|By: Colin Ruloff | Reading time: 15 minutes|
|I used to eat animals but I no longer do. I gave up the practice about six years ago. When confronted by my meat-eating friends about why I’ve given up eating animals, it’s tacitly assumed that I’m expected to provide an argument or present reasons for why eating animals is wrong. But why, I ask myself, do I have to present reasons for why eating animals is eating wrong? Surely the burden of proof is with my meat-eating friends to show that eating animals is somehow OK. After all, they’re the ones that are choosing to eat a once-sentient being. So, let’s ask: Are there any good reasons for eating animals?|
|Before we try to answer that question, it’s worth briefly describing where our meat comes from. |
The vast majority of meat, dairy, and eggs produced in the United States and Canada come from animals raised on factory farms. A “factory farm” is a large-scale, high-intensity, industrial complex that breeds and raises large numbers of animals so that we can harvest their meat, milk, and eggs for consumption.
|EXPLORING ANIMAL SENTIENCE|
Billions of animals are raised and killed for food around the world each year. Although the majority of people consider them food, research shows that farmed animals are intelligent and emotionally complex, like dogs, cats, and other animals that so many of us see as companions.Animals Are More Sentient Than You Think: Ethologist Jordi Casamitjana says we can see animals are sentient because “they can feel, experience, and judge, and once they have judged, they can behave accordingly.”
Why, then, is it hard for us to see all animals as sentient beings? “In a world where animal exploitation is heavily entrenched in most aspects of all human societies, commercial and cultural forces constantly work to deny the quality of sentience to non-human animals. Even when today’s science clearly shows most animals are sentient, this denial is mainstream,” writes Casamitjana, who is the author of “Ethical Vegan: A Personal and Political Journey to Change the World.”
Chickens Are Smart (and Yes, They Can Suffer): Chickens are widely considered to be unintelligent, possibly because we view these birds as food animals. In fact, chickens account for 95 percent of the animals farmed for food globally. But research shows these birds are smart, can show empathy, and are capable of feeling pain.
Jennifer Mishler explores what we know about the minds of chickens, considering information from experts such as Dr. Lori Marino, to answer the questions: “How smart are these birds, and what might they be thinking and feeling?”
Sentience: What It Means and Why It’s Important: As our name suggests, sentience is at the heart of what we do at Sentient Media. Dr. Jane Kotzmann weighs in on what it means.
“‘Sentient’ is an adjective that describes a capacity for feeling. The word sentient derives from the Latin verb sentire, which means ‘to feel,’” writes Kotzmann. “Sentient beings experience wanted emotions like happiness, joy, and gratitude, and unwanted emotions in the form of pain, suffering, and grief.
Kotzmann believes animal sentience is being increasingly recognized, which makes it a worthy topic of discussion in any circle. If we can simply agree “that sentient beings are capable of experiencing pain and suffering,” she writes, “most humans would further agree that it is morally wrong to inflict unnecessary pain or suffering.”
Study: Emotional Well-Being of Cows Is Harmed by Denying Outdoor Access: A new study conducted by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and published in the journal Scientific Reports found that cows are less happy if kept indoors. Furthermore, the researchers found that being outside allowed the cows to engage in behaviors natural to them—concerning, given the confinement they experience on factory farms.
“Pasture access can promote natural behavior [and] improve cows’ health, and cows, given the choice, spend most of their time outside. However, the effects of pasture access on dairy cows’ psychological well-being have been poorly understood—that is what our judgment bias study intended to measure,” said Dr. Gareth Arnott.
Read more from Sentient Media.We’re reporting the truth about animal agriculture. Your donation fuels our work.
|Animals in factory farms are typically packed into confinement facilities. Broiler chickens, for instance, are crammed into massive windowless warehouses, and are denied fresh air, sunshine, and pasture. These sheds contain anywhere from 10,000 to 50,000 birds. Sows are confined to small metal crates on concrete slatted floors with no straw or bedding to lie on and without fresh air or sunlight.|
When the animals are ready to be harvested they are then crammed onto eighteen-wheelers and shipped on multiday journeys to the slaughterhouse without food or water. Once they arrive, they are in a weakened physical and psychological state. The animals are hungry and exhausted, confused and frightened. Once inside the slaughterhouse, the animals are jammed into metal shackles, strung upside down (which often causes the breaking of limbs), and brought to the slaughterer.
