animal welfare, factory farming, farm animals, gegen Massentierhaltung, Massentierhaltung, slaughter, Tierquälerei, Tierschutz, vegan

Stephen Hawking’s Connection To Animals

In the Telegraph (Great Britain) you can find this interesting article on animals and factory farming, the universe and its connection to how we treat animals:

Thank you for spreading the word on animal awareness!

animal sanctuary, animal welfare, cow, factory farming, farm animals, Farm Sanctuary, gegen Massentierhaltung, Massentierhaltung, Tierschutz

Farm Sanctuary’s Insight on Cows

For those who have never had the chance to pet a cow or see her of him run happily over a meadow, the following insights might seem a bit exaggerated. Once you get to learn more about these sentient beings you will hopefully never want to eat them (or even take away their milk). This is from the Farm Santuary’s blog:

Meet the Animals: Cows

New! The Someone Project is pleased to release its third white paper: “Thinking Cows: A REVIEW OF COGNITION, EMOTION, AND THE SOCIAL LIVES OF DOMESTIC COWS

Cow Behavior, Emotion, and Intelligence

  • “Cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships, and become excited over intellectual challenges…” — The Sunday Times (UK)

Goats are merry pranksters, chickens and turkeys are inquisitive and always exploring, pigs are the brains of the operation, and cattle are the farm’s deeply social and most contemplative residents.

Cows interact with one another in complex ways, forming collaborative relationships (for example, they form “grooming partnerships,” just like chimpanzees)1, learning from one another, and making decisions based on altruism and compassion2. Sunday Times science editor Jonathan Leake explains that “cows have a secret mental life in which they bear grudges, nurture friendships, and become excited over intellectual challenges…”3

As a researcher at Moulton College in the UK, Krista McLennan has documented the fact that cattle form deep friendships and strong family bonds. Like humans, when cattle “have their preferred partner with them, their stress levels in terms of their heart rates are reduced compared with if they are with a random individual.”4

Because of their complex social lives, they are also quite intelligent. Professor Donald Broom from Cambridge University explains: “[S]ocial animals such as cattle…need substantial intellectual ability in order to cope with their complex social life.”5 As another indication of their intelligence, cows have great memories. Professor Joe Stookey from the University of Saskatchewan explains that cattle “demonstrate good spatial memory (they remember where things are located). … They can remember migration routes, watering holes, shelter, and the location of their newborn calf.”6 Other researchers report that cows remember the best spots in a pasture for grazing.7

They are also good problem solvers. Professor Broom explains that when cows solve problems, “[t]heir brainwaves showed their excitement; their heartbeat went up, and some even jumped into the air. We called it their Eureka moment.”8 Explains Guardian science reporter Laura Spinney, “The evidence that they are capable of learning associations suggests brains that are…aware of what has happened in the past and of acting on it in the future.”9

Tim Sell, chair of the UK’s National Farmers Union explains: “They are all individuals and all have their own characteristics. They are tremendously curious. They have emotional storms. When it is a miserable, cold day, they will all be miserable, but when it is nice and sunny, you can almost see them smiling.”10

Dr. John Webster echoes Sell’s comments: “You only have to watch how cows and lambs both seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads raised to the sun on a perfect English summer’s day. Just like humans.”11 And, as Dr. Temple Grandin explains, “When big old huge dairy cows are let out in the spring, after spending the whole winter cooped up in the barn, man, they just jump around all over the fields like little calves. It’s the same feeling young animals have when they play.”12

Meet Cinci and Sonny
Farm Sanctuary’s Susie Coston reflects: “Cinci holds a special place in our hearts here at Farm Sanctuary. She leapt a six-foot fence at a slaughterhouse near Cincinnati (hence her name) and hid out in a park for 10 days before she was finally caught by the local SPCA. As you can imagine, she was incredible and very smart. Farmers said she was dangerous — that she was probably culled from a breeding herd because she was nuts, and she would likely kill someone, but she was nothing but respectful to us.

rescued cow Cinci Freedom
Cinci Freedom

Well, except this one time. We were attempting to have her hooves trimmed with the other cattle. The trimmer came with his chute and set up. We got to Cinnci, and she slammed the trimmer to the ground, turned, and took out two gates and a slider door in a matter of about 30 seconds. Then she jumped the fence. When the trimmer drove away, she returned to the herd. From that point on, when she heard his truck — which clanks with metal — she would jump the fences and stay far away until he left, and then she would again return to the herd.

rescued cow Cinci Freedom
Cinci Freedom

Her death was also incredible — there was a huge respect for her in the herd and also an obvious awareness of her fear of people and their protectiveness of her during her final month or so. I really miss her so much.”

