October 10, 2007
Bad, Wrong, and Vegan
Like I said yesterday, I’m having trouble trusting my words at the moment. Those of you who know me, know that I have a lot on my plate at the moment and it’s making it hard to be the blogger I’d like to be. So forgive me if I misspeak here.
More than a decade ago I moved into a group house in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, before that neighborhood was so trendy and yuppified. I was grateful for a place to live, with seemingly nice roommates. So I decided to cook a meal for all of them. I didn’t make very much money but I wanted to do something nice for my roommates.
Unfortunately sometime during that meal one roommate, a guy, decided to play quiz the vegan. Somehow this wound up with him extracting from me the information that six or so years prior to that meal I had done something that really wasn’t good for animals. I admitted that I had done this thing and also said that I deeply regretted it and considered it a terrible mistake. At the same time I reflected that in an odd way, doing something wrong had been the thing that probably set me on the path toward veganism.
My roommate was incensed. He pounded his fist on the table. He yelled that I was a hypocrite and in his opinion I might as well give up being vegan because I was a sham. He then yelled that I could never make up for what I’d done and he despised me. This after eating my food and drinking my wine, but there it was.
I was deeply hurt. Not because I didn’t know the wrongness of my prior actions and not that I didn’t live with constant regret. But I was hurt because I thought I was doing something nice, feeding everyone a home cooked meal, and I felt I was paid back in a confrontation that was mean, unfair, which more or less ruined the evening for everyone, and given the fist pounding and the significant size difference between myself and this guy, felt fairly physically intimidating to me.
The other roommates had looked uncomfortable and then positively ill and then drifted away as the confrontation continued. A friend who dropped by for the food but didn’t live there looked uneasy, his eyes got huge, he kept opening his mouth as if to say something, then stopped and just drank more wine instead.
What was my terrible crime? Years before, my boyfriend at the time had given me a gift of a baby rabbit purchased at a pet store, and I, even knowing pet stores are terribly wrong, and it’s wrong to financially support them, fell in love with the rabbit. I was nineteen and a vegetarian. I was old enough to know better. I knew everything wrong with the whole thing and yet I did it anyway. I organized no great protest of the pet store. We did not return and demand our money back. Yes, I know there’s everything in the world wrong with that story, but that’s what happened.
Happily he did no try to pry further back into my life to learn I had previously gone fishing, eaten animals my father had killed, eaten rabbits my father had killed, eaten animals I had raised and loved, worn fur trim, worn leather, carried a purse made out of crocodile that I’d found in storage in my parents’ house. I can’t even imagine how much fist-banging would have been involved then. I don’t think I can possibly list anything and everything I did wrong. I generally say of all of this that I was very young and just didn’t know better and had been raised to accept all of these things. But I’m not sure age is the relevant factor. Most of us live our lives one way, the way we are taught, until something transformative happens at some point and opens us up to empathy and compassion. And opening up to those things can really be ego-crushing because to change requires admitting something was wrong in the first place. So many people find that kind of examination incredibly painful and try to avoid facing it.
In any case I managed to eventually work out my differences with that roommate and we ended up getting along. Not that I condone fist-banging ever.
The H Word: Hypocrite
I tend to think we’re all hypocrites, some less than others, but still we all have our issues. It’s not just that I’ve done things in the past that weren’t good to animals. I really value being good to people and not acting in an underhanded, passive aggressive way. In fact I wrote an article about how damaging gossip is. Yet, I’ve caught myself gossiping. The thing is that doing better and being better is a work in progress. It’s easy to fall back on bad habits and it’s generally difficult to break them. Shocking as it sounds, I find it easier to be vegan, because at this point it’s largely habit for me, than I find it to always be empathetic to people who don’t present themselves well, for example people whose mental illnesses make them disruptive, angry and aggressive. In cases like that I often have to take a deep breath, step back, and remind myself that nobody chooses to carry around those kinds of burdens.
Does the fact that it doesn’t always come perfectly naturally to me mean it’s hopeless and not worth pursuing? I really don’t think so, because if nothing else, the effort I put in matters to me and matters to those immediately around me. And also I hope for the cumulative effect of many people putting effort into kindness and compassion.
