Dining out recently with my manager and co-author of my forthcoming memoirs, I had to have him take my picture with this great “Star Trek” poster. I love the message – Vulcans respected all forms of life, as should we all.
I am so pleased that California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a landmark bill that guarantees the state’s hospital patients and prison population a vegan option at every meal. “Whether to protect animals, our climate, or our health, those of us who choose to eat a vegan diet can celebrate today with Gov. Brown’s signing of SB 1138,” says State Senator Nancy Skinner, sponsor of the bill. “SB 1138 ensures that people in hospitals, healthcare facilities, or prison have access to plant-based meals.” Co-sponsoring the bill was the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and Social Compassion in Legislation. State law will now require licensed California health care facilities and state prisons to make vegan meal options containing no animal products or by-products, including meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs.
A vegan diet not only saves the lives of animals but promotes better health. I became vegan over twenty-five years ago after reading the books The Case for Animal Rights by Dr. Tom Regan and Diet for A New America by John Robbins, and by watching videos showing animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses. So gruesome were the images I saw, I could barely keep watching, but I had to know the truth behind what we eat. Everything I read and saw not only confirmed to me that all animals have the capacity to suffer, and they do – horribly, but also that animals have complex emotions and are much smarter than most people realize. I decided I simply couldn’t continue to participate in something that inflicts such fear, pain and suffering upon poor, innocent animals.
Pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, and other animals raised for human consumption are horribly abused in factory farms and slaughterhouses, their throats cut, and their still living bodies hung upside down to bleed out, after which their corpses are cut up and delivered to meat packing plants. Fish are pulled from oceans and lakes and cut apart or left to die of suffocation on the bloody decks of fishing trawlers. Dairy cows are artificially inseminated by a machine known in the industry as a “rape rack,” and kept pregnant their whole miserable lives, pumped constantly for the milk created for their babies until they collapse from brittle, calcium-depleted bones. When their milk production declines, the poor cows, crying for their babies, are shipped in hot, crowded trucks and boxcars to the slaughterhouse. The cow’s female babies are destined for the “rape rack” just like their mothers, but her male babies are taken away, umbilical cord still hanging, and shipped off to veal farms. There they are chained by the neck so they can’t move and fed an anemic diet, so that their flesh is tender and white when they are slaughtered, still in infancy, to be processed as veal.
Dairy is an extremely cruel industry. I drink almond or soy milk and enjoy vegan cream cheese, vegan mayonnaise, and other vegan cheeses. I could go on and on. Google vegan substitutes for ANY animal product and you will find awesome alternatives. To learn more about opposing animal cruelty and choosing compassion (and better health, as well), please visit adaptt.org and get the brochure “Why Vegan” from veganoutreach.com
If you’re interested in watching some awesome documentaries about how to start the process towards veganism, see “Cowspiracy,” “Forks Over Knives,” and “What the Health.” For an even larger selection, go to https://nutriciously.com/best-vegan-documentaries/
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 cancer.
Taxpayers benefit from the new law (studies show vegan meals cost about 50% less than meat entrees), patients and prisoners benefit, and most importantly, millions of animals’ lives will be saved.
Let’s urge every state to follow California’s lead and offer vegan meal options in every hospital and prison. In fact, let’s broaden the law. With childhood obesity a major issue in America today, isn’t it time schools were required to offer a vegan option, too?
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
In the very first episode of Blondie, Cookie won’t eat her eggs. Who can blame her? Eggs are the product of a cruel and deadly industry. I like to think Cookie grew up to be vegan, just as the girl who played her did.
Millions have gone vegan in response of the horrific suffering imposed on animals, as well as for health and environmental reasons. For that reason, the merciless meat and dairy industries are running scared. Now they’ve come up with laboratory-grown, or cultured, “meat” as a substitute for the flesh of cows. They’re trying to peddle this lab-grown meat as a “cruelty-free” alternative, and it’s not just “cultured” beef vying for space restaurant menus – they’re also attempting to clone chicken breasts and fish fillets.
What they don’t want you to know is that growing meat in a lab requires a product known as fetal bovine serum, or FBS. FBS, as the name implies, is a byproduct made from the blood of cow fetuses. Dairy cows, who are kept pregnant throughout their miserable lives to ensure constant milk production, are slaughtered when they’re no longer productive enough to justify their upkeep on factory dairy farms. To get this FBS, these cruel meat producers take pregnant dairy cows to slaughter and bleed them out. The fetus is removed and brought into a blood collection room. The fetus, which remains alive during the process to ensure blood quality, has a needle inserted into its heart, and the blood is drained until the fetus dies, a slow death that takes about five minutes. This blood is then refined, and the resulting extract is FBS. This is hardly the cruelty-free future meat producers want you to believe in.
