Vegetarianism and Facing the Harsh Reality of Animal Cruelty
I wasn’t going to blog today, but I will, as this discussion came up in another chat-group that I am a member of, and I feel compelled to share my thoughts. Having written the below for the other thread, I will amend a few words and re-post it here.
We were discussing the quite disturbing movie Earthlings.
The movie is frank, open, somewhat biased, and quite graphic and disturbing, and the message is vitally important. If you have a strong stomach and want to watch it, you can view the whole thing live online, at earthlings.com
I have to admit, this movie really IS pretty heavy! It’s hard to watch for anyone with a loving soul.
By now, if you have been following my blog, you know my feelings on all this guys - eating meat is good, but only from animals treated with respect and raised naturally. MotherNaturesDiet makes my feelings very clear about this.
If you watch the movie Avatar, that notion of all living things being a part of the whole (in the movie, on Pandora they call it Eywa, for years we humans have talked of the concept of Gaia, Mother Earth) and you see when they kill an animal in combat of for food, they respectfully thank it for its life and its contribution to their life. It may just be Hollywood, but there is a LOT of good karma in that way of thinking. Do you know what I mean?
If you read the fantastic book ‘The Vegetarian Myth’ by Lierre Keith (how I wish I had written that most excellent book!) it will massively open your eyes (it did for me) to how the circle of life really works at a biological level. Vegetarians chomp on plants all day that only grow because the dead and decaying bodies of a million small insects and animals gave their waste, their blood, their bones and their organs to nourish the soil and give the plant life. All living organisms on Earth are incontrovertibly connected and all sustain one another in an endless cycle. In my book that I am writing I cover this topic extensively, in fact you could argue that this is basically what the whole book is about.
Every animal on Earth gives its waste and eventually it’s life to sustain other organisms, there is really no such thing as a vegan, a vegetarian or a carnivore…these are simply words we humans have invented to label and categorise ourselves. Nature would not recognise these distinctions, Mother Nature sees a lion eat a wildebeest, and Mother Nature sees a tree grow from the remains of a dead lion nourishing the soil (the tree ‘eats the lion’ in terms of the flow of nutrients through living organisms); nature sees a vulture pick the carcass of an animal, and the vulture’s faecal waste nourishes soil elsewhere, as does the vultures blood when it dies, and from that soil grows a plant, which is eaten by a wildebeest, a bontebok, a zebra or a hartebeest, which in turn is eaten by a lion, who in turn dies in old age and is eaten by hyenas and vultures…as his blood soaks into the soil nourishing more plants, and so the cycle endlessly loops. Mother Nature is in no rush, she sees these nutrients flow from one living organism to another, passing every time through the soil, through the bellies of a thousand worms, and so it goes, on and on forever. Perfect, balanced, natural science. More perfect than anything man made.
Plants (vegetables, fruit trees, etc.,) will NOT grow unless the soil is rich in potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus. Those minerals can ONLY come from ANIMAL waste and the blood, bones, organs and flesh of dead animals. Animals means anything from the tiniest aphid to the largest elephant. The inescapable truth is, that the broccoli, bananas, celery, cucumber, spinach and strawberries that the vegetarians among us so love to eat, their conscience clear that no animal has died for their meal, simply could not grow without those minerals, and those minerals cannot come from anywhere but animals – or oil.
Where modern agriculture has stripped the minerals from the soil, by planting too much too intensively for too many seasons, growing more plants than the soil can sustain, taking OUT those essential minerals so much faster than the dying and decaying animals can put them back in, then the soil won’t grow crops any longer. So humans came up with a solution: artificial fertilizer. Starting with the ever popular ‘black gold’, mankind invented the Haber Process, and artificial nitrogen fertilizer was born out of crude oil. Now, we suck up 30 million year old oil fields off shore (let’s not even talk about the environmental destruction of the oil mining business, and the ghastly marine life destruction when there is a big spill) and turn much of that oil into artificial fertilizer (and also pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, etc.,), containing those minerals, and we spread it on fields in vast quantities, enabling the broccoli and carrots and apple trees to grow.
After fuel for transport, artificial fertilizer is the second largest use of crude oil on the planet. So this argument that we can stop animal cruelty by feeding the whole planet on grains and vegetables…will only work until the oil runs out, then what do we eat?
