Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. Many of us bought our beloved “pets” at pet shops, had guinea pigs, or kept beautiful birds in cages. We wore wool and silk, ate burgers at McDonald’s, and went fishing. Never did we consider the impact of these actions on the animals involved.
People often ask, should animals have rights? The answer, quite simply, is “Yes!” Animals deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. Jeremy Bentham, social reformer and founder of the Utilitarian school of moral philosophy, identified the vital characteristic to establish the rights of beings. “The question,” wrote Bentham, “is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Unlike the capacity for language or to perform higher mathematics, the capacity for suffering is universal. All animals suffer in the same way and to the same degree as humans do. All animals feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love.
Whenever we engage in an activity that exploits or causes animals to suffer – eating them, putting them in prison-like zoos, wearing their fur or hides or buying items that are tested on animals – it is unethical and immoral. What you would not do to a human, it is wrong to do to an animal. Human society permits such horrendous things to be done to animals. Think of the steel jaw leg hold trap and anal electrocutions of fur-bearing animals. Think of pigs living their lives in gestation crates, unable to turn around or touch their offspring. Think of male calves ripped from their mothers, fed an anemic diet, and chained to an igloo in the bitter cold to be slaughtered for veal. Think of fish with sharp metal hooks in their mouths, pulled from the water to die of suffocation. Think of elephants in a circus being hit and jabbed behind the ears or knees and other sensitive areas with a “bull hook,” a wooden rod with a sharp steel hook at one end. Think of the miserable existence of a dairy cow, artificially inseminated again and again on what the dairy industry calls a “rape rack” in order to provide milk for humans while her own unweaned offspring are taken from her. Think also of the factory farmed chickens packed so tightly in cages that they go crazy and would peck at each other had their sensitive beaks not been cut off with a sharp blade, leaving many unable to eat or drink. The list goes on and on.
Supporters of animal rights believe that animals have an inherent worth, a value separate from their usefulness to humans. We believe that every creature with the will to live has the right to live free from pain and suffering imposed by humans. Animal rights is not just a philosophy, it is a social movement that challenges society’s traditional view that nonhuman animals exist solely for the use and benefit of humans. As PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk has said, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.”
Only prejudice, tradition, and an unwillingness to give up what we’re used to, allows us to deny others the rights that we demand for ourselves. Whether it’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or species, prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a pig, a cow, or a fish? Those animals share the same capacity to feel pain as any other, and it’s reprehensible for us to think of one animal as a companion and another as dinner.
In this scene from Walt Disney’s “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band,” I’m riding in a horse-drawn wagon with my movie dad Buddy Ebsen and brother Jon Walmsley. Today I’d have thought differently about the poor horse pulling that load for take after take in the hot California sun, but even that burden pales next to those put on horses made to draw carriages on our urban streets.
I’ve always felt sad for carriage horses, plodding along wearily on crowded asphalt streets as buses and cars go whizzing by, just inches away. Carriage horses are forced to pull heavy loads in extreme weather, dodge honking traffic, and pound the pavement day in and day out until they get old, injured, or sick, after which they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. These horses lead very sad lives. From constant walking and standing on hard streets, lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable in carriage horses. Many develop respiratory ailments from breathing in exhaust fumes, and suffer debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces. Weather conditions, too, can prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to long shifts in bitter cold and wet weather in the winter, and scorching heat and debilitating humidity in the summer. Many drop dead on the city streets from dehydration and heatstroke.
In an audit of the New York carriage industry, that city’s comptroller found that horses on the street did not have ready access to water, had insufficient shade during hot weather, and that, because of poor street drainage, “the horses are left to stand in pools of dirty water.”
People around the world are increasingly recognizing that it’s the carriage industry – not just the horses – taking them for a ride. Please don’t patronize carriage rides, and explain to family and friends why they shouldn’t, either. If your city permits carriages on its streets, urge your representatives to propose legislation that will ban this obsolete and abusive amusement.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
Sunday, April 22 is Earth Day. I believe it is our duty to protect and preserve our planet. I have seen the ravages of climate change within my own lifetime. Every year there is an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts and wildfires that take the lives of countless animals who have done nothing to create or exacerbate the conditions that are destroying their natural habitats.
Last year’s west coast wildfires wreaked havoc on both wild and domestic animals. Some fires moved at the rate of one acre per second, consuming everything in their paths. Fleeing animals can’t outrun the flames and were burned alive or suffocated from smoke inhalation. I was angered by news reports that showed horses locked in stables and other animals left behind in pens or tied to trees or fences, abandoned by their fleeing owners and left to die. How people can be so selfish and cruel is beyond my understanding. My heart breaks for animals in times of natural disaster because they are confused, frightened, and have no place to go. Humans who lose their homes can rebuild, but poor animals die by the thousands in fear, pain, and misery.