The bottom line is, meat made in a lab still requires the slaughter of cows and the killing of and extracting blood from the cows’ fetuses. Add to that all the same health risks associated with consuming animal flesh: high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
If you want truly cruelty-free alternatives to eating animal flesh, don’t be duped by the monstrous meat and dairy industry and their lab-grown beef. There are hundreds of clean, healthy plant-based products on the market. Visit a Whole Foods or other full-range grocer and ask to be introduced to the wide selection of vegan burgers, vegan ground round (great for tacos!), Gardein vegan meatballs, and on and on. Sample the many delicious milk substitutes, vegan ice cream sandwiches, and even vegan apple pie!
Here’s a great site that will answer all your questions regarding healthy and delicious vegan alternatives. You’ll be surprised at how many there are and how much fun and easy – and tasty! – it is to go cruelty-free!
Peace to 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.
As a very young child I had a speech impediment. It was a developmental impediment shared by many children, but as an actor it sometimes put me at a disadvantage – except for one time when it turned out not to be a liability, but an asset.
Cast in a commercial for Swanson’s frozen turkey dinners, I struggled with all the R’s in the name of the product. My big line in the commercial came when I was to look up at the actress playing my mother and ask, “May I have some more turkey, please?” Try my hardest, the best I could do was “May I have some maw tuhkey, please?” Expecting to be admonished for messing up the line, I was surprised and relieved when the director thought my delivery was adorable. Not only did he and Swanson’s keep the line in the commercial, they cast me in two more commercials, provided I spoke the line just the same way.
At the time, I thought of turkey as something that came in a tin foil tray or surrounded by stuffing on a platter at holiday time. I had no idea that turkeys are beautiful, intelligent, and loving birds. Neither did I know of the excruciatingly painful lives they lead at factory farms or on oxymoronically-named “humanely-raised” farms.
Turkeys are very family oriented. In natural conditions, turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their babies. Young turkeys, known as poults, learn crucial survival information from their mother, including what to eat, how to avoid predators, the layout of the home range, and important social behavior.
Did you know?
Turkeys like to eat breakfast and dinner together as a family. They have two main meal times, one mid-morning, the other mid-afternoon. Family units often come together for meals.
Mother turkeys are fiercely protective of their young, and will risk their lives to save their babies. If she senses a threat, a mother turkey sounds a specific warning cry to her brood that means only one thing: run for cover. She may also attack, or pretend to be wounded to distract the predator from her offspring.
When trust has been established, turkeys love to be stroked, snuggled and petted for long periods of time. When receiving such affection, many turkeys make a sound that can only be described as “purring.” Turkeys rescued by sanctuaries, even those who have known great cruelty at human hands, will happily sit for hours having their tummy rubbed.
Turkeys enjoy listening to music, especially classical, and will often sing along!
It is difficult to sneak up on a turkey. They have excellent vision and hearing, even though they have no external ears.
Male turkeys, called toms, love to feel noticed and admired. Toms at sanctuaries are known to follow busy human caretakers from chore to chore, standing off to the side, puffing out their exquisite feathers in a blast of scalloped ruffles, quietly and patiently anticipating the prospect for attention.
We must as compassionate people reevaluate the merciless killing of billions of farmed animals in the name of tradition, and a particularly poignant victim of tradition at this season of the year is the Thanksgiving turkey. The poor bird, lifeless, lying exposed on her back, decapitated, limbs severed, feathers ripped from her body, and organs ripped from her belly through her anal cavity, has suffered, along with millions of her kind, a horrible fate in the name of tradition. Masking violence with the euphemism of gratitude does nothing to ease the turkey’s misery.
Turkeys have been bred to grow so fast and to become so heavy that their bones are too weak to support their weight. They suffer from leg deformities, arthritis and joint pain just in their first few months of life, resulting in lameness so severe that they are sometimes forced to walk on their wings to reach food and water.
Commercial turkeys are artificially inseminated. the industry euphemism for roughly restraining female turkeys, turning them upside down, and violently shoving tubes or syringes of semen into their vaginas.
