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Monday, May 14, 2012

Today I was rollerblading on a paved trail near my house.  The side of the path had been freshly mowed.  There, I saw about 5 dead baby possums who must have been killed by the mower.  There was no blood, and the bodies were intact.  I think they were crushed.

Seeing them made me think about all the animals killed during the production of food crops:  field mice, moles, rabbits and others, who unknowingly get in the way of the farm machinery.

Some people like to use the fact that “animals die in the harvesting of plants” as an argument to discredit a vegan’s decision to leave animals off her plate.  I respond:  Should I go back to eating animals because I can’t help the small mammals who meet their untimely deaths out in the farm fields?

If I can’t help it that a bird got killed by my car while driving, does it mean that I should go back to eating chickens?  No.  I don’t want to kill either bird:  not a sparrow by accident or a chicken on purpose.  I want to cause as little harm as humanly possible.

Animals who are killed for food don’t just magically grow big and plump without eating.  Animals who are intentionally killed are fed plants first.  The two main “animal feed” crops in animal agriculture are corn and soybeans.  A high percentage are genetically modified and heavily sprayed with pesticides.

Animals eat plants and then people eat the animals.  More animal death is caused by eating animals than by simply eating plants directly.  Eat organic, non-GMO plants whenever possible.

What about “grass-fed” animals, you ask?  The fact is, grass-fed livestock are rarely 100% grass-fed.  Pastured livestock are raised on grassy pastures, but their diet is supplemented with grains, especially in colder climates.  Pastured cows, bison, pigs, turkeys and chickens are typically at least partially grain-fed even when they’re called “free-range,” “organic,” “heirloom,” and “heritage.”

In addition, numerous animals– wild horses, badgers, black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, wolves, opossum, raccoons, skunks, beavers, nutrias, porcupines, prairie dogs, black birds, cattle egrets, and starlings– are killed for the purpose of “protecting” ranchers’ interests (i.e. their livestock, their livelihood.)

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Wildlife Services (WS) has been tasked to “help people resolve wildlife damage to a wide variety of resources.”  (In this case, “resources” means cattle.  The cattle are physically protected up until the time they are slaughtered.)  Wildlife Services (WS) uses the following methods of “resolution”:  poisoning, trapping, snaring, denning (denning = pouring kerosene into a den, setting fire to it, and burning young animals alive), shooting, and aerial gunning.

Back to my point.

Yes, even in the “best case scenario,” a certain percentage of animals will be killed through not so pain-free methods:  Animals are hit by cars, bugs get squashed, critters are unfortunate victims of combine harvesters and lawnmowers, and animals are routinely consumed by other animals.

I highly doubt that people routinely go into grocery stores thinking– while picking up pork chops– “Well I couldn’t save that possum from being killed by the mower, so I might as well be the reason this pig had to die.”

That’s not how it works.  People typically select animal products because 1) animal products taste good, 2) people are accustomed to buying animal products, and 3) people believe that animal products are essential to a healthy diet.

I think that some people who use the “animals die in the harvesting of plants” line of reasoning are simply looking for an reason to continue consuming animals.

Bottom line:  it all comes down to daily choices.  We can either choose to consume animals that we know for a fact were killed, or we can try our best to avoid unnecessary death.

When shopping for food, we can all choose fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, herbs and spices.  We can strive to choose whole, organic, non-GMO foods.  We can avoid animal products– including, but not limited to– chickens, pigs, cows, fishes, eggs, milk and cheese.

Beware!  There’s a new children’s book coming out this week.  It’s called “Vegan is Love:  Having Heart & Taking Action,” by Ruby Roth.  A book about living compassionately surely needs a warning label, don’t you think?  Fortunately, the U.S. media’s version of that label aired on Friday, April 20th on NBC’s The Today Show.

The show’s pre-recorded segment with Ruby Roth about her new book was a positive portrayal of vegan parenting.  Ruby’s young stepdaughter indicated that her favorite food is KALE.  Impressive!  Fortunately, the nutritional integrity of a healthy vegan diet for children was not called into question…because it shouldn’t be.

Instead…great “concerns” were voiced by the 2 in-studio guests regarding the supposed use of “scare tactics” in the book (surrounding food as well as other issues of animal exploitation, such as animal testing.)  To hear the guests speak, you’d think that Ruby’s book will scar children for life:

“There is so much fear in this book.”  “Why do we have to scare them?”  The book is “teaching kids to fear food.”  Fear, guilt, “graphic pictures:”  Very scary stuff.

But who is really afraid of this stuff?  Is it really the children?  Will they seriously be harmed by a book that honestly exposes them to the real world?  Are children so fragile that they cannot handle the truth about animal exploitation, when it is presented with gentle candor and realistic illustrations?  Will children truly react negatively, or will they logically respond with compassion and concern?  Won’t children want to help animals and take action?  I don’t think we give children nearly enough credit.

I think the adults are the fearful ones.  Fearful and feeling guilty.  It’s actually the adults who can’t bear to look at graphic pictures of animal slaughter.  Adults won’t listen to the truth about unnecessary animal exploitation.  Adults are resistant to change.  Adults don’t want their routines disrupted, their palate pleasure disturbed, or their minds opened.

Are adults– parents– most of all afraid of having their own apathy exposed?  If, for example, their children reads the book elsewhere and comes home to share the cruel truths with them…what then?  How will they justify their own complicity in the violence?  How will they try to convince their children that they do care when maybe they really don’t?  Or, if they genuinely care, then how will they explain the hypocrisy in their actions?  Children are quite capable of recognizing inconsistencies.

Let’s stop pretending to worry about the children.  They’re just fine.  Children are inherently open-minded, curious, and adaptable.  Children very easily grasp the basic concept of Veganism, which is about non-harming.  Young children, in particular, naturally consider animals their friends.  Why would they want to hurt their friends?

“Vegan is Love” gently asks young readers to take personal responsibility in the form of taking actions that help make the world a better place for animals.  Children are not afraid to do that.  They are not fearful.  Adults could learn a lot from children.

Here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, written by my vegan friend from Indonesia:

“I did a talk on Veganism to a bunch of 7 year olds.  They totally get it.  We also went to a local market in Indonesia and one of the kids happened to see a chicken killed.  During the subsequent talk about what happened, children mentioned how horrible that was.  I said, I know, but how to you think the meat comes to you?  One little girl said, ‘I think it’s mean. That chicken wants to have a family and look after its babies too!’  I said ‘I agree with you,’ and she said, completely off her own back, ‘I don’t think I want to eat animals either!’  Kids get it.”

Check out Ruby Roth’s website here:

(Picture is my copy of Ruby Roth’s first book, “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals”)

"There are those who are appalled because I am so vocal about injustice, yet I am equally appalled by their silence." Lujene Clark

“Every time you purchase animal products you pay assassins to murder sentient beings for you.”

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"My purpose is not to offend you, it is to provoke you to think." Unknown


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