OK, enough of the gruesome details. Let’s return to the question I posed at the outset: are there any good reasons for eating animals? More exactly, the question I want to ask is this: is it OK to inflict intense suffering on factory-farmed animals so that we might eat them?
I’ve encountered quite a few arguments that try to show that it’s OK to inflict suffering on factory-farmed animals; but instead of examining all of them, I’ll just focus on the four or five arguments that most people find persuasive.
Read the full story here.
ON TUESDAY, musician, author, and noted vegan, Moby, tweeted:
“A reminder: in a vegan world there would be no pandemics. 100% of pandemics are zoonotic in origin. #veganforlife.”MORE LIKE THISMIND AND BODY3.24.2021 4:01 AMINTERMITTENT FASTING: THE 3 THINGS NOBODY TELLS YOU BEFORE YOU BEGINBy SOPHIE PUTKAMIND AND BODY3.22.2021 6:00 AMGUT DISCOVERY EXPLAINS ANOTHER CRUCIAL ASPECT OF HEALTHBy SOPHIE PUTKAMIND AND BODY3 HOURS AGOWHY ARE TEETH SENSITIVE TO COLD? THE ANSWER MAY LEAD TO NEW PAIN TREATMENTSBy SOPHIE PUTKAEARN REWARDS & LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY.SUBMIT
While it’s might be easy to dismiss his statement as a celebrity weighing in on a subject about which he has no expertise, it is reasonable to question how our relationship to animals might be contributing to pandemics. Our current pandemic, after all, is hypothesized to be the result of a virus that jumped from an animal species to humans — likely a bat.
It’s unquestionably true that our relationship to animals plays a big part in whether or not pandemics happen, Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, tells Inverse. But it’s not the physical consumption of the animal that’s usually the problem, Adalja says — it’s how we live and how the animal ends up on our plate.
“It’s not getting a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A that’s causing bird flu to be an issue,” Adalja says. “It’s the way we raise it.”
As humans, we’re animals on a planet with other animals — it’s inevitable that we’re going to interact with species other than our own. “You can get bitten by a raccoon and get rabies, not because you were going to eat it, but just because you happened to encounter it in the wild,” Adalja says.
In fact, there are a number of really damaging diseases that have nothing to do with eating animals, even though those diseases can be transferred through animal vectors. For example, malaria is transmitted by mosquitos and Lyme disease is transmitted from deers to humans by ticks. It’s the “no pandemics” element of Moby’s message that’s the most incorrect.
CAN GOING VEGAN STOP ANIMAL DISEASE SPREAD?
What matters more than eating animals is how we’re interacting with animals.
Although it’s true that most of the recent diseases found in humans in recent decades are pathogens that jumped from animals to humans, there’s actually a lot that needs to go right in order for an animal borne-pathogen to become a human pandemic.
There are a few hurdles any pathogen needs to be able to accomplish before it becomes a pandemic in humans, Adalja explains.
- It needs to be able to jump from an animal to a human effectively
- Once in the human, it needs to cause some kind of disease
- That disease needs to be contagious (humans have to be able to pass it to each other effectively)
Throughout history, there have been sporadic outbreaks that “came and went on their own” after a pathogen jumps from animals to humans, Adalja explains.
The difference now, he says, is how we live. And that’s more complicated than just whether or not we consume animals or animal products.
“As humans, we evolved to be omnivores,” Adalja says. “10,000 years ago, there were no vegans. There were also no pandemics.”
WHAT CAUSES PANDEMICS
Other than the fact that many humans still eat animals, everything else about how we live has changed since 10,000 years ago. We transitioned from a hunter-gatherer society to an agricultural society. We started having more people living in one place and population density begins to increase.