Sonny is a male calf who was born into the dairy industry. His owner brought him to the stockyard as a weak and injured newborn for a quick sale for veal or cheap beef. Today, Sonny is a rambunctious boy. He’s playful, confident, and maybe just a little bit spoiled from the round-the-clock care he received from Farm Sanctuary caregivers after his rescue. He was found just after his birth in a filthy stall, too weak to stand, his umbilical cord torn from his belly leaving a badly infected wound. Sonny never knew his mother or nursed from her, so he lacked the rich colostrum that was critical for his health and immunity. But with bottle-feeding, blood transfusions, and lots and lots of attention, the baby boy has grown into an irrepressible youngster.

Rescued farm animal, farm animal sanctuary

You’ll usually find him looking for fun — or trouble — with his buddies, Conrad and Orlando. In the early morning, the boys moo and protest until someone finally comes with their food. Sonny checks in with his pig friends, Sebastian and Eric, only to be nipped on the nose. He tests the gates, hoping for a chance to sneak into places he shouldn’t be, then settles in for a day of fun with Conrad and Orlando. These overgrown boys spend their days together playing, complaining, napping, and playing some more. Always curious and ever testing his limits, Sonny finds a visitor’s camera bag and tosses it in the air and generally makes a nuisance of himself until one of his beloved caretakers relents and gives him a good old scratch on the neck. He still struggles with minor health issues from his rough start, but that doesn’t stop this boy from kicking up his heels in pure delight.

Sonny rescued farm animal, farm animal sanctuary

1Spinney, L. (March 16, 2005). More than meats the eye. The Guardian.
2Hatkoff, A. (2009). Inner World of Farm Animals, New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, pp. 68, 75.
3Leake, J. (Feb 27, 2005). The secret life of moody cows. The Sunday Times.
4Heifer so lonely: How cows have best friends and get stressed when they are separated. (July 5, 2011). Daily Mail.
5Hatkoff, A. (2009). Inner World of Farm Animals, New York, NY: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, p. 64.
6Stookey, J.M. (Nov. 18. 1997). “Maternal Behavior of Beef Cows,” Proceedings of the 1997 Saskatchewan Beef Symposium, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
7Bailey, D.W., et al. (1989). Association of relative food availabilities and locations by cattle. Journal of Range Management, 42, 480–482.
8Hagen, K., & Broom, D.M. (March 25, 2004). Emotional reactions to learning in cattle. Applied Animal Behavior Science, 85, 203–213.
9Spinney, L. (March 16, 2005). More than meats the eye. The Guardian.
10A seething cauldron of bovine emotions. (March 3, 2005). Essex Chronicle, Northcliffe Newspapers Company.
11Bekoff, M. (2008). The Emotional Lives of Animals, Novato, CA: New World Library, p. 55.
12Grandin, T. (2005). Animals in Translation, New York, NY: Scribner, p. 119.

animal rights, animal trade, animal welfare, cow, dog, factory farming, farm animals, fish, food, gegen Massentierhaltung, Hund, Kalb, Kuh, legal, Massentierhaltung, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, PeTA, say no to puppy mills, slaughter, Tierquälerei, Tierrecht, Tierschutz, victory

Good News: India Passes New Rules for the Protection of Animals

These new rules are not perfect for the animals, but one step closer to a better life for animals living in India. PeTA India published this positive information:

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released three new Gazette notifications under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, to regulate dog breeders , animal markets, aquariums, and pet shops that sell fish. This progress has included a joint effort by animal protection groups including PETA India. PETA India was involved in the public consultation process for these rules and had provided useful comment to strengthen protections.

The rules are the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2017; Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules, 2017; the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Aquarium and Fish Tank Animals Shop) Rules, 2017; and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017.

In a perfect world, laws to protect animals would eliminate all cruelty, because dogs shouldn’t be bred and sold, cattle and other animals shouldn’t be sent to slaughter, and fish shouldn’t be kept in tanks. But sometimes change occurs in stages, and for now, the government has passed certain additional protections for dogs and fish as well as for cows, buffaloes, camels, and other animals who end up at animal markets. We also commend the government for helping remove animals from abusers through the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017.

