Additionally, OIG interviewed 39 inspectors at the 30 plants they visited; one-third said they would not even issue a noncompliance report if they witnessed a conscious animal on the bleed rail (which legally requires suspension). OIG noted that similar inspector confusion regarding their basic legal obligations was clear in reports from GAO and OIG in 2010 and 2008, yet nothing has been done to rectify the situation.
The following is an excerpt from The Animal Activist's Handbook by Matt Ball and Bruce Friedrich, published by Lantern Books.
How Will We Focus Our Energy?
If we agree that the meaning of life is to make the world a better place by exposing and eliminating as much suffering as possible, then the most critical question of our lives is this: How do we do the most possible good in a world where suffering is so widespread?
Again, a basic understanding of human nature can show us potential prejudices and blind spots that might impede us from being optimally effective. Each of us has a bias of concern toward self-interest, the known and the immediate. This applies to activists just as much as to the general population.
Most people working for a better world concentrate on others who are most like them or who are closest to them, geographically and/or biologically. It's almost too obvious to warrant mention, but most people working on gay rights issues are gay, on women's rights issues are women, on civil rights are African American, on anti-Semitism are Jewish, etc.
These causes are important, but they're also issues of self-interest for many. Even with causes such as child abuse, cancer, domestic violence, and so on, leaders are often individuals with personal experience (e.g., when celebrities experience a disease, either personally or through a loved one, they often become spokespeople). Charities working within the U.S. get much more funding than those that do work overseas. Work on behalf of exploited or suffering human beings receives exponentially more funding and attention than work on behalf of nonhuman animals, and demonstrations for human rights attract more people and more moral outrage than demonstrations on behalf of animals.
Some people point to dogs and cats as an exception. In 2007, when investigators pulled 60 abused animals, dozens of animals' corpses and truckloads of dog-fighting paraphernalia from Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick's property, there were loud and vigorous demonstrations denouncing his cruelty to animals.
At the same time, though, there were demonstrations supporting Vick, both on the football field and in the community. Many commentators argued that the issue was not worthy of the concern and attention it was getting; others argued he shouldn't be suspended from playing football.
Obviously, no one would have been pro-Vick if dead and battered human beings had been found on his property, or if the rape racks had been for humans, rather than dogs.
Of course, the numbers protesting his actions were still a tiny fraction of the numbers that turn out for an anti-abortion or anti-war rally. Some have expressed surprise or even envy at PETA's multimillion-dollar annual budget. This, too, shows the degree of our species bias -- if we're surprised an animal-protection organization could take in such a "lofty" sum.
Think about it: The largest animal-rights organization in the world has a budget of some tens of millions of dollars per year to work against all of the combined injustices against the more than 10 billion land animals that are killed annually in the United States. Planned Parenthood took in 30 times more for work on women's health; Catholic Charities took well over 100 times more to work on poverty issues. One human disease – cancer -- gets thousands and thousands of times more money devoted to it than is contributed to every single issue related to animal rights. (For a ranking from 2001, see csmonitor.com/2001/1126/csmimg/charitychart.pdf; see GuideStar.org for current budgets of other non-profit organizations.) Indeed, our entire government is focused on human needs, and spends billions each year subsidizing animal agriculture (see ucsusa.org/news/press_release/cafo-costs-report-0113.html).
An understanding of human nature, along with the recognition of the primacy of suffering, leads to two guiding principles that we've found useful in freeing our advocacy from prejudice:
First, to maximize the amount of good we can accomplish, we should strive to set aside personal biases as much as possible. We should challenge ourselves to approach advocacy through a straightforward analysis of the world as it is, motivated solely by a desire to alleviate suffering to the greatest extent possible.
If the amount of suffering in the world weren't so vast, other considerations would be warranted (e.g., maximizing pleasure). But as long as so many are suffering so horribly, eliminating as much suffering as possible must be our primary motivating factor.
Second, it's vital we recognize that we all have limited resources and time. It's a simple fact that when we choose to do one thing, we're choosing to not do another -- there's no way around it. Instead of choosing to "do something, do anything," we must challenge ourselves to pursue actions that will likely lead to the greatest reduction in suffering.