Adalja says that humans also, “started going to the bathroom where they lived and domesticating animals.” But even then, we didn’t start seeing the really big pandemics until industrialization.
“10,000 YEARS AGO, THERE WERE NO VEGANS. THERE WERE ALSO NO PANDEMICS.”
That doesn’t mean there were no plagues (the plague of Athens might have something to say). But even the Black Death in the mid-1300s was largely the result of population density, urbanization, and people interacting with each other more — not animal consumption.
Now, we’re more packed into spaces than we ever have been. And while our hygiene and understanding and treatment of diseases is infinitely better than it was in the 1300s, there’s one really big difference that adds to our pandemic risk: how small our world has become.
“An outbreak that happens on one side of the globe can get to the other side of the globe before you have even noticed it,” Adalja says. “And that’s what happened with Covid-19.”
Globalization, the rise of megacities, and increased population density have increased the rates and severity of pandemics more so than consuming animals and animal products, Adalja says.
IS THERE ANY LINK BETWEEN EATING MEAT AND PANDEMICS?
In some ways, yes. Our consumption of animals isn’t entirely unrelated to some pandemics, and, when it is related, it’s important to understand how we can change our behavior to minimize risk as much as possible.
Some studies suggest we could further reduce our risk of some pandemics by changing the way we farm animals. This is especially true for influenza viruses stemming from birds. A 2008 study looking at biosecurity and farming explains, “The high throughput and confinement of highly concentrated animal populations increases the intensity of microbial exposures for farmers, their families, farmworkers, veterinarians, and others in contact with these operations.”
A different study from 2008 stresses the importance of biosafety measures and educating workers, especially poultry workers, about best practices. The study, published in Public Health Reports, concludes:
“Critical components of worker protection include educating employers and training poultry workers about occupational exposure to avian influenza viruses. Other recommendations for protecting poultry workers include the use of good hygiene and work practices, personal protective clothing and equipment, vaccination for seasonal influenza viruses, antiviral medication, and medical surveillance.”
Adalja agrees. “Most of the time, those transmission events can be minimized if you just actually practice biosafety,” he says. “That might mean if you’re butchering an animal, you’re washing your hands, or not doing it with open arms, or rubbing your eyes or doing whatever it might be.”
Global monitoring and transparency would also go a long way to preventing potential pandemics by stopping the disease locally before it has a chance to spread as much as Covid-19 did.
Meanwhile, there’s always tofu.
|By: Nico Stubler & Elan Abrell | Reading time: 5 minutes|
|On March 11, U.S. Senator Cory Booker and U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Bennie Thompson (D-MS) reintroduced the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act, which would suspend all current and future waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that allowed slaughterhouses to increase slaughter line speeds during the COVID-19 pandemic. While the successful passage of this bill could be an improvement over current conditions at many slaughterhouses, it is just a start.|
|Big Meat—like Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma—is a ravenous exploitation machine pursuing profits at any cost. It readily treats its workers, the public’s health, and the environment with the same sacrificial logic as it treats the billions of terrestrial animals it farms and kills every year.|
It is clear that adequately addressing the harms of this industry requires ambitious policies that confront the problem head-on, such as banning the sale of meat altogether.
|FACTORY FARMING AND ITS OPPONENTS|
Industrial farms claim the lives of billions of animals around the globe each year to feed the global demand for meat.U.S. Meat Consumption Is Growing at an Alarming Rate: Despite an increasing number of companies producing meatless alternatives and growing interest among consumers in plant-based products, U.S. meat consumption is growing.
“As of 2017, America had the second-highest meat consumption in the world, surpassed only by Hong Kong,” writes Caroline Christen, who explores the questions: “How much meat do Americans eat, and what are the impacts of their meat consumption?”
Factory Farming Is on the Rise, But Communities Are Fighting Back: “The number of animals being raised in intensive confinement has increased significantly in the last decade alone,” writes Claire Hamlett. “This uncontrolled expansion is now a major driver of environmental destruction and pollution and a significant threat to public health,”
Yet, in the face of the industry’s growth, communities are turning against factory farming and taking action.
