Animal Rights and Veganism

7/7 - Personally, I feel there is nothing wrong with meat eating. From an evolutionary view, it is natural to eat meat as can be seen all throughout nature, and the structure of our digestion system and our teeth. From a religious view, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with eating meat either (except over-indulgance and when fasting). But, the points that Julie make are very compelling. Eating meat may not be morally wrong, but the poor treatment of animals is inexcusable. And the health facts are very pressing also. Logically, there are many aspects of being a vegan that I cannot deny. Here is one instance where I do promote a course of action. The human race needs to preserve our environment and that includes the rights of animals. It makes me sick how animals are mass produced. But, my course of action is not as drastic as Julie's. I feel that animal's should be treated better, but that we should still be able to eat meat. I support the cause of vegans, but I feel that that should be a personal choice, not a mandate. Of course that means I support killing animals, and hunting even, as long as it's not for sport only. I do not mean to offend you Julie, but that is the way of the food chain. There are advantages to hunting also, and one of them is population control. Hunting should be regulated, such as unnecessarily cruel treatment of animals, but should not be outlawed.

6/28 - Julie Gehring

One reason for fighting for animal rights is to save one’s health. Vegetables and fruits are much easier and cheaper to grow and prepare. They can also be more nutritious than meat. Many discoveries have been made about how unhealthy meat really is for the typical person. Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. said that, “The present American diet, with its emphasis on dairy, meat, fish, chicken, and oils, accounts for seventy-five percent of our diseases.”

Vegetables, fruits, and grains are much healthier than a diet that includes meat and dairy products. Statistics have shown that a vegan diet has many benefits. The first is the lowering effect on cholesterol. A low fat diet that includes meat at best reduces cholesterol five percent, while a diet eliminating meat reduces cholesterol up to 32 percent. In fact, a low fat vegan diet can even eliminate the need for drugs and cardiac surgery. In fact, I recently had the honor of meeting a man who had two nearly completely blocked arteries. He had looked on the web and discovered a site about the vegan diet and it’s benefits. By the time I met him he was two completely clear arteries with no surgery or medication. Dr. Neal Barnard states that the rewards of a vegan diet are weight loss, diabetic control, a lower blood pressure, and the decreased chance of heart attacks. The chance of getting a heart attack on a vegan or vegetarian diet is less than half that of a meat eater’s diet. Joanne Saxe, a registered nurse with Web MD, says that, “A Vegan diet may be a great choice for a person with certain types of heart disease.” In fact it can be so healthy, the Committee for Responsible Medicine called for a new four food groups. These groups would be the grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. It would provide all the nutrition that is needed in a diet.

Diets that include animal flesh have been linked to the risk of cancer. For a woman, the risk of breast cancer is 3.8 times higher on a carnivorous diet. The odds for a woman to get ovarian cancer are tripled with the addition of eggs to her diet. For men, the odds of getting prostate cancer are 3.6 times higher than that of men on a vegan diet. These hard facts do not sound like overly emotional ramblings associated with girls who are vegetarians. It sounds like girls who want to have a long and healthy life.

One of the most often talked about concerns linked with a vegan diet is the possible absence of protein. In actuality, protein is not even needed as a supplement for the vegan diet. Most meat-eaters get too much protein leading to a higher risk of kidney failure, liver failure, cancer, and osteoporosis. All a vegetarian really needs to live a normal and healthy life is a good multi-vitamin to get their B-12. Well, why is B-12 in meat if we are not meant to eat it? Actually, B-12 is from a bacteria that used to be found on fruits and vegetables until they started factory farming them. Organic vegetables still have B-12.

In many ways the feminist and animal rights movements are intertwined. The Feminists for Animal Rights, or FAR, is an organization that originates in Arizona. They are fighting mainly against abuse that has existed for years because of our patriarchal society. One poet compared the abuse of animals and women in a poem called, “All Flesh”. Heather Yakin wrote, “What if I told you/I know every tremor/Running through/That maddened dog/The same fist/Has beaten us both/Locked us in/The same filthy cage.” FAR has been working on a program that will allow battered women to bring not only their children, but also their companion pets with them to shelters.

Jeanne Williams writes in her introduction to her book, The Reference Shelf: Animal Rights and Welfare, that in the last fifteen years there has been a growing demand that unborn babies and animals get rights with the Constitution. Most people have found such a thing to be absurd. However, as Williams points out, it was just as crazy an idea to give women rights so many years ago. Isn’t every new movement perceived as crazy? Even African Americans were perceived as animals and they eventually earned rights. Perhaps, years after this is read people will wonder why it had taken so long to have animals treated fairly. Alice Walker linked the abuse of all species together when she said, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men.”

