Waterboarding Cows and Poisoning Kids

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Well this is disgusting, and offensive on several levels. It’s no secret that the American meat industry is inhumane and under-regulated, but the Humane Society has just released a video of slaughterhouse employees essentially torturing cows in order to get them to stand up for health inspectors — employees shoot water up the cows’ noses, electrocute them, and jab them in the eyes. Beyond being simply inhumane and shockingly cruel, it’s also a major health hazard — cows that refuse to get up may have Mad Cow Disease, among other problems, and their sedentary state can be a cue to inspectors. Animals that have been laying down have also been wallowing in feces, increasing the risk of transmitting salmonella, e. coli, and other diseases.

And did I mention that the slaughterhouse where the video was shot recently received an award from the Department of Agriculture for Supplier of the Year for the National School Lunch Program?

I’ve mentioned this before, but I was vegetarian for about half of my life — I started eating meat again when I was 21 and living with a family in Italy. I still rarely eat red meat (I’ll have a steak once every two months or so), and I generally dislike pork and chicken (I eat chicken probably twice a month); my big weakness is fish, which I admittedly eat a ton of, mostly in raw form. Environmental issues aside, I can’t bring myself to feel too guilty about eating fish, but I’m fully aware that I should stop eating other meats cold-turkey (so to speak). My opposition to meat eating doesn’t come from the belief that eating animals is morally wrong; I don’t think it is. But I do think that we have a responsibility to be ethical meat-eaters.

To me, that means that we treat animals as beings worthy of basic dignity, and when we kill them for food, we do it as painlessly and quickly as possible. It means that cruel factory farming practices should be outlawed. It means that we must balance our desire to eat meat with our greater obligations to a healthy planet and a sound environment.

To stronger animal rights activists, my reasoning probably sounds ridiculous — how can one argue for treating animals with dignity, and in the same breath say that it’s morally acceptable to kill them for food? That’s a huge ethical and moral divide that I’m not going to be able to bridge in this post, but for now I’ll just say that it’s my belief that human animals are superior to other animals, and that, like other omnivores, we are fully within our natural rights to eat meat. However, humans have also been blessed with greater cognitive skills which enable us to comprehend issues of moral relativity, which let us understand the degree of suffering we cause, and which empower us to find ethical solutions. Given that, I think we have an obligation to make meat-eating as ethical as possible.

In my ideal world, no one would eat meat, and meat-eating would be unnecessary and unappealing. But we don’t live in that world yet, and for a lot of people, meat-eating is not only a pleasure but a necessity. And yes, I know this is where a lot of vegans are going to argue with me, and I’ve heard a million times that it’s quite possible to go vegan, eat for cheap, and get all the necessary protein, vitamins, minerals, etc — but, sorry, it’s just not an option for many people. Strict diets like veganism take a lot of planning, and planning takes time. Veganism is especially difficult if you have kids; double the difficulty if money is tight (just try raising a vegan kid on a subsidized school lunch program).

I have lots of respect for vegans; I wish I had enough self-discipline to do it, but I don’t. Plus, I’m a die-hard foodie, and while every vegan I’ve ever known claims that it’s possible to be a vegan and still eat great food, I’m 99 percent sure that it’s impossible to be a vegan and eat the kinds of food that I love. Luckily — and contrary to popular stereotype — most vegans I know are perfectly satisfied with their dietary choices, and are in no hurry to make anyone else feel guilty for making different ones (although they’re also happy to help other people make more ethical decisions, should they be so inclined).

But all that aside (and this post wasn’t intended to be an anti-vegan statement — and nor am I anti-vegan — so I’ll reign that in), for me, the issue comes down to one of personal choices vs. systemic change. And while I’m all for making individual ethical choices, I think it’s crucial to recognize that individuals only have so much power. It’s the classic Wal-Mart issue — sure, Wal-Mart is evil, but at the end of the day it’s the best financial option for a whole lot of people, and I’ll be damned if I ever pass judgment on anyone for shopping there, even as I’m perfectly content to pass judgment on the company. It’s great that some individuals can refuse to shop at Wal-Mart; but people shouldn’t have to make a choice between ethical shopping and feeding/clothing their families. It’s great that some individuals can refuse to eat meat or animal products of any kind, and it’s great that many of those people can still afford to eat well-balanced and nutritionally-sound meals every day; but people shouldn’t have to make a choice between ethical eating and having enough healthy, affordable food to go around.

Conservatives (and, indeed, plenty of liberals) will tell you that de-regulation of places like slaughterhouses is fine; it keeps costs down, and it lets workers do their jobs without governmental interference. Consumers, they argue, can decide for themselves if they don’t want to eat meat, just like they can decide for themselves whether or not they want to support corporations like Wal-Mart.

But in the reality-based world, we all know it’s not that simple. People simply don’t know what’s in their meat; they don’t know the environmental devastation that factory farming (cattle farming in particular) has caused; they don’t know how cruelly animals are treated. And even if they do know, what other option do they have? For a lot of Americans, a meat-free diet is simply not an option — the reasons behind that may be health-related, financial, or cultural, but they’re all very real and even the most optimistic of animal rights activists can’t expect that to change anytime soon. In the meantime, regulating the meat industry for health and ethical violations is absolutely crucial — not just for the well-being of cows and pigs, but for the basic health of human animals as well.

62 comments for “Waterboarding Cows and Poisoning Kids

  1. January 30, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Disclosure: vegie/vegan

    You argue that people eat meat because it is cheaper. You don’t want meat denied to lower income families.

    But your policy proposal will result in a great increase in the price of meat. If an vegie diet isn’t cheaper than an omnivore diet now, it certainly will be with additional regulation of the meat industry.

    That said, I agree that greater regulation is the answer. Oulawing meat eating because it is unethical will face to overwhelming opposition.

