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“We Should All Be So Lucky”

November 24, 2010

Photo by Marji; see "Walle’s Shadow" (link at end of post)

When asked, “If you could choose, how would you die?” no one ever answers, “I want someone who ‘loves’ me to chase me down, push me to the ground, slit my throat, and hold my arms and legs down while I flail in pain and terror and confusion. Oooh, better yet–I wish someone had done it when I was a kid or does it when I’m bursting with life and good health and have years ahead of me.” But some folks at Grist must run in circles different from any I’ve ever encountered because they’re convinced that this is a death to envy.

Yes, it’s that time of year, when most people in the United States pick up the body of a dead turkey at a grocery store with nary a thought to who the animal was and how she lived and died (and get angry when someone tries to discuss the matter); when vegans struggle with whether to attend family gatherings where bizarre thanks will be given for the dead body of a fellow animal whose unimaginable suffering and terrifying death made this “delicious” meal possible; and when people who don’t want to be looked at as one of those indifferent people and who want to label themselves compassionate and be patted on the back, without actually making a meaningful change, create and post self-serving commentaries like that this morning published by Grist writer Daniel Klein in his maddeningly titled “Giving thanks–to turkeys, without flinching.”

Of the loving-slaughter video he has created and shares (embedded at the bottom of this post), itself surreal at moments, Klein says, “It’s very touching, but also graphic.” And an unnamed editor has inserted this note just before the video: “it’s the kind of death we should all be so lucky as to have.” So we should assume that we’re about to see an elderly turkey going in her sleep right? Or a turkey lying peacefully in a field, surrounded by her companions, drifting off quietly?

Well, here’s what we actually get: self-serving rhetoric and emotion-manipulating production from the people doing the killing and a death that is as unnecessary and unjust as the death of any other animal killed for this violently themed holiday. It is not a somehow justifiable death, and it is not peaceful and without fear, not for the victim anyway. The turkey farmer talks the customers and viewers through the process, and how much of her overly romanticized pitch she has convinced herself of and believes, I don’t know, but I had a hard time with most of her remarks. They felt insincere, rehearsed, part of the presentation. First, as she and the customer are picking out a turkey:

“[To die] is their purpose.”
“It’s really important to show great respect to that life.”
“I love these turkeys; they’ve been very enjoyable to have around.”
“They’re good babies; I’ll miss them a lot.”

As everyone knows, when you respect and love fellow beings and feel enough attachment that you expect to miss them when they’re gone, and they’re “good,” “enjoyable” companions, you should, of course, kill them for a profit. That’s what love is all about. And of course, we humans–especially we white privileged humans–get to decide arbitrarily what the “purpose” is of other groups and individuals who differ from us. That’s just how it is, how it’s always been.

During all this, she naturally assures us of how important it is that the animal not be afraid when she dies–and that when the turkey jerks around later, seemingly pained and panicked, after having her throat sliced, it won’t mean she’s feeling anything; it’s just part of the process. Of course, the turkey cries out when they’re first grabbing hold of her and pinning her down, but we’re not supposed to interpret that as fear; she is just exclaiming her excitement at being chosen, perhaps? After she is subdued and being held tightly down, the farmer goes on about how calm she is, about how wonderful this is.

The farmer pets the head of the bird while restraining her and says in the falsely soothing voice she uses throughout, “This is what they’re here for, an amazing feast—you’re a beauty.” And her last words to the bird, at least in the video: “We’re very thankful to you.” As if this means anything to or matters to the bird.

And then the sappy music that’s been playing in the background, meant to manipulate our emotions and tell us this is something sweet and spiritual and only  mildly sad, not violent and brutal and unnecessary, gets louder so that we can’t hear quite as well, and our view of the bird’s whole body is restricted, and the farmer conveniently shields us from seeing the bird’s eyes as she jabs the knife in and pulls it across the young bird’s throat. Even with our view obstructed and a bag around her body (you don’t want to get those feathers any bloodier than you have to) and with two people holding her down, we can still see her trying to escape, jerking, panicking.

And as the bird’s fight subsides, as she unwillingly gives into death, the farmer exclaims how “amazing” it was and tells the customer, “That went really well” and, in what may have angered me as much as any other moment in its insincerity and ridiculousness, “What a sweet bird.”

The whole production (and I mean that term in multiple ways), from start to finish, is about the people and how they feel and how they want to be perceived, not the animals, as is the case in all of these (often hipster) so-called humane ventures into killing animals. All the words rang hollow. Every remark about how much the birds are loved, about how sweet they are, or about how supposedly wonderful their deaths are–meaningless to the birds. Meaningless. This is all designed to make humans feel better and to sugarcoat and obfuscate what is actually happening here. That the farmer and customers are “thankful” means absolutely nothing to the birds whom they kill, and rhetoric about painless, fear-free deaths is just that. Is this potentially less traumatic or less terrifying than how most turkeys are transported and slaughtered? Sure. But that doesn’t make killing unnecessarily for pleasure humane or right. And it sure as hell isn’t an act of love.

Killing an animal yourself or watching someone else kill him or her doesn’t make you brave. It doesn’t make you respectful. It doesn’t make the death any less unnecessary, unjust, and unjustifiable. Whether you kill her or someone else kills her means nothing to the bird. Life means something to that animal. You may get your carcass from a small-scale operation, or you may even kill the animal yourself, but that doesn’t make you deserving of praise. You may get pats on the back from yourself and your friends, but the handprints are bloody. You’ve still killed or paid for killing for purely selfish reasons. You’ve still taken a young life and consciously inflicted pain and fear for something as trivial as taste, when there are  so many vegan food options (including savory holiday roasts) out there that are not inherently violent.

That animal was an individual, with thoughts and feelings and joys and fears and friends and a wish to live. And there are few things more self-serving, dishonest, and preposterous than thanking someone (“without flinching”!) before, while, or after killing her for pleasure. Thanking your victims in advance means about as much in killing animals for pleasure as it does in raping women for pleasure.

The video ends with this quotation: “Coexistence… what the farmer does with the turkey—until Thanksgiving.”

It’s fitting for Thanksgiving, isn’t it? The same concept applied to the Native Americans, right? This is what we do with all animals, human and non, whom we classify as “other.” We will coexist with you for as long as that coexistence serves a purpose for us–and then we will mass-slaughter you and sugarcoat it and celebrate it. We will sweep the killing under the rug. We will have a holiday in which we dress up our kids in paper feathers and beaks and headdresses. We will pretend that we are compassionate, peaceful folks as we put on plays and create advertisements and send cards and display decorations that depict our very victims as happy to know us, as happy to celebrate this holiday with us.

There was nothing noble or humane or just about killing “others” hundreds of years ago. And there’s nothing noble or humane or just about it today.


Please see also “Walle’s Shadow” from Marji a couple weeks ago. Also of interest: “Rethinking Tradition” from Jenna of L.O.V.E.

89 Comments leave one →
  1. Wendy permalink
    November 24, 2010 11:48 am

    Another excellent post. I can’t stomach watching the video, but thank you for your commentary.

  2. November 24, 2010 11:48 am

    Another great post Stephanie. I have been vegan for over 10 years now, and I am grateful to those animals that teach me everyday that life is a blessing.

  3. November 24, 2010 12:39 pm

    Awesome read. Thank you for sharing!

  4. November 24, 2010 1:47 pm

    As always, thought provoking & articulate. I admit that over the years I have come to expect nothing less from your holiday posts. :)

    Quote: “Thanking your victims in advance means about as much in killing animals for pleasure as it does in raping women for pleasure.”

    Funny… that’s exactly where my mind was going while reading the beginning of that paragraph. I know I’ll feel better if a rapist thanks me first.

  5. November 24, 2010 2:05 pm

    “You may get pats on your back from yourself and your friends, but the handprints are bloody. ” True that. I’ve felt like a slacker for not writing a Thanksgiving post, but this is so much better than I could have done. Thank you.

  6. November 24, 2010 4:13 pm

    I love it when you get fired up Stephanie! Your words are anchored in crystal clear reality ignited with the passion that is inspired by the want of justice.

    But looking at their words… All twisted to mean something they don’t… Re-invented to make things sound like something other than what they are. Respect, love, kindness, peacefulness – They all do MEAN something. Their deeds are not only the gruesome butchery of life but of language as well. Thanks for putting it all in proper perspective. I know it must have been a painful post to write – But it all needed to be said.

    Happy ThanksLiving to all who truly value life. <3

  7. Olivia permalink
    November 24, 2010 4:58 pm

    Stephanie: like Lisa S., I have come to expect the best thinking in your posts, not only on the holidays, but always.

    Like Wendy, I cannot watch–in fact, I refuse to pander to their sick concept of a “kind” killing by sparing them a minute of my time.

    Gratitude is displayed by self-sacrificial deeds, by relinquishing one’s own “pet sins,” not by patting an innocent bird’s head while slicing her throat with a profession of thanks.

    Bea, excellent point: “Their deeds are not only the gruesome butchery of life but of language as well.” That reminds me of Joan Dunayer’s book “Animal Equality: Language and Liberation.”

    Here’s to all the gentle turkeys whose true purpose is not to be coveted, killed and consumed by man but to express and experience the vitality that is Life, the serenity of Soul, the sweetness of Spirit, the unselfishness of Love.

    • November 24, 2010 5:06 pm

      I’m not sure exactly why… but I watched it. It’s been a while since I’ve watched any videos (in fact, the last thing I watched was a clip of a dolphin slaughter about 6 months ago) so maybe it was about time for me to remind myself why I do what I do…

      • Olivia permalink
        November 24, 2010 5:19 pm

        I understand, Lisa. Sometimes I’ve watched things and been glad I did; other times I wish years later that I hadn’t. Glad you’re even more secure, after seeing it, in knowing, with deep feeling, why you do what you do. It’s a good motive. Bless you for that! :-)

      • November 24, 2010 6:21 pm

        I don’t usually watch things – I did a lot of that in the beginning when I first went veg. But now, it’s like I do it once or twice a year just to remind myself what this is all about.

  8. Louie Gedo permalink
    November 24, 2010 8:54 pm

    Very well put Steph….spot on!

    Our presumed personal choices end at the point where someone else’s real life is unnecessarily put in jeopardy by our actions. Just because we can cause or contribute to the demise of another individual (regardless of how less cruel than the standard it is), doesn’t mean in any way, shape, or form that such an act is morally rersponsible. Might never makes right.

  9. Greater Minnesota permalink
    November 24, 2010 10:38 pm

    joys and fears and friends and a wish to live… really?

    I’m offended by your stance specifically how it relates to Native American livelihood and the respect of animals killed for food – I find this post elitist – white and urban.

    • Sara permalink
      November 26, 2010 1:40 am

      Uh… hello? There is nothing derogatory or whatsoever elitist or “white” about this. She is in fact not on the “white” side and I agree wholeheartedly; in fact I choose to not celebrate thanksgiving because it’s a celebration of the mass-murder of native americans. If you understood the real truth behind “thanksgiving” you would know she is being the opposite from white elitist (duh!).

      READ and then please clarify what the heck you are talking about, Greater Minnesota. How could this possibly offend you when all she is saying is that there was such injustice done to native americans as well? Wake up! You obviously don’t understand.

      It’s fitting for Thanksgiving, isn’t it? The same concept applied to the Native Americans, right? This is what we do with all animals, human and non, whom we classify as “other.” We will coexist with you for as long as that coexistence serves a purpose for us–and then we will mass-slaughter you and sugarcoat it and celebrate it. We will sweep the killing under the rug. We will have a holiday in which we dress up our kids in paper feathers and beaks and headdresses. We will pretend that we are compassionate, peaceful folks as we put on plays and create advertisements and send cards and display decorations that depict our very victims as happy to know us, as happy to celebrate this holiday with us.

