Animal Liberation is Human Liberation

Welcome to Peace to All Beings. Until we liberate animals from human exploitation and violence, we cannot expect to have true freedom and peace for ourselves. We human beings can awaken to our higher consciousness and embrace a new paradigm of living in harmony, rather than in fear and domination. We can become "Homo Ahimsa," my term for a new nonviolent and kind human, but we must make that choice together. There is hope for our species--hope that we will not continue this war against animals and the earth. Together let us co-create a new culture and heal the wounds humanity has caused to the earth, to each other, and to the animals who share this world with us.

Friday, April 29, 2016

"Irresponsible Gods" or Happy Humans?



This is my latest column for Sierra Club Planet Kansas, Spring, 2016
Eating as Though the Earth Matters column

“Irresponsible Gods” or Happy Humans?

In his New York Times bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, author Yuval Noah Harari recounts that 70,000 years ago we sapiens folks were “insignificant animal[s] minding our own business.”  Tracking our “progress” since then, he notes that we have set up empires everywhere and seemingly mastered the world, but, we have not increased human happiness and we have caused massive suffering for other animals.  “…Accountable to no one,” he states, “We are consequently wreaking havoc on our fellow animals and on the surrounding ecosystem, seeking little more than our own comfort and amusement, yet never finding satisfaction.”  Glumly, he asks in his final paragraph, “Is there anything more dangerous than dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?” 

As activists, we see evidence of this everywhere, both in history and in the present.  Some of Harari’s possible future scenarios for our species are chilling, but we would not be activists if we did not believe that human nature can change, indeed that human beings can wake up and stop our destructive behavior.  His book is important, I believe, because he demonstrates how the many different horrors we have unleashed upon each other, nature, and animals are all connected by a common root.  That root is the relentless desire for more pleasure and power by an all too clever and anxious animal. 

Reading through our Winter “Planet Kansas,” we see multiple evidence of this common root that links so many issues.  The Sierra Club and Public Justice have threatened legal action to slow down the frackers in Oklahoma.  Overcome by greed and empowered by science-without-ethics, they knowingly inject toxins into our precious earth, causing earthquakes, harming life, and justifying it all without remorse.  The “Paris and the Climate Crisis” article describes how the fossil fuel giants are fighting all of us, desperate to force the world to buy their dirty, destructive products.  But as Craig Wolfe explained so well in the article, we can do a lot on our own to show the giants their days are numbered.  We can switch to hybrid cars, use solar and wind power, use less energy, and “change our diets.” 

As Robert Sommer stated in his “The Real Death Star” article regarding ExxonMobil, “facts don’t interest them.  Money and power do.”  Reading on we learn, in Craig Volland’s article about the new hog factory in Greeley County, that Seaboard Foods got a permit to add 132,000 more hogs to their operation. Added to their other 330,000 hogs, the waste from these factories will be “equivalent to a city of one million people.”  But a city of that size has a sophisticated sewer system—right?  The hogs?  No sewer system required.  Instead open air lagoons receive the endless flow of contaminated poop ruining air quality and threatening all the water sources nearby.  And there may not even be enough water in the aquifer to support this expansion.  This is clearly another example of the clever, anxious, and way too powerful human animal gone mad—dangerous, dissatisfied, irresponsible “gods,” as Harari would describe them. 

And the prairie dogs!  Elaine Giessel’s article alerts us all about the dangers they face and the losses they have incurred.  Ninety percent of prairie dog towns have been destroyed, often for the sake of cattle ranchers who claim they compete with cows for grass, in spite of some science that shows otherwise.  So much suffering and death has been caused to these gentle creatures, other wildlife, and the cows themselves so that ranchers can make a profit.

Yet while it is easy to blame Big Ag, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big everything, we know that pitting us against them is missing something.  In the Big Picture (so to speak) we are all connected.  We  have many of the same characteristics of seeking pleasure and wanting to be in control of our world.  We are all homo sapiens.  While some may be extreme psychopaths and others may be saints, nevertheless, we must each face what we contribute to the mess humanity as a whole has made.  If we eat pigs, we are contributing to the profits of Seaboard, a company that makes no attempt to care about the environment, people’s health, or the massive suffering of pigs, who are at least as intelligent as dogs and just as capable of emotional and physical pain.

If we eat cows, we contribute to the poisoning of prairie dogs, overgrazing, loss of wildlife habitat, species extinction, the air and water pollution of feedlots, and the profits of slaughterhouses. If we eat chickens, fishes, or any animals, our money brings profits to those who are killing them and ravaging the earth and the sea. If we buy dairy products and eat eggs, we help those farmers cut the lives of cows and chickens short and take their babies from them, all the while contributing to further degradation of ecosystems, water and air quality, and our own health. 