    Instead meat eating should be made as finacially unattractive as possible. Greater regulation to prevent animal cruelty will achieve this as well as helping the animals. The environmental damage caused by meat farming should also be passed on to the consumer, pushing prices up even further.

  2. zuzu
    January 30, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Meat’s cheap because it’s heavily subsidized, as are the corn and other crops fed to livestock. Americans eat far more protein than they really need, and one reason is that meat is now so cheap. It used to be that meat was something that you had on special occasions, or just for dinner, but now you can have it at every meal. And because there’s this link between meat and a perception of prosperity, people want to have meat whenever they can afford it, and get very upset with the idea that they don’t actually need it, or need so much of it.

    And when you have meat getting cheap, and thus a lot of demand, you have factory farms, and beef cattle raised on corn (which they can’t digest, and thus they get sick and so they’re given antibiotics as SOP), and gigantic hog shit lagoons, and chickens in battery cages, and slaughterhouses that barely get minimal inspection (due in part to the power of agribusiness over the FDA; producers aren’t allowed to have independent inspections done even if they want to), and pressure to produce more and more and more meat. Slaughterhouses are dangerous places to work, let alone for the cow, and workers get hurt frequently and badly, and they’re not usually getting health care coverage.

  3. Mnemosyne
    January 30, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    I’ve been reading The United States of Arugula, which is a pretty entertaining history of the modern foodie movement in the US. There are ethical places to buy meat from, like Niman Ranch, which has been doing it since the 1970s.

    I will say that there is probably no way in hell that anyone’s going to be able to turn the whole country vegetarian or vegan. Never gonna happen. But ethical arguments do make people change their habits — my mother, who’s pretty far to the right, buys free-range eggs because she feels better knowing that the chickens didn’t suffer to get them to her. I’m pretty sure she buys grass-fed beef as well, at least when she’s cooking at home (which is 90% of the time).

  4. Mnemosyne
    January 30, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Apologies if this posts twice — I didn’t get a message that it’s in moderation:

    I’ve been reading The United States of Arugula, which is a pretty entertaining history of the modern foodie movement in the US. There are ethical places to buy meat from, like Niman Ranch, which has been doing it since the 1970s.

    I will say that there is probably no way in hell that anyone’s going to be able to turn the whole country vegetarian or vegan. Never gonna happen. But ethical arguments do make people change their habits — my mother, who’s pretty far to the right, buys free-range eggs because she feels better knowing that the chickens didn’t suffer to get them to her. I’m pretty sure she buys grass-fed beef as well, at least when she’s cooking at home (which is 90% of the time).

  5. January 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    i go on again off again vegetarian…and use soy alternatives all the time, (i also have the fish weakness)

    and we do have a moral obligation to be kind to the animals we use for food…there is no reason for them to be treated so horribly, allowed to get sick and abused. they do deserve our dignity and our respect.

    the same for me applies w/ animal testing, which i have very mixed feelings over. i see it as a necessary evil for medical gain, but firmly stand on the belief that bunnies shouldn’t be hurt so that i can use mascara or nice shampoo…so to make up for the fact that i benefit from medicine tested on animals, i buy the rest of my products animal friendly…

    i also hate school dissections…w/ technology the way it is i find it completely unnecessary to cut up frogs and kitties in school…

    thanks for this post, jill!

  6. January 30, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Well, I think that meat-eating is morally acceptable because human animals are animals, and animals eat animals. Splitting hairs, I know. I’m a vegetarian mainly for political/environmental reasons, but I will admit that pork consumption pushes my limits somewhat, because pigs are such intelligent creatures, so very much like us and like dogs.

  7. Betsy
    January 30, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    I’m a vegetarian and I agree entirely with this post. I’m not opposed to eating animals; I’m opposed to torture and mass pollution in order to eat those animals. I think buying sustainably and humanely raised meat is probably better, tactically, than just being vegetarian; though I can’t afford to do so at this point in my life. But individual approaches will never solve this problem. No matter if you think they should; they ain’t gonna. Regulation is the only way to do it.

  8. January 30, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    i did however, read that a great article and a book about how being a veg for environmental reasons is really kind of a copout…and it made sense…even to farm you have to clear fields that were once homes to all kinds of organism, and killing countless species of creatures as well…i can’t remember what the book was called…it was about pagans and vegetarianism…

  9. January 30, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    Well, I think that meat-eating is morally acceptable because human animals are animals, and animals eat animals. Splitting hairs, I know.

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood this but I’ve never been convinced by the hyenas do it so it must be ok argument.

    We are different from all the other animals because of our ability to morally reason. We can recognise cruelty and act to stop it. We are not ruled by our urges.

  10. Mnemosyne
    January 30, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    We are different from all the other animals because of our ability to morally reason. We can recognise cruelty and act to stop it. We are not ruled by our urges.

    You may be surprised to hear this, but that puts you in the minority of vegans and/or animal rights people I’ve run into online, most of whom insist that humans are animals just like any other animals and are not different in any way. To which I generally say, When you convince sharks to stop eating people, I’ll stop eating fish.

  11. Jessie
    January 30, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    You may be surprised to hear this, but that puts you in the minority of vegans and/or animal rights people I’ve run into online, most of whom insist that humans are animals just like any other animals and are not different in any way. To which I generally say, When you convince sharks to stop eating people, I’ll stop eating fish.

    I find it hard to believe that “most” vegans insist that there are no differences between humans and animals. I think you may be misunderstanding their meaning. I have been involved in online veg*an communities since I went vegan over a year ago, and what we generally insist on is that while there are certain general (but not universal) differences between species, nonhuman and human animals are equal in that they are both sentient. (Sentience being the ability to perceive by one’s senses, including the ability to feel pain.) In other words, we are different from, say, sharks because we have the power of cognitive reasoning, can think about the consequences of our actions, and can understand that we do not need to eat fish to survive (barring financial or physical limitations for certain humans), while sharks cannot. But, like sharks, we are sentient and have an interest in avoiding pain.

