What about vegetarians?

“One of the reasons that going vegan can feel harder than it really is, is because we all have a tendency to baby ourselves a bit more than is probably reasonable when it comes to food and comfort. Far from being just mere nourishment, food is a complex social and cultural good whose emotional attachments are woven through our lives. Because of this, there’s likely a part of all of us that is a bit irrational about our attachments to certain foods, and the emotional ties that we have to food run very deep.

Understanding this relationship between us and the food we eat can help you come to terms with how this might operate in your life. To be clear, we don’t want to you to cut your cultural ties, starve yourself, or otherwise eat things you don’t want to eat. We just want you to shift your comfort foods and cultural traditions to things that won’t needlessly kill other beings.” (Bob and Jenna Torres Ph.D’s and authors of Vegan Freak)

Hey, what about vegetarians? Aren’t they doing their part to boycott the meat industry and looking out for animals too? Arrghhh. Oh boy. This is a tough one that can actually offend more people than if I were talking to omnivores. It is a valid issue to discuss though because I tend to get a lot of questions such as, “What’s wrong with drinking milk?” The fact of the matter is, dairy cows and laying hens often live more miserable lives than cattle or broiler chicken raised exclusively for meat. Weird. I totally think that most vegetarians have good intentions but to be serious (and hopefully not too offensive) and honest, it’s just not really enough. Bob and Jenna Torres in their book, Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in A Non-Vegan World, are a little more blunt “…if you’re a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy and other animal products, you’re part of the problem too.”

Let’s just get this out of the way: do not assume that consuming dairy and eggs does not kill animals. Lives are taken. Intensive animal agriculture production is: “a globalized business that strives to maximize profits on the backs of animals and to achieve the greatest possible efficiencies. With very slim profit margins throughout the industry, producers cannot affort to waste anything, and you can bet that they will not keep animals around who are non-productive. So, first and foremost, this means that the chickens who lay eggs are inevitably slaughtered when their productivity declines beyond a certain point… The only thing the chickens have done to meet such ends is being unlucky enough to be born as a egg-laying hen. In a similar way, the cows who are producing milk meet their end when they fail to “yield” the right averages for the herd; this can be brought on by age, or even an infection or other illness.”

Most dairy cows who have arrived at the end of their so-called “useful” lifespan end up slaughtered many, many years before they would die naturally, after which they are rendered into ground beef and other constituent parts.” (Torres)

Well, what if there was a way to produce dairy and eggs that did not result in the death of billions of animals per year (and thats just in the US)? “…a producer still must confine and control animals to produce these commodities for consumers – consumers which clearly include legions of ovo-lacto vegetarians. Fully the property of another, the animals involved in these forms of production are little more to their owners than living machines for profit, slaves who day in and day out for every single day of their lives suffer solely to fulfill demands extraneous to their own desires and needs.” The myth of a compassionate animal product is just that: a myth.

I sometimes get asked: “Okay, so if you got your meat and dairy from a small family farm would you eat it?” No. Because, while I am completely disgusted with the industry, on a deeper more visceral level, I know that it is not necessary to eat any meat or dairy, even if the meat and dairy came from a small family farm (the few of them that do exist). Because it reinforces the idea of animals are property and exist as a means to our ends. “We own them for them to provide us food and milk.” That rejects the idea, which I believe, that animals exist for their own reasons and have their own interests. And that is the animal abolitionist stance. To take it further, the abolitionist stance vs. the animal welfare position means essentially that the overarching problem is not how we use animals but that we use animals for any human purpose. This includes keeping them on our mythical pastoral family farm. Less than 1% of the animals killed for meat in America come from family farms. There is no loophole for an excuse.

I’m totally digressing from my original topic but this is interesting I promise: Gary Francione says this in his book, Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation, ”We have no moral justification for using nonhuman animals, however “humanely” we treat them. To the extent that we do use animals, it is, of course, always better to cause them less pain than more pain. It is better a rapist not torture the victim in addition to committing the rape. But just as it is not morally acceptable to commit rape even if you do not torture the victim, it is not morally acceptable to use nonhumans as human resources despite how we treat them.” And I realize that is a pretty radical viewpoint. I’ll go into this whole animal abolitionist vs. animal welfarist positions later but that is a little intro pertaining to the consumption of meat and dairy no matter where you’re getting it. I’m not going to get into all this crazy theory right now and it is KILLING me not talking about it but I gotta return to the dairy and vegetarian issue….

People also tend to forget that cows have to be pregnant to produce milk. Dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant by mostly artificial insemination for their entire lives to pump out milk and what also isn’t often taken into consideration is how 50% of her calves are likely male. What happens to those male calves? A lot of the time they are sold to veal producers in which they are chained around the neck and kept in small crates in a dark room where they cannot even turn around and fed a mostly liquid low-protein, iron and fiber diet that prevents them from gaining muscle and keeps them anemic which keeps their flesh tender and more desirable for consumption. They can barely even stand. The more muscle veal calves acquire the pinker their flesh is; the restaurant guest prefers just a hint of pink in the veal which is the result of a calf not being able to move really at all. Low-grade veal is usually used in things like frozen TV dinners. These animals are completely sentient and aware of their surroundings. They are confused and terrified. This is how they will spend their entire lives.

As horrific as this might already sound, imagine having your baby taken away from you almost immediately after birth. Or being forcibly taken from you mother! This is the case for cows as well as sows. After a cow is “spent” she is of course, sent to be slaughtered as stated above by Bob and Jenna. As with any animal farmed for meat or dairy, they are brought into this world solely to be killed for our consumption. We treat them as objects without feelings or desires.