During the time of the wildfires I volunteered at an animal shelter, trying to reunite cats and dogs separated from their owners. I also helped dozens of volunteers wash animals brought in completely covered with ash. We flushed out their eyes with warm water as animals are incapable of doing that for themselves. The animals were crying and shaking; it was so very, very sad. We did what we could while giving them loving kindness and comfort.
I urge anyone who can make the time to volunteer at your local animal rescue. Even in non-emergency times, animals need you to help them find safe and loving adoptive homes.
Earth Day is not just about air and water and plants, it’s also about remembering that we must be stewards of the earth’s animals. They are so innocent and need us to love them, adopt them, and NOT to eat them.
Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
Hanna-Barbera’s The Roman Holidays was a humorous look at “modern-day” life in Ancient Rome, as seen through the adventures of the Holiday family. I voiced the youngest Holiday, Precocia. The Holidays had a family “cat,” a lion named Brutus. Brutus’ antics very often got the family in trouble, but it was all in cartoon fun. What’s not funny is the life of a lion – or a tiger, or an elephant, or any animal – in a circus.
“The circus is coming to town” is a saying that used to bring excitement to small town and city dwellers, but now with the knowledge of what really goes on “behind the big top,” people are thinking twice. Instead of paying money to see the exploitation of animals in circuses, people are choosing “animal free” circuses like Cirque du Soleil and many others who are saying “NO” to the use of animals in circuses. You see, there’s another side to the story of animals in the circus I’d like to address – animal cruelty.
Consider the elephants. Circuses typically confine these animals with a pair of heavy leg chains front and rear, diagonally opposite. An elephant thus chained cannot even turn in a circle. It’s not unusual for these animals to live in double leg chains all night and day except during performances and when they are on public “display.” Some elephants are kept in a small electrified corral, but even those elephants may spend 10 hours or more a day in double leg chains. Male elephants may have their head and trunk movements restrained with additional chains. Most of us would be outraged to see a dog tethered in that manner. Yet a wild elephant, or even one born into captivity, has an immense, instinctive need to roam, take mud baths and interact with their own social community.
In nature, elephants sleep only four hours a night and can travel up to 80 kilometers a day, but the frustration, boredom, and loneliness of circus confinement creates the motivation for aggression. When I think about the effects of rampaging elephants’ (as has happened in cities worldwide), I wonder why animal acts have been tolerated for as long as they have. A visit behind the scenes of circuses can be an eye-opener. One sees tigers kept in cages equivalent to what an airline carrier would be for domestic cats (where the tigers can’t even turn around let alone express their natural behaviors), hippos in tiny containers with scarcely six inches of water, and bears with muzzles around their mouths while harnessed onto the backs of horses. Animals in circuses also engage in aberrant, repetitive movements such as pacing and rocking; these are pitiful symptoms of the complete boredom and isolation in a totally unnatural environment. Many circus animal “handlers” don’t really care or, worse yet, go out of their way to abuse animals.
The opportunity to dominate large land mammals like elephants and tigers seems to attract individuals with violent behavior to work as “handlers.” One technique used to dominate an elephant is to wet him down and then repeatedly administer 110-volt shocks to drive the animal to its knees. Not only does this torture and terrify the animal, it may prematurely age its brain. Another is to strike an elephant repeatedly in their most sensitive areas with a bull hook, a long wooden rod with a sharp metal hook at one end. The “handlers” do this in order to get elephants, who weigh thousands of pounds, to do tricks which are difficult and completely unnatural for them to do. Some circuses say that they train their animals with a “reward system;” this is simply false propaganda meant to soothe an uneducated public.
If we want this world to be a more peaceful and less violent place, if we want to start teaching young children to have compassion and respect for those beings with whom we share the planet yet who are different from us, then we must not take them to places that show these magnificent animals doing stupid and unnatural tricks in ridiculous costumes. This teaches nothing to our children about these animal’s lives or who they truly are and should be.
Please teach your children compassion not cruelty and choose circuses that have the jugglers, clowns, cotton candy and acrobats, but do not contain the animal suffering of those circuses who use animals.
We filmed 14 episodes of “Blondie” but only 13 aired before the series was cancelled. In the unaired episode, Dagwood, wearing a bunny costume, is on his way to perform at an Easter charity benefit when his car breaks down, leading to chaotic encounters with startled drivers, the police, and 12 real rabbits.
I’m against vivisection, experimentation on animals. Did you know that product testing labs are STILL vivisecting thousands upon thousands of innocent animals?
Because they are mild-tempered and easy to handle, confine, and breed, rabbits are frequent victims of animal experimenters; more than 170,000 of them are abused in U.S. laboratories every year.