    I have heard omnivores justfiy their meat-eating by the fact that nonhuman animals eat other animals literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of times. But I have yet to hear a rapist say that he is justified in raping because male chimpanzees rape female chimpanzees, or a perpetrator of spousal homicide rest her defense on the fact that female praying mantises eat their mates. It seems that we are either “just animals”, or we are unquestionably superior to animals, depending on whichever is most convenient.

  12. StD
    January 30, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    I stopped eating commercial meat after reading The Jungle. And I actually refuse to eat any form of meat unless I know for a fact that it is from a local ranch. I come from Amarillo, Texas which is home to IBP, a huge meatpacking plant. The high school I attended had a lot of kids whose parents worked for IBP and had horror stories to tell me.

    I don’t believe any person can sit there, full knowledge of what goes on in the meatpacking plants and if they do not ask themselves this question: “how can they do this to them” (them being animals and the people involved), they ask themselves this question: “How can they do this to ME?”

    Do i believe everyone should stop eating meat? Nah. I’m in that partial class where i believe that meateating is an individual’s choice, but I am a nazi about the fact that it should be a conscious and informed choice. I believe in abolishing fast food chains because it contributes and exploits the health and economic status of the lower class. I believe in regulating meat sales and consolidation of meat companies to walmart, etc. That good ol’ line of thinking.

  13. NicoleGW
    January 30, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Apologies if this has already been mentioned and I missed it somewhere, but the NYTimes had a terrific article on meat eating, the meat industry, etc., earlier this week. In particular, a number of points about the effect of the meat industry on the environment are really stunning (e.g. it produces more greenhouse gas than transportation worldwide).

    What I don’t understand is how this issue always ends up being framed as either EAT MEAT! or NEVER EAT MEAT! How about this: if you want to eat meat, then perhaps consider eating the daily recommended quantity of meat.

    The FDA, which probably overestimates because the corn and meat lobbyists have an outrageous amount of power in the US, suggests only 2-3 oz of lean meat per serving, and only 5 to 7 oz total per day. Add to this the fact that these 5 to 7 ounces are supposed to include beans and legumes as well, and you realize that the issue isn’t just that people, especially Americans, want to eat meat, it’s that they want to eat way more meat than is even healthy.

    I agree, it would be nice if one day we stopped eating meat completely, because it’s horrible for the environment, there are healthier alternatives, we treat meat animals abominably, and, frankly, I do think it’s a little weird that we don’t see anything wrong with raising and slaughtering animals just because I cahn haz cheezberger. (I sometimes engage in this bizarre pseudo fantasy where aliens discover Earth, and they decide that because they are so intellectually, cognitively, and emotionally superior to us, why not domesticate us as a food source?)

    In the meantime, though, since vegetarianism and veganism is made tricky because of a number of factors, including the ridiculous subsidies that zuzu mentioned earlier, and because I don’t think it’s helpful to tell other people what they should or should not dump into their digestive systems, why not just consider cutting our meat intake to what is still a perfectly reasonable– and healthier— level. At the same time, the government should be directing its subsidies to helping smaller, localized farming efforts, and especially crops that are better for us and the environment.

    This would vastly reduce the strain on our environment, it would probably improve overall population health, and without the need for factory farms, the animals would fair a lot better.

  14. Elizabeth
    January 31, 2008 at 12:01 am

    I believe in abolishing fast food chains because it contributes and exploits the health and economic status of the lower class.

    I completely agree with you.
    I don’t think fast food should be allowed to be called food. It’s not.

  15. Oskar
    January 31, 2008 at 12:08 am

    What happens in nature is descriptive, not prescriptive.

    Jessie, if you witnessed a chimpanzee raping another chimpanzee, would you try to stop the rape to the same extent you would try to stop the rape of a human by another human? We have the power to greatly decrease the number of prey killed by lions. Should we stop the lions from killing? As humans, we can recognize what the lions cannot. We can realize the acts are unethical, so we should step in and reduce their prevalence.

    We have the ethics we can afford. Sometimes we can afford not eat animals. Sometimes we cannot afford not to eat people.

  16. January 31, 2008 at 12:32 am

    I just watched this story on the CBS evening news and was utterly disgusted. I stopped eating beef about four years ago, although I was never a big beef eater. The U.S. tests less than a half of one percent of meat for diseases such as Mad Cow. I also restrict my meat to chicken, turkey and fish -humanely rasied and wild caught. All the antibiotic issues are finally being seen. I think people need to listen to common sense and stop acting so ignorant. So feeding animals processed grain and themselves, injecting them with antibiotics and hormones for fast growth and less disease will not affect us. YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT!!!!!

    I would challenge anyone that eats any type of meat to visit a industrial plant for raising animals – they are not farms in my opinion. See if you can still eat the meat after witnessing the unsanitary, confined and violent conditions these animals are manufactured in. It is inhumane. The NY Times had a great article on the global impact these types of animal industrial plants will have in the future, as they are already bad enough. Personally, the looks on these cows faces are enough to make me sick. They are so aware of how inhumane this is. I just can’t understand how anyone could treat living beings this way. It makes me seriously lose faith in humanity.

  17. January 31, 2008 at 12:34 am

    By the way the only animal so far to be fighting back are elephants for loss of their land. Unfortunately, cows are not taking the cue.

  18. January 31, 2008 at 12:37 am

    But I have yet to hear a rapist say that he is justified in raping because male chimpanzees rape female chimpanzees, or a perpetrator of spousal homicide rest her defense on the fact that female praying mantises eat their mates.

    You must not be paying much attention to what the evolutionary psychologists are saying — I’ve seen several articles that argue that men rape because it’s “natural” and there’s no way to stop it. The most infamous example is probably A Natural History of Rape.