Many people choose the vegetarian life because of the cruelty of slaughtering innocent animals. The inhumane treatment of these animals is shown below.

Every year, more than seven billion animals are raised, transported, and slaughtered under grossly inhumane conditions. Animals are crammed into small crates, dragged to auctions with chains, and slaughtered while they are fully conscious. All of these practices are considered “normal agricultural operation” and have become business as usual in a system driven by profit. The food industry treats animal as commodities, not as living, feeling animals. (Hurley 174)

The most disgusting part of the meat industry is obviously the slaughterhouse. Here animals are supposedly stunned to be unconscious while being slaughtered. Although it is illegal by Humane Slaughter Act, about half of the animals are still completely conscious while shackled, hung upside down, and have their throats sliced. The half that are in fact stunned are only stunned with the head only method which wears off if the animal is not slaughtered in time. Pigs are heard with their almost human-like screaming as knives cut their throats. They writhe in pain until they die.

After discovering the horrors of the slaughterhouse, many people cannot help but chew a piece of steak and shudder at the reality of how the cow was killed. Shel Silverstein wrote a poem entitled “Point of View” where he writes how the author used to enjoy a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving until he realized that it was not a happy holiday for the turkey.

Cows and chickens are treated with indignity and are often killed with painfully cruel methods. Most meat comes from factory farming. The conditions of these “factories” are horrific. These animals are usually genetically mutated. Some of the bone structure is mutated so badly that often cows’ legs will simply break beneath them. These cows are called downers and are left to die a slow painful death. All male cows and chickens are castrated without any painkillers. They are kept in such tiny spaces they do not even have the luxury of being able to turn around in their cage. These cramped and stressful conditions cause chickens to fight with each other so they are often declawed and debeaked. A hot blade it used to debeak chickens. These animals do not pain killers and sometimes the blade sears off some of their face. Cows raised on factory farms will not see the light of day until they are loaded on to an overcrowded truck to the slaughterhouse.

Pigs raised for pork is another tragedy in the meat industry. Pigs are actually very intelligent and sensitive animals. As with the chickens and cows, pigs are overcrowded. They cannot walk, turn around, or even lie down. Everything from feeding to manure removal is automated so they do not receive any personal attention. The majority of pigs in these factory farms suffer from leg injuries, mange, and respiratory diseases. Millions of pigs die every year before ever making it to the slaughterhouse because of the horrible conditions.

The fur industry is perhaps the most cruel of them all. The animals raised in fur farming are grotesquely abused. There are absolutely no laws to protect animals raised on fur farms. These foxes, minks, and beavers are kept in such tiny and cramped condition they often commit psychotic behaviors like self-mutilation and cannibalism. Suffocation, anal electrocution, and a simple and painful breaking of the neck finally kill them. These methods are not always successful and some animals actually wake up while in the process of being skinned.

Sixty-three countries have made trapping illegal. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of them. Forty-four states still have legalized trapping. Thirty percent of the fur sold in the United States comes from fur trapping. A trap is when two steel bars slam shut on an animal. Sometimes that animal will chew off its own foot or wing to escape. They usually will die from the wound shortly after. If they do not escape, they may starve to death until the trap is checked. If the animal is still living when they are found it gets the honor of being bashed with a hammer to the head or ribs until it dies or the lucky ones are shot. Twenty three percent of the animals caught in traps are stray and domestic dogs, cats, and other “trash animals.” Robert W. Angell, an ecologist who formed the People Allied With Wildlife, states that, “Almost every day one of our volunteer signature collectors heard of a case of a dog or cat caught in a trap”. Some of these trash animals are even endangered species like the bald eagle.

With all of the cruelty to animals that feel pain and fear just like humans, it is impossible to understand why these industries continue to prosper. The few that realize and take a stand are often belittled for their sensitivity and beliefs. Nearly all of us are raised this way. It takes a strong person to defy what society has taught us, but it has to be defied. Oppression and abuse of all living things must stop.

"Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace." -Albert Schweitzer (missionary and statesman, Nobel 1952)

Click here to see the bibliography on this essay and here to read a poem about animal cruelty sent by Julie. Thanks for all your efforts!

Related Links:

Main Page | Index of Topics