There are a myriad of worthy pursuits, and of course we appreciate anyone working to make the world a kinder place. However, given the above principles, we challenge everyone -- including ourselves -- to constantly strive to maximize the efficacy of our actions.
Striking at the Root
There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root. -- Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Perhaps you've heard the story of the person who finds babies floating down the river a few times per day, day after day after day -- saving some, missing most of them. Every day, she waits by the river, knowing there'll be babies to save. Sure enough, every day she pulls some of the drowning babies out of the river, and she feels good about her efforts -- saving lives, every day -- even as she mourns the many who drown.
Finally, one day she thinks, "Who on earth keeps tossing these babies into the river?" She walks upstream, finds the person doing it, and stops him. In that moment, she's saved all of the babies who would have been tossed into the river in the future, and becomes free to dedicate herself to something else that would be helpful in the world.
There's much triage work to be done in our society -- there are many drowning babies, as it were. And obviously the work of saving them is good. But we're convinced that if we can stop people from tossing babies into the water in the first place, we'll be more effective.
In concrete terms, we choose not to focus our incredibly limited time and resources on individual animals, however valuable and rewarding that work is. Rather, we seek to challenge the very structures of oppression against animals and to work to dismantle the system that says animals are commodities we can eat.
To do this as effectively as possible, we must set priorities and, given our limited resources, make some difficult, rational choices.
Peter Singer asks us in "The Singer Solution to World Poverty" to consider the case of a man who just bought a new car. He paid $50,000 for the car and doesn't have it insured yet. His car stalls on a set of railroad tracks, and, before he can push the car off, he sees a small girl also on the tracks, oblivious to an oncoming train. He has to choose between moving his car or saving the girl.
Obviously, if he chose the car, all of us would hold him in moral contempt. Singer asks: What is the real difference between this scenario and buying the car in the first place, when you could buy a perfectly acceptable car for $20,000 or less, leaving $30,000 to dedicate to poverty relief, which would save far more than one child.
Similarly, consider the example of someone who has just bought an extra pair of $200 shoes. She sees a child drowning in the river. If the person chooses not to jump in for fear of destroying her shoes, again, all of us would find her morally reprehensible.
Yet the same moral conclusion can be drawn when it comes to buying a pair of expensive shoes that aren't needed in the first place, rather than giving the money to charity. When applying this to animals, the comparison becomes even more stark, since, for just a few coins, you can put an illustrated, detailed, documented booklet in someone's hands, show someone "Meet Your Meat" (meat.org) through online advertising, or show them a 30-second vegetarian commercial. It takes so little to be the animals' voice, yet few of us even consider utilizing the power we have.
Even though U.S. society is composed mainly of professed Christians, most ignore Christ's words to the rich man: "Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor" (Matthew 19:21). In an attempt to update the principal for our often selfish society, Singer makes the case that a reasonable standard for most of us would be to give away 20 percent of our income.
Will that hurt, given that we've grown accustomed to our current level of income? For most of us, it will. At the very least, it will require an adjustment. But can we do it without actual physical harm coming to us? For most of us, yes, we can. Organizations dedicated to reducing as much suffering as possible can use that money to make the world better -- far more so than whatever we might otherwise spend it on. Singer sums up this concept in "How Are We To Live?":
In a society in which the narrow pursuit of material self-interest is the norm, the shift to an ethical stance is more radical than many people realize. In comparison with the needs of people starving in Somalia, the desire to sample the wines of the leading French vineyards pales into insignificance. Judged against the suffering of immobilized rabbits having shampoos dripped into their eyes, a better shampoo becomes an unworthy goal.
An ethical approach to life does not forbid having fun or enjoying food and wine, but it changes our sense of priorities. The effort and expense put into buying fashionable clothes, the endless search for more and more refined gastronomic pleasures, the astonishing additional expense that marks out the prestige car market in cars from the market in cars for people who just want a reliable means to getting from A to B, all these become disproportionate to people who can shift perspective long enough to take themselves, at least for a time, out of the spotlight. If a higher ethical consciousness spreads, it will utterly change the society in which we live.