      There was nothing noble or humane or just about killing “others” hundreds of years ago. And there’s nothing noble or humane or just about it today.

  10. November 25, 2010 11:34 am

    “joys and fears and friends and a wish to live… really?”

    Yes, really.

    “I’m offended by your stance specifically how it relates to Native American livelihood and the respect of animals killed for food – I find this post elitist – white and urban.”

    I’m sorry, I didn’t see any Native Americans killing any turkeys in this video (or mentioned, except in reference to how Europeans destroyed them and their culture). I saw white, elitist, urbanites paying false homage to an idea perpetrated by a culture our ancestors decimated and destroyed over hundreds of years. If anything you should be offended that these people who have nothing but faked, false respect for the land and for the animals, are being compared to a group of sustenance hunters who were truly grateful for food they actually needed, and probably weren’t trying to sugarcoat what they did by calling their prey “sweet” or “babies”.

    It is offensive to compare these people to Native Americans, who I have worked with over several years in a number of capacities, on so many, many levels – starting with that we have (in general terms) raped them of the economic capital necessary to be involved in an operation like this.

  11. November 25, 2010 3:57 pm

    As a small sustainable farmer, and as a woman. I am truly offended by this post. I have taken time to read some of your other posts Stephanie, and the only way I can think to get my point across is to use your own words:

    “…it is too easy for us to demonize them [farmers] as our evil opposition and come across as merely hateful when we don’t know them as individual people.”

    You don’t know this woman- you have no idea how she lives, to judge her and her farm and her way of life is unfair. You don’t know Daniel or his mission. Stick to what you know and what you believe.

    Jennifer Peterson
    Duskwind Farm
    Episode 11 on The Perennial Plate

    • Olivia permalink
      November 25, 2010 8:14 pm

      Dear Jennifer Peterson,

      You have not seen Stephanie’s many posts both in this blog and in her previous blog where she has defended the decency and goodness of the many members of her family who are farmers and hunters. She has gone into unstinting detail about how much she loves them, and why she loves them. She has not badmouthed or deserted them, and they have not badmouthed or deserted her. But what she refuses to defend are her loved ones’ practices vis a vis wild animals and farm animals, practices that she has come to see are not only needless in today’s world, but harmful to our moral advancement, not to mention our ethical, economic and environmental health.

      It appears you do not consider the feelings of the animals to be of any import. It’s only humans’ feelings that seem to interest you. Why is that? Why do you resist identifying with the turkeys’ terror? How can you excuse their emotional pain, not to mention the physical torture, simply because it is relatively short-lived? Who taught you to block your innate compassion for all sentient beings? Are you afraid that you would be without meaningful work if you couldn’t depend on animals’ bodies for your income? If so, why is it that your fears are legitimate, but the turkeys’ fears are of no account?

      Honestly, if we were to substitute the turkey with a human and roll the video back to the mid-1800s, you might be a slave owner defending the capture and punishment of humans for daring to run away in search of freedom. After all, human slaves were perceived as vital to the profitability of a cotton plantation. The line that you are pretending exists between humans and other-than-humans was once legally but arbitrarily laid down to separate people by skin color in a country where all men were declared equal. Animals may not be equal in the same ways, but they do not deserve to be classified and treated as mere property. Someday that gross injustice to them will be reformed, thanks to thinkers and activists like Stephanie.

      I realize that Stephanie’s concept of fairness and compassion is foreign to you–and the reason I understand this is because it was once foreign to me. But a few years ago I dared to open my eyes and heart and mind. I dared to think out of the box. I dared to question my culture. I dared to be different. I dared to care about more than just the human race (and humans’ companion animals). I dared to side with life, not death at the hands of humans.

      And in doing so, I learned to embrace not only all animals, but also those struggling humans, who, I am convinced, deep down desire to escape the fetters of feeling superior — in a might-equals-right sort of way — to their creature kin. Having broken the chains of that false education, I now feel the freedom that comes with being a true friend to my fellow inhabitants of the earth. Every last one of them.

      This sentence by Count Leo Tolstoy has helped me question and examine and correct my motives and actions in recent years: “Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” May all of us become as little children.

      Truly, Stephanie is not demonizing anyone here. She simply tells the truth, which is obvious to those of us who have put ourselves in the turkey’s tender heart.

      I dearly wish you would be offended by your own practices instead of at Stephanie’s righteous and compassionate defense of all animals.

    • Olivia permalink
      November 25, 2010 8:53 pm

      I should have added the words “a self-sustainable lifestyle” or something like that when questioning your fear of being without meaningful work if you didn’t profit from using animals’ bodies. I say this because I went to your blogspot and read about why you and your husband left your careers to start your farm.

      I find it sad that you speak so heartlessly of that poor dairy cow, who obviously didn’t want to be taken from her baby and milked. You wouldn’t like it either. She dared kick Chuck, so she gets ground up into chuck. Lovely. And yet you are so compassionate toward your dear dog, Ben. The way these two equally harmless and affectionate species are categorized differently — one as food and one as friend — is bizarre to me, though, granted, it once seemed normal, when I was a captive of my culture.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        November 26, 2010 8:40 am

        What you’d written is right on the mark Olivia…thank you.

        It’s the choosen violent and unnecessary behavior (the exploitation and killing of animals) that Stephanie and others like her are opposed to…for all the right reasons.

        It would be a far better (more humane) world if everyone who could read Steph’s post would also oppose the exploitation and killing of farmed animals.

    • Wendy permalink
      November 29, 2010 4:54 pm

      What I know is that a person who owns an organic farm has the means to do other work. No, I don’t know this woman, but for gods sake, she KILLS when she doesn’t have to. And yes, it is that simple. Killing for profit. Well, at least she’s keeping the American myth going.

  12. November 26, 2010 7:12 pm

    I believe that if you want to make a change- lead by example. Telling others what you do to make a difference. What you eat, what you do to replenish the soil from which you eat? Olivia I am so glad that you read some of our blog. I would love for you to come out to our farm and actually see how we live and how we treat our animals. You know nothing of our cows, or our other animals, or in fact the way we live. I am glad that you have chosen a way in which you feel good to live. My family and I have done the same.

    Olivia I don’t know you and know nothing of your life. I have read some of Stephanie’s posts so she is the only one I can compare your comment to.
    You say, “It appears you do not consider the feelings of the animals to be of any import. It’s only humans’ feelings that seem to interest you.”
    In Stephanie’s bio she says she has two dogs both of which are vegan. How sad that she has not taken the time to understand how dogs should eat. They are in fact Omnivores and need meat in their diet. I am not sure if you have a dog or even a cat (cats are carnivores) I hope that you are not forcing them to eat a vegan diet because that would be as you say considering only your human feelings.

    Humans are in fact Omnivores, and yes some of us do not eat meat. But for those that do would you rather have them eat from corporate farms where animals are faceless. Or from a farm that actually knows the animals, treats them with dignity and respect. This you can only learn from actually coming to our farm.

    Humans have domesticated farm animals they no longer have the wild instinct. What do you suppose we do with the millions and millions of animals that are living in farms at the moment? These animals are no longer able to live without human intervention. I am not suggesting anything I am just wondering what you views are.

    As a vegan, what do you eat? What do you do to replenish the soils that grow your food? Do you directly know the farmer? Who do they hire? What are their values? I have looked at some of Stephanie’s blog posts but found no mention of these things. I have to admit I have not read all of them and maybe I missed something.

    You do not know me yet you have demonized me and my farm by saying I am equal to a slave owner. If you want to have an intellectual conversation about your way of life and mine, I would love to do so. I am not offended by Stephanie’s plight I am offended that she mocks my way of life and compares me to raping a woman. Again I personally believe that you lead by example, tell me what and how you live, not judging me for the life that I have chosen.

    • November 27, 2010 1:34 am

      Hello Jennifer… As for me the only thing I need to know about your farm is that at some point you decide to remove a perfectly healthy animal from this earth for a motive of profiting from that being’s death. Nothing (for me) from then on matters much… (sorry).

      And just a quick response to your concern about dogs on vegan/vegetraian diets: The oldest living dog, Bramble has not eaten meat during his whole life.
      http://dogsinthenews.com/issues/0209/articles/020918a.htm

      There’s 24 year old Tykie who has been vegetarian since he was 8 weeks old:
      http://www.tykieslonglife.com/news.php

      And both my dogs are vegetarian as well… One is close to 100 pounds of all muscle – The other a spunky puppy. My vet is very happy with their health and my nutritional choices for their diet. And so you are wrong in your judgment that Stephanie (or I) have not “taken the time to understand how dogs should eat”. In fact, those guardians who feed their dogs a diet absent of animal flesh have gone through great lengths to assure that it’s the wisest thing to do… Have you really ever investigated what is in commercial pet foods?

      And since you are also concerned with sustainability I was wondering if you’ve ever investigated urban farming or vertical gardens?
      One is being built in Newark, New Jersey:
      http://aerofarms.com/news/company-news
      And there are other countries that are implementing these systems:
      http://www.verticalfarm.com/designs
      I would hope that in time as we progress towards a plant based diet that less and less animals would be bred for human consumption… Your fears about what we would do with millions of animals “now” is not an issue, nor will it ever be… We will evolve and transition slowly and animal breeding (eating) will deminish accordingly.

      Since you are gracious enough to “invite” us to your farm… I’d like to introduce you to some former farmers Harold Lyman and Harold Brown who are now advocates for the animals:
      http://www.peaceablekingdomfilm.org/
      http://www.tribeofheart.org/news/mediabase/1242.htm

      Finally if you’d like to learn more about the ideology that motivates activists and the philosophy of justice for animals: You might understand more here: http://www.creaturequotes.com/

      It’s a very simple principle that respects every being’s right to their own lives. What’s done on “farms” and slaughterhouses negates all that in the most brutal way. We take from them, by force, that which we don’t “need” at all… And this frivolous, greedy “want” is a betrayal of all that is good, fair and kind.

  13. Olivia permalink
    November 27, 2010 6:31 am

    Hi again Jennifer,

    First of all, I commend the efforts of those who are trying to be self-sufficient and self-sustaining and kind to the earth. Second, I admire the guts of anyone who posts contrary comments on this Animal Rights & Anti-Oppression blog.

    No one who regularly writes in this space intends to offend anyone personally. Each and every ethical vegan who posts here does so because he or she feels morally impelled to confront an entrenched, worldwide belief system that regards animals as commodities for humans to use.

    Our stance on animals is akin to the stand that abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison took against the system of slavery. The abolitionists took on a massive socioeconomic-political-religious “machine” and did everything in their power to end it. They didn’t make exceptions for masters who were “kind” to their slaves. They didn’t concede that slavery could be kept legal in some states. They didn’t excuse slave owners simply because they used enlightened methods of raising and rotating crops. No. They knew that enslaving fellow-beings was morally bankrupt, and they refused to compromise on that principle.

    Stephanie and others here maintain that enslaving fellow beings and killing them and eating them is equally immoral. That is why we speak out. We not only believe that factory farming is cruel, but we believe that so-called “humane” farming is cruel. CAFOs are at least consistent in their cruelty. So the horrors of transport to the death house and the killing itself come as no great surprise to the animals.

