So as I’m waiting for winter to end (as I’m sure all of you are too) I decided to raid the Netflix archives on food documentaries (there are quite a few of them if anyone cares to check them out).
As you all know, we raise livestock and eat meat, but I came across a vegan documentary and I thought to myself, ‘why not check out a Vegan’s view on the world…’ and so I watched it…and I’m glad I did since it was very interesting!
According to this documentary, a Vegan doesn’t use any animal products; not meat, milk, eggs or even clothing made of wool. One of the big reasons for this is that they feel the animals are being mistreated by being ‘forced’ to produce those things for us. Another reason is because they feel that animal production is bad for the planet. The other aspect is the idea that eating vegan is healthier and that humans were never meant to eat so much meat as North Americans consume these days.
I ended up thinking about that particular documentary quite a bit over the next few days…some things were bothering me about it, and the more I thought about it the more it didn’t make any sense to me. So I thought I would demonstrate what I think doesn’t work out with the vegan train of thought as presented to me in this particular documentary and also what I think would be a much better solution to both the challenge of healthy eating AND reducing animal cruelty. Here’s my vegan rant:
The Animal Cruelty Issue
The documentary showed typical shots of factory farms (which I think a lot of us feel are inhumane), of organic farms that were pretty much factory farms, and then they showed a family farm where the chickens were in batteries and the conditions were just as horrid as the factory farms. Basically their point was that it doesn’t matter, factory, organic, or family; farming in itself is inhumane.
They didn’t show the farm where the chickens were happily scratching in the dirt looking for worms in the bright sun. Those farms still exist. The animals are happy on those farms and the farmers take great pride in the happiness of their animals.
They showed a dairy cow calving in the mud and the bull calf getting killed. They made milking sound like rape and they also made a big fuss over castrating.
So here’s the thing with bull calves; I witnessed firsthand how that whole thing doesn’t make any sense. In Austria, where the animal rights people had their way with the farmers, it is illegal to either castrate or dehorn (or dock sheep tails, a personal pet peeve). The result of course is full grown, horned, bulls. I’m sure a lot of you know how dangerous any bulls can be let alone a horned one. And because of the dense population in Austria, it is too dangerous to let these animals graze on a pasture for fear they would accidentally get out and kill someone and so they were in a barn…chained to a metal rod with a gutter behind them, because of course you can’t let them loose or they’d kill each other. I walked through that barn in complete disbelief. The bull’s hind legs were coated with a thick dried out crust of manure from hock to hip because as anyone who has ever chained or stanchioned a cow even briefly for milking knows…if she lays down she’ll likely lay in her own poo, even if you put piles of straw under her and are very diligent about cleaning up after her. And if you chain them up permanently then they build up a layer of caked on manure that won’t come off until you put them on pasture for a month. But you can’t let these bulls out, because they are bulls, same as you can’t let tigers out because they are tigers.
In this situation does anyone wonder why some farmers think it might be better to just do away with the bull calves while they are still babies? Or maybe getting castrated isn’t that bad of a deal after all if they can’t breed anything anyways and could be out on pasture if they were… Or if they had to choose between being castrated and being killed as a newborn…
If you look at it that way, suddenly NOT castrating sounds like animal cruelty! I wonder if those animal rights people ever showed up after they outlawed dehorning and castrating…?
So what about wearing wool? I sheared sheep for a living for 10 years and I’ve heard this one before too…how inhumane shearing is. Well, shearing is about as inhumane as getting a haircut and a massage all at once if you know what you’re doing. I believe that as long as there have been humans there have been sheep and sheep need people to live happily and the least we can do is shear them (even though they need a whole lot more human intervention than that to be safe and happy). Not shearing a sheep is inhumane. A sheep with two or three years of wool on it is truly handicapped; it can’t pee or poo or breed properly (matter of fact if a sheep like that should happen to have a lamb, the lamb would probably die because it can’t find the udder), it can’t lay down or walk properly, and if it’s luck is really tough it might even die because it’s not sheared.
Again, I completely feel that NOT shearing would be inhumane.
Another thing the documentary showed was on chickens and hatcheries; there were shots of male baby chicks getting tossed through a grinder alive. I think this is horrendous and a direct result of factory farming…which is not the only way of doing things.
So what if we had no more use for farm animals because everyone went vegan? What would we do with all the animals?
I don’t think rescue farms are the solution. With no way for the animals to earn their keep it would cost too much to feed and maintain hundreds of thousands of animals. Also the conditions would probably be very near a factory farm if not worse because generally when there is a lack of funds things go downhill pretty quick.
