Wednesday, May 23, 2018

U.S. Taxpayers Forced to Pay $38+ Billion a Year to Kill Other Animals

The Vegan Vine
A cat used in deadly experiments inside USDA laboratory.
Follow the money!

It's a commonly heard phrase that originated with the Watergate scandal. We hear it a lot today in reference to the investigation into President Trump's ties to Russia. But the popular phrase also applies to the nonhuman-abuse-industrial-complex. If you want to cut through the lies and deceptions to get at the truth, just follow the money.

Over the centuries we have built an entire economy and culture around the enslavement and exploitation of nonhuman animals. Working to end this grave injustice is as much an economic issue as it is a matter of political and social will. We simply cannot ignore the financial incentives that continue to drive nonhuman oppression.

Successful operations, whether they be military or social, usually require besieging the opposition on multiple fronts. Likewise, nonhuman advocates have many battlegrounds. In addition to advancing veganism and nonhuman legal rights, it is essential that we also deprive nonhuman enslavement institutions of their financial enticements. Nonhumans do not yet have legal rights in large part because too many sectors of society profit off their exploitation and deaths.

"People who purport to act on behalf of nonhuman animals must be urged to do much more than change their shopping, eating, etc. . . . citizens have to make time for policy," said David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals.

In his 2013 book, Meatonomics, David Robinson Simon found that $38.4 billion of United States taxpayer monies are used to further the nonhuman flesh, milk, and egg industries. Here's what else he found:

  • 63 percent of federal and state government subsidies go to promoting nonhuman flesh, milk, and eggs, while less than 2 percent go to fruits and vegetables.
  • Taxpayer subsidies create artificially low prices for nonhuman-derived "foods" that do not reflect the real costs to produce them, thereby encouraging Americans to consume greater amounts. For example, if we were to account for the full burden of a Big Mac—the abuse, environmental and health care costs, etc.—a Big Mac would actually cost $12.
  • A significant portion of the nearly $1 trillion in annual health care and lost productivity costs related to just three diseases—cancer, diabetes, and heart disease—are directly linked to the consumption of nonhuman-derived "foods."
  • Nonhumans bred for their flesh, milk, and eggs are routinely fed 75 percent (28 million pounds) of the US market of antibiotics to bolster their abnormal growth and prevent imprisoned-induced diseases. 
  • Nonhuman flesh, milk, and egg industries now rank with mining, oil production, and electricity generation as one of the most ecologically damaging to the planet. The EPA found that groundwater sources in one-third of US states are contaminated with urine and feces from factory farms.

Subsidies used to exploit nonhumans for their flesh, milk, and eggs originated in 1929 during the Great Depression and were quickly taken over by large corporations thriving on government handouts. Today these unethical and unhealthy industries collect $251 billion annually. So why are we still supporting them?

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and other alleged conservatives bloviate about the need for entitlement reform. How about addressing entitlements to the flesh, milk, and egg cartels? If politicians were really serious about cutting the federal deficit they would start by eradicating this $38 billion taxpayer slush fund.

Matthew Scully, a conservative journalist and former senior speechwriter for President George W. Bush, agrees. "Factory farming is a predatory enterprise, absorbing profit and externalizing costs, unnaturally propped up by political influence and government subsidies much as factory-farmed animals are unnaturally sustained by hormones and antibiotics."

The Farm Bill, which is expected to be reintroduced this year, sounds harmless enough but it sets the agenda for future subsidies. Hundreds of special interest groups and lobbyists with ties to the food-industry enslavement and slaughter business wheel and deal to sway lawmakers. Simon found that members of Congress who received donations from the cow milk industry were almost twice as likely to vote for dairy price supports as those who received no money. Moreover, the greater the amount of money a member received, the more likely they were to endorse industry-friendly legislation.

"It is certainly no secret that governments and big business work together to make meat and animal products widely available, convenient, and inexpensive," wrote Marla Rose in "Why We Eat Meat (VegNews, March/April 2018). ". . . this federal interference ripples, affecting everything from school lunches to hospital food, and results in a profound impact on how we make sense of what we eat."

For example, checkoff programs use monies collected from the cost of particular items to fund marketing programs for those items. As Simon reported, "With annual promotional funds of $389 million, the dairy industry enjoys nearly three times the checkoff spending of all fruit and vegetable producers combined."

I can't think of one marketing slogan for vegetables, but the following advertising gimmicks generated by checkoff programs are quite familiar to many of us:

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.
Pork. The Other White Meat.
Milk. It Does a Body Good.

Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) is one such checkoff program. A marketing arm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), DMI teamed up with Domino’s in 2009 to rescue the company from declining sales by using $12 million to develop and market a new line of pizzas with 40 percent more cheese.

