Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Use Advertising to Raise Consciousness

"No God?....No Problem." That's the headline in a series of ads scheduled to appear in several cities in the US.

I just read in USA TODAY that the American Humanist Association is launching an ad campaign promoting its ethical life philosophy. Hurrah for them! While I am not a member of the association, I would consider my self a humanist based on what I know about their beliefs. They believe that striving to make the world a better place is one of humanity's most important responsibilities. "Religion does not have a monopoly on morality - millions of people are good without believing in God," says Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association.

This is of particular interest to me because I just recently raised this very idea of advertising to the makers of the film "A Peaceable Kingdom," about factory farming and the abuses and torture factory farm animals suffer within this industry. I feel strongly that if people were aware of where their meat came from, they would seriously take a second look at eating what is on their plates. Advertising has proven itself effective time and time again. And the all-powerful meat and dairy industry have used advertising quite effectively to continually dupe the public that there really are happy farm animals and satisfied dairy cows pumping out the milk! I wonder why organizations like the Humane Farming Association and PETA don't take this same tract with factory farming. You know what...I'm going to ask them! I encourage you to do the same.

Meanwhile, kudos to the American Humanist Association. It's time the word "atheist" comes out of the closet and not be associated with amorality or evil. A belief in God does not preclude "goodness" nor does a belief that there is no God. Only a strong moral standing and a belief system founded on doing no harm can one be truly considered "good."

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Inequality of Animals

It is admirable of the dressage community to concern itself with the welfare of the animal in training and performance (see current controversy over “hyperflexion” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hIXGiV4N4k). Wouldn’t it make sense then that these same individuals would also be zealous in discovering the horrific and torturous path factory farm animals take to become the meat on their plate?

It continually baffles me that people, especially those who claim to be animal lovers, compartmentalize animals in such a way that the abuses of one creature are of no concern, while the abuses of other creatures are rallied against and brought to the attention of authorities. It requires very little effort to understand the torment and abuses our pets can endure and do endure in inhumane circumstances. But, for some reason, the majority of us either do not wish to see or understand what factory farm animals endure, or we condone what they endure because we think it is a necessity to provide food on the table.

Both of these ways of thinking are erroneous. How are we to grow and learn if we shut off our minds to what is happening? It is amazing what we have accomplished and how ingenuous we can be to solve all kinds of problems. Why can’t we put our hearts and minds to helping resolve the issue of extreme barbaric treatment of farm animals and help make their lives less torturous. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone needs to become vegetarian or vegan. But, that is the fastest and easiest thing we can do because dollars talk. And the industry will have to take notice when demand slips. However, the more we discuss this issue and bring it to the forefront, the more attention it will get and the more food companies will be forced to face the public and talk about what is really going on.

And, for those of us who may have actually been exposed to factory farms and slaughterhouses and have seen for ourselves what these animals are put through, how can we condone this treatment? Do we really believe that these animals don’t feel the misery and pain? Do we think they are dumb? Do we think that they are only here to serve our needs and therefore do not get any other consideration? It has been shown, even by the farmers themselves who are with these animals every day, that in fact, these animals have complicated emotional lives and do attach themselves to each other and to their human caretakers. They are sentient beings in every way as complicatedly formed as we are. Their nerve endings and brain functions are fully formed and complex. They feel pain, they see pain and they anticipate pain. They sacrifice their lives for our appetites. In exchange, don’t we at least owe them a humane way of life?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Touching Lives…Each of Us has an Impact

I just learned of a high school classmate who passed away at a premature age from colon cancer. I am extremely saddened by this news and in my heart I am thinking of his loved ones who are left behind to deal with the tragedy. Though I was not close to him in high school, we were acquainted. I held him in such high esteem…he was beyond my social circle. He was a stellar athlete, excelling in football, basketball and track. He was an outstanding student. He was stunningly handsome. He was voted prom king. And he was the most polite and self-effacing gentleman anyone could ever come across. I’m not sure I exchanged any words with him…I don’t remember. But, if we did, it was in passing, with a brief glance and perhaps an acknowledgement as he may have walked by in a hallway to class.

He and his family probably have no idea how he, as one individual, affected other lives in such a positive way. I’ve thought of him over the years. Not often, but now and again…often enough to be surprised at how powerful an impression someone made on me who I actually had very little interaction with.

This just goes to show that you don’t have to be a celebrity of any kind to make a deep impact on one person or many people. Don’t be discouraged if you feel under-appreciated or that your best efforts are unrewarded. When you live your life according to your moral code and strive to excel to the best of your ability, others will notice. When your actions match your beliefs in all you do and you care enough about the world to seek out truth, you will stand out within a group. Maybe people will not openly tell you of how they feel. Maybe strangers or passing acquaintances won’t get the chance to interact with you. But, know that you will have made an impact.

And do speak out when you are inspired to do so. We all learn from one another. It’s not important whether someone disagrees with you…they become more knowledgeable by just hearing your opinion. That’s why I’ve been inspired to write this blog. By just having an opinion and sharing information, our care and passion are revealed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meet Meat

Meet Meat!
Do you know where your food REALLY comes from? Have you ever wondered about the impact a simple decision of what to eat can affect your health, the environment as well as the welfare of not only farm animals, but wildlife as well?
Like all the decisions we make in our life, choosing what to eat should be made with knowledge of what exactly we are basing our decisions on. This means that to make the right choices that are in line with our own philosophies and outlook as an individual, we need to be aware exactly what is involved in food production. No matter, what you as an individual decide to do with regard to food, those choices should reflect your conscience.
Therefore, the facts should be sought out. And luckily, that’s not hard to do in today’s day and age. We are fortunate to have talented, wise and unafraid people who go out and dig up the facts and then report to the public. We have more ways than ever to make this information available via books, newspapers, websites, blogs, etc...There is no excuse for NOT KNOWING. Find out the facts and then act accordingly. You are your own conscience, and whatever you choose, it IS right for you!
An easy way to start is the short video on youtube:
Meet your Meat
To know more, just search the internet! It’s all there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Eating Animals in a " Peaceable Kingdom"?

