consuming nature

after a potluck dinner with friends, jess and i spent the rest of the evening on thanksgiving watching, “behind the mask”, a documentary about the ALF (animal liberation front), and why people risk their lives to save the lives of animals imprisoned in vivisection labs, fur farms, etc.  a fitting time to watch such a film, on a night when turkeys were being carved at tables across the U.S. en masse.  i would recommend the film to everyone.

in my experience as a vegan, the vast majority of animal rights and vegan discussions revolve around food choices. i know there are myriad reasons why people eat animals – it’s a nuanced issue, steeped in cultural traditions, geographical limitations, and plain old habit, to name a few. but to me, the defining characteristic of veganism goes beyond simply not eating animals, or even any animal by-products – to me, veganism is a consciousness that extends compassion to all lifeforms, making choices that minimize suffering and cruelty in all animals and humans, and leaving the least impact on the world around us.

while food is a constant in our everyday lives, so too are millions of other products that we use on a daily basis, which often contain animal-derived ingredients, or were tested on animals in vivisection laboratories.  countless dogs, rabbits, chimpanzees, cats, mice, and so many other animals are tortured – yes, TORTURED – every day in universities and corporate labs – on the false premise that we NEED to sacrifice animals for the sake of ‘scientific progress’.  the truth is that these tests are not only inhumane and cruel; they are also irrelevant and outdated, which makes them all the more horrific.  millions of animals are tortured and killed every year for nothing.

labrats1

but, it’s not for nothing, really – it’s for profit.  the truth is that animal experimentation is simply a giant business, complete with the false advertising necessary to keep the public consuming more and more products which they are brain-washed into believing are a) necessary, and b) the results of required animal sacrifice.

as an anti-capitalist, i resent the fact that “organic”, “natural”, “cruelty-free”, “not tested on animals” products are just another (rapidly growing) market.  the point is not to just replace all the bad products with “friendlier” versions – we simply don’t need the vast majority of products that are being manufactured.  it’s all just a capitalist conspiracy – the propaganda of “choice”.  when the truth is that all those choices (i.e. entire store aisles of shampoo, etc.) are the causes of deforestation, oil wars, animal experimentation, child and sweatshop labor, worker exploitation, overflowing landfills, obesity, disease, financial debt, stress, and depression… which in turn lead people to MORE PRODUCTS!

and this is all just talking about things we think we “need” – healthcare products, pharmaceuticals, homecleaning supplies; not to mention all the crap we simply do not need – such as the christmas gifts i can imagine were so important to the hordes of “black friday” shoppers this morning, that they trampled a wal-mart employee to DEATH in order to buy.

it’s all incredibly overwhelming – everywhere we turn there is another reason why the thing we just bought/ate/entertained ourselves with is “wrong”.  there are so many injustices happening in our world, hopelessness is an epidemic in our society.  i’d like to think that the hordes of “apathetic” individuals are really just overwhelmed and think that there’s no way they can do anything “right”, so they gave up trying.  it gives me personally more hope to think that’s the reason our society is letting these atrocities continue – rather than that people just don’t care.

so what can we do?

everyone doesn’t need to immediately become “vegan”, if they’re not prone to sticking with new commitments or changing their habits; it’s more about increasing awareness and reducing consumption, little by little, as fast or as slow as they are willing.  unfortunately in our world today, it’s impossible not to use/consume anything that has an adverse effect on animals, people, and our planet, because everything we manufacture uses resources to acquire, create, package, and/or ship the damn thing to the market.  so it’s first and foremost all about reducing the number of things we use.  rethinking what we really need/want.  is this product i want really worth everything it took to make it possible for me to have it?

and secondly, when we are going to buy things new, it’s about using all those choices wisely.  it’s really not that hard to spend a second to check the label for “cruelty-free”, or “not tested on animals”.  since, alas, we still live under capitalism, boycotting companies who use animal experimentation and other bad manufacturing processes is still one good way to vote against these practices (and simply buying fewer products overall/spending less money in the market is another form of boycott).

and another important way to demand an end to cruel practices, is through nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience – directly confronting the powers that propagate injustice, and/or stopping the injustice whenever and wherever possible.  when it comes to animal rights, this is where the ALF comes in – and “behind the mask” does an excellent job of explaining why direct action is necessary to end cruelty to animals.