Some points to be noted include the following:

• The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and Maintenance of Case Property Animals) Rules, 2017 says, “If the accused is convicted, or pleads guilty, the magistrate shall deprive him of the ownership of animal and forfeit the seized animal to the infirmary, pinjrapole, SPCA, Animal Welfare Organisation or Gaushala already having custody for proper adoption or other disposition.”

• According to these new rules, dog breeders and owners of aquariums and pet shops that sell fish must register with the animal-welfare board of their respective states.

• No aquarium can keep, house, or display “any cetaceans, penguins, otters, manatees, sea turtles and marine turtles, artificially coloured fish, any species of fish tank animals listed in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 (53 of 1972), or any species listed under the Appendix I of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species”.

• The sale of camels and all types of cattle, including buffaloes, for slaughter via animal markets isn’t allowed. The sale of cattle and camels can be made only to a person who carries valid documents proving that he or she is an “agriculturist”.

• Certain types of cruelty that commonly take place at markets will no longer be allowed, including hot branding and cold branding, mutilating animals’ ears, and force-feeding animals fluid to make them appear fatter in order to fetch a better price.

Unfortunately, the new rules don’t prevent the dairy industry from continuing to supply animals to the beef industry. India’s beef industry is massive because its supplier, the dairy industry, is massive. Read more about the link between beef and dairy foods here.

animal abuse, animal welfare, gegen Massentierhaltung, Massentierhaltung, pig, Tierschutz

8 Amazing Piggy Facts & Faces

Love pigs? No wonder when you read these fun facts, thanks to Animalista Untamed.

Animalista Untamed

Well, if we’re going to be picky there are 11 faces, but who’s counting. Just enjoy! And send good vibes and prayers for Anita Krajnc facing trial tomorrow with a probable prison sentence if she is convicted. Compassion is not a crime.

With thanks to for this beautiful little compilation of amazing piggy facts and adorable piggy faces

1. Pigs are considered the fifth-most intelligent animal in the world—even more intelligent than dogs—and are capable of playing video games with more focus and success than chimps!


2. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing.


3. Pigs enjoy snuggling close to one another and prefer to sleep nose-to-nose.


4. Pigs have excellent object-location memory. If they find grub in a specific spot, they’ll remember to look there next time!


5. Pigs have a sophisticated sense of direction. They can find their way home from huge distances away.


6. In…

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animal trade, animal welfare, farm animals, gegen Massentierhaltung, Massentierhaltung, Tierschutz, vegan

POLL: Which is Your Burger of Choice for the Future of Food?

Thank you to Animalista Untamed for this fascinating blog on the “meat” for a burger:

So let’s dive straight into the world of the ‘mad professors’ who are turning science fiction into science fact – starting with the inventor of the first ever, headli…

Source: POLL: Which is Your Burger of Choice for the Future of Food?

animal trade, animal welfare, farm animals, gegen Massentierhaltung, Massentierhaltung, Tierquälerei, Tierschutz, vegan

Big Meat, We’re Making You History!

Some interesting facts on the United States’s meat trade put together by Animalista Untamed:

Good news about food keeps coming from America thick and fast. And what’s happening there soon travels across the pond and takes root in Europe too. So just how is plant-based food David fari…

Source: Big Meat, We’re Making You History!

animal abuse, animal trade, animal welfare, farm animals, gegen Massentierhaltung, Tierschutz, vegan

Veganism: “1) Ridicule, 2) Discussion and 3) Adoption”?

“One of the reasons vegans are so often dismissed, is because the facts behind the choice to become one are so uncomfortable.” This line from the article below speaks to all who have gone through a dinner being questioned why they wanted to abstain from eating any animal products, and then hearing all the below mentioned arguments on how wrong the decision is in the non-vegan’s mind. And why vegans try to change the subject before having to explain again and again why they choose what they eat.
This article was published in the UC Observer this May of 2016.
“Had I thought about any of this very clearly at first, what I am about to say might sound like bragging. But I didn’t. There wasn’t much pre-meditation involved. It was almost by accident that I began my life as a vegan exactly as I would now advise anyone to begin theirs.

It started with Christmas.

And what happened was what always happens: I did no shopping.

