Thursday, June 27, 2019

"Farmers" Don't Deserve Public's Money or Pity

The Vegan Vine
Overgrown hooves and anxious looks.  © Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals
The words "farm" and "farmer" typically portend nostalgic and romantic notions of an American way of life. In the 1980's, like many teenagers, I was a fan of FarmAid concerts that sought to keep families from losing their farms. Songs like "Scarecrow" by John Mellencamp immortalized the financial struggles of farmers. Over the years I've seen many local farms disappear to human development.

When I became vegetarian, then vegan, I found that not all farms and farmers are created equal. I learned to let go of idealized, culturally-programmed concepts of these terms that—like the Old MacDonald nursery rhyme and Oscar Meyer jingle—conjure up naive and harmless impressions. Instead, when I came face to face with the truth of what most "farms" and "farmers" do, I uncovered violent operations where millions of nonhuman animals are needlessly bred, enslaved, and killed for their flesh, milk, and eggs.

There is a world of difference between farmers who grow fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables, or operate local, plant-based CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) and "farmers" who oppress, manipulate, and massacre other sentient beings for a living.

"Divorced from the land, numerous 'animal agriculture' operations have no farming component," wrote Joan Dunayer in Animal Equality: Language and Liberation. "Yet, the exploitation of captive nonhumans for food retains the name agriculture, evoking pastoral images of cows grazing, pigs rooting, and chickens pecking in the spacious outdoors. . . . Farm is largely an anachronism. . . . 'Farmers' and 'producers' who deal in flesh, milk, or eggs actually are slaveholders. Slaughterers are mass murderers. Assisted by words that falsify, consumers of products from nonhuman bodies pretend otherwise."

On May 23, President Trump authorized a $16 billion aid package for "farmers" to tide them over during his trade war with China—this is in addition to the $12 billion they were given last year. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bail out food-industry enslavers, otherwise known as "farmers," who uphold the catastrophic animal flesh, milk, and egg cartels. Nor is it our responsibility to finance those who abet these cartels by turning their soybean and corn yields over to feed companies to fatten nonhuman animals for slaughter. In fact, 75 percent of all soy and 95 percent of all corn grown in the United States is used strictly to fill captive nonhuman animals ("live-stock"), in spite of the fact that if this grain were consumed directly by humans, we could feed nearly 800 million people, potentially wiping out human hunger across the world. Furthermore, subsidies to soy and corn farmers indirectly help lower costs for those who breed nonhuman animals for consumption.

Therefore, I see no moral distinction between the "farmer" who reproduces and butchers animals, and the "farmer" who grows the principal crops that—when mixed with antibiotics, chemicals, and other dead animals—become the sludge that increase nonhuman animals for their extermination. These two types of "farmers" are interdependent, and bolster bloody and environmentally-destructive industries.

Last August, the Trump administration announced an additional bailout for "dairy farmers" who saw prices plummet by $1.1 billion in 2018 thanks to a rising vegan milk industry. As part of the bailout, the USDA agreed to spend $50 billion of taxpayer money to buy approximately 12 million gallons of surplus cow's milk. Even though many more Americans are choosing healthier and ethical plant-based milks, we are still forced to redeem the cow-milk industry. Why?

According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Madison, Wisconsin, the "Dairy State" lost 903 cow-milk enslavement operations ("farms") in just 15 months. However, it's important to note that the number of cows tyrannized for their milk stayed steady—some of them were just shipped to larger facilities. Moreover, even with less than 20 percent of the cow-milk facilities Wisconsin had in 1979, Wisconsin still set a record in 2018 for the most pounds of cow's milk produced in one year due to bigger confinement facilities (prisons), genetically-altered cows, and genetically-modified feed.

Most "farms" today are owned by giant, wealthy conglomerates like Tyson, Smithfield, ADM, and Cargill. It doesn't matter that the supply of cow's milk exceeds demand when these companies have powerful lobbyists and politicians on their side. The typical Return on Investment (ROI) for lobbying Congress is 20,000 percent, and the animal flesh, milk, egg, and feed industries have a lot of money to go around. Republicans decry welfare and socialism except when it affects their own pockets and corporate interests. Large animal-abuse corporations don't have to adhere to capitalist principles of Economic Darwinism when they're continually bankrolled by taxpayers.

Recently, Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture ordered the removal of vegan "butters" from all state supermarket shelves. If the cow-milk industry can't win, they just eliminate the competition using their government clout. That doesn't strike me as capitalistic.

And Democrats are no better. In 2009, Obama appointee Tom Vilsack introduced the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to reimburse “farmers” for any deaths to "live-stock" caused by natural disaster and disease. Think about this for a minute. Food-industry animals are purposefully created to be killed, but if they happen to die natural deaths—as opposed to the unnatural deaths inflicted on them by "farmers" and slaughterhouse workers—then these animal exploiters receive additional money. What's more, the escalation of flooding and disease is chiefly attributable to exploiting nonhuman animals for food. Hence, we should be taxing "farmers" and the animal flesh, milk, and egg industries, not reimbursing them!