We Can Do It
Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. -- Elie Wiesel
Consider this: The people we admire are not those who went along with the crowd, who did whatever was allowed by the norms of their times. Rather, the people we rightly respect are those who stood up to the prejudices of their society. Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, Mohandas Gandhi, Susan B. Anthony, and so many other individuals changed their world. We are all called to do no less.
In the face of so much suffering, it can become easy to become despondent and to think that we can't change the world. But if we break our work into chunks, celebrate the "small" victories for what they really mean (e.g., turning one person vegetarian changes their entire life forever and makes a massive, positive impact in the world), and keep ourselves focused on our goals, we can realize what significant progress we're making.
After decades of experience as activists, we're deeply and profoundly optimistic. Every day, we take inspiration in a review of the progress that has been won for social justice and animal protection (as we discuss at greater length in Chapter Five).
There are, of course, many potential targets for our activism: 2 billion people live without access to clean water; 800 million don't have enough calories to sustain themselves; women in many parts of the world suffer unjust treatment and violence; our fellow creatures are abused and slaughtered.
These are a few of our society's current practices that, we're convinced, future generations will look back on with the same sense of incredulity we reserve for past atrocities, like slavery and witch burnings. We are called to be like those we admire for standing up against the prejudices of their day.
In April, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on food policy called the diversion of crops to be turned into biofuels "a crime against humanity." Indeed, 100 million tons of corn and other crops that could feed people instead feed our cars.
What then to make of the fact that more than 750 million tons of corn and wheat are diverted from the mouths of the global poor (and away from biofuels) to feed chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals? And that doesn't even include the 80 percent of the global soy crop that is also fed to farmed animals.
Surely this is a crime against humanity of even greater impact: First, it's more than seven times as many crops that are diverted to feed farmed animals so that we can eat the animals; second, while diverting grains for biofuels does decrease global warming, the impact of eating meat is bad for our health and environment -- there is no upside.
I adopted a vegetarian diet more than 20 years ago, after I read Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. In the book, Lappe makes the argument that using land to grow crops for animals is inefficient, polluting, and that it steals food from the mouths of the global poor. The point is echoed by the respected environmental think tank, The WorldWatch Institute, which published a report a few years back that declares:
[M]eat consumption is an inefficient use of grain--the grain is used more efficiently when consumed by humans. Continued growth in meat output is dependent on feeding grain to animals, creating competition for grain between affluent meat-eaters and the world's poor.More and more, that message is getting a hearing, so that a few weeks ago, the UN's climate chief Yvo de Boer told the Reuters news agency, "The best solution would be for us all to become vegetarians." Indeed.
De Boer was talking about both the global food crisis and global warming, because a U.N. report recently found that eating meat is the number one human cause of global warming, causing almost a fifth of the global greenhouse gas total -- and, of course, poor communities are the first to suffer the potentially grave consequences of climate change.
The chairperson of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, is himself a vegetarian and has been outspoken on the need for people who care about the climate to move in that direction. At a press conference just after winning the Peace Prize, the IPCC declared "Please eat less meat -- meat is a very carbon-intensive commodity."
Indeed it is, which is why the official handbook for the Live Earth concerts says that "refusing meat" is "the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint" (emphasis in original).
And the U.N. report also found that eating meat is "one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." Specifically, the 408-page report noted the meat industry's contribution to "problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."
Clearly problems of climate change and the global food crisis warrant global and political solutions, but one of those solutions will have to include a shift away from the massive handouts that governments give to their meat industries in the form of government-paid inspection programs (these industries should pay their own bills), subsidies for feed crops, teams of scientists helping to grow larger animals with fewer resources, and so on. And it should also include government programs to encourage a public shift away from the consumption of chickens, pigs, and other farmed animals.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated last month that "[h]unger is a moral challenge to each one of us as global citizens... [w]ith one child dying every five seconds from hunger-related causes, the time to act is now."
The current issue of the New Scientist, in discussing the food crisis and the vast additonal crops that are required to feed meat-eaters, as opposed to vegetarians, explains in discussing solutions, "We could try to reduce the demand by persuading people to return to a less meaty diet for example, but that is unlikely to work."
