Test your behavior using your own ethics, not those of animal-right activists

I was disappointed that the Obamas' recent Asheville visit began with a meal of factory-farmed ribs. They clearly adore their dog Bo, and it's hard to understand why people who care about a certain species can be so indifferent to the suffering of others. Pigs, after all, are smarter than dogs.

Many think the government regulates animal agriculture. Think again. Most states specifically exempt "standard agricultural practices" from their cruelty statutes, no matter how violent and depraved the procedure. Animals routinely have their body parts (genitals, toes, ears, tails, horns etc.) mutilated or severed while they are fully conscious, and no pain relief is provided. Most animals are crammed indoors and inside enclosures so tight they can't turn around — or, in the case of chickens, spread a wing. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act doesn't apply to birds, who represent 98 percent of the animals slaughtered for food. And it's seldom enforced for other animals. Countless animals are hacked apart while fully conscious, or scalded alive.

Most consumers support factory farms and slaughterhouses with their food dollars, which provides a sense that it must not be all that bad. Yet history is full of outrageous social injustices: evil can, indeed, be the norm. If you think I'm exaggerating, take a peek behind the closed doors that hide the institutionalized cruelty of food production by visiting www.meat.org. If you treated a dog or cat this way, you'd go to jail.

A 2008 Gallop poll noted that 97 percent of Americans believe that animals should be protected from abuse. Yet most people eat animals who have been treated abominably. Contrary to common criticisms, animal activists are not trying to force our views on others. We seek to shine a spotlight on carefully hidden cruelty so that people will make lifestyle choices in accordance with their own ethical standards. Most people, including the Obamas, would not do these horrific things to animals. Where's the integrity in paying others to do it for them?

Does a culinary preference to eat corpses outweigh another individual's interest in not becoming one? Does might make right?

— Stewart David
Asheville

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9 thoughts on “Test your behavior using your own ethics, not those of animal-right activists

  1. entopticon

    We should certainly strive to reform factory farms to be more sustainable and humane, but Stewart’s argument doesn’t really hold water. Vegans live under the self-satisfying delusion that they do less harm to animals, but that is far from the case.

    Ironically, Stewart talks about his concern for animals being hacked alive, but in fact, billions of small animals such as rabbits, field mice, birds, and turtles are hacked up alive in agriculture every year. And it is also an incontrovertible fact that agriculture wipes out entire ecosystems, killing countless living beings. Every time a field is plowed, it oxidizes the soil, devastating the vitality of the microorganisms in the soil, which all of the animals in the entire ecosystem depend on. The water runoff of a plowed field is not much better than a parking lot, which causes soil erosion and desertification, wiping out ecosystems that took thousands of years to develop, and killing an astronomical number of animals.

    Conversely, sustainably pasturing animals massively increases the vitality of the soil (to the tune of billions of microorganisms within a single handful), vastly increases biodiversity, controls soil erosion, controls water runoff, and creates gigantic carbon sinks that sequester huge amounts of greenhouse gasses.

    Whereas billions of small animals die horrible deaths to grow the vegetables that we enjoy, the meat from one single sustainably raised grassfed cow could probably last a person an entire year. So if it was really animals dying that Stewart cared about, he would include grassfed beef in his diet so that he could save the lives of countless animals. But that’s not really what he cares about. He just like the sanctimonious high that he gets from his vegangelical rage.

    Any sustainable method of food production includes animals. In reality, the vast majority of vegetables that Stewart eats are grown with animal products such as manure, blood, and bonemeal, and most of those that aren’t are grown with completely unsustainable, extremely polluting synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels.

    The truth is, nature does not work in oversimplified binary polemics like “meat bad, vegetables good.” It works in complex systems of relationships between microorganisms, plants, animals, and the environment. Any sustainable system of food production mirrors that natural balance. Oversimplified polemics such as Stewart’s are what pushed us so far out of balance with nature in the first place. We need to start thinking more systemically, not less, and that includes recognizing the key importance of animals in any sustainable model of food production.

  2. Piffy!

    Beautifuly and masterfully articulaled, ent. Stewart needs to just stick with his subjective moral argument for his own lifestyle diet choices and stop pretending to have even a lick of knowledge on how food is actually grown in real life.

  3. entopticon

    Thank you pff, I appreciate the kind words.

    I just got done watching this talk by Allan Savory, and it brought tears to my eyes because I was so blown away. The hair on my arms is still standing up. He talks about issues that I am already pretty familiar with because I have been doing quite a bit of research on the topic, but he understands and explains it in a way that is true genius. The sophisticated degree to which he understands both the role of perception and the importance of systemic thinking in our approach to environmental issues completely floored me.

    If anyone has any doubt about the essential importance of pastured ruminants for our planet’s health, they absolutely have to see this talk. It is truly brilliant, and may well overturn fundamental beliefs that you take for granted:
    http://vimeo.com/8239427

  4. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Thank you, entopticon, for your insightful commentary above and for sharing the insight and wisdom of Allan Savory. His work is really fascinating in that he offers a comprehensive way for humans to think and act so as to “mimic nature” in our interrelationship with the earth’s offerings–animal, vegetable, and mineral.

    After listening to Allan Savory and seeing evidence of his work, Stewart David’s interminable arguments seem even more superficial, specious, convoluted, and downright wrongheaded.

    Stewart, instead of continuing to parrot your same old narrow and annoying message, perhaps you might broaden your outlook a bit by studying Allan Savory in regard to food production, consumption of resources, and regeneration of the earth by all of Gaia’s creatures.

    The good parts of your message (such as the horrors of factory farming) are diminished and even lost when you throw in sensational statements such as Pigs, after all, are smarter than dogs, and a culinary preference to eat corpses, which are totally meaningless in the whole scheme of things and tug on no thinking person’s heart strings.

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