    “Humane” farmers, by contrast, allow the animals to feel safe in their presence, then suddenly turn on these gentle beasts and shatter their trust in the humans they thought were their friends. Such an unexpected attack on a defenseless being is an act of sheer treachery, in my estimation. I truly don’t know how any sensitive soul could look at themselves in the mirror after violating another’s trust and not weep in remorse.

    If humans in developed countries truly couldn’t live without animal meat and milk and manure, that would be one thing. But they CAN live without those three M’s–and live well. Why not call or email Harold Brown at FarmKind.org and ask him about veganic methods of farming? He helps farmers transition from animal-based to plant-based agriculture. A former dairy farmer, Harold is one of the most gentle, most enlightened, most intellectually honest men I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

    Jennifer, I assure you that you wouldn’t want me to visit your farm. I would go through too many boxes of your tissues crying about the impending fate of the animals! I’d also be boo-hooing about the calves taken from their mothers–mothers whose milk, by the way, is intended by nature to be drunk by their own babies!

    How do I live? Well, for starters, I sold my car a few years ago, and I walk everywhere. I don’t live near enough to the farmer’s markets in town to walk to them. But recently I’ve become uncomfortable buying non-organic, non-local fruits and vegetables. So I have decided to do two new things starting in 2011: (1) ask a neighbor to go with me one Saturday a month to the farmer’s market for local, organic produce, (2) pay higher prices at the Whole Foods near my house for local, organic produce.

    I’m sure I am not as “green” as I could be, but here are a few things I do that I hope are contributing to the earth’s health: I don’t buy water or soft drinks. I purchase pasta, rice and other non-perishables in bulk. I don’t use paper napkins. I use cotton grocery sacks. I recycle glass, plastic, paper, metals. I wash clothes in cold water and use a clothesline for drying. I rarely use my oven and don’t own a dishwasher.

    I live in a townhouse complex where we aren’t allowed to install solar panels. Last year I insulated my attic and bought energy-efficient windows. When I need new appliances, I get the most energy-efficient models. I use as few lights as possible, and most of them are fluorescent, except for reading. I don’t spend money on restaurants, coffee, movies, manicures, cosmetics, clothing or other non-necessities; instead, I support reputable animal rescues and sanctuaries.

    Dogs: I have no companion animals at present, but have had six dogs and cats in my adulthood, four of whom have been rescues. The other two I bought as puppies from breeders before I learned about shelter animals. I haven’t had cats since becoming vegetarian. I didn’t buy vegan dog food after I became vegan for reasons which seemed legitimate at the time but don’t meet my current thinking on the subject. If I were to be guardian of another adopted dog someday, I would research sites like http://www.vegetariandogs.com, http://www.v-dogfood.com, and http://www.vegan.org/going_vegan/veggie_dogs/index.html. And I would try vegan foods until I found a product that suited the needs of my dog(s).

    It sounds like each of us is trying to do our best, according to the light that we have let into our consciousness. Beyond living in keeping with my own values, I believe my calling in life is to help reform an antiquated, violent, oppressive system that commoditizes billions of sentient beings. This work requires that I share ideas with humans whose paths cross mine–humans who don’t realize how their cultural traditions have blinded them to the capacities, desires and needs of most species of animals.

    I am not only convinced that the purpose of animals is to teach humans how to love, how to be loyal, and how to live without hurting others, but I believe that one day the world will give animals the status due them. This change will take place because bold, unflinching reformers like Stephanie have paved the way.

    Thanks for questioning me to see if I walk my talk. I hope to keep gaining new insights and improving my actions every day for the rest of my life.

    • Louie Gedo permalink
      November 27, 2010 9:22 pm

      “…and shatter their trust in the humans they thought were their friends. Such an unexpected attack on a defenseless being is an act of sheer treachery, in my estimation.”

      Spot on observation and criticism Olivia. The best word that I know to describe that which you refer to, is BETRAYAL. It is a betrayal of the cows, pigs, and other animals there just as it would be betrayal of a dog were someone to treat him with affection one day and then the next stab him in his throat to kill him just so someone can taste his loin, leg, or liver.

  14. November 27, 2010 7:36 am

    Dear Jennifer (and Olivia)

    We all make choices in life and those choices have consequences. I choose not to wear leather and as a result my vegan shoes will hang around in the soil a lot longer than someone else’s leather ones. But I also choose not to eat meat so I take far less from the soil than a leather shoe-wearing omnivore. And add less to climate change. Choices. Consequences.

    I add lots to the soil too – I grow a lot of our own food, and buy some too, but nothing organic leaves our property (well, okay a little – a neighbor with a commercial market garden takes some horse manure and gives us fruit and veggies in return) – it all goes back into the soil. We also have many animals – numerous rescued examples of those ‘millions and millions of animals that are living in farms at the moment’. We ask little of them but get plenty in return – love and beauty for starters. And while they take from the soil they replenish it too.

    We don’t breed them so as to avoid adding to the human-produced ‘millions and millions of animals that are living in farms at the moment’. No, not natural, but then neither are artificial insemination and slaughterhouses. We mourn them when they pass on – through old age or illness. Not at the receiving end of a sharp blade, or a stun gun, or a scalding bath. Or the steel-capped boot of a slaughterhouse worker. We mourn the loss of a family member.

    Your choices are your choices – but how they impact on others is important. Do you believe that birds’ and animals’ purpose is for us humans? Are you able to look a ‘loved’ animal eye to eye as you kill it, or send it off to slaughter, and feel comfortable right down to the deepest recesses of your heart and soul? No conflict? No questioning? When you know their death is for your taste buds, not for your survival. Do you believe a pet dog’s life in New York is worth more than a meat dog’s life in Manila. Worth more than a cow? Pig? Chicken? Thanksgiving Turkey?

    We choose. And our choices have consequences. They leave footprints on the earth, release bubbles into the atmosphere, and touch the core of Gaia. How big a footprint do we want to leave?

  15. November 27, 2010 8:55 am

    Harry, I am glad to hear that you have found a peaceful life. And that you are taking care of animals you feel are in need. The choices that we make do have impact on other you are right. The choices that we offer families living in our community have had a great impact. Buying meat, eggs, dairy, and produce from us instead of WalMart. True farming, the way we chose, has wonderful impacts on the environment. Our pastures feed not only our animals but the animals of the wild. Our animals give much back to the environment, their hooves beating the soil, their manure, and yes their bodies. Our animals manure grows the produce in our local community garden that we helped start. Our educative lectures help people look at the way they eat in a different light. Putting a face to their food. I do love animals and care deeply for them. I also know that humans domesticated these animals so that they no longer can survive in the wild. The animals we have on our farm, live wonderful healthy happy lives, we take great care of them and in return they take great care of us.

    I feel I am not the enemy- nor is the woman who owns LTD farm, or Daniel Klien. The enemy is CAFO’s, McDonald’s and the like. Humans eat meat- fact of our existence. My point still is, would you not rather have people know their farmer, know that the animals that were raised for eating were done so in a healthy, as natural as possible environment? Killed by the very farmer who knew them their whole life? Not as you say “at the receiving end of a sharp blade, or a stun gun, or a scalding bath. Or the steel-capped boot of a slaughterhouse worker.”

    Trying to get your vegan point across while trashing another persons beliefs is not only rude but self-serving. This discussion could go round and round. Informing others by telling of your life and how you live is much more effective.

    I am grateful for the food our animals and our soils give us. You will not change the way I live, I am an omnivore and will continue to eat meat. This is the end of my discussion with all of you. I hope that you have learned something about the way that I live, I know that I have learned something from all of you. I would encourage anyone of you to come out to our farm and see how we care for our animals. Please also feel free to check out our blog Duskwind Farm.

  16. November 27, 2010 8:19 pm

    Jennifer’s point that these “farmed” animals can no longer survive without “care”takers is well founded. I think all here will agree that if they go extinct there is no cause for tears. If the only way they are to survive is to be in an unbreakable food “chain” – I’d just as soon liberate them from existence entirely.

    Still, there is no certainty in that either… Wild chickens, turkeys and ducks are everywhere. Pigs – even the genetically manipulated ones will, in a few generations, return to their former “wild boar” habits and will survive in spite of us… “Dairy” cows are surely one of the most exploited of all… Perhaps their inevitable failure to “survive” independently is a good indicator of how “unnatural” they really are?

    In any case – A closing comment about what Jennifer also said about the animals on (production) farms living “wonderful” lives… Try as I might – I just can’t wrap my mind around a “wonderful life” being cut to a fraction of potential, by a violent hand as anything else but a tragic end.

    Oh… And I just wanted to say reading the posts from Harry and Olivia – I’m honored to be in the company of such honest thinkers. The clarity of thought running through these ideas validates my convictions even more! – Thank you both.

    • Louie Gedo permalink
      November 27, 2010 9:33 pm

      Bea, very well put. The animals are lucky to have you as one of their advocates and caregiver.

      • November 27, 2010 10:39 pm

        Thank you Louie…

        I also wanted to add to your comment about betrayal… It seems to me that it is also a betrayal in what we expect from ourselves as decent, moral, thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate beings. I happen to love my species (despite all the brutality I know we’re capable of). But it seems to me that if we are ever to live up to our quest for enlightenment… If we are ever to live up to the expectations and potential of man”kind” – The first thing we ought to do is to stop creating animals just to kill… The betrayal we cast upon ourselves is almost as grievous as that which we do to the innocent.

        If Jennifer or anyone wants to change culture and society for the better they would do well to see the terrible wrongs in every stage of these murders… Beyond the animal victims, beyond the environmental toll, beyond the human health concerns… How can we ever expect to create a peaceful civilization when we pay people to do the most dreadful things to the most vulnerable among us? It’s just not going to happen… An animal using culture condemns us to an eternal war with ourselves and all “Others”. I think we’re better than that! And I’ll spend what’s left of my time here making it so. I know this truth of justice is that important to us all.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        November 27, 2010 10:55 pm

        Bea, what you said is brilliant. I would love it if you could take that point, expound on it a little more, and create a short essay. It should then be read by everyone. It really is that important in my view. Thank you for being so thoughtful and deliberate.
        The thoughts / opinions that you and Harry have shared here have given me some things to reflect on.

  17. Olivia permalink
    November 27, 2010 8:37 pm

    Clarification #1: I’ve been feeling that I unintentionally misrepresented Stephanie when I referred to her family. I didn’t mean to imply that she has denounced the practices of her family members specifically. She doesn’t go there. When taking a stand for animals, she properly leaves her family and friends out of the discussion.

    Clarification #2: When I said I don’t buy clothes, I meant that I rarely buy new clothing, not that I go without clothing! :-) I have plenty of serviceable old and hand-me-down items and am not into the latest fashions.

    I know very few people in the animal-rights movement who I would call self-serving. Most of them are all about serving others–especially the animals, and not on a plate. If I came across as rude, I am truly sorry, Jennifer. It wasn’t my intent to malign any individuals, but to point out the illogic and insensitivity of the educated belief that we need to kill animals for any reason short of survival.

    What this discussion comes down to for me is that people — any people, no matter what they do or where they’re from — who believe they are superior to others and think they are entitled to exert power over their inferiors seem unable to imagine the feelings and rights of those “lower” beings. In fact, it doesn’t appear to occur to them that their victims HAVE feelings and rights. (By rights, I refer to what David Cantor, founder and executive director of Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc. http://www.rpaforall.org, calls “unalienable equal basic individual autonomy, ecology, and dignity rights under the Constitution. Only such rights can create needed change by eliminating injustices that afflict all who lack rights. Only rights of all animals can produce solutions to the big human problems.”)