We all screw up. We all fall down. We all make mistakes. But the belief that we have to be perfect all the time is paralyzing. If we believe we must be perfect at everything we do, then it can be an excuse to do nothing. It means we can’t experiment, learn, and grow.
To go back to the idea of being a nice person, we can recognize that we have failed in the past, and might fail again, but still acknowledge that it’s important to keep trying. Knowing that we can’t be perfect isn’t a carte blanche to be as awful as we’re capable of being. Instead, it’s an incentive to keep trying and to also be able to apologize for the mistakes we make along the way. Likewise with veganism. Most of us weren’t born vegan, we might have even done very non-vegan things in the past. We might screw up tomorrow and accidentally eat something that isn’t vegan. But we’re going for the balance here. We want to keep trying to do our best and not let the mistakes paralyze and disempower us. Mistakes are also learning experiences, when we mess up once we know to look out for that problem next time.
Also, what does hypocrite mean? It refers to a person who holds one value, but behaves in a way that is opposite to that value. So, Thomas Jefferson was a hypocrite to own slaves while calling slavery immoral. Many of us looking at history are deeply disappointed by his personal failings and participation in one of history’s truly great wrongs. However his own participation in a deeply immoral system doesn’t mean he was wrong to call slavery unethical. The message was still valid, even delivered by a deeply flawed human being.
So the call to prove our own lives free of hypocrisy before we can talk about anything, much less veganism, is another red herring. Most of us don’t fall in the Thomas Jefferson category either in the extent of our influence nor in the depth of our hypocrisy. However, we can make mistakes but still have valid concerns and a valuable message.
“Just one drop and I’m falling apart again”
If the bad actions of my younger self, or my occasional laziness, gossip, grumpy mood, whatever, today are the worst things I ever do in my life, I suppose we’ll all be pretty lucky. The gift of wrestling my former self and making changes in my life is that I know in a very real sense that I can be wrong. I can be wrong, I can be stubborn, I can be mean and selfish. Since I know this possible I can try harder to avoid it. But if I fall down and screw up, I’ll get back up and try harder.
I once knew a guy who went to 12-step. He’d been sober five years and then one night had a dessert that had been spiked with some liquor. Since he’d fallen off the wagon anyway he went ahead and had a few beers, and then a few more the next night. Later he said he’d given up on the whole idea of 12-step, he liked drinking and it was too hard going to all those meetings and always watching what he did. I’m hardly in a position to judge who has a drinking problem and who doesn’t, but I do know that sobriety had been important to this person, both due to actions of his own while drinking that he regretted and a family history of alcoholism. But he felt if he couldn’t be perfect and spotless he’d just toss in the towel.
But veganism, compassion, kindness, trying to do better for the environment, etc. aren’t necessarily things anyone should chuck out the window due to one mistake, particularly a mistake from lack of information or a moment of inattentiveness. But I’m consistently amazed at how many people (despite voicing their own strong opinions) think that before I can express an opinion on veganism I must prove my complete blamelessness in every aspect of my life.
I’d love to be perfect and it’s never going to happen, which doesn’t mean I can’t try to be “better.” It just means I’m a flawed person in a flawed world and sometimes even my best isn’t going to perfect. Other times all the choices available to me are bad in some way and it’s so hard to find the one that’s least harmful. Still we have to muddle through somehow and keep hoping the balance falls in the good.
You’re Not Making A Difference
Many people lately, vegans and non-vegans alike, have told me that my being vegan really makes no difference. It spares only a small number of animals, and maybe not even those animals as others are “eating my share.” Further, they say, veganism will never catch on with large numbers of people, so therefore veganism doesn’t really make a difference.
I think that my being vegan makes a difference in the fact that I’m a living example that someone who didn’t come from an animal-friendly environment can be vegan. I show that vegans can eat well, hold normal jobs, need not be socially isolated, and can have a sense of humor, and so on. Being vegan shows other that veganism is possible.
Likewise, buying a hybrid car really doesn’t accomplish that much, individually. Instead, people hope that by buying into hybrids they encourage more to be made, that others start driving them, and that more and more people will use them. Because one hybrid, not a big difference, you’re hoping lots of people do it.
