Friday, May 8, 2009

The rough and final drafts of the Tyson mission statement on animal well-being

The Final Draft:

The rough draft:

The PR department prepared a statement for me to read? Let's see it. "The Tyson Mission Statement on animal well-being" ... wait, this is a joke, isn't it? A mission statement on animal well-being? Was it Charlie who put you guys up to this? Good one, Charlie! You got me. Back to work, everybody. What? It's for real, you say? People care about how we treat the chickens? Undercover videos of abuse? You mean that video you showed me depicted animal abuse? I thought the folks from corporate communications made that to inspire the troops. Okay, fine. The Tyson mission statement on animal well-being. At Tyson foods, it's our mission to kill as many of the buggers as we can as fast as we can and we care about their well-being about as much as I care about this cockroach under my shoe. What? That's not what the statement you handed me said? I'll have to put on my glasses. Okay. Here's we go. Tyson Foods is committed to the well-being ... hee hee, I'm sorry, I can't read that with a straight face. Give me a minute. Okay, I'm ready. Tyson Foods is committed to the well-being, proper handling and humane slaughter ... now that part sounds more like it. Take out the "humane" in front of "slaughter" and you've got yourself a mission statement. Okay, fine, "humane" stays in. I pay you PR folks good money so I'll listen to you this time. Where was I? We're committed to the proper handling. You wrap your hands around the neck and twist. Heh heh. We pledge our diligence in leading the industry pursuit of new and improved methods of denying allegations of animal cruelty. I'm getting the hang of it, aren't I? I'm a natural. I don't need you suck-ups from corporate communications to hold my hand through this thing. What's this next part? "Stewards of the animals we work with every day?" Are you serious? I say something like that, I'll be the laughing stock of the entire poultry business. Okay, now I know it's a gag. You got me and you got me good. I know it was Charlie who put you up to this. The stewards of animals we work with every day. That's a classic. Good job, people. I like my employees to have a sense of humor. What comes next? "This is not only the right thing to do, but it is an important moral and ethical obligation." Hee hee! You guys are too funny. I practically peed my pants when I read that one. You tell Charlie I owe him one. Funny stuff, funny stuff!

Other rough and final drafts here and here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Young, rebellious steer rejects the life of his elders

-- Your father was a beef burrito, his father was a beef burrito.  But it's not good enough for you.
-- Look, I don't want to be slaughtered at one of those impersonal factory farms, eaten by people who care nothing about our well-being.  I want to be eaten by people who treat us with kindness and compassion before they slaughter us.  I want to be an animal welfare-approved piece of steak, purchased by a progressive shopper who cares so deeply about reducing my suffering that she/he is willing to pay a little extra for a taste of my flesh.  You see how I say she/he?  I picked it up from them.  These people are so sensitive to any and all forms of oppression/domination ... ah, you wouldn't understand.  I mean when you're a beef burrito, you'll end up getting eaten by a car full of drunken fraternity guys at two in the morning, guys who couldn't care less about how much you suffered.  Not me.  I'm going to be eaten by sensitive, refined progressives who sip chardonnay in between bites of my flesh.   And believe me, they won't be talking about the hot chicks they want to do, like your drunken frat boys in the drive-thru lane.  Not even close.  The progressive people who consume my flesh will be discussing important things, like saving the planet, reducing their carbon footprints, making sure animals like us are treated humanely.
-- You'll still be dead.
-- yes, but I'll die knowing my flesh will soon give sustenance to people who are fighting to give us a better life.
-- If these people care so much about your suffering, why do they eat you?
-- Everything is so black and white with you.  These progressives are comfortable with ambiguity.  They can believe passionately in reducing our suffering and still eat us.
-- How?
-- How should I know?  I'm only a steer.  I'm not a human progressive.  If I were, I'd know the answer but I'm not.  So fuck off, I don't give a fuck if grandad was a beef burrito or a Whopper or a Big Mac.  I'm going to be an Animal Welfare-Approved piece of steak eaten by a progressive and that's fucking that.

Friday, April 24, 2009

We can stop worrying about meat consumption causing global warming. The American Meat Institute says so.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been going around saying,
...animal agriculture sector is responsible for 18% of human-induced greenhouse emissions, greater than the share contributed by the transportation sector.
Not so fast.  According to the American Meat Institute, the number is really 2.8%.  It's about time we had some unbiased figures to counter the UN report.  The sustainable food people can breathe a sigh of relief.  Now whenever anyone accuses them of hypocritically ignoring the single biggest contributor to global warming, they can reply, "Well according to the American Meat Institute..."

The Animal Welfare Society cites the study too.  In a post about the connection between meat consumption and global warming they say,
On first glance, it may seem that the only options are to ignore our impending climatic crisis or to cut out meat altogether.  But rather than throwing the baby out with the bathwater perhaps there is a way to raise farm animals sustainability, and to leave a lighter footprint on the planet.
In other words, come on, folks, we've managed to present ourselves as concerned with the welfare of animals while we continue to consume their flesh.  If we can pull off that sleight of hand, I'm sure we can also continue to consider ourselves good progressive environmentalists without giving up the meat we crave.

The American Rationalization Institute has a special award for the Animal Welfare Society, Farm Forward, Humane Farm Animal Care and sustainable food organizations.  They'll all be dueling for the coveted Golden Rationalization Award and accompanying Happy Slaughtered Steer trophy, to be presented at the annual gathering, where the dinner menu will include thick, juicy steaks from animals lovingly slaughtered by humane family farmers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The man explains to the steer why human animals have moral status and non-human animals don't

"In these last few minutes you have left, I'm going to try and explain to you my justification for holding this stun bolt gun to your head.  The simplest way I can put it -- and, believe me, I know I have to dumb things down for you -- is we humans have moral status and you non-humans don't.  The thing that gives me moral status is my ability to step away from my actions and contemplate them, whereas you're just a bundle of sensations.  You're 'engaged in conscious activities but you're not conscious of them' is how the philosopher Christine Korsgaard puts it.  Let me give you an example.  The stun bolt gun I'm pressing against your head is causing you fear.  I can feel you tremble, I can see your eyes round with terror.  The reason for this irrational terror is you lack the ability to step back and understand you're one of the few cattle fortunate enough to be raised and slaughtered humanely.  When we're finished here and your flesh gets chopped up and wrapped in cellophane, there's going to be a little sticker that says, 'Certified Humane,' which will tell people you were raised and slaughtered in a manner that met the Humane Farm Animal Care Program standards.  If you possessed the capacity to understand this, you'd be calm and thankful right now.  You'd understand you're getting the best possible treatment from considerate people willing to pay a little extra for your flesh to ensure you have a happy life.  Come to think of it, that's another thing that separates us human animals from you non-human animals.  The capacity to feel gratitude.  When someone does me a good turn, I thank them.  But look at you quivering and shaking in fear, completely lacking in gratitude to all those folks willing to provide you with this humane termination of your life.  You also don't appear the slightest big grateful that I took the time away from my busy schedule to explain all this to you when there's a backlog of other cattle I have to slaughter humanely.  You still don't get the distinction between us, do you?  I'll try one last time.  Not only am I about to fire this captive bolt into your brain, I'm also capable of contemplating that action and deriving pleasure from it, which gives me the moral status you lack.  Well, I think that's enough philosophizing for today."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pet sitter sentenced to probation for over-feeding potbellied pig

A Minnesota pet sitter accused of animal abuse for letting a potbellied pig triple her weight was fined $1,000 and sentenced to a year of probation.  So how could the pet sitter have avoided the animal cruelty charges?  Simple.  Confine the pig in a cage too small for her to turn around in, shoot a captive stun bolt into her brain, then while the stunned pig is still blinking and struggling, dunk her in a tank of scalding water to loosen her hide for skinning.  After the  flesh of the finally-dead pig is carved off her carcass, invite the sentencing judge over for a nice pork chop dinner.  Not only will you avoid charges of animal cruelty, you'll receive lavish praise for your cooking skills and, if you're lucky, maybe even a reciprocating dinner invitation at the judge's house.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The PigCasso Art Show at the World Pork Expo

June 2-5, the world's pork producers and the usual assortment of groupies and hangers-on will be descending on the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the 20th annual World Pork Expo.  They'll listen to speakers, attend seminars and events and hobnob with other movers and shakers in an industry that's optimistically expecting to produce just under 100 million metric tons worth of pig flesh for human consumption in 2009.  The speakers and topics aren't up on the site yet.  Maybe the editor of National Provisioner will kick things off by whipping the attendees into a frenzy with one of her diatribes against the sinister animal rights activists.  PR experts will conduct role playing seminars on how to feign moral indignation when the next undercover slaughterhouse video surfaces.  The attendees will need to unwind a little too.  Along with music and a golf outing, the website says there's going to be a clay target shooting competition.  There'll also be plenty of memorabilia, like the commemorative toy tractor.  Of course no World Pork Expo would be complete without the breathless reporters from National Hog Farmer Magazine taking photos of the VIP's as they arrive.

