In the beginning, God created turkeys…well, that’s not exactly true—turkeys evolved in North and Central America somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve million years ago, during the Miocene/early Pliocene epoch—but it makes for a good story.
Turkeys are intelligent, highly social and easily distressed when isolated or kept from their familiar surroundings. Adults can differentiate between friends and possible foe, and have been known to go into attack mode to drive off outsiders. Benjamin Franklin described the turkey as “a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”
Their size, showy feathers and territorial disposition make turkeys an easy target for anyone with a weapon and an unwholesome urge to kill. Native Americans have a long history of feasting on turkeys that began well before the first Thanksgiving—the California turkey was hunted to extinction over 10,000 years ago. Meanwhile, modern human’s industrialized abuse of turkeys is nothing short of barbaric. Man has become so proficient at playing God with the turkey that nowadays the once proudly feathered bird is hardly recognizable. The vast majority of domesticated turkeys are bred to have white feathers because their pin feathers are less visible to the feaster when the carcass is “dressed” (glib jargon meaning butchered and mechanically plucked).
Any compassionate creator would be appalled by the unimaginable scale of institutionalized abuse of turkeys on factory farms or even on pseudo “free range” feel-good farms. Yet, each year turkeys are depicted—appearing at ease or even pleased with their plight—in inane commercials meant to soothe any holiday shopper who may have inadvertently stumbled onto the ugly truth about the suffering and cruelty inherent in the meat industry.
If you’re feasting on the flesh of one of the 45 million turkeys slaughtered this Thanksgiving season, please take a minute to consider the unnecessary suffering your meal caused and make this your last “traditional” Turkey-kill Day. Next year, try celebrating the life of the turkey while you feast on Tofurky or Field Roast, cranberries, candied yams, mashed potatoes, dressing, pumpkin pie and all the other tasty non-animal fixin’s. You may end up stuffed, but at least a bird won’t have to be.
As I’ve stated in earlier posts, and on the “About” page, I don’t normally approve comments from hunters trying to defend their blood sport. But I do sometimes save them as fodder for future posts. This is one of those comments, from someone going by the name “Sparky,” which warranted some examination on its way to the round file:
“Fine I’m a Psychopath. I enjoy feeding my family wild game meat instead of highly processed burger king. It’s healthier, period. Also animals ARE things. God created them for us to EAT!”
Okay, first of all, this may be one of those rare cases where the hunter in question is not actually a psychopath, simply because he says he is. A true psychopath would not have the insight to see it, nor the honesty to admit it.
On the subject of healthier eating, no one here is promoting or defending Burger King; but the fact is, a “processed” patty is probably not much worse for you than freshly killed venison—they’re both red meat, riddled with cholesterol. At least the hamburger might have a few vegetables and grains to provide some fiber to move things through that would otherwise sit in the colon and rot. Meat contains 0% fiber. And really, where did Sparky get the idea that there are only two food choices in the world: wild game or Burger King? Millions of good people are living proof that you can get by quite comfortably (and much more healthfully) on a completely plant-based diet.
Now, on to the last point sparky raised, “Also animals ARE things. God created them for us to EAT!”…instinct and better judgment would have me avoid any argument involving religion, but this is too outrageous to ignore. If all of the animals are merely “things” created by a god for people to stuff their faces with, then everything that was ever written by the world’s top scientists is wrong. Forget evolutionary biology, geology or physical anthropology: all we need to know was spelled out over 2,000 years ago on papyrus by people who knew nothing of science and had an agenda to champion the sandal-clad 2-leggers they deemed God’s favorite species—superior to all other animals in mind, body and spirit. Heck, to hear some folks’ interpretation, we humans are practically gods ourselves. But where does that leave all the other precious and amazing life forms who evolved along with us? According to the prevailing religion, they’re just “things” whose only purpose is to provide (colon-clogging) meat for the palette of the once-plant-eating-now-carnivorous-primates-gone-berserk.
Perhaps some hunters weren’t born psychopaths; for some, grandiosity, a lack of empathy and the objectification of our fellow beings are traits acquired by attending one too many sermons preaching that humans are the only ones that matter. It’s a pretty convenient mindset for those lucky enough to be born human, but I’m afraid it mirrors the kind of biblical misinterpretations that have been used to elevate one group of people and subjugate another. There is no chosen species any more than there is a master race. I don’t know what sort of thing God is supposed to be, but I can’t cotton to any being, supreme or otherwise, who plays favorites and gives special treatment to one creature while forsaking all others.
Bison calves are normally born in the spring or early summer. For the first few months of their lives they’re coat is an orange-ish color, turning progressively darker through the warm summertime, until by late August they are as dark as their parents and the other adult and sub-adult members of their herd.