changing societal norms is a long process, which we have seen over and over again throughout the centuries:  overturning feudalism, slavery, gaining voting rights, civil rights, etc.  none of these injustices were reversed due to letter-writing campaigns.  it takes people willing to break unjust laws in order to expose how unjust the laws are, in order to change enough people’s minds and change the laws/practices.  the people who are brave enough to take the risks for these causes, are such a threat to the dominant paradigm, that the government labels them terrorists, and vilifies their image in the mainstream’s eyes.  this happens in every movement – in an attempt to prevent the public from actually listening to the truth.

those who can’t/or are not willing to take action themselves, have a responsibility to at least support those that can/do take action, and actively resist the “terrorist” propaganda campaigns that the corporations and government tout against activists.  as the film quoted JFK, “those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.

whatisterrorism

a few books and resources:

animal liberation by peter singer

eternal treblinka by charles patterson

making a killing by bob torres

the sexual politics of meat by carol adams

fast food nation by eric schlosser

ALF – animal liberation front website

green is the new red



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5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    […] Read the rest of this superb post right here […]

  2. 2

    Bea Elliott said,

    Ah yes… the animal terrorism act… ya gotta love it.

    It’s patriotic to breed/imprison/torture/slaughter and eat animals – But try to save some, like in a resuce or protest about their abuses… why then you’re a real criminal…

    Thanks for posting such a thought provoking piece –

  3. 3

    Erin said,

    What?! I thought you were going to write a Harry Potter post next! Juuuust kidding.

    One aspect of the “animal liberation acts as terrorism” trope that I find most interesting is the notion that it’s threatening to companies because the animals are property. The idea that acts are terrorism because they damage property is some pretty fucked up double speak if you ask me. In the meantime, breaking down the cultural meaning behind using and owning animals is extremely difficult, in my opinion. It might be another worthwhile topic?

  4. 4

    Erin said,

    Ever since I posted that last comment, I’ve wanted to clarify something.
    The idea that animals are considered property is an interesting concept worth more investigation.

    Separate to that is the notion that terrorism now equals destruction of property.

    I didn’t meant to link the two ideas. My previous post makes it sound like animals should be considered property, but that the stealing/destruction of animals as property shouldn’t be considered terrorism.

    Whoops!

  5. 5

    Erika said,

    Megan, thanks so much for your blog.

    “Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer helped to inform me on the unnecessary abuse going on in the mass market meat industry, science labs, vet schools, and in the LD50 testing for household products on the market (LD50 stands for Lethal Dose 50%, in other words, the dose of a substance that will kill half the test animals).

    People don’t want to take the time to get informed on what they are supporting when they buy products or meat at the store. Somehow they don’t think that they, as the consumer, are directly affecting the quality of animals’ lives by what they CHOOSE to purchase. Does it really all boil down to how much products cost or how easy it is to choose to remain apathetic?

    Honestly, I tried to be a vegetarian for political reasons. After a couple of years, I went back to my old omnivore habits. Now, I try my best to make conscious choices about the meat I purchase for myself, my pets, and the household products I buy. Buying meat that is labeled “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” or “Factory Farm Free” (Pet Promise pet foods) are better options if one chooses to eat meat. “Cruelty-Free” products are more humane choices than products that are tested on animals.

    Purchasing humanely raised cows and chickens for milk and eggs are hard to find. Can one really trust the labels? I know going vegan would be the most humane choice. This website addresses the truth behind labeling issues:
    http://www.cok.net/lit/freerange.php

    I recommend “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan for background on how hard it really is to get humanely raised meat or eggs. It’s cruel to feed cows corn and not grass. Their stomachs can’t handle corn and were never meant to eat anything but grass. Pollan’s book also talks about how difficult it is for the small farmer to compete against large corporate farms. The USDA’s regulations make it impossible for a small farm to afford the space needed for the inspectors that show up randomly. Corn…read about how it is now a biomass and is virtually in every processed product we eat (corn syrup, etc.).

    Basic advice from Omnivore’s Dilemma:
    1. Eat as few corn and corn-by-products as possible.
    2. Don’t eat fast food.
    3. If at all possible, eat grass- or pasture-fed versions of animal-derived foods you eat.
    4. Buying organic is worth it.

    Well, thanks again for your blog. This is the first time I responded to a blog. I feel very passionate about the humane treatment of animals. I will check out the books and resources you recommended.

    Best,
    Erika


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