Not so predictable is the PigCasso art show.  You know at the very top of the achievements section of some ambitious PR executive's resume it says, "Came up with the name PigCasso for the Annual World Pork Expo art competition."  Meanwhile, this executive's rival, whose LichtenSwine was the runner-up, is left to curse fate and a naming committee whose superficial knowledge of art history biased them in favor of the bigger, better known names.

Last year, Herbert Goodwin, of Gary, Indiana, won Best of Show for his painting, "Pork Producer."  He won $400 and a ribbon.  What is it with pig slaughterers and their ribbons?  It's kind of reached fetish proportions.  Ribbons for winning paintings, ribbons for soon-to-be-slaughtered 4H club victors.  How is it that they arbitrarily landed on the ribbon as the ideal way to honor the artistic rendering of the slaughter and the emergence of a new generation of slaughterers?

Michael Frakes, a PigCasso judge, called Pork Producer,
visually engaging, with the use of wonderful details, colors and shadowing ... we had a lot of talent this year.  It was a challenge to pick the best in each division.
Each division?  As if discovering an art competition is part of the World Pork Expo weren't paradigm-shifting enough.  Now we find out there's multiple divisions.  It turns out the artists can enter the following categories:  Oil, water and soluble PigMents (another coup for the punning PR executive?); Drawings, prints, pastels; sculpture; textiles, fibers, crafts; and photography.  Why not break it down even further into style and movement?  impressionism, dada, surrealism, post impressionism.  Jackson Pollock-type abstract expressionism might be the ideal way of rendering the spattering of blood when the heroic pork producer raises the stun bolt to the head.  (The entry form for this year's PigCasso competition isn't on the site yet.  The PR release about last year's competition is here.)

Here's the most amazing thing of all:  people actually enter this competition.  You think of artists contemplating the cosmos, trying to find their place in the world.  You go down a list of the artist's themes -- love, redemption, despair, rapture ... pork production?  When these artists bought their very first sketchpad, did they have any inkling that at some point in the future they'd be painting helpless pigs confined in crates, dying in train cars, brutalized, shackle hoisted, stun bolted?  But maybe those aren't the "wonderful details" judge Michael Frakes was praising in Pork Producer.  Maybe like so many of their contemporarites, the World Pork Expo judges have discarded realism in favor of more post-modern sensibilities.

The works with the most detailed rendering of pork production are in the short film category.  It's not an official PigCasso category, but if it were, the winner hands down would be the undercover video shot at the Hormel supplier farm in Bayard, Iowa.  Frakesean details suffuse the entire film:  metal rods, wooden palettes, hard cement floors.  Anyone who's seen this video would have to agree with the judge, Satan, who awarded it the first prize ribbon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Group photo at the local family farm

Family farmers give animals such a better life because they use the personal touch like naming them, talking to them, and so forth.
--- letter to New York Times in support of family farms

Okay, everybody, group photo.  One of the great things about family farms, like the one you all came from, is the compassionate farmers there give you names.  That personalizes things.  It shows the meat purchasing public the family farmers care about the well-being of their animals.  Hold on, is that Luther on the right or Earl?  I know Jeb had a white patch over his eye, but I can't see it any more.  Ed, or is it Josh, why don't you switch places with Barnaby, or is it Nate?  We want the bigger carcasses on the end, smaller carcasses in the middle.  I tell you, it was a lot easier telling you guys apart before.  Now you all look kind of the same.  Come on, strike a pose here, it's not like you guys haven't been photographed before.  The photographer from the Animal Welfare Institute came out to your farm and snapped all those shots of you guys in green fields, nuzzling with the farmers.  That's right, Jenny, give Bill, or is it Zack, a nice pat, just like you did in that really heartwarming shot taken at your family farm.  Hold on, we've got an empty hook in the back, where's Alex?  Late as usual.  What's that?  Okay, we can't wait for Alex.  Apparently, he struggled too much and the stun bolt didn't pierce his brain right the first time and now Compassionate Family Farmer Tom has to lock him in place and try again.  Ready?  Say "cheese."  Nah, that's more of a dairy cow thing.  Say "porterhouse steak."  Cone on, fellows, that's photographer humor.  I'm trying to loosen you guys up.  Arturo, or are you Fritz, this is way too frustrating, you're blocking Bertrand, or is it Elmore?  I swear, next time I agree to do a group portrait of the happy cattle at the family farm, I'm only doing the before shots, not the after.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

letters, letters, letters

So many letters in response to that New York Times article (in the previous post) about how the author learned to love goat meat.  A lot of recipe sharing and gratitude for being turned on to a new kind of meat, a few disgusted vegans and vegetarians, some aggressive rebuttals from carnivores who, like Moses receiving the tablets, have had revealed to them the truth that mankind was designed to eat meat.  On to some of the letters.  A rancher in Montana wrote...
I wanted to address, as a rancher, some of the concerns that I have seen expressed from those who believe a goat, or any meat for that matter, is not to be eaten.Many of us who raise livestock as independent producers are just as sickened as my vegetarian friends at the site [sic] of confined animal feeding operations ... Goats are ... truly a pleasure to raise.  The most difficult time of year is when it comes time to kill.  I sell my animals on the hoof, and if someone wants meat I will then process it for them after they own it.  Even though it is painful every time, I feel like I owe them the most humane end possible.  This means they should die with dignity on the ranch they were born to avoid the stress of shipping, etc.  It comes quickly and cleanly.  Our animals never know fear, anxiety or cruelty ... Every time we eat meat, there was a profound sacrifice made that should be deeply appreciated.
--- MPS, Montana

Dear Sir, 

I am writing in reference to the letter by the rancher MPS from Montana.  I know this rancher well.  He is a good man capable of some of the most breathtaking distortions of reality I have ever encountered.  I can't tell you how astounded I am by his ability to convince himself that he is genuinely saddened when he slaughters his goats.

Sincerely Yours,
the Montana Rancher's container of antipsychotic drugs

Dear Times, 
I read the condescending letter from the Montana Rancher's antipsychotic drugs.  I'm one of the goats that rancher MPS will soon slaughter.  It just breaks my heart when I think of how bad he feels that he has to kill me after he named me and patted me on the head every morning.  It's not easy for me either.  Always in the back of my mind I know the time is coming when rancher MPS has to suffer the trauma of killing me.  It pains me to see him in such pain and know I'm responsible for it.  I'll try not to bleat in horror when he yanks my head back because that will just intensity his guilt.  Don't blame yourself, Rancher MPS.  It's not your fault that you have to slit my throat.  It's my fault for having flesh people love to eat.

Cyrano the Goat.

Dear Times,
I'm writing to clarify a letter from your reader Cyrano the Goat.  AS you may have guessed, it wasn't really written by a goat.  Rancher MPS projects many of his uncomfortable feelings into a persona which takes the form of a sympathetic goat on its way to slaughter.  I'm afraid I have to side with Rancher MPS's container of antipsychotic drugs on this one.

All the best,

Dear Times,
I don't want to get in the middle of things here, but I can only report what I see in front of me.  The goats are terrified.  Their eyes look like they're about to explode with fear.  Rancher MPS calls it a humane death?  he says they never know fear, terror or cruelty?  Say what?  are we attending the same slaughter?

Rancher MPS's knife

REality can go F itself and so can antipsychotic drgus.  What the F do they know?  REality's basically calling me stupid, saying I can't form my own thoughts, saying rancher MPS is projecting his thoughts onto me.  Now that's what I call speciesism.  Why don't those F'ing vegans attack reality and antipsychotic drugs instead of decent people like Rancher MPS?  As a matter of fact, Rancher MPS does consult with us goats before he slaughters us.  He says to us, hey, guys, there's a customer of mine who wants to eat your flesh.  He's going to pay me good money.  What do you think?  And we say to him, we're just grateful to be able to slaughtered by a compassionate person like yourself instead of those horrible factory farms.