Thankfully, I have found new inspiration! For 30 years, I have been a vegetarian having disavowed any flesh of any kind ever since I took my introduction to Ecology class as a college freshman and learned about the massive destruction on the environment meat production causes. I’ve never wavered from my position and as the years passed I became more resolute after learning more and more about the progression of the meat industry to continue feeding an ever-growing human population and meet the demand for cheap food. The problems that we had over 30 years ago have now evolved and become so unsettling (most notably, the increased torture of all the living creatures involved whether they be human, fish, fowl or other farm animal),that I can no longer be content with just being a vegetarian. I can no longer abide by the abuses suffered by dairy cows and chickens to bring dairy and eggs to market. It is horrifying and nightmarish and as a compassionate human being, I must desist in supporting this barbaric industry.

I have become frustrated and disappointed with my efforts to get the word out about the abuses of the farming industry, as most people I’ve come across would rather not know how their food gets to their plate than face the grim reality of the cruelty and environmental havoc it takes. After all, ignorance IS bliss, apparently.

Over the years, I have been concerned about being labeled a nutcase, crazy fringe person and such for being a vegetarian. This no longer concerns me because I can not help but speak out. This issue must be made more public and as Michael Jackson puts it in his "This is It" concert film footage: “It’s US. It’s us that must make a change. Who’s “they”? It’s Us! We can’t wait…something must be done now."

As part of the St. Louis International Film Festival, I attended a screening of “A Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home.” I went knowing that I would be exposed to information I am already familiar with but I wanted to show my support. I knew I’d have to hold my emotions in check. But, the movie is so well done and takes many different perspectives that I found myself choking up about a quarter of the way in. The movie conveyed vividly the emotional lives of farm animals and how they are just as complete and varied as our companion animals. People have long been able to compartmentalize their pets from farm animals. After all, no one would allow their pet dog or cat be treated the way a cow or steer, pig or chicken, or even fish are brutalized in the industry. There is no pain control…NONE…in the farm industry. A chick’s beak is snipped off, tails are chopped off, bones broken, sores, bruises , bites caused by overcrowding, and then… to the slaughter line, aware of what is happening all the time. Not to mention, the mutilations and torture the stressed workers heap upon them, such as electric rods in eyes...I can't write anymore...it's too upsetting. Suffice to say, it is worse than anyone can imagine and worse than the most brutal treatment we can think of in history, such as animal sacrifice, animal testing, bullfighting, circus life, etc…There has never been this much brutal treatment on such a massive scale in all our history. The statistics are staggering…and sobering! 55 billion a year, EACH year, EVERY year. OMG...that is incomprehensible...but true! We need to open our eyes...all of us!

Refreshingly, the movie features professionals who have spent much of their lives within the industry operating as large-scale feedlot “ranchers” and chicken “farmers”. Their testimonials are powerful! One of those featured appeared in person and took part in a forum after the movie. He was knowledgeable and impressive. I was stunned by his expertise, honesty and compassion. I have new faith in humankind. I feel kindred spirits and have regained my heart and hope in trying to spread the word and effect change that will better all lives involved both human and farm animal.

I wish to thank a number of people who I don’t know (and they don’t know me, that’s for sure) for using their resources, power, creativity and talent to bring this issue to the forefront to try and make a difference:

The makers of a “Peaceable Kingdom”: Jenny Stein, Director; James LaVeck,Producer; Kevin Smith, Producer; and Harold Brown, featured subject and panel participant. Though I know many more are involved, I do not have that information. However, I do wish to extend an acknowledgement to PETA, who I did disparage during the forum because I had lost faith that they were involved in this cause. I believe that organization did support the making of this movie and are otherwise engaged in making efforts to effect change within the industry.

Michael Pollan: Author of “An Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and “ In Defense of Food.” Well written books, very entertaining, very informative and very honest and sincere. He reaches conclusions that are different than mine, but nonetheless, the reader is asked to search for himself using the knowledge he has gained about the industry to decide how he wants to live his life. I admired this sentiment more at an earlier time than I do now and after further reflection, especially after reading "Eating Animals,", I have reconsidered and think Pollan's position in the end is weak.

Jonathan Safran Foer: Author of “Eating Animals.” Wow, is all I can say. I am floored. What an inspiration. I can feel his passion seep (no, ooze) through the pages. I am savoring every word and I don’t want this book to end. If only I had the talent…this is the book I’d be writing.

Eric Schlosser: (OMG…I spelled his name right off top of my head…I just checked online to make sure!) Author of “Fast Food Nation.” Absolutely loved the book and liked the movie too even though it definitely was a flawed effort. I thought the movie whitewashed the important issues and focused on peripheral issues that diluted what could have been a very strong message. However, the soundtrack is outstanding and it needs to be more widely heard. It is emotive while it rocks! Great to listen to when running...talk about inspiring! Where is the promotion for it?

And all the other reporters, writers, journalists, authors, artists, etc… since the early 1900’s for caring and doing their best to get out the information!