    And, yes, they use the fact that male chimpanzees rape female chimpanzees as “proof” that human men just can’t help themselves.

  19. Jha
    January 31, 2008 at 1:08 am

    I’m pretty sure our biology calls for meat-AND-veggie-eating, although I don’t care if someone wants to go vegetarian. I personally can’t stomach most plantfoods myself, and I find people have more contempt for someone who’s purely a meat-eater than someone who’s vegetarian.

    I do, however, believe in treating livestock with dignity and as a result, I’ll go to the local farmer’s market (here in Halifax) whenever I can. Meat there is fresh and cheap, and it’s nice to meet the farmers themselves. Plus, it’s always nice to support local small industries.

    There ARE farms which treat their animals properly, and I believe their methods, which are not only sustainable, but also in keeping with the animals’ natural behaviour/instincts, should become more widespread and be encouraged. Unfortunately, economies run on consuming more and more, not less.

    Being a meat-eater, having respect for my food is important, and I’m often horrified by the awful conditions in which livestock is kept. A cow really shouldn’t have to have an awful life before feeding me – and I think that’s the crux of why most people can’t afford to care about what’s going on. Who wants to eat something they can’t look into the eye of? I’d like to look into the eyes of my meat, be satisfied that it lived a happy life before feeding me, and be thankful that its meat is sustaining me.

  20. January 31, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Thanks for the article, Jill. I followed it all the way back to the Humane Society and noticed two things:

    1. The USDA stepped in and shut down that plant in Chico.
    2. The HS want you (all of you) to take action and demand that the USDA ban downed animals from the food stream and close any loopholes.

    I also agree that one of the issues here is of inspection. There used to be more inspectors, but their budgets got slashed. Fast Food Nation talks about that issue in depth and the treatment of the workers in the slaughterhouses.

    Here is the
    link for taking action.

  21. Cat of many faces
    January 31, 2008 at 4:52 am

    I actually think that the fact that i eat meat is the BEST reason to treat the animals well.

    I look at meat as almost a gift from the animal. I try to recognize that it is indeed giving up something so that I might have my meal.

    Thus in return for it’s gift the animal should be treated well. it should have a good life, and live happily. And when it comes time for it to become food, the animal should be killed in the least traumatic way possible.

    Now, in truth i hope that one day we can replace livestock with large facilities where meat is clonaly produced in vats.

    It sounds all scifi-y but it is a reasonable alternative, and as far as i know, it’s fairly close to being possible.

    Of course it’d be tied up in Monsanto’s painful gm food problems. (i hate Monsanto, not because they modify foods, but because their business is specifically aimed at screwing over poor farmers, and slaving them into debt to the company forever)

    Till their is vat grown beef, i’ll just try to make sure my food comes from well treated animals.

    P.S. sorry i blather so much

    -A vat grown cat

  22. Jessie
    January 31, 2008 at 9:58 am

    And, yes, they use the fact that male chimpanzees rape female chimpanzees as “proof” that human men just can’t help themselves.

    And surely you can see that that’s absurd. Why, then, is it less absurd to say that it is OK for humans to eat animals because sharks eat fish?

    Jessie, if you witnessed a chimpanzee raping another chimpanzee, would you try to stop the rape to the same extent you would try to stop the rape of a human by another human? We have the power to greatly decrease the number of prey killed by lions. Should we stop the lions from killing? As humans, we can recognize what the lions cannot. We can realize the acts are unethical, so we should step in and reduce their prevalence.

    I don’t follow your logic. I don’t believe that a lion eating an antelope (e.g.) is unethical because I don’t believe that nonhuman animals can really have “ethics” (not to mention that if a lion didn’t eat the antelope, she would die of starvation). Nor do I think we should stop chimpanzees from raping; I think we should refrain from intervening in nonhuman affairs as much as possible. My point in bringing up the comparison was that it’s absurd to hold ourselves to the same ethical standards to which we hold nonhuman animals. We all recognize that we have the cognitive capacities to think about the consequences of our actions, and the subsequent responsibility to not engage in behaviour that infringes on the rights of others. This makes us different from nonhuman animals, but not superior. All animals (including humans) are sentient, and all animals should have certain inalienable rights, including the right to not be treated as a food source.

    Let me be clear: I do not believe that every single person can go vegan at this point in time. However, in the course of my day I hear a lot of people who say they “could never go vegan”, by which they mean they really, really like cheese. Those of us for whom veganism is a financially viable and healthy option – and I believe most of us fall into that category – are causing unnecessary suffering to animals for no reason other than they taste good. (I also don’t believe that it’s possible to commercially produce meat, dairy and eggs without causing some kind of suffering to the animal, e.g. the mass killing of male chicks in hatcheries, and the forced separation of female cows from their infants in the dairy industry – those practices happen on even the most free-range farms.)

    Check out the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, for more on veganism and the free-range myth.

  23. SeitanWorshipper
    January 31, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Jill – it would be nice if you didn’t take every opportunity available to justify your unethical choice to eat meat. You don’t have to bring it up, you know. If it’s just a personal choice and you don’t want to be told what to do, maybe you shouldn’t talk about it at all.

  24. Jon
    January 31, 2008 at 11:37 am

    There ARE farms which treat their animals properly, and I believe their methods, which are not only sustainable, but also in keeping with the animals’ natural behaviour/instincts, should become more widespread and be encouraged.

    these animals are man made – they don’t have natural behavior. they have human created behavior. people have bred farm animals to be more docile so that they don’t fight as much during slaughter. people have bred farm animals to be unusually large, so large that they can’t graze normally. farm animals have been bred in many ways so that they barely resemble natural, wild animals.

    animal agriculture is not natural. you either choose to accept it because you like meat and don’t care about animals. or you reject it and treat animals ethically.

    there’s no such thing as humane meat, just like there’s no such thing as humane murder or humane child abuse. humane treatment of animals is incompatible with killing them.