Despite the availability of more modern, humane, and effective alternatives, rabbits are still tormented in the notorious Draize eye irritancy test, in which cosmetics, dishwashing liquid, drain cleaner, and other substances are dripped into the animals’ eyes, often causing redness, swelling, discharge, ulceration, hemorrhaging, cloudiness, or blindness. After the experiments are over the rabbits are killed. In addition, even though internationally-accepted non-animal methods exist, rabbits’ backs are shaved and corrosive chemicals are applied to their raw skin in skin corrosion tests and left there for up to two weeks. These chemicals often burn the skin, leading to tissue damage. The victims of these tests are given no pain relief during this excruciatingly painful experience and, again, after the test is finished, they are killed.
Horrific experiments like those above are being done to cats, dogs, primates, and other animals by laboratories around the world. Please say NO to vivisection and boycott any products that have been tested on animals. Look for products packaged with the symbol that says, “NOT TESTED ON ANIMALS;” see the samples shown.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
Happy New Year! According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it’s now the Year of the Dog. Here are some photos of me and some of the great dogs I worked with in my acting career. Each one of them was a beautiful, intelligent, loving animal, and every one of them was brought to the set in a cage and returned to their cages when their work was done. This made me sad and angry. I enjoyed the companionship of several beloved dogs of my own growing up; I still do. Who doesn’t love dogs – and cats, too? So why do we allow millions of them to be killed each year in animal shelters?
About ten million healthy cats, dogs, puppies and kittens are killed each year in animal shelters across the United States. The numbers overwhelm us and, in an important sense, that number diminishes the true horror of the situation, reducing the impact to a confused statistical jumble.
Ten million individual lives. Who can understand a number that big? To appreciate the magnitude of this crisis, one must look into the eyes of the individual dogs and cats waiting to be killed in our animal shelters. I have seen them myself, with ropes around their necks, their legs literally shaking. They looked up to me as if to say, “I just want to be loved. Please help me, I don’t want to die.” They watch as the others who go before them are slapped on a stainless-steel table, a needle filled with poison thrust into their beating hearts and then, sometimes while they are still breathing, dumped onto a cement floor like so much garbage.
Who is responsible? Why DO animals die? The responsibility for the mass execution of animals in our shelters each year is shared by us all. It is the fault of one uniquely powerful, incredibly myopic and self-centered species, the human. Many of us treat animals like a cheap commodity and take them for granted. They are not accorded the intrinsic value they deserve; the value that a caring, compassionate person may begin to understand if you look into the eyes of all animals. But there are three things that you can do to prevent these unnecessary deaths.
First, we must all be aware that breeding equals killing. There is no adequate justification for the purposeful or accidental breeding of any owned companion animal no matter what the commercial value. Spaying and Neutering is a responsible step to prevent companion animals from giving birth to more and more puppies and kittens. It’s not only healthier for the individual animal, but it will help stop the killing of those in the shelters. There are low-cost spay/neuter facilities if a person can’t afford to pay the usual $80.00 it costs to spay or neuter a companion animal. Also, most shelters will spay and neuter the adopted dog or cat before they are taken home by their new family. With the advent of “early spay/neuter programs” a puppy or kitten can be neutered starting as early as eight weeks of age.
Secondly, only go to an animal shelter or rescue to adopt your next best friend, NOT to a pet store or breeder. Behind the facade of the pet store window is hidden the gruesome puppy mill industry. Within these breeding farms, puppies endure extreme deprivation during their first weeks of life. At six to eight weeks of age, puppies are crammed two to a crate and shipped to any of the thousands of pet shops across the country. These puppies, jostled from truck to truck and finally to air cargo bays, may endure days in transit. The adult dogs who are used to produce the “cash-crop” of puppies are forced to spend their entire lives in cramped cages or pens. And because profit is the ultimate goal of the puppy mill owner, these poor breeding dogs are kept in conditions that will barely keep them alive and producing. When the adult females are so worn out from giving birth to litter after litter, she is killed because she is no longer profitable to the puppy mill owner.
Even AKC breeders who let you see their facilities are in fact putting a price on the heads of animals who look a certain way and have a certain bloodline. But how can a person base a dog’s or cat’s worth by these criteria? That’s what the Nazis did in Germany. They placed a high value on an individual only if they had blond hair and blue eyes and were of the “correct” bloodline; all other individuals were “worthless.” A dog or cat’s value is NOT in what their AKC papers say; each dog or cat is a unique individual. And those dogs and cats, puppies and kittens who are waiting at your local shelter to be rescued and given a chance at life will be killed if people continue to frequent pet stores and breeders.
Last but certainly not least, the hope for the animals is to be found in a human culture which learns to feel beyond itself. We must learn empathy; we must learn to see into the eyes of an animal and feel that it’s life has value. Nothing less will do.
In the movie “The Beguiled,” starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, I played Amy, a tender-hearted girl who loves and nurtures animals. Early in the movie Amy is seen tending to a wounded crow. The crow, whose wing has been injured, is tied to the railing of a balcony so he can’t fly away until he has fully recovered. “I love ya, Mr. Crow,” Amy says as she tries to comfort the struggling bird, “but until your wings are mended, it’s for your own good.” The scene foreshadows the plight of Eastwood’s character, McB, as he recovers from his injuries in the boarding school.