Cyrano the Goat

p.s. you've got me all confused, Reality and antipsychotic drugs, and you're going to pay for it!  Maybe I'll start selling you guys by the hoof to the highest bidder.  How'd you two punks like that, huh,  see you in hell, your worst enemy, Rancher MPS, I mean, Cyrano the Goat.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The joy of discovering a new species to slaughter and consume

The New York Times food reviewer has discovered goat meat and he's positively giddy about it.
Mine is a tale of a recent convert.  Goat ... has been edging its way into yuppier climes ... click-clacking its cloven hooves up and down the coasts..
His exuberant language goes romping and leaping all over the article, like the playful baby goat whose barbecued flesh awakened him to the pleasures of this newfound delicacy.
My conversion moment came when I went to Cabrito and had the goat tacos ... suddenly, I was go go go goat.
Unknowing goat.  You thought you wanted to go on living your life.  You thought you were happy.  You feared the knife.  But little did you know your seared flesh would become the muse that inspired the New York Times reviewer to come up with gustatory gems like:
"Go go goat."  "Their chin hair is sometimes prodigious enough to carpet Montana."  "Think lamb but with a rustle in the bushes.  Think jungle lamb."
It goes without saying animals' highest calling is to satisfy human taste buds.  But the act of consumption is usually so uninspired.  God is great, God is good, pass the meat, do the dishes, watch the TV.  But the consumption of you was different, unknown baby goat.  Your flesh in the New York Times reviewer's mouth set off a veritable fireworks display of metaphors and word plays and literate sexual innuendoes.
I'd partaken of the bearded ruminant ... yielding a dish that evokes the saturated greenness of a meadow in springtime.  ... More recently in an effort at romantic overture, I mail-ordered some wonderfully flavorsome loin chops and ate them with my boyfriend amid candlelight and fresh flowers.  Did the goat yield the desired end?  Let a veil of decorous restraint fall over the proceedings forthwith, the better to mask a small storm of bleats and four cloven hooves, gently twitching.
There.  You see.  Not only did human hand slaughter you and human tongue savor your flesh, but a human mind exalted you by describing you in such ornate terms. "partaken of the bearded ruminant."  How did the Old Testament poets overlook that one?  Ah, but it's not all praise from the New York Times reviewerer.
Indeed, goats have always had a low reputation.
And the source of this low reputation?  Goats don't adequately serve the master species.  Their flesh lacks the appropriate tenderness.  Their bodies aren't well-suited for cosmetics testing.  They go about their own lives, without bothering to enhance the human experience at all.  "Their unappetizing visage is simultaneously dopey and satanic," the New York Times reviewer says in playful disgust.

But he redeems the goat!  The goat has its use after all.  It is worthy.  It is fit to be eaten by a party of festive Manhattanites in the Times reviewer's fourth floor apartment.   No more envying the pig and cow and chicken.  Now the goat too can join the pantheon of animals who offer up their flesh, unwillingly, it's true, but only because of their imperfect knowledge of the joy they'll bring to the humans who consume them.

It's not just the goats who come away from this article with reputations restored.  Once again humans have shown themselves to be endlessly complex.  Anybody who thought we could be narrowly defined as killers and consumers of prosaic cows, chickens and pigs had better think again.  There is far more to us than that!  We are forever discovering new animals to slaughter and consume.  The New YOrk Times reviewer is our guide.  Like the traveler who brings back tales from foreign lands, he has sampled the exotic. He has tasted new flesh and he joyously offers it up to his erudite and sophisticated New York Times readers.

He closes his article with a description of the dinner he served his guests in his fourth floor apartment.
Indeed, I recently threw a dinner party at which I served goat at every course ... At evening's end, as my wine-fueled guests prepared to scramble down the stairs of my four-flight walk-up, it was all I could do not to tie tiny bells around their necks.
Ah, I get it, goats wear bells.  His guests have turned into goats because of all the courses of goat meat they've eaten.  What better way to wrap up the article than this final taste of wit.  Like his dinner guests, his readers have been served up a feast -- of lavish metaphors, exuberant language, frisky wit.  Now it's time to go home and throw up.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

omg, the horrible way these animals are treated made me cry and I got tears all over my animal welfare-approved pork chops

The Animal Welfare Society blog posted the undercover videos of the abuse by that infamous Hormel supplier in Iowa.  The conclusion the blog draws from these videos is not that people should stop creating a demand for the flesh of these animals, but that they should buy their meat from family farms.  The videos horrified the blog's commentors.  Connie says...
omg, if you can watch this video and not break down crying, I do not know what to say.
Sorry for pilfering your verbiage and your brittle feelings, Connie, but if you can watch this video and break down crying and then continue to consume animal products, I don't know what to say.  She continues...
I truly cannot believe this cruelty is allowed to happen.
But it is and you know why?  Because people like you, Connie, cry your crocodile tears and continue to have pork chops for dinner.  If people didn't consume animal products, there would be no farms like the one on the video.

Meanwhile, commentor Leigh Ann thinks the problem is BIG CORPORATIONS, which she emphasizes by setting them in all caps.  BIG CORPORATIONS.  BIG MONEY.  Please support local farmers, she says plaintively, though maybe with a little more restraint than the excitable Connie.  Family farmers raise their animals with compassion.  Over and over we hear this.  I can't see Leigh Ann as she types her comment so I can't say for sure if she manages to type it with a straight face.  Raise them with compassion?  Do people slaughter the objects of their compassion?  Painless death?  Would Connie or Leigh Ann euthanize one of their pets with a stun bolt gun that more often than not shatters the skull without killing the animal?  The blade across the neck of the frantically struggling pig is not any less painful simply because it is being wielded by the steady, honest hand of the family farmer.

Family farmers profit from the deaths of these animals.  The animals' death puts food on their table.  No wonder the family farmers are smiling in all the photos of them you see on the welfarist sites.  They're probably thinking, heck, if the animal Welfare Society and Farm Forward want to give us their seals of approval so the good progressive foodies out there will pay us double, what the heck.  We'll pose next to our cattle with good earth smiles for their promotional literature and count our money.

You read the Animal welfare approved blog babble about the compassion of the friendly farmers and you keep expecting them to say, Ha, fooled you!  We wanted to see if we could actually convince people we care about animals whose deaths we contribute to.  Man, you guys atually believed it?  It was a prank, man, a prank!

The animal welfare movement is a delusion wrapped in denial inside a lie.  People like Connie and Leigh Ann fume and wail at the corporate slaughterhouse and after they're done shaking their fist in anger, they use it to pick up their fork and enjoy the tasty, succulent flesh of the animals whose deaths they grieve.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Taking a lunch break from saving the planet

-- Welcome to Taco Bell.  Can I take your order?
-- Yeah, leafleting for the environment all day sure gives you a big appetite.  Can I have two Burrito Supremes?  Oh, and you get extra meat for 49 cents, right?
-- Yup.
-- Cool.  By the way, I know you're not the decision maker, but I see the menu board uses really bright lights.  If you used fluorescent lights instead, you'd reduce energy consumption.
-- You say you were leafleting for the environment?
-- Yeah, trying to fight all these lying hypocrites who deny their actions are causing global warming.
-- You know, meat consumption is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse emissions.
-- That's a bunch of crap!
-- Even more than automobiles and airplanes combined.
-- It's a lie!  I deny it!
-- According to a UN report, if people stopped eating meat...
-- What?  I can't hear you.  Your microphone's breaking up.
-- I said if people stopped eating meat, greenhouse emissions would be significantly reduced.
-- Sorry, dude, still can't hear you, music's too loud.  This band rocks.  The bass player has a green bass to support the cause.
-- Okay, so your order is two beef burritos with extra meat.  Please pull up to the window.
-- Look, dude, suppose what you say is true.  Here's the thing.  Say it takes me half an hour to eat my ham and eggs for breakfast.  Then say a half hour for lunch and an hour for dinner.  That's only two hours of eating meat.  Which means the other 22 hours of the day I'm fighting for the environment.  How many people are that committed to their cause?  But I'm happy to do it.  It's my duty.  The future of our planet's at stake ... Mmm, speaking of steak, could you throw in one of those steak tacos?
-- Two beef burritos, extra beef, and one steak taco.
-- Hey, I got a box of "End Global Warming Now" bumperstickers in the back of my Prius.  Want one?
-- Maybe you could get one that says, "End global warming not now but right after I finish eating my beef burritos."
-- Damn, I almost forgot.  I'm going to a global warming meet-up to talk about ways we can reduce our carbon footprints and the folks there will be famished.  Can you give me a dozen more beef burritos, extra beef?
-- You got it.  Please pull up to the window.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dr. Peter Singer on what sets humans apart from other animals

Gary Francione referenced (and then demolished) a passage by Peter Singer, Princeton bio-ethicist and author of Animal Liberation.
You could say it's wrong to kill a being whenever a being is sentient or conscious.  Then you would have to say it's just as wrong to kill a chicken or mouse as it is to kill you or me.  I can't accept that idea.  It may be just as wrong, but millions of chickens are killed every day ... What is different about humans? Humans are forward-looking beings, and they have hopes and desires for the future.  That seems a plausible answer to the question of why it's so tragic when humans die.
So humans are forward-looking beings and animals are not.  Forward-looking humans have hopes and desires for the future.  Okay but ... a murderer has hopes and desires for the future.  He hopes to kill his victim and desires not to get caught.  Point being, don't we have to assess the content of those hopes and desires before we cite the capacity to have them as proof of our existential worthiness?