So I was surprised to hear from my wolf-watching friend and former neighbor in southwest Montana that an orange bison calf was just seen in Yellowstone trailing an umbilical cord, a sure sign he was born within the past few days.
Not good timing, as nighttime temperatures hover in the teens now, and snow has already begun falling in the park. The snows will only get deeper and the temps colder for months to come. Life will be tough for the poor little calf this first winter; chances are good he won’t survive.
This is precisely the reason bison have evolved, as a rule, to being receptive to breeding exclusively in August. The ensuing gestation period assures that newborn calves are greeted with a full summer ahead of them. Nearly every animal species living above or below the equatorial belt has adapted to Earth’s changing seasons by only ovulating during a brief window of opportunity, thereby naturally limiting their populations.
Conversely, Homo sapiens can impregnate one another year-round. Our species has had it easy for so long—starting fires for warmth and skinning animals for clothes and shelter—that now human babies are brought forth continuously, 24-7. At last report, 490,000 new humans per day are born to add to the 7 billion mostly carnivorous hominids already here.
Meanwhile, whenever bison herds in Yellowstone thrive enough to reach the arbitrary number of 3,000 total “head,” the park service and the Montana Department of Livestock implement a longer “hunting” (read: walk up and blast the benign, grazing, half-tame bison) season on them, or truck them off to the slaughterhouse—those nightmarish death camps where so many of the bison’s forcibly domesticated bovine cousins meet their ghastly ends in the name of human hedonism.
And people think we need to control their population?
I voted today; filled in my absentee ballot, that is. I wasn’t real keen on any particular candidate, just wanted to get it over with so I don’t have to think about politics for a while.
I’m a private person, and I respect other people’s right to their privacy. I don’t expect anyone to publicly declare how they voted if they don’t want to. I will tell you, though, no Republicans (or Repugs) got my vote.
Sure, there have been a few good Republican leaders in the past. Abe Lincoln comes to mind. And I thought Washington State’s1970’s-era GOP governor, Dan Evans, was a decent man—until I learned he was so tight with Ted Bundy that he vouched for the notorious serial killer’s character in a written testimony to a Florida court of law when Bundy was on trial for the brutal murders of numerous young women, including a 12 year-old girl.
It’s common knowledge that Ted Bundy was a staunch Republican. He campaigned for a number of prominent GOP candidates and likely would have fancied himself as a future contender for that party, had reckless behavior not gotten him arrested and prosecuted for his extracurricular activities.
Another active Republican serial killer of note, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, can’t seem to keep his mouth shut on the campaign trail about his murderous urges, as well as his intent to train his 10 year-old daughter to become a conscienceless killer like her daddy…or Ted Bundy.
The reasons the Republicans didn’t get my vote are many—they all have to do with threats facing the diversity of life on Earth. (Sorry, but concerns about the economy do not trump the continued habitability of the planet.) Now, if you don’t believe the scientific evidence for global warming, by all means vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket—they’re the anti-science candidates—as long as the things those two do believe in don’t put you off. Freedom of (or from) religion is one thing, but anthropocentric ignorance at the expense of the environment is not a God-given right.
There’s a new breed of Republican stalking the streets of D.C. these days, and they take their religion dead seriously. Ask Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA). He called evolution and the Big Bang Theory, “lies from the pit of Hell” at a “sportsman’s” banquet at the Liberty Baptist Church (be sure to check out the heads on the wall behind him here).
While just yesterday, Indiana Republican Senate candidate, Richard Mourdock, said he believes pregnancies from rape are “something that God intended to happen.” Clearly, to Mourdock, every sperm is sacred, even if it came from a violent rapist (never mind that procreation was the furthest thing on the perpetrators mind.)
For his part, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan worked shoulder to shoulder with Missouri republican congressman Todd Aiken to try to redefine rape as either “legitimate” or some other unfortunate scenario that these two guys don’t think should warrant a woman’s right to choose whether or not to bring forth another human life into this overcrowded world. In other words, if a woman became pregnant as the result of some loveless, devious act of seduction that was slightly less violent than their idea of “legitimate” rape, she would be forced to spend the next nine months carrying around an unwanted child (Like Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby, pregnant with the Devil’s spawn).
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney plans, if he becomes president, to cut funding for birth control to developing nations. None of these Republicans seem to be aware of the staggering human overpopulation problem threatening the future of all life on this planet.
And I’m sure if you told them our species was solely responsible for causing an ongoing mass-extinction on a scale not seen since the K-T extinction event that ended the age of dinosaurs 65 and a half million years ago, they’d really look befuddled. After all, wasn’t the Earth created by God for Man only 10 thousand years ago? And if Man overcrowds the Earth and destroys the atmosphere, isn’t it just “something that God intended to happen?”
