Live and Let Live: German Documentary Explores Veganism

Live and Let Live is a feature documentary by German director Marc Pierschel that examines our relationship with animals, the history of veganism, and the ethical, environmental and health reasons that motivate people to go vegan. The film follows the lives of six people who tell their stories on becoming vegan and also includes interviews from some of the best-known ethicists and sociologists, including Melanie Joy, Gary Francione, Peter Singer and Tom Regan. Continue reading

Are Pigs as Smart as Dogs and Does It Really Matter?

Some people claim that supposedly smarter animals suffer more than supposedly dumber animals and that it’s okay to use the dumber individuals in all sorts of invasive and abusive ways. There are absolutely no sound scientific reasons to make this claim and indeed, the opposite might actually be the case, but we really don’t know. Lori Marino, founder of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, Inc., who also works on The Someone Project, says it well: “The point is not to rank these animals but to re-educate people about who they are. They are very sophisticated animals.” I’ve emphasized the word who because these animals are sentient beings, whos, not whats. So, it’s a matter of who we eat not what we eat when they wind up in our mouth. Continue reading

Salmonella: Blame the Hatcheries, Not the Chickens

I’ve seen a lot of media coverage lately about salmonella and backyard chickens. The Center for Disease Control has issued specific guidelines for backyard chicken keepers for avoiding salmonella, claiming that salmonella is “common” in chickens. But is the media sensationalizing the issue, blaming chickens for a problem that really belongs to their breeders and scaring people away from having contact with chickens? Continue reading

Saving the World With Livestock? The Allan Savory Approach Examined

“There is another way… to mimic nature — by truly mimicking nature. Adding domesticated cattle to desertified landscape as a measure to compensate for our mistakes of decimating the normal flora and fauna over the decades creates many issues. Savory’s methods may indeed restore some desertified grasslands but so would plant-based food production systems or simply reintroducing the original natural blend of species (plants, animals, insects, microbes).” Continue reading

Fair Oaks Farms: Selling Slavery and Sexual Violation as “The Miracle of Life”

On August 5, 2013, Fair Oaks Farms—the largest “agritourism” destination in the country— will celebrate Opening Day of Pig Adventure, a commercial breeding facility where 2700 sows are impregnated to produce 75,000 pigs for slaughter annually. Pig Adventure joins the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure, a 30,000 cow dairy operation that has, since 2004, doubled as an “Agricultural Disney”; on daily tours, visitors can watch calves being born, cows being milked on giant mechanized carousels, and cheese being made, among many other dairy-themed spectacles. Continue reading

Why Fish Can No Longer Escape Our Conscience

Pescetarians—those who eschew eating all animals with the notable exceptional of fish—are commonly viewed as having fashioned diets that are more ethically focused than opportunistic omnivores. But could it be that the distinction they draw between, say, fish and pigs is as capricious as the one omnivores draw between dogs and pigs? In other words, might fish matter as much as the land animals to whom we grant moral consideration? Continue reading

Pig Adventure Is a Misadventure: McWilliams’ Open Letter to Fair Oaks Farms

Last week I asked esteemed journalist and agricultural history professor James McWilliams to write an open letter to the Northwest Indiana Times regarding their sensationalized coverage of the new Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms. I want this letter to coincide with Pig Adventure’s highly-publicized grand opening on August 5th. The McWilliams letter, which is posted below, will soon be available online for those who would like to sign on and add their comments. We will deliver the signatures and comments posted to this open letter to both NWI as well as Fair Oaks Farms Communications Director, Jed Stockton. Continue reading

The Mobile Chicken Pulper: The Next Chapter in Humane-Washing

Imagine waking from a nightmare where you were picked up by your legs and turned upside down. You thrash wildly to try to release from the grip of your captor. But resistance is futile. There is no mercy, no regard for your life. Your last conscious moment of life is the terror of being thrown into a gas chamber and your body comes out of the other end of a machine that grinds up your corpse into ground meat. What I’ve just described to you, and what you will see in this video if you watch it, is not a nightmare but the reality behind what humane meat advocates describe as “a humane way of producing chicken meat from live chicken.” Continue reading

Two Arguments For Eating Animals: It’s Natural and Animals Do It Too

The three examples, of naturally occurring rape, infanticide, and xenophobia, should help dispel the notion that acting in ways that come “naturally” automatically fulfills our moral obligations. In human societies, we evaluate our own behavior critically and negatively judge many instances of naturally occurring conduct. Indeed, if a particular behavior were sufficiently rare, it would suggest that people lack any drive to engage in it, and we would probably need no moral rules forbidding it. From this perspective, it is precisely because both virtue and vice come “naturally” to us that we must critically consider our activities and choose what to do (and what not to do) on the basis of moral reflection. Continue reading

Meet Your Bacon: Footage of Pigs In Transport Truck Goes Viral

During Toronto’s torturous heat wave this July, with temperatures soaring to some 40 degrees Celsius (that’s 110 degrees Farenheit), activists from Toronto Pig Save have mobilized to give water and watermelon to severely overheated pigs on their way to slaughter. The gesture is the last— and, likely, the first— act of kindness that the pigs will ever know. When the sweltering trucks transporting the animals to Quality Meat Packers pause at a stoplight just outside the slaughterhouse, volunteers slip watermelon through ventilation holes Continue reading

Killing Wild Wolves to Artificially Breed More Cows

In 2011, Congress removed wolves from the federal endangered species list in five states – Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah – primarily to satisfy the interests of cattle ranchers. This opened up a war on wolves. Ranchers were upset with the government for reintroducing wolves. Ranchers had expanded their use of land for grazing cows since wolves had been gone for 25 to 30 years after being hunted to near extinction. Continue reading

My Letter to NWI about Fair Oak Farms Pig Adventure

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? Continue reading

Overcoming Our ‘Egg-Industry’ View of Chickens

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. Continue reading

Why Animals Can’t Sacrifice Their Lives for Us

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. Continue reading

Catching Up With Science: Burying the “Humans Need Meat” Argument

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 Continue reading

The Memory of Meat

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. Continue reading

If Animals Could Speak Our Language, Would We Still Ignore Their Interests?

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. Continue reading

The Sheep Who Jumps for Joy: On the Will to Live in All Animals

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.” Continue reading

The 95% Vegan Movement and the 5% Exception

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. Continue reading