T. Colin Campbell PhD, co-author of the extraordinary China Study, and his son Nelson Campbell, are hosting a sneak preview of the new documentary “PlantPure Nation.” They are on a multi-city tour before the movie premieres in July. “PlantPure Nation” was written and produced by the same team that made the acclaimed documentary “Forks Over Knives.”
*** NEW SHOW! In this show we talk with Jim Robertson, a wildlife photographer and self-taught naturalist who lives in a remote wilderness setting in the Pacific Northwest. Living among elk, wolves, bears, and more has led him to a keen awareness of animals as individuals, and has brought him much joy. It has also brought him much sorrow as the beautiful wildlife habitat he lives in is viewed as a “sportsmen’s paradise”. This depraved and barbaric view has led to the wanton evils of hunting. It is torturous to hear the bullets piercing the air, and knowing that it means the painful loss of some of his cherished animal neighbors.
He’s a vegan and a prolific voice for animals, on his blog, “Exposing The Big Game”, in all areas of cruelty, from factory farming to the federally approved killing of millions of animals, including deer, bears, wolves, and many more.He is also the author of a book by the same name, “Exposing The Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport.”
Last Friday in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer asked which contemporary practices will be deemed “abominable” in the future, in the way that we today think of human enslavement.
He then offered his own opinion:
“I’ve long thought it will be our treatment of animals. I’m convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale — for the eating.”
Krauthammer goes on to predict that meat-eating will become “a kind of exotic indulgence,” because “science will find dietary substitutes that can be produced at infinitely less cost and effort.”
I don’t often agree with Krauthammer’s views and his animal column is no exception. His breezy attitude on animal biomedical testing does animals no favors. (It’s perhaps only fair to note that I have similar concerns about Alva’s conclusions on animal testing from his 13.7 post published that same day.)
But, still, Krauthammer does a terrific job of awakening people to many issues related to animals’ suffering. And he’s not alone. On April 17, I joined other scientists and activists on the radio show To the Point hosted by Warren Olney, to discuss this question: Is Animal Liberation Going Mainstream? In the 34-minute segment, we discussed the public outcry against SeaWorld’s treatment of orcas, Ringling Brothers’ plan to retire elephants from the circus in three years, and the rightness or wrongness of keeping animals in zoos — all issues brought up by Krauthammer in his column.
But why now? What combination of factors is moving our society at this specific point in time towards greater concern for animal welfare? I posed this question to Lori Marino, executive director for The Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy and, on Monday, she responded by email in this way:
“Most changes in public attitudes are due to the scientific exploration of behavior and cognition in other animals and the translation of that knowledge into the public mindset. Now, more than ever, many people accept that other animals have thoughts, feelings and, indeed, autonomous lives to live. We’re seeing changes in how the public feels about keeping wild animals captive for entertainment and biomedical research, the legal status of other animals with the groundbreaking work of the Nonhuman Rights Project, and in plant-based diets slowly but surely becoming part of the “cultural furniture” in many parts of the world.
So, we can credit science for revealing to us the many complex levels of intelligence and sensitivities in other animals. Of course, science is always a double-edged sword, and the same scientific endeavors which have led to increased awareness of other animals have also opened up new windows of opportunities to exploit many of those same animals.
With our increasing capabilities in genomics, molecular biology, cloning and neuroscience, we are now capable of manipulating other animals in more invasive ways than ever. One need only think about the commercial catalogs for genetically engineered mice, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farmed animals, and the glint of genetic monster-making in the growing efforts at de-extinction. (Science is one aspect of our global exploitation of animals; the commercial market for animal parts and labor, climate change and habitat destruction have forced this planet into the current sixth mass extinction event.)
So the answer to this question depends upon one’s perspective. I wish I could say that the groundswell of increasing awareness and concern for other animals is a global phenomenon. But, I am keenly aware of how my standpoint is shaped by being ensconced in the animal protection world and how cautious I need to be about over-reaching conclusions. Instead, every day I try to see things from the 32,000 foot perspective. When you look from that vantage point the situation is not very encouraging.
Overall, I see two parallel paths into the future. One represents growing understanding, compassion and unity with our fellow animals. The other represents the increasing exploitation and abuse. It is probably too late to turn everything around for the planet. But we can all make a difference for other animals on an individual level and, in the process, maybe salvage the dignity of our own species as well.”
Through Marino’s words, we can see that the answer to “why now” is intimately tied to advances not only in scientific techniques but also in the questions scientists bring with them into the field. It’s a building crescendo: Studies of wild elephants, orcas and chimpanzees reveal that these animals live in layered, complex societies and cooperate in the expression of intelligent and/or emotional acts; those revelations lead in turn to scientists’ deciding to test hypotheses about intelligent and emotional action in other animals. What we’re finding out about fish cognition and sentience alone represents an exciting new development — and new scientific developments make their way into the public consciousness about animals’ lives, as Marino notes.
While I feel that it’s important to celebrate recent strides in animal welfare, including those mentioned by Krauthammer in his column, I also take note of Marino’s bottom-line caution. Invasive, experimental and, in many cases, unethical science on animals continues in traditional ways on species ranging from monkeys to mice, and also in novels ways rooted in modern technologies like cloning and other forms of genetic manipulation.
The best question for animals really isn’t “Why now?” but “What’s next?,” in the sense of “What can we do next to help and protect animals?” One key answer to that question brings us right back to Krauthammer on meat: As a panel of U.S. nutritional experts recommends we can adopt a more plant-based diet.
Barbara J. King, an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary, often writes about human evolution, primate behavior and the cognition and emotion of animals. Barbara’s most recent book on animals was released in paperback in April. You can keep up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape.