Practically every day I receive ignorant comments from hunters which reinforce my theory that—despite their overweening attitude—their understanding of the science of biology is inherently lacking. Just yesterday I trash-canned a comment from a defensive sportsman who obliviously declared, “You might be related to primates, but I’m not,” before going on to accuse me of being ignorant!
Another well-worn classic hunter excuse I hear on a weekly basis—one that must be a contender for the top ten feeblest rationalizations for hunting of all time—is some variation of the ridiculous notion that, “Our sharp teeth are proof that we’re meant to be carnivores.” I could go on all day refuting this absurd figment, but I don’t want to bore the educated reader with something so off-base. (If you happen to be one of those who consider that statement an accepted truth, please take some time to look it up and learn a little about physical anthropology and humankind’s ancestry.)
The history of how Homo sapiens became the species we are today harkens back a bit farther than 10,000 years (as young-Earth creationists believe) or even 100,000 years, as those who tout the caveman diet might suppose. Every species here today has an extensive backstory. As you may well know, we all started out as sea creatures at one time (long before the first biped sharpened the first stone for butchering carrion).
During the reign of the dinosaurs, all of us mammals were rodent-sized creatures who scurried about and tried to stay out from under foot. After the extinction spasm that ended the dinosaur’s days, mammals had a chance to flourish and diversify. Some went through more radical changes than others.
Whales were once wolf-like mammals that returned to the sea between 60 and 37 million years ago, in the early Eocene epoch, eventually becoming the largest animal ever to grace the oceans or the Earth. In terms of physical changes, our species’ story is nowhere near as dramatic as that of the whales. But as far as our impact on all other life forms, it’s a doozy.
No other species of animal has come from such humble beginnings as a tree shrew, progressed through the monkey-types and on to forest-dwelling apes, only to climb down out of the acacia and kill off the largest, mightiest or most numerous of species. But rather than weighing on our species’ collective conscience, it’s gone to our collective head, in the form of an over-inflated ego that is a key trait of the genus Homo. No other species can claim responsibility for changing the Earth’s climate to the detriment of all life or—Homo sapiens’ crowning achievement—causing a planet-wide mass extinction event.
As blissful as it must be to have our collective head in the clouds, when it comes to human origins, it’s critical that we come down to Earth once in a while and keep ourselves informed of reality, lest ignorance facilitate our own demise.
The following is the first of a series on Deniers and the Damage They Do…
By now you’ve more than likely read that the Arctic Ocean’s floating sea ice has already retreated to a record minimum. And you’ve probably heard that every scientist who hasn’t been bought off agrees: global warming is to blame. And you might have even heard that Greenpeace activists have been staging protests and attaching themselves to oil rigs and ice breakers en-route to the polar region. You may already be one of the 1.6 million people who have signed the group’s online petition urging world leaders to declare the Arctic a global sanctuary, off limits to oil exploration and industrial fishing. And there’s an off-chance you’re one of the dozens of celebrities, including Robert Redford, Paul McCartney and Penelope Cruz, who have announced your support for Greenpeace’s campaign.
The following map and excerpt from a Science News article titled, “Arctic sea ice hits record low and keeps going,” reveals the present status of the Arctic ice cap. The average ice coverage for the 21 years between 1979 and 2000 is demarked by the orange line that can be seen running from the Greenland Sea, west and north of Svalbard, through the Laptev Sea to Russia’s Wrangel Island and through the Beaufort Sea to the Canadian Archipelago. The difference between that area and the area presently covered by ice is at best, shocking. …
The six lowest sea-ice extents on satellite record have occurred in just the last six years. More melt means more open water exposed to sunlight. In turn, that water absorbs more heat and causes feedback loops that heat the Arctic even more.
As of August 26, Arctic sea ice covered 70,000 square kilometers below the previous satellite-era record from 2007, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo.
“The ice cover is now just so thin and weak in the springtime that large parts of it can’t survive the melt season,” says NSIDC director Mark Serreze.
Arctic sea ice grows in winter and melts partly away each summer. Overall, more sea ice has been lost each year as temperatures rise. From 1979 to 2011, the amount of sea ice left in September at the end of each melt season dropped by an average of 12 percent per decade.
The ice isn’t just shrinking; it’s also thinning. The Arctic used to contain lots of thick ice — some 3 to 4 meters thick — that survived year after year. Now it’s dominated by thinner ice only 1 to 2 meters thick and just one to two summers old. “It’s almost like parts of the Arctic have become a giant slushee at this time of year,” says Walt Meier, a sea ice expert at NSIDC.