Unsurprisingly, the LIP is just one of many "farm" sustaining programs begot by the former governor of Iowa, which produces more corn and kills more pigs than any other state. Since nonhuman animals are still considered property, the program acts like any other insurance to remedy “losses." However, unlike most private insurance, it is funded with taxpayer dollars and goes to preserving vicious, unjust, and unscrupulous animal-abuse enterprises that remain one of the greatest contributors to global warming and environmental pollution.

These bailouts and programs go unquestioned because we have been socially indoctrinated to believe that animal-derived ice-cream, hot dogs, and hamburgers are as American as baseball and, therefore, so are the "farmers" who capitalize on the lives of nonhuman animals to produce such products. Sympathetic news accounts elevate "farmers" who mourn the loss of their trade in flesh, but few seem to grieve for the shackled mothers, fathers, and children who are systematically used and executed for a lousy buck and cheap hamburger flesh.

In a recent industry-friendly article in the New York Times, "Farms Have Folded. But the Dairy Breakfast Must Go On.", fellow Wisconsinite Julie Bosman reported on the annual Wisconsin dairy breakfast where "farmers" glutted themselves on milk, yogurt, cheese curds, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Bosman noted one young woman, a sort of ambassador for local cow-milk operations, who was feeding a 3-day-old calf a mixture of electrolytes and water, a "Gatorade for cows" is what she called it. It didn't seem to occur to Bosman to ask any investigative questions like, why is a calf drinking Gatorade instead of her own mother's milk? Sadly, the milk meant for the female calf is, instead, being sold to humans so they can gorge themselves on the aforementioned dairy breakfast products. Bosman wouldn't have seen any male calves because they're useless to the "dairy" industry and already would have been shot or sold off to be turned into veal or pet food. This was a biased piece meant to prop up "farmers," not to uncover the horrors of the cow-milk industry.

These "farmers" deserve as much consolation as a snake-oil salesman or a Big Pharma executive whose salary hinges on opioid addiction.

In 1968, there were many political operatives who wanted the war and carnage in Vietnam to continue regardless of the obvious failures and loss of life, but few had the courage to finally admit it. "Past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation," said Robert F. Kennedy. "All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he know his course is wrong and repairs the evil."

It is immoral to insist on preserving any establishment that causes unnecessary suffering and death to others. Economic excuses for maintaining animal exploitation are deplorable and indefensible. I understand that people are afraid to lose their jobs, but just because something is called a "job" doesn't make it right or entitled to exist. There will come a day when furriers, slaughterhouse workers, breeders, zoo workers, jockeys, carriage drivers, food-industry enslavers, and many others will have to forfeit their "jobs" because we ceased to view nonhuman animals as property and things to subjugate for personal pleasure, entertainment, and financial gain.

In a series of op-eds, Gene Baur, the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, espoused government help to transition "farmers" away from animal-enslavement operations:
Our government should stop propping up this untenable situation and wasting billions of dollars in subsidies every year. Instead of prolonging the inevitable failure of dairy farms and subsidizing the overproduction of commodities that consumers aren’t buying, our government should actively invest in transitioning these struggling dairies into producing more of the foods our nation needs, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and other healthy, plant-based foods.
It doesn't take much to make us feel empathy for animal enslavers because most of us condone and partake in buttressing animal-abuse culture. Politicians and the media use this misguided pity for small animal imprisonment operations in order to gain taxpayer money to reinforce large factory farm operations. In the end, we shouldn't be bailing out any of these depraved institutions and should direct our compassion toward the real victims—nonhuman animals. "Farmers" are not victims, but perpetrators of enormous suffering, death, and environmental destruction. They want to be compensated for their financial losses while animals pay with their very lives. It's time we awoke to the reality of these "farms" and "farmers"—and what we pay them to do—and stop treating them like sacred cows.

To learn more about how you can help end government subsidies for nonhuman-animal exploiters, visit the Vegan Justice League.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

NJ Gov and Legislators Help Some Animals, Ignore Others

Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed another piece of legislation for nonhuman animals. wrongly noted that Bills S1923 and S2674 were signed into law "to further protect animal rights across New Jersey." These laws do not protect "animal rights" because animals have no legal rights in New Jersey or any other state in the union—they are still considered property under the law. In addition, these bills only pertain to dogs, domestic animal companions, and service animals.

While I applaud the governor and legislators for their advocacy on behalf of some animals (dogs, cats, and "exotic" animals used in circuses), there are many other animals who are being ignored by the governor, legislators, citizens, and media throughout the State.

