Meat is Murder? (PART II)

Or is it? – Response to A comment

Thank you all for taking the time to read my piece on veganism and my feelings on the subject. Between Facebook and my blog there has been some excellent resource sharing and thought-provoking comments. I have learned a lot and admire the position and firm stand so many of you take even if I am not willing to go all the way with my diet – perhaps time will change my views further on this. My response to a comment from Heather is below. If you missed the original article you can read it here (Heather’s comment can be read at the bottom of the main article):

https://sapblatt.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/meat-is-murder/

Thanks for taking the time – I appreciate the discussion and commentary – regardless of whether or not I will heed your suggestions.

I clearly see your point that we are capable of feeding the industrialized world without animal products. I have read this in a few places – it takes more energy to create the animal based foods than the food it creates – not very productive. Selfishness, convenience and taste/enjoyment drive a lot of people’s appetites and it certainly factors in my choices.

As for the horrors of the dairy, egg and wool industry – I would like to know the history and development of these industries. I assume in an agrarian society, and pre industrial revolution these practices were not as despicably operated. To me this demonstrates the potential of renewable resources and for humans and farm animals to coexist without killing. Is part of the vegan dogma that all animals should be free? Should all cows, chickens, pigs and other “farm” animals be living in the wild? I have no opinion on this – just wondering what the thought is – obviously there are large quantities of these animals on the planet due to the food industries need for profit. Is 100 % of the dairy industry run this way? Are there small, local, self-sustaining farms? We do not exclusively buy from these farms as it is impractical both financially and logistically. I know the vast majority of dairy farms – or at least dairy products come about in evil ways. I see more of an issue that dairy farm practices need to become more humane, the prices charged need to be fair and not subsidized. People will want milk from humanely run dairy farms, but what do they say when milk is $10/gallon? It is not done properly now – I argue that it should be – and I suppose the pressure from the vegan and general community could help drive these changes. As I told you I will not eat or buy veal – but some research I did shows there are free-range veal farms – of course this does not change the killing portion of the issue. Like milk and cheese – I would imagine the free-range portion of the industry is infinitesimal. Thanks for the link on wool. Exploring the web showed me there is a large ethical wool movement and the industry is now sustainable. I am sure it is a small percentage of the total industry but it is a step in the right direction.

You stated the obvious as you think I did regarding what animals eat. I was projecting the notion that as a species we at times and when it is convenient we strive to help others that are oppressed. World War II comes to mind, as does Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait – but it also extends into the animal world. There are large movements to protect endangered species, veal is regarded as a bad industry by more than the vegan community and baby seal slaughter is despised. So I was positing the idea “should humans be defending the animal world from slaughter from other animals?” I know it is esoteric – it was meant as a thought exercise. I know animals do not have the choice of going to the supermarket – but extinction is a natural part of life (of course, humans have a way of helping the process along) and we see fit to intervene – should we with animals eating animals? I am curious how vegans handle insects and rodents in their homes and on their property? Do you kill ants? If there was a mouse in your pantry would you set traps? Only non killing traps? Would you want animal control to kill a rabid animal that was in your neighborhood? What if a fox has been killing pets in your neighborhood? Not trying to be a wise guy – and I know that a rabid animal is going to die and is a health nuisance and is not a food situation, nor is a rodent a food situation – just curious on the general position held by vegans on these issues .

Environmentalist leaning means that I care about the environment and I operate my life in a less harmful way than many other do. It does not mean I am a fundamentalist in the area – and I question the notion of “all or nothing.” I think improvements are the key – and they are the key to getting more mainstream people into the fold. Think about it – when I was young there were no recycling programs – or at least not readily available and easy to use programs. What did that mean? My family used to throw out batteries, paper, plastic and glass into the trash. Televisions sets and appliances went to the land fill where they would take thousands of years to disintegrate. Before it was easy to get rid of motor oil I knew people who changed their cars oil over the sewer drain in the street – awful. Now it is common place for most people to recycle their paper, plastic and glass waste. People use more and more reusable water bottles and grocery bags – batteries are easy to get rid of easily so we do it.

