Sunday, April 15, 2007

PETA is at it Again

PETA is at it again. That’s the organization called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Let me start off by saying that I don’t have anything against any individual who has decided, for whatever reason, to defend the rights of animals. Animals, by and large, have only the rights we humans decide to give them. But I understand that we need to treat most of them nicely when possible, vermin notwithstanding.

But, due to a traffic incident involving one of the carriage rides in Indianapolis, PETA now wants the city to ban the rides altogether. It’s annoying to get behind one of those slow-moving vehicles, but they are great for the city’s tourism. And, as usual, PETA has overreacted.

Most PETA members would have us all become vegetarians, too. People can be vegetarians if they want to, but I don’t understand why they would. Not that my lack of understanding would make a difference to those who have chosen not to consume meat products, but I would still like an explanation.

There doesn’t seem to be any religious reasons for being a vegetarian. I can’t find any prohibition against eating meat in the bible. Jews seem to be convinced that God doesn’t want them to eat pork or lobster, while Hindus are equally convinced that eating beef is a no-no. But on the whole, there doesn’t seem to be anything against eating meat in general.

There are those who claim to avoid meat for health reasons. I’m not sure exactly where these people got their nutrition facts, but the real fact is eating meat is a healthy and natural way for humans to get their daily protein requirements.

Our ancestors ate meat – a lot of meat. Anthropology studies indicate that we did eat seeds and, when available, some fruit. But the staple of our human diet has always been meat. And, contrary to what was once believed, most primates consume meat on a regular basis. Our nearest living relative, the chimpanzee, even forms hunting parties occasionally.

Now, there are those who claim that they do not like the taste and/or texture of meat. But there are as many varieties of meat as there are vegetables. It’s difficult to believe that they can find no variety or method of preparation that isn’t revolting to them.

And then there are the militant vegetarians. They are not only vegetarians themselves, they want everybody to be vegetarians or vegans. Vegans are those who not only refuse to eat meat, but refuse to use any kind of animal product at all, such as eggs, butter, leather, or feathered quill pens.

PETA is one such militant pro-animal organization. I have no qualms about treating animals ethically, but some people take it too far. After all, animals are under the domain of humans, both from an evolutionary standpoint and a biblical one.

And so if PETA gets its way and convinces the politicians to outlaw the horse-drawn carriages from the streets of Indianapolis, will they go after the Amish next? The Amish drive their buggies down the highways of Northern Indiana and several other states.

Perhaps if these PETA folks were getting all the right kinds of protein and B-complex vitamins, the kind gotten from eating animal flesh, they wouldn’t be so up in arms all the time. After all, if God had not meant for us to eat animals, he wouldn’t have made them out of meat.

5 comments:

Jesse Hogan said...

Hello, thanks for writing this. I am strongly in favor of animal welfare but I can see how people have come to believe that PETA often overreacts. I don't know much about the carriage incident you wrote about but you seem to be making a sensible argument against PETA for this. You article did bring up some other issues about animal welfare and animal rights that I would like to discuss though.

I chose to not consume any products that were produced from or by an animal. The reason isn't that complicated. It's simply that I am aware of what practices are used to raise animals in factory farms. Take for example chicken growing. When a chick is born in factory farm one of the first things that happens is their beaks are burnt off (I'll explain why later). The beak is an important part of a chicken and is loaded with nerve endings. There is scientific evidence that this causes acute pain for the first few days after the procedure and chronic pain for 4-6 weeks (as one would expect). While the birds are growing they spend there lives in a cage so small they can't move around or stretch. They aren't allowed to roam free. If they still had their beaks they would peak each other to death out of frustration. Under their cages is their excrement. The ammonia levels can be blinding. When they are sent to be slaughter they are dipped in electrified water to kill them quickly. Research has shown that they are still conscious because the shock isn't strong enough. Mechanical blades sever their necks. Often these fail. The next step is for the chicken to be immersed in boiling water. Often the birds are finally killed at this stage because the previous methods failed. So they are boiled alive. There are horror stories like these for every other livestock animal I know of.

This might sound surprising but I would eat meat if I was assured that animals weren't abused to the extent they are in factory farms. If a person brings an animal into this world then I don't see anything wrong with the person deciding when it dies.

I'm not a dietitian but vegetarian diets are usually considered healthy and not a risk and are often encouraged for health reasons. Perhaps certain people (the elderly or sick maybe) would need to make sure they are getting enough protein or B12 but these can be found in other foods and in supplements. I can't speak much to this because its never been a problem for me.

Our early ancestors did eat meat of coarse. But they also did a lot of harmful things to each other and themselves which we wouldn't do today. I'm for improving on their ethical standards.

