eaving the farmers’ market every Saturday, I am filled with self-satisfaction. Not only have I managed to accomplish some food shopping (a tricky feat for busy people), but I also imagine that I have participated in the political project of “the food movement.” In this fantasy, the First Lady, Michael Pollan, and Mark Bittman regard me with approval. This zeal fades quickly as the fruit flies come to feast on the tomatoes that I never seem to eat fast enough, and as I cave after a long day and dig into an ice-cream bar made with unpronounceable ingredients. Guilt soon sets in. Again, I have failed to live up to the high standards of today’s food reformers, where we eat simply, locally, and organically. All the time.
Of course, not all food reformers are calling for the same thing. As Pollan has pointed out, the food movement is “a big, lumpy tent.” There are hosts of activists: among them the foodies (who enjoy eating’s aesthetic values); the sustainability advocates (who monitor animal welfare and agriculture’s impact on ecosystems); and the health reformers (who raise awareness about obesity and inner-city food deserts). Since their resurgence in the 1970s, these diverse factions have conspired toward a common goal: telling us how to eat better, and making us feel worse when we don’t.
It’s a noble and needed cause, but like any crusade, it can get a little preachy. Writing in The Atlantic last year, B.R. Myers lamented foodism’s faux piety, one where “to serve one’s palate is to do right by small farmers, factory-abused cows, Earth itself,” all while assembling special dinner parties with overpriced ingredients, meant to model morality for the masses. I tend to agree; while Myers’ beef is with the foodies in particular, there is something “holier than thou” about the entire food movement. But on one historical point, Myers gets it wrong. He posits that foodism’s self-righteousness is a newfound affectation. “For the first time in the history of their community,” he writes, gourmets are left “feeling more moral, spiritual even, than the man on the street.” In fact, the American food movement has a long, sanctimonious history—and one with surprisingly religious roots.
This is sickening. Animal lovers, decent people, humans with a conscience, let the companies that sponsor rodeos that allow this sort of abuse know how you feel about it. This is not “sport”, it’s cruelty.
Warning: The video contains extremely disturbing images.
They’re real proud of their rodeo in Jordan Valley, Oregon. Unfortunately, the men (and women) don’t feel like men unless they’re abusing animals.
In this video we focus on the horses roped, slammed to the ground, and sometimes dragged by the Jordan Valley Big Loop Rodeo’s signature event, Big Loop horse roping.
Shame on Les Schwab Tire Centers and the Idaho Power Company sponsor this outrageous abuse. Please contact each and tell them to stop their participation in such cowardly cruelty.
The ethics of eating red meat have been grilled recently by critics who question its consequences for environmental health and animal welfare. But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.
Renowned ethicist Peter Singer says if there is a range of ways of feeding ourselves, we should choose the way that causes the least unnecessary harm to animals. Most animal rights advocates say this means we should eat plants rather than animals.
It takes somewhere between two to ten kilos of plants, depending on the type of plants involved, to produce one kilo of animal. Given the limited amount of productive land in the world, it would seem to some to make more sense to focus our culinary attentions on plants, because we would arguably get more energy per hectare for human consumption. Theoretically this should also mean fewer sentient animals would be killed to feed the ravenous appetites of ever more humans.
But before scratching rangelands-produced red meat off the “good to eat” list for ethical or environmental reasons, let’s test these presumptions.
Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:
at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein
more environmental damage, and
a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.
How is this possible?
Agriculture to produce wheat, rice and pulses requires clear-felling native vegetation. That act alone results in the deaths of thousands of Australian animals and plants per hectare. Since Europeans arrived on this continent we have lost more than half of Australia’s unique native vegetation, mostly to increase production of monocultures of introduced species for human consumption.
The level of abuse inflicted on these beautiful, innocent creatures and the cruel disregard for their well being makes me ill. It’s appalling. Disgusting. They should be shut down. How do we allow this as a “civilized” society?
Apparently these people even went so far as to hire a former CIA covert ops head as part of a multimillion-dollar spying operation on animal rights groups. That means there’s some serious money involved.
The report is long, but well worth reading if you care about animal welfare. Kudos to the journalists at Mother Jones for their work on this.
The Cruelest Show on Earth
Bullhooks. Whippings. Electric Shocks. Three-day train rides without breaks. Our yearlong investigation rips the big top off how Ringling Bros. treats its elephants.
Courtesy Library of CongressIt was a drizzly winter day, and inside the Jacksonville Coliseum, Kenny, a three-year-old Asian elephant, was supposed to perform his usual adorable tricks in The Greatest Show on Earth: identifying the first letter of the alphabet by kicking a beach ball marked with an “A,” twirling in a tight circle, perching daintily atop a tub, and, at the end of his act, waving farewell to the audience with a handkerchief grasped in his trunk.
But Kenny was clearly sick. Elephants are highly intelligent creatures that develop at a similar rate as humans. In the wild, Kenny would still be at his mother’s side, just beginning to wean. In captivity, he was a voracious consumer of water and hay but for the past day or so had showed little interest in either. He seemed listless. Worried attendants in the tent where the elephants were chained between shows twice alerted a circus veterinary technician.