When I think about birds now I think about the horrific abuse birds – chickens, ducks, and others – endure on egg-laying farms. Egg farms continually breed birds so they have a fresh supply of hens to lay eggs. After two years spending their lives in horribly cramped conditions inside huge warehouses, the hens stop laying enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed and are shipped to the slaughterhouse.
If chicks in the hatchery turn out to be males (who, of course, don’t lay eggs), they’re considered useless by-products. Those poor baby birds are tossed ALIVE, cheeping pitifully for their mothers, into the trash, or thrown ALIVE into rendering machines to be ground up and used as feed for other animals.
Female chicks have part of their beaks painfully cut off while fully conscious, because egg-laying hens are forced to live in such crowded conditions they peck at each other. This is why I don’t eat eggs, or any other animals for that matter. Birds such as “broiler” chickens and egg-laying hens are made to live such miserable and painful lives that I simply cannot ethically eat their abused corpses.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
In the Hanna-Barbera animated series, Sealab 2020, my character Sali lived in an underwater research station commanded by her father, Captain Murphy. Sali – and those who watched the show – learned about the ecology of the earth’s oceans and the interconnectedness of life on land and in the sea. Sali understood that aquatic animals were intelligent, social beings in the same way land animals are.
There are a lot of people who have stopped eating meat and dairy for health reasons as well as for the horrific cruelty and suffering the animals experience. Many of these same people, however, still eat fish; they call themselves pescatarians. They believe that by eating sea animals like fish, they are not causing any suffering.
I’ve never understood why people think sea animals don’t feel pain. Maybe because they look so different from us land mammals, and they live underwater so we don’t see them as often. The only time many people see them is when their flesh is delivered on a plate.
Even before I was vegan I didn’t like eating sea animals. I had seen them on fishing boats when I was a young girl. I’d see them flopping around violently, their eyes open wide, their gills gasping for air. So, for all those pescatarians out there, here is some valuable information to educate you about the truth regarding fish and how science is proving they certainly feel pain.
Fishing: Aquatic agony
Like the animals many people share their homes with, fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do.
Fish can communicate, make tools, think, and feel pain
According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.”
In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.” According to Dr. Jens Krause of the University of Leeds, while some fish live in large hierarchical societies and others have smaller family units, all rely on these “social aggregations,” which “act as an information center where fish can exchange information with each other.”
Fish such as sharks, tuna and others have demonstrated intelligence, curiosity, playfulness, the ability to learn through trial and error, and the ability to maintain social networks.
Scientists have learned that fish feel pain and suffer like any other animal. They just don’t have the vocal cords to scream. Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds—similar to buzzes and clicks. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight and help with courtship.
While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to mammals.
Hooked fish struggle because of fear and physical pain
Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they begin to suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders rupture because of the sudden change in pressure; their eyes bug out and since they can’t breathe outside the water, they flop around violently gasping until they succumb. If they are released or somehow escape back into the water, the hooks stay inside their mouths preventing them from feeding and die of starvation.
Today, many fish are raised on fish farms—crowded, waste-filled pools where they’re packed so tightly together they can barely move. At processing plants, they’re often skinned alive and cut into pieces while still fully conscious. Even wild-caught fish endure a miserable death, which can take up to half an hour as they slowly suffocate or are crushed beneath other fish.
Many trout streams are so intensively fished that they are subject to catch-and-release regulations, requiring that all fish caught be released; the aquatic animals in these streams are likely to spend their short lives being repeatedly traumatized and injured. Biologist Ralph Manns points out that fish such as bass are territorial, and once they are caught and released, these fish may be unable to find their homes and “be fated to wander aimlessly.”
Birds are killed as well as a result of fishing with hooks
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that discarded monofilament fishing line is the number one killer of adult brown pelicans, although one Audubon biologist says that “[p]retty much every type of water or shore bird can get caught up in fishing line …. We find dead cormorants, anhingas, herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills … you name it.” Ospreys sometimes use discarded fishing line in their nests, and both parents and their young have been found entangled in it or impaled on fishing hooks. Dolphins have also died from asphyxiation after choking on fish who had tackle still attached.
The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually, the aquaculture industry raises more than 700 million pounds per year, and another 5 billion pounds of seafood is imported.
Commercial fishers use vast factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing everyone in their path. These boats haul up tens of thousands of fish in one load, keeping the most profitable and dumping other animals (such as rays, dolphins, and crabs) back into the ocean. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Millions of tons of fish who are considered to be “undersized” are left to die on the decks or are tossed back into the ocean, where they usually die soon afterward.
Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets. These kinds of nets are believed to be responsible for the majority of incidents involving the accidental netting and death of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals over decades of use.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 71 cases of whale entanglement off the Coast of California in 2016, the highest total recorded in the area since NOAA started keeping records in 1982.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 80 percent of the world’s fish are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. One study conducted by 14 marine scientists concluded that continued overfishing of the world’s fish will cause “100% of species [to] collapse.”
Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark … has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.
Eating fish is hazardous to your health
Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat and especially cholesterol.
The flesh of fish (including shellfish) can accumulate extremely high levels of carcinogenic chemical residues, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), thousands of times higher than that of the water they live in. A study of the nation’s freshwater waterways concluded that one in four fish is contaminated with levels of mercury that exceed government standards for safety.
The New England Journal of Medicine asserts that fish “are the main if not the only source of methyl mercury,” which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems with motor skills, language, and attention span.
After an analysis of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on canned tuna, Consumer Reports cautioned that cans of tuna “especially white, tend to be high in mercury.”
So, when people you know say “I’m a pescatarian, I only eat fish,” you might want to point out that not only do fish feel pain, they suffer and die in agony like any other animal raised for food. You can also tell them that eating fish is completely unnecessary. You can get all the protein you need from a low-fat vegan diet (look at elephants!) Plus, there is zero cholesterol in a vegan diet. We human animals make more than enough cholesterol in our own livers, we certainly don’t need to ingest the cholesterol made in the livers of the animals being consumed.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!
I want to share with you an absolutely wonderful and poignant plea to go vegan this New Year from FreeFromHarm.org, a non-profit charitable organization promoting farmed animal rescue, education and advocacy. Theirs is one of the best websites out there, and should be a go-to site for you and your friends to learn all about veganism. Try these mouthwatering vegan recipes and feel proud that you are saving the animals, the planet, and yourselves with every bite!
I wish you all a very Happy New Year; now let’s come together to make 2018 a Happy New Year for the animals of the earth as well. And as I always say, Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!
Except where otherwise noted, the following text and illustrations are copyrighted by Free from Harm. Please visit them online and on Facebook.
1. Animals Want to Live; They Love Life and Fear Death.
We’re taught to think of animals raised for food — if we think of them at all — as an abstract category: “farm animals”— the nameless, faceless herds and flocks whose generic characteristics are merely recycled through an endless stream of indistinct entities. But farmed animals are individuals with unique personalities and emotions, just like cats and dogs. They feel joy, affection, and pleasure, as well as fear, grief, and pain. Like us, they form deep friendships and emotional bonds and like us they seek to preserve their only lives, which they cherish.
2. The Egg and Dairy Industries Also Cause Immense Suffering and Death
In nature, wild hens lay only 12 to 20 eggs per year. But domesticated chickens have been genetically manipulated to produce between 250 and 300 eggs annually, leading to painful and often fatal reproductive disorders. More than 95% of chickens used for eggs are confined in cages so small they cannot even spread their wings, and the majority of “cage-free” and “free range” eggs come from miserable hens packed inside filthy warehouses by the thousands. Most hens used for eggs have a portion of their beaks painfully cut off to prevent nervous pecking in overcrowded conditions, and at the hatcheries where new hens are hatched to be sent to egg farms — including humane label farms, small farms, and backyard hen operations — 6 billion male chicks are destroyed every year by being suffocated or ground up alive.
3. Science Confirms: We Have No Need to Consume Animal Products
A well balanced vegan diet can easily provide all the nutrients we need to thrive. Government health experts worldwide are finally catching up with the large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that a vegan diet is not only a viable option for people of any age, but that eating plant foods instead of animal-based foods can confer significant health benefits, including reduction in incidence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, and some types of cancer.
In their official position paper on vegetarian and vegan diets, the American Dietetic Association— the U.S.’s oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition— states that well-balanced vegan diets “are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases,” and that they are “appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
While many people are aware that more than 10 billion land animals are killed for food every year in the U.S., far fewer know that in the last decade alone, more than 30 million wildlife animals — many endangered — have been brutally killed by a secretive branch of the USDA that is primarily employed to destroy wildlife deemed a threat to animal agriculture.
The USDA’s Animal Damage Control (ADC) program was established in 1931 to police and destroy wildlife animals considered to be detrimental to the western livestock industry. The government later changed the program’s name to “Wildlife Services” on the advice of public relations strategists, and changed their motto to the benign sounding, “Living with Wildlife.”
In reality, Wildlife Services spends millions of tax-payer dollars each year to kill native carnivores and predators — coyotes, wolves, bears, mountain lions, and many others — on behalf of the livestock industry. These animals are destroyed by the most violent and gruesome methods imaginable: gunned down from helicopters; poisoned; gassed; torn apart by trained dogs; strangled to death in neck snares; and caught in torturous leg-hold traps in which they languish and slowly die.