Why Protein Isn’t a Problem for Vegans: Among the most common questions vegans hear are, “How do you get your protein?” Yet, research shows that protein deficiency is not a problem among vegans.
Not only can vegans easily incorporate plant-based sources of protein into their diets, but Matthew Chalmers writes, “In the developed world, rather than failing to meet the daily requirement of protein, many exceed the necessary daily intake of protein by a substantial amount—the average intake of an American adult is around 90 grams of protein per day. This in itself can have bad outcomes for one’s health.”
Can Veganism Help End World Hunger?: Although veganism alone cannot solve the problem of hunger around the world, which as Matthew Chalmers writes, is “an issue that primarily hinges around the distribution of food and not necessarily the creation of it,” it could be part of the solution.
“The widespread adoption of a vegan diet would have enormous positive implications for the globe, freeing up large quantities of land and producing more food with fewer resources,” writes Chalmers.
Read more from Sentient Media.We are reporting the truth about secretive animal agriculture. Your donation fuels our work.
|The industry’s cruel response to the COVID-19 pandemic has in many ways highlighted the extent to which it is willing to sacrifice its workers.|
Slaughterhouses quickly emerged as epicenters of infection, and subsequent reports reveal Big Meat intentionally concealed early cases while continuing to force employees to work closely together without protection.
Just as the industry has become a leader in human rights violations and public health threats, so too has it become one of the most significant threats to the environment. Commonly cited reports from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimate that Big Meat contributes anywhere between 14.5 percent and 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Given both the quantity and quality of these collective harms, it is not a stretch to say that the animal industrial complex’s hyper-externalization of all these costs onto the public and the environment has brought us to the brink of multiple disasters.
Read the full story here.
Not-so-jolly ranchers in Colorado are up in arms after the state’s governor Jared Polis dared to declare an official flesh-free holiday to encourage people to go plant-based for just one day. Why so threatened? Let’s discuss.
What a difference a day makes – that’s what cow farmers in the US state of Colorado are saying this week following the news that state governor Jared Polis officially declared March 20 as #MeatOut Day, as reported by Plant Based News.
Considering we’re bombarded with meat propaganda the other 364 days of the year, one would think that animal farmers would be able to chill a bit and let arable farmers have their day in the spotlight. After all, it’s not as if that $1 in every $365 wouldn’t be going to any food producers.https://www.youtube.com/embed/uu3mdWsM0Dk?wmode=opaque&enablejsapi=1
But let’s not feign naivety as MeatOut Day was started almost 40 years ago by Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) to promote “conversation questioning the consumption of animal products around the world” and “remind us of animal agriculture’s devastating impact to the animals, our health, and the environment” according to their website.
The vegan agenda is pretty clear so it is little wonder that animal farmers are on the offensive when their elected state commander-in-chief officially legitimises everything we’ve been saying. By signing up to MeatOut Day, Colorado has effectively declared its agreement with the following points made in the MeatOut proclamation:
- Removing animal products from our diets reduces the risk of various ailments, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, various cancers, and diabetes;
- A plant-based diet helps protect the environment by reducing our carbon footprint, preserving forests, grasslands and wildlife habitats, and reduces pollution of waterways;
- A growing number of people are reducing their meat consumption to help prevent animal cruelty;
- Since MeatOut was launched in 1985, more than 35 million Americans have explored a plant-based diet and reduced their consumption of meat, dairy, and eggs; and major food manufacturers and national franchises are marketing more vegan options in response to this growing demand.
“The world is changing, dying even, and animal agriculture is a leading cause of that. You may have lost your chill, but others are losing their lives.”
Just yesterday we reported on the news that eating animal products was linked to a greater risk of developing nine of 25 most common non-cancerous diseases responsible for hospitalisations. As well as being on the WHO’s list of Group 1 and Group 2A carcinogens, eating meat three or more times a week can increase your chances of developing ischaemic heart disease, pneumonia, diverticular disease, colon polyps, diabetes, gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, gastritis and duodenitis, diverticular disease, gallbladder disease, and diabetes
As for the environmental impact of animal farming, and cow farming in particular, leading think tank Chatham House recently released a report to its many NGO, corporate and governmental members in which it states that “global dietary patterns need to converge around diets based more on plants, owing to the disproportionate impact of animal farming on biodiversity, land use and the environment”.
