Showing posts sorted by relevance for query animal rights. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query animal rights. Sort by date Show all posts

August 4, 2007

The Casualties of Green Scare: The Feds' War on the Animal Rights Movement

By Kelly Overton

Late last year President Bush signed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) into law days after six young Americans began serving federal prison sentences on charges they caused economic damage to Huntington Animal Sciences, an animal-testing corporation. Sadly, jailing activists is the American way.

The imprisonment of the group, known as SHAC 7, is nothing more than history repeating itself. Those who first called for an end to slavery were imprisoned. Those who believed women should vote went to jail. Civil rights activists, supporters of gay and lesbian rights, and now animal rights activists have all been jailed. The only thing sadder than the imprisonment of animal rights activists is that they are fighting for a losing cause; for we now live in a society that slaps the wrist of a person who harms the neighbor's dog yet subsidizes the systematic annual killing of billions of other animals for food, clothing, research and sport.

The recent allegations of both illegal wire-tapping and politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration should set off an alarm regarding the legality of the green scare, the administration's monitoring and imprisonment of environmental and animal welfare activists. And AETA isn't the only new tool corporations have to eliminate pesky activism.

The NYSE's recent decision to trade Life Sciences Research (an animal testing corporation) on the ARCA exchange -- an electronic platform that provides market makers anonymity -- signals that financial markets have also joined the war against social activism. With help from the Bush administration and the NYSE, we may be nearing a day when all of our country's flora, fauna, and public land will exist as little more than raw materials for corporate profit.

The reason nonhuman animals lack protection is simply due to the economic repercussions that would accompany such protection(s). Compassionately caring for animals is expensive and by demanding corporations treat food and research animals humanely activists are asking nothing less than a fundamental reworking of the world economy.

Sadly, any further success activists achieve at home will only expedite sending corporations that mistreat animals offshore where animal welfare regulations and activism can be made non-factors.

We no longer live in a society, we live in an economy, where right and wrong is determined not by fairness, but by profitability -- and where the law no longer dictates corporate behavior, but corporate behavior dictates the law.

AETA, Three Strikes laws and toothless environmental regulations protect profits -- not people (or animals). A society would care if animal protection activists (including the SHAC 7) were right about corporate mistreatment of animals -- but in an economy only the financial cost of activism matters.

The truth is that nonhuman animals don't need rights or legal standing. Such rights have done little to improve the lives of the majority of the world's people. For it is not just nonhuman animals that are losing their habitats and their ability to live with dignity -- the majority of the planet's humans now live truly desperate lives.

Today it is not legal but economic standing that protects a life -- and it is not a lack of rights (human, civil or animal) but a lack of empathy that is the problem, a problem that promises lives of misery and despair for an overwhelming majority of the earth's creatures. Instead of fighting to establish rights for animals, maybe activists should work to instill compassion in humans.

As a society we need to imagine others' horrors as our own. What if the sex worker was our child? The homeless woman our mother? The research dog our family pet? The unjustly imprisoned activist our child?

Only when we decide the pain and humiliation of others is not worth economic gain will the need for rights, human and animal, disappear.

Kelly Overton is Executive Director of People Protecting Animals & Their Habitats -- Sign their petition to make animal rights an issue in the 2008 elections.

January 4, 2009

George Monbiot trashes animal rights movement

A few weeks ago, George Monbiot, the bold defender of all that is middle-class left, wrote a very good article about the monstrously vague Protection from Harassment Act in the U.K., which can be invoked to outlaw pretty much any protest as "alarming" or "distressing". He writes how the security forces, as well as industry and developers, use it for just that purpose. As he notes,
With the exception of animal rights protests, these campaigns in the UK have been overwhelmingly peaceful.
And so The Guardian continues its own campaign against the animals rights movement, tarring an overwhelmingly peaceful group with the "distressing" tactics of a very few. Monbiot and the rest have cheered on the very harassment of animal rights protesters that he now decries against causes he agrees with. Whoops!

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, anarchism, anarchosyndicalism, ecoanarchism

December 11, 2012

Green Mountain College, Carnism, and the Embrace of Death

The echo chamber's not going to work if you allow dissenting opinions!
(Green Mountain College student Emily McCoy, who blocks Facebook users who engage her in public fora, on a GMC page that blocks dissenting opinions)

The people of Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont, remain defensive about the public outcry over their decision to kill for meat two oxen that they had worked for 10 years. A brief history: Lou was injured in the Spring such that he could no longer work; over the summer the GMC farm staff decided it was time to kill both him and his brother Bill and eat them (or, more likely, get some human-grade meat in exchange for their value as dog food). Some students and/or alumni, when classes resumed in the fall, were shocked by that decision and alerted Green Mountain Animal Defenders in Burlington, which led to an offer of veterinary care and sanctuary from VINE Sanctuary in Springfield. People’s shock at the decision to kill Bill and Lou was then compounded by GMC’s refusal of the offer to let them live out their lives in peaceful retirement. But the school became only more entrenched, lashing out at those asking for compassion and mercy as “extremists” and “abolitionists” “terrorizing” slaughterhouses and the college. Then they “euthanized” Lou (†Nov. 11, 2012), who had been seen happily grazing with Bill the day before his pre-dawn “sacrifice”, and perversely made themselves out to be the victim because he had to be composted instead of eaten. Two faculty members in particular, Steven Fesmire and Philip Ackerman-Leist, the latter a beef farmer himself, have been interviewing and writing all over the place to present this simple call for compassion toward two loved and hardworking oxen as a concerted and militant effort to end food choice and all animal agriculture.

It would be funny if it did not mean that Lou was killed and Bill remains in danger.

[[[[[ ]]]]]

The first reason given for killing Bill and Lou, and then for refusing sanctuary, was economic. In a cold calculus of utility, these aging oxen were deemed to be no longer paying for their upkeep, and a sanctuary would only perpetuate the “waste” of resources. This is the thinking of psychopaths. Bill and Lou are not machines to be junked for parts or materials, but living creatures as deserving and desiring to live as those calling for their deaths.

The defense developed, along with the paranoid exaggeration of “the enemy”, to a more complex idea of “sustainability”. At the basis of that “sustainability” ethic is the self-serving “happy meat” paradigm, by which human carnivores think they are being conscientious and environmentally mature by convincing themselves that their taste for meat is “love” for the animal itself and its place in nature (or rather the nature of agriculture that includes them), particularly when it is applied locally (eg, in the name of food sovereignty).

Let us look at that ethic, which has come to be called “carnism”.

To rationalize their inability or unwillingness to live without meat or dairy, they have constructed a system that is environmentally conscientious only within the terms of a perceived necessity for consumption of animals. There is no room in that vision for the rejection of animal agriculture. Ethical veganism is heretical, not just because it considers the interests, even rights, of the animals themselves (assuming that like all creatures they want to live full lives according to their own interests and social needs) apart from their usefulness to humans, but mostly because it recognizes that consuming animals is a choice, not a necessity.

With all ethical issues, each of us comes to a balance or accommodation that we are comfortable with, constantly weighing myriad factors of society, personality, culture, economy, etc. And that balance changes (or ought to) throughout our lives. Ethics isn’t about that balance, but about the choices we make when we are able to.

It is indeed good that some of those who won’t give up meat are trying to make that choice less cruel to the animals and less harmful to the environment. That is a step forward and does not obviate further steps. But the “carnist” trend of recent years has been to assert that it is actually better in every way (morally, environmentally, nutritionally) to continue to consume animals in this “balanced” way, which, first, is offensive to those whose decision not to is also shaped by efforts to be less cruel and harmful, and, second, only suggests that it most certainly is not.

It is obvious that loving animals can not include killing them unnecessarily just because we want to eat them. Animals are not things (”I love my teddy bear”). They are not meals (”I love squash soup”). Love, applied to any animal, is the same love we mean when we apply it to the human animal. That is a simple truth. The complex arguments to prove that animal agriculture is natural or necessary or beneficial serve to obscure that truth. They serve as a firewall between salving one’s conscience by treating animals marginally better and having to consequently recognize animals as having their own rights. They serve as an artificial boundary between granting animals a right to “welfare” and granting them the actual rights implied by concern for their welfare.

