Betraying the species

The May 6 Edgy Mama column, “Chicken Education,” is another fine example of speciesism.

Anne Fitten Glenn’s feeble attempt at humor falls very flat here, simply because she degrades a species [whose members] she doesn’t particularly care for unless they’re dead, cooked and lying on her plate. It may be that chickens, with their “beady little eyes,” don’t particularly care for humans, with our insatiable blood lust. But the chickens are helpless to save themselves against such a powerful enemy, of course.

Some people claim that locally raised animals aren’t treated that badly, as if that excuses the fact that their entire lives are manipulated solely to satiate the desires of human beings, and end in brutal killing 99 percent of the time. This isn’t any sodium-pentobarbital-induced euthanasia; this is throat-slitting with knives and blades. To many compassionate people, the problem is not about where the animal is killed—next door or 1,000 miles away—but the fact that she is killed in the first place. Such killing is made possible by the deep disregard for those we consider “other,” combined with the myth of human superiority. We want what the other possesses, and [we] can harm, use and abuse her without fear of retaliation—so we do.

Despite Glenn’s obvious dislike of chickens, she acknowledges that the birds have personalities and desires. She writes that all but one like to be held. If a being is capable of [that emotion], she is also capable of fear and sadness, which I’m sure she feels in spades when, after weeks or months of being held with tenderness, she suddenly finds herself in the relentless grip of a slaughterer. What a betrayal.

I am terribly saddened to see area schools embracing wholeheartedly the myths that animals are here exclusively for human use, that free-range equals freedom, and that animal agriculture equals sustainability.

— Wendy Kobylarz

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25 thoughts on “Betraying the species

  1. Mysterylogger

    Very good letter.

    Eating something that has “Free Range” or “Organic” sticker on it makes some feel warm and fuzzy but how do they really know? Unless you been to the farm and seen these critters raised.

  2. travelah

    Chickens have the unfortunate propensity for tasting really good when prepared right. While I have to watch my fat intake, once in a while I like to indulge in a great meal of thinly sliced and tenderized chicken breasts breaded with cajun spiced crumbs and fried in olive oil served with a rice pilaf and a great bottle of wine. Yummy. Eat Mor Chikn.

  3. Piffy!


    Do you propose people not eat?

    Or are you aware of a way to produce food that doesnt involve something dying for something else to live?

    I would think that someone with your expressed interests would be happy to have children more involved in the food process, so as to make an more informed decision on their own.

    After all, if raising chickens for food is as inhumane as you imply, wouldnt the children in question be MORE likely to see your perspective than if they were just eating it at KFC?

    Despite whatever mythology you choose to subscribe to, there are no food options out there that dont involve death of one ‘intelligent’ being or another. To believe any different is to live a life VERY separated from how your food is actually grown/produced/delivered/prepared.

    Do you really think that loaf of bread or bowl of rice didnt require multiple “sentient” beings to die for it to end up on your plate? That is the Real lie being perpetuated here, not this program that empowers kids to make a their own decision with more first-hand knowledge.

  4. Mike Swanson

    The piffyster: “Wendy, Do you propose people not eat? Or are you aware of a way to produce food that doesnt involve something dying for something else to live?”

    It’s called VEGETARIANISM, Einstein. Some people in this country eat chickens and pigs and cows. They aren’t involved in and usually aren’t aware of the nasty old killing, gutting, and cutting up process. They just go down to the store and buy it all neatly wrapped, preserved with nitrites and God knows how many other chemicals.

    Try eating vegetarian. Perhaps it will make you a nicer person. Perhaps. But I doubt it.

  5. Perhaps what the piffyster meant to imply was that in the production of wheat and rice many insects and small varmints are killed in the process of growing the food and protecting it from predation. Living things die in the production of vegetables, which themselves are forms of life.

    Is there a graded scale of life forms that vegetarians are willing to sacrifice in order to eat? Do insects, snakes and other reptiles, small mammals and birds lost in the production of vegetables count?

  6. Piffy!


    If oyu think VEGETARIANISM doesnt involve cute animals dying, then you are obviously VERY disconnected form your food.

    Cute little mice and birds die to bring you bean and grain crops, not to mention the habitat of other cute animals that is permanently lost to those monoculture crops.

    Then, of course, there is the transportation, that involves the direct and indirect killing of all kinds of animals.

    then, as chris says, there are the bugs that are killed to bring you your veggies…

    But, sure, keep living a Disney-fied fantasy that allows you to claim some sort of moral superiority over others while hiding behind industrial agriculture and the facade of ‘cruelty free’ food.