    This lack of discernment that victimizers have for their victims feelings and rights is the message that comes across to me in Stephanie’s description of the turkey-slaying video. And it is, unfortunately, the same message that came through when I read about the Peterson’s poor, unnamed dairy cow, who was slain because she dared make it clear that she wanted to feed her milk to own baby. If it makes me rude to say that in all honesty, then I will have to live with that label.

  18. Louie Gedo permalink
    November 27, 2010 9:09 pm

    Hi Jennifer,

    Some of your remarks that I am replying to hear were directed at Olivia but it is unclear if some other remarks you’ve made were put out in general. In any case, I feel obligated to respond, not on behalf of Olivia or Stephanie, but because the voiceless victims in question are not in a position to respond as they are currently confined somewhere on yours or someone else’s farm or are literally being killed (depending on when you are reading this).

    As I see it, all animal victims (the non-human and human variety alike) deserve a strong voice to stand up for them, especially when they are incapable.

    As to your question about what to do with all the purpose-bred farmed animals here and now – would we assume you meant to add, “…if the world went vegan tomorrow”? I just want to understand your question before giving the answer.

    Incidentally, I did read chunks of your blog and I was thoroughly offended at what was written. I take the exploitation and unnecessary killing of cows, pigs, and turkeys (as just a few examples) as seriously as I do that of companion animals and children; it is personal to me. Why someone wouldn’t take it seriously is troubling indeed. And as such, I do criticize and often pass judgment on those adults who do choose to victimize others when clearly there exists a choice not to. Why on earth should I or anyone remain silent about such things??? Why Jennifer???

    The first step in having an intellectual conversation Jennifer, would be some humility, honesty, and introspection instead of arrogantly telling people what is and isn’t appropriate to criticize or judge and whether or not you feel there exists parallels between issues or not. Just because you don’t recognize important and meaningful parallels or think that there aren’t any, doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. Perhaps you may want to listen to what people have to say before you resort to automatically defending anything and everything you do just because you do it.

    It seems rather apparent that ethical vegans lead by example with every bite they take. The difference that vegans make is incomparably important for the non-human victims; vegans do not make themselves intentionally complicit in the unnecessary exploitation and killing of animals, all of whom have a conscious interest in not being harmed, including those confined and exploited on Dusk Wind Farm (DWF).

    Over the years, Jennifer, I have dialogued with a fair number of people like you who pose the same arguments and make the same rationalizations for the unnecessary exploitation and killing of sentient individuals as you have. Like them, you place emphasis on one or more ancillary issues – the quality of the soil (on which exploited animals are confined to and fattened for the kill) as just one such example while avoiding the far more pertinent (to the topic raised) issue – the commodification of individuals exploited and killed for profit. In other words, why avoid the incredibly important question of whether or not it is morally responsible behavior to hold (and act upon) the instrumental value of an individual in higher regard than his or her intrinsic value? I must say that it is quite puzzling to me as to why someone would be so worried about whether or not the soil on her land can sustain 3840 or 3850 blades of grass per square foot (I am being a bit facetious with that on purpose) and seemingly be so unconcerned about the regular and systematic unnecessary violence that is committed because you, Jennifer, want it to take place and because you have the power over these animals to have it done. But might doesn’t make right no matter who the victims and the victimizers are.

    Were these victims children instead of farmed animals that Stephanie’s post was referring mainly to, I really wonder if someone like you would be going off on a tangent to draw attention to whether or not the soil was replenished to some arbitrary standard? Why do that when the victims are farmed animals?

    First and foremost, this conversation should be about the victims because for them, it really is a matter of life and unnecessary death. If you are serious about an intellectual conversation, Jennifer, let’s start there.

  19. Louie Gedo permalink
    November 27, 2010 9:27 pm

    Our presumed personal choices end at the point where someone’s real life is put in jeopardy as a result of our (proposed) actions. At this point, it then becomes a moral question.

  20. November 27, 2010 10:12 pm

    Jennifer, thank you for coming back to this, and despite you bidding us farewell, I hope that you return.

    What you are doing for your community is fantastic – but only when put alongside the likes of Walmart, KFC and McDonalds. I put it to you that you have not chosen a very high bar. Imagine what you could do for your community – human and animal – if you led the way in showing them that meat is not necessary to survive, that no matter how hard you tried to provide ‘higher quality’ food for them you still found yourself killing innocent lives (and breeding so that you could do just that) and therefor you now grow only fruit and veggies. Now we’re talking good for a community. It’s all relative. Relative to what is important. Don’t stop so short.

    And the soil – raising animals for meat consumption is hard on the land – each time you export an animal for food consumption you’re depleting your land. Exporting the goodness from the soil within them. Sure, that happens with veggies too. But, in an equivalent scale and dynamic fruit and veg setup to DWF, not to the same extent. Your animals dying of old age and going back into your soil would be good soil. So what you’re doing to the soil is better – but better compared to what?

    Jennifer, you are not the enemy. Society’s lust for animal products is. But through your choices you are one of those perpetuating cruelty and unnecessary killing. Perpetuating society’s unhealthy, predatory lust. Relative to McDonalds no – you’re a star. Relative to a true organic/ biodynamic fruit and veg farm – you’re in kindergarten having just taken the first step. Please don’t stop short. The killing of so many innocent lives is unnecessary. Please think about those lives.

    Finally, don’t lock yourself into being an omnivore for the rest of your life. If you weren’t questioning you would not have come to this site. And I note you did not answer any of my questions – there’s no need to answer them on this site (we’re all on our own journey, and such journeys are very personal) but please answer them for yourself.

    Thank you again for the interest you are showing.

    • Louie Gedo permalink
      November 27, 2010 10:46 pm

      Harry,

      I do indeed commend your grace and sensitivity.

      So long as the images of innocent animals come to mind coupled with the realization of what is being done to them, my tolerance for the speciesist entitlement attitudes and rationalizations of victimizers drops to near zero.

      I am grateful that there are people like you in this world Harry.

  21. November 27, 2010 10:54 pm

    The whole production (and I mean that term in multiple ways), from start to finish, is about the people and how they feel and how they want to be perceived, not the animals, as is the case in all of these (often hipster) so-called humane ventures into killing animals.

    Thank you, Stephanie. This is what strikes me most about the neo-agrarian movement and urbanite homesteading — under the auspices, I suppose of the new American roots movement. There is, at its heart, a disingenuous tone that would be easy to disregard as a transient hipster notion were it not for the animal lives involved.

    I’m quite disturbed by modern rationalizations offered for what (too many times) seem like indulgences of the bored affluent: they cash in their Wall Street portfolio money then move to the country to kill deer and gut chickens — in order to feel “real.” I’ve heard this so many times in my recent life, I wish I could say those comments were anomalies against a greater ethical landscape. But they don’t seem to be. My own commitment to wildlife rehabilitation is often disparaged as inauthentic or “soft,” precisely because my involvement with nature is not through “participating” in the real cycle of life — meaning, I’m not out there killing the wildlife to test my mettle.

    I recently read a blog post about another bird slaughter, where the same types of verbal palliatives were applied to the birds’ deaths. When the wife asks the husband if he feels badly about killing the animals, his response is “no, I’m proud of us.” This is an urban couple who recently relocated to the country to see if they can sustain by killing and growing with their own two hands. They’re just a microcosm of the greater movement I see out there, of new hunters and farmers who claim an authenticity through bloodying their own hands.

    I don’t come at this from a naive perspective. My family on my mother’s side were farming people in another country. The taking of an animal life for food was never justified in this pollyanna, self-serving fashion. In fact, my grandmother went into her last days, living with misgivings about the animals she was forced to slaughter to survive the winter and the war. It was baseline sustainability, a clear departure from the extravagances you describe here. As a result, it was a lot more honest. It had nothing to do with creating compelling blog content or hopping on to the latest sustainability train — or indulging a readership comment section full of atta boys, way to go. It was bare survival, and as such, any killing was done only as a last resort and with much remorse over the life taken.

    I do not see that perspective reflected much in this movement, in these blogs. And it’s the commentary, the tone and the attitude underlying the actions that’s actually most objectionable. The romanticizing of the hunt and the farm leads to, in my view, this glaring disconnect. How can one possibly claim authenticity when their narrative is so far from the reality of the act being committed? Sure, they understand how meat gets to the table. They’re not disconnected from that reality. But they’re certainly disconnected from the reality of the animals experience, vis a vis their own. The desire to kill for oneself seems to be a badge of honor these days. And therein lies the saddest revelation of our modern culture: break from the doubts and internal reckonings that would otherwise engender empathy for “the other.”

  22. Olivia permalink
    November 28, 2010 5:54 am

    I’m blown away by the depth of thinking and feeling expressed in this blog, not only by its author, but by one commenter after another—Bea, Louie, Harry and now Ingrid.

    Like Louie, I think Bea should further develop the concept that the nurturing-before-nuking treatment of “food” animals is not only a betrayal of the animals’ trust in man but also a betrayal of, as she puts it, “what we expect from ourselves as decent, moral, thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate beings.” It makes sense that the betrayer does as much moral damage to himself as he brings physical destruction upon his victims; after all, wrong-doing always harms the doer the most.

    What Louie says made him think of the word “betrayal” was an earlier reference to the word “treachery.” Last night I found this fascinating definition of TREACHERY in the American Heritage Dictionary: “willful betrayal of fidelity, confidence, or trust; perfidy.” [See Old French TRICHIER (to trick) and Latin TRICARI (to play tricks) and TRICAE (tricks).] The same dictionary defines PERFIDY as a “deliberate breach of faith; calculated violation of trust; treachery.” [See Latin PERFIDIA, from PERFIDUS (destruction of faith).]

    It’s amazing what heinous acts the vice of treachery will cause a caretaker to commit against the harmless, faithful, trusting individuals in his/her charge—for any reason, or for no good reason.

    Regarding what Harry says about the real enemy being “society’s lust for animal products” and the small, sustainable farmers “perpetuating society’s unhealthy, predatory lust,” I’m reminded of a passage in Marjorie Spiegel’s book, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery: “In the case of animal slavery, the outsiders are not mere spectators…but are complicit in the system; nearly everyone quite literally feeds upon the fruits of this cruelty.”

    Elsewhere, Spiegel points out that the farmer must view animals “as lesser to himself, perhaps so much his lesser that he has denied the importance of their feelings, or actually can no longer think of them as having any feelings at all. To him they have become merely a means to his profitable end.”

    A profitable end, that is, until his treachery catches up with him.

    • November 28, 2010 8:49 pm

      I agree Olivia that it fascinating that “betrayal” has a more accurate and involved definition. “Treachery” that’s exactly the word that captures this act of slaughtering tamed and “domesticated” creatures.

      And I appreciate that both you and Louie are encouraging me to expand on this concept of man’s disappointing actions as it relates to human progress… But I know the remarkable advocate Will Tuttle has already done this in his incredible mind and heart opening work “The World Peace Diet”.

      But I think there is something to be said about animal rights champions… We are all eager students and devoted teachers to each other at the same time. Sure beats instructing someone on how to snuff the life of a bird… ;)

      • Olivia permalink
        November 28, 2010 9:36 pm

        You’re right, Bea; here’s how Will Tuttle makes that trenchant point in The World Peace Diet: “As we ignore animal suffering, we ignore each other’s suffering. As we deny animals their dignity and privacy, we deny our own dignity and find our privacy being increasingly eroded. As we enforce powerlessness on them, we feel increasingly powerless. As we reduce them to mere commodities, we become commodities ourselves. As we destroy their ability to fulfill their purpose, we lose track of our purpose. As we deny them rights, we lose our own rights. As we enslave them, we become slaves ourselves. As we break their spirits, our own spirits are broken. As we sow, we reap.”