  25. January 31, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Jill – it would be nice if you didn’t take every opportunity available to justify your unethical choice to eat meat. You don’t have to bring it up, you know. If it’s just a personal choice and you don’t want to be told what to do, maybe you shouldn’t talk about it at all.

    Right. Because I bring this up all the time. I’m pretty sure that in three years of blogging, I’ve brought up my meat eating about a dozen times. Not exactly taking every available opportunity.

    And lots of things — like wearing make-up, using birth control, even being a feminist — are personal choices. Those are things that I bring up all the time. If I never discussed the reasons behind my personal choices, I think this blog would be a pretty boring place.

    Here’s the beautiful thing about this being my blog: I get to bring up whatever I want, and random asshole commenters don’t get to tell me that I shouldn’t talk about certain things if I “don’t want to be told what to do.”

  26. Cat of many faces
    January 31, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Jill – it would be nice if you didn’t take every opportunity available to justify your unethical choice to eat meat. You don’t have to bring it up, you know. If it’s just a personal choice and you don’t want to be told what to do, maybe you shouldn’t talk about it at all.

    Seriously, What a fucktard.

  27. Jon
    January 31, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Here’s the beautiful thing about this being my blog: I get to bring up whatever I want, and random asshole commenters don’t get to tell me that I shouldn’t talk about certain things if I “don’t want to be told what to do.”

    Now I understand. I used to think this was a feminist community blog, but since it’s your blog then you’re the decider.

    You’re helping me become more aware of how power corrupts. Thank you.

  28. Level Best
    January 31, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    NicoleGW, about the advanced alien species considering humans as a food source, did you ever see the “Twilight Zone” episode where scientists translated an alien book title and were relieved to see their new overloads were reading a work called “Serving Mankind”? But then they found out it was a cookbook…

    I became a vegetarian in 1993, felt called to be one, actually, as I became and more more aware of the evil possible in the dominance of some beings over other beings (men over women, cultures over other cultures, etc.) and started seeing the evil often inherent in humans’ dominance over other animals. In 1999 I married into a family of extreme carnivores and compromised by becoming a limited meat eater, but later re-took my position and became a vegetarian again, hang the social implications with the in-laws!

    For me the humane treatment of other animals is a core spiritual value, but even if a person doesn’t have this on his or her radar screen, I would hope the uber cruelty involved in the meat industry and the sheer inherent health danger of ingesting such compromised flesh as that of drugged, over-doctored, and mistreated animals would get through. Such videos are very important to bring all of us, wherever we are, to greater awareness of the implications of the meat industry.

  29. January 31, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    Now I understand. I used to think this was a feminist community blog, but since it’s your blog then you’re the decider.

    You’re helping me become more aware of how power corrupts. Thank you.

    Oh please. Because someone was being a sanctimonious ass, “power corrupts”? Give me a fucking break.

    Yes, this is a feminist community blog, but I’m the one who pays to keep it on the internets, and I’m one of a handful of people who post content every single day. I love doing it, and I certainly don’t think of this blog as “just mine.” But I do dislike being told by random commenters what I should and should not write about; I dislike being told that I should just shut up if I don’t want to be told what to do.

    You are welcome to your opinions, and you are welcome to post them here. But if you’re going to act like an asshole, and if you’re going to demand that I do or don’t do something, I am going to use this community space to tell you to fuck off.

  30. January 31, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Oh, and one more thing — nowhere did I justify my unethical choice to eat meat. I think I was pretty clear in admitting that it’s unethical, but I do it anyway.

  31. Hector B.
    January 31, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    humane treatment of animals is incompatible with killing them.

    Really? You mean I shouldn’t have euthanized my elderly, tumor-ridden dog?

  32. Jon
    January 31, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I’m the one who pays to keep it on the internets

    you have ads. don’t they pay to keep the site up? if not, there are free blogs available. you don’t have to control it yourself.

    I was pretty clear in admitting that it’s unethical, but I do it anyway.

    yet you think your right to participate in unethical behavior supersedes other’s rights to tell you your immoral?

    just deal with it. you choose to live immorally. that comes with a consequence of other people telling you that your immoral. you don’t get to tell them they don’t have a right to agree with you that eating meat is immoral.

  33. Jon
    January 31, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    You mean I shouldn’t have euthanized my elderly, tumor-ridden dog?

    you’d have to ask your dog.

  34. Betsy
    January 31, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Now I understand. I used to think this was a feminist community blog, but since it’s your blog then you’re the decider.

    You’re helping me become more aware of how power corrupts. Thank you.

    ROFL. That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

  35. Betsy
    January 31, 2008 at 2:45 pm

    in other words, don’t feed the trolls. (Not that I’m trying to tell Jill what to do! ;-)

    People like that care more about finger wagging and moral superiority than they do about effecting positive change. What they don’t realize is that their behavior actually alienates the unconverted and discourages people from joining them in rejecting meat. Or maybe they do realize; sometimes I think they don’t WANT most people to give up meat; if they did, they wouldn’t get to feel so much purer than everyone else.

  36. lou
    January 31, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and it was a terrific read. The premise: her family — living on a farm in Appalachian mountains — tries to live for a year on only what they or local farmers grow.

    She points out that standard vegetarianism, as someone earlier pointed out, kills many animals. The corporate farms kill rabbits, deer, foxes, groundhogs, birds, turtles and other critters. Locally grown produce and locally raised livestock are more environmentally friendly.

    She had many, many observations along those lines — some amusing. For instance, a vegan starlet was talking about buying a farm so that cows wouldn’t be bothered with milking and chickens wouldn’t have to worry about eggs being collected. As a farmer, Kingsolver said cows would *complain* about not being milked and would be in pain if you didn’t. And hens would be dropping eggs everywhere and they would go to waste.