My earlier point was that hybrids are not accessible to many. I’d love one, but I can’t afford one. Many people are also faced with similar financial constraints. But anyone can be vegan. It doesn’t require special equipment or a down payment, and foods can be as simple or as gourmet as one chooses.
But there it is: if you’re the only person recycling are you accomplishing much? Maybe not. But if you’re the first in your community to recycle, but you teach others, push for curbside recycling, find ways to make it easy, or even hold neighborhood recycling days and make it a social event, then maybe that’s something.
None of us do so much all by ourselves, but we teach others and spread the message.
There is the other aspect too. When my father commented that I wasn’t accomplishing anything with animal rescue because I’d found and saved so many animals, but still the homeless, abandoned, starved, and sick animals kept coming, he entirely missed the point. It might not send huge ripples through the entire world, but to each animal I save it means everything.
I have changed the commenting policy on this blog to moderated. I apologize if it causes any of you who normally read and comment here difficulty.
For the past two days I got a flurry of anonymous comments coming from a single ISP.
This commenter did point out that I got some of my numbers wrong when talking about the UN report regarding the impact of animal agriculture. I did double check that and in fact as I had rushed off my blog entry I had misremembered some of the details.
For what it’s worth, I still think the basic idea of my blog entry is accurate, though I regret the flummoxed details. The idea is that being vegan is good for the environment and it’s relatively simple to do.
In the past I’ve tried to allow dissenting comments here. In fact I’ve left quite a few in place that I considered exceedingly rude, even calling me “stupid.” But I left those comments because they were few and far between and because my blog doesn’t get a whole lot of traffic so things rarely got out of hand here.
This particular commenter over the past few days seemed to me to cross some lines. First I had asked several times that the person attach any kind of name to the comments, and he (henceforth referred to as he, not because I know, but to be concise) would not do that but kept commenting as anonymous. The tone of the comments was not only rude but seemed incredibly intrusive. This person took an entry of mine where I said I don’t drive a hybrid, even though I’d like to, because I can’t afford one right now, as an opportunity to repeatedly demand to know exactly what vehicle I drive, what gas mileage it gets, how far I drive every day, and what my energy bills for my home are. All this while he refused to leave any name, even a fake one, or give any information about his habits, like did this commenter drive a hybrid, was he vegetarian, does he live in a very energy efficient home, etc.
This is just personal interpretation on my part, but I kind of feel like if someone wants their own privacy, but wants to know details of my life, they can give some information without compromising themselves. This encourages dialogue, like “You might think that hybrids are too expensive, but I just got one, and here’s what I found.” Or even “I’m not vegan, because I don’t think it’s important, my issue is cars.” You know because otherwise it’s just this relentless disembodied voice demanding information from me.
Incidentally, when I say that I feel giving out details of my vehicle or my driving habits might compromise my personal security, I’m actually more concerned about some people reading here who don’t ever comment. Part of our motivation for changing my vehicle recently had to do with a stalking incident where the person in question discovered what car I drove and began to follow me on errands and when coming home from work. It might be because of the history of other problems, but I cannot describe to you the panic I felt when driving in circles and going on odd streets and behind churches trying to lose this person. Our first action was to change my plates. Later we had the opportunity to switch to a different used vehicle, it suited our needs, and was unknown to my stalker. That seemed an excellent solution.
Back to blog comments: the comments got up to around thirty. Again this bothered me because I really felt like “ok, you think I’m a moron and don’t like my blog entry, but if you can’t convey that about two to three comments just give it up.” When I checked my site stats I was shocked to find that this person was checking my blog almost obsessively, anywhere from every twenty minutes to a few times when there was a gap of a couple hours between hits. This person continuously checked my blog throughout the night as well as if he wouldn’t even sleep for the overwhelming desire to leave rude comments. This troubled me because it didn’t seem to be normal behavior. When I ran afoul of Francionites because I criticized the rape analogy a couple people came back two or three times, delivered a few zingers then got bored and left. Someone that obsessed with my blog just seemed not right.