But put aside whether Singer's distinction between humans and non-human animals is accurate and, even if it is, whether that provides sufficient justification for our wanton killing of millions of animals every year.  Take a closer look at the thinker doing his thinking, in his study, maybe munching on a left-over drumstick, trying to come up with a characteristic that separates humans from other animals.  Surprise!  This reasoning human comes up with a characteristic that confers greater value on the lives of ... humans.  Humans are forward-thinking.  Animals are not.  The slaughter is justified.  Pass me another one of those drumsticks. 

You know, I bet an AIG executive could come up with a characteristic of AIG executives that demonstrates that AIG executives deserve to keep every dime of their bonuses.

Suppose other animals took their turn after Dr. Singer.  Suppose they were able to list things that separate human animals from non-human animals.  What might they come up with?

-- Kills not merely out of necessity but for pleasure
-- Tortures and slaughters millions of farm animals each year because he craves the taste of their flesh
-- Tortures and slaughters animals because their fur gives an added oomph to all the latest fashions
-- Pursues animals in their natural habitats and kills them for the sheer joy of it
-- Pours toxins into the eyes of rabbits to make sure the lipstick goes on without irritation
-- Beats elephants with meat hooks so the festive circus goers can enjoy the spectacle of the elephant running around the ring and stepping onto the colorful stool

Maybe it's better for Dr. Singer's argument if he sticks with forward-thinkng as the defining human characteristic.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The source of hostility toward veganism

Every vegan has encountered ridicule and hostility. Even when there's no preaching or attempts to convert, the very existence of veganism is enough to set many people off. What's the source of this hostility?

One easy surface explanation: The vegan is always at least implicitly condemning the omnivore by rejecting the consumption of animal products as immoral. When we reject animal products offered to us at someone's home, ungraciousness doubles our sin. But think of other actions people take in support of their ethical beliefs, e.g. volunteering at a homeless shelter. This too could be seen as an implicit judgment of those who don't volunteer. But nobody ever ridicules someone else for volunteering at a homeless shelter. They praise and admire the volunteer, sometimes they're even inspired to volunteer themselves. Other than veganism, it's hard to think of any behavior undertaken to reduce the suffering of others that results in hostility to the person engaged in the behavior.

Maybe it's just that people attach so little value to the lives of non-human animals. But, given the choice, most people would prefer that their meat didn't require the death of an animal. They therefore acknowledge that the reduction of suffering and pain is morally desirable. But still they ridicule vegans for acting on this belief.

Maybe non-vegans simply see vegans as overly earnest in the pursuit of an objective that doesn't merit it. They think this kind of moral obstinancy should be reserved for more appropriately serious causes the rest of the world deeems worthwhile. They object to what they see as the disproportionate intensity of our purpose. We refuse to consume animal products. Very few of us "slip" and eat meat. Anyone who does slip from time to time would not be considered a vegan. I think maybe this is what people can't stand. They see the ideals of veganism as unworthy of the moral rigidity of its adherents.

Either that, or they're all just a bunch of self-centered punks who will gladly inflict torture and pain if they get a nice tasty meal out of it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Animal welfare groups demand the humane treatment of family farmers and, oh yeah, animals too.

One recurring theme in the so-called humane treatment movement is the glorification of the family farm.  The Animal Welfare Institute says...
Only family farms can earn our seal.  Families who own, labor on and earn a meaningful livelihood from their farms have a true commitment and connection to their animals that is lost on factory farms managed by distant, corporate owners and run by hired hands.
And in keeping with that "true commitment and connection to their animals," they slaughter them.  Using this logic, the animal welfare institute obviously considers the person who murders a friend morally superior to the person who murders a stranger.

Humane treatment advocates are always contrasting the family farmers to the "distant, corporate owners."  They rail against the impersonal factory farms, using the same kind of stock populist language that has always been used to demonize corporations.  They're appalled by the way industrialization of agriculture has separated us from the land and the food we eat, i.e. on the deleterious effect it's had on humans.  The suffering of the farm animals is nothing more than a support point in their indictment of greedy, impersonal factory farms and their yearning for their lost agrarian utopia.

You want proof that concern for the suffering of animals isn't the primary motivation of these self-proclaimed animal advocates?  How about this?  They eat them.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Humane treatment certification

Farming in an animal welfare friendly way can be the key to better profitability.
--speaker at the Oxford Farming Conference

It's no secret that the "humane treatment" movement is motivated by profit. Most things are. If humane treatment and free range labels were accurate, they'd say, "We treat animals in ways people consider more humane because it makes them feel better about consuming the flesh of these animals, which, in turn, earns us a bigger profit." But truth makes for bad marketing. So the producer of humanely treated meat has to alter the truth. But how much? Does he have to resort to outright lies or can he maybe get by with some well thought-out distortions? Let's re-state the truth and see. "We treat animals in ways people consider more humane because it makes them feel better about consuming the flesh of these animals, which, in turn, earns us a bigger profit." Obviously the part about bigger profits has to go. They probably want to delete the part about making people feel better about themselves too, since accusing your prospective customers of hypocrisy is not the best way to build customer loyalty and generate sales. So they're left with the first part of the proposition. "We treat animals in ways people consider more humane." "Ways people consider" is far too ambiguous. It might lead people to the uncomfortable realization that it's also possible to consider slaughter as something less than humane. So what's left? "We treat animals humanely." That's it. Perfect. Now all they need is someone to deliver the message. It can't be the farmers themselves. People do tend to associate farmers with homespun virtues and uncomplicated beliefs, but they also understand that the producing and selling of animal flesh is the farmers' livelihood, which might be considered a conflict of interest. So if not the farmers who? Third party certifiers. But not a merely impartial certifier. They need a certifier the public considers an advocate for the well-being of animals. The big names, the A-listers, if you will, are out of the family farmer's league. They offer their services to the bigger, deeper-pocketed corporations. For instance, Temple Grandin sells her glowing testimonials to McDonald's. She wouldn't even return a family farmer's phone call. So the family farmer is forced to turn to organizations like the Animal Welfare Institute which specializes in family farms. The labels are printed. The photographer comes out to the farm and takes heart-melting photos of the farmer making goo goo eyes at the steer he'll soon slaughter, maybe just a few minutes after the photorgrapher packs up her gear. But it's the image of the happy steer and the caring farmer that lives on in marketing materials, PR releases and news articles. Humane treatment is a win-win-lose situation. The farmers win because they get to charge more for their products. The consumers win because they get to consume their animal flesh with an untroubled conscience. The only losers in the happy green field utopia are the animals.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One McCruelty-free McChicken sandwich. Please drive through.

-- Welcome to McDonald's. Can I take your order?
-- Yeah, I'd like a McChicken sandwich, please. And can I get mine slaughtered with gas?
-- Sorry, sir, that's not on our menu.
-- How do you slaughter them?
-- We dump them out of their crates and hang them upside-down in metal shackles then we cut their throats.
-- I prefer my chicken gassed. It's called controlled atmosphere killing. It's a much more pleasant death.
-- You're from PETA aren't you?
-- Yeah.
-- You guys are protesting against us again?
-- I know, it's been a while. Nine years since our last one. This time we're demanding that you slaughter your chickens with gas. We're calling it our McCruetly campaign.
-- That's what you called that last protest.
-- Just like old times, huh? You guys will cave in the end, you know.
-- I know. Then you'll give us lots of praise for doing the right thing. Sales really go through the roof when that happens. Hey, I got a question for you. I heard if the gas isn't administered properly, the chickens go berserk, shaking their heads around, gasping for air. I hear it's a really excruciating death.
-- That would suck.
-- So shouldn't you guys be encouraging people to stop eating chicken instead? Then the chickens wouldn't get shackled and have their throats slit and they wouldn't get gassed either.
-- What would we dress up as in our protests? A piece of tempeh? There aren't any good vegan costumes.
-- I see your point.
-- 'kay sorry to sound ornery, but I'm really craving a chicken sandwich here. Can you maybe make me up a special order? Gas it out back or something.
-- Sorry, sir, I could check with the manager, but I don't think we have slaughtering capabilities on premises.
-- Look, dude, I'm really hungry. But I'm not ordering a chicken that wasn't slaughtered humanely.
-- We still follow the humane slaughtering procedures for steer.
-- You mean from our last McCruelty campaign?
-- Yeah.
-- Cool. Gimme a Big Mac.
-- Please drive through.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The new cola wars: animal welfare-approved versus Dr. Temple Grandin certified sustainable & humane products

The refrigerated section of the local grocery store is getting crowded with all the humanely treated meats out there.  You've got animal welfare-approved.  Certified Humane Raised and Handld.  Free Farm Certified.  And now a new player has entered the mix:  Dr. Temple Grandin certified sustainable & humane.  They're all targeting the same customers, so competition is bound to be fierce.  It's only a matter of time before the TV commercials hit the airwaves.