The same theory holds for animal products. I did some figuring – my house probably goes through less than two pounds of meat and fowl combined per week for a family of four. I figure this as no more than two dinners and two leftover lunches per week out of a total of 21 meals – in other words about 19 % of our food intake is animal flesh based. Over 80 % of our meals are at least more vegetable and grain based – which no matter how you do the math my family is contributing 80 % less to the meat industry pollution than a family that centers all of its meals around meat. There is dairy consumed and there is some seafood. I understand the point that if we are eating so little why not go all the way – but I will not buy the argument that our use of less is not a positive contribution. I would like to think the vegan community would view it as a victory if the western world reduced its meat and dairy consumption by 80 % – my instinct (please tell me if I am incorrect) is that it is for many vegans it is “an all or nothing”, fundamental position that does not want small victories – it is your right to see it in that light. I see a comparison to how President Obama discussed the abortion issue when he was a candidate. He believes that women have a right to privacy and to abortion – but that it is a horrible thing for anyone to have to go through and it would be a huge victory if we could reduce the number of abortions. If religious fundamentalists and government concentrate their energies on preventing unwanted pregnancies the need for abortions would dramatically decrease – which is certainly a positive. When the world works the same way towards the meat and dairy issue we would see large scale reductions in usage which would save farm animal’s lives, over-breeding and pollution and provide a positive impact on people’s health and the environment.

Killing for food is a moral and ethical question – and its application to the animal kingdom is subjective. The vegan position is an admirable one –I understand how its adherents have an all or nothing philosophy and are not interested in reduction of world intake of these products, but on the elimination of them from the food chain. Yes – I am responsible for killing some animals and keeping the meat and dairy industry alive – but I have worked in a positive manner towards significantly lowering the amounts used by my family and will continue to do so. I do care about things besides myself – but I also am not capable of caring for every last person, animal or cause on the planet – it is exhausting and not how I will spend my limited time being alive. The absolutist and fundamentalist aspects that I perceive of veganism work against it as a mainstream lifestyle choice. Veganism would have to become the normal diet to eliminate animals as food from the world. I respect your position but it is not mine. I believe vegans are in a higher moral place than where I choose to reside.

Thank you all for reading – please feel free to comment or share. I am interested in hearing experiences from ex-meat eaters. Take care – Mike.

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16 Responses to “Meat is Murder? (PART II)”

  1. Meat is Murder? « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    […] Meat is Murder? (PART II) […]

  2. Heather Says:

    Lots of questions! I’m totally up for the task 🙂

    The history of factory farming is covered a bit in Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan (not a vegan book) and basically involves wanting to do it faster, cheaper, and in larger quantities. The discovery of nutritional supplements and antibiotics played a major role as CAFOs have wide spread disease, infection, and injury and without daily doses of antibiotics there would be mass death (before they reach the killing floors that is)

    exploitation:
    yes, it is part of the vegan movement that humans cannot ethically own and use non human animals for their personal pleasure and gain any more than we can use other humans. There are varying degrees of this and opinions differ on specifics. some vegans say no to any pets, some say that rescued pets are okay. I personally never say that I own my cats.. i say that I take care of them. The same with my horse. My ex gf offered to help me train the horse and I once saw her hit Velvet with a lead rope. She said it was necessary and I told her that if hurting Velvet for my pleasure (being trained) was the only way to do it then I’d rather not train her. After all, there’s no real *need* to train her.. it’s just something I *want* so that I can handle her which is solely for my pleasure.

    Small dairy farms:
    There are some family owned type dairy farms that do not abuse their cows- however, all dairy cows and the children of dairy cows will eventually go to slaughter and a dairy cow must still give birth to give milk- the baby is often robbed from her (many mamma cows experience severe depression after this). Is this more ethical? Yes. Is it ethical? No. You’re right to say that CAFO’s are the sole reason why animal products are as affordable as they are.

    Human Intervention in wild animals:
    This is an interesting topic and vegans are probably divide don the subject. On one hand, killing all omnivorous or carnivorous animals would, in the long run, result in fewer deaths. On the other hand, we’d have to kill animals which would have otherwise lived long happy lives. There’s also the issue of upsetting ecosystems. It may be an interesting idea to philosophize about, but it’s not really relevant at this moment.