Also, while this person continuously accused me of being too lazy to read the entire 400 page UN report, he seemed not able to read my entry or my comments as he kept insisting that the point of my entry was about laziness and here I was being lazy. The point of the entry was never laziness, and I repeated that in my comments: the point was and continues to be that it’s not hard to be vegan and as such I’m surprised by the hostility to vegansim expressed by some environmentalists.
Though this anonymous commenter did seem to prove a couple of my points, 1) re: hostility, and 2) when I talk about veganism some people keep trying to change the subject to cars.
I changed my comment policy to only allow those with blogger accounts to comment here. I regretted doing that because I know some of my pals who read here don’t want to register with blogger. The person immediately either created (or had ready) an essentially anonymous blogger account, with a three letter (maybe initials, maybe not) title and made all the details of that account private. While I realize anyone can create a blogger account under any fake name and can make up a whole identity on their blogger profile, I had not been aware that someone could create a blogger account and hide all the details. That along with a blogger id that was not a name made me feel this person had just come up with a sneaky way to keep commenting anonymously and as the numbers of comments grew there just seemed no end in sight.
These comments were also quite rude and disrespectful in tone. And yes, I’ve left disrespectful comments before, it was just like, eeek, this person seems to not have a job, only wants to comment on my blog all day, and on top of it is incredibly nasty.
When my husband pointed out that the number of comments and the number of live hits was troubling and making this commenter seem like a stalker he accused my husband of stalking through checking the site stats.
Um, crazy much?
For the record, the site stats are public; you can all view them and then pity me for my very small readership.
At my husband’s urging I deleted all the comments from this person on that one entry and have begun screening comments so hopefully this weirdo will go somewhere else once he finds no platform here. Giving him any voice will only encourage his obsession.
I am sorry if I put inaccurate information in my post and I hope to do more careful research in the future. However, you know, just for the record, the title of this blog is “Neva Vegan” so anyone reading here should expect to find content related to and promoting veganism.
October 9, 2007
I don’t trust my words today, but here’s something to hopefully make you smile.
October 5, 2007
This extra cat fostering, especially since Obi (not a foster) needs extra medicating and care at the moment and Melissa (foster) needs extra care, and then all the special needs cats as well…. Anyway, I’m exhausted and hardly capable of putting together a coherent sentence.
However, I am still amused and so I pass this on to you today, take a moment to consider the plight of the neurotypical.
I wonder if resistance to veganism can be traced to an inordinately high need to conform, which might be tied to an alarming rate of neurotypical spectrum in the general population.
I kid, I kid. Have a nice weekend everyone.
October 4, 2007
I don’t know if anyone else is as huge a nerd as I am, but I watched much of the PBS miniseries “The War” about World War II.
I wish I’d caught this part better, but I was in the midst of running around medicating cats and a part came up about a soldier from the Pacific theatre of the war. (correction) His name was Eugene Sledge. But he came home and had trouble fitting back into society and suffered depression and alienation.
They brought up that before the war he had been an avid hunter, but after the war he said something like he could no longer bear to terrorize and kill animals who could not defend themselves against him. He finally recovered from his depression when he decided to go back to school and become a biologist.
I find this interesting because with the men in my own family who hunt I’d always taken this attitude that they couldn’t be reached because of their service in wars. I’d say “Well the government taught him to kill people, so what else is going to happen except that he comes home and kills animals.”
This brief portion of an otherwise really tragic documentary gave a glimmer of hope that maybe some people can see horrors and make something good out of it. That they can be taught to kill and then turn away from it.
October 2, 2007
File under: I’m not making this up
Ever get that sinking feeling like you’ll never get through to people? I talk so much about animal issues that sometimes my readers might not realize I talk about other issues too. Sometimes I think it’s going to be really hard to get people to listen to our message about animals when so many people don’t seem to care about other people.
I declare this blog entry a chance to rant on the stupid and insensitive comments people have made to you regarding human issues. We’ll get it all out and hopefully feel a little better realizing that those “I clawed my way to the top of the food chain” type comments are not limited to animal causes. Nope, folks can be pretty heartless when in comes to their fellow homo sapiens as well. Either that or we’ll all sink into a deep depression from which we’ll never emerge. I’m not sure.