I think that since animals are under our domain we should take care to ensure they aren't harmed (or in the case of factory farms: tormented).

an animal life said...

Jerry,

Very well said. I thoroughly agree with your comments.

I would be interested to know where Jesse hogan got the information on the welfare standards of intensive livestock farms. It seems to be a little different from any chicken rearing facility here in North America.

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is all these poor abused animals, that according to peta are tortured during their lifetime. Whose bones are broken. Who are starved and beaten and have to live on a diet of drugs to stay alive, miraculously heal after death to form the beautiful roasts, chops, and juicy chickens (I have yet to buy a roasting chicken with a broken bone) that adorn the supermarket shelves.

Canada and the USA have high standards of welfare for farm animals. There would be no benefit to treating animals the way peta claims. It is in the best interest of the producer to treat his animals well, because clean, healthy, happy animals grow more efficiently and therefore produce more profit.

Jesse Hogan said...

"an animal life":
I see you met my last post with skepticism. We seem to have two very different views on the way animals are turned into food. Likely, we are both wrong on something and right on others so lets see what we can do to get closer to the actual truth of the matter since this seems to be an important topic to the both of us.

Canada and the USA do have higher standards than other parts of the world such as the Middle East. But this is saying very little. And the few laws that are on the books are rarely enforced.

Organizations like PETA have every incentive to exaggerate but as much as I have read in books, on the Internet and in newspapers I can't find any evidence that there is anything deceptive in their critique of the animal food and experimentation industries. Other then a high degree of emotionalism and activism I don't see much exaggeration either. If you have any information you can send me to convince me otherwise I would feel grateful to you for showing me that animal welfare isn't such a big concern. This would make it possible for me to enjoy a much more diverse diet and I wouldn't have to worry about whether a product I buy was used in animal experiments. I could also feel, like you do, that livestock animals, for the most part, live comfortable lives free from the suffering that I have assert they are under.

It is possible, of coarse, to burn a chicken's beak off, force it to live its life in a cage, boil it alive and still produce a delicious cut of meat. You can also castrate a cow without pain killers, give it 3rd degree burns (branding), cut its head off and still produce a tasty stake. In fact, castration increases profits because the meat is tastier and the bulls are more docile. (see http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/an_sci/extension/animal/news/janfeb96/jf963art.html) You can strip off the skin of a sheep (mulesing) and still produce a comfortable sweater. I could go on but you get my point.

Food producers are motivated by the same factors that any other industry is. Cheap rent (small spaces to produce their product) cheap labor and quick time to market, etc.... Empathy hurts the bottom line so any effort at it would be bad for business. In a free market, the most un-empathetic meat producing companies are naturally the most successful. I have heard that free range chickens do taste better but producing chicken this way is certainly not the norm.

If you do decide to post again can you please describe the chicken rearing facilities that you have been to and let me know where I was wrong because I was talking about North American chicken factories. And, to be clear, I was writing about factory farm practices such as those used by Tyson and their competitors. Family farms, of coarse, are run very differently.

Jerry Wilson said...

My original column was written to point out my view of how PETA overreacts to perceived threats to animals. They are lobbying Indianapolis city council to ban horse-drawn carriages because of the danger they present to horses. But I contend the horses are in no more danger than the people riding in the carriages. And yet, PETA says nothing about that. If it's reasonably safe for the riders, then it's safe for the horses.

PETA looks for every excuse to get involved in any way to protect animals, no matter what the cost to the economy. They convinced a town in NY a few years ago to chain its name from Fishkill to Fishsave. How ridiculous is that? I'm sure fishermen are now compelled to think long and hard about baiting that hook.

Having an agenda is one thing. But keep it real. People are going to eat meat, so producers are going to keep growing it for consumption. They are going to continue to use horses for transportation. They are going to continue to hunt and fish.

The only real purpose PETA serves, other than preaching to the choir, is to piss people off.

Alex said...

In regard to the fact that religion does not advocate vegeterianism, from the Wikipedia entry on vegeterianism: "Most major paths of Hinduism hold vegetarianism as the ideal, this is for a variety of reasons based on different beliefs. For many Hindus, it is a textually-advocated belief in ahimsa (nonviolence),[17] to avoid indulgences (as meat was considered an indulgence), and to reduce bad karmic influences. For others (especially within Vaishnavism and the bhakti movements), it is because their chosen deity does not accept offerings of non-vegetarian foods, which the follower then accepts as prasad."

Also, "According to the Bible, in the beginning, men and animals were vegetarian.[26] After the flood, God permitted the eating of meat.[27] Some Christians believe that the Bible explains that, in the future, men and animals will return to vegetarianism.[28]"

Not that religion is a good reason to do anything.