As I mentioned in my column in the Winter issue of “Planet Kansas,” trying to help by buying “humane” meat, dairy and eggs, leads nowhere.  Most of the labels are false, as we are now learning from investigators of Whole Foods “humane” farms and others.  They are, it turns out, factory farms with meaningless labels. And even the local farms in which animals actually have a little room to play and lie down (although you don’t know for sure unless you visit one), the animals still must eat much more grain than they give up through death in a pound of their flesh.  If pressed to be honest, most “humane” farms will admit that there is no possible way for all human beings to eat the quantity of meat they want if animals are not factory farmed.  That is simple math.  There is not enough pasture for the animals and not enough land on earth to grow their grain and hay if they were all to be raised outside of cages.  Of course, even on these small, local farms, the animals are killed, and “humane killing” is an oxymoron only a clever homo sapiens could conjure up.    

Harari speaks of us evolving into what might become a new species, but not necessarily one that we might want to be.  He acknowledges that we have the capacity to find happiness through meditation and rise above our relentless pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain.  But, as science-without-ethics races forward at breakneck speed, inserting worm genes into pigs to make pork seem healthier, working to computerize human brains, inventing an endless list of drugs promising pleasure, he questions which path we will take. 

We are at a cross roads.  As activists, I think we all feel that very strongly.  We know how destructive our species has been, and we know human beings are equally capable of taking either road.  We work in all our individual ways to help evolve our species to become nonviolent and nurturing in our relationship to life and the earth.  But we are also aware that we could evolve, as Harari warns, and become even more devoid of a sense of justice, kindness, and responsibility.

We will carry on and keep doing what each of us is called to do at this critical time.  When people see a large group behaving in a new way, a way that nurtures life, it helps them see that it is possible to leave the old ways behind and still survive.  It took many people living without slaves to show that families could survive and prosper without causing immense tragedy to other families.  Craig Wolfe’s article shows us how powerful it can be when we switch to solar and cut way back on fossil fuels, for example. By doing those things, we normalize them and help people see that it’s not weird or crazy.  And, best of all, we demonstrate what ordinary people can do  with or without the help of governments.  We can personally refuse to support the companies that are destroying people, animals, and the earth. 

Of course, as I always point out in my columns, the most massive change each one of us can make is to stop supporting the animal agriculture industry that survives for only one reason—people buy their animal products.  Imagine the benefits to every life form on earth, including homo sapiens, if animal agriculture became a thing of the past, and eating a plant-based diet became the norm.  As we know, growing animals for food is intrinsically linked to deforestation to grow feed and farmed animals; desertification; horrifying pollution of all our seas, rivers, creeks, aquifers, air, and land; unprecedented species extinction; use of fossil fuels to grow and transport feed, to transport animals to feedlots and slaughter, to heat and cool huge farm buildings, and to transport packaged products to stores.  The next time we see a truck on the highway taking pigs to a distant slaughterhouse, let us imagine that one truck multiplied by all the other trucks doing the same thing at that very moment.  Imagine the fumes polluting the air, the oil spills that took place before the truck drivers filled up their trucks at the last truck stops, and the destruction of habitats and wild animals that took place to drill for the oil. Imagine the amount of fossil fuels that would no longer be needed if all those trucks (and ships) all over the world were no longer needed to transport for animal agriculture.

We can educate; we can demonstrate with our own lives; we can bring hope, and we can say that the earth and the animals will one day no longer be in danger from “dissatisfied and irresponsible gods who don’t know what they want?”   As we learn to develop our own inner peace and live, eat, and celebrate “as though the earth matters,” we can become, not dissatisfied “gods” but joyful fellow beings sharing and caring for this precious earth we all call home.

© 2016, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;  2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and house and a Chevy Volt electric car powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.   

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Visit to Local Farms that Kill Animals but Claim to Be "Humane"


This is my latest article for the Kansas Sierra Club Planet Kansas, reporting on my visit to three local farms that claim to be "humane."  What I found, sadly. but not surprisingly, was a total lack of ethical concern for the animals themselves.  Using and killing is justified if it makes money and pleases the human beings, according to the farmers I interviewed.   

Eating as Though the Earth Matters column

Sierra Club Encourages Plant-Based Diet,
But What About Local “Humane” Farms? 
           