I have on one or two occasions experienced the slightly awkward moment on Christmas morning when the gifts are finally all opened and it becomes apparent that none of them are from me. This general awareness is something I try to avoid, and sometimes, if I have the sense that the need for some kind of public admission is approaching, I have to think quickly. That’s what happened with the vegan thing. It just came to me — in the nick of time. The oranges were barely out of the stockings when I blurted out my entirely spontaneous idea. I told my 30-year-old daughter, who is a committed vegan, that her gift was six months of my being vegan.
I said I’d give it a try.

I wasn’t worried about backsliding. No matter how tempting the Stilton or brisket or bucket of chicken wings, I was confident I would stick to my tofu and almond milk. There is nothing casual about a father’s promise to a daughter, just as there is nothing casual about my daughter’s commitment to doing more or less the opposite of what the animal agriculture industry would like her to do.

When Caroline read an early draft of this article she said she worried that it wouldn’t make people angry enough. Not that she is an angry person. Quite the contrary, actually. But there are some things that Caroline believes are worth getting angry about. Humankind’s relationship with the natural world is one of them. It is my experience that when the people who don’t usually get angry, get angry, you’d better sit up and listen. So there was no way I was going to break my promise — not on this subject, not to this daughter. “Giving it a try” meant I’d commit to six months of eating a vegan diet and then determine about how long-term this decision might prove to be.

Caroline appreciated the gesture. It was one for the good guys, so far as she was concerned — for while she is never preachy about her choice, she is very clear about her reasons. Vegans are generally of the view that the more of them there are in the world, the better off the world will be. And this is something about vegans that takes a little getting used to: they’re right.

You can argue all you want about whether humans are naturally carnivorous. You can talk about animal husbandry and ethnic culinary traditions until the cows come home. And yes, maybe a diet that needs to be supplemented with the B-complex vitamins that my daughter bought for me on Boxing Day (along with a jar of vegan protein powder) isn’t the diet on which the evolution of our species could have confidently relied.

Granted, all that.

But when I began to read about what I was getting myself into, I learned two facts that seem very personal to me. First, a diet based on plants uses a sixth the arable land as a diet based on meat, poultry and dairy. Second, in a few years, when (touch wood) I hit my three-score-and-ten, there will be three times more people on Earth than when I was born.

As pro-vegan arguments go, these two points, taken together, are the clincher. I almost feel responsible for how they add up — which may be because, in a way, I am.

I am a man of a certain age and of a certain generation who has lived a reasonably comfortable life in a relatively affluent region of the first world, which is another way of saying that for six decades I’ve eaten as much as I wanted to eat, whenever I wanted to eat it. I am not a glutton by North American standards, which means I am a glutton by most others. I have no doubt that in the category of unnecessary late-night pizza alone my footprint has been considerable. Families could live on what I ate as a teenager, although the families might wonder why there need to be so many trips to A&W and Dairy Queen.

So let’s just say that, like most people I know, I’ve already left my mark on planet Earth and am now wondering if there is anything I can do to pay off even a little of the environmental debt that I’ll be passing on. And, like most people I know, I had no idea how to do that — until I accidentally became a vegan.

Does my digestive system work better with a herbivore gatekeeper in charge? (It does.) Are my energy levels higher? (They are.) Am I losing weight? (I am.) Do I generally feel better? (I do.) But as reasons to be vegan, these personal improvements seem a little self-absorbed to me. The recipes I have tried — from Plenty and Oh She Glows cookbooks — are delicious and surprisingly satisfying. But, really. If I’m going to give up a butterflied leg of lamb barbecued with chèvre, fresh Italian parsley, garlic and olive oil, it’s going to have to be for better reasons than becoming more trim.

“Because we all liked cheeseburgers so much” is going to sound pretty stupid when humankind is hauled into the principal’s office and asked to explain how the planet got destroyed.
Alas, there’s no shortage of better reasons. Contributing to a more sustainable world being one. Not being a total dunce for another. “Because we all liked cheeseburgers so much” is going to sound pretty stupid when humankind is hauled into the principal’s office and asked to explain how the planet got destroyed.

Caroline gave a fist pump when I told her of my plan. But she was curious: when exactly would my six months begin?

There is a stretch of winter during which any kind of abstinence seems out of the question to me. Things are already bad enough. Why give up the pleasure of the warm, salty aroma of Marcella Hazan’s recipe for braised pork loin Bolognese drifting from the kitchen on a day when you’ve had to shovel the walk three times? When snow is being driven into sleet by the howling gales of February, why deny yourself the pleasure of Nigel Slater’s potatoes (“rustling, crusty edges and melting interior”) just because he cooks his in drippings from the roast?