In 2007, the previous record year, winds, cloud cover and other weather conditions were just right for a lot of ice to melt away. “There were a number of people saying  was a one-off and you’ll never see this perfect storm again,” says Serreze. “What Mother Nature is telling us is that you don’t need a perfect storm anymore, just because the ice is so thin now.” …
Meanwhile, in answer to these new conditions, oil companies are poised to begin installing offshore oils rigs and drilling in the backyards of walrus and polar bears. Greenpeace and other environmental groups say an oil spill in the Arctic could cause irreparable damage to wildlife and marine ecosystems. That’s no shit. With a brief growing season and comparatively little seawater circulation, the Arctic Ocean must be one the most delicate environs on the planet.
Fears that the oil industry is unprepared to operate in the hostile conditions of the far north where storms are frequent were accentuated when a floating oil rig capsized off eastern Russia last December, killing more than 50 workers.
Surely halting any new oil and gas drilling in the fragile north is an important step in solving the world’s problems. But considering that the loss of the polar ice cap is a direct result of global warming, and global warming is a direct result of human activities (chiefly the burning of fossil fuels for energy, transportation and meat production), wouldn’t the real answer be to put a halt to ALL further oil exploration and drilling everywhere? When you take into account that further planetary warming could well result in a steady flow of cold Arctic melt-water into the North Atlantic, thereby disrupting the deep sea conveyer that cycles weather as we know it, while fueling the very vitality of the living oceans, the answer must be a resounding, if reluctant “Yes!”
So what does all this have to do with deniers and the damage they do?
Chances are if you’ve heard of global warming, you’ve heard of global warming deniers. Maybe you are one yourself. If so, it’s time to wake up and smell the methane! The planet can’t wait for people to quit bickering and decide to make some major changes. If we don’t curtail our daily carbon output and change our consumptive ways, the climate is going to change for us, and leave our mechanized world in the dust.
Like “young Earth” creationists who still deny evolution because they don’t like to think of humans as mere animals, or hunters who don’t want to admit their species’ role in the ongoing extinction spasm, global warming deniers don’t want to accept humankind’s hand in radically changing the climate—to the detriment of all who’ve adapted to it over the eons. It’s time to evolve out of this hyper age of planes, trains and automobiles, put away our motorbikes, jet boats and snowmobiles along with the rest of our gas-burning toys, slow the fuck down and try to live at pace more in keeping with the rest of this living planet—while we still have one.
One of the most common lines of defense from people resistant to going vegan is: “But I was brought up that way—I was raised in a family of meat-eaters.” Well, so was I. My parents are big-time meat-eaters and they’ve got all the standard American health issues to prove it.
In college during the 1970s, I still proudly flew the flag of flesh-eating. I chose to join the “carnivores” camp cooking group on a quarter-long nature photography field course in the backcountry of Yosemite, rather than the ahead-of-their-time, health-conscious group of California falafel-eaters. I was fairly fascinated with the field of physical anthropology and could identify most of our earliest hominid ancestors by their Latin names. I even studied primitive buckskin tanning and stone tool making during an “aboriginal life skills” course in eastern Oregon.
But the allure of anthropology waned during the ensuing years after I moved to a remote wilderness cabin in the heart of the North Cascades. Living out where the resident nonhuman animals were my closest neighbors made untenable the notion of humankind as the center of the universe, or even the most interesting species to study on this planet. I discovered a new understanding of our fellow beings as unique individuals (as opposed to mere things to be objectified in paintings on cave walls), and I soon came to accept that meat was the product of their suffering.
It was ultimately my involvement in wildlife issues, such as the group efforts to oppose whaling and ban bear-baiting, hound-hunting and trapping in Washington State that led me to examine the cruelty inherent in the meat industry. I’d seen first-hand the look of fear on the face of a bear who’s being pursued by crazed hounds and technologically dependent human hunters, heard the cries of shock and agony when an animal first feels the steel jaws of a trap lock onto his leg and witnessed the look of despair in the weary eyes of a helpless captive who had been stuck in a trap for days and nights on end. I could tell that suffering is every bit as intense for the animals as it is for humans.
Almost overnight, I became what you might call an ethical vegetarian, or vegan. When I say “almost overnight,” it was actually a matter of several months of soul-searching, but it must have seemed like overnight to the rest of my family who knew me as quite a turkey addict at Thanksgiving.
When I allowed myself to hear the message of compassion for farmed animals, I didn’t hate the messengers or think of them as “party-poopers” or “food Nazis.” Instead, I was finally ready and willing to listen to how easily human beings can get by without eating meat.
That was 14 years ago; my only regret is that I waited so long.