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My mom sent me this newspaper article in the mail.  “Bringing Home the Bacon” was published in the Bend Bulletin on August 5, 2012.  The short article was about Central Oregon youth auctioning off their livestock at the Deschutes County Fair.

The article sharply demonstrates how youth in 4-H are quickly taught that money has a higher value than life.

“The kids go home with a big check, more than $5000 for those who raised the biggest, most prized cattle.  Most of the cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, rabbits and poultry bought by local residents, businesses and civic groups will go to the slaughterhouse and find their way to the dinner table in the coming days and months.”

“Sonna said it’s a bit difficult to part with Gus after spending nearly a year raising him, but the money she’ll make out of the deal makes it a bit easier to accept.”

“I just picture him as a big check.”

I’m glad the 10 year old feels a little better with money in hand.  I’d hate to see a child in pain.  But, do you think she learned any lessons about trust in this transaction?  Gus endured the ultimate breach of trust, for $3.90 per pound.

A 17 year old in the article said,

“You can’t look at them like a dog, like your pet.  From the beginning, that’s their purpose in life — they’re just part of the food chain.”

Isn’t it sad that children are brainwashed into thinking that killing and consuming animals is an absolutely necessary part of human nutrition?  I haven’t eaten animals for years.  I don’t need to.  And neither do you.

Like their parents before them, children grow up not ever questioning whether it’s actually justifiable to bring animals into the world, just to turn around and take their lives away a few short months or years later.

We also witness powerful evidence of speciesism:

“…some kids have a tougher time than others letting go of the animals they’ve spent months raising.  Much of it depends on the animal — pigs are affectionate and reasonably easy to grow fond of…but sheep…are less intelligent and much easier to view as meat in the making.”

I must ask:

Should our moral obligation toward other living beings really hedge on arbitrary criteria like form, temperament, and intelligence?  Don’t dogs, pigs, and sheep possess equal interest in avoiding harm?

Now let’s switch gears.  Let’s go forward in time.  Children in 4-H grow up.  Listen to the words of one such 64 year-old man…

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Fred Lundren is the owner and CEO of KCAA AM 1050 radio in Southern California.  He is a former cattle rancher who went vegan earlier this year.  His interesting interview with Bob Linden can be heard on the June 17, 2012 episode of “Go Vegan With Bob Linden.”

Fred grew up in the 4-H culture.  At about 26 minutes into the podcast, Fred recounts his own childhood indoctrination by the 4-H club:

“Well, it’s supposed to teach us to use animals as a product.  It’s just designed to do that, and it’s done quite well.  But it had an opposite affect on me.

I was actually president of our 4-H club, and an officer in FFA.  And, I got a Lone Star farmer degree in Animal Science.  So I’ve been there and done that, and raised animals for a living…”

“In 1965 I raised a champion steer at the Austin Livestock Show.  And, when I was leading that steer up the ramp to the trailer where it was gonna go to slaughter, it was hesitant, but I convinced it to do so.  I took the halter off of it…it walked up into the trailer, and then when it got inside the trailer it turned around and belIowed at me.  And that was the moment that I realized what I was doing.”

At 40 minutes:

“…For all my life, I have ignored that episode from my youth when I actually saw the animal respond to me in a knowing way.  And, like most people we just block it out. We eat our BBQ, we eat our hamburgers, we eat our steaks.  And, as a matter of fact, I was born and raised in what’s known as the sausage capital of Texas: Elgin.  And they have 3 sausage factories there.  And you can imagine how much beef I’ve eaten in my life.”

“…I had to slaughter one calf in my life…and I will never do that again.”

“When I became a vegan, something changed, not only in my metabolism, but in my way of thinking.  Because about a month ago, my wife and daughter ordered a steak.  And of course I ate broccoli and beans and peas and everything vegan for the evening.  But, in the middle of the night I thought, “you know, I wonder”..and they had some steaks leftover, and they had it in a plastic bag, and I says, “I wonder how that would taste.”  And I went to the refrigerator, I looked in the refrigerator and that steak looked like dead flesh to me.  It did not look like a steak. And I thought, “My God, I need to call Bob and tell him.””

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I think it’s appropriate to end this post with the core principles from 4-H:

“The 4-Hs

Head, Heart, Hands, and Health are the four Hs in 4-H, and they are the four values members work on through fun and engaging programs.

Head – Managing, Thinking
Heart – Relating, Caring
Hands – Giving, Working
Health – Being, Living

The 4-H Pledge

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”

(Reference:  4-H website)

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.

"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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