    And she also notes that vegetarianism only works in lush and wealthy parts of the world. When you’re eaking out your existence in a desert terrain with little access to fresh water, it’s more cost efficient to raise livestock and eat it and its product (ie dairy, eggs).

    Something I think everyone can agree on — these farm factories must be stopped. They produce more calories than every man, woman and child needs to consume to thrive.

  37. mk
    January 31, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Jill, thanks for posting this. I continue to struggle with my conscience over meat-eating. I very rarely buy red meat, and at this point I try to only buy organic when I do. My eggs are always cage-free. I’m one of those almost-vegetarians who just can’t seem to kick the habit.

    But I love animals. And I grew up on a family farm. I believe in animal husbandry because I’ve seen people who really, truly care about animals–one of them being my father. I’ve cut the cord on lambs and helped them take their first breath. I think, paradoxically, that experience makes me feel better about my eating habits, not worse. And maybe if more people made an effort to support local farmers and understand where their meat was coming from, we could actually affect the industry.

  38. January 31, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    RIGHT NOW THE ASPCA IS BEGGING PEOPLE TO SIGN THEIR PETITION FOR HUMANE TREATMENT OF DOWNED ANIMALS

    https://secure2.convio.net/aspca/site/Advocacy?JServSessionIdr004=0b4capgho1.app23b&cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=2147

    Please go there and sign – it is not the answer but it is a step in the right direction.

  39. AZ Escapee
    January 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I am beginning to appreciate the complexities of this topic much more than I used to. My husband and I have been vegetarians all of our adult lives with no sign of resultant health problems. My 2-year-old, who we’ve raised as vegetarian, is profoundly anemic, scary anemic, how-do-you-stay-upright-in-a-stiff-breeze? anemic. We’ve tried—under a doctor’s direction, given that too much iron can kill you—giving her four times the RDA of iron for someone her age/size. She doesn’t absorb it. And yes, we give it with vitamin C, and yes, we alternate between iron-rich meals and calcium-rich meals to minimize uptake competition. So now we’re trying to get her to eat read meat, with occasional success, because our best vegetarian efforts aren’t cutting it. And, yes, I hate the feel of meat, the smell of meat, the presence of meat in our refrigerator. But my moral qualms are my problem (and, sadly, the problem of cow-kind); I won’t further harm my child so that I can feel better about myself. If I knew with certainty that I could cure her by feeding her a cow I’d killed myself (or even feeding her our much-loved feline companion of 10 years), I would. Because I am an animal, and an animal feeds its young what it must to keep them alive.

  40. plainwhite
    January 31, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    What they don’t realize is that their behavior actually alienates the unconverted and discourages people from joining them in rejecting meat.

    Prove it.

  41. January 31, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Google the word “vegan” for terrific recipes – “super vegan” has a great blog.

    TOFU is a great source of protein – the best source.

    Get a pound of tofu and press it between 2 plates to get the water out – slice it four or five times vertically and then do the same horizontally – now you have little squares of tofu. Some people garlic and onion powder it before frying it in olive oil and then sprinkle it with tamari after it comes out. But if you put your favorite seasoning on it afterward it fries into puffed up little golden tofu nuggets. If you put the seasoning on before you fry, the frying is trickier because the seasoning is also frying. Sometimes it sticks to the bottom of the pan and gets dark but it tastes better. In any case you have to fry it slowly because protein gets rubbery if you fry it too fast. Enjoy your golden nuggets.

    and if you do cook a lot – google those vegan recipe sites – you will be stunned at the things you can do. And look around – some of that stuff is tasteless or too gummy but the gourmet stuff is really something!

  42. January 31, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Jon,

    And, okay, everyone here.

    I hope you don’t mind me hijacking this slightly, because something on said reminded me of an argument I hear from time to time that I’d really like an answer to.

    Jon, you state that livestock such as cows etc are unnatural due to having been bred for docility etc, and therefore I assume you are saying that the ethical farm is still unethical in your eyes?

    You also state that killing animals is humane regardless.

    If we were able to convince a majority of the world population to become vegan, or to eat cloned meat from vats, what would be done with all the livestock? I can’t think of any farmer that would be willing to pay for their life and upkeep, but releasing them into the wild would surely not only be cruel to them in terms of their inability to survive without human intervention, but possibly harmful on the wildlife already in situ.

    Do we just sterilise every living livestock animal and drive them all extinct as they die of old age?

    Personally, I favour ethical treatment of animals with meat consumption continuing, because I can’t see a better solution overall. In which case, farms like the one linked to above seem like a step in he right direction.

  43. January 31, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    here is the best one

    http://vegweb.com/

  44. January 31, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    yet you think your right to participate in unethical behavior supersedes other’s rights to tell you your immoral?

    just deal with it. you choose to live immorally. that comes with a consequence of other people telling you that your immoral. you don’t get to tell them they don’t have a right to agree with you that eating meat is immoral.

    You have the right to tell me that I’m immoral all you want. In fact, you can go to one of those free blog sites and start an entire website solely dedicated to just how immoral and power-hungry I am. I never said that you don’t have a right to tell me that I’m immoral (on the same token, I have a right to tell you to learn the difference between “your” and “you’re”).

    Of course I choose to live immorally. Again, I haven’t denied that, so quit beating down the straw-Jills. You can think that eating meat is immoral; you can think I’m immoral for doing it; I may even agree with you. And thus far, I’ve let all of your comments through, so please don’t lecture me about stifling your free speech rights. Telling you you’re being an asshole is not the same thing as telling you that you don’t have a right to disagree.

    Come back when you can make a logical argument.

  45. Marle
    January 31, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    Bunny-

    Assuming more people become vegan or limit their meat, the farmers will breed less and less animals, because there will be less demand. If everyone went vegan, then they wouldn’t be breed for food anyone, though they would probably continue on farm sanctuaries and such. If everyone became vegan tomorrow, that would be a problem, but they’re not. Even if everyone did, I’m sure that 7 billion vegans could think of something humane to do with millions of animals.