After the evening show, the bleeding continued. The elephant crew gave Kenny rehydration fluids and shackled him in his stall. Less than two hours later, a night attendant discovered his bloodied body on the concrete floor.Under federal regulations, sick elephants must get prompt medical care and a veterinarian’s okay before performing. Neither occurred, and at showtime Kenny trotted out to the center ring. He developed diarrhea during the morning show. During the afternoon performance, he began bleeding from his bottom and afterward struggled to stay on his feet. It was only then that Gary D. West, a circus veterinarian, arrived from St. Petersburg to examine the young elephant. West prescribed antibiotics and recommended that Kenny skip the evening show—in a later affidavit, he didn’t stress concern for the elephant’s health but rather that “he might pass some blood which might be seen by a spectator and cause speculation as to his well being.”
West was overruled by Gunther Gebel-Williams, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s legendary golden-haired animal tamer who’d retired from the ring to be vice president of animal care. So Kenny made his third appearance, although he was too weak to perform any stunts.
After the evening show, the bleeding continued. The elephant crew gave Kenny rehydration fluids and shackled him in his stall. Less than two hours later, a night attendant discovered his bloodied body on the concrete floor. The cause of death remains unclear.
Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s corporate parent, did not announce Kenny’s death to the public for nearly a week, until an employee tipped off animal rights activists. They demanded action from the Department of Agriculture, which licenses and inspects circuses under the Animal Welfare Act. Under intense public pressure, including a letter-writing campaign headlined by Kim Basinger, the USDA charged Feld Entertainment with two willful violations for making Kenny perform ill without prompt or adequate veterinary care.
Feld Entertainment portrays its population of some 50 endangered Asian elephants as “pampered performers”.… But a yearlong Mother Jones investigation shows that Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants.
That was in 1998, and at the time it seemed like a turning point in the decades-long fight over circus elephants. For years, animal rights organizations had been releasing horrific undercover videos showing Ringling trainers abusing elephants, but USDA investigations never produced evidence that officials deemed strong enough to warrant action. Now there was a dead body—and a recent precedent. The agency had just fined the King Royal Circus, a small family operation, $200,000 for allowing an elephant to die in an overheated trailer of an untreated salmonella infection.
But after a few months, the USDA announced a settlement. Feld Entertainment would donate $20,000 to elephant causes. In return, the agency absolved the company of blame for Kenny’s death and further declared, “Ringling Bros. has never been adjudged to have violated the [Animal Welfare Act].”
The USDA unwittingly opened a new chapter in the animal rights movement. Frustrated by the agency’s inaction, advocates turned to the federal courts. This shift in strategy has not yet produced a judgment against Feld Entertainment, but it has unearthed an extraordinary trove of records that its lawyers and government regulators had taken great pains to ensure the public would never see; in one notable instance, documents came to light only after a judge threatened to put Feld executives in jail. They include dozens of videos and thousands of pages of investigation files, veterinary records, circus train logs, and courtroom testimony.
A bullhook of the type used on a three-year-old baby elephant named BenjaminFeld Entertainment portrays its population of some 50 endangered Asian elephants as “pampered performers” who “are trained through positive reinforcement, a system of repetition and reward that encourages an animal to show off its innate athletic abilities.” But a yearlong Mother Jones investigation shows that Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants. They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity. Barack, a calf born on the eve of the president’s inauguration, had to leave the tour in February for emergency treatment of herpes—the second time in a year. Since Kenny’s death, 3 more of the 23 baby elephants born in Ringling’s vaunted breeding program have died, all under disturbing circumstances that weren’t fully revealed to the public.
In the light of conclusive evidence that ritually slaughtered animals do feel pain, this impassioned plea from Johann Hari in The Independant:
Britain is famously a nation of animal lovers who turn doe-eyed and gooey at the sight of any furry creature. So why are we sitting silently while our treatment of many of our animals regresses to the standards of the sixth century?
It is true that, at the moment, there is a frightening rise in real bigotry against Muslims and, to a lesser but still significant extent, Jews. Some people who object to the rise of halal meat try to fit it into a preposterous narrative where Britain is somehow being “taken over” by the 4 per cent of its population who are Muslim, presumably via the Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. I have written many articles against this resurgent bigotry, and I can see why some people would be shy about anything that would look like piling on.
But the only consistent position is to oppose viciousness against these minorities, and to oppose viciousness by these minorities. The proponents of halal and kosher meat are choosing to inflict terrible and unnecessary pain on living creatures every day. It would be condescending to treat them as victim-children who are exempt from moral debate – and it would be a betrayal of the real victims here: the sentient creatures having their throats cut.
We need to be much more self-confident in criticising religious claims. Your ideas do not deserve any special status because you say they came from an invisible, supernatural being.
No, we don’t respect your desire to needlessly torment animals because some hallucinating desert nomads did it centuries ago. We don’t respect it at all. You can cry that we are “persecuting” you if we stop you committing acts of cruelty if you want.
It’s what the religious – Christian, Jew and Muslim alike – did when we stopped you tormenting women and gays and anybody else you could get your hands on. One of the great markers of the advance of human kindness is that the howls you will hear are from the Men of God.