Hey, folks, the other guys like to talk about their humane treatment standards, but at animal welfare-approved, we deliver.  We've just received a new shipment of animal welfare-approved meats and we need to make room, so everything in our refrigerated section must go!  You won't believe the rock bottom prices on pork, steak, chicken, you name it, all compassionately slaughtered with the animal's comfort and well-being in mind.  Folks, your conscience deserves the very best!  Animal welfare-approved is the number one humanely treated meat dealer in the tri-county area.  We've got the most rigorous and progressive animal care standards anywhere and our friendly farmers always treat the animals with tender loving care.   But don't take our word for it.  Listen to what Paul and Janice from Madison, Wisconsin say:  "Dear Animal Welfare-approved, we're very progressive people.  We recycle, we only buy free trade coffee, we read the American Prospect and Counterpunch every day.  We were so appalled at the way animals are treated on those factory farms that last week we had a barbecue fundraiser to raise awareness about the plight of these poor creatures.  (Paul's succulent ribs went over big time!)  We feel such compassion for these animals, but how can we stop buying meat?  I mean what would we serve at the next awareness-raising barbecue?  We didn't know what to do.  Then we heard about your animal welfare-approved meats.  Now we can eat all the meat we want and we never have to feel guilty again."  that's right, folks, at animal-welfare approved, we give you all the flavor with none of the factory farm abuses.  So if you're a progressive who wants to feel like you did the right thing without giving up the great taste of animal flesh, make sure to stock up on animal welfare-approved meats today!

It's dealing days here at Temple Grandin's House of Certified Sustainable & Humane Products!  Check out this beauty -- a thick, tender top sirloin steak made from a peaceful and contented grass grazing steer.  It's juicy, delicious and best of all it was processed with our unique humane slaughtering methods that guarantee a guilt-free eating experience every time.  How much would you expect to pay for this piece of mind?  Twenty dollars?  Eighteen?  Try just $14.99.  You heard me right.  Our competitors over at Animal Welfare-approved claim they've got demanding humane treatment standards.  But at Temple Grandin's House of certified sustainable & humane products, we've consulted for some of the biggest companies on the planet.  Temple Grandin has written best-selling books on animal happiness, and she's the world's number one authority on designing humane slaughterhouses.  No wonder in taste tests across the country, progressive eaters preferred the humane treatment standards of Dr. Temple Grandin Certified Sustainable & Humane products over our competitors three to one.  Why would you eat anything else?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dr. Temple Grandin certified sustainable & humane products

Temple Grandin has joined with Niman Ranch to introduce "Dr. Temple Grandin certified sustainable & humane" products.  She gave National Provisioner magazine the exclusive.  National Provisioner is the bible of meat production that recently wrote an editorial about the threat posed to the animal agriculture industry by those terrifying people who care about animal suffering.  If National Provisioner thought Temple Grandin sided with people like this, they'd excommunicate her.  So Temple Grandin reassures them:
The thing I'm most concerned with is letting pigs wreck the land.  Pigs will just destroy pasture.
In other words, "Please, oh please, don't group me in with those nutjobs who care about animal suffering.  YOu want proof of my indifference?  Here's a copy of the check McDonald's cut me for consulting services rendered.  Heck, there's a photo of me on the McDonald's website.  Would they put a photo of a rabble rousing activist who cared about animal pain and suffering on their website?  I think not.  I sincerely hope the readers of National Provisioner won't question my motives.  Please believe me when I say animals are simply a means of making money.  YOur readers do it more directly by brutalizing them, slaughtering them and selling slabs of their flesh.  People like me and Whole Foods and Farm Forward and the Animal Welfare Institute, we've got a more roundabout approach.  We're making money off people who want to think they care about the suffering of farm animals and are willing to pay a little extra for a clean conscience.  Guys, please understand, there's a gold mine here and I'm the perfect person to mine it.  I write books with titles like Animal Happiness, so people think I care about the pain and suffering of animals.  I do care, in the sense that appearing to want to reduce that suffering is a highly profitable gig.  I know it's not profitable on the scale your readers are used to, and I bow down before them, but it's a growing market.  It'll only get bigger."

Readers of National Provisioner are still suspicious.  They still wonder if secretly, in her heart of hearts, she really does want to reduce animal suffering.  So Temple Grandin reassures them once again...
Some people who are purely welfare-minded want no [nose] rings at all  -- but the pigs wreck the ground.
There.  She wants to keep the nose rings on the pigs to make sure rooting is so excruciatingly painful that they won't do it.  Okay, that cinches it.  Even the most hardened cynics at National Provisioner are convinced.  They've got nothing to worry about from Temple Grandin. She's one of them.  "Temple Grandin certified sustainable & humane" really means sustainable cash flow thanks to plenty of certified checks.  Make sure to send her VIP passes to the Pork Expo and the K-state Swine Profitability Conference.  She's earned them.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A new member in the Big Greasy BBQ Forum

BUZZ:  Welcome to the Big Greasy BBQ forum, anmlwfre, what's your nic stand for, animal warfare?

ANMLWFRE:  Animal Wel-fare.  I'm from Farm Forward.  It's our mission to improve the lives of farm animals.

BELLYBOY:  The topic today is big juicy sizzling kielbasa.  Don't you love how the juice drips down your chin?  Come on, you can admit it, anmlwfre, you're among friends here.

ANMLWFRE:  Okay, yes, I do love a big juicy kielbasa, provided the pig it came from had ample space to turn around in before it was slaughtered, mind you.

BUZZ:  Wink.  Wink.

ANMLWFRE:  No, I'm serious.

BELLYBOY:  You're a funny dude, anmlwfre

UNCLEMIKEY:  So you say you believe animals should be treated well.  But you slaughter 'em.  Isn't that kind of like a contradiction?

ANMLWFRE:  Not at all.  Hold on, I got rib sauce on my fingers, don't want to get it on my keyboard.  Okay, I'm back.  It's okay as long as you slaughter them humanely.

BELLYBOY:  Humane slaughter.  That's a good one.  Mind if I use that one at my next tailgating party?

ANMLWFRE:  It's not a joke.  We're entirely serious.

GREASEGUY:  Hey, my burger's so juicy it's a good thing I got one of them super absorbent buns.

ANMLWFRE:  YOu're making my mouth water.  I mean provided the steer the burger came from had plenty of grass to graze on before it was slaughtered.

BUZZ:  You crack me up.

ANMLWFRE:  I'm serious, guys.  We at Farm Forward believe factory farming is one of the most important issues of our time.

BELLYBOY:  Look, anmlwfre, you're our kind of people.  You like big hunks of juicy meat just like we do.

ANMLWFRE:  Well, I must say, I feel a kinship too.

GREASEGUY:  Yeah, at first I thought you were one of those freaks who don't eat meat but you're pretty cool.

ANMLWFRE:  Are you kidding!  By being so rigid about not eating meat and dairy, those people are setting the animal rights movement back a hundred years.  It really annoys the CEO's of the big fast food places when they hear someone refuses to eat their products.  I ought to know, at farm forward we consult for them all the time.

CHOWHOUND:  Hey, anmlwfre, I once scarfed down eight kielbasas in one sitting.

ANMLWFRE:  Impressive.

CHOWHOUND:  How about you?

ANMLWFRE:  The other night at a benefit, they served some delectable lamb medallions.  My wife had to attend an art gallery opening, so I helped myself to hers.

BELLYBOY:  Pretty cool.  So where did you say you're from again?

ANMLWFRE:  Farm Forward.  Don't mean to boast but Jonathan Safron Foer is on our board of directors.

CHOWHOUND:  Who's that?

