Category Archives: ethical veganism

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.”

HORRORHORRORHORRORHORROR

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.

HORRORHORRORHORRORHORROR

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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RE: work. meat?

I constantly feel like there is an elephant in the room whenever I am at work or talking about my job where my veganism is mentioned with other people. And I was asked twice today by coworkers if I was vegan (both of whom I adore). I absolutely love and respect everyone I work with and all of their craziness (because all of us are crazy in one way or another) but because I am super passionate about this issue and it’s very important to me on a very, very deep level I should address it. Do I feel bad about selling meat at work? Yes. Does my job and livelihood depend on selling meat? Yes. Is it incredibly depressing and angering lying to people so they will buy a chicken or pork special that will make me look good for my bosses and increase my tips? Yes. Do I tell my tables the truth when they ask if I like one chicken dish over another? No, I tell them which is more popular. If they say something like, “Yes, but which do you like best?” I tell them I don’t eat meat. I return home defeated and I take some quiet time by myself before I work on and do research for a possible grad school proposal or I read text that covers animal lib, radical direct action, veganism as a way of life, other political economical bullshit etc. Or I screw around on the internet, play with the cats, watch a movie, and go to bed because I’m too broke to go out mostly.

This might sound really dramatic and I honestly try and not think about it at work and just do my job and do it well. But sure I have to square with myself before I go to bed knowing I support the very industry I speak out against in all this ranting writing, for my livelihood. Do I feel like a complete hypocrite? Yes. Will I be in the restaurant industry a long time? No. Do I feel weird about discussing it at work? Kinda. But only because it’s kinda like discussing it over the dinner table over a meat dish someone is eating. I have no problem talking about veganism and I encourage discussion but at work is not really the place. It tends to make the air uncomfortable. I’m certainly not judging coworkers about their eating habits. We’re all there to make a living and stay somewhat sane while dealing with idiotic drunk customers all day. Everyone everywhere mostly hates work but I love all the ridiculously rad people I am lucky enough to work with. I do feel extremely strong about animal exploitation and I’m pretty damn educated about these issues at this point and I’ll discuss it with anyone anywhere except work.

love,

sarah

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So, it has been awhile…

In almost every blog I read on the internets, if the author hasn’t updated said blog in awhile an explanation is required and often times an apology that she has had her devoted “followers” waiting with bated breath and hungry for more news and enlightening dialogue. Hah! I hardly believe this is the case for me and therefore I will not provide any explanation or apology that I haven’t updated in over a month! Fuhhgettaboutit! In all seriousness though, I had to take a step back from my previous posts and look inward for a bit. I had to reexamine the methods I was using to explain what and why I’m writing this blog.  I needed to do much more research (on everything really) and what I’m most interested in and what has been a big factor in changing my life; animal abolitionism.

(note: most underlined words are links)

I know at the conclusion of many of these posts I promise to continue on a certain subject and then I haven’t/don’t. I think it’s because at the moment I write it, I truly believe I have gathered enough information and thoughts to continue on to another post. This hasn’t exactly been the case. Or I somehow lost my writing groove and/or get distracted or too busy or I’m out of town etc.

However, I really will write a second post having to do with the exploitation of slaughterhouse workers but it probably won’t be the exclusive subject. I did also mention an upcoming post on Walter Bond (or other direct action activists that are doing or have done prison time such as the ever illustrious Peter Young) that I may have been working on. Well, I haven’t worked on one at all. Nevertheless, I have been doing a lot of research on direct action and the non-organizational (albeit, this can be argued) Animal Liberation Front. This includes an enormous amount of time spent in front of my computer and on the couch surrounded by books in the late night/early morning hours reading the large array of information on this subject. Hold that thought.

I know I wanted to make sure I put some personality into this blog and really make it “alive.” I know that a good amount of research is essential but I wanted to elaborate on somewhat of a slow personal transformation that has taken place within me for the past few months.

The decision to become vegan in my life to the greatest extent possible was a huge change though easier than I predicted. In fact, I want to just mention to whoever is thinking it is extremely difficult to be vegan; that it is so easy! If you truly care about animals and it makes sense then the rest is almost effortless. Though it is easy, of course you must do a certain amount of research to make sure you are getting all your healthy vitamins and all that good stuff. Yes. Also, a vegan lifestyle beyond food is a change in itself and requires you to read labels in the store and to know even how these companies phrase not testing on animals to truly determine if they’re full of shit of not.