It is the same dynamic that has been seen in every battle for rights. Of course, the first principle of carnism is that animals aren’t people (not even noncivilized people, however sentient and social). Evolution of conscience is a slow process, and most vegans recognize that frustrating fact. Most of the time, they are biting their tongues about the world’s casual cruelty and disrespect. What vegans can not abide is carnists challenging or claiming superiority to veganism on any ground. It is frightening to see the lengths people go to rationalize needless killing. As they take their arguments farther and farther but go nowhere, stuck in their self-imposed carnism, their urge becomes to silence, if not destroy, those who remind them of that shortcoming. The vegan “no” is taken as an existential threat. Again, this is a fact of human history, which vegans must suffer through like anyone who has ever taken an ethical stand against entrenched cultural assumptions.

If carnists were truly comfortable about their choice, then they would not feel so threatened by the very existence of vegans. After all, everyone eats what vegans eat. Vegans just cut out the animal bits. And that small reduction of violence by our diet can only be for the good — of the planet, all animals, and humanity.

[[[[[ ]]]]]

As to Green Mountain College, they were given a choice: kill Bill and Lou or let them live out their lives at a sanctuary. While claiming to assert their rights and responsibilities, they revealed their sustainability ethic as one that embraces death, not love.

[See also:  Omnivores? ]

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, ecoanarchism

December 13, 2012

Self-sabotage at Green Mountain College

The people of Green Mountain College think it has been wrong for the public to protest their decision to kill their oxen instead of letting them retire at a sanctuary, because the people of GMC are against factory farms so the public should join them in protesting factory farms instead.

Some of them think that protesting GMC's decision to kill their beloved and hard-worked (if that's not too cognitively dissonant) oxen is serving the interests of industrial agriculture by attacking one group's efforts to challenge that hegemony.

Sorry, GMC folks, but that doesn't make any sense.

First, the people you are admonishing already protest factory farms. They care about animal welfare, and that is why they are protesting GMC's efforts regarding their oxen.

Second, killing two oxen after 11 years has nothing to do with moving away from factory farming. And the public outcry against the desire to kill them is not against your efforts to be independent from industrial ag.

The issue is not you or various elements of the public. It's Bill and Lou, and most people think Bill (Lou having already been dispatched) deserves a peaceful retirement. The more you try to rationalize the decision to kill them, the more unhinged and unlikeable you appear to be. And that, not the public's protest, is what reflects badly on, and thus most threatens, the mission we share.

Update, Dec. 22:  The most reactionary students at Green Mountain College continue to amuse with their self-righteous victimization narrative. After the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, they suggested that compared to that crime they ought to be absolved of murdering Lou and allowed to murder Bill. Now they have likened those trying to save Bill and Lou's lives to Fred Phelps and family’s Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, which blames all unnatural death on the tolerance of gays and travels around the country to disrupt funerals to celebrate those deaths as God's righteous punishment. The WBC, basically, hates everyone except themselves, which does not seem very different from what we've seen out of GMC.

But it gets more confused. The WBC post was a tongue-in-cheek letter of gratitude to the Phelps family for raising awareness of issues of intolerance and facilitating support drives. In their enthusiasm to embrace this new model of empowered victimization, the GMC students forget that elsewhere they and their professors (falsely) accuse animal rights and welfare activists of using GMC's intransigence (standing by their "values", as Fred Phelps would agree) for their own publicity. That is, they are now embracing a codependent tactic for which they had earlier attempted to condemn "ARAs". How must be logic twisted and mirror fogged to evade the truth!

Green Mountain College

Update, Dec. 24:  Another example brought to our attention of getting everything backwards (even their own defensive positions) is from GMC student Emily McCoy. On Dec. 14, she shared on Facebook a photo of President Obama wiping away a tear for the victims of Newtown, Conn., with the caption, "Pretends to cry about school shooting — while bombing innocent men, women, and children in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine." The first commenter (Jon) expressed disgust, which McCoy and others fended off, rightly noting the commander-in-chief's hypocrisy. But then she added, ‘Jon's reaction reminded me a lot of ARAs [animal rights activists] being all "everyone feels sorry for the billions of animals in CAFOs [concentrated animal feed operations], but you have a chance to spare the lives of THESE TWO OXEN. COMPASSION!"’

Her thinking almost defies analysis. Which it would have to, because it is animal rights and welfare activists who point out that killing Bill and Lou (and all the other animals on GMC's play-farm, since they insist on making that the issue) is the same result as on factory farms. She must see that, since she can see that we need to decry all of the deaths wrought in our name in other countries along with domestically. That is, killing in one's own backyard and killing in a distant place are both wrong. Killing in CAFOs is wrong, and so is killing in the "happy" farm. Of course, it's not the killing that bothers McCoy, and in that she is aligned with the President, who weeps for irrational carnage but has little problem with it when it is suitably rationalized. And so she believes that compassion means killing Bill and Lou, simply because they are not at a CAFO.

Just as McCoy challenges the President's compassion, we question hers.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

February 26, 2011

Final Statement to the Court

Animal liberationist Walter Bond received the minimum sentence allowed by a Colorado court, 5 years prison and 3 years probation, after pleading guilty to burning the Sheepskin Factory in Glendale.

I'm here today because I burnt down the Sheepskin Factory in Glendale, CO, a business that sells pelts, furs and other dead animal skins. I know many people think I should feel remorse for what I've done. I guess this is the customary time where I'm suppose to grovel and beg for mercy. I assure you if that's how I felt I would. But, I am not sorry for anything I have done. Nor am I frightened by this court's authority. Because any system of law that values the rights of the oppressor over the down trodden is an unjust system. And though this court has real and actual power, I question its morality. I doubt the court is interested in the precautions that I took to not harm any person or by-stander and even less concerned with the miserable lives that sheep, cows and mink had to endure, unto death, so that a Colorado business could profit from their confinement, enslavement, and murder.

Obviously, the owners and employees of the sheepskin factory do not care either or they would not be involved in such a sinister and macabre blood trade. So I will not waste my breath where it will only fall on deaf ears. That's why I turned to illegal direct action to begin with, because you do not care. No matter how much we animal rights activists talk or reason with you, you do not care. Well, Mr. Livaditis (owner of the Sheepskin Factory), I don't care about you. There is no common ground between people like you and me. I want you to know that no matter what this court sentences me to today, you have won nothing! Prison is no great hardship to me. In a society that values money over life, I consider it an honor to be a prisoner of war, the war against inter-species slavery and objectification! I also want you to know that I will never willingly pay you one dollar, not one! I hope your business fails and you choke to death on every penny you profit from animal murder! I hope you choke on it and burn in hell!

To my supporters, I wish to say thank you for standing behind me and showing this court and these animal exploiters that we support our own and that we as a movement are not going to apologize for having a sense of urgency. We are not going to put the interests of commerce over sentience! And we will never stop educating, agitating and confronting those responsible for the death of our Mother Earth and her Animal Nations. My vegan sisters and brothers, our lives are not our own. Selfishness is the way of gluttons, perverts and purveyors of injustice. It has been said all it takes for evil to conquer is for good people to do nothing. Conversely, all it takes to stop the enslavement, use, abuse and murder of other than human animals is the resolve to fight on their behalf!

Do what you can, do what you must, be vegan warriors and true animal defenders and never compromise with their murderers and profiteers. The Animal Liberation Front is the answer. Seldom has there been such a personally powerful and internationally effective movement in human history. You cannot join the A.L.F. but you can become the A.L.F. And it was the proudest and most powerful thing I have ever done. When you leave this courtroom today don't be dismayed by my incarceration. All the ferocity and love in my heart still lives on. Every time someone liberates an animal and smashes their cage, it lives on! Every time an activist refuses to bow down to laws that protect murder, it lives on! And it lives on every time the night sky lights up ablaze with the ruins of another animal exploiters' business!