  46. Mnemosyne
    January 31, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    If everyone went vegan, then they wouldn’t be breed for food anyone, though they would probably continue on farm sanctuaries and such. If everyone became vegan tomorrow, that would be a problem, but they’re not. Even if everyone did, I’m sure that 7 billion vegans could think of something humane to do with millions of animals.

    Considering that many very vocal vegans — including PETA — say that zoos and pet ownership are immoral, why do you think they’ll maintain sanctuaries? Sanctuaries still keep animals dependent on humans.

  47. zuzu
    January 31, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    I really don’t understand why there’s always a false dichotomy put forward — either factor farming and all its attendant horrors, or everybody goes vegan (and oh noes! didja know bunnies get plowed under to make carrots?). It’s like there isn’t some other option available, like greater regulation, or decreased consumption or what have you.

  48. zuzu
    January 31, 2008 at 6:24 pm

    Considering that many very vocal vegans — including PETA — say that zoos and pet ownership are immoral, why do you think they’ll maintain sanctuaries?

    Because many of the non-nutcase vegans already do?

  49. January 31, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    AZ Escapee

    I googled raising vegan children and there were tons of pages on it and blogs – maybe other parents can help you –I raised a vegan child babysitting for her vegan mother until she was 6 and moved to Hawaii. She was the healthiest child on the block and is now at Berkley.

    Maybe there is something wrong with your child that has nothing to do with diet???

    I hope you find the answer — try those vegan baby blogs

  50. January 31, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Lou said she read a book where the author said:
    “As a farmer, Kingsolver said cows would *complain* about not being milked and would be in pain if you didn’t. ”

    You know why don’t you? Because the milk is for her calf which is sitting in a veal cage across the road. That is so we can take all the milk for humans. Of course her tits hurt. I have heard the mother cows crying for their babies and the babies across the road crying back. It is hard to walk between that.

  51. Casey
    February 1, 2008 at 1:23 am

    AZ Escapee – i wouldn’t be so quick to blame your daughters health problems on vegetarianism. i’m not sure why vegetarian iron tablets wouldn’t help her, but it seems to me if her body isn’t digesting iron, it’s not going to digest it just because it comes from a cow rather than from something else.

    me and my brother have been vegetarians our whole lives because that was how our parents raised us. i did become anemic when i started menstruating, but iron supplements solved that. i am 25 now, healthy, and have never eaten any meat.

  52. lou
    February 1, 2008 at 11:41 am

    Um, Virginia, Barbara Kingsolver is a humane, organic farmer and she’s talking about cows and chickens raised humanely by local farms. Not the factory farms.

  53. Betsy
    February 1, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    What they don’t realize is that their behavior actually alienates the unconverted and discourages people from joining them in rejecting meat.

    Prove it.

    Um, and how would I do that? Apart from scientific studies of the effectiveness of various modes of proselytizing (which would be interesting, actually), I can’t “prove” it. It seems like a matter of common sense – when you are rude and insulting to people, you will alienate them. Crazy, I know. But, true story, I became a vegetarian because of my friendship with a lifelong vegetarian who was happy to talk about it when asked but never made a big deal about it. I became a vegetarian DESPITE another friend, whom I’d known my whole life, who became a very obnoxious convert who made a habit of telling everyone at the table how disgusting their food was. People just rolled their eyes at her; no one took her the least bit seriously. I realize that’s not “proving” anything; it’s purely anecdotal. But it does confirm common sense.

  54. Marle
    February 1, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Um, Virginia, Barbara Kingsolver is a humane, organic farmer and she’s talking about cows and chickens raised humanely by local farms. Not the factory farms.

    Do cows really make enough milk to both feed the calf and make a profit for the farmer? Assuming they do make more than the calf needs, would most organic farmers really let the calf eat their profits when they could sell the calf for more profit? You read her book, lou, did Kingsolver keep all the calves with their mothers?

    By the way, the idea of the farm where cows aren’t milked and no one takes the chicken eggs, which she thinks is silly, is actually being done on farm sanctuaries today. Google “farm sanctuary”, there’s more out there than you’d think.

  55. February 1, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    Lou

    There is no way they are keeping the calves – plenty of meat and milk producers call them self humane INCLUDING factory farmers and organic farmers – some are better than others but anyone who puts a cow or calf on a truck to a slaughterhouse is not humane and no farmer who produces milk keeps the babies — the milk industry is the source for the veal industry.

    Cows at sanctuaries after they give birth stand between their caregivers and the calf and fight — the result of a life of losing every calf –

    The eggs are not the problem – taking and eating them is fine although there is nothing as cute as a hen brooding and caring for her chicks and she should be allowed to do it at some point but all of us girls need birth control of some sort. No it is not the eggs– it is the conditions the chickens are kept in in order to make a profit from selling eggs and when the chickens are worn out they are thrown alive into vats of boiling water. Even cage free places are mass producers and the “cage free” place where the chicken live is like a feed lot — anyone making a profit has a mass operation and there is the evil —

    In order to circumvent this evil people are keeping backyard chickens in WI (we are closer to the food production industry here so want no part of it) But then, you get the greedy men who end up having 100 chickens in their back yard in bad conditions and city hall wants to ban all of it. There are some farmers who try to treat the animals and birds humanely but it is a business and the kids are raised to see the animals as money makers at slaughter. They sell their pets after they show them at the state fairs. In most cases you don’t know what is really going on in those barns and you would be sickened if you did.

    Still we have to do the best we can – each as best as you can. Cut down on animal products – buy bagels and tomatoes instead of pizza, use Parmesan instead of hard cheese, realize the rennet in cheese is as addictive as tobacco and you will have withdrawal and need to stay away from it totally if you want to quit — cheese is a bad withdrawal – use the vegan blogs. Buy produce locally, buy organic produce and get your protein from organic tofu — you must have protein everyday or you will get cravings because the body cannot store protein –but eating protein (those tofu nuggets) will kill all other cravings.

