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.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Are We Trumped or Are We More Powerful Than Ever?



Eating as Though the Earth Matters column

ARE WE TRUMPED OR ARE WE MORE POWERFUL THAN EVER?
As Trump prepares to take on the presidency, people all over the country are realizing—now, more than ever before—It really is up to us!  How many times must we see our legislative victories for the earth and for justice lose traction under the shenanigans of politicians?  Now it is possible that coal, oil, Keystone XL, and a nightmare of ecological terrors could escalate. Nil Zacharias writes in the online “One Green Planet,” an article he titled, “Here’s how you can shape our environmental future with Trump as president.” 
Zacharias writes that “With Donald Trump as President, huge questions loom about the future of the fight to preserve our natural ecosystems…”  He notes that the EPA could possibly be abolished or at least lose significant funds; that there could be increased subsidies for animal agriculture; and many policies to push for more coal and oil instead of alternative energy. We all agree with him when he says “The fight is not over,” but what does that fight look like now.  Of course, we cannot ignore what tricks the new administration will be playing.  But, more than ever, we must turn toward each other and “be the change” as Gandhi famously advised.  And not just “be the change” but also help others to be that as well.  As Zacharias writes, “if we care about our environment and the future of humanity, we have to start practicing change in our daily lives.” 

Captain Paul Watson, vegan activist and Founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, in his November 15 “Huffington Post” article, “Why fighting Donald trump is a waste of time,” acknowledges the threats posed by a Trump administration. But he also points out that it is up to us.  The keys to our survival include, “Individual passion. Individual imagination. Individual initiative. Individual courage.” “Depending on a politician to solve any of these problems is like depending on an oil executive to promote solar energy. It is simply not in their interest or as Bill Clinton once put it, ‘It’s the economy stupid.’”  Trump, he points out, is no better or worse than “the rest of these so-called leaders whose agenda is to serve the corporations and to enrich themselves.”

Love, Numbers, and Consumption
Time is short. We have to use our activist time wisely.  There is so much we can do individually as people who care about our earth.  It is time to create the world we want and heal the human caused damage, whether or not politicians and corporations cooperate.  Our power as people is enormously greater than that of governments.  That power lies in three primary areas: Love, Numbers, and Consumption. 

Love--for the earth, for the wilderness, for the trees and animals, for each other and for the children of the future--that is what motivates us to keep going as we continue to stand in solidarity. The lust for power that is causing so much destruction is intimidating, but we must always remember that lust is fueled by fear.  It can never match the strength of people emboldened by compassion, love, empathy, and care for all the living.   

Numbers?—well, there are a lot of us, and with this election, there is evidence that our numbers just grew exponentially.  More than ever, the realization is dawning that we cannot depend on the government to take good care of us if we just elect the right people.  What may well be the silver lining in all this is that people are becoming ready to take care of each other and of the earth with or without the will and action of the power elite.  Human rights, peace and justice, environmental, and animal rights groups may have many different missions and work to do, but it is clear that we all have one common mission.  Often referred to as intersectionality, we are now seeing that all justice work, whether for the earth, animals, or people, is focused on ending oppression and violence. Most efforts on the part of one cause to end oppression can benefit the other causes.  The exception to that premise occurs when activists act compassionately toward one group while unconsciously causing oppression to another. As Carla Golden states in her “activist’s lunchbox” article, “As long as those who gain the most from the current system can keep you oppressing other beings then you excuse and permit their oppression of you.” 
It is a time in our history when we activists must join together in our common goal to end oppression and build a world in which all people, animals, and the earth are protected from human greed.  As Golden points out, “If education, awareness, non-violent speech, and non-violent action are part of your social justice activist toolbox, then vegan needs to describe your activist lunchbox. Without non-violent sustenance, you are fueling your activism with the oppression against which you campaign. Eat peace and campaign for peace. Awaken the vegan within. Every social justice activist’s lunchbox must contain non-violence…Intersectionality calls for veganism to protect all beings, non-humans and humans, and secure justice, freedom, and compassion for all.”

Consumption—this is mind-boggling in its potential to create the world we envision.  We all know Americans’ consumption levels are off the charts compared to the rest of the world.  Not only do we need to consume less, but also consume consciously and mindfully.  When we shop at thrift stores, second hand stores, garage sales, Craigslist, and fair trade and ethical companies, we peacefully and nonviolently protest against big corporations and their child and adult slavery, unsafe working conditions, waste, pollution, mining for resources, and a long list of environmental, social justice, and animal atrocities caused by their reckless pursuit of profit without ethics.  But more than that, with enough of us participating, we peacefully and radically reduce their profits and force them to either close or get ethical!   
But our greatest influence as consumers lies in what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Nowhere else do we have such power to eliminate oppression of people, animals, and the earth as we do with our food purchases.  The government-subsidized animal agriculture industry causes animal suffering and death to billions of animals; causes misery among slaughterhouse and other workers; uses most of our fresh water and land; destroys rainforests and indigenous peoples’ homes; grows enough grain for animals that could be used to end world hunger; pollutes our air, waterways and seas; degrades the land; denudes forests; and destroys wildlife and their habitats.  That covers many of the justice movements directly. And the good news is that it is this one industry upon which we can have the most profound impact.  We can transform that industry by ourselves, without legislation, without appealing to those in power.  Most of us would have a hard time eliminating all petroleum products from our purchases right now, but overnight we can tell BigAg that we will not buy their products because they wreak havoc on the planet and all who live upon it.    