Turkeys are packed into long, windowless buildings by the thousands. Much like chickens bred for their meat, turkeys are overcrowded on floor systems and forced to live in their own waste. Breathing ammonia fumes and irritating dust causes them to develop respiratory diseases; forced to live in their own urine and excrement, they develop grossly ulcerated feet, blistered breasts, and ammonia-burned eyes and throats.
Although turkeys have claws, if they are treated with kindness and given plenty of space, they will not use their claws against others. With the tremendous overcrowding and brutal handling at commercial turkey farms, stressed turkeys use their thick nails to defend themselves. Because of this, turkey farmers use shears to cut off – without anesthesia – not just the nails, but the first and second section of the turkey’s toes so they will not grow back. Disregard what you may believe about “humane” farms or “free-range” turkeys; the same painful surgery is performed on those birds. The open wounds often get infected and swell, making it incredibly painful for the turkeys to walk. I’ve visited with rescued turkeys at sanctuaries and seen for myself their terribly deformed feet and the swollen stumps of what used to be their toes.
The similarly cruel practice of debeaking is also routinely performed, in which a large portion of the beak is burned off while the turkeys are still chicks. Debeaking is performed using sharp shears, a heated blade, or a high-voltage electrical current. Turkeys’ beaks are loaded with sensory receptors, much like human fingertips, and this painful procedure severs and exposes nerves. Some turkeys starve to death before they are able to eat again; others die of shock on the spot. Not only are debeaked turkeys painfully mutilated, but turkeys use their beaks to preen, to groom, to peck and to eat, natural activities impossible with a disfigured beak, and the cause of lifelong suffering for those who survive the procedure.
At the slaughterhouse, turkeys are shackled by their feet and dragged upside down through an electrified water bath designed to stun them before their throats are cut. But in commercial slaughterhouses, the killing lines move so quickly that many of the turkeys are not properly stunned. The next station consists of an automated blade that cuts their throats as they pass by, so that the turkeys slowly bleed to death. Those turkeys not properly stunned suffer a slow, painful death or continue to flap and writhe, and miss the blade. Tens of thousands of fully conscious turkeys whose throats were not slit proceed to the next station on the assembly line – the scalding tank, which loosens their feathers for removal. Those turkeys who survived are boiled alive.
I urge you watch these short clips I have personally selected, then continue on to learn about some delicious alternatives to serving the flesh of this noble bird this holiday season.
The first is a wonderfully uplifting short video about Hildy, a turkey rescued from a commercial farm who was lucky enough to live out her life with people who loved her:
There are numerous delicious vegan options for holiday entrees, such as Tofurky Roast, Field Roast’s Celebration Roast, and Gardein’s Savory Stuffed Turk’y, just to name a few. A stuffed pumpkin or other large squash can also make a beautiful main course. All the traditional side dishes can be made vegan easily with non-dairy milks and other plant-based alternatives. There is even vegan eggnog, and I can personally attest that it is delightful! More info about these yummy alternatives follow.
Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-Less Roast is so delicious! This is actually my favorite of all of the turkey alternatives I have tried. It’s delicious, and a bargain! Here’s how Trader Joe’s describes it: “A few years back, we teamed up with innovators in healthy and convenient, plant-based foods to create a turkey-less stuffed roast. Made with seasoned soy protein and organic ancient grain flour, it was touted for its remarkable texture and flavor. But rest on our roasts, we do not. Driven to make this main course as delicious and desirable as possible, we’ve punched up the wild rice stuffing with bursts of cranberries and coated the roast in crispy breading, seasoned with herbs and red pepper flakes. Now breaded, our Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy has never tasted or looked better.”
Gardein Holiday Roast. The deservedly popular plant-based meats company, Gardein, offers a knock-your-socks-off-delicious vegan Holiday Roast. Look for it in the frozen section of your grocery store. Many retailers like Target and Wal-Mart carry Gardein products as well. You can also ask your store to order the product for you. Visit the Gardein site to find out which stores nearest you carry their foods. http://gardein.com/products/#where-to-buy
The Pardon, from No Evil Foods. Now shipping nationwide in the U.S., The Pardon, from the popular plant-based meats company No Evil Foods in Asheville, NC, is a savory, hand-crafted artisanal plant-based roast. Once baked, the herb-rubbed exterior takes on a crispy, golden-brown sheen that breaks through to tender, succulent, juicy plant meat. This protein-packed roast carves magnificently, and the combination of ingredients and technique allow The Pardon to uniquely recreate the experience of eating a traditional turkey dinner, without any of the cruelty. The Pardon serves eight and runs $25. http://www.noevilfoods.com/product/preorder-meats-of-strength-the-pardon-mail-order/
Vegan Herb Roasted Chik’n from The Gentle Chef Cookbook. Check out this mouth-watering recipe gallery from Chef Skye-Michael Conroy’s The Gentle Chef Cookbook. Chef Conroy has pretty much veganized every meat, egg, and cheese dish on the planet, in an effort to make it as easy (and delicious) as possible for animal food lovers to go vegan without feeling deprived. His plant-based meat recipes are made from seitan, and include easy, step-by-step instructions for all the traditional holiday meat centerpieces, including vegan versions of Baked Ham, Herb Roasted Chicken, and Carving Board Roast Turkey. Other recipes include vegan bacon, sausage, sandwich meat slices, nuggets, meatballs… the list goes on and on. See for yourself! http://thegentlechef.com/SeitanandBeyondImages.php
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!