That's all Your Honor, I am ready to go to prison.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, anarchism, ecoanarchism

February 16, 2013

The animal killers' dilemma

Glenn Davis Stone, Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, and pro-GMO blogger at fieldquestions.com, posted an essay on Nov. 26, 2012, "The Animal Lover's Dilemma", by Elizabeth Vandeventer of Davis Creek Farm, Nelson County, Virginia. She is another supposedly ex-vegetarian who describes her sense of missing out on the death action in the great cycle of life. So she attacks vegans, who she blames for palm oil plantations, among other evils of industrial agriculture and chemistry, for not being more informed than the general population about the same food that everyone else eats. And of course, unlike people who just buy their packaged meat in the grocery store, she "honors" animals by raising them and thanking them before killing them to sell as packaged meat at farmers' markets.

Vandeventer was inspired to write because of the international outrage about Green Mountain College's determination to kill their oxen Bill and Lou. (They went ahead and killed Lou, rather than give him adequate veterinary care, but did it medically so they could whine that his "meat" was wasted.) Bill, no longer working for his room and board, still languishes at the college in Limbo despite at least two offers of sanctuary.

While the college raised one of those sanctuaries, called VINE, for Veganism Is the Next Evolution, to arch-adversary, unable to separate VINE's specific concern for Bill and Lou from their antipathy to its larger outlook (animal rights, human rights), and then unwilling to hear any advocate for Bill and Lou except that of their imagined version of VINE — now an extremist, terrorist organization ready to firebomb the college — Vandeventer creates her straw man at the other end, conjuring mindless consumerist sentimentalist "animal lovers" who are singularly responsible for the destruction of rain forests for palm oil plantations.

The essay is the usual self-justifying drivel, which continues in the comments below it. I write about it today because host Glenn Davis Stone just added what I suppose he thinks should be a succinct wrap-up:

Meat eating causes more death but it causes more life as well. I have been to Elizabeth’s farm and seen the hundreds of chickens and cattle enjoying life on her pastures. All because of meat eaters.
How does one respond, after the laughter, to such madness? "Rucio" tries:
And then having that life cut violently short. For the enjoyment of meat eaters. Only increasing the animals' gratitude, no doubt.
Note: According to a profile of Charlottesville (Va.)–area farmers, Vandeventer's farm has 4,000 "meat" chickens. Each of them named, of course, and roaming free. And according to her own web site, both the chickens and the cows do not exist solely on the grass and grains of the farm. Although Vandeventer claims that grazing is the only agriculture possible for her land (the pictures showing lush grasses and fairly flat fields suggests otherwise, however), her business depends on other farmland growing crops not for people but for her "livestock", i.e., it is not at all a model of sustainability unless that means only sustaining a meat industry.

Update:  Davis Stone replied to Rucio's comment: "I’m not sure what “violent” means here — Elizabeth’s animals are killed instantly. Hard to imagine an animal being grateful to people for arguing they never be born just because they were going to die." To which Rucio replied: "What could be more violent than killing another being well before the time of its natural death?" and "It is even harder to imagine an animal being grateful to people for arguing that they must kill it to justify its life."

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

May 10, 2013

The Politics of the Pasture

James McWilliams writes:

Green Mountain College, from the founding of Cerridwen Farm in 1997 to its decision to kill Bill and Lou in 2012, was seeking to do what it genuinely thought best to do: farm in a way that modeled an environmentally sound alternative to industrial agriculture. The school loved the idea. The students loved the idea. The media loved the idea. It was extremely popular in every progressive corner. Replacing industrial agriculture with sustainable agriculture has become one of the most inspiring goals of the twenty-first century. GMC, through 22 acres known as Cerridwen Farm, aimed to play a direct role in this emerging revolution. ...

When animal advocates seized upon a controversy — the decision to kill and eat Bill and Lou — to argue that GMC’s pursuit of “sustainable agriculture” obscured basic moral consideration for animals, an unusually high-profile debate unfolded. That debate explored something that has, for the most part, enjoyed a free pass through an otherwise bramble-ridden landscape of agrarian discourse: the intensifying role of animal exploitation in “sustainable agriculture.” This book has tried to sketch out and analyze the depth and breath of that debate. As I hope has been made clear, animal advocates have made a strong case for not raising animals to slaughter and eat. They have effectively highlighted the ethical problem of killing sentient beings for unnecessary purposes. Repeatedly, and with varying levels of respect, they have demanded, sometimes forthrightly, that this quandary be acknowledged and explained by the advocates of small-scale animal agriculture at GMC.

In response, GMC never provided a serious answer. Ever. They provided excuses, but never did they make a sufficient ethical case in favor of killing the animals they supposedly loved for food they merely wanted rather than needed. More often than not, their primary battle tactic was to hyperbolize a few incendiary comments made by a few hotheads in the animal rights movement and deem themselves the innocent and helpless victim of vicious intimidation. I don’t buy for a moment that anyone at GMC ever felt truly in danger, but, as we’ll see, they put on an Oscar-worthy performance promoting their own victimhood.

As an advocate for animal rights and social justice, I’ve come to believe something very strongly: when a group seeking to reform an oppressive institution (in this case industrial agriculture) does so by relying on the exploitation of other sentient beings (in this case, two oxen), that group will eventually assume the tactics of the oppressors. They will, in other words, take the low road to perdition despite their articulated intentions to elevate themselves in the name of a nobler mission. To put a finer point on it, when a group of agricultural reformers seeks to dismantle industrial agriculture and its state sponsorship while simultaneously encouraging the single most important habit required to sustain industrial agriculture — eating animals — that group will find itself aligned, in the end, with the oppression of industrial agriculture.

Well, we’re at the end. And, in ways that could not be more affirmative of my thesis had I scripted them, GMC, in the wake of Lou’s death and the resulting vituperation that followed, has explicitly and implicitly aligned itself with American agribusiness. Indeed, GMC and Big Beef hopped in bed, divided the world into those who did and did not eat animals, and proceeded to do what those who exploit animals for a living do so very well: they consolidated their power and exploited the weakest.


environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism

November 1, 2012

Green Mountain College president is a mite paranoid

[Scroll down for updates to this post.]

From: President Paul J. Fonteyn
To: GMC Campus Community
Date: October 31, 2012
Re: Update on Bill and Lou


As you know, Green Mountain College has become the focus of widespread attention regarding our decision to slaughter our ten-year old team of oxen. I stand by the decision our community arrived at through a process that insured that all members had the opportunity to express their opinions.

I also compliment faculty, staff and students who, whether they personally agreed with the final decision or not, have demonstrated extraordinary civility in their interactions with each other, and with external individuals and organizations. Some of these external groups are attempting to use Bill and Lou as mascots for their own animal rights agendas. I am appalled by the abusive nature of some of the communications you have been receiving--if you are concerned about personal threats please notify the Office of Student Affairs.

Initially we decided to slaughter the oxen by the end of this month. However, we will not be able to meet this timetable because regional slaughterhouses have been inundated with hostile and threatening emails and phone calls from extremist groups bent on interfering with the processing. These businesses are mostly small, family-operated Vermont enterprises that provide local meat for local consumers. This is a busy time of year for them, and many have expressed fears that their operations might be shut down by protesters if they accept the oxen.

We have decided to continue to care for the oxen until a date with a reputable slaughterhouse can be obtained. In the meantime, Lou and Bill will not be sent to a sanctuary but will continue to stay with us in familiar surroundings. Eventually the animals will be processed as planned.

Green Mountain College has many allies who support the kind of sustainable agriculture in Vermont which GMC represents. Below is a statement made by Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets, Chuck Ross.

As always, I'm available for discussion with any member of the GMC community who has questions or concerns.
Statements from the faculty have echoed the president's claim that the entire GMC community participated in making the decision to slaughter the oxen Bill and Lou, and that although Lou was injured months ago, the decision to kill him and his partner Bill, too, instead of retire them, was not made until students returned in the Fall. In fact, an Oct. 12 statement from the college says, "This was a decision many months in the making, with members of our community carefully weighing alternatives." It seems that the decision was already made, apparently by farm manager Kenneth Mulder and provost Bill Throop primarily, and that the only community-wide discussion was about that already made decision:
Ethics of Sending Draft Animals to Slaughter Discussion

When: Thursday, October 04, 2012
Time: 1 - 2:30 p.m.
Where: East Room


At the end of this month, Bill and Lou, the long-standing team of oxen for Green Mountain College’s Cerridwen Farm will leave the farm to be processed for meat.

