The Art of Misdirection

Veggies from Vegan Garden
It's because carrots don't scream
Elizabeth Farrelly is a writer in Australia, and she has opinions!

Her most recent opinion is entitled, In a vegetarian's world, no one can hear a carrot scream.

She is totally serious too.

"And who's to say carrots don't feel pain when mercilessly chopped, diced or julienned? Why is it not arrogant and unfeeling to boil a beetroot?"

Oh no, never heard that one before! 

Last time the world checked, plants lack a central nervous system. They don't have pain receptors. Cows, goldfish, pigs, dogs, horses, chickens, cats, parrots, rabbits, sheep, goats, turkeys, humans...they all do.

People who argue plants experience pain always seem to do so in context of an animal rights debate. Do they sit down to a salad and, in front of their friends and family, seriously expound on the suffering the apple endured being pulled from its branch? Do they honestly tell their friends that the pain a dog feels when he is beaten is no different than the "pain" a carrot "feels" when it is pulled from the ground?

If so, they'd at least be consistent!

"You don't hear the same lobbyists for bacterial rights or even fish. Isn't the moral push for vegetarianism still anthropocentric, still just a form of speciesism? And doesn't this make it, at best, inconsistent? On the one hand, we're told we shouldn't eat animals because they're just like us - animals. On the other hand, we're still special. There's no push to stop lions or grisly bears or currawongs or even Chihuahuas eating meat."

Bacteria? Seriously, bacteria? Bacteria are single-celled organisms with no central nervous system or nociceptors. They are incapable of complex emotions or thought. Fish are multicellular vertebrates with a central nervous system, pain-sensing neurons, and are capable of experiencing emotions, suffering. They can use tools, for crying out loud! Social fish species form complex relationships.

Reducing the suffering in this world is possibly anthropocentric - after all, humans seem to be the cause of most suffering. Modifying our dietary choices to reflect a consistent ethic of least harm or being more kind and compassionate, more sustainable...those are not anthropocentric reasons for being vegan. If someone argued that veganism is great for human health, and the health of humans is all that mattered, then yeah, that's a fair anthropocentric argument. It's not an ethical one, though, so Farrelly's supposition falls flat.

And appealing to nature? Really?!? Like lets look at lions for insight on what is and is not acceptable behavior. There's a reason no one walks up to a male lion and demands they stop killing offspring sired by other male lions. It's because he'd totally eat you. A lion has no biological choice in who she eats. If she wishes to pursue a life worth living (i.e. one in which she doesn't starve to death), as an obligate carnivore, she's going to have to kill another living being. And it is sad and sucks and nature is just a generally amazing and brutal place.

Should we use that as a marker for our own behavior?

Those of us lucky to live near grocery stores or able to have balcony, backyard, community or larger gardens can easily choose a diet that is sustainable, affordable, healthy and compassionate. That is, a plant-based diet. I'm not going out on a limb presuming Farrelly is one of the privileged in that regard. If a person can reduce their reliance on animal products but cannot eliminate them entirely, that's fine. Nurture compassion by adding fruits, veggies, grains and legumes while - whenever possible - reducing/removing meat, dairy and eggs.

Being vegan is about ethics. When we choose kinder options, we impact the world around us. If we are faced with two choices and one is to cause less harm, it is our moral imperative to pick that one. Even if it is uncomfortable or misunderstood.

Ella Taller Than A Barn!

Ella BellaElla is actually small but loves it when I take photos giving the illusion she is the height of a barn.

Last year, Ella did not even have a barn to call home. She escaped from a dairy farm, no longer interested in being milked or bred or losing her babies to auction.

The farm could not catch her, because Ella is wily and smart. She evaded capture and soon the farm gave up. Animal control tried to catch her and they too failed.

A woman noticed the lone goat and started the long process of befriending her. She bought hay and grain. She opened up a small barn for the goat to nestle down in at night, if she so desired. At no point did she ever push Ella.

But Ella needed a family, a herd. Other neighbors were not so kind, not interested in a goat running through their unfenced yards. Some were letting their dogs chase the little white goat. And others threatened to shoot her.

The woman needed to act fast. She called us and we drove out trailer out that day. A lone goat very quickly can become a dead goat. We thought it would take days to catch her. She would not come near us, and the sound of the trailer and truck frightened her.