Polis has been branded a betrayer of cattle ranchers, with Plant Based News also reporting that the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association is fighting back by asking people to join in with ‘Meat In Day’ on the same day. Nevermind that meat is in every other day of the year thanks to the status quo.
The Association said that the goal of Meat In Day was to promote the “benefits of meat consumption” and also “patronize our local businesses, and restaurants, that’ve (sic) been deeply affected by the economic struggles of COVID-19”.
We sympathise and don’t doubt that local businesses are struggling as a result of Covid-19 – which emerged as a result of humans eating non-humans – but just imagine how they’ll fare when the next, more deadly pandemic strikes. H5N8 is just the latest strain of bird flu to jump from animals to humans as a result of farming, which creates the perfect conditions for the emergence of new zoonotic diseases, and we’re only a few mutations away from another 1918 flu pandemic.
There are few if any benefits of eating animals other than fueling an industry that generates profits from promoting devastating illnesses, environmental destruction and the exploitation of sentient beings. As for local businesses and restaurants, MeatOut Day is if anything an opportunity to showcase a variety of options and versatility in adapting to a changing world.
The same goes for any cattle ranchers reading this. The world is changing, dying even, and animal agriculture is a leading cause of that. You may have lost your chill, but others are losing their lives.
Andrew Gough is Media and Investigations Manager at Surge.
By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
“As bad as it is to use euphemisms, it seems even worse when a word like ‘meat’ isn’t even thought of as a euphemism by people.” – Mike Spurlino
“The word meat is likely the most overused euphemism of them all.” – Craig Cline
Drawing by Leslie Goldberg. “With friends like these . . .”
When asked in the past if I ate meat, I used to say “No.” When pressed whether this included chicken and fish, I said “Yes.” Now when the question comes up, I say, “I don’t eat animals.”
In 1974 I stopped eating animals after reading Leo Tolstoy’s essay describing his visit to a Moscow slaughterhouse. Before that, I was, I regret, an avid meateater. I did not make the connection, before Tolstoy’s essay, between “meat” and animals. That essay, “The First Step,” changed everything. I instantly became one of those people who, in the words of former chicken slaughterhouse worker Virgil Butler and his partner Laura Alexander, “could no longer look at a piece of meat anymore without seeing the sad face of the suffering animal who had lived in it when the animal was still alive.”
Picturing the face of an animal in a piece of meat after Tolstoy’s revelation, I felt sick of meat, and now I am sick of the word “meat.” Why?
“Meat” versus “Flesh”
Philosopher John Sanbonmatsu writes in “Why ‘Fake’ Meat Isn’t“: “Only in recent decades have we come to associate the word ‘meat’ exclusively with the flesh of animals. The word derives from the Old English mete, for food, nourishment or sustenance.”
But do we in fact associate the word “meat” with the flesh of animals in modern industrial society? I think we do not. The word “meat” in contemporary experience is separate from the animals the “meat” comes from, whatever its association with animals and their flesh at a time when raising and slaughtering animals was an integral part of everyday life on farms and in cities and towns.
Unlike “meat,” the word “flesh” conjures more readily the fact of a once living creature. While the meat from an animal is indeed dead flesh, it evokes less an animal’s body and more just food, whatever the food’s origin. “Flesh” is more complex and inclusive by comparison. By standard definition, it is “the soft substance consisting of muscle and fat that is found between the skin and bones of an animal or a human.”
Consider further that in the Bible, “flesh” is not just a synonym for meat; rather, it encompasses living creatures, seemingly of all species, as in Isaiah 40.5: “And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.”
