Live your values!
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. — Mahatma Gandhi
Most of us would agree that it is wrong to cause unnecessary pain or death to anyone, animal or human. Most of us are cheerfully dedicated to the companion animals in our lives. When we learned that Michael Vick was leading a dogfighting ring, public outcry was intense and immediate. In 2011, five pigs fell off a truck on I-40 and the public rallied, raising enough money to send them to a sanctuary, exempting these five animals from the fate we consign to billions of others.
These cases demonstrate that we already recognize that there is moral value in not causing frivolous harm and in protecting the weak. But we’re missing the connection to the larger practice of animal use because it’s so ingrained in our daily lives. We rarely even think about it.
Going vegan makes that connection.
Approximately 50 billion land animals are consumed every year worldwide, not counting marine and aquatic life. Their lives are brief and miserable. Overcrowded living spaces, bodily mutilation, and inadequate nutrition are industry standards. All farmed animals, whether used for meat, dairy, or clothing products are ultimately killed. Because animals are treated as commodities, their health and well-being will always be compromised to increase profit, even in so-called “humane” products. Consuming animals is not a biological necessity, and is, in fact, detrimental to human health and the environment. So when we consume animal products, we do so only because it is pleasurable or convenient. Please consider that we should not force animals into existence to be indiscriminately used as human resources. Animals can and do suffer, and that in itself is enough to qualify them for moral consideration.
For animals, for the environment, for social justice, and for your own health: go vegan.
When animals are treated as objects to be used for pleasure and profit, their well-being is never going to be a priority, even in so-called “humane” products. Ninety-nine percent of animal products come from factory farms, where animals live in filthy, overcrowded spaces, endure mutilation without anesthesia, and live out their brief lives in misery. At most grocery stores, you’ll likely find several kinds of labels assuring consumers that certain animal products stand apart from this system, and are therefore ethical choices. First, we must ask ourselves: is unnecessary killing ever an ethical choice? Our answer as vegans is an unequivocal no. Second, these labels’ claims are poorly regulated–if they’re regulated at all–and are usually misleading.
All of these “humanely raised” animals, like their industrially produced counterparts, are ultimately slaughtered after only a fraction of their natural lifespans. We subject billions of animals to entirely avoidable suffering and slaughter every year. The “humane” labels and the alternative practices they represent may provide a sense of false comfort about our choices, but they do not change the fact the animals involved lived and died for human pleasure and convenience, often with their own forms of cruelty (castration without anesthesia, foregoing antibiotic treatment for sick “organic” animals, etc.). We do not need to consume animals to lead happy and healthy lives.
The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?” — Jeremy Bentham
Websites and Blogs
The PAN website features many great resources about animal rights-related topics: Animals in Entertainment, Environmental Food Choices, Vegan Food Choices, Humane Choices, a Vegan Guidebook, and a Vegan Living and Recipe Guide.
“The mission of this website is to provide a clear statement of an approach to animal rights that (1) promotes the abolition of animal exploitation and rejects the regulation of animal exploitation; (2) is based only on animal sentience and no other cognitive characteristic, (3) regards veganism as the moral baseline of the animal rights position; and (4) rejects all violence and promotes activism in the form of creative, non-violent vegan education.”
“My Face Is on Fire is a blog (with an associated podcast) which focuses on abolitionist vegan education, animal rights issues and the misrepresentation of veganism in pop culture or mainstream media.”
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows – Melanie Joy
“This ground-breaking work, voted one of the top ten books of 2010 by VegNews Magazine, offers an absorbing look at why and how humans can so wholeheartedly devote ourselves to certain animals and then allow others to suffer needlessly, especially those slaughtered for our consumption.”
Animal Rights/Human Rights – David Nibert
“This accessible and cutting-edge work offers a new look at the history of western ‘civilization,’ one that brings into focus the interrelated suffering of oppressed humans and other animals. Nibert argues persuasively that throughout history the exploitation of other animals has gone hand in hand with the oppression of women, people of color, and other oppressed groups. He maintains that the oppression both of humans and of other species of animals is inextricably tangled within the structure of social arrangements. Nibert asserts that human use and mistreatment of other animals are not natural and do little to further the human condition.”
The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals – Jenny Brown
“The Lucky Ones introduces readers to Brown’s crowning achievement, the renowned Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary she established with her husband in 2004. With a cast of unforgettable survivors, including a fugitive slaughterhouse cow named Kayli; Albie, the three-legged goat; and Quincy, an Easter duckling found abandoned in New York City, The Lucky Ones reveals shocking statistics about the prevalence of animal abuse throughout America’s agribusinesses. Blending wry humor with unflinching honesty, Brown brings a compelling new voice to the healthy-living movement—and to the vulnerable, voiceless creatures among us.”
Animals as Persons: Essays on the Abolition of Animal Exploitation – Gary L. Francione
“A prominent and respected philosopher of animal rights law and ethical theory, Gary L. Francione is known for his criticism of animal welfare laws and regulations, his abolitionist theory of animal rights, and his promotion of veganism and nonviolence as the baseline principles of the abolitionist movement. In this collection, Francione advances the most radical theory of animal rights argued to date. Unlike Peter Singer, Francione maintains that we cannot morally justify using animals under any circumstances, and unlike Tom Regan, Francione’s theory applies to all sentient beings, and not only to those who have more sophisticated cognitive abilities.”
Eating Animals – Jonathan Safran Foer
“Traveling to the darkest corners of our dining habits, Foer raises the unspoken question behind every fish we eat, every chicken we fry, and every burger we grill. Part memoir and part investigative report, Eating Animals is a book that, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, places Jonathan Safran Foer ‘at the table with our greatest philosophers.'”
“Slaughterhouse is the first book of its kind to explore the impact that unprecedented changes in the meatpacking industry over the last twenty-five years – particularly industry consolidation, increased line speeds, and deregulation – have had on workers, animals, and consumers. It is also the first time ever that workers have spoken publicly about what’s really taking place behind the closed doors of America’s slaughterhouses.”
“Earthlings is a powerful and informative documentary about society’s treatment of animals, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby. This multi-award winning film by Nation Earth is a must-see for anyone who cares about animals or wishes to make the world a better place.”
“A riveting story of transformation and healing, PEACEABLE KINGDOM: THE JOURNEY HOME explores the awakening conscience of several people who grew up in traditional farming culture and who have now come to question the basic premises of their inherited way of life. Presented through a woven tapestry of memories, music, and breathtaking accounts of life-altering moments, the film provides insight into the farmers’ sometimes amazing connections with the animals under their care, while also making clear the complex web of social, psychological and economic forces that have led them to their present dilemma.”
“Vegucated is a guerrilla-style documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks and learn what it’s all about.”
“In the award-winning documentary THE WITNESS, Eddie Lama explains how he feared and avoided animals for most of his life, until the love of a kitten opened his heart, inspiring him to rescue abandoned animals and bring his message of compassion to the streets of New York. With humor and sincerity, Eddie tells the story of his remarkable change in consciousness.”