Follow-up comments made by Governor Murphy, along with Assemblymen Bruce Land, Matthew Milam, and Gordon Johnson indicate an incredible disregard for reality and truth. They also illustrate how profoundly invisible are the lives of countless other animals due to deeply entrenched ideologies and self-serving interests.

"Animal cruelty is abuse, plain and simple," said Assemblyman Matt Milam. "We will not tolerate animal cruelty in New Jersey..." 

I agree with Assemblyman Milam that animal cruelty is abuse and should not be tolerated, however, it is tolerated every single day in NJ. Almost everything we do maintains animal abuse culture. The State even goes so far as to subsidize the exploitation, abuse, and massacre of animals using taxpayer money for hunting, vivisection, horse racing, and to promote dubious "animal science" programs at Rutgers University. And what does Assemblyman Milam think happens to thousands of animals every day in NJ slaughterhouses?

Friday, March 29, 2019

The Dirty Truth About Panera's "Clean" Foods

The fast food chain Panera likes to flaunt itself as a chic place for modern foodies. Their commercials boast about their use of "clean" ingredients, particularly those made from the bodies and fluids of other animals. If you believe this advertising scheme, then I have a bridge to sell you.

The Vegan Vine
Hens exploited for their eggs stand on the body of a dead mate to avoid the painful wire flooring. 
© Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

So-called clean foods happen to be very trendy right now, yet the term "clean" is as meaningless as the word "natural." What's more, calling animal-based cheese, bacon, and chicken products "clean" is incredibly ironic. Why? Because these products are derived from the most unsanitary, sickly, and brutal operations in the world.

The Vegan Vine, Every Twelve SecondsBreeding and killing nonhuman animals for consumption is a very dirty business. Most animals spend their days caged and wallowing in their own urine, feces, and blood, their lungs burning with the concentrated stench of excrement. Over 80 percent of all antibiotics are fed to animals bred for consumption because they're often sick with infections and sores.

No amount of sanitizing semantics can whitewash the horrors of those industries that exploit other living beings for their flesh, milk, and eggs. Animals are genetically manipulated and their lives cut short. They are deprived of every basic pleasure, tortured, and then killed for unnecessary foodstuffs. Their bodies bleed and their deaths are as excruciating as they are squalid.

The environmental destruction resulting from our mass consumption of captive animals is also incredibly dirty and damaging. Manure pits have led to human deaths and birth defects as a result of toxins seeping into groundwater. Many poorer communities surrounding factory farms battle polluted water and air. Fecal waste from cattle flows into rivers and streams, causing algae blooms that deprive the water of oxygen resulting in dead zones that suffocate sea animals to death.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Less Than Human" Labeling is Root of All Evil

The Vegan Vine
"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." 

Henry David Thoreau wrote this in Walden in 1854. At the time, he was referring to the hypocrisy of philanthropists who gave to the poor yet ignored how their own lives contributed to the circumstances afflicting the poor.

In the same way, donating to an organization or signing a petition doesn't exonerate us from contributing to society's large-scale problems or, in the case of other animals, the systemic violence and injustice they face.

There are some evils in the world that are conspicuous compared with those ingrained in institutions and traditions that uphold the status quo. The actions of people like Dylann Roof, who killed nine Black Americans during a prayer service, are obviously abhorrent to most. On the other hand, we choose not to "see" the violence we contribute to on a mass scale in daily life. Campus protests erupt over a neo-fascist ideologue with a microphone while destructive and insidious "animal science" programs endure without backlash.

And like Thoreau's philanthropists, there are evils of benevolence that give the illusion of charity. A good example is the donation of turkey corpses to the poor for Thanksgiving. We make a spectacle of such events, patting ourselves on the back for our "generosity."

In a recent interview in the New York Times Magazine, Bryan Stevenson, executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative said: "The great evil of American slavery wasn’t involuntary servitude: It was the ideology of white supremacy, in which people persuaded themselves that black people aren’t fully human."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Advocating for Nonhumans Beyond the Grave

Most of us don't want to think about it, but at some point we are all going to die. Even before that time comes, we may become ill or incapacitated, and our chance for making important decisions will be too late. Who will care for our nonhuman companion(s)? Which charity would we like to leave our money to? There is no time like the present for activists to consider these and other questions.

Too often vegans believe they're invincible, as if being vegan is a guarantee of a long and healthy life. It's not. While a plant-based diet has proven to be an excellent way to reduce our risk of acquiring chronic diseases, it does not promise a life free of illness. In Even Vegans Die: A Practical Guide to Caregiving, Acceptance, and Protecting Your Legacy of Compassion, Carol Adams, et al. addresses vegan biases and how we can all be better advocates to ourselves and others.

If you are a guardian to a nonhuman companion or just want to make sure your ethical vegan values are reflected in decisions made on your behalf, here are some things you can do now to ensure that your advocacy for nonhuman animals continues even after you have become injured, ill, or have passed on.

