Hey all –
Just felt compelled to offer an observation about a recent news item. As usual, I find myself cringing slightly, because I take no pleasure in the prospect of coming across like a snooty vegan abolitionist. But hey…somebody has to do it, right?
Seriously, it seems that whenever there’s any kind of legislation, formal declaration or mainstream media coverage about the potential “improved treatment” of farm animals, everyone gets a hard-on, and all the pro-animal/vegan websites and blogs light up like the White House Christmas tree.
The latest case in point concerns a news item from across the pond. Europe just announced that, in accordance to an article in the Lisbon Treaty, all animals, including fish and farm animals, shall be recognized as sentient beings.
For the record, the article states: “In formulating and implementing the Union’s agriculture, fisheries, transport, internal market, research and technological development and space policies, the Union and the Member States shall, since animals are sentient beings, pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals, while respecting the legislative or administrative provisions and customs of the Member States relating in particular to religious rites, cultural traditions and regional heritage.”
Oh. I see. So you will continue to kill and exploit them, but just recognize that they are, in fact, sentient…as if this is some major news flash.
Sarcasm aside, the headline sounds promising. “Cool,” one might say. “This is real progress. They are at least beginning to recognize that all of these animals are thinking and feeling beings.” And with that, those who are in support of welfare causes might deduce that certain issues should be easier to argue to the legislators (and others) in the future. But actually, I feel like this is just another in a growing collection of fruitless animal welfare mirages that have been getting a lot of eyeballs these past few years.
Yes – I’m glad when any entity declares the truth about something that they denied before…such as “animals are sentient beings.” Yes – this is a step in the right direction in terms of how big industry might regard animals in the future. And yes – I would agree that any time any of these welfare issues hit the mainstream consciousness, that consciousness has a chance to expand. And I’m all for expanded consciousness. However, this “expanded consciousness” often morphs into a collective sense of resolve, especially where many folks who are new to these issues are concerned. What I have continued to witness, first-hand and otherwise, is a general consensus that goes something like this: “Great! They are going to be treating animals more humanely! We can now enjoy our burgers, omelets, chicken breast and milk, guilt free!”
This perspective is real. I’ve seen this happen over and over with people who might have otherwise explored more plant-based food choices, once they were exposed to the truth about where their beloved animal products came from. But all of this coverage, and all that it infers – combined with the kettle-banging endorsements of some of our biggest animal advocacy groups like the HSUS and PETA – create a context of end-game celebration. Why focus on veggie burgers or soy milk when we can now have the “real thing?”
The saddest irony in all of this is that these supposed improvements are embarrassingly negligible in terms of how they truly impact an animal’s life. And real change in factory farming? Are you shittin’ me? “Free range,” “cage free” and “humane slaughter” are all still unbearably cruel, and all of those animals involved with these processes are still going to die. So, how in the hell will these gigantic, multi-billion dollar, corporate-based factory farm operations be able to make a difference…even if they wanted to? They won’t. Trust me. For them to implement any significant change where the suffering of animals is concerned would cost way more than they would ever be willing to spend. And even if they did, all of those animals are going to die, as well.
But all of this philosophical stuff still gets down to what it always gets down to, and that is this: What do YOU believe is right, and how do YOUR current diet and lifestyle choices align with your deepest convictions? Again, my gig here is not to try and impose my beliefs on you, to judge your choices, or to jump on any kind of “anti” bandwagon. My only intention is to instigate an internal dialogue where you bring your own choices under closer scrutiny, based on pure reality. That’s it.
So What Do You Really Believe?
So here’s our take-away for this entry. What do YOU believe? I understand that many people feel differently about various issues, and I’m not trying to box anyone into one black-and-white philosophy about animals. However, if you HAD to choose one of the following general schools of thought, which one resonates most with you?
1. I believe that animals are here for our use in whatever capacity we as humans choose. And while I take no pleasure in the thought of an animal needlessly suffering, I believe that we humans have “dominion” over all else, and we have to tend to our own best interests first. We should be able to kill, exploit, test on, enslave, etc., most any animal, in whatever ways necessary, for the “betterment” and “enrichment” of humanity.
2. I believe it’s acceptable to kill and/or exploit animals for food, clothing, and most other popular usages. However, I feel like we should do so in ways where the animal’s suffering is minimized as much as possible. Therefore, I do not condone most of the “common” ways that animals are treated – like in factory farms, circuses, etc. – and feel like we need to fight for “more humane” conditions for these animals.
3. I believe in the inherent right for every animal to live freely and peacefully, so I do not believe that animals should be killed, exploited or commoditized for any reason, at any time. Therefore, if an “improved” way of exploiting or killing an animal is ever implemented into the system, it’s hard to view this as a victory, because the very nature of this “system” is out of alignment with my fundamental beliefs.
Again, I realize these are broad-strokes characterizations of three basic philosophies, but where would you say you stand? And, are your lifestyle choices congruent with your beliefs? Just something to think about.
Regarding the above list, here are a few generalizations I’ve observed:
Number 1 represents the basic consensus of how the majority of the world thinks. However, very, very few of these people have any idea of what really goes on behind the scenes of the various industries they are supporting. They are generally oblivious to the extreme atrocities that take place, thinking instead that their chicken was gently plucked from some sun-soaked open field in Iowa somewhere, and their fish was reeled in one-at-a-time out of some aqua-blue lake in New England. I’ve even heard mainstream media figureheads like Oprah and Ellen recently say things like, “I had no idea how horribly animals are treated in the factory farming world” (which represents 99% of all animal products). It’s almost 20-fucking-10, people. So if they didn’t know about it, I doubt that soccer mom in Kansas buying that ground beef will have any clue, either.
Number 2 represents the purest definition of what animal welfare truly means. However, many people who support welfare causes (like various vegans, vegetarians, or other animal advocates) don’t even support these industries. Instead, they view these welfare benchmarks as strategic “baby steps” that will bring relief to animals and gradually crack the shell of mainstream consciousness, thus creating some kind of global exodus from animal cruelty in all forms…some day. How they arrive at this conclusion, I’m not sure. I do not happen to share their optimism, nor do I feel compelled to support any kind of welfare protocol because they are all, uniformly, out of alignment with what I believe is right.
Number 3 is pure animal rights. This notion feels best for me. However, I recognize that we have a ways to go before the general public stops viewing it as extreme, or unattainable, or unrealistic, or too hard, or whatever. But I also believe that if animal rights people continue to support animal welfare causes, it sends a message to the general public that says, “Ya see, I knew this pure animal rights/veganism stuff was too impractical. Even THOSE people are saying it’s okay for us to eat ‘humanely’ raised and killed animals.”
But that’s just me. Let’s keep kicking it around…
All for now,