I think the New Scientist editors underestimate people. In Taiwan, they're taking the concept seriously; the Guardian reported on Wednesday that to address the global food crisis and global warming, "around a million people in Taiwan -- including the speaker of parliament, the environment minister, and the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung -- vowed to never again touch flesh nor fish."
If we take global warming and global poverty seriously, isn't adopting a vegetarian diet the least that each of us can do?
For more on this topic, please visit GoVeg.com. Find recipes and more at www.VegCooking.com.
Gone are the days when vegetarians were served up a plate of iceberg lettuce and a dull-as-dishwater baked potato. With the growing variety of vegetarian faux-meats like bacon and sausages and an ever-expanding variety of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants, vegetarianism has taken the world by storm.
With World Vegetarian Week here, without further ado, are the Top 10 reasons to give vegetarian eating a try, starting now!
1. Helping Animals Also Helps the Global Poor While there is ample and justified moral indignation about the diversion of 100 million tons of grain for biofuels, more than seven times as much (760 million tons) is fed to farmed animals so that people can eat meat. Is the diversion of crops to our cars a moral issue? Yes, but it's about one-eighth the issue that meat-eating is. Care about global poverty? Try vegetarianism.
2. Eating Meat Supports Cruelty to Animals The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today's factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything else that is natural and important to them. They won't even get to feel the warmth of the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.
3. Eating Meat Is Bad for the Environment A recent United Nations report entitled Livestock's Long Shadow concludes that eating meat is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." In just one example, eating meat causes almost 40 percent more greenhouse-gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, and planes in the world combined. The report concludes that the meat industry "should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."
4. Avoid Bird Flu
The World Health Organization says that if the avian flu virus mutates, it could be caught simply by eating undercooked chicken flesh or eggs, eating food prepared on the same cutting board as infected meat or eggs, or even touching eggshells contaminated with the disease. Other problems with factory farming -- from foot-and-mouth to SARS -- can be avoided with a general shift to a vegetarian diet.
5. If You Wouldn't Eat a Dog, You Shouldn't Eat a Chicken Several recent studies have shown that chickens are bright animals who are able to solve complex problems, demonstrate self-control, and worry about the future. Chickens are smarter than cats and dogs and even do some things that have not yet been seen in mammals other than primates. Dr. Chris Evans, who studies animal behavior and communication at Macquarie University in Australia, says, "As a trick at conferences, I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens and people think I'm talking about monkeys."
6. Heart Disease: Our Number One Killer Healthy vegetarian diets support a lifetime of good health and provide protection against numerous diseases, including the United States' three biggest killers: heart disease, cancer, and strokes. Drs. Dean Ornish and Caldwell Esselstyn -- two doctors with 100 percent success in preventing and reversing heart disease -- have used a vegan diet to accomplish it, as chronicled most recently in Dr. Esselstyn's Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, which documents his 100 percent success rate for unclogging people's arteries and reversing heart disease.
7. Cancer: Our Number Two Killer Dr. T. Colin Campbell is one of the world's foremost epidemiological scientists and the director of what The New York Times called "the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease." Dr. Campbell's best-selling book, The China Study, is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about cancer. To summarize it, Dr. Campbell states, "No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein."
8. Fitting Into That Itty-Bitty Bikini Vegetarianism is also the ultimate weight-loss diet, since vegetarians are one-third as likely to be obese as meat-eaters are, and vegans are about one-tenth as likely to be obese. Of course, there are overweight vegans, just as there are skinny meat-eaters. But on average, vegans are 10 to 20 percent lighter than meat-eaters. A vegetarian diet is the only diet that has passed peer review and taken weight off and kept it off.
9. Global Peace
Leo Tolstoy claimed that "vegetarianism is the taproot of humanitarianism." His point? For people who wish to sow the seeds of peace, we should be eating as peaceful a diet as possible. Eating meat supports killing animals, for no reason other than humans' acquired taste for animals' flesh. Great humanitarians from Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi to Thich Nhat Hanh have argued that a vegetarian diet is the only diet for people who want to make the world a kinder place.