Of the millions of animals destroyed by Wildlife Services each year, coyotes are perhaps the most viciously targeted. Every year, tens of thousands of coyotes die slow, agonizing deaths in traps simply because Wildlife Services is not required to check their traps, and personnel frequently do not return to traps for weeks.
Workers also “unintentionally” kill tens of thousands of “non-target” animals each year via indiscriminate and excessive trapping and poisoning. Collateral victims include federally protected golden and bald eagles (who frequently die in leg and neck snares), beavers, armadillos, badgers, great-horned owls, hog-nosed skunks, javelina, pronghorn antelope, porcupines, great blue herons, ruddy ducks, snapping turtles, turkey vultures, long-tailed weasels, marmots, mourning doves, red-tailed hawks, black bears, sandhill cranes and ringtails; as well as swift foxes, kit foxes and river otters, all the focus of conservation and restoration efforts. Thousands of domestic dogs and cats are also killed each year when they stumble upon traps or poisoned baits.
The millions of animals being targeted and destroyed by Wildlife Services eat other animals to survive. Humans have no biological need to consume animal products and most of us have access to plant-based foods. Killing animals for food when we have other options, and killing innocent wild animals who have no other options, are equally indefensible practices.
It should be noted that a shift away from factory farming to more so-called humane, pasture-based farming would only increase the targeting and destruction of wild animals. As John Robbins has noted, “The price that western lands and wildlife are paying for grazing cattle is hard to exaggerate… widespread production of grass-fed beef [and other animal products] would only multiply this already devastating toll.”
Of the planet’s nearly 7 billion humans, roughly 1 billion people are malnourished and 6 million children starve to death every year.
Farming animals is notoriously inefficient and wasteful when compared to growing plants to feed humans directly, with the end result that “livestock” animals take drastically more food from the global food supply than they provide.
This is because in order to eat farmed animals, we have to grow the crops necessary to feed them, which amounts to vastly more crops than it would take to feed humans directly. (We feed and slaughter 60 billion farmed animals every year; there are 7.3 billion humans on earth). To give one example, it takes thirteen pounds of grain to yield just one pound of beef (USDA) — while crops such as soy and lentils produce, pound for pound, as much protein as beef, and sometimes more.
Compounding this inefficiency is the fact that only a small percentage of the plant energy consumed by an animal is converted into edible protein. Most of the energy from crops fed to farmed animals is used to fuel their own metabolism, with only a fraction of those grains and other plants being turned into meat.
Feeding half the world’s edible grain crop to farmed animals is not only a grossly inefficient use of protein, it is also a staggering waste of natural resources, requiring far more land, water and energy than cultivating plant foods for direct human consumption. One acre of land can yield between twelve and twenty times more plant food than animal-based foods. Writes Richard Oppenlander, “We are essentially using twenty times the amount of land and crops, and hundreds of times the water, as well as polluting our waterways and air and destroying rainforests, to produce animals to kill and eat … which is unhealthier than eating the plant products we could have produced.”
In fact, analysis of global agricultural yields finds that better use of existing croplands could feed four billion more people simply by shifting away from growing crops for animal feed and fuel, and instead growing crops for direct human consumption. Reallocating croplands in this way could increase available global food calories by as much as 70 percent, according to researchers.
To learn more about the ways animal farming contributes to global food insecurity and hunger, visit A Well-Fed World.
6. Animal Agriculture’s Impact on Climate and Environment
Animal agriculture is the single greatest human-caused source of greenhouse gases, land use, and land degradation; the number one source of freshwater pollution, and the leading driver of rainforest destruction. It is also a major cause of air pollution, habitat loss, and species extinction, and is a highly inefficient use of limited natural resources. The United Nations has called for a global shift to a vegan diet wherever possible as the most effective way to combat climate change, world hunger, and ecological devastation.
Even with intensive confinement “factory farming” methods currently dominating global animal agriculture, farmed animals still use 30 per cent of the earth’s entire land surface. If we attempted to pasture all 100 million cows in the United States on grass, as humane/sustainable farming advocates suggest, cattle would require (using the conservative estimate of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land — which doesn’t include all the land we would need to raise all of the pigs, chickens, sheep and goats free range.
It is also estimated that pasture-raised cows produce 4 times more greenhouse gases than cows raised in confinement. This is because cows eating grass, as nature intended, grow much slower than cows fed on grain, and thus require significantly more time to reach slaughter weight. The longer it takes cows to grow, the more methane and nitrous-oxide they emit. Farmed animals in the U.S., 98% of whom are factory farmed, already generate a billion tons of manure per year, contributing a whopping 65 percent of the planet’s total human-caused nitrous oxide emissions. (Nitrous oxide is an even more potent heat-trapper than methane.)
Environmental research organization Worldwatch Institute observes: “It has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future—deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.”
