I found NWI Times’ coverage of Fair Oaks Farm’s so-called “Pig Adventure” both disturbing and disgusting — not just for its blatant glorification of factory farming, but in how uncritically NWI appears to have “rubber stamped” the Fair Oaks Farm press release without looking critically at this tragically absurd “public exhibit” of animal exploitation and suffering. Why does NWI withhold any opinion on such a nightmare scenario for animals in the very opinion section?
As someone who rescues, raises and advocates on behalf of chickens, one of the biggest challenges I face is getting people to see the chicken BEFORE the egg. Even many of those who are fond of chickens and keep them in their backyards, see them first as egg-laying machines, as if to ovulate on a daily basis were their primary purpose for existence. Our perceptions are heavily distorted by egg-industry marketing that has relentlessly “dumbed-down” the chicken’s identity since the 50s.
Narratives and descriptions claiming that animals make sacrifices for us date back to our earliest recorded history and would have us believe that animals give their consent to be violently killed for a “greater good,” such as to provide us with sustenance or at the request of a higher power. However, to sacrifice oneself means to act freely, to make a conscious choice from a variety of circumstances.
In the newly revised Australian Dietary Guidelines released this week, Australia’s top health experts now agree with leading health advisory boards in the U.S. and Canada that well-planned vegan diets are a safe, healthy and viable option for all age groups. Government health experts worldwide are finally catching up with the large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that a vegan diet is not only a viable option for people of any age, but that eating plant foods instead of animal-based foods can confer significant health benefits
Anyone who has been vegan for more than a few months is probably familiar with what I call “The Inuit Defense.” When presented with an argument for veganism, it’s common for people to bring up the diet of some remote indigenous population (usually the Inuit) as justification for why they should continue consuming animal products. “Well, the Inuit must hunt and fish in order to survive,” they say. The implication being that if the Inuit cannot be vegan, they shouldn’t be expected to be vegan either.
One of the most potent reminders of how much I’ve changed is the smell of grilling meat from a Persian restaurant that I pass almost daily. It is a smell that I used to associate so positively with countless social gatherings, holidays and traditions. With the knowledge I have now, these memories have been intercepted by scenes of very young animals in the last moments of their very short lives who are in a state of great fear and confusion as they are led down a kill line to meet an untimely, unnatural and violent end.
The most important voice is also the one conspicuously closed out of the debate. The voice of the animal victims themselves is missing because they don’t speak our language. And because we place such immense importance on language, we’ve done a pretty good job of ignoring their plight. But that doesn’t mean they don’t communicate with us in a variety of complex ways, that is, if we choose to use our large brains and much-touted claim of superior intelligence to look and listen more carefully.
Like the will to live, the ability to experience pleasure is also not unique to humans. Animals exploited for food also seek pleasure, from chickens who purr, to sheep who (literally) jump for joy, from cows who play ball, to pigs who prefer to sleep snuggled up to one another. Animal behaviorist Jonathan Balcombe writes, “Pleasure adds intrinsic value to life— that is, value to the individual who feels it regardless of any perceived worth to anyone else. Pleasure seekers have wants, needs, desires, and lives worth living.”
I find your notion of “95% vegan” to be problematic. As a practical matter, one could justifiably argue that any move away from animal products helps animals and is therefore a positive step. But the problem is not in this process, but in the logic and the intent. The vegan ethic is based on the notion that the interest of animas are real, can no longer be denied, and in fact compel us to take them seriously. At the very least, animas should not be harmed, exploited and killed when he have other options that are so plentiful to the vast majority of us.
First, a few disclaimers. I am not a nutritionist. I am not gluten-intolerant. I am not, according to the University of Chicago Hospital, part of the roughly 1% of the population that has Celiac Disease. I fully understand that wheat processed into highly-refined products like white flour are empty calories no better for us than any other source of simple carbohydrates. But what’s happening in food marketing today is not a common-sense campaign to single out simple carbs. Instead we’re seeing an all-out war on “carbs,” taking down with it even the complex carbohydrates, like whole wheat and other whole grains, that have sustained civilizations for millenia with a cheap and plentiful source of protein and other essential nutrients.
We believe it is vitally important for people to connect with living, happy animals who have been rescued from commercial farming. Seeing these animals in a sanctuary environment allows people to understand the animals’ true natures and to observe them as individuals who lead rich and complex lives, when permitted to thrive. In short, witnessing animals in a sanctuary setting “re-sensitizes” and “reprograms” our minds. In the process, we rediscover the wonder and empathy we had for animals as children, before we were taught not to care.
Humans are social animals. We want to fit in. We thrive in groups. We learn from and inspire each other. And because of this highly social nature, we can also just as adamantly ostracize and oppress those who choose not to conform to social norms. In fact, in many cultures around the world, it is a “sin” or at least an unforgivable betrayal to act against some social or cultural norm, even when it goes against what one knows in his heart and mind is wrong.
Lucinda, our latest rescue found last month on the brink of starvation, has been rehabilitating at the home of one of our rescue heroines, Melissa Summer Pena. Lucinda’s getting stronger and healthier each day, and as she progresses, her personality is really starting to blossom. She’s taken quite a fondness for Melissa, following her all around the house and talking to her all the while. And she’s even taken to one of Melissa’s dogs, Travis!
How does one regulate a U.S. industry that kills 300 chickens per second and some 10 billion animals per year and still keep the prices of meat cheap? By not regulating it. Instead, let the meat industry largely regulate itself. Cut back on the number of USDA inspectors. Speed up the kill lines. Ignore calls to reform the archaic Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 (which used purposely vague language to allow for loopholes). Pass ag gag laws that punish whistleblowers. And, force inspectors who report flagrant and repeated violations of humane handling and slaughter to shut up or quit. This is how the USDA and other key U.S. regulatory agencies protect and indemnify a multi-million dollar meat industry that profits on the suffering of animals.