Maybe if we turned them all out into the wild. Had huge wildlife sanctuaries were the animals could live the way they were meant to live free of human oppression…? Hmmm…the last time I let my chickens live completely free of human oppression it took all of a month for them to be eaten by a mama fox and a skunk family. At least when I eat my chicken I kill it first which is less than what these predators do. I wonder if the chicken felt mistreated as the skunks were tearing it apart…? I’m pretty sure that cattle, sheep, and pigs would suffer similar fates. Maybe not all of them would get torn apart and eaten…probably some of them would starve and some would freeze to death. Probably half of all baby animals born would succumb to mother nature… Hmmm…sounds pleasant. I think not. Mother Nature is often pretty cruel.
What else could be the solution? Well I am pretty sure that if suddenly no one used animal products that we would have a mass termination of thousands of animals because factory farms don’t go through the trouble of finding homes for animals that only cost them money…they gas them (or something to that effect) Huge piles of dead animals. Regardless if they are babies, pregnant mothers or whatever.
I have a better idea, but before we get into that let’s reflect on one more thing…
The Vegan Diet
According to this documentary vegans do not eat meat, milk and eggs not only because they feel sorry for Bambi and Thumper, but also because they feel it is actually healthier; a plant based diet.
And so they proceed to eat veggies, nuts, seeds…AND soy milk, fake cheese, fake wieners, fake burgers (that taste like chicken burgers) even fake butter!
Does anyone wonder how all that stuff is made?! Sounds kind of like processed food to me and since when was processed food ever high on the ‘healthy foods’ list? Besides the fact that most of that stuff has a pretty big environmental footprint, since it’s made in factories and shipped from who-knows-where.
And then lastly…(I personally find it sort of funny even) here we are making this huge fuss over not eating animal products because it’s so cruel and so we eat imitation animal products..? Really?! That’s like one cannibal telling the other cannibal that you can’t eat people because it’s cruel and then turning around and eating something that tastes just like people mm-mmmm yum! It tastes like Fred, but it’s not Fred! How clever!
I guess my point is that if you are vegan because you truly think farming is cruel then you should stick to veggies and seeds.
So then…what is the solution? How do we make sure animals are happy, comfortable and healthy? How do we avoid factory farms, slaughterhouses and shipping of animals and food? How do we give in to our carnivorous cravings (so we don’t have to eat imitation wieners) without feeling guilty?
Local, sustainable, family, farms of course!
The type of farm that they DIDN’T show on this particular documentary. Where all the animals are running around in fresh air and sunshine, fed natural diets (like grass for a cow and grains for a chicken) allowed to reproduce naturally and to live as close to the way they would live in nature…only as farm animals they have the added luxury of having a farmer that actually goes to the trouble of protecting them from getting torn apart by predators; or who feeds them in the winter as their wild cousins are dying because all the ‘wild’ feed is covered by ten feet of snow.
Just think…if everybody suddenly only bought their animal products from this kind of farm…
- There would be no market for factory farmed meat, milk, eggs.
- There would be a great increase in sustainable, happily farmed products, allowing more families to actually make a living growing happy food.
- The problem of all the now useless factory farm animals would be solved because they would be either absorbed by the happy family farms AND/OR the factory farms would change into happy farms (because remember: there is NO market for factory farmed products)
- Animals such as milking cows, who have been genetically engineered only to produce insane amounts of milk to their own detriment, will quickly get bred back to a more sustainable, happy animal.
- Farming sustainably with happy animals doesn’t destroy our environment…it builds it and makes it stronger and cleaner.
See who is in control of how animals are treated? It’s the consumer, the eater, the person who eats the food! And that is all of us! Because if we care how our food is raised, and we don’t buy eggs in Superstore where the hen that layed them has to live cheek by jowl with 5 other hens in a shoebox sized cage who’s brothers all got chucked into a meat grinder when they were a day old, and we actually go through the trouble of finding a farm AND visiting that farm to see for ourselves if the chickens are happy and clean and healthy, then we are taking care of the animals that feed us. And if we are all aware of these things and instead of not eating chicken, we could eat more things like chicken soup, to create a use for all the brothers of laying hens, then they can also live a happy life instead of being ground up as babies.
For most (or all; really) farm animals, life wouldn’t be better in nature…it would be a lot LOT tougher and crueler and shorter. Farms are good places. Or they should be. And we have a say, by not supporting the ones that aren’t. And supporting the ones that are!
Eating is about more than going to the store and buying food. Not so very long ago, everybody had to grow or catch their own food. It was a LOT of work to put dinner on the table. Like…A LOT! So in comparison, it’s not really such a big deal to at least care about where our food comes from. We don’t have to grow it or raise it or harvest it or catch it; we just have to know the people that do and not buy from people who make a mess of things.