7. A Vegan Diet Is Better for Your Heart
The leading cause of death of both men and women in the United States is heart disease. Every day, nearly 2,600 Americans die of some type of heart disease, the most common form being coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease or atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis occurs when hard layers of plaque, usually cholesterol deposits, accumulate in major arteries and begin constricting flow of blood and oxygen to the heart. Arterial plaque is also a leading cause of stroke, the fourth greatest killer of Americans each year.
While other factors can affect cholesterol levels and heart disease (including smoking, exercise, blood pressure, and body weight) one of the single most significant causes of heart disease is dietary cholesterol. Our bodies make all the cholesterol we need, so consuming animal products contributes excessive levels. (There is no cholesterol in plant foods). Animal products are also loaded with saturated fats, which, unlike unsaturated fats, cause the liver to produce more cholesterol.
Fortunately, for most people, preventing coronary heart disease is as simple as eliminating animal products, eating a healthy plant-based diet, exercising, and avoiding cigarette smoking. But beyond prevention, a plant-based diet is the only treatment that has been scientifically proven to reverse heart disease.
Vegan diets have also repeatedly shown to reduce levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. According to a study published in the American Journal of Cardiology, a low-fat vegetarian diet reduces LDL by 16 percent, but a high-nutrient vegan diet reduces LDL cholesterol by 33 percent. The high fiber content of plant-based foods also helps to slow the absorption of cholesterol. Animal products contain no fiber.
8. A Vegan Diet Can Prevent and Reverse Other Diseases, Too
In fact, a whole foods plant-based diet can prevent and in some cases even reverse many of the worst diseases. Dr. T. Colin Campbell is an American biochemist whose research focuses on the effects of human nutrition on long-term health. With his son, Dr. Campbell co-authored the international bestseller, The China Study, based on his findings from a 20 year research project conducted under the auspices of Cornell University, Oxford University and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, a study described by The New York Times as “the Grand Prix of epidemiology.”
The China Study examines the relationship between meat, egg and dairy consumption and chronic illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. Based on a meta-analysis of diet and disease rates in thousands of people in rural populations of Taiwan and China, Dr. Campbell concludes that people who eat a whole foods, plant-based diet—excluding all animal products—can avoid, reduce, and in many cases reverse the development of numerous illnesses, including most of the leading fatal Western diseases.
“What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored. ”
Elsewhere, in 2013, leading U.S. health care provider Kaiser Permanente, with more than 9 million health insurance subscribers, published an article in its medical science journal recommending that physicians consider recommending a plant-based diet for all their patients. The article notes, “Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods … Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”
9. We Are Not Lions (or, A Lesson in Comparative Anatomy)
“Consider again the anatomy of the carnivore and the omnivore, including an enormous mouth opening, a jaw joint that operates as a hinge, dagger-like teeth, and sharp claws. Each of these traits enables the lion or bear to use her body to kill prey. Herbivorous animals, by contrast, have fleshy lips, a small mouth opening, a thick and muscular tongue, and a far less stable, mobile jaw joint that facilitates chewing, crushing, and grinding. Herbivores also generally lack sharp claws. (14) These qualities are well-adapted to the eating of plants, which provide nutrients when their cell walls are broken, a process that requires crushing food with side-to-side motion rather than simply swallowing it in large chunks the way that a carnivore or omnivore swallows flesh.
Herbivores have digestive systems in which the stomach is not nearly as spacious as the carnivore’s or omnivore’s, a feature that is suitable for the more regular eating of smaller portions permitted with a diet of plants (which stay in place and are therefore much easier to chase down), rather than the sporadic gorging of a predator on his prey. (15) The herbivore’s stomach also has a higher pH (which means that it is less acidic) than the carnivore’s or omnivore’s, perhaps in part because plants ordinarily do not carry the dangerous bacteria associated with rotting flesh.
The small intestines of herbivores are quite long and permit the time-consuming and complex breakdown of the carbohydrates present in plants. In virtually every respect, the human anatomy resembles that of herbivorous animals (such as the gorilla and the elephant) more than that of carnivorous and omnivorous species. (16) Our mouths’ openings are small; our teeth are not extremely sharp (even our “canines”); and our lips and tongues are muscular. Our jaws are not very stable (and would therefore be easy to dislocate in a battle with prey), but they are quite mobile and allow the side-to-side motion that facilitates the crushing and grinding of plants.” — Read the full excerpt on comparative anatomy by Sherry F. Colb, from her book, Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger? and Other Questions People Ask Vegans
Harold Brown is a former beef and dairy farmer. He was born on a cattle farm in Michigan and spent over half his life in agriculture. After a personal health crisis forced him to confront the incidence of heart disease in his family, he went vegan. Living in great health on a vegan diet led him to reexamine all of his previous assumptions about eating animals, and he soon experienced a profound conviction that needlessly exploiting and killing animals for food is immoral. Now a vegan activist, he is the founder of Farm Kind and one of the subjects of the documentary Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home.