And taxpayers are not just footing the bill to bolster the sale of nonhuman bodies and babies for their flesh, milk, and eggs. The National Institutes of Heath (NIH), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Wildlife Services are just some of the many government agencies funneling billions more to poison, torture, rape, kill, and otherwise use nonhumans for various products and services. State agencies are no different. For example, the governments of New York and New Jersey use taxpayer money to subsidize gambling and tracks for injurious horse racing.

White Coat Waste Project recently exposed a USDA laboratory (photo above) that uses taxpayer dollars to breed 100 kittens a year in order to feed them Toxoplasma-infected raw meat, collect their feces, and then kill them. While many rightly find the killing of kittens using taxpayer money to be "sickening and abusive," less Americans are equally outraged by the billions spent on the systematic killing of trillions of nonhuman persons for "food" every year.

The United States Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) is just one of 41 taxpayer-funded USDA laboratories that conducts Frankensteinian genetic experiments on nonhumans to increase their numbers for the flesh, milk, and egg industries. Pigs and cows endure starvation and grisly procedures that cause them to give birth to deformed, dying, and dead piglets and calves. A 2015 New York Times report disclosed their horrors at the USMARC, however, unlike the recent exposé involving cats, this one received little public attention or backlash.

"Demand is a symptom of animal-abuse policy, culture, and practice, generated by the industries and their institutional allies—the land-grant universities, the US and state departments of agriculture, the news industry, and others," explained Cantor. "Those forces are far more powerful in maintaining the industries and perpetually manufacturing demand for their products."

If we believe that nonhuman animals matter morally—that they are not commodities or things for us to use—then going vegan is the very least we can do as individuals. Doing so also aligns our behaviors with our values. Collectively, we must also strive to provide nonhumans with legal rights in conjunction with removing the financial rewards that keep nonhumans from being recognized as persons instead of property.

As a consumer activist, I am very selective about what I support through my purchases and whom I do business with, and yet I have no control over how my income is spent by the government. I do not want my money sanctioning nonhuman slavery any more than I would want it to sanction human slavery. The Vietnam War spawned a movement of war tax resisters. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, who withheld his poll tax in protest of the Mexican-American War and the expansion of human slavery, maybe it's time ethical vegans do the same and withhold their taxes in protest of nonhuman slavery and our government's direct involvement in perpetuating it.

Follow the money and you will find that everyone pays a steep price for the abuse and injustice we impose on food-industry captives and others snared in the nonhuman-abuse-industrial-complex. It is vital that we challenge these institutions socially, politically, and economically.

If our elected officials refuse to terminate these subsidies then we should elect those who will. Such a drastic measure as not paying our taxes, on the other hand, will give new meaning to the expression "drain the swamp," but it may be needed to finally begin to undermine and bankrupt a corrupt capitalist system that puts profits above all life.

Tell your federal and state elected officials to cease using your money to subsidize agencies, industries, and universities that enslave, exploit, and slaughter other animals, and to ensure that federal and state agency secretaries no longer come from these same destructive industries.

How Do I Go Vegan?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Where Are the Rights in the "Animal Rights Movement"?

The Vegan Vine; Bill of Rights
When Lisa Vanderpump of Real Housewives fame and a nonvegan restaurateur is said by the New York Times to be championing "animal rights" for having dogs and running a dog rescue, you know there is a problem.

For most nonhuman advocates, the term "animal rights" has lost all meaning and efficacy. The phrase has been denigrated by a self-described "animal rights movement" and has been co-opted by anyone and everyone imaginable, from those who promote veganism to those who simply "love animals" like cats and dogs.

When we speak of "animal rights" (AR) it usually has absolutely nothing to do with the actual attainment of legal rights for nonhumans. This is regrettable because doing so only hurts those we're trying to help.

Activists and organizations alike misuse "animal rights" when applying it to the context of treatment and the lessening of cruelty and suffering. This only adds to the confusion and detracts from the real work being done to advance nonhuman rights. Similarly to the way veganism has been watered down by consumerists, fads, and those who want the label without the effort, so has "animal rights."

"Many animal advocates mistakenly think nonhuman animals have rights which 'animal rights' organizations work to enforce. The reality is that nonhuman animals have no rights," said David Cantor of Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA). "Despite massive injustice toward nonhuman animals, the first wave of the 'animal rights movement' has made no progress these past three decades because it is not a rights movement."

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Untold Victims of Gun Violence

The Vegan Vine
Hunted Haunt the Hunter
Sue Coe
The recent Parkland, Florida school shooting has raised the specter of gun violence once again. And once again, politicians and pundits alike employ hunting rhetoric to absolve themselves and others of their own contribution to violence.