Bill and Lou have worked as draft animals on the farm for over ten years. They have provided the motive power for a research and education program in draft animal farming that includes hay harvesting, vegetable production, animal driving and training, and electricity production. Last summer, Bill and Lou were featured in several workshops at the New England Organic Farmers’ Association summer conference.

This past year, Lou sustained a recurring injury to his left rear hock that has made it difficult for him to work. After attempting several remedies and giving him a prolonged rest without any improvement, it was the professional opinion of the farm staff and consulting veterinarians that he was no longer fit to work. Farm staff searched for a replacement animal to pair with Bill, but single oxen are difficult to find and it is uncertain that Bill would accept a new teammate in any case. After much deliberation, it was decided to purchase a new team and retire Bill and Lou.

“This has been a difficult decision all around,” stated farm manager Kenneth Mulder. “It is the traditional understanding with working cattle that when they reach the end of their working careers they are still productive as meat animals. But that does not make it easy.”

Bill and Lou cost approximately $300 per month to keep and will provide enough hamburger and beef to the college dining hall to last for a couple months. It is the general feeling of the farm crew and the farm management that the most ecologically and financially sustainable decision was to send them for processing.

On October 4th from 1 to 2:30 in the East Room, there will be an open class session on the ethics of sending draft animals to slaughter. Interested parties are encouraged to attend.
Update, Nov. 11:  The fact that the decision was already made was stated by student Alison Putnam in the Boston Globe: "Putnam is a member of the farm crew, consisting of students and staff, which she said made the initial decision. The administration supported the farm crew’s decision, Putnam said."

The president is paranoid (and perhaps psychopathic) in making Green Mountain College the victim, when the criticism from "outside" is about GMC's needless cruelty to its working animals — hardly the work of "extremist groups", who are "threatening" the "processing" only with publicity. It should be noted that it was GMC alumni who, when they were told of their college's plans for Bill and Lou, called animal rights groups, particularly Green Mountain Animal Defenders, who then sought a sanctuary to offer retirement. VINE Sanctuary, the only one in Vermont, was one of those that responded.

As for the "ethics of sending draft animals to slaughter discussion", that is not an exercise in ethics at all, but rather in excuse making for a decision already made.

Update, Nov. 12:  Fonteyn further illustrates his ever more evidently psychopathic paranoia in his Nov. 11 announcement that Lou had been killed early that morning:
As reported in my October 31 email to the community, our original timetable was disrupted by outside organizations seeking to appropriate the images of the oxen for their extremist agendas, including the abolition of animal agriculture. Without shame, these groups harassed and threatened local slaughterhouses, making it impossible for them to accept our animals, and therefore for us to carry out our decision expeditiously. Despite our attempts to use the most humane and local options available, one of the only Animal Welfare Approved slaughterhouses in the area was forced to cancel our appointment as a result of these hostile threats. Some individuals associated with these efforts have even discussed giving drugs to our animals, which would render the meat unacceptable for human consumption.

... Bill will not be sent to a sanctuary but will stay on Cerridwen Farm and will be cared for in a manner that follows sustainable, humane livestock practices, as is the case with all of our animals. We take responsibility for our animals on the farm--it is an obligation we will not ask others to bear.

I know at times the attention has been harsh and unfair, but it has also provided a platform to present some of the best aspects of Green Mountain College: our intellectual courage to squarely examine moral dilemmas, our values of sustainability, and our commitment to discourse over doctrine. I am proud of how GMC students have engaged with colleagues and with people outside our community in mature, thoughtful, and civil ways. ... [emphases added]
1. It was GMC alumni, not "outsiders", who raised the alarm. In any case, a college is not an ivory tower. GMC's focus, sustainability, is not normally considered in terms of "us-versus-them" survivalism, but indeed is concerned the larger community.

2. It is not extremist, but normal practice, to retire rather than slaughter work animals.

3. The only "harassment" of slaughterhouses was in the number of calls from around the world asking them to not accept these oxen. The only threats were of bad publicity. Although many of those concerned are vegan and indeed would like to see the end of animal agriculture, many are not. Moreover, vegans are not delusional that animal agriculture is going to end any time soon and therefore advocated only for Bill and Lou, not, e.g., to abolish GMC's home-grown beef project. Yet it is not "extremist" to seek the abolition of animal agriculture. Along the interest that GMC purports to pursue, the U.N. has warned that animal agriculture is a major contributor of greenhouse gases and a misappropriation of resources. It is neither sustainable nor humane.

4. The response to GMC's determination to slaughter Bill and Lou despite offers of sanctuary has been deservedly harsh and not unfair. Despite Fonteyn's closing words, he and other administrators and faculty have been exposed as intellectually lazy cowards, committed not to honest discourse but indeed to self-serving — inflexible and therefore inhumane — doctrine.

5. Many of the students have proved to be infantile, idiotic, and insulting, so Fonteyn's pride is clearly only in their firm backing of him. Because he, too, is clearly infantile, idiotic, and insulting. His language is the lashing out of an abuser found out.

Update, Jan. 16, 2013:  Apparently still hoping to kill Bill, "farm" director Philip Ackerman-Leist, assistant "farm" manager Baylee Rose Drown, and student Meiko Lunetta pled before the Vt. House Committee on Agriculture on Tuesday for "protection" from the outrage provoked by their needless (and heedless) cruelty in refusing offers of sanctuary for their hardworked and beloved oxen to instead sell them for dog food.

As comments below the story indicate, the logic is: a) GMC is trying to get away from factory farming; and b) Bill and Lou are/were not on a factory farm; so c) it is/was necessary to kill Bill and Lou. The corollary is that anyone with a different conclusion from (c) is therefore against (a). And because (a) is inarguably good, anyone asking for compassion toward Bill and Lou is inarguably bad. It's madness, really.

human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, Vermont

July 16, 2014

The Oxen at the Intersection: Review

A Collision (or, Bill and Lou Must Die: A Real-Life Murder Mystery from the Green Mountains of Vermont), by pattrice jones (2014, Lantern Books)


This book is a page-turner. Jones is an excellent writer. She provides not only a history of the whole fiasco of the plan to kill rather than retire the oxen Bill and Lou, and the efforts to save them, but also a concise overview of the mythologies, intersections of power relationships and prejudice, and psychologies that came into play. It is both a valuable case study for social activists and a good introduction to the holistic anti-oppression perspective of eco-feminism.

Regarding the case itself, Jones seems to betray some personal rancor over what can well be seen as "hijacking" of the issue by others not directly involved (Jones' sanctuary had been approached by concerned alumni). Critiques of some of those are warranted, but they probably wouldn't have mattered if there was more direct "face-to-face" interaction, which Jones notes as perhaps the biggest shortcoming. However, she doesn't acknowledge the difficulty of direct action in this case: Poultney is rather far from everywhere as well as unfamiliar to almost all of the activists involved. And rights activists in Vermont simply do not go against the farming industry. Even the abuses revealed in late 2009 by HSUS at Bushway Packing, an "Animal Welfare Approved" slaughterhouse where organic dairy farms sent their male calves to be turned into veal, made barely a ripple. In another case in the late 2000's, a jogger in Greensboro noticed a pile of dead and dying animals on a farm, alerted authorities, and – nothing happened. As in these cases, the media, when they paid attention at all, only helped to support the "right-to-farm" viewpoint and discourage questioning of what farmers actually do to their animals.