  23. Natasha permalink
    November 28, 2010 9:17 am

    Excellent article!!
    Torture and muder of innocent animals is cruel and never humane indeed!!

    Happy Vegan Thanksgiving!

    • November 28, 2010 10:51 pm

      Thanks Olivia… That passage was exactly what I was referring to. It is stated brilliantly – I don’t know that anyone could ever improve or elaborate on it. As we sow, we reap. But of course…

  24. Ruby permalink
    November 28, 2010 11:33 am

    We are all born to die – I can only wish that my death would serve to nourish the lives around me as the death of these animals does.

    As humans, our own deaths have become so disconnected from the natural cycles of the earth that we start to feel as though death itself is somehow wrong.

    It’s not – every living being that is born is here to nourish another life. Every living being survives by consuming the lives of others, be they plant, animal, fungi, or the smallest of bacteria.

    That’s how life on earth works – there is no arguing this fact.

    I can only wish that I will die quickly while having my head stroked by someone who cares for me. What better way to go than that? Sure, my body might jerk as the life leaves my flesh – that’s how death happens, it is violent to witness even at its most peaceful.

    I will die on a vegan or even vegetarian diet. I know this for a fact. I had to stop my vegan lifestyle when my depression became so bad that I came within inches of killing myself. I was vegan for 4 years, and for every day of those years I thought about killing myself. I was sick and tired all the time, had no energy, no motivation, my stomach hurt, and eating made me feel gross and bloated.

    And I did vegan “right”. I ate the freshest, organic, local produce I could find. I balanced my vitamins, minerals and nutrients, supplemented as necessary or recommended, got exercise and sunshine, and tried my best to enjoy life. But I was sick.

    I got medical help and needed to supplement further with iron, and take anti-depressants to stop the suicidal urges. At this point I wondered if what I was doing was truly the best, most compassionate, most thoughtful way to live. Why was I taking all these drugs and supplements, processed and bottled in plastic, pushed on us by huge multinational pharmaceutical corporations, when the best source for the nutrients I needed was, as I found out through researching my diet, found in animal products? How is a nutrient or drug, taken in pill form, more healthful and nourishing to my body than those found in whole, natural foods?

    On a random day, after questioning my course of action for weeks, I bought an ethically sourced, grass-fed steak from a local butcher, cooked it simply in a pan with salt and pepper, and sat down at my kitchen table to eat it, alone. I didn’t want anyone around. I had heard my body would revolt, that I would feel sick and not be able to digest this meat at all after eating only plant foods for so long.

    After not touching beef for more than 15 years, I ate the whole 10 ounces. I felt high after eating that steak. My body felt light, my skin flushed, and I almost cried for how good I felt. I felt nourished.

    I’ve since found out that I am severely wheat-intolerant, and was depressed and under-nourished because my gut, ravaged by anti-nutrients found in all grain products, didn’t allow me to properly absorb the bulk of the vitamins or minerals I was consuming. Grains also cause in me severe insulin spikes, making me foggy-headed, nauseated, and causing long-term damage to all the tissues in my body. My family all suffer from health problems which I have come to learn are related to grain consumption.

    I don’t tolerate beans, they cause me severe intestinal distress, and they are not grown anywhere near where I live, so to import them for my use would be more harmful to the environment than I would be comfortable with. Soy products are horribly destructive to the environment, and to human health in more ways than we might realize, especially in quantities that might be consumed were they to form the bulk of the protein in our diets.

    So, I ask, what am I to eat? I could eat a rich cornucopia of vegetables year-round were I to shop at the local chain supermarket. I could have huge red peppers in December, anemic-looking tomatoes year-round, frangrant bananas, papayas and mangos here in the Canadian winter, and perhaps feel ok about the huge carbon footprint of all these foreign imports. I would also suffer from severe sugar rushes, have to eat huge mounds of food to feel full, and have to eat every 2-3 hours to prevent spikes and crashes in my insulin levels.

    Or, I could choose to eat as I do now. I buy beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, and eggs, all grown and harvested within my own province, and bought directly from the farmers at our local market. I know the farmers. I know their farms and their animals.

    Most of these products freeze well so they are available year-round. I buy the “weird” cuts that no one else wants – the lamb’s tongue, the liver, the oxtail – to save money and also to ensure that I get a wide variety of nutrients. I also eat in-season vegetables, which means, right now, my fridge is full of rutabagas, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and onions. I eat these vegetables cooked in fat I rendered myself from the fat of the animals that I consume. This fat is absolutely essential to every tissue in my body, and ensures that I absorb most of the nutrients from the vegetables. The beef fat I rendered was going to be thrown in to the garbage – simply wasted – because most people are afraid to consume it.

    I don’t eat a lot but I feel happy and nourished all the time. The meat and fat that I eat ensure that I don’t suffer from hormonal imbalances or insulin spikes – my depression is gone and my mind is clearer than it has been in years. I’m learning more and more about nutrition, how the human body works and I truly feel good about my choices.

    Readers of this blog might dismiss me as a hipster, or as someone who is unfeeling towards animals, or who doesn’t understand about the system that exploits animals for our own ends. I do understand the system that we live in. I opt out of it as much as possible. Should I let myself suffer, in mind and body, and perhaps even end up killing myself in misery, to demonstrate my commitment to changing the world? I can only argue no. Perhaps the vegans who read this comment would have a different opinion.

    Veganism seeks to change the system in which we live by completely denying how the natural world, including our own bodies, should and ultimately does actually function as a whole. We are all born, we all die, and we can only hope that our deaths serve to nourish others.

    I am not the only one to feel this way. I feel emboldened to share my story after reading these courageous transformations from vegan to omnivore:

    http://voraciouseats.com/2010/11/19/a-vegan-no-more/

    http://www.chicken-tender.com/2010/11/heart-change_11.html

    Thank you for reading.

    • Marji permalink
      November 28, 2010 12:03 pm

      Quite a polemic.

      No one is saying every single human being on earth can thrive on a vegan diet.

      All I continue to ask is: when given the choice between causing more harm and less harm, it is our moral imperative to do the latter. We slaughter 66 billion nonhumans in the world. That is unsustainable and far more than necessary for survival. It is unnecessary suffering.

      Yes, everyone dies. But it is a little creepy you would find it a good death having your throat slit by someone you know and being “pet” while your mind and body fight for life – that’s what happens to the turkey. I don’t know any human who would welcome that.

    • Louie Gedo permalink
      November 28, 2010 9:21 pm

      Hi,

      I am truly disappointed in your very weak or untrue arguments Ruby.

      Of the many thousands of people I know or know intimately enough of, not a single one is born just to die contrary to your belief Ruby. In fact, if you define your life in such a way, I cannot help but to feel sorrow for your lack of outlook on the life we are so very fortunate and privileged to have begun (born). Clearly, I’m convinced, we are born for no specific purpose at all. We are born and then we gradually and eventually (after our infancy and formative years where we live mainly by the direct guidance of our parents / elders / etc) choose the path we want to live…under natural and normal circumstances. In other words, we are living here and there is no alternative but for us to make choices and decisions based on the circumstances that confront the challenge us. This is really no different for animals also – under natural circumstances. Sadly, farmed animals are forced into an existence, by their victimizers, in which they are not allowed to share this natural process. For example, a female cow in a dairy farm, she is victimized as she is exploited from the beginning to the end of her life; purpose bred, confined, fattened, her babies and their milk from her taken from her, then killed prematurely. Along this perilous way, if she happens to be one of a miniscule fraction of those individuals confined on a dairy farm, she may perhaps be petted or stroked with (some) affection and maybe even given a name…then abruptly one day, her throat will be ripped open by the treacherous hand (now holding a large knife) that just the other day petted her.

      Farmed animals do not simply die as you naively suggest, Ruby….conversely, they are killed so that profits can be had. This difference between what you suggest and what actually occurs is tantamount to inside vs outside….the two are antithetical to each other as the former implies a natural occurrence and the latter an unnatural, purpose-driven (premature) act of violence upon another. To die vs to be killed; these are not interchangeable events nor do they have interchangeable definitions.

      The murder or killing of someone (non-human or human) may be violent to witness, but only because it is the gravest violence to be submitted to or to experience.

      There’s nothing at all wrong with a natural death but surely there is something very wrong when someone (whether non-human or human) is killed simply for the (profitable or self-serving) gain of another. In our very, very, very speciesist society, this is exactly why murder is considered the most egregious violation of another person and why no one is sent to jail when uncle Bob dies of old age.

      People can and do perceive all sorts of things that are in actuality, not true. For example, for a time, I too experienced a very down point in my life emotionally and physically (I felt depressed and tired) several months into my veg lifestyle. I did all the right things I thought at the time, even went to see allopathic and holistic doctors. When the subject of diet came up in my discussion with these doctors, they all told me that I could not be healthy unless I ate some meat. Though this suggestion seemed a great excuse for me to go back to my meat eating ways, I was not a quitter even though I really did miss the taste of the denatured meat (all meat is denatured unless the flesh of the animal is eaten fresh and raw right off the carcass) a lot. I made some small changes in my diet (replaced many processed grains with whole but still eschewed the flesh), replaced the supplements I was then taking with food based nutritionals, began to meditate on the recent changes in my life, and as the months passed by, I found that not only did I regained all my emotional and physical health, but I then felt better than ever before. I learned that it was my psyche that got me down and sick but it was also my psyche that healed me once I put the effort into letting go of some things in my past as well as the pre-conceived notions I had of why I was feeling that way.

      Without a doubt, there is no required nutrient for the human body that cannot be obtained from non-animal sources. In other words, there is no requirement in the human body for animal flesh. I am so certain of this, I challenge anyone to name or give me an example of a single required nutrient that must be obtained from an animal’s carcass or body….just one example is all I ask for. I have put this challenge out for years to lots of people who have claimed that they need to eat meat and to date, not a single person has ever met this challenge. I not need hold my breath for this challenge as no such nutrient exists. Humans do not need animal flesh to live or to be healthy, though of course we can always seek to eat healthier plant-based foods and live in an emotionally healthier way.

      As to the rather bizarre notion that concern for “the environment” is so much more important than concern for one’s complicity in unnecessary violence perpetrated upon innocent individuals, it would only make complete sense that if this is your position (and you clearly seem to indicate that it is Ruby) that you immediately begin a serious campaign to eradicate the human species because it is human activity that is the true culprit of unsustainable activity and the unnatural ruin of in tact indigenous ecosystems and the environment. For example, the vast majority of land used today to graze cows is dead compared to what was once rich, lush forests teaming with plant and animal life. So, until folks like you start this campaign, I will not take your claims for concern of the environment seriously and instead see such claims as what they can only be….a rationalization and attempted defense of one’s penchant habit for eating animal’s flesh. Additionally, if you have so much concern for the environment and not having synthetic things in your life as you insist, you would have to choose, to not be a hypocrite, to relinquish from your life the vast majority of things that you do have in it like the use of a computer as just one of countless examples. If you want to eat beans and legumes not grown out of state, grow your own. The point of all this is that you are not making rational sense; your actions and activity do not comport with your stated claims. If the environment is that much more important to you than the perpetration of unnecessary violence upon others, then you sure are living hypocritically….you are in very deep denial of the truth.

      “Veganism seeks to change the system in which we live by completely denying how the natural world, including our own bodies, should and ultimately does actually function as a whole.”