A northern winter, even a weirdly mild one, is, in itself, the kind of challenge that suggests the wise postponement of other challenges. The days are so short and so lacking in any tomato worth eating that, the balmy breezes of El Niño notwithstanding, the weather might as well be freezing cold. St. Augustine was dealing with a different, but comparable context. Make me chaste, he prayed. But not yet.

And so, my immediate post-winter-solstice continued unabated: from the white and dark meat and the sage and sausage stuffing of Christmas dinner, to the sirloin tip of New Year’s Eve, to the bacon and eggs of a January Sunday breakfast, to the grilled cheese sandwich of an early February lunch. I enjoy cooking, and so to help keep the shadows of gloom at bay, I learned the recipes for marinated sweet and sour fish and for roasted chicken with clementines (both from the Jerusalem cookbook) during the bleak midwinter. I continued to eat my customary half-ton of cheddar a month as the bare branches creaked. On black and frigid nights (usually around 2 a.m.), I kept showing up at the freezer to see if there was enough chocolate ice cream in the tub for me to eat half of it without anyone noticing.

In other words, my diet remained unaffected by my promise.

Until the colonoscopy.

Should you ask my daughter why she is vegan — or should you ask the same question of Adam See, her equally level-headed and smart, equally pleasant and healthy-looking, equally non-moralizing vegan boyfriend — the initial answer might be a shrug and something like, “Do you really want to know?”

Caroline, I’ve noticed, often changes the subject away from the topic of why she eats what she eats. That’s because she is so often called upon to explain why she is vegan at dinnertime. This can be unwise from a breezy banter-at-the-table point of view.

“One of the reasons vegans are so often dismissed,” she tells me, “is because the facts behind the choice to become one are so uncomfortable.” And it is this kind of dismissal that makes vegans think (correctly, I am starting to believe) that they are onto something. Vegans point out that the great struggles of our time — for gay rights, for women’s rights, for civil rights — all encountered the same snickering in their early slogging as the subject of animal rights does now. It was John Stuart Mill, the great English philosopher and political theorist, who identified the three stages of all great movements as 1) ridicule, 2) discussion and 3) adoption. And, as the existence of stages two and three would appear to indicate, stage one is a rhetorical device used by people who sense they may be dead wrong.

Vegans know how unpleasant a topic of dinner conversation the generally accepted practices of animal agriculture can be. That’s usually why they’re vegans in the first place. Things can be graphic and disturbing even before they start talking about intentionally broken legs, and injections of antibiotics and hormones, and animals forced to live a life that consists largely of squatting in their own feces. People can get quite churlish about this kind of thing — especially while they are eating capon or calf’s liver.

But if you press vegans in the spirit of genuine interest and curiosity and not in the spirit of what-about-leather-shoes-then, they will tell you that, yes, they believe that morally, ethically, environmentally, socially, economically and in terms of their own health, veganism is the best option.

Is there any proof of this? Well may you ask — perhaps with a forkful of rare tournedos Bordelaise poised skeptically in front of your doubtful frown. And actually, there is. Vegans can be very convincing about what proof they believe they have at hand.

Should they start by raising the subject of the clear-cutting of the Amazon rainforest to grow grain to feed livestock? Unless you actually are a Koch brother, this is not an activity that can be enthusiastically defended. Or should vegans jump directly to the fact that the United States could feed 800 million people with the grain used currently to raise livestock? Yes, I know. It is surprising, isn’t it? You may also be unaware that livestock and its attendant industry create 51 percent of greenhouse gases. Or that it takes 660 gallons of water to produce a single hamburger? Oh, and if you happen to be a non-smoking male you might be interested to know that vegans have a 16 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer than non-vegans.

The list goes on. And yet it’s Caroline’s and Adam’s dietary lifestyle that is thought to be eccentric.

Animal rights? How amusing, people so often say. How naive. Which gets us right back to John Stuart Mill’s first stage. “A vegan, eh? Where are your tattoos?”

Do chickens like to be jammed into a plastic box to do nothing but lay eggs all their lives? Do fish enjoy suffocating on the deck of a trawler? Do pigs suffer when they are hoisted upside down in a slaughterhouse, electrocuted and bled to death?

Take a wild guess.

