While a utilitarian might make a valid case for why we should do whatever we can to reduce the suffering of animals right now, such a position ignores the deeper, more menacing and sociopathic disease that plagues our predator society. There will be no paradigm shift in the way humans cause themselves and other animals to suffer if our sole focus is alleviating the symptoms of the disease, rather than treating the cause.
In a small, blue collar post-industrial town, amongst many shuttered and boarded up store fronts and aging steel mills on the horizon, we stumbled upon a Mediterranean restaurant. Sahara turned out to be a real-life oasis in this urban desert, both literally and figuratively, offering a delicious buffet which the proprietor proudly indicated was mostly vegan!
I got a call from a Facebook friend that a chicken had been found in a plastic bag on the street near another Chicago poultry market — still alive, as if she were just trash. The kind young man named Javier who’d first taken her home realized, after a few weeks, that he could not properly provide for her as a companion in his apartment. Please read the details of her story and consider making a tax-deductible donation to help her out.
This short, non graphic video documents my visit to a live poultry market in Chicago. I posed as someone interested in having a business like theirs and asked if I could take some photos. They agreed. I then just let the video roll. What I found was even worse than I would have imagined. The only way to describe this place is a squalid hell on earth with a level of suffering I had never seen before. Shops like this are marketed as the “buy local,” “sustainable,” “free range,” “pasture-raised” and “organic” alternatives to factory farming.
I had an unexpected visit from a new neighbor and her two children who were really interested in meeting the Free from Harm chickens. The mother, Joanna, had taken her children to a working farm called Prairie Crossing where they have “free range” organically-raised hens. This gave them an opportunity to compare what life is like for chickens on a small organic working farm to my backyard urban sanctuary, as I like to call it.
While visiting a busy garden center today, I almost walked right past this goat who was watching me and everyone else intently. His eyes pleaded with us for attention, but no one even knew he was there. He didn’t utter a sound or move around much at all. Maybe people just thought he was a landscaping statue. I was at first delighted to discover him there. As I approached him, though, I sensed a very lonely perhaps neglected animal, in a small lot attached to a dilapidated old house and no one in sight.
Just when I thought I knew all the common, standard industry practices in dairy farming, I find something even more bizarre and cruel. The sound in this video is said to be “turned off” since it is for “trade show purposes” but one wonders if the sound of the cows confined to stalls and having their udders torched would reveal how unpleasant this experience is for the animals. The claim that the cows feel no pain from having a flame in contact with their sensitive udders is “udderly” ridiculous. We share the same kind of pain receptors with cows.
When a Facebook friend of mine Corvus Strigiform sent me this photo he took of caged ducks in a transport truck, I immediately thought of Suzanna, the Pekin duck I saved a few years ago from slaughter. And I realized that Corvus had provided me with a strong visual counterpart of the fate I spared Suzanna who now lives in a sanctuary near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
Chickens will readily form an emotional attachment with us. It’s not a question of “can they” but of “can we reciprocate?” Sleepy Doris, pictured here, looks up into my eyes for reassurance and recognition, just like a dog. Stroke her back and she has the reassurance she needs and will go back to nuzzling up against your side.
As I prepared for an interview today, I couldn’t help but think about one question the journalist asked me in advance of the interview. After talking to people that I referred her to, she asked if there were people who I knew that were not supportive of my views or those of Free from Harm, animal rights or veganism. Apparently others she works with thought this was important for a balanced article.
You cannot “make” someone feel guilty. Guilt is an emotional response that emerges from someone’s own personal sense of right and wrong. You are not responsible for the emotions of others simply by putting truthful information out there for people to consider. You are not the bad person because the information you provided caused someone else to feel guilt. Never carry another person’s guilt. It does not belong to you.
After reading a string of comments on LinkedIn today, I now realize why I don’t get that involved in nutrition debates. What I have found is that diehard nutrition people are focused on nutrition only and make arguments in an ecological and ethical vacuum, that is, without considering how food choices impact animals and the planet. The citing of studies and claims on both sides could go on and on, as it often does. There is no end. And that’s what frustrates me so.
For ethical vegans, the guiding principle that distinguishes them from others is that animals have a certain set of basic interests that should be protected for the same reason that basic human interests should be protected. In other words, being a member of another species is not a valid reason to deny animals their basic interests in staying alive, avoiding pain, seeking pleasure and having sovereignty over their bodies. As a vegetarian, I never even confronted this ethical issue, let alone had I any intelligent way of responding to those who held the common view that animals are just here to serve our own trivial interests.
People often ask me why I have chickens. “Is it for the eggs?,” they ask. Now of course, what this question implies is that there is no other value to chickens than the eggs they produce. In fact, I find people far more interested in the fancy colors and sizes of chicken eggs than I do about the birds who lay them. Isn’t that interesting? We’re a culture that is fascinated with objects. And the egg is perhaps the most poignant symbol of fertility in many cultures, including our own. And in a way, this symbol has distracted us from something much more important which I hope to touch on here.
Dairy farming would have us believe that the unnatural breaking of the bond between a mother cow and her calf is somehow natural because it is better for the health and safety of the animals. Here’s a case in point. Consider the typical logic in the Wagner Farm post that attempts to justify why mother cow Emma and baby calf Schmidt must be separated at birth.
Among the many fascinating discoveries I’ve made in the process of raising a flock of adopted hens is the lovely and soothing sound of a chicken purr. Yes, you heard right. Chickens purr like cats when they’re happy. Well, at least one of the hens who loves to curl up on my lap and take a nap. In this video clip, I’ve recoded Doris the hen’s purring for you. Enjoy! And pass along to others!
I continually hear from people that “choices” must be respected. “You eat what you want and I’ll eat what I want.” And don’t judge other’s for what they choose to eat.” This comes from both vegan and meat eaters alike. If eating animals is a choice, then we must believe in at least the following six absurdities:
The 2013 annual stakeholder’s meeting for the Animal Agriculture Alliance in May is entitled “Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food & Consumer Confidence.” The expansive Animal Rights section of the AAA website features a subsection entitled “Agriculture is Outnumbered, Outfunded by Animal Activists.” It’s becoming increasingly clear that the perceived threat of activism to the agricultural industry and its key lobby group, AAA, is factoring heavily into their concerns.
As I was browsing the meat industry news site MeatingPlace.com, I came across an article called “My Week on a “Fact”ory Farm: Part I” by Emily Meredith who is the communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance and who also writes a column called “Activist Watch” on the same site. Meredith defends the practices of the industrial pig farms she recently visited in her attempt to bring out the facts and debunk what she sees as distortions from the activist community. In the following article, I responded to various excerpts of Meredith’s original post.
The Story of an Egg is a short documentary that claims “we need a lexicon of sustainability.” Has a nice ring to it, right? By using factory farming as a moral baseline, the film would have us believe that the simple solution to feeling good about the eggs you buy is to look for the “pastured” or “pasture-raised” label.