Yikes! But what about eating eggs?”  Also, remember that eggs come from pregnant female hens. Also, the hens usually give birth to 50% males. What happens to them? For egg producers, male chicks are worthless. They are unwanted and definitely unneeded. Male chicks, “are often discarded at birth being ground up alive and used for “raw protein,” or they’re simply thrown in dumpsters to starve and suffocate slowly – an act of unimaginable cruelty.” (Torres)

For laying hens, they are kept in what is called a “battery cage” which is a wire cage which is smaller the size of a piece of paper. Another way to look at it is the hens are packed four to a cage just 16 inches wide. These can often be stacked up to nine tiers high. The birds cannot spread their wings or groom themselves and they suffer massive feather loss and abrasions from being squeezed next to one another. In my post about turkeys I mentioned debeaking as a method used to prevent the birds from pecking each other in their desperate frustration. To reiterate, debeaking is the cutting off of the end of the hen’s beak. This is excruciatingly painful because you must cut through bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. Farm Sanctuary informs us:

“Laying more than 250 eggs per year each, laying hens’ bodies are severely taxed. They suffer from “fatty liver syndrome” when their liver cells, which work overtime to produce the fat and protein for egg yolks, accumulate extra fat. They also suffer from what the industry calls ‘cage layer fatigue,’ and many become ‘egg bound’ and die when their bodies are too weak to pass another egg.

Osteoporosis is another common ailment afflicting egg laying hens, whose bodies lose more calcium to form egg shells than they can assimilate from their diets. One industry journal, Feedstuffs, explains, “…the laying hen at peak eggshell cannot absorb enough calcium from her diet…” while another (Lancaster Farming) states, “… a hen will use a quantity of calcium for yearly egg production that is greater than her entire skeleton by 30-fold or more.” Inadequate calcium contributes to broken bones, paralysis, and death.

After one year in egg production, the birds are classified as ‘spent hens’ and are sent off to slaughter. Their brittle, calcium-depleted bones often shatter during handling or at the slaughterhouse. They usually end up in soups, pot pies, or similar low-grade chicken meat products in which their bodies can be shredded to hide the bruises from consumers.”

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Okay, let us recap why being vegetarian is just as much part of the problem as eating meat:

First, dairy cows are kept constantly pregnant their entire lives to give milk. They either give birth to another potential dairy cow or to a calf who will be sold at auction confused and terrified at the sudden loss of his mother, to be chained in a dark, small, veal crate for his entire life until slaughter to be a menu item in a fancy restaurant. Cows have the same gestation period as a human (nine months but you’re not an idiot) and she is forced to give birth every year. With genetic manipulation, cows give 10x more milk than they would produce a day naturally. 100 lbs. In a healthy environment, cows can live up to 25 years. In the industrial dairy “farm”, she lives only 3-4 years before becoming ground beef. “The abuse wreaked upon the bodies of dairy cows is so intense that the dairy industry also is a huge source of “downed animals” — animals who are so sick or injured that they are unable to walk or even stand. Investigators have documented downed animals routinely being beaten, dragged, or pushed with bulldozers in attempts to move them to slaughter.” -Farm Sanctuary.org

Dairy cows also suffer ailments such as mastitis, which is a bacterial infection affecting the udders and other diseases. Such intensive milk production also causes “Milk Fever” which is caused by severe calcium deficiency when the milk she puts out depletes the calcium faster than she can renew it in her blood. Other ailments can cause her to become lame. The synthetic, Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), is now injected into cows which forces her to produce more milk though also can cause birth defects for calves.

Second, egg laying hens are kept in dark, crowded battery cages where terrible sores accumulate on their feet from standing on wire, their beaks are cut off without any sort of painkiller, they are forced to lay many more eggs than they would naturally (because they too are kept constantly pregnant). Many hens suffer what the industry calls “cage layer fatigue” where they can die in the cages and can remain in there with the other crowded hens. Can you imagine being in a crowded elevator next to a rotting corpse and not be able to escape? Egg laying depletes the hens calcium as well and she can suffer broken legs and paralysis.

Male chicks are immediately disposed of in horrific ways such as being tossed in a dumpster suffocating by  the bodies of other chicks on top of them or incredibly ground up alive in what is essentially the equivalent of a wood chipper.  What is (if you can imagine anything more) fucked up is how these chippers are imperfect and sometimes the entire chick isn’t ground up and is conscious but severely mutilated and left to die.

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Even writing this, I’m shaking with anger. How could we allow this type of cruelty to exist for our tastes? Do you see how I consider this incredibly important to know about? You see, the meat and dairy industries doesn’t want you to know any of this. My sources are almost always from investigators, or ex-factory workers, or ex-USDA employees through other exceptionally credible authors. These places don’t welcome casual visitors, in fact, they rely on people who don’t care at all where their food comes from. I’ll post a list of informative books here soon if you’d like to read more.

Yeah I do feel people are looking at me like I’m a freak sometimes. But fuck it. I am making a logical and informed reaction to all this hidden torture that takes place behind our backs and it’s all in our name. Combat the system that treats animals not as creatures who can feel love and think, but instead as mere engines for the production of profit. “Billions upon billions of animals are killed each year simply for reasons of taste and convenience.”(PLEASE just read Vegan Freak: Being Vegan in A Non-Vegan World . I’ll even let you borrow it and I won’t tell anyone.)

If this whole argument still isn’t getting at least a little reaction or forming an ember of rage inside of you, you COULD just realize that milk and cheese almost always contains some pus. Or that cheese isn’t vegetarian either. Look up rennet.

Or, you could just go vegan already.

Remember: “The world only goes forward because of those who oppose it.” – Goethe

Now for something uplifting!

And what is Farm Sanctuary, anyway? Click Here!

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Filed under ethical veganism, vegetarianism

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