In the film “Cowspiracy,” which I mentioned in my fall column, the evidence became clear that so-called “humane” farms, as opposed to factory farms, will not and cannot help prevent further environmental destruction.  Some of the farmers who were interviewed in the film agreed.  If all animals were raised in such a way that they are not painfully confined, and if people continued to consume animal products at the current rate, there simply is not enough land on the planet to pasture the billions of animals and grow their feed.  And when we consider the rate at which the human population is growing, the situation is dire indeed for both people and all animals, both wild and domestic.

In response to the threat of animal agriculture, whether factory or “free-range”, our Sierra Club has published the following statement in the Sierra Club Agriculture and Food Policy (http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/agriculture): “Personal dietary choices that minimize or eliminate meat and animal products should be encouraged due to their many benefits, including reducing greenhouse gas impacts, water pollution and inhumane treatment of animals.”  Of course, we know that those are just a few of the dreadful effects of animal agriculture.  To that short list, we can add desertification, rainforest destruction, assassination of rainforest protectors, air pollution, oceanic dead zones, wildlife habitat destruction, indigenous peoples’ home and land destruction, species extinction, and human hunger and starvation, to name just a few. 

Many socially and ecologically conscious people now opt for “free-range,” “humane,” labels, not realizing that, not only are most of the labels false, but also, if indeed the animals really are raised with some amount of room to turn around, the earth is not big enough to pasture that many animals.  

Nevertheless, I wanted to be able to see some of these “free-range” farms with my own eyes.    So I  took part in the 2015 Kaw Valley Farm Tour in October of this year.  The first stop was the Iwig Dairy in Tecumseh.  They sell milk, butter, and ice cream made from their herd of 65 milk cows.  Obviously conscientious, the Iwigs, sell their milk in recyclable, BPA free, glass bottles.  In spite of the vast research linking dairy products to obesity, early onset of puberty, osteoporosis, etc., they claim their products are healthy, and they seem to love what they do. 

They very kindly answered my questions.  I learned, for example, that their cows are impregnated every 12 to 15 months in order to keep milk production high.  The first time they are impregnated by a bull, but after that they are raped and artificially inseminated.  If that sounds inflammatory, the dairy industry itself, refers to the process as being on a “rape rack.”  These cows cannot live only on pasture, they explained.  If they did, they would only produce enough milk for their babies.  So their normal way of eating is out of a trough full of grain, side by side, in a long row. Only then can they produce the enormous and unnatural amounts of milk that is demanded of them.  So the term “free range” or “pasture raised” dairy loses its glamour when we understand that most of the dairy cows’ lives are spent at a trough full of grain or confined to a milking machine.    

Of course, they must take the babies from the mothers immediately or at most within one day.  When asked if that doesn’t cause the mothers and babies to grieve, the answer was “Well, not all cows are good mothers.”  The implication, of course, is that the “good mothers” do grieve.  And the babies do cry for their mothers.  The Iwigs sell their male calves to be raised for slaughter.  The female calves have the same fate as their mothers.   Dehorning takes place without pain killers.  The Iwigs said that dehorning when the cows are young isn’t as bad as it is when they are older, but there were a group of older youngsters who still had not been dehorned.  Even though the Iwig’s cows have names and they say they love them, once a cow stops being as productive as necessary or gets sick, she is sent to slaughter.  They admitted that they do get attached to the cows and hate to move them to slaughter, “but it’s a business.” 



So we have to ask ourselves if there is anything humane about such a dairy, and if this method is not humane, then imagine the suffering on factory dairies.  But what about the sustainability of an operation that actually allows the cows to spend at least some time on pastures?  When asked the answer was the same as that of the dairy man in Cowspiracy.  There is no way the amount of milk products currently being bought can be produced sustainably if all cows and all other “food” animals are given free range.  The odds against it increase as well with each birth of a new human.  As we veer toward 8 billion people and counting, clearly we have to question everything about what we eat. 

I also visited the Vesecky Family Farm in Baldwin City, Kansas, where they claim to raise poultry on pastures. While families enjoyed hay rides around the farm, I visited with a gentleman in charge of the turkeys.  These birds were kept in a small fenced enclosure.  They had a place to roost partially out of the weather.  There was no “pasture,” just dirt, in the enclosure, of course, since there were so many birds there.  However, they were able to get out of the enclosure through various turkey-made holes.  Sometimes they had to be helped to re-enter, and sometimes they found their own way back.  He does not breed turkeys but receives the baby turkeys in the mail from a commercial breeder.  He admitted that they don’t all survive since they are tossed about, exposed to extreme temperatures and have no water, food, or comfort from a mother.  When asked if it was hard on him to see the turkeys trucked away to slaughter, he smiled and said rather cheerily that it wasn’t hard.  Instead that was the best day of all, because that was when he got paid. 