    Environmentalism:
    I never said it was all or nothing- what I pointed out was the huge environmental impact of consuming animal products. You are right that it would be great if the entire world reduced it’s meat consumption by so much although please remember that meat is not the only animal product and you said you own a good deal of leather which is incredibly detrimental to the environment. Still.. better than the average american. And you’re right.. vegans are “all or nothing” in the same way that abolitionists were during slavery. Look at it that way: which is better? Fighting for the right for slaves to be free or fighting for most slaves to be free and maybe beaten less? While many vegans appreciate less consumption you are still participating in cruelty and oppression and death- something we see as egregious and avoidable.

    As you’ve already pointed out- you already realize this and, as I said, I’m glad that you are less a part of standard america.

    I hope I answered all your questions 🙂

  3. sapblatt Says:

    Thanks again Heather – nice work – one last question – you remind me of my nurse mother throwing around the hospital acronyms – what does CAFO stand for?

  4. conradvisionquest Says:

    great discussion! as an evolving vegan, i also have some thoughts…
    firstly, i don’t think in terms of lifestyle changes vegans are “all or nothing.” at least not me. i prefer the definition of veganism as this: “Veganism is way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment.”
    The operative phrase being “as far as is possible and practical.” This means whenever there is a choice, I choose what will cause the least suffering. Yes, of course I kill ants by merely existing and walking around. I can’t avoid that. But I can avoid animal products when I have a choice. I applaud anyone who can make the kinder choice, but there is no one who is 100% vegan in my opinion. You would have to withdraw from society completely. For example, tires and roads are made with animal products, but I still drive my car on the road, with tires. But, if there were not those byproducts from the food animal industry, it would be cheaper to make those things from something else.
    I went from a meat eater, to vegetarian, to vegan in about four months. during this time my philosophies have evolved from believing in the concept of “happy meat” (or the animal welfare approach), to a more abolitionist approach. I don’t think animals are our to be used as we see fit. They are separate beings from ourselves who feel pain and suffering.

    I have more to say, but unfortunately I have to leave this computer… I’ll check back. Thanks for the posts. I believe this dialog is the first step in changing things.
    ~wendy
    http://conradvisionquest.wordpress.com/

  5. sapblatt Says:

    Wendy – thank you so much for reading and commenting. I think I read a few comments of my original essay on the topic (comments were on Facebook) that were rather militant and mean which led me to think the vegan approach was fundamentalist and extreme. You and Heather make nice points about the subject that clearly that is not the feelings of most – and that working towards an ideal is worthwhile. Thanks again!
    Take care
    Mike

  6. Sheila Van Riper Says:

    I’m thinking of going vegan. I am a devout animal lover and I know what goes on in slaughterhouses, although I have not looked at the videos. I already don’t eat veal, and buy cage free eggs. I hae cut way, way down on my red meat consumption and eat mostly chicken, fish and pork sausage. That last one is bad, I know! I am afraid to read “Omnivore’s Dilemma”, or “Food Incorporated.” These things stay with me forever. But perhaps it would make a vegan out of me….

  7. sapblatt Says:

    HI Sheila –
    Thanks for reading and commenting – I hear your struggle – I am the same – eat little meat (funny you should mention sausages – that would probably be the hardest give up for me even though I eat them rarely – it’s an Italian thing…) I also know what goes on and avoid the videos and the books – probably a little mind game that keeps me from making the switch.
    Thanks again
    Mike

  8. conradvisionquest Says:

    sheila and mike, i can totally relate to the feelings you expressed in your comments. for years i thought about becoming vegetarian, but didn’t want to know the truth because then i would have to make the effort to change my eating habits. but after watching “food, inc” i couldn’t ignore it anymore. i went vegetarian that day and it was much easier than i ever imagined. and the effort involved is so worth it.
    ~wendy

  9. Lesley Says:

    Feeding the world a vegetarian only diet is not feasible either. Factory farmed meat is not the only way to go. There are plenty of us who have happy healthy animals raised for consumption that are killed in a more humane way than a bolt to the head or a throat slice.

    Here’s an excerpt from an article all of you might be interested in from Mother Earth News magazine, written by Lierre Keith …..

    “Most of us are now urban industrialists, and many of us don’t know the origins of our food. This includes many vegetarians, despite their claims to the truth. It included me, too, for 20 years. Anyone who ate meat was in denial; only I had faced the facts. Most people who consume factory-farmed meat have never asked what died and how. But frankly, neither have most vegetarians.”