    If you can, – use the whole food stores – grow some of your own veggies, in pots under lights -teach the kids to do it in your schools in garden plots (instead of football fields) -or in a greenhouse –make gardens and get some pretty Banty chickens for the backyard if you want eggs and fertilizer.

  56. kali
    February 2, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    To the people responding to AZ Escapee: I don’t think she was actually blaming vegetarianism for causing her child’s health problems. She was just saying that eating meat is a necessity for her child because of those health problems.

    I’ve been there myself, I was a vegetarian for years and I had basically no energy and slept more than I was awake, even when I took iron supplements.

    When I “cracked” and ate a bacon sandwich, I wasn’t even ill afterwards despite six years of vegetarianism and a very sensitive stomach– that’s how badly my body needed whatever the hell it is in meat. And, you know, maybe if I had carefully planned my diet to be very high in protein and basically free of wheat, which is what I do now, I might have been able to stay vegetarian. Maybe if I’d had the knowledge and the physical energy to do that, I might have been OK. But all I know is that my health started picking up from the day of the Bacon Sandwich onwards and the thought of going vegetarian again terrifies me. Some people need to eat meat. It might be a minority of people, but we exist.

  57. EG
    February 2, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    It’s fascinating to me how two commenters here expect AZescapee to take their individual experiences so seriously as to alter her child-raising while refusing to grant her experiences any validity at all. It may “seem to you” that if iron supplements don’t work, eating meat wouldn’t either, but her actual experiences with her actual child say otherwise. Why is it so threatening to you to acknowledge that individual body chemistries vary, and that what may work for you simply doesn’t for others?

    Some people need to eat meat. It might be a minority of people, but we exist.

    Word. I know my body. I know my nutritional needs. I know my metabolism. I know I need to eat meat.

    Do cows really make enough milk to both feed the calf and make a profit for the farmer?

    If bovine lactation functions like human lactation, cows will continue to produce milk as long as milk is being drawn from their udders.

    buy bagels and tomatoes instead of pizza

    Thus losing the fat and protein that makes pizza a sustaining meal.

    use Parmesan instead of hard cheese

    Parmesan is hard cheese, one of the hardest possible. It’s just hard cheese that’s been grated.

    but eating protein (those tofu nuggets) will kill all other cravings.

    Maybe for you. Not for me.

    the rennet in cheese is as addictive as tobacco

    Evidence?

  58. February 3, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Proof that cheese is addictive

    http://www.healthdiaries.com/blogs/vegetarianblues/archives/2004/09/casein_and_cheese_more_addictive_than_chocolate.html

    http://lists.envirolink.org/pipermail/ar-news/Week-of-Mon-20030623/002505.html

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3214100593069532942

    http://www.pcrm.org/magazine/gm03summer/gm03summer02.html

    “1981, Eli Hazum and his colleagues at Wellcome Research Laboratories in Research Triangle Park, N.C., reported a remarkable discovery. Analyzing samples of cow’s milk, they found traces of a chemical that looked very much like morphine. They put it to one chemical test after another. And, finally, they arrived at the conclusion that, in fact, it is morphine. There is not a lot of it, and not every sample had detectable levels. But there is indeed some morphine in both cow’s milk and human milk.
    Morphine, of course, is an opiate and is highly addictive. So how did it get into milk? At first, the researchers theorized that it must have come from the cows’ diets. After all, morphine used in hospitals comes from poppies and is also produced naturally by a few other plants that the cows might have been eating. But it turns out that cows actually produce it within their bodies, just as poppies do. Traces of morphine, along with codeine and other opiates, are apparently produced in cows’ livers and can end up in their milk.”

  59. February 3, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Eating protein will kill cravings – that is a fact – you simply have not tried it – and protein from soy is of a higher quality than from meat — the reason that the vegi was tired is that she did not get enough protein and if people are really deficient they can go to a wellness center and get what is called a “Meyer’s Cocktail” once a month which will zoom you right up there – you may need two the first month if you are run down. Most vegies get run down because they do not like to cook (me) and live off a high carb diet of junk food — it is hard to change.

    Why I said bagels is because of the emotional component of addiction. For every thing you give up you must find a substitute so you do not feel deprived. The big thing is to find “good tasting nutritional yeast mini flakes” . This stuff is delicious, has all the B vitamins and vegies put it on everything from popcorn to those tofu nuggets. They do not cook it because it will kill the B vitamins but sprinkle it on after the stuff is cooked. It is the taste that satisfies but if you do enough you get a B buzz. The bagels with tomato and (for me) hot gardenia peppers have the emotional blast of pizza – kill the craving. And Parmesan is a transitional drug. It helps to step down in increments although with cheese the cravings don’t really go away until you have done without for 6 months.

    It is sad our stomachs are trained when we are helpless children and it has it’s own size and memory. Sometimes only surgery can retrain it. Please do the best you can to reduce cruelty in the world. If you cannot get off meat and dairy then work to get more inspectors in the slaughterhouses and farms. Go sign that petition which is my first post. The ASPCA has another petition at that website to stop the import of dog and cat fur from china which is passed off in the US as faux fur. But it is really from dogs and cats skinned alive in China. If we all do what we can, it has got to help. This is what I believe.

  60. February 3, 2008 at 11:36 am

    You must get these 2 if you are going to try:

    Wonder Laroratories “Sublingual Vitamin B-12 with folic acid (take 3 a day)
    and
    The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook: Delicious Dairy-Free Cheeses and Classic “Uncheese” Dishes
    by Jo Stepaniak (Author)

    Get all her cookbooks – they are the easiest
    but I also LOVE:

    Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler

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