Clearly no one gives hay rides at factory turkey farms, so there is the illusion of “humaneness” at this and similar farms.  But with just a few questions, we uncover the cruelty that occurs even on farms such as these.  While it is sometimes regretted by some of the farmers, it is a necessary part of their business model, which requires animals to be manipulated, separated from their babies, and ultimately die, in order for the business to live. 

My next stop was Amy’s Meats just north of Lawrence, Kansas.  Their vision is to “produce everything we eat and share the abundance with you.” Amy is an engaging and enthusiastic young woman who appears to love her business.  She has created a feeling of an old fashioned farm where children can come for camp activities and people can reconnect to their food.  The chickens, pigs, and cows are indeed on small pastures and not confined in cages as they would be on factory farms, but Amy agreed that the world population could not eat animals raised in this way, because of the simple fact that there is not enough land to do it.  So while we might find it easier on our consciences to eat the secretions and meat of animals who have had some room to roam, as activists we must face the fact that this can only be available to a select few people who have the money and time to buy these products.  When asked how her animals are slaughtered, Amy said that her family kills them with the help of the children.  I asked her if it upset the children who may have grown attached to an animal, and she replied that it does not, because she has explained to them that they have to do it.  When I pressed her on why they have to do it, knowing now, as we do, that people do not require meat to be healthy, she stated that she likes the taste and does not want to give up that pleasure.           
In her December article for One Green Planet (onegreenplanet.org), “Why choosing plant-based is the most powerful action to fight climate change,” Malorie Macklin quotes Nil Sacharias, Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet: “The real war against climate change is being fought on our plates, multiple times a day with every food choice we make…” He goes on to say that “one of the biggest challenges facing our planet, and our species is that we are knowingly eating ourselves into extinction, and doing very little about it.”
  
As author and activist, JoAnn Farb, has said, “All social justice movements work to overcome these same objections: It’s normal. It’s natural.  It’s necessary.”  It is indeed normal and natural for people to go into a grocery store and pick out a few neatly cellophane-wrapped packages of meat.  It feels right.  It’s what our parents did.  It seems necessary.  But when we look behind the scenes at how that package got there—the terrible cost to the earth, the animals, the hungry, and to human health, it suddenly seems no more normal than slavery was, even though that was considered normal and necessary at the time.

As we evolve in consciousness, we begin to realize what an enormous impact our species has on this precious planet and all the other species on it.  As activists, we are all acutely, even painfully aware that we must act quickly to lighten our heavy footprint.  Solar panel sales are up; we see Priuses everywhere, and we’re starting to see more electric cars on the road. In fact, we just bought a plug-in electric Chevy Volt, and we love it. We are all taking shorter showers, recycling, using our own bags at stores, and celebrating stores that ban plastic bags.  But there is that nagging feeling that those things just aren’t enough. 

So I always like to end with the supremely good news that there is something absolutely huge that each of us can do—something that will immediately save water, reduce pollution, feed the hungry, and stop violence to animals, people and the earth; something far more impactful than solar panels and electric cars; something that takes no extra time or money.  Those of you who have read my column before know what it is.  Eating as though the earth matters is a dedication to a plant-based diet.  Eliminating animal products from our diets, whether those animals lived in pastures or in cages, is, I believe, the most powerful thing we can do to heal the earth.  If we can question everything we think and do and, in so doing, come into alignment with our highest values of compassion and care for all the living, we will be able to turn this ship around and bring balance and harmony back to our precious earth.          

© 2015, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;  2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and an electric car and house powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.   


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Can Bill Gates Help Us Eat As Though the Earth Matters?



This is my latest article for the Sierra Club Planet Kansas, Fall, 2015, Issue 
My column is entitled "Eating as Though the Earth Matters"

Can Bill Gates Help Us Eat As Though The Earth Matters?

And not just Bill Gates, but also Google co-founder Sergei Brin, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and many others.  These wealthy individuals are willing to invest in companies that could help people transition to foods that are being developed to help end environmental devastation.  They are investing millions in companies such as Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Hampton Creek, Modern Meadow, and Muufri.  These visionary companies are using modern technology to create plant-based milk that tastes like animal milk, plant-based meat with the taste and texture of animal meat, and pea-derived eggs that taste like eggs.  These are not your basic bean burgers and soy milks.  These are foods that are mimicking meat, eggs, and dairy so well that billionaires are investing in them and expecting them to succeed. 