There are signs that this globally destructive industry is already paying attention to our ethics in action since the number of people going plant-based is rising dramatically. An October 10 article in the New York Times by Stephanie Strom is entitled “Tyson foods, A Meat Leader, Invests in ProteinAlternatives.” The largest meat processor in the country, Tyson Foods, has actually invested in the plant-based “meat alternative” company, Beyond Meat.  This new company is one of several that aims to do their part to heal the earth and create social justice by giving people an alternative to the destructive practice of eating animal products. One of Beyond’s products is the Beyond Burger that some Whole Foods Markets are selling next to their meat cases. The article quotes Tyson senior Vice President of New Ventures, Monica McGurk. ‘The quality of the Beyond Burger is amazing…We think it’s a game-changing product that gives us exposure to this fast-growing part of the food business.’

This is happening, not because of legislation which continues to subsidize animal agriculture or lobbyists getting soft hearted about the environment, but because of our power to choose what we buy.  Americans are simply eating more plant-based, vegan meals, and Big Ag is noticing.  If they have to switch to plant-based products to continue their profitability, then that is exactly what they will do and are beginning to do.  According to the Plant Based Foods Association, these new companies which include Beyond Meat, Heidi Ho, Califia Farms, and others showed $4.9 billion in sales from June of 2015 to June of 2016, outpacing in growth regular food businesses.  General Mills has moved quickly on the basis of such news and has invested in Beyond Meat and another plant-based company Kite Hill.   

Michele Simon, who is the executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, said ‘The question in my mind with these acquisitions is always why they’re being done…The most positive view is that this means the meat industry is shifting away from animal meat to plant-based meat, but I don’t think we know that’s the case yet — it could also be a way of distracting attention from their industrial meat business.’  Also, if enough meat industry investors got too much control of the companies, they could destroy them. At this point, there is no doubt these animal agriculture companies have no plans to give up what has made them so rich and powerful. And that puts the responsibility back onto each one of us.  If we buy plant-based and never again buy animal-based, then they will have no choice but to transform into the non-violent, non-destroyer of the earth that we know they must.  According to Strom’s article, one survey found that 22 percent of consumers said they were eating more plant-based meat substitutes than they did the previous year.

By “being the change,” by living without oppression, by acknowledging our power and our ethics, we can re-wild the earth; we can bring the forests and prairies back; we can help wild animals on the brink of extinction thrive once more; we can end world hunger.  By eating plant-based meals we tell BigAg we are through with them.  By not supporting them, we prevent them from continuing to pollute the air and waters of earth.  I’m not saying legislation, demonstrations, and other forms of protest aren’t important.  They are critical. But recognizing the simple fact that we can make an enormous difference from this moment on by living non-violently is more important than ever before.  This is something we can each do as individuals right now and from now on that will bring us exponentially closer to the healed world we hold in our hearts. It’s up to us.  The power elite is not going to do it for us.  And that’s ok, because we can do this ourselves. I know we can.  We have the passion, imagination, initiative, and courage that Paul Watson says we need.  We have all those things.  We can do this.      
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© 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.   



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Butterflies and Big Macs


This is my latest Kansas Sierra Club article for the
Eating as Though the Earth Matters column


Butterflies and Big Macs


I had noticed the For Sale sign on a small forested property for quite a while and hoped that whoever bought it would respect the trees and the wildlife there.  Then one sad day I discovered that the sign was gone, and so were the trees.  In their place a few fence posts stood, signaling the next stage of destruction to be caused by too many animals crowded together with nowhere else to go.  Although you can’t see it in the photos, the dozing of trees goes all the way down the steep hill to the creek.  This creek is already polluted by animals upstream as well as by pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used to grow food for animals.  This newly denuded pasture will compound the pollution and add even more to the Kansas River as it carries soil, toxic debris and chemicals down to the Mississippi and into the Gulf. 



In the grand scheme, this seems a small blip on the radar, but in truth, as we all know, this is just a tiny microcosm of what is going on worldwide to grow animals to kill for meat and to grow grain for them.  This is what indigenous people in the rainforest see happening every single day—and for the very same reason—animal agriculture. Many activists who have protested the slashing and burning of their forests have been killed for their actions. 

In his book, Carbon Dharma: The Occupation of Butterflies, Sailesh Rao uses the metaphor of caterpillars transforming into butterflies to describe what our species must do to repair the damage we’ve done to the earth.  Caterpillars are voracious eaters.  They are little eating machines, but when the time is right they surrender to the miraculous process of disintegrating and then reintegrating into butterflies who set about replacing what they consumed so that their children can survive too.  They do this by eating very little and pollinating plants so that more can grow.  Our species, by contrast, has become a huge and destructive eating, consuming machine that has not surrendered to the call to become butterflies.  What will we leave the children if we persist?