The lame-brained-to-begin-with idea that animals exist in an entirely different realm of sentience than humans went out the window with Charles Darwin. Not that either the food industry or the general consumer of food products took much notice. But in terms of how we experience suffering there is lots of easily observed evidence (the rocker of a chair; the tail of a sleeping cat) to suggest humans enjoy no great distinction from other vertebrates when it comes to how we react to pain. If you want to imagine what a calf feels when it’s branded, you could do worse than to imagine what you might have felt, as a baby, with a red-hot iron applied firmly to your rump. Ditto, the force-fed goose. Ditto, the immobile milking cow.

Among my favourite childhood books were the dozen or so titles of the Doctor Dolittle series by Hugh Lofting. Doctor Dolittle, as you may recall, could talk with animals — and it was part of Lofting’s great success as a writer that he understood how much almost everybody would like to do exactly that. To a child, the idea of talking to animals is particularly compelling because it seems a capacity so within reach.

Children have an empathy with animals because they understand that they share something with them. Not words, alas. Not even thoughts. But children automatically intuit that human and non-human are what vegans call “subjects of a life.” This awareness fades, I guess, as we grow older and eat more roast veal with Roquefort-butter stuffing. Because what non-vegans would prefer not to think about during the entree is that there is an elemental level of experience that we share with the lamb that used to be the rack-of you are eating. It’s an uncomfortable truth. We may not be able to talk with animals as Doctor Dolittle did. But we can at least begin to imagine how they might just possibly feel about finding themselves standing in a corridor of feces after being wrenched from their mothers.

One of the most inconvenient of vegan truths is this: pain is a language humans and non-humans often share. It’s a bond we have. Ironically enough.

So, the debate on this point is not whether most of the animals we raise for food suffer. Of course they suffer. It’s not really possible to argue the contrary unless you are so far out in the rhetorical ozone you are also busy arguing there is no such thing as climate change. In which case you are going to be no help to anyone anyway. As a matter of fact, I’m going to take the argument labelled, “They don’t feel pain or terror or misery the way we feel pain or terror or misery” and put it right over here, in the same box as “America can get great again by building a wall across the Mexican border.” I’m sure there are stupider ideas. But I’ll have to do some research. Meanwhile, all you have to do is spend about 10 minutes on YouTube, and you’ll be adequately convinced of the horrors of slaughterhouses, egg factories and some mass dairy farming operations. (Spoiler alert: don’t go there if you want to continue enjoying sausages.)

No, the much less completely silly question to ask is whether animals need to suffer for us to live. Or, more to the point, whether they need to suffer for us to live better than we would have had they not. Suffered.

I’m no philosopher. But Adam is. He teaches philosophy at Brooklyn College in New York City. In a letter to his students that was published in The Walrus in October 2014, Adam put his own position clearly and simply: “I believe that I have a moral obligation to reduce as much suffering in the world as I can before I die.”

This is not the philosophy to which Ayn Rand subscribed. And that’s one of the reasons it’s good enough for me.

I much prefer the thinking of the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, whose famous principle of utility contends that the greatest happiness of the greatest number is the measure of the rightness or wrongness of any action.

As you will quickly surmise, if Bentham’s “greatest number” is expanded to include animals, we find ourselves, suddenly, on very thin ethical ice indeed. (Much the same thin ice, actually, as the kind his slaves must have wondered about when they heard Thomas Jefferson going on about all men being created equal.) Six million land animals die in the world every hour in the production of meat, dairy and eggs. That’s a great number. But not the greatest. It’s not close to the number of aquatic animals killed for food.

It may be that the legal issue of animal rights is about to become more important in the vegans’ struggle than the philosophies behind those rights. Slowly, almost reluctantly, the courts have begun to concede that the shift John Stuart Mill predicted is taking place. That’s because ridicule is seldom a convincing legal argument. And because the biblical directive of humankind’s dominion over every creeping thing doesn’t have the persuasive power that it once did.

It appears that as a society we are somewhere near the beginning of Mill’s second stage when it comes to animal rights: they are now worth discussing. And that’s a slippery slope — especially if you are a supplier to the food industry. Once you concede that animals have the right to not be absolutely and totally miserable every single second of their waking life, it’s hard to know where such concessions can stop.

It became evident to me that eating a hot dog is as much a political act as not eating one.
Getting back to Bentham, is it fair to include non-humans in calculating what the world’s greatest happiness might be? Does a cow, or a goat, or a pig, or a salmon, or a grain-fed, free-range chicken have a role in establishing what Bentham regarded as the fundamental axiom of the principle of utility: that the morality of any action can be assessed by deducting the aggregate suffering from the aggregate pleasure of all involved? Bentham, who lived on the cusp of the 18th and 19th centuries, was equivocal on the subject of animal husbandry: he conceded that the day may come when animals could no longer be justifiably killed for food.