Still think vegetarianism is the solution? What about the rivers that are diverted and stripped to a trickle in order to irrigate those fields of corn and wheat? What of the billions of fish killed and the rivers depleted in order to grow those crops? What of the effluent problem? Because artificial fertilizer encourages such intensive, industrial farming, and the fertilizer is so heavily subsidized, particularly in the US, farmers systematically over-use it, applying far too much, which is washed off by rains into rivers and out into oceans. The farm run-off that flows into the Mississippi River has created a hypoxic zone (dead zone) in the Gulf Of Mexico which is the size of Slovenia. Billions of fish killed, choked and starved and suffocated in a bath of acidic chemical muck, to grow that lovely vegetarian friendly corn and wheat.
What of the land animals displaced by those vast wheat and soy bean farms?
What of the hedgerows disrupted by intensive farming, and all the animals displaced by habitat loss?
What of the billions of small rodents, the bugs, flies, beetles, spiders, worms and other lesser creatures killed by all the insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides sprayed on the crops vegetarians say are cruelty-free?
There is no food for which another life-form hasn’t died
Look, I utterly respect everyone else’s dietary beliefs and choices, but I am afraid vegetarians, while usually some of the kindest, most compassionate people on earth, are deluded if they think that eating broccoli all day long means they are not eating other living creatures. I have nothing at all against vegetarianism, and I truly respect the vegetarian choice, and I support and applaud anyone who takes a stance against animal cruelty.
I eat meat, lots of meat. I ONLY eat meat from sustainably farmed, free range, organic sources. I go out of my way, and spend over the odds, to buy meat that is from natural sources, organic venison, wild game, outdoor reared cattle, grass fed, hormone free. I do NOT agree with the ghastly mistreatment of animals which is depicted in the sad, but grossly myopic movie Earthlings.
The reality is, that these ghastly grain crops, grown so intensively the world over, are grown from the dead carcasses of all creatures great and small, or from 30 million year old dead trees and animals, which have pooled into oil. There is no other way to grow fruits, grains and vegetables. And many of the intensive farming processes involved, are utterly destructive of life, of all birds, fish and animals, of all shapes and sizes.
Circle of Life
So vegetarians have a choice, in my opinion, accept the fact that their precious plants grow from the dead bodies of a million worms, frogs, rats and squirrels, or accept the fact that artificial nitrogen fertilizer is the second largest use of crude oil in the modern world, after transport fuel, but neither are the virtuous picture of purity that most vegetarians like to think they are. Please believe me, I am not attacking anyone here, I was ‘near enough’ a vegetarian for 3 years, and everything I talk about here on this blog comes from years of learning on my part. The ugly truth is that feeding 7 billion people is NEVER going to be healthy, natural, AND sustainable on a wider scale.
Just because a worm doesn’t have big brown dough eyes, is it any less of an animal than a cow? Just because spiders give most people the creeps, are they any less one of God’s creatures than sheep? A typical cubic meter of good natural top soil contains 10,000 worms. There are approximately 9,500 times as many beetles on earth as humans. Those worms and beetles made the plants and flowers grow, their poop and their dead bodies, their blood and shit nourish the soil and feed us, and without them we would all die.
Surveys have shown, humans feel bad about eating something with a face - cows, sheep, pigs, dogs, horse, etc., - but most of us don’t care about spiders, bees, bugs and slugs.
In my opinion, the animal welfare argument of vegetarianism is an idealist utopia. I dearly love animals, I want to subscribe to that utopian myth myself, but it is a façade. The circle of life, so perfectly and beautifully designed by Mother Nature, is one of life and death. There cannot be one without the other. In the NATURAL order of things, death is rarely kind, gentle or stress free. As a lion chases a wildebeest, the poor wildebeest running for its life, its heart pounding, lungs bursting, stress hormones pumping through its veins, the lion catches its leg and it goes down in pain…there is fear, the smell of death, the animal will shit itself in fear as the lion mercilessly rips its throat out. Yet we cringe at our own cruelty as we put an animal to death for us to eat.