    Life isn’t possible without death, and no matter what you eat, something has to die to feed you. The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. Today’s industrial agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems.

    I want a full accounting, an accounting that goes way beyond what’s dead on your plate. I’m asking about everything that died in the process, everything that was killed to get that food onto your plate. That’s the more radical question, and it’s the only question that will produce the truth. How many rivers were dammed and drained? How many prairies plowed and forests pulled down? How much topsoil turned to dust? I want to know about all the species. Not just the individuals, but the entire species — the chinook, the bison, the grasshopper sparrows and the gray wolves. And I want more than just the number of dead and gone. I want them back.”…….http://www.motherearthnews.com/nature-community/the-truth-about-vegetarianism.aspx

    And to Heather,
    You stated that your horse needs to be trained only for your wishes. As someone involved in horse rescue, I beg you to consider giving your horse the life insurance of being trained in a riding discipline of any kind. With the state of the horse market and the economy in general, if something should happen to you it is highly likely that mare could end up at auction where the only interested buyers are going to be slaughter buyers. There are well trained, good bloodline top dollar horses going on double decker trailers to Mexico every day. If you don’t believe me, check out http://www.fuglyblog.com and check out some of the auction reports and animals that have been saved at the last minute. One of the best ways you can insure your mares future, wether you are in it or not is by making her more valuable with training.

    Your previous trainer may not have been the best to begin with. Horses speak and understand body language the best, you just need to learn how to speak it in equine.

  10. Dan Holway Says:

    Mike, you don’t quite come out and say that you think that killing animals for food is immoral or unethical, but you do end by saying, “I believe vegans are in a higher moral place than where I choose to reside.” So, at the risk of putting words in your mouth, I’ll say that it sounds as if you do believe that killing animals for food is immoral. If that’s true, then how in the world do you justify eating animals at all? If it is actually immoral, eating only a few chunks of animal flesh per week is just as immoral as eating a few more chunks, just as shoplifting a few things is as immoral as shoplifting a bunch more. Seriously, I don’t get it. If I thought that, say, eating a sausage was immoral, I couldn’t “choose to reside” in immorality just because it tastes good.

  11. sapblatt Says:

    Dan –
    Valid point…perhaps immoral is too strong for how I feel…I think it is more desirable to not kill, but the world is not going to from omnivore to vegan overnight – nor am I (many do though). I would rather all of the horrors of factory food did not exist – but it is not enough to make me swear of dairy and meat. I think the pollution and waste problems are helped greatly by a reduction in intake. Obviously if killing animals is wrong it is always wrong…but killing less is also better than killing more…I find the movement and idea interesting and good – but it is not for me.
    Thanks for reading and your thought provoing comment.

  12. Rob Says:

    Lierre Keith rebuttal: http://www.vegetarianmyth.com/

  13. katy Says:

    “Many believe that animals have the right to be free from harm by people. In particular, they believe that animals should not be harmed in food production, clothing production, or medical research. This belief is the product of a misunderstanding of the nature of rights. Philosophers like Peter Singer argue that rights are derived from the capacity to experience pain, and since animals can experience pain just as people can, animals also have the right to be free from harm. However, rights are derived from the capacity to reason, and thus people have rights and animals do not.”

    • sapblatt Says:

      That is one way to look at it…I am not sure if I agree – and as I have said before, I do eat meat – this two part article was something of a thought exercise and exploration.

      If the capacity to reason is all that mattered, and feeling pain was out of the equation would that make the euthanization of mentally incapacitated people acceptable? If these people cannot “reason” can they be slaughtered?

      Interesting stuff to think about as I await my Argentinian chicken sandwich with extra hot sauce.

      Thanks for providing a though provoking comment Katy – much appreciated.
      take care, Mike

      • sapblatt Says:

        Angela – thank you for sharing your thoughts and insight – I like to hear all sides (of course I have an opinion)…I really like Ben’s response to an earlier post on this thread – could not have said it better myself. Please spread the blog around – I would love to be a forum for lots of discussions and again – thank you for participating!
        Take care
        M

  14. When Is It Alright to Kill? « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    […] https://sapblatt.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/meat-is-murder-part-ii/ […]

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