April 21, 2015 by Donny Moss
On the topic of our planet’s future, Jane Goodall, the legendary chimpanzee researcher, does not mince words: “How is it possible that the most intellectual creature that has ever walked on planet earth is destroying its only home?” Dr. Goodall, who is 81, spends 300 days year traveling the world in an effort to save it. The biggest problem, she says, is climate change. And the biggest culprit? Animal agriculture.
In a lecture to hundreds of fans in NYC on April 15th, Dr. Goodall explained that agribusinesses are clearing rainforests in the Amazon to graze cattle and grow crops to feed them. Without rainforests – the “lungs of the earth” – the planet’s ability to convert carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, into oxygen is compromised.
Even more harmful than CO2, Goodall said, is the methane gas emitted in cow farts. As developing countries adopt Western diets heavy in animal protein, more methane and CO2 are released into the atmosphere, further warming the planet and jeopardizing our ability to inhabit it.
During her talk, Dr. Goodall described some of the other destructive effects of animal agriculture, including land and water pollution, antibiotic resistance, depletion of fresh water resources and animal cruelty, which is was motivated her to go veg. In a recent interview with the Toronto Globe & Mail, she said, “I became a vegetarian because of the horrendous suffering on factory farms and in abattoirs.”
Jane Goodall paints a grim picture of the state of the planet, but she is hopeful that humans will work together to save ourselves from ourselves. And she offers some advice that each of us can put into action today:
- Go vegetarian.
- Consume less. The more we buy, she argues, the more natural resources we extract from the planet. How much stuff do we really need?
- Improve the environment in our own communities. Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program, which has chapters in 130 countries, is helping people plant trees, clean rivers and perform other community services in their own backyards.
At the end of her presentation, Dr. Goodall showed a video of a newly-released captive chimpanzee hugging her when she emerged from her crate and realized she was home in the jungle. Goodall uses this remarkable event to point out that, as intelligent as chimps are, their brains are far less powerful than those of humans. And she left the audience with a challenge — to harness the brainpower that we’ve used to damage the planet to save it.
We just found out our niece’s 5 year old daughter has decided to go vegetarian. I wonder if it has anything to do with her recent 3-day visit with her vegan grand-aunt and uncle? Apparently she isn’t a big fan of meat anyway.
Sometimes kids have good instincts about that sort of thing.
Possibly under the delusion that he’d spawned the next Kendall Jones, her father wanted to take her, the 5 year old, bear hunting. Hopefully we’ve heard the last of that misguided notion…
There’s a good life beyond beef and after meat
Dr. James McWilliams (link is external)‘ new book called The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals (link is external) is a very thoughtful work about our meal plans in which he covers the ecological and ethical reasons for not eating nonhuman animals (animals), and shows that labels such as “cage free,” “free range,” and “humanely raised” are not necessarily sound and ethical (the Kindle edition can be found here (link is external)). Furthermore, more “personal” backyard farming in which humans form close relationships with other animals who are usually named before they’re killed for food also raises deep ethical questions.
The book’s description captures what Dr. McWilliams’ book is all about: “In the last four decades, food reformers have revealed the ecological and ethical problems of eating animals raised in industrial settings, turning what was once the boutique concern of radical eco-freaks into a mainstream movement. Although animal products are often labeled ‘cage free,’ ‘free range,’ and ‘humanely raised, can we trust these goods to be safe, sound, or ethical? In The Modern Savage, renowned writer, historian, and animal advocate James McWilliams pushes back against the questionable moral standards of a largely omnivorous world and explores the ‘alternative to the alternative’–not eating domesticated animals at all. In poignant, powerful, and persuasive prose, McWilliams reveals the scope of the cruelty that takes place even on the smallest and–supposedly–most humane animal farms. In a world increasingly aware of animals’ intelligence and the range of their emotions, McWilliams advocates for the only truly moral, sustainable choice–a diet without meat, dairy, or other animal products.”
I fully understand that some people will be tempted to write off The Modern Savage as just another radical’s rant about animal rights, how people who eat other animals are “bad people,” etc. etc. However, I hope they don’t do this before reading the book because this is not what this book is all about. And, whether you agree or disagree with Dr. McWilliams’ analyses and messages, I can’t imagine that his book won’t force you to re-evaluate your values and views on the lives of other animals and perhaps discuss them with other people.
Dr. McWilliams also provides a large number of scientific references for his claims about why eating other animals are environmentally and ethically unwise choices, and I hope readers will take his message seriously and at least begin a move away from eating other animals and animal products. The last paragraph of The Modern Savage says it well: “What I’m asking you to imagine is thus a movement that requires us to become more emotionally in ntune with animals, ethically consistent in our behavior, and better informed about the evolutionary heritage we share with sentient creatures. This movement, whether we join it all at once or gradually, with immediate zeal of reluctantly, will, in the end, triumph over industrial agriculture because it will be, above all else, a bloodless revolution based on compassion for animals, the environment, and ultimately ourselves.”
Dr. McWilliams is right on the mark here and throughout his book. It’s clearly true, and solid science clearly shows, that factory farming is not sustainabile and is an utter waste of water, land, other resources, and of course, the lives of billions of animals. The award-winning documentary “Cowspiracy (link is external)” is a great source for viewing these data (link is external) objectively.
When read with an open mind, I think that The Modern Savage could be a game-changer, especially for those who have resisted making changes to their meal plans because they were unaware of the ecological and ethical issues or because they wrote them off as being sensationalist — radical — fiction. They’re not.
Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s story: Saving moon bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring nature no more: The case for compassionate conservation, Why dogs hump and bees get depressed, and Rewilding our hearts: Building pathways of compassion and coexistence. The Jane effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson) has recently been published. (marcbekoff.com; @MarcBekoff)