We asked the woman to try. We hid, out of sight. It took her fifteen minutes to get Ella into the back of that trailer. Fifteen minutes. That doesn't encapsulate all of what it took to save Ella - it took an immense amount of patience and kindness too.

Now Ella is with a herd of rescued goats. She will live out her life at the sanctuary.

And she loves being taller than a barn!

Fish Are Super Cool - They Use Tools

This fish uses tools, people, tools! The fish digs up clams (sorry, buddies) swims over to a rock and uses that rock as a tool to bash open the clam!

Backyard Slaughter Reality Check

Not the actual rooster, Lord Byron was adopted!
She wrung their necks. I found two of them alive in the garbage.

We have a board in our office with a log of animals needing homes, requests from the public to rehome unwanted farm animals. It used to be the list for the month would fill 1/2 of the white board.

Now we need twice the space to keep up. The majority of them are about roosters, victims of the backyard chicken movement.

Two weeks ago, we received a  disturbing phone call. A man had found four of his roommates roosters in the garbage. Two of them were still alive. The woman had bought day-old chicks from a hatchery, four ended up roosters. When neighbors complained, instead of contacting the animal shelter or trying to find a home for them, the woman tried to break the animals' necks. She failed on two of them.

We rarely take roosters. Last year we rescued 140 chickens from a hoarder and 70 were roosters. It took a year to place the healthy ones. The rest remained with us, putting our rooster count in the double digits. Balancing the desire to help as many animals as possible with the welfare of our current chicken population is tricky, but it does mean we cannot take in even a small percentage of the roosters we get calls about. This month, we were asked to take in 25 unwanted roosters, almost all of whom were bought from hatcheries and incorrectly sexed.

But we said yes to these two roosters. Despite that, our calls were never returned and the fate of these roosters is unknown. The man refused to give any personal information - he refused to contact animal control or the police. Even if he had, even if there was incontrovertible proof of this woman's crime, very few prosecutors would choose to charge someone who inadequately slaughtered four roosters. Our hearts ache for these birds - they deserve so much better.

At the heart of this story is a very real, growing problem. Cities around the country are considering permitting the slaughter of sentient beings in backyards. They are considering allowing the raising of "livestock" in heavily populated, urbanized areas. And they are doing it with zero consideration of the animals themselves.

Caring for farm animals is no easy task, despite what "homesteaders" want you to believe. All species of farmed animals require specialized care, appropriate feed, medical/veterinary care, proper housing, and appropriate space to keep them healthy and happy. Anyone with a dog knows they need more than just a bowl of food and water a day to thrive. A pig's ability to enjoy life is no different than a cat's. A chicken's ability to emote is no different than a dog's. In an already cruel world, it seems society should focus on compassionate choices, ones that nurture joy and kindness.

Backyard slaughter does none of that. It does not "connect" anyone to "food" anymore than a pre-packaged slab of animal carcass does. It does not emulate the real conditions of farm animals in this industrial world. And it completely dismisses that when we are given a choice to cause less harm, we shouldn't bring out the knife. Killing a sentient, feeling being simply to "experience" the act of killing or to be "closer" to one's "food" source is outlandish and ludicrous. Especially in a country where most of us (and nearly all of the people who seem heck bent on wanting to kill animals) can either a) grow fresh organic produce or b) purchase fresh organic produce that is cheaper than raising an animal for slaughter.

If you live in the United States, chances are you have better access to healthy food than other regions of the world. If you are already living in an urban area, you have better access to healthy food than areas that are more rural. If you are living in a middle-class or wealthier region, you have access to healthful foods more so than impoverished areas. You enjoy a privilege not everyone does. To sully that by spilling blood is offensive and ignores that wonderful access to fresh, organic produce and grains and legumes that can easily supplant animal products.

And if you don't have easy access to healthy foods, contact organizations like the Food Empowerment Project to start changing that. We need more fresh foods that are sustainable and healthy, and that don't - by necessity - require the unnecessary taking of a life.

If you don't want to see blood in your neighbor's backyard, speak up and out for yourself and the animals. Write to your elected officials and attend city council meetings. Write letters to the editors of your local paper. If you live in Oakland, join Neighbors Opposed to Backyard Slaughter and stop the relaxation of zoning laws to allow urban slaughter.

We already live in a country that slaughters 10,000,000,000 land animals each year. Let's not add to that cruelty by allowing more.