I became vegan over twenty years ago after reading the books The Case for Animal Rights by Dr. Tom Regan and Diet for A New America by John Robbins, and by watching videos showing animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses. So gruesome were the images I saw, I could barely keep watching. Everything I read and saw confirmed to me that not only do animals have the capacity to suffer, they do – horribly. I decided I simply couldn’t continue to participate in something that inflicts such suffering upon poor, innocent animals.
From the time I was very young, I remember feeling sorry for the animals I saw or heard about being treated cruelly. I remember, too, when playing the voice of Fern in the animated movie “Charlotte’s Web,” how I felt reading the wonderful words of author E. B. White about animals having personalities, and experiencing fear, anxiety, and happiness. Whether it was an animal I was working with on a set or my own animals I cared for growing up, looking into their eyes, how could I deny that animals feel the same emotions we humans feel?
Although I was only 12 years old, when Fern sang her love song to Wilbur the Pig, it touched me to the core. Fern loved Wilbur, and rightly so. Pigs, like all other animals, including chickens, sheep, and cows, are smart and sensitive. Many people think of pigs as dirty, but if they would visit sites like adaptt.org and veganoutreach.org, they would learn a great deal of new, revealing information about animals that may make them rethink their own dietary and lifestyle choices. Did you know, for example, that pigs have very sensitive skin and burn easily from the sun, so, just as human animals put on protective sunscreen, pigs roll in the mud to keep cool and protect their skin? Pigs, like other animals, should be respected and not exploited or abused. Instead they are horribly abused in factory farms and slaughterhouses, their throats cut, and their still living bodies hung upside down to bleed out, to be cut up and delivered to meat packing plants.
Poor dairy cows are artificially inseminated by a machine known in the industry as a “rape rack,” and kept pregnant their whole miserable lives, pumped constantly for milk until they collapse of brittle, calcium-depleted bones, then trucked in hot boxcars to the slaughterhouse. Every time a dairy cow gives birth, her babies are taken away from her, their umbilical cord still hanging, to be shipped off to “veal farms.” There, they are chained by the neck so they can’t move and fed an anemic diet, so that their flesh is tender and white when they are slaughtered, still in infancy, to be processed as veal.
Dairy is an extremely cruel industry. Did you know “human animals” are the only animals on the planet who consume another species milk after being weaned from their mother? How bizarre is that? I drink almond or soy milk and enjoy vegan cream cheese, vegan mayonnaise, and other vegan cheeses. I could go on and on. Google vegan substitutes for ANY animal product and you will find awesome alternatives.
Finally, a word or two about Charlotte herself, played so beautifully in the film by the late Debbie Reynolds. Charlotte demonstrates that spiders are clever creatures, spinning magnificent, complex webs, something completely beyond the ability of humans. Like other animals, Charlotte the spider protects her babies with love and care. Even spiders ought to be respected!
If you really want to see a movie with heart, soul, humor, and beauty, do get a copy of the animated version of “Charlotte’s Web” starring Debbie Reynolds, Henry Gibson, Paul Lynde as a hilarious rat, Agnes Moorhead, and yours truly. Better still, watch it together with your children or grandchildren.
And if you want to learn more about opposing animal cruelty and choosing compassion (and better health, as well), please visit adaptt.org and get the brochure “Why Vegan” from veganoutreach.com.
If you’re interested in watching some awesome documentaries about how to start the process towards veganism, see “Cowspiracy,” “Forks Over Knives,” and “What the Health.” For an even larger selection, go to nutriciously.com/best-vegan-documentaries/