That little piece of paradise that I described above was a home for many animals and birds.  Now it is bare dirt.  That was some caterpillar!  How interesting it is that a company that sells 300 different machines specifically designed to dominate nature is known as Caterpillar  From Asphalt Pavers to Wheel Dozers, Homo Sapiens is well equipped to take apart and consume everything on the planet, leaving an uninhabitable home for the children of our own and all species. 

According to Gus Speth, Yale’s Dean of Environmental Studies, as long as we keep doing what we are doing, we will “leave a ruined world to our children.”  He states, “It took all of human history to grow the $7 trillion world economy of 1950.  We now grow that amount in a decade.” (from his book The Bridge at the Edge of the World)  Well, at least some of the caterpillars are well fed.  But, as we know, that “growth” has left a huge portion of humanity, nature, and wild animals struggling or simply unable to survive and caused immeasurable suffering to billions of farmed land and sea animals.

The unrelenting hunger for this “growth” affects animal agriculture just as it does all the other industries.  But animal agriculture has a special advantage.  David Simon’s book Meatonomics: How the rigged economics of meat and dairy make you consume too much and How to eat better, live longer and spend smarter, makes the case that there are “externalized” costs that we all pay to prop up the meat and dairy industry.  In addition to the already well known environmental, nutritional, and ethical costs of this industry, he adds the costs to all of us economically.  There are huge hidden costs to all taxpayers in every hamburger, egg, glass of milk, etc.  This is because of government subsidies that have been won by the powerful animal agriculture lobbyists that seek to sell more meat, dairy, and eggs, with zero regard for the damage being caused to all life forms, including us.   The introduction to Simon’s book states, “A $4 Big Mac really costs society about $11, and regardless whether you even eat meat, you incur a share of $7 in external costs each time someone buys a burger.”

Because of government subsidies hog farmers spend approximately eight dollars more raising a pig than the actual sale price of the pig.  Likewise, it costs corporate cow producers $20.00 to $90.00 more than the cow will be sold for, according to Simon. He estimates that, “Each year, American taxpayers dish out $38 billion to subsidize meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.”  The costs to human health are yet another hidden price to pay.  American obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease continue to rise along with unbearable health care costs.  The destruction of the environment and extinction of species due to the relentless ravaging of the earth for more pasture and more land to grow feed leads to further hidden costs. 

 Simon explains, “More than any other microeconomic system in the United States,
meatonomics aggressively shifts the costs of producing its goods onto American taxpayers and consumers. The only word for these costs is staggering. The total expenses imposed on society—that is, production costs not paid by animal food producers—are at least $414 billion. These costs are not reflected in the prices Americans pay at the cash register. Rather, they are exacted in other ways, like higher taxes and health insurance premiums, and decreases in the value of homes and natural resources touched by factory farms. For every dollar in retail sales of meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, the animal food industry imposes $1.70 of external costs on society. If these external numbers were added to the grocery-store prices of animal foods, they would nearly triple the cost of these items. A gallon of milk would jump from $3.50 to $9, and a store-bought, two-pound package of pork ribs would run $32 instead of $12.”

So Simon joins Rao and so many others in saying that ending animal agriculture and transforming our actions to vegan, nonviolent living is within our grasp and absolutely necessary in order to save the earth.  There is hope.  At Rao’s Climate Healers.org website, he explains their mission to heal the Earth’s climate.   He states that the biomass of livestock on earth is now three times greater than the biomass of human beings and more than five times the biomass of all wild animals that were on earth prior to animal agriculture and the human caused destruction we see today.



Rao believes that by living vegan, we can reforest and rewild the earth.  Professor Atul Jain and Shiije Shu, of the University of Illinois specialize in land carbon studies.  They used the Integrated Science Assessment Model (ISAM) “to estimate that recovering forests can sequester 265 GtC if everyone goes vegan, which is more carbon than the 240 GtC that humans have added to the atmosphere in the entire industrial era!” To put it simply: “A global transition to a simple, vegan lifestyle allows for massive carbon sequestration through rewilding of the planet.” (from climatehealers.org) To see other charts showing how eliminating animal agriculture can help heal the earth, please check out climatehealers.org.

We can halt animal agriculture in its mindless, soulless march across the land and seas by not buying those products.  Rao quotes a member of the Ianomami tribe who said to a visiting scientist, “Doesn’t the white man know that if he destroys the forest, the rain will end?”  He said he learned this from the Forest Spirit.  Science is now catching up with that Spirit and agrees.  The man who deforested that little acreage pictured above doesn’t realize he is part of a global, planet destroying enterprise.  He is just doing what he and his family have done to survive.  But survival like that for a few is causing massive destruction, suffering and death around the world..

While it seems as though time is terribly short, we must not despair. We have knowledge.  We have the power to stop the animal agriculture behemoth. We do not have to wait for laws to change or governments to take action.  We understand that it is our consumptive behavior that causes this cancerous “growth.” In my book Peace to All Beings I envision our species becoming Homo Ahimsa (meaning nonviolent human).  Rao envisions us as emerging butterflies.  We will leave a healed and peaceful planet to our children and the children of all nature, because we can and because we must. 

© 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.   




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.