act slightly, and thus ending the negative media scrutiny.

When you think about it, that's about as Orwellian as it gets.