One interesting and damning aspect of the Green Mountain College farm program is revealed in the book regarding their treatment of animals. Jones describes Princess, a cow who was given to them from someone who had bought her from an "agricultural college". It was clear that Princess had been abused (beyond the "normal" routines of animal ag), and Jones had written about her just before the Bill and Lou affair began, not knowing what college she had come from. When the campaign to save Bill and Lou began, people at the college recognized Princess and accused Jones of a concerted campaign against them. Jones also describes the visit of a couple of her colleagues during an open house at the college, where they saw a calf with so many burrs around his penis that he couldn't easily urinate. That calf was later sold, no questions asked, on Craig's List, with the stipulation that the buyer never reveal where they got it – which appears to have been a condition for saving Princess as well. As Jones points out, the head of the college farm program is a mathematician. It is an extension of his own hobby farm, with the added inexperience (and callousness) of college students. The animals seem to be neglected and abused and then disposed of, without acknowledgement, when they become too much trouble. As Jones also notes from the visit, the college garden was smaller than the one at their sanctuary. And as satellite pictures show, the college's acres of meadow are far from enough to sustain more than a very few animals (for meat, that is; used for produce, they could in fact feed quite a few humans). In other words, the farm is a sham, but worse, the animals are treated like toys for these very unserious dabblers.


Princess

Back to the problem of direct communication, as Jones makes clear, the bottom line was that the college was not at all open to discussion, even within their own walls. They were determined to prove a point, their authority, their "mastery". Closed off as they were, then, it was clearly the chaotic clamor of the social media–fired campaign to save Bill and Lou that at least saved Bill (whose actual fate, however, remains a mystery; for that matter, the actual fate of Lou also remains a mystery). And as Jones notes, it was the uncontrolled barrage of telephone calls to nearby slaughterhouses that stopped the original scheduled plan to turn both of them into hamburgers.

Jones also mentions her doubts about the effectiveness of gory photos and videos of animal abuse and suffering in the fight for animal rights. I agree. People are already desensitized and, as the "conscious carnivore" pushback shows, actually relish the fact that a life is sacrificed for their passing enjoyment. As the chef in Peter Greenaway's film "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover" observes, people like to feel that they are eating death. Shocking pictures only serve to reinforce the very viewpoint we are attempting to change. As with the picture of the Green Mountain College student grinning maniacally in a hand-scrawled "Death to Chickens" T-shirt holding a dead rooster up by its legs, or the students screaming at protesters that even though they're "vegetarian" they were "excited" to eat Bill and Lou, the people who need to be persuaded away from harming animals are more likely to embrace the imagery, to fling it back defiantly. Disturbing pictures can be effective – if they are used effectively for specific messages and/or to specific audiences, not for indiscriminate shock value.

Anyhow, this book is a stimulating and inspiring read, an insightful analysis of the mostly failed effort to save these two lives. It is also very nicely typeset.


Last known photograph of Lou and Bill, Nov. 10, 2012.
Lou was reportedly killed before dawn of the next day.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont, ecofeminism

November 13, 2012

Request for Common Cause from Philip Ackerman-Leist, Director of Green Mountain College’s Farm & Food Project

“The challenge we are now facing is not one of a philosophical perspective that we find inappropriate but rather of an extreme activist agenda that is divisive and destructive. The end goal is the abolition of livestock agriculture, whereas our college is invested in the transformation of livestock agriculture.”

In fact, the letter below is a desperate plea for the
preservation of “livestock” agriculture without the scrutiny of “outsiders”. It expresses an apparent persecution complex driving him to seek support for his Lord of the Flies project from the entire state (remember the “Take Back Vermont” movement to “preserve” marriage?). But the pleas to retire the working oxen Bill and Lou had nothing to do with the college’s animal farming. It is perfectly normal practice to retire working animals. One offer of sanctuary was from a rancher, another from a dairy farm. Many other animal farmers expressed disgust. Green Mountain College’s refusal to act in a normal (let alone humane) manner, to ignore all offers and insist that “processing” the oxen into dog food was essential to the college’s chest-thumping sense of “sustainability”, was the only reason for worldwide outrage from vegans and carnivores alike.

Ackerman-Leist’s delusional paranoia (“under the cover of darkness and with complex security plans in place, we had to euthanize Lou and bury him in an undisclosed location”) speaks more to unresolved issues of his own conscience (as a beef farmer himself, looking forward to a lucrative contract with the college, as orchestrated by himself?) than to reality.


Source:  https://www.facebook.com/notes/carl-b-russell/request-for-common-cause-from-philip-ackerman-leist-director-of-the-green-mounta/10151360898823804

November 11, 2012

Dear Colleague in Food and Agriculture,

I am writing to request both your attention to and support in an issue that impacts farms of all sizes, the ability of livestock-based businesses and educational farms to function without the threat of harassment or harm from outside special interests, and the possibility for communities to determine the future of their regional food systems.

As you may have heard or read, the Green Mountain College community followed a decade-long tradition of discussing the fate of livestock on the college’s Cerridwen Farm before deciding to send our two longstanding oxen to slaughter. Bill and Lou have been central elements of the college farm since their arrival ten years ago, but Lou injured his leg this past summer and is no longer able to work or even to walk any significant distance without experiencing obvious pain. Therefore, in an open community forum this fall, about eighty students decided to send the much admired pair to slaughter and processing, with the meat to be used in the college dining hall, as we have done with sheep, poultry, swine, and cattle in the past.

However, an extremist animal rights organization, VINE (Veganism is the Next Evolution) Sanctuary, turned our community-based decision into an international advocacy and fundraising effort. VINE recently set up its new sanctuary and education/advocacy center in Springfield, Vermont in order to take on everything from backyard poultry to small-scale livestock production to the iconic Vermont dairy industry. They allow for no distinction between any form of livestock agriculture. As a case in point, one of the founders of VINE states the following:

“Another issue we face is that Vermont is a big ‘happy meat’ place. The happy meat people are convinced the animals are treated well. It is just a myth, and regardless, any farmed animal on a factory farm or a ‘happy meat’ farm, can’t get away from ending up dead.”

Another VINE blog makes the point even more explicit:

“Despite the blather about respecting the bedrock of one of Vermont’s primary industries, and despite the inane lies pitched in almost hysterical fashion by ‘happy meat and milk’ farmers, cows are nothing more than potential money-making machines to people. That’s what they’re there for, after all.”

The Green Mountain College oxen case seemed to have been the perfect target for VINE’s efforts, quickly supported by Farm Sanctuary and PETA. Why focus on our college farm and not a “factory farm” or some other farm with questionable livestock management practices? Perhaps we find ourselves in this situation because the college has long been transparent about our community-based discussions regarding the fate of the livestock on our college farm—it is a vital part of our educational program here. It could also be that we have been targeted because we are not only teaching and advocating for sustainable livestock farming, but some of our graduates are seeding the local landscape with these kinds of farms.

Unfortunately, this issue is not just about the fate of Bill and Lou or the intense local and international pressures faced by a small but diverse college community that opted for transparency, truth, and accountability in its own food system. If the extremist elements in this activist agenda succeed in forcing our college to choose a course not of our own making in this issue, then they will have the power and the confidence to do it again—perhaps next time to a smaller and less resourceful community or farm or even to a bigger institution or initiative. Such an outcome would be inconvenient to some and perhaps tragic to others. And it flies directly in the face of Vermont’s innovative efforts to develop community-based food systems, envisioned on a grand and courageous scale through our nationally-acclaimed Farm to Plate Initiative, a strategic ten-year plan to build the vision of interlinked local and sustainable food systems that can build thriving communities even in the most rural reaches of our state.