      This is completely untrue Ruby. A vegan lifestyle simply means excluding the exploitation and use of others for our own gain or benefit….period. If you are into judging that which is unnatural, start with your own habit of eating the flesh, mammary secretions, and eggs of the select animals that you do. Nature had nothing at all to do with these purpose derived, unnatural creations of humans. The cows, pigs, chickens, and lambs whose lives you so arrogantly believe you are entitled to are not at all a result of natural processes… The mammary secretions of cows and goats are meant only for their babies’ nourishment. There’s nothing natural in a human adult drinking mammary secretions, especially from other species. Again, you are living a hypocritical life….you are living in denial.

      Thank you for strongly reconsidering your presumptions and perceptions.

  25. sundog permalink
    November 28, 2010 7:52 pm

    Thanks to Stephanie and everyone for the courage to speak true words to counter the relentless stream of misinformation that originates from agribusiness. The roots of violence run deep in our culture; it’s no wonder some romanticize hunting and killing as if nostalgic to see themselves as noble self-sufficient pioneers on the wild frontier. That nobleness never existed. Killing is killing.

    To ritualize bloodlust is to merely coerce its participants into submission. It’s to thwart the natural connection all humans have to other animals and keep the predominant speciesist attitude intact. When conquest becomes equated with compassion and cold murder with the natural order of the world, then humankind is lost. Perhaps those who seek to destroy life outnumber us. But it gives me such hope to see each one of you speak of justice and love on behalf of the animals and to dare to defy the odds.

  26. Evan permalink
    November 29, 2010 10:54 am

    As an organic farmer, I’m convinced that livestock are an absolute necessity for the long-term health of the soil. In grass/pasture-based farming systems, (such as practiced by the farmer on the video) animals complete the nutrient cycle, efficiently converting plant material into nutrient-dense food for humans. Agriculture stopped being sustainable when we removed animals from the farm, as is now the case in the USA. When compared to grass-based livestock production, the production of industrial products like soy and grains are downright destructive to our environment.

    I agree the way that 99% of livestock are raised is immoral and detrimental to our planet, but the farmer here is raising her animals in a different way. Farming centered around raising livestock on pasture (how they evolved to live) is an ecologically POSITIVE method of agriculture.

    Here is a great article from Mother Earth Magazine on grass-based farming:
    http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Grass-Fed-Meat-Benefits.aspx

    • Louie Gedo permalink
      November 29, 2010 3:26 pm

      Hi Evan,

      You are completely mistaken in your presumptions regarding soil. I guarantee you that healthy soil can be had without the exploitation of animals. Here are the facts that you seem to be remiss about: http://www.goveganic.net/spip.php?article112

      I would strongly suggest that you cease spreading the misinformation that you do.

      • Kevin Wilson permalink
        December 2, 2010 1:25 pm

        Louie, you are completely out of touch with reality and very condescending. I am, like Evan, and organic farmer. Livestock are essential to sustainable agriculture. Compost, mulch, and cover crops all have their place, but so do grazing rotation and manure application.

        In addition to the cows, pigs, and chickens that I rotate through the fields, I also have pigs and cows on forty acres of my land that could not be used to produce anything else.

        The pigs have free run in a fifteen acre section of land covered by trees and scrub with soil so rocky that you can’t dig in it with a shovel. The pigs are slowly turning this into healthy friable soil by rooting and spreading their own manure while clearing the scrub. I’ll harvest the trees in a few years, pull the stumps, and have a new field ready for growing. In the mean time I am also getting about a thousand pounds of meat per year from the happiest pigs I have ever seen.

        My cows live on twenty five acres of steep hillsides that would roll any tractor brave enough to try and till them. There is very little else that could be done with this land. By rotating grazing cattle, scratching chickens, and periods of rest, the hillsides are covered in dense grasses that hold the soil in place and have put a stop to the erosion problem I had when I first bought the land. I also get beef, chicken, and eggs from land that most farmers would consider worthless.

        Animals are essential to sustainable farming. I would not be able to produce the crops that I do without them. I have never seen a farm that can get by without animals for any length of time without resorting to chemicals and fertilizers. If you think that you can do it, I would love to see you succeed.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 2, 2010 4:20 pm

        Hi,

        “Louie, you are completely out of touch with reality and very condescending”

        Wow, and by writing this you are not very condescending Kevin? Please explain your hypocrisy so that the rest of us can get it?

        Try to be a bit truthful here Kevin.

        As to your insinuations about farming, you are just flat out wrong Kevin. You are entitled to your own opinion but not to making up your own facts. I will not allow you to get away with this because the consequence of these made-up facts of yours is the unnecessary violence and exploitation of sentient individuals such as chickens, pigs, and cows whom all have a conscious interest in living and not being harmed by you and your ilk.

        Farms exist that produce plant-based foods without the use of animal manure or animals….please read the link I provided and get yourself familiar with the rest of the material available on other parts of this site. I have also witnessed first hand how plant-based foods can be grown without the use of farmed animal manure.

        By changing the ecology of the land by using man-created, unnatural animals like domestic-bred cows, pigs, and chickens, one is not creating a sustainable ecology for those indigenous animals and plants that are being driven out of existence for the sake of (your) profit-making. And while the same could be said about changing the ecology of a land without the use of animals / animal manure, growing plant-based foods using veganic farming methods means that no sentient individuals were intentionally bred, exploited, and harmed as they are on your farm. Not only is the exploitation of animals not necessary, but it is reprehensible and morally irresponsible.

        Finally, you decrying the use of chemicals or fertilizers at the same time you use machinery, equipment, and energy that runs on petrochemicals or is produced by means or processes that are not entirely without the use of some kinds of chemicals which makes you yet again, a hypocrite and someone whose credibility is not valid.

        Your arguments seem to me to clearly be an attempt at simply defending your exploitive lifestyle just because you want to. This is very sad indeed and it is not a morally responsible way to live.

        Louie

      • December 2, 2010 4:57 pm

        I hate to jump in the middle of this, but I am asking this out of genuine basic human curiosity…

        What exactly is the argument against using animal manure for crop farming? Even *I* have taken manure from a friend of mine (who has a barn full of horses) to spread in my flower gardens.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 2, 2010 5:31 pm

        Hi Lisa,

        It’s a good question with a simple answer actually.

        On virtually all commercial farms in which animal manure is used, the manure comes from sentient individuals (mostly farmed-animals or in other cases, horses) who are bred and exploited for human gain at the very least. If we would not do this to sentient individuals who happen to be an animal species of the human variety, why do this to animals who happen to be of another species?

        There may be some very, very, very rare exceptions to the status quo, but those exceptions can probably be counted on one hand alone.

      • December 2, 2010 7:47 pm

        Thanks Louie. I really appreciate your explanation. I hadn’t really thought about it…

        I guess an example of “learn something new every day”!!

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 2, 2010 10:25 pm

        Hi Lisa,

        Much obliged.

        I thrill to learn something new every day but remorse in the fact that some people seem not to be interested in opening, learning, and expanding their mind…a couple of those people have posted comments here in this thread.

      • December 2, 2010 11:28 pm

        I’ve had great teachers throughout my life who have impressed on me that the moment I think I know it all is the point at which I have the most to learn.

      • Kevin Wilson permalink
        December 2, 2010 11:28 pm

        Wow, and here I thought I was doing a good thing with my farm. I guess it’s time to pack it all in and turn the place into a sanctuary. When the animals that I already have have passed on due to natural causes I will immolate myself with some biodiesel and hope that it is enough to make up for all of the suffering I have caused.

        Now that I got that out of the way…

        Louie Gedo, I read what you have posted here and checked you out online and stand by my assertion that you are completely out of touch with reality and very condescending. Wheel your media cart down here to Arkansas and I’ll teach you how to hitch up a draft horse to help pull it around town when you get back to New York. Draft horses are awesome. They keep me from using any fuel that doesn’t grow here on the farm to get all of the field work done.

        Harry, I don’t even know where to start. You can think what you want, and look down on me for thinking what I want. I’m okay with that. I went out tonight before the sun went down and had a talk with the pigs. They came up and got their backs scratched with a stiff brush. They love it. Have you ever seen a pig smile? I gave them some acorns that I raked up in the front yard and threw some corn around a rocky area that they have been ignoring. These pigs will dig up a boulder and leave it sitting on the ground ready to be hauled off if they think there is some corn under it. Pretty amazing. I know that you think that I am some kind of monster. I am not. I am doing a good things here. I cannot and will not be convinced otherwise. Please direct your energies towards industrial agriculture. This farm is my response to the industry. It is not a part of it.

      • Olivia permalink
        December 3, 2010 12:39 am

        Kevin, I have to admit that something about your reply touched my heart. I see your goodness and your decency, truly I do. I understand that you desire to have mutually beneficial, mutually productive, even mutually emotionally satisfying relationships with the animals on your farm. And I agree that for most of their lives, your pigs will know sheer happiness.

        What I can’t grasp, on any level, is how your kind-heartedness and good intentions can “turn on” those same happy, intelligent, affectionate pigs, and your hand will pick up, instead of a bristle brush, a sharp knife. It is just beyond me how our culture has caused someone as thoughtful as you are to steel your heart and justify even one moment of pain, panic, terror, emotional devastation, and heartache to those dear, friendly pigs.

        Have you ever read John Robbins’ story, “The Pig Farmer”? It’s here: http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/the-pig-farmer/

        Granted, that pig farmer owned a factory farm, and you do not. But when you read the happy ending, I hope it will give you pause. Because even though you aren’t causing the degree of harm to pigs that he was causing, you are causing SOME degree of harm to them. And, what is more, you are desensitizing vulnerable children, who love animals and who desperately need the example that the pig farmer in the story provides for them.

        I don’t have a condescending bone in my body as I write this. I only ask that you continue to ponder (and pray?!) about how you could possibly do even more for goodness’ sake — how you could reject ALL forms of violence and thus make the world even MORE of a habitable, happy, healthy home for ALL members of ALL species.

        Here’s a fool-proof guarantee that, if you believe yourself prosperous and peaceful now, you will feel doubly — if not triply — prosperous and peaceful once you renounce the age-old but specious claim that you are made to profit from the lives and deaths of precious pigs.

        I am but one minor example of the people who have found incredible freedom and joy from giving all creatures the respect that we want for ourselves.

        Please just think about it as you feed an apple to a draft horse and throw a little corn to a smiling pig. May those pigs never have reason to wipe the smiles off their beatific faces.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 3, 2010 1:11 am

        Hi Kevin,

        For someone who made in his very first sentence of his very first post in this thread a condemnation of condescending remarks, you sure have proven yourself to be a very serious hypocrite.

        You are part of the industry, not a response to it and therefore part of the problem regardless of how much in denial you choose to want to be Kevin. The response to you and the industry is people all over the world choosing to not consume the products of your exploitation and violence upon animals.

        I am not asking you to kill yourself, but rather to start to look at the entire picture instead of narrowing your vision to only focus on the small sliver of it that you choose to.

        When I get to Arkansas with my heavy media cart, I’m gonna hitch it to your ass instead of hitching it to a horse. :-)

        But joking aside, I am puzzled by why you even bring up the cart and the horse. Do you somehow believe that so long as you are lessening your carbon footprint to some degree that this gives you license to exploit and kill anyone you feel you have the right to? Are you really that monstrous in your attitude toward others?? Apparently, by your own admission, you clearly are. This is most disturbing.