Almost every discussion following a mass shooting pointedly incorporates what I call the "hunting clause," whereby the purposeful targeting of nonhuman animals is deemed an "appropriate" use of guns in contrast to the inappropriate use of guns to purposefully target human animals. This self-gratifying distinction by which nonhumans are "hunted" whereas nonhumans are "killed" or "murdered" is deeply speciesist and immoral. What's worse is that these same people, who seek to justify their gun ownership for the purpose of slaughtering other animals, brag about teaching their children to do the same.

"Like Texas church shooter Devin Kelley, Nikolas Cruz also had a history of hurting animals. For Kelley it was beating a dog. For Cruz it was a string of reported cruelty that included shooting squirrels and chickens with a pellet gun, trying to get a dog to attack a piglet, jamming sticks into rabbit holes and killing toads. His social media reportedly included photos of dead animals," reported Jessica Scott-Reid in the New York Daily News.

Akin to hunters of humans, hunters of nonhumans also get a thrill from murdering. In a 1996 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer detailing a canned hunt, Rex Perysian, a hunter, was anxious to begin. "I wanna peg one of these babies," he said. The boar Perysian set his sights on writhed and cried out with each shot. After four minutes of hell, she laid down and died. "I was pumpin’, man," Perysian said. After wiping blood from the boar's nose, he lifted her head by the ears for the cameras, and then dropped her head "and bellowed into the woods, boasting that the kill had sexually aroused him." Later, as ranch workers dragged away the corpses, Perysian sang a Miller beer jingle and summed up his enjoyment of hunting for the reporter. ‘‘It's just adrenaline, it’s great," he said. I'm sure Cruz and Kelley experienced similar adrenaline rushes at they aimed at students and churchgoers respectively.

Edward Stack, Dick's Sporting Goods chief executive, who was praised for his decision to remove all assault-style guns from his stores after the Parkland shooting, explained why his company will restrict some gun sales. "We don't want to be part of a mass shooting," he said. But Stack doesn't seem to mind being part of some mass shootings.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Vegans Confusing Consumerism With Activism

The Vegan Vine; PETA's 13 Vegan Essentials
Necessity and activism as defined by PETA
An activist lamented the lack of participation at his fur protests: "I'm going to start organizing protests with the heading 'Vegan Food Event.' The numbers would quadruple," he said sarcastically. Another added, "Sad but true. Use 'Fest' too."

VegFests are all the rage and are popping up all over the country. Exposure to vegan foods and nonhuman sanctuaries is beneficial, but these are temperate events meant to peddle goods, not to advocate for the rights and freedom of other animals or inspire political and social activism. Instead of advising people to consume less, they push people to buy more and, in doing so, send the message that veganism is a personal, consumer choice, instead of a moral imperative.

The Tri-State VegFest held in Edison, New Jersey, last summer was sponsored by the Humane League, well known for its welfarist campaigns like persuading universities to switch to "cage-free" eggs. Instead of opposing the enslavement and killing of nonhumans and the violation of their moral rights, such campaigns seek only to make exploited nonhumans more comfortable, and their murders to appear less cruel.

The mastermind behind the NJ Tri-State VegFest was described on the website as "a natural-born entrepreneur" and the event was characterized as being "all about food, community, and entertainment. . ." A friend overheard another vegfest attendee speaking to a cutlery salesperson. "Which knife is best to use with [on] fish?" the guest asked. These functions are not exactly hubbubs of resistance. I'm not suggesting that we don't have vegfests, but I do think we should expect more of them and their participants.

The distinction between vegan activism and consumerism is becoming less and less apparent. Many have turned veganism into a trendy lifestyle, one that people feel they can take or leave whenever the mood strikes or a social affair beckons. Most vegan books and magazines cater to food and advertisers. They address clothing, travel, cosmetics, and other trivial nonsense as opposed to less glamorous topics like education, government policies, and critical thinking. Speciesist language, the animal-industrial complex, nonhuman rights, and other important issues are seldom, if ever, discussed.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

The Problem Vegans and Nonvegans Don't Want to Acknowledge

The Vegan Vine
Surrealist painting of industrialized human, artist unknown
Here are some frightening statistics from Population Matters:
  • There are now more than 7.5 billion humans on Earth. 
  • It took until the early 1800s for the human population to reach one billion. Now we add a billion humans every 12-15 years.
  • 10,000 years ago, humans made up 1% of vertebrate land animals. Today, free-living nonhumans make up just 1%. The other 99% are humans, our food-industry captives, and our domesecrated pets.
  • Populations of free-living nonhumans have halved since 1970, whereas the human population has doubled.