There are numerous online resources to help you do this. And it all depends on how far you want to take your veganism. For me, the decision was to abstain from any animal products to the greatest extent possible. In addition to not eating animal products, everything from toothpaste (also must be without animal ingredients) to not eating honey or wearing wool also applies. That is one thing that is tricky as well. How do you know if animal ingredients are in a product when it doesn’t spell it out for you at the bottom in bold? Again, there are numerous online sources (and even books but that is an unnecessary expense considering the value of the internet,) that tell you exactly the ingredients to watch out for. For instance, lanolin, which is found in some lotions, is obtained from the fat extracted from sheep’s wool. Mohair, which is found in some clothing like sweaters, is made from the hair of an angora goat. Casein, which is fairly common, is milk protein. Cholesterol is in itself is all animal fats, oils, nervous tissue, egg yolk and blood. Others are painfully obvious like mink oil, down, gelatin, guanine, keratin (maybe not so obvious but is a form of protein found in hair, hooves, horns and feathers.) Pepsin is an enzyme usually derived from the stomach of calves or sometimes pigs etc. The point is some of these ingredients are sneaky. However, don’t let that scare you because you learn to recognize companies and logos (think the bunny icon on the bottle), which tell you what you can trust.

What is so effortless about all that research, you say? Look, when it makes sense to you, when you are aware of all the horrific suffering that takes place to acquire these animal products in our name, which are not necessary for you to survive, but only for human taste, entertainment, and convenience, you seemingly unknowing have adopted a new way of thinking. I’m getting a little ahead of myself but for me; veganism is a political and ethical stance that explicitly rejects the method of thought that animals exist as a means to our ends. When you truly believe in something like that, everything else like research and all that IS effortless. As I said, when it makes sense, there is no going back. Animals deserve equal consideration in the moral community. Again, getting ahead of myself. So where am I anyway?

I really want avoid getting all vegangelical up in here. However, as a disclaimer, it may seem like such but I assure you that my goal is to live by an example of a happy and healthy vegan who is informed and desires to inform others. A blog can serve as a platform for this though it is not an advertisement for veganism. While I may think its fucking fabulous that you may decide to check veganism out after either reading this or may find you’re inspired to do your own research; that isn’t entirely my goal.

I was listening to the podcast “Vegan Freak Radio” hosted by the authors Bob and Jenna Torres and they were discussing the conversations that tend to come up with non-vegans whist discussing veganism and there are truly people you talk to who are curious about what you’re doing and why and would like to know more. However, there are those who find delight in dangling meat in front of your face or making other juvenile remarks and who get downright hostile and argumentative. Bob looks at these situations as triage, explaining that you can ask yourself, “is it really worth spending thirty minutes of my time explaining my veganism to someone who isn’t remotely interested in going vegan and is rather just looking to argue?” No. It is not. On the flipside, it may be worth it to civilly discuss the topic (preferably NOT over the dinner table) with someone genuinely interested who may consider going vegan after gaining more information and insight. Rad! I’m totally up for that shit let’s do it up!

People who tend to get rude and argumentative I look at in two ways: first, I believe that these people get very defensive because they themselves may be reluctantly considering what they are doing may actually be morally wrong so they must fiercely kick out at you because of this. Second, they are assholes that thrive on ridiculing people who are different than themselves. I feel sorry for those sorts but again, triage.

This is not to say that there aren’t people in between these two extremes. Think about your friends. No doubt, some of them may be uncomfortable with your new decision especially if you speak freely about your reasons. I feel this way sometimes and I’m still sort of shy going full force discussing it so the best way is to live how I live and if the conversation comes up so be it. I did have a very cool conversation with a friend of mine today who I greatly respect and I think she’s so incredibly badass and intelligent. She was making this wonderful homemade pasta sauce with green and red peppers, fresh tomatoes, onion, and zucchini. Delish. Anyway, it was a respectful conversation where I carefully went into my reasons from abstaining from anything derived from an animal and she admitted she’s like to learn more vegan cooking even though she will probably never give up meat but that she thought it was cool I was standing up for something I believe in. And hey we’re still friends. This is all very cool. There are no doubt friends of mine and coworkers who probably look at me in a different light and some of them are cool with it and some of them may quietly pull away from their “radical vegan” friend and have trouble relating to me. I sense that. If asked, I have no hesitation about telling the truth and explaining my reasoning.  I have absolutely no intention of making people feel uncomfortable or being viewed as trying to make them feel guilty. That’s all silly and gross.

Side note: If you are vegan for the love of GOD don’t wear a t-shirt that says something pretentious and obnoxious like “Vegans Taste Better,” or “Vegans Fuck Better,” or “I’m Vegan Because My Body Is Not a Graveyard!” Or really any shirts that PETA or PETA2 carry. They give the intelligent and mindful vegans a REALLY bad name. Almost as foolish as the “Save a Cow Eat a Vegan” or “Meat is Murder (tasty murder),”or,  “If it’s got a face I’ll eat it.” GAG.

To wrap up this rather disjointed update: I’m ready to update more now that I have more of a handle on how to explain my intentions.

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