  7. Piffy!

    Funny, to, since some of the most angry, irrational people i know are vegans and veggies.

  8. joeinmadisonco

    PFKaP hit it right on the head. You can call yourself a vegetarian or a vegan but if you eat food I guarantee you that death was involved. Ask your local natural farmer what kind of amendments they use to fertilize their soil. Don’t be surprised if some of it is ground up animals–used to grow your beautiful, healthy “vegetarian” vegetables. Or maybe they use manure for fertilizer; those animals that produce manure have to die at some point too, and usually the most humane way is to kill them. Or maybe, just maybe, in a few rare places, soil fertility can be gotten through cover crops and compost alone. But ask that grower if they ever need to dispatch a few animals or insects to protect the crops that feed the community? And then there’s always the unintentional killing of animals that comes when humans take swaths of land and turn them into “unnatural” fields for food cultivation. I’ve forked up a frog or two digging potatoes manually. I’ve shredded a rodent or two tilling up a bed. And who knows how many habitats I’ve destroyed unknowingly. I won’t even get into the deaths involved with petrochemical farming.

    This is all coming from a former vegetarian who was reformed when he wanted to be closer to his food. Vegetarians and vegans separate themselves from animals and the rest of the nonhuman world (they are in fact making animals the “other,” despite what Wendy says in her letter) by arrogantly ignoring the tens of thousands of years of relationships that were formed before industrial agriculture made it possible to eat food produced 2000+ miles away.

    What I’m saying is that we’re not very different from animals. We need them. And they need us. Does that make sense?

  9. Amanda

    I am personally sick of reading letters like this one. Imagine what the world would look like if instead of the 1/2 dozen eggs you eat a week, you had 1/2 dozen chicks hatch out in your yard, week after week year after year. It would be like having your very own CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation)right out your back door!!!
    I believe more schools should have programs that involve livestock and gardening. What a novel idea, to raise our children with a connection to the world of food. And local food at that! Its sad when you ask a child where tomatoes come from and they say the grocery store.
    I also think that if you are going to stand on your soapbox and scream about the injustices of animals, you should have some animals of your own and set an example about how you believe they should be treated. Otherwise you are wasting your breath.
    I have been vegan for five and a half years.and I learned long ago that we can’t all be vegan and vegetarian, it doesn’t work, we are all different. And its an unsustainable way to exist. Diversity is a major factor in sustainability, my friends. Another thing I have realized is that it is not my place to tell any one else what their diet should be. Its offensive and it puts up walls, we don’t need that. So go have a steak or some tofu and enjoy your time on this crazy planet.

  10. Piffy!

    thanks amanda and joe…

    so nice to see some intelligent words about this issue.

    i too have been farming for many years now, and am a former vegan/vegeterian who started eating meat and dairy again when i realized it is far ‘healthier’ and more ‘sustainable’ than vegeterianism ever could be.

  11. Piffy!

    “They aren’t involved in and usually aren’t aware of the nasty old killing, gutting, and cutting up process. They just go down to the store and buy it all neatly wrapped, preserved with nitrites and God knows how many other chemicals.”[/b]

    So, umm, shouldn’t you be happy that this program will teach kids that very lesson?

    Also, any chance you are related to the Swanson TV Dinner family? Just wondering.

  12. Ken Hanke

    Aside to hardcore vegans: Ease up on the raw garlic. The combination of that and pachouli is about as toxic as mixing Comet cleanser with bleach.

  13. Piffy!

    Ken, that show i lost a girlfriend a few years back.

    she exploded from her beautiful righteousness while her brain was sapped of vital nutrients.

  14. John

    The only reason that vegans and vegetarians can elect not to eat meat is the success of modern society. Up til now, and I’m sure for the foreseeable future, every society/culture that could/can eat meat will. Meat played a key role in feeding the growing masses. Elect to not eat it if you want, but casting a negative eye on those that do so is ignoring how every civilization evolved.

  15. xvelouria

    PFK, Christopher, Joe, etc…

    Your argument against veganism/vegetarianism is that some animals are killed accidentally in the process of farming vegetables?