In-Case-of-Emergency ID Card: Create a card for your wallet that specifies someone you trust to care for your nonhuman companion in the event that you become debilitated. The card should contain your address, the name and telephone number of your emergency contact, and a picture of your nonhuman companion. It should say something like: "My companion (name) is home alone. If I become ill or injured, please contact the following person to care for her." Emergency contacts should also have access (keys) to your home or know where to find them.

Making Arrangements for Nonhuman Companion(s):  In the same vein as the ID card, it's also a good idea to leave detailed instructions for the care of your nonhuman companion(s). Designate a guardian and make sure they're on board. You may even request in your will that they receive a monthly or yearly stipend. You should also provide them with detailed instructions. Think about everything you do now to care for your nonhuman companion and list it out. Provide their name, photo, date of birth, physical description, microchip ID number, food preferences, treats, eating habits, schedules, favorite toys and activities, personality, likes, dislikes, vet contact information, medical history, medications, lifestyle, sleep schedule, requirements, etc.—anything that would be helpful in replicating your same level of care. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Christianity and Veganism, United in Purpose

The Vegan Vine
There is a deeply spiritual side to my veganism, one that feels natural and harmonious with the original vision of Eden and the ideals of Christianity. But as this church sign shows (left), it's popular to make fun of vegans. More than that, the morality of veganism—advancing fairness and justice—is lost on many, especially those you least expect who advocate charity and goodwill. I wrote to the Rose Hill Church in response to their sign:

I realize you're just trying to be funny and that it's trendy to mock vegans, but many of us see nonhuman animals as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and in doing so, we choose not to exploit, abuse, and murder them. These messages are not harmless and support a speciesist and abusive belief system that promotes ill will toward other living beings. You would not make light of hurting a cat or dog, yet you do make light of hurting and killing cows, who are no different. I prefer to live a life that doesn't impose unnecessary suffering on others. I can't understand how any person or organization, especially a church, chooses to do otherwise.

Pastor Brian North of Rose Hill Church returned:

Thanks for your feedback on our sign . . . I don’t think our sign guy realized it’s trendy to mock vegans. I know I didn’t. Regardless, we apologize for our insensitivity. It certainly wasn’t our intent to offend anyone but simply have fun with words. We will be more sensitive about these kinds of things in the future. Thanks again.

I appreciated his response; however, Pastor North ignored the central petition of my complaint, so I concluded:

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I care less, however, about any insensitivity to vegans than I care about what the message means for the treatment of other animals. Any offense I took pales in comparison to the offenses committed daily against those nonhumans who have the hopeless misfortune to be labeled "food" or "steak." Through abject violence, these living, feeling beings are turned into commodities. We pay slaughterhouse workers to do our bidding and to carry out our dirty work. It's something we like to forget. The message on your sign was just another attempt to trivialize and distance ourselves from our contribution to needless cruelty and exploitation. We like to say we love animals, but we don't. Sadly, our actual behaviors rarely live up to our spoken values.

Every year around the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (Oct. 4), many churches hold a special service to "bless the animals," opening their doors to both parishioners and their pets. This year, nonhuman visitors to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan included a large tortoise, horse, cow, and camel, among many others.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

A Titanic Mindset for a Doomed Planet

The New Jersey office where I work will likely be under water in less than twenty years. When I mentioned this to a coworker, she just smiled and walked away.

"Long-term disaster is now the best case scenario" wrote Nathaniel Rich in "Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change." The planet is warming much more quickly than climate models predicted. It is now very probable that global temperatures will increase to 3.5 degrees by 2035 and may possibly warm to 6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century, according to NASA.

In the past two million years it has taken the planet about 5,000 years to warm 5 degrees and yet we stand to do it in just one century, a rate of warming that is extremely unusual and at least 20 times faster. Already the oldest and thickest sea ice in the Arctic has started to break up prompting one meteorologist to describe it as "scary."

The writing has been on the wall for some time, but it continues to get pushed under the rug for many reasons, not the least of which is apathy. There are the proponents of economic-growth-at-all-costs. There are the climate deniers, deregulation diehards, and the human extremists. And there are those who nullify the moral depravity of exploiting and consuming the bodies and fluids of other animals, which happens to contribute mightily to our and our planet's woes.

The Vegan VineThe numbers speak for themselves. A recent analysis of life on Earth published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America showed that humans are directly attributable for the deaths of 83 percent of all non-domesecrated nonhuman animals, as well as half of all plants.

We have replaced these free-living beings with tormented captives. Now 70 percent of all birds on Earth consist primarily of enslaved chickens and turkeys, while 60 percent of all mammals comprise mostly of captive cows, pigs, and goats. We murder 60 billion of these birds and mammals and trillions of sea animals annually just so we can needlessly eat them.