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13769(US) Cruelty, Poultry, Pork and Pragmatism: What's Missing from the Michael Vick Story?

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  • AnimalConcerns.org
    Sep 1, 2007
      [American Chronicle - opinion]

      As I watch the news coverage of the Michael Vick story I am
      continuously horrified by the ever-increasing level of cruelty. With
      each new development we learn how primitive and unaffected by
      suffering humans can be. The debate over Vick's and his accomplices'
      actions is understandably one-sided with only the dumbest professional
      athletes willing to provide a defense that is quickly recanted after
      an agent or publicist advises otherwise. But, for all the highlighting
      of cruelty to animals there is much missing from the discussion.

      After fifteen years of being a vegetarian I've learned to keep my
      mouth shut. I will usually try to quietly order the non-meat option at
      a restaurant or find the vegetable dishes at a pot-luck. But,
      inevitably someone notices what I've chosen and figures out I'm a
      vegetarian and then the task of keeping my mouth shut becomes even
      harder because the usual questions follow.

      At first it's, "Why are you a vegetarian?" What seems like a polite
      curiosity is anything but. People usually have no interest in knowing
      why I am a vegetarian. They only want to allow me five words so they
      can immediately launch into a treatise on why they are not a
      vegetarian. This is when keeping one's mouth shut becomes even more
      difficult. People say the most inane things.

      I often hear that someone is not a vegetarian because they don't see
      anything wrong with an animal being killed and eaten. (They assume,
      incorrectly, that I have some intrinsic moral quandary with this.)
      They also usually say something about meeting a cow or pig once on a
      farm and how happy the thing seemed and that somehow justifies - to
      them - the burger they are eating.

      I once had a good friend tell me that since he grew up with cows
      grazing on farms and pigs rolling around in the mud he could never be
      a vegetarian because it just didn't bother him. I resisted the
      temptation to tell them that if that were the typical conditions of
      cows and pigs I would have no need to be a vegetarian either.
      Fortunately for anyone willing to do even the most superficial
      research there is well documented information about how the usual
      cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys really live. And sadder still, how
      they die.
      My criticism of PETA is not from the viewpoint of a detached observer.
      I have some personal experience with the group. Their headquarters
      lives not far from where I went to college and as an undergraduate I
      interned with them briefly. I say "briefly" because in spite of my
      best animal rights intentions and vegetarianism I was unable to
      achieve the level of purity PETA requires. For one thing I wore socks
      that were part cotton, part wool. For another, I ate honey.

      Although I couldn't complete my internship at PETA I remained friends
      with Bruce Friedrich, then the head of the organization. We kept in
      touch and I worked with the student activities office to bring him on
      campus for a couple talks my sophomore year. He gave me a rather
      enlightening book titled Animal Liberation by Peter Singer, which
      still lives on my bookshelves today. Reading this book and interacting
      with Bruce gave me the impression that PETA people don't realize
      Animal Farm is an allegory. They argue against speciesism; the idea
      that one species is of more value than another. From this they have
      the idea that an animal life is worth every bit as a human life and
      any use of an animal by a human is discriminatory and exploitative.
      Bees should not be "enslaved" to make honey for us. Oxen should not
      pull plow. Pigs should pilot aircraft. I made the last one up.
      The recent rise and popularity of organic foods - such as eggs from
      cage-free hens and pork from pigs that aren't fed hormones -
      demonstrates that raising and killing animals can be profitable
      without cruelty. Although the organic practices are not perfect or
      even well regulated for truth in labeling it's a move in the right
      direction. We don't have to equate humans with animals in order to
      treat human workers fairly and edible animals humanely. And we don't
      need to wag a disapproving finger at Michael Vick with one hand while
      we chow down on a turkey sandwich with the other.

      The Michael Vick story has already turned a harsh spotlight on the
      brutish world of urban dog fighting. It is my hope that the light can
      also reveal a little cruelty toward other creatures. With the right
      information campaign people can begin consuming meat more responsibly
      the way people have backed away from SUVs in favor of more fuel
      efficient cars. But, the approach needs to be practical as well as
      ethical and pragmatic rather than philosophical. People for the
      Responsible Use of Animals? While PFRUA doesn't make a very good
      acronym, the approach could do wonders to improve the discussion.

      full story:

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