Two hundred years later, we don’t actually need animals for food (which is an entirely different matter from liking them, or wanting them, or being culturally or religiously accustomed to using them). So can any suffering of a living creature be morally justified? Isn’t it all unnecessary?

This is where most vegans come in.

Adam introduced Caroline, and Caroline introduced me to one of the central tenets of animal rights: the equal consideration of interests (which is grounded in Bentham’s principle of utility).

In his 1979 book Practical Ethics, Australian philosopher Peter Singer argues that we must include all affected interests when calculating the rightness of an action and weigh those interests equally.

The italics are my emphasis, but I think they’re justified. Weigh those interests equally are the kind of words that come with italics built-in — because they can entirely change the way most of us think of the world. They represent a true game-changer of an idea. And simply put, it’s this: the pilgrim’s interest does not automatically trump the turkey’s. In fact, the turkey’s interest in remaining alive might just, in this new order, outweigh the pilgrim’s apparent inability to do more interesting things with root vegetables.

Once these kinds of ethical arguments began to swirl around in what I like to think of as a reasonably fair-minded brain, and once I took the perilous state of the Earth into account, it became evident to me that eating a hot dog is as much a political act as not eating one. It’s a choice, and what I’m beginning to learn is that it’s a pretty clear one. You can be over there with the interesting looking young people who are enjoying a dinner of lentils, avocado and roasted yams. Or you can be with the multi-billion-dollar industry that pretty consistently put its own interests ahead of health, the environment, social and economic justice — and way, way ahead of the interests of animals.

I feel uncomfortable about stating what option Jesus would choose were he preparing dinner among us today. But I think we can hazard a guess.

The colonoscopy represented an opportunity. That’s not something you get to say very often.

The purpose of a colonoscopy is to identify any polyps that may be developing on the inside of the bowel and get rid of them. Polyps do not necessarily become tumours, but all tumours begin as polyps. It’s important for someone my age, particularly important for someone my age whose mother had colon cancer, to have this done every few years. Which is a blessing. It’s not really something you want to do more than every once in a blue moon. The procedure itself, while not exactly dignified, isn’t so terrible, thanks largely to the excellent drugs. But two days of fasting and “preparation” are another matter. They are as close as I ever want to come to feeling like a nozzle on a fire hose.

This occurred almost two months after Christmas, and there was nothing untoward in the results. I got a clean bill of health. Dr. Harry Himal, of the Provis-Rudd Clinic in Toronto, told me I had the insides of a 40-year old, and even as the drugs wore off I held to the view that this was a compliment. But there I was, you see: empty. As empty as a looted sphinx.

That was when I thought of my promise to my daughter. And, reluctant though I was to admit it, I could see a case that could be made for there being no time like the present.

There is a tide in the affairs of men. And although giving up roast beef was probably the last thing Shakespeare had in mind, I could see I was being drawn to a point in my life where I could take something at the flood. Or not. Would a slate so blank present itself again anytime soon? In other words: it was pretty much now or never. That was clear.

On top of which, I was ravenously hungry. Anything — meaning anything that I can do at this late stage of the game to improve things so desperately in need of improvement — will probably taste good, I decided.

And you know what? It did.

Still does.

David Macfarlane is a journalist, playwright and novelist in Toronto.”

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How Many Animals Need Help?

Whoever is concerned about animal welfare is often overwhelmed by the many causes being addressed asking for support, mostly by asking for donations.

There is a study by the Animal Charity Evaluators which evaluates where the most animals are being harmed and which causes  make the most difference if successfully implemented. Not surprisingly, the gruesome fact is that factory farming leads to the highest numbers of animals killed. If it were possible to eradicate these murder machines billions of lives could be saved. Investing in causes linked to the end of these man-made hells would save more lives than with any other cause.

The study is not about the quality of life for sentient beings, but only about the quantity of animals in need.

You can read more here

Number of animals vs. amount of donations

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Meeting Fiona Oakes, Tower Hill Stables Animal Sanctuary

This is a wonderful example of an animal sanctuary in England. It is run by a dedicated person who also is on of the world’s fastest runners, running on plant based energy.