ANMLWFRE:  He's only one of the most accomplished writers of his generation.  He's going to do a reading from his latest book this weekend.

BELLYBOY:  Cool.  He writes books on barbecuing?


BUZZ:  He going to read a passage about how much he loves juicy ribs, smothered with sauce?

CHOWHOUND:  I don't get it, anmlwfre, how does having this rib cookbook writer guy on your board help animals?

ANMLWFRE:  He's not a rib cookbook writer.  I told you.  He writes literary fiction.

UNCLEMIKEY;  He must be real creative.  He the one who came up with humane slaughter?

BUZZ:  This consulting with big fast food places sounds like a good gig, anmlwfre.  Bet they pay you plenty.

ANMLWFRE:  Money's not what's important.  We get to communicate our point of view.

CHOWHOUND:  About how delectable pork medallions are?

ANMLWFRE:  No, our broader point of view.  Our mission statement, if you will.

BUZZ:  Hey, anmlwfre, I just marinated some chicken breasts and threw 'em on the grill.  you'd love 'em.

ANMLWFRE:  Sounds tasty.  Provided the chickens had access to sunlight before they were slaughtered.

CHOWHOUND:  I got five words:  pass me the hot sauce.

ANMLWFRE:  I got two words:  me too.

BUZZ:  anmlwfre, I'm glad you joined our Big Greasy BBQ forum.

ANMLWFRE:  Thanks for making me feel so welcome.

BELLYBOY:  And thanks for giving me that joke about humane slaughter.  Don't worry, I'll give you credit.  I ain't into stealing other peoples' jokes.

ANMLWFRE:  It's not a joke.

CHOWHOUND:  This guy cracks me up.

ANMLWFRE:  I've got to go attend another fund raiser.  I'll be back later.  Enjoy your kielbasa, everyone!

BELLYBOY:  We will.  Provided the pig had plenty of space to turn around in before it was slaughtered.  Ha ha ha!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

World Egg Day was Oct. 10, but it's still not too late to send a card!

So I was visiting the American Egg Board website to read about their new advertising campaign featuring incredible people who do incredible things thanks to incredible eggs and I was struck by something else:  World Egg Day was October 10th.  And here we are in February.   I have to be honest here.  I'm kind of pissed at the people who made my 2008 calendar because October 10 was completely blank.  I mean aren't calendar makers supposed to help us out and remind us about the important holidays?  Whatever.  It's too late to bitch about it now.  I missed it.  I'll have to make sure not to miss 2009 World Egg Day.

But, guess what, apparently it's not too late to send your 2008 World Egg Day greeting after all.  On the American Egg Board site, you can still create your own World Egg Day card and email it to people.  You can add cool shapes, paint on your egg, add backgrounds, even write on your egg.  I'm not sure about the etiquette here.  Sorry it's late works if you send a card a couple weeks after the holiday, but it's five months late now.  I guess I'll have to trust the American Egg Board on this.  Let's see, what should I say on my card?  Happy World Egg Day, the day we commemorate the hatcheries where the laying hens come from.  Half the chicks born there are male so they have to be disposed of.  Sometimes they're ground up in machines, sometimes they're tossed in garbage bins, where they die of either suffocation or starvation.  Thing is, I'm not sure if that's the message the American Egg Board had in mind when they created World Egg Day.

Stop!  That's way too cynical.  The American Egg Board didn't create the holiday.  It came about by popular acclaim.  They just help us commemorate it.  Anyway I've got other things to worry about. Like I was all set to send a World Egg Day card to my friends Sarah and Tom but now that I think about it I'm pretty sure I didn't hear from them last World Egg Day.  So fuck 'em, they're off my list.   back to what I should say on the card.  I could talk about how World Egg Day is a time to reflect on the laying hens who spend their two years in beyond-comprehension misery in their cramped cages until productivity declines and it's slaughter time.  Greeting cards often work their magic with rhyming verse.  Maybe I should try that.

On this special World Egg Day,
We celebrate the hens who lay.
And when their laying days are done,
An electric bath until they're stunned.
Shackle the legs, slice the neck,
The eggs were yummy, so what the heck.
To these hens we give our thanks
As they're boiled alive in the scalding tank.

No!  That totally misses the spirit of the holiday.  The American Egg Board would be horrified.  They give us the tools to design and write our very own World Egg Day cards and this is how we show our gratitude? The Senior VP of Marketing offers up his own favorite egg-based recipes and this is how we repay him?

These living, breathing hens feel pain as much as American Egg Board Senior VP's of Marketing feel pain.   23 million chickens are killed each day in the US so people can have their chicken meat and their eggs.  Happy belated World Egg Day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Animal welfare and the power of self-delusion

In a recent article in the London Times, a long-time vegetarian wrote that she has now gone back to eating meat.  The reason?  Animals are raised more humanely now.  I had an email exchange with a friend about the article.  At one point he wrote, "to say I think eating meat is okay implies I'm indifferent to animal suffering.  That isn't true.  I do believe animals shouldn't suffer and die to satisfy human desires.  I eat meat because I am a hypocrite.  I'm violating my beliefs."

But is that his belief just because he says it is, even though his behavior contradicts him?  What constitutes a belief?  If I say I believe in helping the homeless and then I kick the first homeless person I see in the head, have I just violated my belief or was I maybe deluded when I claimed it as a belief?  That may sound like semantics but it's not.  People who think they believe in the rights of animals cling stubbornly to this belief.  They don't want to give it up.  They like that part of themselves.  I know "animal lover, animal advocate" makes up a big part of my friend's self-image.  If he were forced to abandon that belief, he wouldn't like the person who remained.

But he can only call himself a hypocrite for so long.  Eventually, he'll have to make a choice.  He either believes animals have the right not to suffer and die for our pleasure or he doesn't.  Either he supports the horrors of what happens to these animals or he rejects it.  Not so fast, say the "animal welfare" proselytizers.  You don't have to choose.  You don't have to abandon your cherished self-image.  There's a middle ground between the horrors of factory farms and giving up the consumption of the animal products you love so much and the middle ground is this:  you can support our campaign to improve the lives of these animals before they're slaughtered.  We'll push for bigger cages for laying hens.  We'll demand more space for hogs to roam around in.  We'll confront the big fast food companies.  We'll demand more humane treatment for all farm animals.

So now people like my friend are able to grasp hold of that middle ground, that purgatory, and it allows them to keep their self-image intact.  I really do care about the well-being of animals.  I  am doing my part to reduce their suffering.  I don't have to give up eating meat and dairy after all.  Phew.

This is the problem with animal welfare campaigns.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Promoting animal welfare by stapling green numbers in their ears

You are one lucky steer is all I can say, number six.  You were born on an animal welfare-approved farm.  That means you get to romp around in green fields under blue skies until your number is called, which, don't worry, won't be for a while yet since Number One's just getting locked into the head clamp now.  If you'd been born on one of those inhumane factory farms that care nothing about the well-being of animals  ... excuse me, Number Two!  It's your turn, Number Two!  Hey, no worries, Number Six, but you might want to start romping around soon because it looks like this Animal Welfare-approved farmer likes to work quickly.

You know, you should be proud of yourself, Number Six.  You're making so many people feel so much better about themselves.  You see, a lot of people are appalled at the conditions of the factory farms.  Not appalled enough to stop eating animals like yourself, mind you, but appalled just enough to be willing to pay a little extra for the flesh of animals that got a chance to romp around in green fields under blue skies before they were slaughtered.  Excuse me.  Number Three!  It's your turn, Number Three!

I only wish you got a chance to meet the compassionate people who will be eating you, Number Six.  They're really going to enjoy it and not just because they crave the taste of your tender flesh.  They'll be able to eat you with a clean conscience.  You don't know anything about consciences because you're just an animal.  A conscience is what helps us humans do things that are morally just, like slaughter and consume other living beings ... oops, that's not what I meant to say, I must have gotten distracted by the wailing of Number Three.  It seems the friendly Animal Welfare-approved farmer didn't slaughter Number Three properly the first time and he's in an awful lot of pain right now.  Hopefully he can hearken back to his memories of romping around in green fields under blue skies and it will distract him from his pain.

Number Four!  Number Five!  It's your turn.  Hey, what's up, Number Six, you're shaking, you look so frightened.  Please don't wast this time when you should out romping around, your turn's getting closer.  Ah, I see.  I know why you're not romping around in green fields under blue skies.  It's because you're actually stuck in a cage.  I can explain.  When we talk about romping around in green fields under blue skies, it's more of a symbolic thing.  It's our intention that counts and our intention is to get people who buy Animal Welfare-approved products to think you get to romp around.  You're a realist, Number Six, I can see that you are.  You understand that people who like thinking they care about your welfare have a lot of disposable income.  Well, enough said about that, eh?