“I have often heard the word “humane” used in relation to meat, dairy, eggs, and other products… I have always found this curious, because my understanding is that humane means to act with kindness, tenderness, and mercy. I can tell you as a former animal farmer that while it may be true that you can treat a farm animal kindly and show tenderness toward them, mercy is a different matter.
…I hardly thought twice about the things I had to do on the farm: driving cattle, castrations, dehorning, and I did my fair share of butchering too.
Nowadays I ask myself from both the perspective of the old me and the new me, what does humane mean in the way it is being used? The old me says, “That is an odd word to associate with meat, dairy, and eggs, but hey, if it sells more products, why not?” The new me asks, “Back in the day, I could, and did, raise animals with kindness and tenderness, but how did I show them mercy?” Mercy — a unique human trait of refraining from doing harm.”
Read more powerful testimonies from former meat and dairy farmers who went vegan, here.
11. There Is No Such Thing as Humane Animal Farming
The very existence of labels like “free range,” “cage-free,” and “humane certified” attests to society’s growing concern for the welfare of animals raised for food. But any time consumers of meat, eggs or dairy advocate for “humane” treatment of farm animals, they confront an unavoidable paradox: the movement to treat farm animals better is based on the idea that it is wrong to subject them to unnecessary harm; yet, killing animals we have no need to eat constitutes the ultimate act of unnecessary harm.
Unlike animals who kill other animals for food, we have a choice. They kill from necessity, whereas most humans do so for palate pleasure, custom or convenience. But there is a vast moral difference between killing from necessity and killing for pleasure. When we have a choice between sparing life or taking it, there is nothing remotely humane about inflicting violence and death on others just because we like the taste or the tradition, and because they cannot fight back. Might does not equal right.
Too, many of the worst cruelties inflicted on animals in factory farms are also routine practice on small, free-range farms, even on the best “humane certified” farms. These include: sexual violation and reproductive exploitation; the systematic destruction of motherhood; excruciating mutilations without anesthetic; and denial of instincts and preferences essential to animals’ basic well-being.
It has been estimated that 98% of our harm to animals comes from our food choices. Yet science has irrefutably demonstrated that humans do not need meat, dairy or eggs to thrive. Once we understand that eating animals is not a requirement for good health, and if we have access to nutritious plant-based foods, then the choice to continue consuming animal products anyway is a choice for animals to be harmed and killed for our pleasure — simply because we like the taste.
But harming animals for pleasure goes against core values we hold in common — which is why, for example, we oppose practices like dog fighting on principle. But it can’t be wrong to harm animals for pleasure in one instance, and not the other.
The only way for our values to mean anything — the only way for our values to actually be our values — is if they are reflected in the choices we freely make. And every day, we have the opportunity to live our values through our food choices. If we value kindness over violence, if we value being compassionate over causing unnecessary harm, and if we have access to plant-based alternatives, then veganism is the only consistent expression of our values.
A note from Free From Harm: It’s important to recognize that veganism isn’t just a diet. Our society is literally built on animal exploitation, from clothing and cosmetics to household cleaners, from cruel medical experiments to puppy mills. Living vegan thus entails an effort to avoid using animals in all areas of life, but the choices we make about the food we eat are an important and impactful place to start.
Once you’ve decided that you and your family have the time, the patience, the financial means, and the compassion to bring a companion animal into your home, go to your local city or county animal shelter to adopt. You will be amazed at how many wonderful cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens are desperately waiting for someone to come in and save them from imminent death. Did you know that over five million healthy, adoptable companion animals are killed every year in shelters and pounds for no other reason but the lack of people to adopt them? Most animal shelters not only have cuddly cats and doggies waiting for loving homes, but also rabbits, chickens, pigs, etc., all of whom are homeless and longing to be a companion to someone special.
Many local rescue organizations hold adoption days at pet supply outlets such as Petco and PetSmart, etc. If you’re looking online, go to Petfinder.com, where you can search more than 4,000 shelters across the country by breed, size, location and other categories for wonderful animals to adopt.
Irresponsible people who don’t spay or neuter their pets, dump boxes of newborns at city and county shelters. It’s a terrible way to start out life, unwanted and abandoned. Personally, though, I have always adopted older doggies. They’re every bit as loveable as a puppy or kitten, but typically more mellow, and they don’t need to be potty-trained! Remember, too, that older animals are the first to be killed at shelters.
There are other great reasons for adopting an animal from a shelter or pound. The cost is low, and there are often discounts on spaying and neutering; most shelters spay or neuter your new best friend for you.
Never, ever buy from a breeder or pet shop. Adopt your next best friend and know that you are saving not one, but two lives – the precious animal you are adopting, and, by opening up shelter space, another animal who now has a chance to be rescued.
When you’ve done it right, your child or loved one will receive the gift of a longtime friend and companion. Those who share their home with an animal find the experience one of the most magnificent of their lives.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!