    I have never met a vegan or vegetarian who claims that by not eating animals/their byproducts, no creature is ever harmed. Because, as you say, that’s absurd. The point is that ethical veg*ns, while varying wildly in their exact beliefs, tend to adhere to a philosophy along the lines of ‘doing the least harm possible’ to sentient beings (I am not going to get into the moral issue of veg*nism here because the MX site has shown itself to be uncatering at best to it). That is to say, NOT consuming animals/their byproducts when it’s unnecessary and, more often that not, unhealthy and shown to lead to chronic disease… of course it would be ideal to live in a world where we didn’t need tractors and other large machinery that bulldoze over field animals, but we can only do so much without completely retreating from society and attempting to become entirely self-sufficient. Most veg*ns I know would also choose veggies fertilized without manure, given the choice. Etc., etc.

    As far as the sustainability issue, that’s a bit more complicated, and I’ll be the first to admit that the vegan community has a lot of work to do in this area. First of all, vegetable production uses FAR less land, water, and petroleum than similar-scale animal production (provided the farmers aren’t dumping tons of petrochemicals, etc. on them). Yes, the majority of veg*ns eat tofu shipped from far away, and fake meat products with tons of packaging, and I think this is largely because there’s not enough concern in the veg*n community to create more environmentally friendly alternatives. Certainly you don’t HAVE to eat these items to be vegan; many vegans have soy allergies. But I hardly think it’s fair to say vegetarian/vegan = unsustainable. Animal-free diets, just like omnivorous diets, can go either way–sustainable or unsustainable– depending on the level of concern and effort put into them by the individual.

  16. xveloria, I am not against vegetarians or vegans in any way, shape or form. People should be free to eat the diet of their choice. Along the lines of Amanda’s comment, the stridency of some vegetarian/vegans is a bit off putting.

    In the summer when my vegetable garden is in full production, I’m pert near a vegetarian myself.

  17. Mike Swanson

    “If oyu think VEGETARIANISM doesnt involve cute animals dying, then you are obviously VERY disconnected form your food.” – pfK

    Not disconnected at all. You are. Animals: pigs, goats, sheep, cows, dogs, deer, etc. Rodents: field mice, rats. Insects: flies and other crawlly things.

    The harvesting of grains and other vegetarian foods does not intentionally target living creatures. And any incidental death to field mice and insects isn’t even in the same argument as meat eating. Because in meat eating, warm-blooded mammal animals (same type of body as ours) are purposely killed, then hung upside down, then their throats are cut and the blood drained from their dead bodies. Then someone cuts out the entrails, which will be used to make hotdogs and pet food. Eyes, hearts, genitals, tongues, anuses and brains also go into hotdogs, sausage, and spam. Then the “good” cuts are dissected out of the carcass. The floor is full of blood and the air reeks of death and suffering.

    I’ve got an idea. So you can get more connected to your food source, go out in the country sometime to a farm that is having a hog killing. After witnessing the screams of pain and fear from the animal and watching the resultant “processing” of the corpse, tell me if you will look at bacon or pork chops the same way again. And if you really want to walk your talk as a meat eater, you should be willing to kill the animal yourself then gut it, etc.

    Meat is murder. Vegetarianism is peace.

  18. John

    If meat is murder, then 99% plus of the whole planet are murderers or else want to be.

  19. bobaloo

    Oh good, I’ve slaughtered pigs and chickens in my youth. I’m glad this gives me absolute moral authority to not feel bad about my next bratwurst.

  20. John

    When you call 99% of the planet murderers, maybe you are over reacting some. Just maybe.

  21. It seems to me that some people just need to come to grips with the biological fact the homo sapiens are not herbivores. They are omnivorous. That is just the way nature works. We are hardly the only predatory species within the natural ecosystems of this planet.

    Our extreme specialization of tasks within society also means not everyone needs to be a butcher.

  22. Ken Hanke

    I dunno. Claiming that rodents — which as well as mice and rats include those cute little bunny rabbits — aren’t animals sounds like speciesism to me.

  23. Dread P. Roberts

    Diversity is a major factor in sustainability

    What a beautiful quote! I couldn’t agree more.

    it is not my place to tell any one else what their diet should be.

    This subject may be as debatable as politics or religion, but just like those subjects, Amanda is right in pointing out that it is important to draw the line at telling other people how to live out their own lives. I’m happy to live amongst diversity. It is not something that should be challenged in order to make everyone believe what you believe. If you have an issue with the consumption of meat, or the lack thereof, then state your case and back off. You can’t change peoples minds by forcing your beliefs on them.

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