Well, Number Six, it's almost time.  I know you'd thank us if you could for bringing you up here rather than in one of those inhumane factory farms.  Come here, let me give you a pat on the head before you go.  That's something they'd never do at one of those impersonal factory farms.  They'd send you straight to the slaughter without giving you a friendly pat on the head.  That really gets me so worked up.  What kind of inhumane people would slaughter a fellow living being without giving it a friendly pat on the head first?  Oh, the world we live in!  Well, Number Six, looks like the friendly animal welfare-approved farmer is calling you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gifts for the hog butcher who has everything

Hog producers who go to the Pork Expo in June won't come away empty-handed.  There's all kinds of cool gifts and mementos to bring home.

Yes, it's unique all right.  Not many desktop items symbolize your role in the slaughter of over a hundred million living beings each year.  But this pig cell phone holder isn't just decorative.  When the call comes in from the boys on the farm that they were playing around with the piglets, maybe got a little carried away with those sharp metal stakes, that some of the undercover footage might not go over so well when it hits the local news, the hog producer can take that call using his pig cell phone holder!

Pig Lighter.  It's only human nature.  People get to boasting.  Hog producers are no different.  They start comparing numbers, going for bragging rights.  "You processed fifty thousand last month?  Ha, that's nothing.  I could slaughter fifty thousand in my sleep.  Says who?  Says me."  Then just when things are about to get heated, the hog producer pulls out his pig lighter and offers to light his competitor's cigar and camaraderie reigns once again.  And note the placement of the lighter device, right where the stun bolt shatters the pig's skull.  "It's perfectly aimed, right above the brain.  Maybe I should hire the guy."  This observation can make a good ice breaker when the hog producer experiences any awkward lulls in social settings or when he simply needs a fresh supply of banter to amuse other folks in the pork production world.

An adorable plush pig that, according to the product description, makes an "oink oink" sound when you squeeze it.  I don't mean to find fault.  The Pork expo gift committee is no doubt harried and overworked.  But is "oink oink" the only sound they could think of making?  What about the screams of ungodly terror at the pig's final moments.  That's what the hog producer wants memorialized.  That way when his kids ask him what sound does a pig make, Daddy, daddy can squeeze the plush toy, which emits the terrified wailing of the slowly dying hog, and say, "that's the sound a pig makes, kids."

Yes, the product description is right.  This handmade treasure is sure to be passed down from generation to generation.  A rope tailed oak piggy bank like this has family heirloom written all over it.  I even think the folks at the pork expo gift committee were a little too modest.  It won't just be passed down.  Future generations will fight over it.  Who did grandpa Pig Slaughterer leave the roped tailed pig bank to?  Families have dissolved over less than this.

Anyhow, this is just a small sampling of the exciting gifts available at the Pork Expo.

Friday, January 30, 2009

A useful purpose gives meaning to every life

There's an article in Animal Person, discovered by Bea, who's one of the most passionate advocates out there, about "agricultural speaker, radio personality, columnist" Trent Loos.  He's giving his canned speech, making churches full of farmers chuckle at his folksy anecdotes and breathe fire when he warns them of the dangers of animal rights activists.  He's talking about farm animals and he says something surprising.
Everything lives and everything dies and having a useful purpose gives meaning to every life.
I'm thinking, hold on, sounds pretty progressive for an agricultural speaker/radio host/columnist.  He's acknowledging farm animals are not merely objects to be slaughtered for human consumption but sentient beings who can actually lead lives filled with meaning.  And what gives their lives meaning?  Having a useful purpose.  Sages say the same thing.  I'm starting to wonder why there aren't more agricultural speakers/radio personalities/columnists in the ethics section of the library.  I'm reading on with bated breath.  And what is the farm animals' useful purpose that gives meaning to their lives? .... it's to be slaughtered for human consumption.

If they merely grazed all day, depression would set in.  There's got to be more to life than that.  If only they could somehow serve up pieces of their bodies to human beings, then their lives would have new meaning.  Providing chunks of flesh to be seared on the grill is the steer's version of nirvana.  Getting impregnated on the rape rack, watching her calf get hauled off to the veal auction so she can get pumped full of hormones, put back on the rape rack and artificially inseminated again is the dairy cow's version of the rapture.  Getting her neck sliced open and bled while the last bit of life slowly twitches out of her is the chicken's version of earthly paradise.

Over at Suicide Food, they've spent so much time pondering the mindset of these animals who crave self-slaughter, offering themselves up to human dinner tables and barbecues, some with stoic resignation, others with flat-out glee.  Maybe this agricultural speaker/radio host/columnist has cracked the code.  The animal seeks self-slaughter as a way of finding meaning in his life.  Having a useful purpose is what gives his life that meaning.  And that useful purpose is discovered through the transformative act of becoming the main entree at the human banquet.

I don't mean to quibble with this agricultural speaker/radio personality/columnist, but being consumed can't be the perfectly fulfilling act he thinks it is because, you see, the steer is modest enough to recognize his limitations.  He's not ample enough.  He can only provide enough flesh for a tiny handful of humans and that saddens him because he wants to serve the entire human world.  He wishes he could rise from the dead like the one in the main human religion.  "If I could come back from death to life and be slaughtered again and again then I'd be able to feed even more people and my life would have even more meaning."  Greedy steer.  How dare you desire perfect fulfillment.  A partially fulfilling life should be good enough for you.  You're only an animal, after all, not an agricultural speaker/radio personality/columnist.  More from him:
We allow everyone to talk about better treatment of pigs, chickens, cows.  And what about people?
I know I believe people deserve equal treatment.  During the debate over California's Prop 2, which would give laying hens bigger cages, I advocated for a separate proposition that would replace the window offices of all Tyson executives with cages proportionate to the size of the battery cages they use to confine their laying hens.  I think this agricultural speaker/radio host/columnist deserves a cage every bit as luxurious.  One big enough to fit his microphone and radio equipment so his folksy charm and meaningful existence-through-slaughter philosophical musings can be appreciated by all.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

what the critics of the critics of Temple Grandin are saying

Criticize Temple Grandin for saying "death is not the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal, the most important thing is quality of life" and one of the more common responses is...

"Be real.  These animals are going to die regardless.  Temple Grandin understands that reality and she's doing what she can to improve the lives of these animals before they die.  She's influencing companies like McDonald's for the better."

Temple Grandin's only influence over McDonald's is getting marketing executives and corporate communications executives to exchange high-fives in the main conference room.  McDonald's knows a PR coup when they see one.  They'll gladly put photos of Temple Grandin posing in the stockyards on their website, right next to her breathless statement about how it's the biggest improvement in animal welfare she's seen in her 25 years in the business.

Which isn't to say she doesn't have influence because she does.  She has the same kind of credible figure influence as the scientists bought by Exxon to dispute climate change.  Most people who eat at McDonald's couldn't care less about how animals are treated.  But some do.  Some feel conflicted when they hear about the horrors of factory farms.  But then they see this animal welfare expert reassuring them, hey, everything's cool, McDonald's is doing the right thing, I'm lovin' it and you should too.  She wipes away doubts and eases consciences.

And McDonald's, they're lovin' it too, they really are.  The executive who came up with the idea of getting Temple Grandin to whitewash, I mean consult, that's the kind of stuff reserved parking spaces and corner offices are made of.  No doubt he got a first column mention in Food and Beverage Digest.  Swooning marketing executives in every industry are begging him to connect to them on linkedin.

See, advertising characters have to be made up from scratch.  Someone had to come up with the idea of the Pillsbury Dough Boy giggling when he gets poked in the belly.  The unctuous, smooth-tongued cockney accent of the Geico gecko only came into being after long months of creative struggle.  But McDonald's didn't have to burn any billable hours brainstorming Temple Grandin.  She came with her persona fully formed:  animal welfare expert.  Professor of Animal Science.  Best-selling author.  It's only a matter of time before they come up with a Temple Grandin figurine to go in the Happy Meal.