Forgetting “Meat” is Dead
So detached from the animals from whom “meat” is obtained are most people in modern society that I believe few even think about meat as something that is dead. What starts as the conscious employment of euphemism by exploiters and market manipulators morphs through conventional usage into a nearly or completely unconscious linguistic and perceptual event, similar to how the animals are transubstantiated literally into edible products called “meat,” divorced from living creatures and the violence that meat represents.
An article in the February 1, 2020 issue of TIME magazine, “How China Could Change the World by Taking Meat Off the Menu,” says that “Until recently, the primary motivation for people to shun meat was concern for animal welfare. Not anymore.” This article provides an encouraging look at the growing appeal of plant-based foods in industrialized countries. But, I wonder, when were the majority of people motivated to shun meat out of concern for animal welfare? Animal rights activist Cynthia Cruser wrote to me that the article “mentioned animal welfare only once, and referred to it as some irrelevant passé subject which has been replaced by really important matters.”
Animal Welfare, Animals’ Rights, Animal-Free
Indeed, the term “animal welfare” is itself a euphemism, akin to a dead metaphor, “which has lost the original imagery of its meaning by extensive, repetitive, and popular usage.” But the euphemism “animal welfare” is not only dead: it’s a lie that reduces the animals and their human-caused misery to an abstraction that amounts to nothing more at best than abusing animals less abusively, less traumatically, less horribly.
Those who speak approvingly of “animal welfare” compound the problem by defining it illogically as treating the animals “more humanely.” But you cannot treat animals who by definition are being treated inhumanely, “more humanely.” Animal welfare is an institutionalized term referring to animal use that, as such, precludes the animals so used from truly faring well.
Even the term “animal rights” can obstruct the animals from view. For this reason, Veda Stram, managing editor of the All-Creatures.Org newsletter and website, has proposed a shift from speaking of “animal rights” to saying “animals’ rights” in order to keep the animals in sight.
Of course, we can’t always avoid the term “meat” in our advocacy, but we could say flesh a little more often than we do, and we could put the animals into discussions of food more frequently. That said, it’s wonderful seeing the words “vegan” and “plant-based” appearing more and more often on food, household, and personal care products. Time was when these terms never appeared in a supermarket.
In addition to “vegan,” “plant-based,” and “plant-powered,” I like to call vegan products animal-free. This puts the animals into focus and links them to the concept of liberation – their liberation and ours. “Free” conveys a welcome release from all sorts of captivity: Animal-free, egg-free, dairy-free, meat-free sound inviting, compared with “eggless,” “meatless,” and the like, which evoke blandness and deprivation.
Knowing Where Your Food Comes From
Thinking about putting the faces of animals back into the “meat” as an escape from euphemism and the dissociation of meat from animals, I’m aware that this project is also that of people who, in the opposite direction, enjoy slaughtering their own animals. Such people describe their pleasure in turning a living creature into something dead. They refuse “not knowing where your food comes from” and tout their liberation from such ignorance.
Similarly, the belief that “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarian” is contradicted by people who prefer to select their own animals to be killed in front of them or behind a blood-spattered curtain in a live or “wet” animal market. They are not deterred by the sight or smell of suffering or the cries of the animals being slaughtered. Asked about it, they state a preference for this experience over buying meat in a supermarket.
One Day, All Flesh May Be Free
There is no shortcut to getting the majority of people to care enough about the animals who suffer and die for food to stop eating them on that account alone, whether the animals are visible or invisible. It’s exasperating, but we cannot succumb to frustration. Rather than give up, we must realize that the journey toward animal liberation has only just begun, and that we must stay the course in pursuit of the day when all flesh will, with our persistence, we hope, see this glorious day together. – Karen Davis
KAREN DAVIS, PhD is the President and Founder of United Poultry Concerns, a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl including a sanctuary for chickens in Virginia. Inducted into the National Animal Rights Hall of Fame for Outstanding Contributions to Animal Liberation, Karen is the author of numerous books, essays, articles and campaigns. Her latest book is For the Birds: From Exploitation to Liberation: Essays on Chickens, Turkeys, and Other Domesticated Fowl (Lantern Books, 2019).