Friday, December 30, 2011

The slavery analogy

My friend sent me a Mark Bitman article in the NYT about semi-veganism. He asked what I thought even though he already knew. There’s no such thing as semi-veganism or a part-time vegan.

You going to use the slavery analogy again? he asked.

People don’t like the slavery analogy. It offends them. The Atlantic Monthly bans commenters for using it. Maybe it’s because people don’t want what they consider a second or third-tier sin likened to the greatest sin in America’s history. But that’s not why my friend doesn’t like the analogy. He doesn’t like it because it divides people into two groups – those who support the enslavement and slaughter of non-human animals and those who renounce it. My friend wants there to be a group somewhere in the middle, where you can sympathize with the plight of animals and do what you can to reduce their suffering but still eat them from time to time.

The slavery analogy works so well because it’s so stark. If a slaveholder claims to oppose slavery, he must free his slaves. If he adds a few links of chain to the shackles so the slave has more room to roam, he does not oppose slavery. If he vows to whip his slaves less frequently, he does not oppose slavery. People who talk about part-time veganism, bigger cages, free range, grass fed, Michael Pollan, humane slaughter, etc etc etc want to oppose slavery without freeing their slaves. And that’s simply not possible.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Big Ag wants a piece of the grass fed action and Animal Welfare Approved isn’t happy about it.

We’ve seen it a million times in movies. A new dealer moves into an established dealer’s territory and the war is on.

Animal Welfare Approved owns a sweet chunk of the grass fed market. Users are willing to pay good money for the illusion the animals they eat didn’t suffer, and the Animal Welfare Approved label is the highest quality shit, the Kona Gold of humane certification labels.

Animal Welfare Approved does have rival dealers like Certified Humane, but they’ve carved out different territories and learned to co-exist. But now someone else wants a piece of the action. Big Ag.
As the public interest in ethically produced (sic) food continues to flourish … it is perhaps inevitable that food businesses jump on the grassfed bandwagon.
This isn’t some rogue animal welfare advocate. The food industry has big money behind it. Doesn’t mean animal welfare approved is just going to roll over. Drug dealers protect their teritory with guns. Animal Welfare Approved opts for an 18-page Grass fed primer.
While the range of products, labels and brands that make the grassfed claim grows by the day, the sad reality is … some of the so-called grassfed systems out there actually fall well short of our expectations.
In other words, this is our fucking territory, motherfuckers. You come here start pedaling your grass fed shit there’s going to be a fucking war, man. 

Don’t know how this war is going to play out, but it won’t be pretty.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More gift ideas: Old MacDonald had a before-and-after farm.

The sunshine. The green grass. The happy mooing, bleating, clucking animals. The happy farmer and the happy farmer's wife. The stun bolt gun. The dip scalding machine. The skin peeler. The slab conveyor. It's all here in the Old MacDonald had a before-and-after farm animal figurine set.

*Cow, goat, chicken & lamb figurines in carcass and pre-carcass form
*Additional figurines available for purchase:
     Family farmer who names then slaughters animals
     Whole Foods buyer
     Compassionate carnivore picnickers and accessories
*Certified Humane labels not included

Sunday, December 18, 2011

More gift ideas: Michael Pollan hypocrisy-isolating headphones

State-of-the-art headphones designed exclusively for listening to Michael Pollan audio books. Two separate channels for crystal clear playback of Michael Pollan talking out of both sides of his mouth. One channel plays his profound sympathy for the plight of farm animals, the other channel his drooling accounts of watching animals get slaughtered.

Channel one:
The lives of billions of animals on American feedlots and factory farms are horrible to contemplate, an affront to our image of ourselves as humane.
Channel two:
Mike and I drove to the ranch to choose our animal and watch the itinerant butcher slaughter and dress it … Mike cuts a few slivers from the loin and passes them around; a ceremonial tasting of the uncooked animal is, he explains, a butcher’s privilege.
Channel one: 
Broiler chickens spend their lives in cages too small to ever stretch a wing. Every natural instinct is thwarted, leading to a range of behavioral vices that include canablizing her cage mates and rubbing her body against the mesh until it is featherless and bleeding.

Channel two: 
Melissa … has a sure hand with the hacksaw and the butcher knife; within 20 minutes the goat is transformed into considerably more appetizing cuts of meat:  the baron, or hindquarters, and the saddle … two racks of ribs (for tomorrow’s lunch); the shoulders (destined for an overnight braise) and the scraps…
Contradiction-canceling technology reduces ambient hypocrisy by 87.4%
Comes in heifer black and white

Friday, December 16, 2011

What to get the person who’s killed everything?

Who’s there?
It’s Tom from the slaughterhouse.
Come on in, Tom, and don’t forget to wipe your boots on our new Meritech Welcome Mat.

The Meritech Hog Killer's Welcome Mat

Here’s a gift idea for that special pig slaughterer in your life.  The folks at Hormel and Smithfield slaughter thousands per hour without the slightest twinge of remorse, but that doesn’t mean they want entrail stains on their brand new carpet.

Conventional welcome mats clean grass blades and clumps of dirt. They don’t stand a chance against boots caked with pig innards.  But the Meritech Welcome Mat is manufactured using 12 guage 304 stainless steel, so it cleans the soles, sides and tops of your guests' boots.

Those stubborn, wriggling pigs don't want to die right away and that can really dirty up a nice pair of boots. Fortunately, the Meritech welcome mat utilizes a series of horizontal brushes to effectively clean and sanitize so chunks of ground-in flesh on your wooden floor is a thing of the past.