So I guess the only thing left to say is, please drive through.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Help Wanted ad found in National Hog Farmer Magazine

Immediate opening
*Must be self-starter
*Prior supervisory experience
*Ability to juggle multiple projects
*Must be able to thrust metal spike with force and accuracy
*Must have proven ability to suppress mercy, compassion and empathy
*Minimum of 2-4 years experience as sadist required, with at least one year experience of either psychosocial maladjustment or the pathological need to lash out and inflict pain
*Creative problem solver wth "always say die" attitude
*Must have rotting black soul

Sadly, people misrepresent themselves on their resumes.  The last person who applied for the job claimed to have experience as a sadist, but it was all fabricated.  It turned out he only stood by and watched as his fellow workers slammed piglets to the ground.  Fortunately, we were able to find out the truth before we offered him the position.  Sadism is not something that can be learned in school.  Sure you can pick up some theory.  But we're looking for on-the-job experience.  When a hog decides it would rather live than die and it attempts to wriggle free, the professor of animal husbandry up in his ivory tower won't help.  And, no, leaving your dog out in sub-zero temperatures doesn't count as relevant experience.  That's passive sadism.  We're looking for self-starters, people who inflict pain and suffering without being told.  The ideal candidate is a creative thinker.  He doesn't see the piece of wood on the ground as a discarded fence post.  He sees it as a way of stunning a stubborn hog.  He will possess leadership qualities.  When people start kicking an intransigent hog, he won't merely join in, he'll initiate the violence.  We're looking for a total team player, someone who takes as much pleasure in someone else's stun bolting of a hog as he does his own.

We're especially open to people with experience at the Hormel supplier farm at Bayard, Iowa.  The sadistic behavior of the workers at this farm didn't have to be learned in a company manual.  They figured it out on their own.  That's the kind of self-starter we're looking for.  We are a recognized leader in the slaughter of millions of hogs per month.  We offer an attractive package that includes, medical, dental and a fully staffed PR department to defend your sadistic behavior to an appalled public should an undercover video ever reveal your abuses.  Are you sadistic enough to join our team?  The future is waiting so apply today!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Temple Grandin is stealing Ronald McDonald's thunder

Classic advertising icon Ronald McDonald.  Animal welfare advocate, slaughterhouse designer and McDonald's consultant Temple Grandin.  If it weren't for the wig and face paint, we'd have a hard time telling them apart.  They both both boost McDonald's sales and increase shareholder value.  They both pimp McDonald's whenever a microphone's put in front of their face.
McDonald's should be given credit for bringing about improvements in animal welfare in the entire beef industry ... I have been in this business for more than 25 years, and I have never seen such a transformation.  -- Temple Grandin
In other words, McDonald's.  I'm lovin' it!

Ronald's been getting a little jealous of all the attention Temple Grandin's been getting lately.  He's like the aging star quarterback when a hotshot rookie is drafted.  All his years of loyalty and hard work and now on the responsible purchasing page of the McDonald's website there's a quotation from Temple Grandin praising McDonald's and even a picture of her inspecting cattle.  But there's no picture of Ronald.  Hell, they could have found a photo of him hamming it up with Mayor McCheese, scolding the Hamburglars, something.  The website refers to Temple Grandin as a "prominent animal behavior expert."  Ronald's more than a prominent spokesman.  He's been the face of the company for all these years.  Now he's being put out to pasture.  No, the cattle grazing pun was not a happy accident.  Ronald's mind is still razor sharp.  But they don't think so, those executives in their fancy suits, driving their fancy cars.  Sure, they're all smiles and pats on the back when they see Ronald at one of the commercial film shoots, but behind his back it's Temple Grandin this, Temple Grandin that.  Temple Grandin is getting people to think we care about the animals we slaughter.  Temple Grandin just praised us in her book on animal kindness.  Temple Grandin, Temple Grandin.  It's enough to make Ronald sick.  He thought getting shit-faced last night with Mayor McCheese would get his mind off things, but it didn't help at all.  This morning he woke up with a vicious hangover and Temple Grandin was still out there, going on interviews about her new book, talking about how McDonald's is doing so much for animals.  It won't be long before she works her humane slaughter garbage into one of Ronald's all-time favorite songs.  "Two humanely treated all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."  Ronald can't take it anymore.  He doesn't know what he's going to do but he's going to do something.  In the meantime, there's still a few gulps left in that bottle of whiskey lying on the ground.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Frank Lloyd Wright of slaughterhouses writes book on animal happiness

The New York Times reviewed a book on animal happiness by Professor Temple Gardin, well-known slaughterhouse designer.  It's kind of like having the makers of Smith & Wesson handguns write a book on pacifism.  Some excerpts...
Some people think death is the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal.  The most important thing for an animal is quality of life.
This is a real head-spinner.  She says it's the quality of life that's important.  But death ends life.  There is no quality of life after the slaughter.  There is no life period.  And it's not like there's some Dr. Kevorkian of the animal husbandry world putting animals out of their misery when they've lived out most of their lives and are nearing death.  These animals are slaughtered in their youth.  So if quality of life is the most important thing for animals like she says, then death IS the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal since it terminates life and there can be no quality of life without life.

She says slaughterhouses need "strong, caring" managers.  Strong and caring.  That sounds like the hero of a Danielle Steele novel.

"Stand back, my darling" the heroic slaughterhouse manager said, stun gun held firmly in his thick, corded arms, his strong yet caring voice sending chills down Tessa's spine, "this animal will feel no pain.  But you might want to take a few steps back so you don't get brain tissue on your beautiful green dress, which would spoil our first dance at the ambassador's ball tonight.  Oh, and better plug your ears, my darling, because the stun gun doesn't always work right the first time and the steer will start to scream, disturbing your delicate ears which should only hear my tender words of affection, not the death throes of the cattle."

Temple Gardn's advice for these strong, caring managers?
A captive bolt gun has a steel bolt that is powered by either compressed air or a blank cartridge.  The bolt is driven into the animals' brain ... if a non-penetrating captive bolt is used the animal may revive unless it is bled promptly.
This word "caring" comes up over and over among people who talk about improving "animal welfare."  Words have agreed upon definitions.  These definitions turn otherwise random sounds into pieces of communication.  If you use the word to describe something that's the polar opposite of the agreed upon definition, communication is no longer possible.  Caring slaughterhouse worker.  If Temple Gardin arbitrarily decided to suspend the agreed upon definition of "caring" and replace it with a new one, if caring now means "willingness to drive a metal bolt through the skull and brain of an animal," then I suppose these slaughterhouse workers are caring. 

The article tells us Temple Gardin has consulted, i.e. received money from, McDonald's and Wendy's.  And guess what?  "She has kind words for them."  They sent her home with a wad of cash and a Happy Meal and she spread the word.   People suspect PR agencies of being bought off so they don't believe press releases by companies like McDonald's.  But when an animal rights thinker with genuine cred and books to her name and a publicity photo of herself surrounded by happy animals has kind words to say, that's going to sell a lot of Big Mac's.

Don't bother reading the book.  Wait until the McDonald's tray liner version comes out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The different types of people who consume animal products

Among people who consume animal products you tend to see a continuum:

1)  Those who not only are indifferent to the suffering of animals raised for food but who actively derive pleasre from killing animals themselves.  Hunters say they eat what they kill, but most will usually admit the primary motivation is the thrill of the hunt.

2)  Those who don't slaughter animals themselves but who make no pretense of caring about the suffering and death of these animals.  For these people, the human desire for animal flesh outweighs the animal's desire not to suffer.  Presumably, if these people did not benefit in any way from the suffering and death of the animals, they would reject it.  Dan at Unpopular Vegan Essays has an intriguing analysis of the willingness of people who consider themselves "kind and gentle" to suspend those values when they consider the animals who end up on their dinner plates.

3)  Those who do care about the suffering of non-human animals.  They are aware of this suffering but don't want to be.  They don't want to see it or hear about it.  They actively avoid images or information that make more vivid their purposefully vague conception of what happens to animals raised for food.  Too much awareness would force them to re-consider their behavior and they are unwilling/unable to do that.

4)  Those who are fully aware of the suffering of non-human animals and who renounce it but whose renunciation is not strong enough to get them to give up their own role in perpetuating that suffering.  These people justify their behavior by coming up with gradations of cruelty.  If an animal is raised in what they arbitrarily deem humane conditions, then the suffering and slaughter becomes morally tolerable.  This acceptable level of suffering enables them to rationalize their own consumption of animals by placing themselves in a position of moral superiority relative to other people.  "Unlike those people who disregard the conditions of animals," they tell themselves, "I do care.  I insist on only consuming animals who, prior to the slaughter, lived tolerable lives."  These people, paradoxically, often become proselytizers for animal rights.  They genuinely see themselves as passionate and committed advocates.  The Animal Welfare Institute is one of many examples of people who advocate for a reduction of animal suffering but who refuse to eliminate their own perpetuation of that suffering.  You read their accounts of sumptuous pork dinners at their animal welfare conferences and you think they're making a morbid joke.  But they are completely in earnest.