        Our presumed personal choices end at the point where someone’s real life is put in jeopardy by our behavior. It is at this point that we must deliberate to resolve a very serious moral question.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 3, 2010 1:29 am

        I must say Olivia, that you have a beautiful and gentle approach; couple that with your obvious wisdom and intelligence and I cannot think of a better advocate for more compassionate daily living than you. Thank you for being so composed and for being exceptionally mindful.

  27. Joel permalink
    November 29, 2010 1:49 pm

    I appreciate reading your article and getting a glimpse of a point of view that is different from mine. But aside from all that is spoken or editors notes in the video, I would think an experience like killing your own turkey would really make people think if it’s worth it or not to eat meat. Farms like this juxtaposed to large corporation saluter-houses where people never get to see where there food comes from could probably help getting some converts.

    I hope this does not label me as one of those “Hipsters” as categorized in the article.

    • December 2, 2010 7:36 pm

      Hi Louie – You’re right. There are very, very rare exceptions that manure does not come from exploited beings… But I thought I’d share this one called Malibu Compost… The founder rescues dairy cows headed to slaughter. She offers them the opportunity of a life they never would have had otherwise and sells the manure to pay for their care. Sure, I have mixed emotions that animals should have to “pay their way”. Still, this is a situation that this woman would never have created on her own and but she is trying to make the best of it for the sake of the (victim) cows. They have life and freedom – That’s a wonderful start!
      http://malibucompost.com/thedirt/

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 2, 2010 10:16 pm

        Bea,

        That’s precisely the kind of exception I was referring to. Though I knew of no specific sanctuary or person that / who did this, based on my experience and knowledge, I couldn’t imagine for a moment that there aren’t at least a few in the U.S. which / who aren’t doing this. Thank you for confirming my very educated guess.

      • December 2, 2010 10:32 pm

        Kevin, in your desire to make a buck from the lives of innocent, voiceless, loving, trusting fellow beings, you do not complete the picture, and you make some rather worrying statements.

        Life is about energy, and conversion of plant energy to animal energy for consumption is costly. Remove those animals from your property (making your buck through your treacherous deceipt of ‘happy animals’) and you remove significant energy from your land. Grow a diverse range of crops – each taking and giving something different to the soil, often predominantly only the edible parts leaving the property (as opposed to an entire pig or cow, or chicken) and the rest going straight back into it, and you’re getting closer to sustainable.

        We live on over 40 acres with pigs, horses, donkeys, chickens, goats, ducks etc on 15 acres of that. The rest consists of beautiful trees and scrub. Full of wild birds, wallabies, possums, bandicoots, snakes, bettongs and a whole host of other Australian wildlife. They, together with a continual fall of plant matter, nourish the soil – a sustainable cycle. We don’t disrupt that by thinking we can do better, by slaughtering the wildlife, clear felling the forest – for our use, our consumption. Do you honestly believe you can do it better than Nature? That concerns me. Not every part of our Earth needs to be raped and pillaged. Must we be so greedy?

        And the animals on the 15 acres of pasture – yep, they continually nourish it wih their manure. But they don’t have to pay a terminal rent. Instead they get loved. And as family members they get mourned when they die, and buried in the soil that nourished them all their lives. That’s a bit closer to happy animals.

        Harry

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 2, 2010 11:15 pm

        Harry, thank you for sharing those truely thought-provoking words. “But they don’t have to pay a terminal rent.” That’s a chilling yet profound way to put what exactly happens on these small family so-called “humane” farms – the price for a clean farmer’s conscience is paid for dearly by someone whose life is frantically extinguished. This kind of ‘humane’ farmer is more than willing to reap any profits but forces her / his unwilling victims to pay the price. And all of this to those s’he strangely claims to care about. If there is a better example of treachery, I am unaware of it.

        As to the 40 acres of land, Harry, you must be referring to an animal sanctuary….again, an example of exactly the type of exception to the rule place I meant in my earlier post.

  28. December 2, 2010 11:07 pm

    Hi Harry – I now have a beautiful vision of what your tranquil farm must look like! And if I ever had the choice I would be most honored to be nourished from your land. Sounds lovely!

  29. December 3, 2010 12:27 am

    Hi Louie, Bea

    Thank you for your kind words.

    Not a formal sanctuary but yes, it’s a place full of rescued animals. And it’s a sanctuary for Sue and I as much as it is for Ruby who was rescued from a small-scale farm about to ‘off-load’ the ‘runt’ to a local butcher; Lucy who was rescued from the life of a sow stall by the executive producer of Charlotte’s web, became a temporary movie star, and then came to Avondale (all 41 piglets that were stars in CW were placed in loving homes afterwards); Baldrick who was rescued (by a friend) from the barrel of a gun; Maisy, Tia & Maria who were rescued from their battery cages; Rocky and Pedro, rescued from the neighbour’s axe; Abbey, rescued from a puppy farm and hoarder at age 6 months; Bling Bling, rescued from her chain, skinny as a rake … The list goes on but we make only the tiniest dent in the cruelty that abounds. The true sanctuaries do far more (a friend of ours Emma, from Brightside FS, comes to mind). Perhaps one day …

    The cruelty, the violence, the poor justifications, the lies and deception MUST stop – for the sake of human animals as much as for that of non-human animals; everyone of us that recognizes that needs to speak up, hand out pamphlets, use our consumer power – each in our own way – to show the world that there’s a gentler way. A kinder way.

    Thank you to everyone who speaks up, lives kinder lives, does their bit. Inspires. This is a collective dream and collective actions are needed to fulfill it. We won’t do it without each other.

  30. December 3, 2010 12:44 am

    Dear Kevin

    Yes, I most certainly have seen pigs smile – for about 5 years now and, barring fatal illness or injury, will see Ruby and Lucy smile for many more years.

    Do your pigs smile when you kill them? Do you? How do you feel deep down inside when you kill these beautiful beings that you’ve deceived into trusting you?

    I, like you, write from experience. And the love and trust of our animals has taught me a gentler way. Put plainly, apart from sometimes helping them on their way when their time has come, I cannot kill those I profess to love.

    Harry

    • Kevin Wilson permalink
      December 3, 2010 1:31 am

      The pigs don’t know what hit them when I use the bolt gun on them. Neither do the cows. The chickens are asleep hanging head down in a canvas sleeve in a dark room when their heads are removed, killing them instantly. I don’t enjoy the killing. No sane person does. I do everything I can short of not killing them to make sure that they don’t suffer when the time comes.

      You want to know what I feel like deep down inside when I kill them? I feel like I have done a good thing. I raise the animals the way I do in response to industrial farming. I raise them knowing that I will kill them when their time comes. I think about it when I’m scratching their ears and giving them treats. I think about them while I am eating them. Mindfulness is something that gets talked about a lot around my little farm. I feel like these animals lived a good life. The chicken on my plate lived better than the hundred million other chickens that died around the world today. That number seems huge, but it is the best estimate I have been able to find. Hell, my dozens of roosters would have gone into a grinder as chicks if I hadn’t gone and picked them up myself from the line where they were being sexed. I do not feel any guilt though. This is a farm. Everything has a purpose here. The commenters here have their ideology, and I am fine with that. I have one of my own. I am trying to make things better than they are right now. I have built an oasis here, surrounded by land that has been stripped of it’s top soil that lays barren between corn crops that can only grow when sprayed with fertilizer. When the rain comes in the spring there is nothing to hold the fields together and they erode leaving twenty foot deep gullies. My land gains top soil every year, thanks mostly to the cattle and chicken rotation. You can’t smell my chickens from miles away like the barns north of here. They get moved to fresh grass every morning. There is no toxic run off full of mercury downstream from my pigs. My cows look rangy, but only compared to grain fattened monsters that need constant antibiotics just to live long enough to be slaughtered. I feel like I am rambling. I do a good thing here. Maybe not exactly the kind of good you would want, but better than you are going to get from almost any other farmer in this country. I am actively doing something about what I perceived to be a problem. I am making things better. None of you seem to be able to see that because all you see is blood on my hands. I am an activist for animal rights every hour of every day. I am an activist for the environment every hour of every day. I’m sorry that you can’t see that.

      • December 3, 2010 7:12 am

        Hi Kevin… You were wondering about how many chickens were killed in a day. I’m not a mathematician but a reliable source says 70 billion a year:
        http://www.animalethics.org.uk/i-ch7-2-chickens.html

        I too care for a small flock of hens – They are all rescues from situations of being considered “food”. I don’t sell or eat their eggs, but I do give them to people who would otherwise buy the “factory” version… And when people visit my home, I’d like to think they are ambassadors that encourage people to connect the life to the “bird”.

        What good would my “animal rights” efforts be if I told my neighbors that receive eggs that Tino or Eunice stopped “producing” so I had them killed for food? What if I had happy “pet-like” pigs – And told my neighbors I was going to have one butchered for a roast… What would that do to advance “animal rights”? In all due respect – I just don’t see how taking a life could ever be interpreted as bestowing “rights” to that being. I think accurately your efforts are for animal “welfare” … Also not to be confused with animal “well being”.

        What you do on your farm only furthers the idea that animals are “property”… And their lives are merely for the use of man. Even the animals who are “special”. No insult or criticism intended… I just wanted to make words fit the reality of what they really mean.

  31. December 3, 2010 1:16 am

    Kevin, forgive me if my tone seems harsh – it is not intended to be. And I, like Olivia, feel that you are anything but a monster. But I also feel that your method of farming is just the first step. I sincerely hope you do not stop there. Olivia’s guarantee will ring true, and you’ll feel that peace and happiness all the way to your inner core. (Again, I speak from experience; I have not been a vegan all my life. I also acknowledge my life can be gentler – I continue to seek such).

    • Kevin Wilson permalink
      December 3, 2010 1:33 am

      Okay, I am done here. I don’t need to be talked down to like I’m a child.

      • Olivia permalink
        December 3, 2010 1:47 am

        That was not how I felt when responding to you, Kevin. I felt only equality and respect. And I continue to feel that way. I appreciate your description of the way you take pains to make death painless for the animals on your farm. I understand where you are coming from. I also understand why it doesn’t make sense, from your point of view to agree, with Louie or Harry or me or Stephanie or whoever has a different view of animal rights than yours. Thank you for daring to join this forum and contribute here. I send you well wishes on your way. ~ Olivia

      • December 3, 2010 9:29 am

        Kevin, I am actually sad to hear this. I haven’t been joining the discussion, merely reading along, and like Olivia, think that you are not a monster and certainly not the problem here. It took a lot of character to join this discussion & to continue to explain your point of view & way of life. I have learned A LOT and certainly a lot about myself.

        I am the only vegan in a household with 4 omnivores. There is little chance that I will ever change the way my family eats, I accept that, the same way my parents accepted me becoming veg*n all those years ago. But it is my duty to care for all of them, to make sure that they are informed of where their food comes from, and hopefully, even if they continue to choose to eat meat, they will seek out farms like your own to find their meat.

        I was not born a vegan, this was a choice I made as an adult. But we all have choices to make in our lives – being vegan DOES affect those around us, that much is very true – our choice has an impact on others for good or ill, we have a responsibility to understand that. I have taken the stance in my life that I do not try to convert people – if I am asked directly I give people the reasons why *I* am vegan, now why *they* should be vegan. It is a kinder, gentler approach and seems to make me feel the best about the whole thing.

        I sincerely hope that you realize that there are many of us out there who truly learn through every conversation, every word. I soaked in everything that has been said here, and continue to formulate my own philosophy of my life.

        Thanks Kevin. I truly learned from you.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 3, 2010 10:56 am

        Kevin, I know that was not Harry’s intention…you’ve misconstrued his message.