Imagine the pressures our college has faced in recent weeks and consider how other communities placed under such pressure might fare:

  • Numerous petition drives, with tens of thousands of signees from all over the world—people who know nothing of Bill and Lou’s conditions, much less the accountability and transparency we have built into our college food system
  • Action alerts that have generated email assaults (at least one staff person received almost 1000 emails in a single day) and switchboard and voicemail overloads of our campus phone system
  • One cyber-attack generated 3.9 million emails filtered in a period of several days—all from a single domain
  • Harassment and threats of physical violence to students, faculty, staff, and administrators
  • Constant surveillance of our college farm by stealthy intrusions, video cameras, and Facebook reports of our daily activities
  • Driving a livestock trailer to the edge of campus and barging into our administrative offices demanding that Bill and Lou be turned over
  • Dishonest and highly abusive postings on the college’s social media sites, requiring around-the-clock monitoring and editing
  • Attempts at widespread defamation of character of faculty, staff, and administrators through letters, emails, websites, and social media channels
  • Threats of continued negative publicity campaigns unless we turned Bill and Lou over to VINE Sanctuary
  • Online discussion of whether to give Bill and Lou medications that would render their meat unsafe and inedible
  • Slaughterhouses throughout Vermont and New York were threatened with protests, harassment, and potential violence if they agreed to work with the college, ultimately eliminating virtually all such possibilities for us, including our scheduled date at a local Animal Welfare Approved facility
Throughout it all, we have attempted to avoid a polarization among parties. After all, our student body is comprised of approximately 70% meat-eaters and 30% vegetarians and vegans. One of my colleagues in helping our students to think critically about these livestock decisions is Dr. Steven Fesmire, a philosopher and a vegetarian. For ten years, he and I have tried to model open and civil discourse about dietary choices and related animal issues through forums, joint classes, and guest lectures. We are unaccustomed to diatribe replacing dialogue, and our students tend to be open to a diversity of ideas and respectful of differences in opinion. Our community finds it odd that certain extremists have opted to try and make us out as villains when one of our stated goals is to become the first college or university in the United States with a major food service provider to eliminate all animal products that are not humanely raised and slaughtered.

Our college honors different dietary choices and encourages a diversity of philosophical perspectives related to agriculture and animal ethics. Were that not the case, we would not have a higher than average population of students who are vegetarians and vegans. We teach animal rights perspectives in our classes, as we believe that these philosophical ideas can help to illuminate the path toward more humane and sustainable livestock agriculture. The challenge we are now facing is not one of a philosophical perspective that we find inappropriate but rather of an extreme activist agenda that is divisive and destructive. The end goal is the abolition of livestock agriculture, whereas our college is invested in the transformation of livestock agriculture.

What happens next in this situation may have ramifications far beyond our campus community. If VINE, Farm Sanctuary, and PETA succeed in harassing and threatening not only us but also our regional livestock businesses to the point at which we succumb to their abolitionist desires, then they will march forward with their activist agenda and wreak havoc not only on the rebuilding of community-based food systems but also on the longstanding efforts in our region to create increasingly humane and ecologically appropriate livestock production and processing.

It is time for more organizations and individuals to come forward to denounce the intrusive and unethical bullying orchestrated by these organizations. Their tactics do not promote discourse, diversity, or democracy. Ultimately, they impede animal welfare reform by putting backyard poultry on the same level as a poorly managed “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation” (CAFO). You may or may not agree with our community’s decisions regarding Bill and Lou. We recognize that people can come to different conclusions in what is the best alternative for each of these animals, and these discussions can be civil and frank. Regardless of your opinion in this particular matter, it is important to recognize that the extreme bullying tactics employed by these groups need to be countered with the courage, reason, and civility of people and organizations that believe in the transformation of livestock agriculture, not its abolition.

During the early morning hours of November 11th, under the cover of darkness and with complex security plans in place, we had to euthanize Lou and bury him in an undisclosed location, as outlined in a statement to our community by President Paul Fonteyn. It was a difficult and complex decision. President Fonteyn offered these words regarding Bill: “Bill will not be sent to a sanctuary but will stay on Cerridwen Farm and will be cared for in a manner that follows sustainable, humane livestock practices, as is the case with all of our animals. We take responsibility for our animals on the farm--it is an obligation we will not ask others to bear.”

Please make your voice heard on this issue, whether it be through letters to the editor, calls and emails to your elected officials, or by appropriate direct action through your organization. Green Mountain College has decided to stand up against the bullying directed at us while also standing up for farmers, businesses, educational farms, local food systems, and burgeoning farm-to-institution programs—in Vermont and elsewhere in the country. It is our ardent hope that reason and civility will prevail and perhaps save some other farm or organization from the onslaught that our college has opted to engage, oppose, and defeat.