The human population crisis can be a contentious subject for many people. I touched briefly on it in a Facebook post a couple of years ago and managed to release all kinds of vitriol. I had noted that the best way to help the planet is to adopt a vegan diet and not have children. Some folks lost their minds and inferred that I was condemning them for the children they already had. My mere intention was to encourage people to rethink their future eating and breeding habits.

Last month a group of more than 15,000 world scientists concurred and issued a Second Warning to Humanity (since we didn't heed the first alarm back in 1992). They report that we are failing greatly to restrict human population and economic growth, among other threats, and that we must "re-examine and change our individual behaviors including limiting our own reproduction (ideally to replacement level at most) and drastically diminishing our per capita ­consumption of fossil fuels, meat [flesh], and other resources."

Some 20 years ago a college friend pointed out that choosing to procreate is a selfish and egocentric act. Like most human-centered speciesists, I didn't give it much thought, but it made a lot of sense. "Therefore because the [parent] has enjoyed sensual pleasure, the [child] must live, suffer, and die," scribed 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.

People will go to great lengths to create mini-mes. The wealthier among us opt for technological extremes like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), uterus transplants, or pay poorer surrogates to carry their children. And still—much like homeless nonhuman companions—the ranks of homeless human children in need of forever loving homes never seem to wane.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Reviews: Two Tales on Eating the Unthinkable

Under the Skin by Michel Faber and Animals by Don LePan couldn't be more different as far as stories go, but both authors have managed to spin two unique and compelling narratives from one identical, unimaginable act.

The Vegan Vine; Animals by Don LePanAnimals is a thought-provoking tale that takes place in the twenty-second century, long after the mass extinction of most nonhuman animals.

The novel follows a human child named Sam who is disabled and therefore, is considered inferior and deemed a mongrel. We follow Sam from his original family and his loving, but working poor, single mother's home to his newly adopted home with Naomi, a brave, young girl who sees Sam as more than just the family pet and takes him under her wing.

Animals is a great achievement as it intricately combines two fictional manuscripts written in the future by Naomi and Broderick Clark, Sam's oldest brother. Clark interjects throughout to explain how things used to be before there were mongrels.

Even though Animals is a work of fiction, LePan shows what life is really like for billions of nonhumans today by skillfully illustrating, via a futuristic lens, similar experiences through another species.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Vegans Are the Furthest Thing from Elite

The Vegan Vine; The New Yorker
I endeavor to live a simple life. I reside in a cozy, one bedroom apartment of 673 square feet. I earn a modest salary and rarely dine out, and I prefer to rent movies for free from the library. I don't subscribe to the latest fashions or fads, and last year I spent zero dollars on clothing, shoes, and accessories. In an effort to limit my impact on the planet and other animals, I try to curtail my consumption of goods and limit my travel. Those who know me and are familiar with my minimalist habits and vegan ways would not label me an elitist, yet that is often how vegans are mischaracterized.

By definition alone ethical vegans are not elitist for the simple fact that they hold little to no power or influence in the overarching animal-industrial complex that controls everything from communication and government to universities and major corporations. In fact, our efforts often run counter to and challenge the existing system of oppression upheld by the elite.

It's all too easy for non-vegans to bully and belittle minority vegans as elitist while defending and excusing their own unjust choices, which is ironic considering the forced labor of animals and the consumption of their murdered bodies, milk, and eggs elevate and sustain the upper classes. Here are some brief examples of interconnected scourges linked to financial interests in animal oppression:

Violence: Animal industries are inherently violent operations that function by remaining invisible. Animal products can only be consumed when animals are treated as merchandise—things. Supported by non-vegan dollars; the meat, dairy, fish, and egg industries profit from the forced breeding and killing of billions of beings every year. In addition, slaughterhouse workers have few options and do the revolting work of killing for those who won't do it themselves. In "Vegan in the Dairy State" Cori Mattli noted that "there is a high correlation with slaughterhouse work and post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence." Workers often become desensitized to the violence they are paid to inflict on other animals and society pays a steep price for accepting such unnecessary violence as routine. Towns harboring slaughterhouses have higher rates of domestic violence and violent crimes, including murder and rape.

War/Genocide: In his groundbreaking book, Animal Oppression and Human Violence, David A. Nibert expounded how the need for more resources to maintain nomadic herds of animals for food and labor has resulted in centuries of war and conflict. From Genghis Khan to today's commercial cattle ranching operations, the upper echelon continue to expand their capitalist interests through the manipulation and exploitation of land and animals. Nonhumans are continually used as sources of food, tools, and labor to support conflicts and conquests. The influx of cattle, sheep, horses, and other animals to North, Central, and South America from European explorers through the Columbian Exchange helped fuel military expeditions, warfare between native tribes, and genocide.  As the demand for beef (and land and water for sustaining cattle) increases—even now—so too do conflicts with indigenous groups (e.g. Darfur).