10. The Joy of Veggies
As the growing range of vegetarian cookbooks and restaurants shows, vegetarian foods rock. People report that when they adopt a vegetarian diet, their range of foods explodes from a center-of-the-plate meat item to a range of grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that they didn't even know existed.
Sir Paul McCartney sums it all up, "If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty."
So are you ready to give it a try?
Check out VegCooking.com for recipes and meal plans and to take the World Vegetarian Week 7-Day Pledge.
Last week in our nation's capital, the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) held a climate change conference focused on solutions to the problem of human-induced climate change. And in Paris the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is sharing the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, held a press conference to discuss to discuss "the importance of lifestyle choices" in combating global warming.
Notably, all food at the NCSE conference was vegan, and there were table-top brochures with quotes from the U.N. report on the meat industry, discussed more below. And the IPCC head, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri declared, as the AFP sums it up, "Don't eat meat, ride a bike, and be a frugal shopper."
The New York Times, also, seems to be jumping on the anti-consumption bandwagon. First they ran an editorial on New Year's Day stating that global warming is "the overriding environmental issue of these times" and that Americans are "going to have to change [our] lifestyles..." The next day, they ran a superb opinion piece by Professor Jared Diamond about the fact that those of us in the developed world consume 32 times as many resources as people in the developing world and 11 times as much as China.
Diamond ends optimistically, stating that "whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable."
It is reasonable for all of us to review our lives and to ask where we can cut down on our consumption-because it's necessary, and because living according to our values is what people of integrity do.
Last November, United Nations environmental researchers released a report that everyone who cares about the environment should review. Called "Livestock's Long Shadow," this 408-page thoroughly researched scientific report indicts the consumption of chickens, pigs, and other meats, concluding that the meat industry is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global" and that eating meat contributes to "problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity."
The environmental problems of meat fill books, but the intuitive argument can be put more succinctly into two points:
- A 135-pound woman will burn off at least 1,200 calories a day even if she never gets out of bed. She uses most of what she consumes simply to power her body. Similarly, it requires exponentially more resources to eat chickens, pigs, and other animals, because most of what we feed to them is required to keep them alive, and much of the rest is turned into bones and other bits we don't eat; only a fraction of those crops is turned into meat. So you have to grow all the crops required to raise the animals to eat the animals, which is vastly wasteful relative to eating the crops directly.
- It also requires many extra stages of polluting and energy-intensive production to get chicken, pork, and other meats to the table, including feed mills, factory farms, and slaughterhouses, all of which are not used in the production of vegetarian foods. And then there are the additional stages of gas-guzzling, pollution-spewing transportation of moving crops, feed, animals, and meat-relative to simply growing the crops and processing them into vegetarian foods.
So when the U.N. added it all up, what they found is that eating chickens, pigs, and other animals contributes to "problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity," and that meat-eating is "one of the ... most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."
And on the issue of global warming, the issue the New York Times deems critical enough to demand that we "change [our] lifestyles" and for which Al Gore and the IPCC received the Nobel peace prize, the United Nations' scientists conclude that eating animals causes 40 percent more global warming than all planes, cars, trucks, and other forms of transport combined, which is why the Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook says that "refusing meat" is "the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint" [emphasis in original].
There is a lot of important attention paid to population, and that's a critical issue too, but if we're consuming 11 times as much as people in China and 32 times as much as people in the third world, then it's not just about population; it's also about consumption.
NCSE, IPPC, and the U.N. deserve accolades for calling on people to stop supporting the inefficient, fossil fuel intensive, and polluting meat industry. The head of the IPCC, who received the Nobel Prize with Mr. Gore and who held last week's press conference in Paris, puts his money where his mouth is: He's a vegetarian.
The NCSE's all-vegan 3,000-person conference last week, also, sends positive signal that other environmentalists would be wise to listen to. Thus far, among the large environmental organizations only Greenpeace ensures that all official functions are vegetarian. Other environmental groups should follow suit.
It's empowering really, when you think about it: By choosing vegetarian foods, we're making compassionate choices that are good for our bodies, and we're living our environmental values at every meal.
Find out more at www.GoVeg.com/eco, and find recipe tips, meal plans, and more at www.VegCooking.com.