Sincerely,
~~~
Philip Ackerman-Leist
Director of the GMC Farm & Food Project
Director of the Masters in Sustainable Food Systems (MSFS)
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, Vermont, ecoanarchism

December 21, 2012

An ethical blind spot of the locavores

John Sanbonmatsu writes:

Kill Bill. And Lou, too.

That's what officials at Green Mountain College, in Poultney, Vt., decided to do to the two affectionate oxen on the college's working farm after one of the animals, Lou, sustained a minor leg injury over the summer. The college, whose reputation rests on its sustainable-agriculture program, announced that both oxen would be "processed" into hamburgers for the student cafeteria.

The case of Bill and Lou adds a new wrinkle to America's debate about the ethics of eating meat. For the first time, the public has been asked to consider whether the lives of farm animals matter, and not merely their quality of life. The story of the two oxen shows us why they do.

For decades, animal advocates struggled to bring public awareness to the horrific conditions on so-called "factory farms," where billions of sensitive animals languish in squalor and misery. While 99 percent of all meat consumed in the U.S. still comes from factory farms, consumers are increasingly uneasy with "farming" that treats animals viciously and is an ecological catastrophe.

Stepping into this growing breach between our stomachs and our moral sensibilities come the locavore and sustainability food movements. Such Bestsellers as Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma" have reassured consumers that they can have their meat and their consciences, too, by choosing "humane" animal products "grown" on organic local farms. The crisis of animal agriculture, it is argued, can be solved through "organic beef," backyard chicken coops and do-it-yourself slaughter.

In reality, studies suggest that raising and killing billions of animals for human consumption is ecological bad news no matter how it's done, whether on small family farms or in concentrated animal-feeding operations (CAFOs). Cows grazed on pasture, for example, produce more carbon emissions per capita than grain-fed animals in intensive confinement.

Confronted with such inconvenient facts, however, locavores maintain that we have but two choices -- to eat animals "locally" or to eat them industrially. As Green Mountain's provost, William Throop, was quoted as saying in an Oct. 29 New York Times article about the situation, the college must choose "either to eat the animals that we know have been cared for and lived good lives or serve the bodies of nameless animals we do not know."

But the omnivore's dilemma is a false one. We could simply choose not to eat meat at all. Why then do locavores pretend that we only have two choices?

Perhaps because they have no good arguments to justify the violence required to run even a small-scale, organic animal farm -- the use of whips, nose-rings, barbed wire, castration, brandings with hot irons, decapitation by ax or knife. The absence of good reasons for their views may explain why locavores eschew moral philosophy for poetical reveries on the "cycle of life." As Green Mountain's provost put it, "Bill and Lou are not pets but part of an intimate biotic community" based on "relationships of care and respect."

However, there is something Orwellian about depicting animals like Bill and Lou as members of an "intimate community" of "care and respect," while moving with great institutional dispatch to shoot them in the head, cut their throats, bleed them to death, and serve them as burgers. Lip-service to "care" aside, the lives of Bill and Lou have been viewed with such low regard by Green Mountain that when a local animal sanctuary offered to take the oxen so that they might live out the rest of their lives in peace, the college flatly refused, explaining that, were the oxen permitted to live, they "would continue to consume resources at a significant rate, and as a sustainable farm" the college couldn't let that happen.

Merely to let Bill and Lou exist, in other words, would be to violate the college's virtuous circle of sustainability. As "living tools" -- Aristotle's definition of a slave -- Bill and Lou have had no value beyond their perceived usefulness. Once their ecological outputs exceeded their inputs, they became as dispensable as rusty farm implements. And so they must die.

Left unexplored in this chilling logic is why the human animals living and working on Green Mountain's campus, each responsible for a far greater carbon footprint than Bill and Lou combined, do not deserve similarly ruthless treatment. The average American generates 20 tons of carbon dioxide a year, far more even than the average dairy cow. Are we therefore "unworthy" of life? Or do we not recognize something vital about consciousness, all consciousness, that lends it a value beyond reduction to abstract efficiency ratios?

Year after year, Bill and Lou, lovely, gentle, intelligent, feeling beings, were coerced by their human overseers to labor for the college. They ploughed its rain-laden fields and pulled its heavy equipment, in inclement weather and in all seasons. The college then decided to "repay" this debt by cutting their throats and dismembering them, so that in this way they might be exploited one last time, in death too.

It is this grotesque and unfeeling utilitarian logic that accounts for the public outcry against Green Mountain's treatment of the oxen. It offends our sense of justice when "even" farm animals are treated with such ingratitude and casual brutality.

Alas, protests and petitions could not save Lou. In November, Green Mountain announced that it had "euthanized" Lou and buried his body in secret, claiming that his injury was causing him "discomfort." Bill has been granted a temporary stay of execution. The college won't say what it plans to do with him.

If there is a moral to this story, it is that the locavores have failed to dissolve the troubling ethical questions at the heart of animal agriculture, organic or not. Locavore critics assure us that it is morally acceptable to raise and kill other animals for food, provided that the latter have had a "good enough" life before being sent to slaughter. But they have not told us why.

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont

June 22, 2013

The Myth of Sustainable Meat

By JAMES E. McWILLIAMS, New York Times, April 12, 2012

The industrial production of animal products is nasty business. From mad cow, E. coli and salmonella to soil erosion, manure runoff and pink slime, factory farming is the epitome of a broken food system.

... most people upset by factory farming have turned instead to meat, dairy and eggs from nonindustrial sources. ... They appeal to consumers not only because they reject the industrial model, but because they appear to be more in tune with natural processes.

For all the strengths of these alternatives, however, they’re ultimately a poor substitute for industrial production. Although these smaller systems appear to be environmentally sustainable, considerable evidence suggests otherwise.

Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.

Advocates of small-scale, nonindustrial alternatives say their choice is at least more natural. Again, this is a dubious claim. Many farmers who raise chickens on pasture use industrial breeds that have been bred to do one thing well: fatten quickly in confinement. As a result, they can suffer painful leg injuries after several weeks of living a “natural” life pecking around a large pasture. Free-range pigs are routinely affixed with nose rings to prevent them from rooting, which is one of their most basic instincts. In essence, what we see as natural doesn’t necessarily conform to what is natural from the animals’ perspectives.

The economics of alternative animal systems are similarly problematic. Subsidies notwithstanding, the unfortunate reality of commodifying animals is that confinement pays. If the production of meat and dairy was somehow decentralized into small free-range operations, common economic sense suggests that it wouldn’t last. These businesses — no matter how virtuous in intention — would gradually seek a larger market share, cutting corners, increasing stocking density and aiming to fatten animals faster than competitors could. Barring the strictest regulations, it wouldn’t take long for production systems to scale back up to where they started.

All this said, committed advocates of alternative systems make one undeniably important point about the practice called “rotational grazing” or “holistic farming”: the soil absorbs the nutrients from the animals’ manure, allowing grass and other crops to grow without the addition of synthetic fertilizer. As Michael Pollan writes, “It is doubtful you can build a genuinely sustainable agriculture without animals to cycle nutrients.” In other words, raising animals is not only sustainable, but required.

But rotational grazing works better in theory than in practice. Consider Joel Salatin, the guru of nutrient cycling, who employs chickens to enrich his cows’ grazing lands with nutrients. His plan appears to be impressively eco-correct, until we learn that he feeds his chickens with tens of thousands of pounds a year of imported corn and soy feed. ... if a farmer isn’t growing his own feed, the nutrients going into the soil have been purloined from another, most likely industrial, farm, thereby undermining the benefits of nutrient cycling.

Finally, there is no avoiding the fact that the nutrient cycle is interrupted every time a farmer steps in and slaughters a perfectly healthy manure-generating animal, something that is done before animals live a quarter of their natural lives. When consumers break the nutrient cycle to eat animals, nutrients leave the system of rotationally grazed plots of land (though of course this happens with plant-based systems as well). They land in sewer systems and septic tanks (in the form of human waste) and in landfills and rendering plants (in the form of animal carcasses).

Farmers could avoid this waste by exploiting animals only for their manure, allowing them to live out the entirety of their lives on the farm, all the while doing their own breeding and growing of feed. But they’d better have a trust fund.

Opponents of industrialized agriculture have been declaring for over a decade that how humans produce animal products is one of the most important environmental questions we face. We need a bolder declaration. After all, it’s not how we produce animal products that ultimately matters. It’s whether we produce them at all.

Also see:  Why Allan Savory’s TED talk about how cattle can reverse global warming is dead wrong, Slate, April 22, 2013:

“There’s no such thing as a beef-eating environmentalist.”

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism

October 4, 2005

Vegetarian Times swallows bull about wind

To the Editor, Vegetarian Times:

In promising an examination of "the most important issues in the debate" about industrial wind power, Caroline Kettlewell proceeded to deliver instead an unbalanced promotion for the wind industry.

Whereas she introduced each objection only to shoot it down with an unexamined riposte from one of the industry trade groups, she presented each of the claims in favor of wind power without question. The only sources suggested for more information were the government's industry-friendly energy department and the wind companies' own lobbying and PR organization.

She even went further, mocking opponents as "otherwise" environmentally sensitive and now "freaking out."

But it is not "ironic" that many opponents come from the environmentalist community (including vegetarian animal rights activists like me). Concern for animal habitat and health is central to much of the opposition. What is ironic is that an article in Vegetarian Times so readily dismisses it.

Nobody claims that giant wind turbine facilities kill anywhere near as many birds as the rest of our industrial society, but that doesn't excuse them. One has to ask if the number of birds and bats they do kill is worth it. Advocates say (and Kittlewell dutifully repeats) that "every megawatt it generates is a megawatt that doesn't have to come from a conventional power plant," and that therefore it will reduce the threat to animal life much more than its own negative effect (like the "destroy the village to save it" argument from the Vietnam war).

A little research, however, quickly reveals that wind does not displace other sources to any significant degree and that even in Denmark it hasn't changed their energy use.

Turbines produce at their full capacity only when the wind is blowing above 25-35 mph. Below that the production rate falls off exponentially. In many regions, the wind is higher at night, but demand is low, so much of the power is not needed. Large base load plants can not be rapidly ramped up and down as the wind fluctuates. Those plants that can be quickly modulated do so at the cost of efficiency, thus causing more pollution.

