you are not my typewriter
{Thursday, May 12, 2005 . cute story}

So Michelle Beasley was over at my house yesterday afternoon to work on some stuff, and Emily and Jewish Boyfriend invited themselves over. They got bored after a while and went for a walk. During their walk I went to use the bathroom, and while I was in there, I heard them come in all giggly and rustling about. When I come out, there is a huge road marker thingy in my living room.

posted at 8:25 PM by Alison


{Sunday, May 08, 2005 . Eat This!}

Contrary to what the StarvedArtist seems to believe, I actually HAVE been very busy and right now don't even really have time to update, so here's my oratory from this year that I said I would post and never got around to.

It was the summer I was eight. I was spending the weekend with my uncle, and after we saw a movie, he took me out for burgers. I was still in that charming stage where I was intensely interested in how things were made and where they came from. So I was sitting at this table with my uncle, staring at my burger and thinking about the steer from which it came, and I said, “Oh, poor cow.” Wrong thing to say. My uncle doesn’t take kindly to bleeding heart types. “Oh, come on,” he said, “It was just a cow. It’s not like it could think or talk or anything. It probably didn’t even have feelings.” Somehow, I just didn’t have the appetite to finish my burger. I realize that my uncle was being unusually calloused – most people, especially those who have had pets, recognize that animals’ lives do have an intrinsic worth, and that they are more than just commodities for human use. But most people, when they sit down to the dinner table, seem willing to push that knowledge out of their minds. We refuse to acknowledge the factory farms from which our food comes, and we refuse to acknowledge the suffering animals endure to satisfy our taste for them. In exploring this issue, we will first see that animals have rights, then how factory farming in particular violates those rights, and finally, what each of us can do about it.
The poor treatment of animals is based upon the assumption that animals do not matter, and that their only purpose in life is to serve humans. This assumption is self-serving and arbitrary. Of all the species on Earth, why is it that humans are the only species deserving of this elevated status? Some say that it is our use of language, tools, and our reasoning that put us above other animals. Certainly, they put us ahead of other animals in the departments of speaking and making things, but there is a significant gap in the logic which connects our intellectual superiority to our cruel treatment of animals. As 18th century British philosopher Jeremy Bentham put it in his book Principles of Morals and Legislation, “The question is not ‘Can they reason?’ nor, ‘Can they speak?’ but, ‘Can they suffer?’” Perhaps the real disparity between humans and non-human animals is that we are the only species with the ability to completely control and manipulate other animals’ lives. But the ability to commit an act does not make it right. What we as humans do is consider only our own interests, while dismissing those of animals simply because they are not our own. Animals have vested interests in nesting, hunting, migrating, creating families, and foraging for food. Those interests, however humble and lowly they may seem to us, deserve respect, too. Author Alice Walker put it best when she said, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.”
But, more often than not, animals are treated as if they were made for humans. The industry of factory farming – so named for its assembly-line style of dealing with animals – depends heavily upon the exploitation and abuse of animals. Worldwatch Institute researcher Danielle Nierenberg says in her article “Factory Farming in the Developing World” that 43% of the world’s livestock are raised on factory farms. Furthermore, before you drink a glass of milk, consider this: Not only is milking cows unnecessary, as cows’ milk is intended to be drunk by calves, but the way in which cows are milked under modern factory farming is extremely cruel. Anne Karpf, in the December 13, 2003 issue of The Guardian, explains that after the day-old calf is stolen from its mother, the cow is pumped full of steroids which force her to produce ten times the amount of milk she would produce naturally. Karpf says that because of infections or other health failures associated with this treatment, the average factory-farmed dairy cow only lives for a fifth of her natural life span. How about that ‘other white meat’? Well, before you bite into that pork chop, think about that fact that Jan Parr, author of The Young Vegetarian’s Companion, says that 66% of farm-raised pigs spend their entire lives in hog-houses and never see daylight until they are put on the truck to go to the slaughterhouse. Pork aside, how about frying an egg? Before firing up the stove, take into account agricultural researchers Joy Mench and Paul Seigel’s statement that 98% of the eggs produced in America come from hens confined in battery cages on factory farms. Hens are packed seven or eight to a cage, with each chicken allotted a space about the size of a piece of paper. Without the opportunity to follow even the most basic instincts to nest or flap their wings, many chickens become neurotic and peck their cagemates to death. In order to thwart this problem, farmers often debeak their laying hens without anesthetic. Although these are just a few examples, most animals raised on factory farms are treated similarly.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Each and every one of us holds a very powerful position: we are consumers. Many people – particularly Americans – consume an outrageous and unnecessary amount of meat. It is this gluttony which is putting pressure on the meat market to sacrifice animals’ dignity for production. Many people are making the switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle in an attempt to counteract this cycle. Already, a 2000 National Zogby Poll showed that 2.5% of Americans don’t eat any kind of meat. I personally count myself among the 0.9% of Americans who are vegans, or who do not eat meat, dairy, or eggs, who do not use products that are tested on animals and who do not wear fur, wool, or leather (the shoes, incidentally, are pleather). This may seem a bit extreme, but, with the increasing trend among restaurants and grocery stores toward providing more soy products, organic foods, and ethnic cuisines (which are often vegetarian) it is actually a healthy, safe, and sustainable lifestyle. If you disagree with the way farm animals are treated, but you don’t quite feel ready to make a drastic lifestyle change, don’t worry. Every little bit helps. Try occasionally using soymilk, or buying Horizon brand organic dairy products. Every once in a while, try replacing your meat products with the healthy - and surprisingly good – meat alternatives provided by companied like Boca, Lightlife, Morningstar Farms, and Garden Burger. And of course, animal products from non-factory farms are at least a little more humane. Just be aware of where your food is coming from. And, who knows? Maybe after a while of being a discriminate omnivore, you will decide that going all-out isn’t so difficult after all.
Now that you’ve seen why it’s wrong to exploit animals, and how they are exploited anyway, I sincerely hope that you decide to do something about it. Your pocketbook is a very powerful thing. We each have the power to save innumerable animals from suffering by reducing or eliminating the animals products in our diet. Sure, not everyone is willing to do this – my cow-hating uncle, for instance. And of course it’s impossible to completely eliminate animal suffering, but that’s no reason to not do what we can. Eating responsibly reflects a respect for life, and we as a society would do well to develop a little more of this. Mohandas Ghandi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Isn’t it about time we started treating ours better?

posted at 7:41 PM by Alison



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