Josh Balk, co-founder of Hampton Creek, states, “Many socially conscious investors, including high-profile multi-billionaires, are seeking business solutions to climate change, food insecurity, disease, and other serious global problems.”  They believe, says Balk, that “moving to a plant-based system is vital to that effort.” They also believe that they are offering something different from vegan brands like Tofurkey and Gardein.  They have developed and continue to create foods that mimic the taste of animal products so well that most people cannot tell the difference.   

As we’ve discussed in this column over the years, animal agriculture is a major driving force behind deforestation; overuse of water; air, water and soil pollution; erosion; species extinction; habitat destruction; human starvation and disease, and the unrelenting violence involved in raising and killing millions of animals every single day.  These investors want to do something about all that.  But they, along with all of us, have realized that the progress we’ve made so far is too slow if we are to stop the rampant destruction of this precious planet upon which we all depend.  The U.S. population is about 7% vegan and vegetarian.  That is up from a decade ago, but the numbers are still too low. 

The next level of plant-based food—making everyone happy, not just vegans.  So these companies are taking the plant-based solution to the next level by creating food that tastes like animal foods to omnivores.  There has been a reluctance to try “vegan” foods because they seem too different and not what we are used to.  The idea of not having actual meat as the main course has kept many an omnivore from taking the plunge.  But with these new foods available, we can truly eat as though the earth matters and not miss the taste, texture, or appearance of meat, milk,  and eggs.  In addition to Beyond Meat and the others creating new versions of plant-based alternatives that taste like animal products, some giant food companies such as Pinnacle Foods (producer of Birdseye) are seeing that plant-based foods are rapidly going mainstream.  They are buying such established vegan companies as Gardein and getting them into a much broader range of stores.  As these companies succeed and people agree that they can indeed enjoy meals of only plant-based meat and radically cut down on their footprint, we will begin to see real healing taking place,   

Mat Thomas, author of “Green Giants,” (Veg News, September-October, 2015) quotes David Benzaquen, founder of PlantBased Solutions: “I don’t care whether more people identify as vegans or not, as long as animals aren’t killed, the environment is saved, and fewer people suffer from disease…”

Shorter showers aren’t enough. For decades now, people of conscience have been riding bikes and buses, taking shorter showers, composting, using their own bags at grocery stores, and doing as many things as possible to make a difference, but it obviously hasn’t been enough to turn the tide.  Podcaster Rich Roll comments that “When it comes to conservation and ecological responsibility, the dialog generally focuses on fossil fuels. A big issue, of course; and worthy of our attention. But here’s a truth that all too often gets quietly swept under the rug: the deleterious environmental impacts of animal agriculture dwarf the impacts of fossil fuel demand in every single category across the board.” 

In one of his podcasts he interviews Keegan Kuhn and Kip Anderson, the makers of the documentary “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” which has now gained Leonardo DiCaprio as an Executive Producer.  DiCaprio has helped get the film on Netflix because he believes everyone on earth should see it. So if you have Netflix, please take the time to watch it, and if you don’t, you can purchase it at cowspiracy.com.  . 

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 “Cowspiracy may be the most important film made to inspire saving the planet.”
Loui Psihoyos, Director of “The Cove”

This thought provoking film challenges us all to understand that there is something huge, transformative, and powerful we can each do to heal the earth.  And that something takes less effort than riding a bike to work—it is simply to stop eating animals and their eggs and milk.  Now that these new companies are producing plant-based meat, dairy and eggs that are indistinguishable from the products that are taken from suffering animals, it is easier than ever to take this next important step and eat as though the earth matters. .

The heart of veganism is the passionate desire to do no harm and as much good as possible in every area of life, not just in what we eat.  As such, it includes dedication to all environmental  and social justice causes  When we look deeply at all the justice movements, we see the same desire.  It is the desire to stop the violent and relentless destruction caused by profit and power-driven companies devoid of ethics. Each one of us must question everything we’ve been taught and even our own thoughts.  In that way, we can stop our own participation in and support of these destructive companies.  By boycotting animal agriculture, we stand in solidarity with nature, animals, and all people.  We could never take enough short showers to equal the impact of our switching to a plant-based diet. Eating as though the earth matters just got a whole lot easier, so let’s get started.  There’s no time to waste.   

 © 2015, Judy Carman, M.A., is author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul and co-author of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animal;  2014 winner of the Henry Spira Grassroots Animal Activist award; and owner of a truck and a car powered by used veggie oil and house powered by solar. Her primary websites are circleofcompassion.org and peacetoallbeings.com.