The statement that Denmark "now gets 20 percent of its power from wind" is both misleading and inaccurate. Misleading, because "electrical power" is meant, which represents only about a fifth of Denmark's total energy use. Inaccurate, because around 84% of the wind-generated power has to be exported as it is produced when they can not turn down their very efficient combined heat and power plants.

Though there is much else in Kettlewell's article to argue, one should at least pause to consider what is required for wind to provide the nearly 2,000 billion kilowatt-hours of new electricity that we are projected to need by 2025. That represents an average load of more than 225,000 megawatts. Because wind turbine output varies with wind speed, their average output is typically a fourth of their maximum capacity, so we would require more than 900,000 megawatts of new wind capacity. Every megawatt of wind capacity requires about 50 acres, so we're talking about more than 70,000 square miles of wind plant -- most of it targeted for our last remaining rural and wild places.

And we'd still have to build an equal amount of conventional plants, because the typical wind facility does not produce any electricity at all about a third of the time and much less than its already low average for another third of the time.

Large-scale wind is clearly not a practical nor an environmentally sound alternative.

categories:  , , , , ,

September 14, 2014

Cowspiracy

There is one single industry destroying the planet more than any other. But the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. Clips:


Global Warming

Richard Oppenlander, author, Comfortably Unaware: “My calculations are that without using any gas or oil or fuel every again from this day forward, we would still exceed our maximum carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 ... all simply by raising and eating livestock.”

Kirk Smith, Professor of Global Environmental Health, University of California, Berkeley: “If you reduce the amount of methane emissions, the level in the atmosphere goes down fairly quickly, within decades, as opposed to CO₂ if you reduce the emissions to the atmosphere, you don't really see a signal in the atmosphere for 100 years or so.”

Demosthenes Moratos, Sustainability Institute, Molloy College: “The single largest contributor to every known environmental ill known to humankind – deforestation, land use, water scarcity, the destabilization of communities, world hunger – the list doesn’t stop – it’s an environmental disaster that’s being ignored by the very people who should be championing it.”

Will Tuttle, author: “Free-living animals made up, 10,000 years ago, 99% of the biomass and human beings, we made up only 1% of the biomass. Today, only 10,000 years later ... we human beings and the animals that we own as property make up 98% of the biomass and wild free-living animals make up only 2%. We’ve basically completely stolen the world, the earth, from free-living animals to use for ourselves and our cows and pigs and chickens and factory-farmed fish, and the oceans are being even more devastated.”

Oppenlander: “Concerned researchers of the loss of species agree that the primary cause of loss of species on our earth ... is due to overgrazing and habitat loss through livestock production on land and by overfishing, which I call fishing, in our oceans.”

Tuttle: “We’re in the middle of the largest mass extinction of species in 65 million years, the rainforest is being cut down at the rate of an acre per second, and the driving force behind all of this is animal agriculture: cutting down the forest to graze animals and to grow soybeans, genetically engineered soybeans to feed the cows and pigs and chickens and factory-farmed fish.”

Oppenlander: “Ninety-one percent of the loss of the rainforest in the Amazon area thus far to date, 91% of what has been destroyed is due to raising livestock.”


Ocean


Water
“One quarter-pound hamburger requires over 660 gallons of water to produce. Here I've been taking short showers trying to save water, to find out eating just one hamburger is the equivalent of showering 2 entire months. So much attention is given to lowering our home water use, yet domestic water use is only 5% of what is consumed in the U.S., versus 55% for animal agriculture. That’s because it take upwards of 2500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.”


Rainforest
“Our global rainforests are essentially the planet’s lungs. They breathe in CO₂ and exhale oxygen. An acre of rainforest is cleared every second, and the leading cause is to graze animals and grow their food crops. ... And it is estimated that every day, close to a hundred plant, animal, and insect species are lost through the rainforest’s destruction.”


Wildlife
Deniz Bolbol, American Wild Horses Preservation Campaign: “The government has been rounding up horses en masse, and we now have more wild horses and burros in government holding facilities – 50,000 – than we have free on the range. Basically you have ranchers who get to graze on our public land for ... about one-fifteenth of the going rate, and what the Bureau of Land Management has to do is say how much forage and water is on the land and then they divvy it up. They give so much to cows, so much to ‘wildlife’, and so much to the wild horses and burros, and what we see is the lion’s share of the forage and water’s going to the livestock industry. And then they scapegoat the horses and burros and say, ‘Oh there’s too many horses and burros, let’s move them.’ I always tell people that wild horses and burros are just one of the victims of the management of our public lands for livestock, because we also see the predator killing going on: wolves are now being targeted by ranchers. USDA has aircraft and all they do is aerial gunning of predators. All a rancher does is call and say, ‘I’ve got a coyote here’, and they’ll come over and they’ll shoot the coyote, or they’ll shoot the mountain lion, or shoot the bobcat. And this is all for ranchers.”


Population
“Some people would say the problem isn’t really animal agriculture, but actually human overpopulation. In 1812, there were 1 billion on the planet. In 1912, there were 1.5 billion. Then just 100 years later, our population exploded to 7 billion humans. This number is rightly given a great deal of attention, but an even more important figure when determining world population is the world’s 70 billion farm animals humans raise. The human population drinks 5.2 billion gallons of water every day and eats 21 billion pounds of food. But just the world’s 1.5 billion cows alone drink 45 billion gallons of water every day and eat 135 billion pounds of food. This isn’t so much a human population issue – it’s a humans eating animals population issue. Environmental organizations not addressing this is like health organizations trying to stop lung cancer without addressing cigarette smoking, but instead of second-hand smoking it’s second-hand eating, that affects the entire planet.”

“You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period.”

—Howard Lyman, former cattle rancher, author, Mad Cowboy


“To feed a person on an all plant-based vegan diet for a year requires just one-sixth of an acre of land. To feed that same person on a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy requires three times as much land. To feed an average U.S. citizen’s high-consumption diet of meat, dairy, and eggs requires 18 times as much land. This is because you can produce 37,000 pounds of vegetables on one-and-a-half acres but only 375 pounds of meat on that same plot of land.

“The comparison doesn’t end with land use. A vegan diet produces half as much CO₂ as an American omnivore, uses one-eleventh the amount of fossil fuels, one-thirteenth the amount of water, and an eighteenth of the amount of land.

“After adding this all up, I realized I had the choice every single day to save over 1100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, the equivalent of 20 pounds of CO₂, and 1 animal’s life. Every single day.”

References and calculations

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism

April 10, 2013

Cropland better used for feeding humans

To the Editor (Valley News, April 10, 2013):

Chuck Wooster ("Upper Valley Is an Animal Landscape," April 7) observes, "Most of the agricultural land in the Upper Valley is upland pasture, too steep for cultivating for crops." Yet he also tells us that the sheep he doesn't slaughter "spend all winter devouring ... one luscious bale of hay after another."

In other words, animal agriculture in the Upper Valley depends on a tremendous amount of plant cultivation. As Wooster notes about the grain used for larger-scale animal agriculture, the land that grows hay can be used for crops "that could more efficiently be fed directly to humans."

Feedlots and deforestation demonstrate the stark reality of all animal agriculture as wasteful, cruel, and unnecessary.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism, Vermont

July 10, 2009

Sham citizen wind energy activism in Washington state

"Wind Farms Trump Local Land-Use Laws, Washington Governor, Court Decide", by Penny Rodriguez, Heartland Institute, February 1, 2009:
Todd Myers, director of the Washington Policy Center, is skeptical of the promised benefits of wind power but nevertheless applauded the Washington Supreme Court’s decision.

“In many ways this decision can be seen as the opposite of the facts presented in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London,” Myers said. “Here we have state government preserving property rights when local governments are trying to restrict them.

“If farmers want to earn money by putting windmills on their property,” Myers continued, “we should honor their right to do so when reasonable. Local decisions are certainly preferable to those imposed from the state or federal level, but individual property rights should be given the highest priority.

“There are problems with our energy policy, including renewable portfolio standards and preferential renewable subsidies. But denying property rights is not the proper way to deal with those problems. I hope the supreme court will apply the same logic when it comes to other permits and not just wind farms,” Myers said.
"Launched in 2003, ["think tank"] Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment focuses on free-market solutions to environmental issues."

Todd Myers is also the executive director of Windworks Northwest, which has just produced a 15-minute video about how crucial it is to get more giant wind turbines into Kittitas County.

As one Fennelle Miller states in the film, wind turbines are a community good that require unfettered property rights to impose them on the community.

This cynical exploitation of climate change fears for such a blatant pro-development agenda, this twisting of environmentalism to mean the very opposite, this opportunistic milking of federal and state subsidies in the name of free enterprise ... well, there's nothing new here. It is just a tiresomely predictable part of human history that nobody should think we are ever free of. And it is not surprising, but saddening nonetheless, that so many otherwise perhaps sane and decent people still fall for it.

The Windworks Northwest film also includes "Dr." James Walker, who is described as "president, american wind energy association". Since last year, though, Walker has been the past president of the AWEA board of directors. What the film also does not note is that he is the vice chairman of the board of Enxco, the company on behalf of whose project the film was made.

And the chairman of Windworks is Robert Kahn, whose company managed the permitting process of the Stateline Wind Project for Florida Power & Light in 2000-2002.

Deceit infuses the film, which is little more than a disjointed intercutting of non sequitur sound bites.

Windworks' "Who Are We": "We believe that the number of wind power plants in the Northwest needs to expand because more wind power means less CO2 emissions and greater U.S. energy security." And anyone who questions those reasons, unless he's executive director Todd Myers himself ("skeptical of the promised benefits of wind power"), is a Nimby aesthete. And anyone who supports industrial expansion heedless of neighbors human and wild is an environmentalist voice for freedom.

If anyone doubted that almost everything about big wind is a sham, Windworks Northwest has helpfully made it extra clear.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, animal rights, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

September 3, 2008

"What about animal rights?"

As reported in January for the AP by Nedra Pickler, that question was posed to Barack Obama at a meeting in Henderson, Nevada.

He closed his reply with:

"I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other. And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals."

human rights, animal rights