As mentioned in a prior entry, the number one completely insensitive heartless comment I get regarding humans is:
When I tell people that I love to eat Ethiopian food, I cannot tell you how many people have responded “I didn’t think they HAD any food! Ha ha! Ha ha ha!” Yeah, that’s right, they are essentially laughing at other people dying of starvation.
Next grossly insensitive comment. I was talking with someone regarding how some African countries are losing an entire generation of people to AIDS, and how this situation is actually made worse by some multinational mining companies who rob these nations of their natural resources, leaving most of the population in poverty and without access to health care of any kind, and forbid families from living in the mining camps but encourage prostitution in the camps (and often that prostitution involves women and young girls forced into prostitution). And the answer I got was “Well, I’m not sure that we should worry too much about AIDS in Africa. They were overpopulated and this is nature’s way of reducing the overpopulation.” OMG.
Talking with a woman about the huge need for education and job training programs in prisons I remarked that one reason for the high recidivism rates on drug crimes (I consider violent crimes a somewhat different problem) was the lack of other options for those fresh out of prison. She remarked that she felt it would be wasting money to invest in education programs for prisons. I replied that from my time doing volunteer teaching in prison not only did I feel many would teach for free if they could get through the red tape, but that also many of the women I taught had been abused as children, had been in abusive relationships as adults, and then wound up in prison. I felt that we owed it to these people to increase their opportunities in life. The person I was speaking with replied “Lots of people have had rough lives without turning to crime. If we reward people in prison by coddling them with classes and training then that punishes the people who’ve also been abused but aren’t in prison.”
In speaking with a self-described Republican about the health care crisis in this country she told me she didn’t want to pay for other people’s health care, especially if these people were lazy free-loaders. I made the point that one reason for better access to health care, no matter how that is achieved, is that we want to safeguard the health of children, who are deserving no matter what their parents may have done. She replied “If people want their kids to have health care, then they should have gone to college and gotten good jobs.” Hmmm, yes, my favorite hobby is also punishing children because their parents didn’t go to college… Never mind that 1) there are people who went to college who find themselves unemployed for reasons they have no control over, 2) some good jobs, like plumbing, require training, but not college, and 3) none of that has anything to do with the kids who lost the parent lottery and were born into impoverished homes, whether those parents are disabled, unemployed, educated or not, abusive or sweet and loving…
Twice in my life now, at different jobs, I’ve had a male co-worker remark that battered women must enjoy being beaten since they so often stay with their abusers. I would have smacked them and asked how they liked that, except I try to not be violent, and besides I had to gather up all the little exploded pieces of my brain off the floor.
Final one, drum roll please, on an internet art board we got into a heated discussion about some anti-death penalty art. As one woman argued that the Bible encouraged the death penalty, I made the good old “what about the wrongfully convicted?” plea. Her answer was that if someone was wrongfully convicted of a murder, she felt they’d have to be a pretty bad person anyway. She claimed that law abiding, god-fearing people who do the right thing are never even accused of a murder they didn’t commit, so to be wrongfully convicted the person must have been doing something pretty bad. At that point I suffered a stroke from massive insensitivity overload and couldn’t even manage to type “thou shalt not kill.”
I need a warm compress for my head at this point.
Please share with me the stunningly insensitive comments others have made to you.
What a weekend I had. We spent the last month anxiously looking forward to hearing James LaVeck speak at the Poplar Spring open house, only to have a vet emergency Sunday morning. We got there just as he was wrapping up.
But first things first.
A few days ago, our youngest cat Liam bit his older “brother” Obi, leaving a nasty bloody spot on his back. Obi and Liam love each other, but sometimes they play way too rough. As an apology Liam decided to help Obi groom his wounded back, and between the two of them they completely licked the whole area raw and wouldn’t let it heal. Our solution was to cut the sleeve off an old shirt of Sean’s, cut leg holes in it and have Obi wear it as a shirt. It has been working—his back is healing now. It’s so adorable though, I’m going to have to post a picture of Obi in his little shirt.
Saturday we tried to take Buddy, the foster cat to a new home, but it didn’t work out and so he came back home with us.