Billions of years of life and death
Treating animals cruelly in life is wrong, but killing them so we can eat, is natural. All life on Earth exists only within the endless cycle of birth and death, as the flow of minerals and elements sustains the endless variety of organisms that make up our world. Even Life on Earth itself, is a story of life, given to us by our Sun, and death, as surely in 500 million years our Sun will grow rapidly in size and our small blue planet will be fried to a crisp and all life will cease as every living thing is starved, burned, fried and boiled to extinction.
Mother Nature, in her amazing, intricate, infinite and beautiful wisdom, has spent 4.5 billion years ensuring that every cell on this planet is related, locked into the infinite cycle of life and death, the amazing Circle of Life. There is no guilt nor shame in eating the dead flesh of another animal, it is perfectly natural and it is basically why we all exist, to feed each other.
The shame of the human race is not that we kill other living creatures, it is how disrespectfully we TREAT other living things while they are alive. Search ‘CAFO’ on Google images, and feel the shame of humanity. CAFO is how we treat animals. It’s how the Nazi’s treated other humans at Auschwitz. Prejudice. Bigotry. Racial hatred. Superiority. Search ‘Chittagong ship breakers’ to see how the rich world dumps its rubbish on the poor, with little respect for the health and safety of our fellow man. Search ‘children live in garbage dumps’ to see how the poor humans live - if we treat other members of our own species so poorly, is it any wonder we have no respect for other species which we view as inferior to ourselves?
These seemingly unrelated topics are really all the same, they are all examples of how, sadly, so many humans put profit and status in modern society, above respect for other living creatures, and respect for our beautiful planet.
Don’t be a part of the problem, be a part of the solution
The best way to stop battery farming is to ensure you don’t support it. Ensure you don’t buy supermarket chicken unless it stipulates free range with Soil Association approval. Buy fish with the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) seal of approval. Buy local, organic, free range animals. Buy organic vegetables and fruits. If you have time and space, grow some of your own. We all like to blame farmers for using chemicals, then we spread slug pellets around the flowers in our gardens. Is there any difference? It’s all petro-chemicals.
Don’t buy the ‘standard’ meat products in the supermarket. Know where your food comes from, ask, question the butcher, question everything. Ensure you don’t support the appalling commercial practices of big food and agriculture companies by looking into where YOUR money is invested – your pension, your savings, your mortgage: find out where your investments are held and look into the CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) of those corporations. If your pension is invested in big food companies, and big chemical companies, and big agricultural firms, then you are a shareholder in these firms, and you are funding their bad practice. Ethical investing needs to be about more than just weapons and tobacco.
I took my 5-year old daughter to one of my local farm shops with me today. We went here - http://www.nestonparkfarmshop.com/ They keep their pigs and cows in fields around the shop, and they encourage children to walk the paths between the fields…we stroked two pigs and fed them handfuls of long grass and watched one rolling in a muddy puddle and grunting with delight. Then we went into the shop and paid 30 quid for a big shoulder of pork. I told my daughter that we had bought meat from one of those pigs. I explained that the pig had enjoyed a nice life, romping in mud and sleeping in the warm midday sun, just like the pigs we watched today. I will feel no guilt or shame eating my Sunday roast tomorrow and teaching my children where real food comes from.
This afternoon we walked through fields by a river and had to walk through a field full of cows and one very big bull. My wife and 3 kids walked timidly behind me and we gave the bull plenty of space. He had about ten females in the field to ‘keep him company’, so I think he was feeling pretty chilled out, but we gave him space all the same. We stood looking at these big brown cows and I explained to my kids that they were being bred for beef, and in 9 months time one of these cows would be on our dinner table. I feel no shame in this, they looked like very happy cows to me, they had a big field, lush grass, a river to wade in, trees to rub against and sit under for shade, they looked happy and healthy.
Meat, per se, and our eating meat, should not be labelled as the bad guy, human behaviour should be. I personally see no shame in taking the life of another animal in order to sustain my life. That is the way Earth is created and that circle of life is utterly natural and unavoidable. The nature in which we breed and keep those animals, and the way we ultimately take that life, is where all the shame comes into our behaviour.
Change the world one dinner plate at a time, be accountable, change starts within ourselves, spread the word. Vote with your wallet, shape the world you want to live in. Every one of us, and our individual actions, make a difference.