        You actively, remorselessly, and arrogantly make the choice every day Kevin to make profits from the exploitation and ultimate demise of innocent, sentient individuals. I base that on your own words (you feel no guilt whatsoever) and stated intentions (you choose to continue business as usual). Petting an individual before you kill that individual doesn’t make the killing any less abominably violent an act….period. It is treachery and betrayal. Convincing yourself to the contrary simply makes that part of your life……a lie.

        Just because you do not perceive the fear or pain that accompanies the killing on your farm, does not mean in any way, shape, or form that it doesn’t exist. For example, there is no assurance that exists on planet earth that animals struck with a captive bolt do not feel pain and experience fear or bewilderment. The animal is usually rendered immobilized yes, but usually not or not necessarily insensate. This fact has been exposed many times already…you just choose to be in denial. I do not pretend or see this violent behavior of yours as anything other that what it plainly is….the exploitation and violent demise of innocent individuals for profit.

        Your ideology is neither animal rights nor even animal welfare….concern for the welfare of an individual means concern for their well being. Exploiting then killing a healthy animal well before they have reached their natural mortality for the sake of making a profit is anything but concern for their well being, Kevin. You only fool yourself if you believe otherwise. You have not built an oasis for the animals as you so arrogantly pronounce, but rather a prettier killing facility. You engage in animal husbandry practices; you view the individuals as commodities who have only an extrinsic or instrumental purpose to the farmer….you said so yourself when you insisted, “EveryTHING has a purpose here.”

        Finally, I refuse to let you get away with sophistry and completely sugar-coating the violence you perpetrate upon innocent individuals. The only reason you take those male chicks is so that you can exploit them for monetary gain…there’s no benevolence behind such behavior. Also, chickens never sleep hanging head down….the method of immobilization you call “sleep” is forced upon them so that killing them becomes more economically efficient (unrestrained animals fight for their lives….especially birds, and this would cost valuable time for the farmer….this is farm economics 101).

        My hope, Kevin, is that you start to be honest with yourself one day and eschew the denial you have immersed yourself in just so you can lavishly remind others, “I do not feel any guilt though.”

  32. sundog permalink
    December 3, 2010 2:56 pm

    Mindfulness does not come from harming farm animals with less cruelty. Being less barbaric than a factory farm is not true kindness. The basic philosophy of mindfulness as I’ve learned it over the years, and I don’t mean religion, is to take actions that don’t result in the intentional harm, distress, betrayal, or death of anyone else.

    All species enter existence on this earth with a basic right to be left alone. When we can’t be of service to other species, let’s at the very least do them no deliberate harm. Not to mention, billions of years of evolution can’t be improved upon by humans. The industrial world can’t conquer and improve the natural world with chemicals, new methods of animal use, and increased brutality. To expect beneficial consequences is to ignore the current reality of eco-devastation and the sorrowful experiences of terrorized farm animals and wildlife. In the end, the planet will endure and recover biodiversity. The survival of humankind is certainly another question.

  33. Louie Gedo permalink
    December 3, 2010 4:35 pm

    Good point sundog, afterall, can it really be honestly believed that someone who engages in less cruel genocide or less cruel chattel enslavement of others than the worst is really being mindfull? Some actually think so.

    Sadly, these folks have forced themselves to believe complete absurdities like that as a truly fanatical (meaning an uncritical devotion to something) defense of their own violent, unnecessary behavior just so they don’t have to feel guilty. It’s really a disturbing mentality and not all that uncommon in some fields.

    • Olivia permalink
      December 4, 2010 1:02 am

      Louie, when Kevin mentioned your cart somewhere in his comments, I decided to find out what he was talking about. So I Googled you and found the Satya article on you, one of many unsung heroes!

      You remind me a lot of Eddie Lama from the Tribe of Heart film, The Witness. What wonders you both are. The enormous efforts you put into defending innocent animals humbles me.

      You get to witness the light go on in the eyes of many people, but you”ll never know how many others experience a delayed response, and how many actually change their ways permanently.

      Creatures everywhere have reason to be grateful for you. I know I am.

      • December 4, 2010 3:12 am

        I echo that Olivia. Thank you for pointing me in that direction.

        Louie, what you have done and continue to do is obviously fueled by that deep, heartfelt passion present in all of us … but only a brave few have the courage to harness it like you do. I wrote in an earlier comment about inspiration; Thank you for the example you set, and for the lives you touch. It is indeed humbling.

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 4, 2010 4:45 am

        Dear Olivia and Harry,

        Thank you for your very kind words. I in turn have many to thank for their tireless efforts, courage, and teachings toward, regarding, and of expanding the circle of compassion as widely as possible. I am indebted to both of you and anyone here and elsewhere who questions and places compassion before habit, tradition, authority, and personal and self-serving interests when it is unnecessary. Questioning authority can mean questioning one’s own mind or beliefs…..as Eddie Lama poignantly points out in The Witness. (We are close friends incidentally).

        I may be a hero to some or many, but I am certainly not perfect and I don’t feel that it is wrong for anyone to criticize me or anyone else when there is an honest and legitimate concern for other’s safety or well being when it comes at the expense of something I or anyone is doing. But what really bothers me to no end is the arrogant entitlement attitude that pervades much of human culture; the attitude that believes that exploiting or taking a life when it is not necessary, is nothing more than a personal choice that one has the right to without regard to the interests of the exploited / harmed.

        Anyway, I’m running late for work.

        Warmly,
        Louie

        p.s. if you are on Facebook, friend request me if you’d like

  34. December 3, 2010 9:33 pm

    Kevin, apologies for not replying until now. (I binned the last one I wrote – fortunately so as Louie and sundog have put it into words better than I could.)

    As it appears it was I that you felt was “talking down to you like a child”, I have the following to say:

    Like you, I am on a journey. I have not reached where I want to be yet. I speak with you as one fellow traveller to another, learning from your experiences and sharing mine. Not as a father to a child. You took it wrong.

    I’ve been where you are. I, like you, have blood on my hands from those years. I told everyone who would listen how much I loved animals, yet I ate them. Wore them. I was responsible for countless innocent, beautiful lives. But as I began to read more, then love more, I realized that my belly ached. With awful discomfort. I could not throw a ball for Plato or Chelsea, watch an ex-battery hen, Maisey, chase after it with glee, and then sit down to a meal of her sister, cousin, daughter. The growing discomfort would no longer let me justify their deaths, or Maisey’s, by saying, “Well Maisey had a beautiful life. She was so happy she even chased ball.” On a flight yesterday from Dhaka to Bangkok a 77 year old man seated next to me relayed a tale about a dog dodging the traffic in Dhaka. “You see,” he said. “Everybody wants to live.” You talk about being an activist for animal rights – do they not have a right to live? What right do we have to take their lives? Please Kevin, do not call yourself an “activist for animal rights every hour of every day.”

    Kevin, if I have offended you to the extent that you left this forum, I apologize. To you and to everyone on this forum. Sorry. My words must have been unintentionally harsh. If however, what I wrote, the questions I asked, caused that discomfort deep in your belly (which you acknowledged with “I don’t enjoy the killing. No sane person does.”) to swell to the point it was paining you, well … no apologies. My words and questions are not responsible for that pain; the blood on your hands is.

    Travel well Kevin. I say that with sincerity, gentleness and love.

    • Olivia permalink
      December 3, 2010 10:03 pm

      You have not uttered a single harsh or rude word, Harry, and no one who has read everything you have written here could possibly think otherwise.

      Nor do I think Louie has been harsh; just more frank, perhaps.

      Kevin, if perchance you’re still reading these emails, you may have observed that several of us have been truly touched by your sincere efforts to do the right thing, whereas the coldness in the tone of another organic farmer’s blog about almost-vengefully killing a kicking dairy cow elicited the opposite response from many of us.

      Harry, like you (and Lisa S., too), I am openly admiring of Kevin’s efforts to differentiate his farm from the wretched CAFOs.

      But at the same time, I am totally with Louie and sundog in calling a spade a spade. It would be an insult to the intelligence of our animal friends, not to mention our own hard-won efforts to be enlightened on this subject and to enlighten others, to give a pass to anyone who puts “animal rights” and deliberate killing of animals in the same camp.

      Kevin, if you haven’t already read the aforementioned essay by John Robbins http://www.johnrobbins.info/blog/the-pig-farmer, I beg you to do so. It combines the need for total honesty-with-oneself and rock-bottom truthfulness that Louie and sundog speak of with the spirit of understanding love that Harry and Lisa relay, and proves how these qualities, necessarily operating as one, work in the heart of one farmer until he is totally transformed. He, his family, the many children and animals he unselfishly serves and the world are blessed by his willingness to change. We’re simply asking if you’d consider letting your goodness take you a step further, that’s all. It’s nothing we haven’t all had to do ourselves, and are continuing to do, with humility.

  35. December 5, 2010 8:07 am

    I haven’t seen how anyone here has left a comment that hasn’t been thoughtful and civil. I think this is a wonderful illustration of how very important this issue is to us all. Our measured words confirm the close examination we’ve all given to this dire situation that animals are in.

    Just a small piece of what logic that I learned when I was first introduced to veganism and I guess it was one of the ideas that advanced my thinking towards a better way to live. I can’t remember exactly what advocate bounced this idea towards me, but it stuck ever since. They said that compassion isn’t doing the minimum to be kind, but seeks the maximum to be just. And for me that has always been the litmus test… Am I doing the very least that is “acceptable” to my culture? Or the very most that is possible in my own life?

    Surely if we can live without the bloodshed, it seems like the right thing to do…

  36. Olivia permalink
    December 5, 2010 10:25 am

    Quote from Bea: “They said that compassion isn’t doing the minimum to be kind, but seeks the maximum to be just. And for me that has always been the litmus test… Am I doing the very least that is ‘acceptable’ to my culture? Or the very most that is possible in my own life?”

    I love that, Bea! :-) It has now “stuck” itself to me, too. :-)

    • Louie Gedo permalink
      December 5, 2010 6:33 pm

      Ditto…that is beautiful and perfectly stated! It puts into words exactly my worldview on this issue and the broader issue of the human relationship with non-humans.

      As to people feeling offended, I have learned some time ago that anyone can feel offended at any time by anything whatsoever, anywhere. And just because someone does feel offended, doesn’t mean in any way, shape, or form that what was said / written was objectively offensive. In many cases I believe, some people mistake their defensive reaction for offensive comments. Perhaps these discussions here make the case for this…perhaps.

      • Olivia permalink
        December 5, 2010 8:08 pm

        Good point, Louie. I needed to be reminded of that.

        I especially like how you couch your last sentence in two soft pillows: “Perhaps … perhaps.” How inoffensive — just like our sheep friends. :-)

      • Louie Gedo permalink
        December 5, 2010 8:59 pm

        yes, 2 of them indeed :-)

        I certainly make the effort to be mindful (among many other things)…that’s solely my responsibility like my own willfull behavior. As well, I have to be accountable for my behavior and choices because they are mine….and it’s the only sensible way that I can expect anyone else to be accountable for theirs. Otherwise, I’m just a hypocrite.

  37. Amy Clare permalink
    December 8, 2010 6:59 am

    Kevin:

    “You want to know what I feel like deep down inside when I kill them? I feel like I have done a good thing.”

    Imagine if someone said that at a murder trial after they’d killed human beings.

  38. Elsa permalink
    December 23, 2010 7:00 pm

    Her pants are splattered with blood. What a twisted deluded psycho.

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