Then Melissa, the foster kitten, pulled from the feral colony in our neighborhood pulled out the stitches from her spay. She went to the ER vet and got fitted with an e-collar. She kept getting out of her e-collar and picking at the area more until it looked really scary. After spending all morning (and some of the afternoon) at the vet on Sunday, she got to come home. However it took a friend telling me to tie on the e-collar “harness style” to solve our wily kitty problems. She now cannot get the collar off. Why didn’t the vet help us with that part too? Sean thinks I should call them because maybe it just didn’t occur to them.
By the way, Melissa is still looking for a good home, and she’s just a kitten still. Kittens tend to integrate well into homes with other cats. She’s very friendly and very loving. Just sticking that plug in for her!
Then we went to Poplar Spring, loaded down with apples, sweet potatoes, and carrots for the pigs, and cut up strawberries for the chickens. When I was feeding the strawberries to the birds, the turkeys wanted some too of course, and it was so sad because one of the turkeys had been de-beaked, and she wanted strawberries, but she couldn’t seem to pick them up or hold onto them. I had to more or less mush up the strawberries and slip them into her mouth for her. I wonder how anyone can see stuff like this and still eat animals.
The pigs were so sweet and loved getting their treats. Despite being huge, most took the food very gently from my hands. Other pigs were shy and kept their distance, so I had to throw handfuls of food out into the field for them, where they happily gobbled it up.
Although we sadly missed James LaVeck’s talk, we did get to meet him and Jenny Stein and they gave us a copy of The Witness. I used to live in NYC, so I knew Eddie Lama and even went out to do Fauna Vision with him once, yet I’d never seen the movie. We watched it Sunday night. It both inspired and depressed us. I think one sad aspect of it was thinking how much the movement has changed in the last decade or so. It used to seem like we all had very common goals and the outreach we did was on target and hard hitting. Now I just don’t know.
It’s all given me tons of food for thought. The conversation with James LaVeck and Jenny Stein left me wondering again about my role in this effort: What do I have to contribute and how can I best fulfill that obligation?
Then I got the Taste Better Newsletter in my inbox, where Jason Doucette talked about reading The Earth Is Flat, and how he thinks it’s helpful for both veganism and activism. I want to read the book so I’ll add it to the wish list. One important point he brought up was finding outside help when we need it for our activism. I think in the AR movement in the US there’s a strong (and mostly positive) strain of “I’ll do it myself.” But of course there are times when we all need a helping hand.
For me this was a particularly powerful point because my time is limited, so I want to help, but I want to help in ways that are effective, utilize my particular skills, and fill in areas that others might not cover. That sounds like I’m being difficult and picky, but I reached that conclusion after some considerable floundering.
The wrap up to my weekend was a phone call from my Dad who remarked on our efforts to rescue and help animals “You guys never seem to get anywhere, it’s money and effort, but it doesn’t make much difference.” But when I went home and saw all the faces for whom it made all the difference in the world, Sean reminded me that sometimes it is about the individual. Yes, there are still so many cats out there that need help, but we saved these ones. Is this typical of our culture that people somehow just can’t see animals as individuals? Is that one of the primary things we need to fight?
Anyway, I want to talk about The Witness more in depth, but that will be an entry all by itself.
September 28, 2007
I wrote three essays for blog against abuse day yesterday and ultimately found I could post none of them. The first I decided not to post as it was too long and covered too many topics. The second I decided not to post because in an effort to narrow my focus to one type of abuse I felt I was doing a disservice to all other abuses which need to be challenged. The third came closer to what I really wanted to say on this issue but was just way too graphic and would give people nightmares and perhaps give other less kind people ideas, so I decided not to post it.
Ultimately my bottom line on abuse is that each of us needs to examine ourselves and try to do better. For some that might mean letting go of all the rationalizations we hold that let us continue to eat animals, buy sweat shop products, or walk past suffering and do nothing. For others, we might have to do some hard thinking and self examination to realize the ways we might be hurting others. Self examination against abuse means no more excuses, no more promising it won’t happen again, but really taking solid action toward change.
Each of us also has an obligation to take a stand against abuse.
Standing up against abuse is a dangerous business in this culture. I wish I could tell you how to fight and where. We need to keep doing this though, raising awareness, teaching people, and those instances where we physically intervene to stop abuse.