If you’ve got pig slaughterers on your holiday guest list, make sure to replace your old welcome mat with the new Meritech Welcome Mat. Janice K of Bayard, Iowa did.

“It’s been one party after another.  Friends from Smithfield, Hormel, Jimmy Dean. Our living room was starting to resemble a slaughterhouse. That’s when we decided to get rid of our old straw welcome mat and replace it with one from Meritech. Now our guests don’t leave trails of offal to the kitchen and I couldn’t be happier.”

                                                               -- Janice K, Bayard, Iowa

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


A feral cat lived across the alley from my apartment. I called her Swirls because the golden part of her fur curled into patterns like the inside of a shell. She'd sun herself on the roof and watch a world that hadn't done her any favors.
I flattered myself that just as I knew Swirls’ routines, she knew mine. When the sun lights up my roof, he comes out to his balcony with his coffee, she’d think.
At five she'd cross the alley to the apartment of the person who fed her. At ten past five, she'd re-cross the alley to curl up alone in the dark.
Alone -- but that’s me projecting one of my human frailties on her.
Solitude was no enemy to Swirls.
She had another enemy, though she had no way of knowing.
Apparently her transgressions became too much for someone in the apartment building.
What were these transgressions?
Her food attracted raccoons. 
She left paw prints on cars in the carport.
Freshly washed cars.
And for that, someone decided to poison Swirls’ food.
Her death was slow, I’m told.
The person who feeds her found her in the alley.
She lasted the car ride to the vet’s.
Nothing will happen, of course.
Pets are property. Which makes Swirls something less than property.
She was born in the alley, the only survivor of a litter.
She dodged the cars, outsmarted the coyotes.
We feared the coyotes would get her eventually.
But they were merely predators.
The driver who didn’t want smudges on his car, the building manager who wanted to please his tenant, Swirls never had a chance against that.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

How to keep consuming animal products without giving up your progressive credentials.

All you need is a good rationalization. Here's an example: The world's not ready to give up meat. If I were to stop consuming animal products, I'd implicitly be saying my behavior is morally superior to those who do. That's elitism and there's nothing more repellant to the progressive sensibility than elitism. By continuing to consume animal products like everyone else, I'm declaring my solidarity with the rest of the world and only through solidarity can we affect change.

Here’s another one:  The history of social movements proves change can only come gradually.  If I were to stop consuming animal products all at once, I’d be violating this most basic truth. Justice takes time.  Today, I’ll shake my head solemnly at what the poor creature I’m eating had to endure before it wound up on my fork. Tomorrow I’ll sign petitions giving them a few extra feet of cage space and someday in the hopefully not too distant future I’ll stop eating them.

Gradual change also works better for the animals. Animals are creatures of habit. Sudden change to their routine can upset their equilibrium. To go from the horrific treatment of factory farms to not being slaughtered at all would be too big a shock to the system of these poor creatures. They need a transitional phase, half way between factory farms and freedom, where we continue to slaughter them but do it in a more humane way.  After they’ve grown accustomed to this more humane slaughter, only then will be they be prepared for the next step of emancipation.

Those are just few examples.  So if you’re deeply, passionately concerned about the plight of farm animals, but you don’t want to give up the delicious taste of their flesh, don’t worry, there’s so many rationalizations out there. You’re sure to find one that works for you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The numbers are astonishing

The Whole Foods Farm Animal Welfare site begins…

"The numbers are astonishing..."
 … consider this: in the time it takes to watch a 60-minute television show, 5.8 million chickens are slaughtered for meat. That’s more than 97,000 per minute ... Each one can suffer.
So Whole Foods created their 5-step Animal Welfare Rating System, which enables them to charge a premium for “humanely raised” meat.

And the numbers are astonishing.
Whole Foods Markets quarterly profit rose a larger than expected 35 percent and it raised its full-year profit forecast, fueled by robust sales and snatching market share from other supermarkets.
Whole Foods executives have a deep understanding of the mindset of their self-styled progressive shoppers:

We don’t want animals to suffer, and more importantly, we don’t want to suffer pangs of guilt while we're eating our dinner. We’ll gladly pay extra if you convince us the flesh we’re eating came from a carefree animal who lived a blissful life right up to the moment he was slaughtered with tenderness and compassion.

Yes, Whole Foods will be more than happy to convince their shoppers of this.
By choosing to support higher welfare farmers and ranchers, we can collectively make a significant difference in the lives of billions of animals.
 But for shareholders who need reassurance this isn’t some wooly-headed animal rights thing...
 Higher animal welfare standards are increasingly seen to be a pre-requisite to enhancing business efficiency and profitability...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Certified Humane. Improving animals’ lives by slaughtering them.

Pretty impressive. And how are they able to improve these 25 million lives each year? By slaughtering the past year’s 25 million. They’re then able to improve the lives of 25 million new animals. Slaughter them and improve the lives of another  25 million. And so on. What do these improved lives consist of? “Chickens are able to flap their wings and dust bathe” before their necks are sliced open. “Pigs have the space to move around and root” before their brains are pierced by a stun bolt.

The improved life part is accurate, no arguing with that. But it’s not the 25 million animals whose lives are improved. It’s the meat producers who get to charge a premium for Certified Humane products.  It’s the compassionate carnivores who like thinking they’re concerned about animal suffering and want to eat those animals without feeling guilty.
Certified Humane. The best way to help farm animals.
The people at American Heritage and Webster’s would know best, but I’ve got to believe this is the first time the word “help” has been used as a synonym for "slaughter" and the word "best" has been used as a synonym for "worst."