If anyone wants to read that third essay I wrote, just email me and I’ll send it to you. Not that it’s any great insight or answers much of anything.
I’m perplexed by the level of hostility I’ve seen in some recent blog comments regarding the connection between eating animals and global warming. It would seem that not only are a lot of self-proclaimed environmentalists unwilling to give up meat, but they’re hostile to the very mention of the idea and want to encourage others to keep putting animal products on the table.
Why should this confuse me? Because it’s so, so illogical. I’m going to try to break down why I find this illogical bit by bit here.
First, it’s not just me, it’s not just PeTA who are saying animal agriculture is the single largest contributor to global warming, it’s the United Nations. Do they have a vegan agenda? Are they out to destroy your fun? No, they’ve never promoted vegetarianism before, they are merely interested in protecting the most vulnerable people on the planet from the ravages of global warming. They did the research, and that’s what they found.
Secondly, some environmentalists have objected to my use of this study by saying it really only talks about beef and pork production and doesn’t study the effects of factory farming of chickens or other birds. Surely, since the study doesn’t say that chickens contribute to global warming, then we can still eat chickens and eggs. Tell you what, come with me back to Harrisonburg, VA where I went to school and tour some intensive farming operations for chickens and eggs, and tell me what you think that does for the environment. Then let’s go to an outdoor stream near a large poultry operation and you can drink that water. I’ll bring a cup. And if you don’t want to drink that water, I have to ask why you’d expect anyone, including wildlife, to drink it.
Global warming is one major harm to the environment, but there are other harms as well including water pollution, overuse of antibiotics and hormones, and so on and so on.
So, ok, the environmentalist counters, factory farms are definitely bad for the environment, but you can’t convince me that it’s bad for the environment if I keep some chickens free-range in my yard and eat their eggs and occasionally slaughter them and eat them. Not only do environmentalists think this is not bad for the environment, but they point out that someone raising a few chickens surely has less environmental impact if they drive little, don’t have kids, and use energy saving devices, than the impact of a vegan who drives a lot, has kids, and throws away a lot of trash. Ok, chicken-obsessed environmentalist, I promise that I won’t argue with you about environmental reasons for veganism if you move to a tiny, energy efficient shack, stop driving, promise not to have kids, and raise a dozen chickens in your yard, Then I’ll only talk to you about the ethics of veganism. But keep in mind that no environmentalist who has ever used this line of debate with me has lived like that. Most eat meat of some kind every day anyway–raising a dozen chickens in your yard might mean eating meat once a month. Most live in urban areas and drive. And besides, the few well-treated, free-ranging, bug-eating chickens in the yard is not a viable solution for our huge population, most of whom live in densely populated urban areas.
Next the environmentalists want to talk to me about how they feel there are other areas we need to improve first before we can worry about what we eat. What about cars, they want to know, do you drive a hybrid?
I don’t drive a hybrid. I’d love to, but a hybrid car is expensive and I don’t make a lot of money. I did move as close as I could to my work to limit my commute though.
But here’s the thing—a hybrid is a very good idea. Like I said, it’s on my dream list, some day, when I save up the money. But veganism is relatively simple. I can do that, right now, today, with really no special equipment, minimal supplies. Sure fresh vegetables can be expensive, but everyone is supposed to already be eating them. Beans, lentils, rice, flour, and so on are all inexpensive. Anyone can start being vegan today. Buying a hybrid car means money and maybe even a significant wait time. Installing solar panels is hard, you’d probably need to hire someone and maybe it’s not even possible to do this where you live. Trying to get the Chinese to control factory emissions, that’s a long-term goal. Changing over to a vegan diet sounded hard before I did it, but really it was pretty easy and painless.
Also, the UN ranked animal agriculture ahead of cars in environmental harm. So if you have something that’s relatively easy to change, and is one of the most harmful things you do, why postpone making that change while concentrating on harder to solve problems that do less harm.
September 26, 2007
It recently came to my attention that several towns, cities or counties in the DC area have laws against feeding outdoor cats. Because of these laws they prosecute kind-hearted people who just want to help the feral or abandoned cats they find sick or hungry living in alleyways or parks.