Why vegans even care

I’ve always felt it’s a good idea to explain the vegan rationale to people who aren’t yet vegan.

Here’s an explanation of why vegans care:

Tuesday ~ October 17, 2017 by b

Posted in advocacy,veg | No Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

On leather

Leather is not vegan
Leather is probably one of the easiest things for a vegan to give up. It’s probably the proof that just refusing to eat animals doesn’t cover all the bases, and is part of a wider view. It’s often the first rationale for someone (vegetarian or omnivore) to consider being vegan.

Leather requires the death of an animal. Death and captivity are never in an animal’s interest. That’s the basic, most obvious claim of any veg*n.

But beyond that, it’s not a pleasant death. It’s not given by a potent toxin that causes animals to peacefully drift off. The animals are “harvested” by electrocution. There are almost no enforced standards for humane killing of animals for leather. Accidents, meaning not successfully stunning an animal before harvest, are both common and completely tolerated.

The label “genuine leather” isn’t a guarantee that a piece of clothing came from a cow, either. It’s quite possible (even likely) that it came from a dog or other, more readily-available animal. After all, animals used for leather are usually killed only for their leather and their carcasses converted to fertilizer.

Tuesday ~ October 7, 2014 by b

Posted in advocacy,veg | 7,028 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

culture v. ethics

Culture seems extraordinarily malleable, to me. It changes. I don’t think it can do anything but change. The exposure of two cultures to one another impacts both of them, and some bits rub off on each. Trying to prevent this is analogous to trying to stop a human being from learning. I don’t think it matters whether the culture is a place of employment, a religious sect, or a nation.

There’s a culture in the U.S. that promotes sharing meat as a sign of friendship. Fast food with friends, a baked ham at Christmas, a turkey at thanksgiving. Many people say these cultures are too dear to our identity to allow them to change. But there’s no longer venison on the table, the turkey is far from wild and hunted the day before, the ham did not require the head of the household to slaughter one of his/her best pigs. There may be meat, but it’s not like the food that was used when the traditions began. Convenience has replaced a hard-scrabble existence, to an extent. One result is that we consume far more meat.

The effects back at the real farm are rather gruesome. Factory farming is not the same as small non-mechanized farms. You can read about the effects in many places, they’re not difficult for the curious to find. It’s difficult to hide what happens to 65 billion animals.

Culture changed to worsen the problems of animal agriculture. Culture can change to fix those problems, as well.

Vegans have been been enjoying Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other feast in our culture for a long time. We don’t all live in a yurt compounds, sharing tips on dreadlock maintenance and recipes for home-made patchouli cologne. Vegan events tend to look remarkably like non-vegan events, corpses and animal bodily fluids aside.

But there’s always resistance, someone always makes the argument that some aspect of the culture (any culture) doesn’t work with being vegan. I’ve heard it for French, Russian, Italian, soul food, Jamaican, Vietnamese, Thai, Afghan, traditional American holiday, camping, road tripping, military service, any part of the country with bbq, and probably a dozen more cultures. Emphatically, in each case. Almost never by professional chefs, by the way. There’s no way to be vegan. Nope. Not at all. Sometimes it continues straight through the 2nd helping, other times it sharply ends after about 30 seconds of discussion over a menu.

Here’s the deal: every culture has non-vegan traditions. Even vegetarian. No culture is unique in that, and no arguments are new or suddenly convincing. The arguments sound repetitive and predictable, after watching them be made enough times. Culture is not nearly as fragile as commonly thought, trust me. People around the world have been calling themselves vegan for 6 decades. Our basic habits are as old as western civilization, with the ethics discussed by no less than Socrates. Vegetarians were at first said to follow “the Socratic method”.

Sometimes there’s a poignant clash, like over the running of the bulls in Spain. I’m partly tempted to say that’s another culture beyond my authority, and I’m not qualified to make some of the more detailed arguments firsthand. So? Democracy and human rights are also most frequently resisted by an appeal to local tradition – where is the validity of the argument? Insisting upon animal rights is not moral condemnation of a culture any more than insisting upon 1st[1] amendment rights is moral condemnation of a courtroom.

Also, food is generally the product of chemical reactions that don’t care whether the materials came from an animal or vegetable (or fungus). Amino acids (protein), starches, fats – the components of those reactions? Animals didn’t invent them. Animals can’t even make all of them, so we’re crippled compared to the plants and fungi.

[1] or 5th… [edit.]

Thursday ~ February 7, 2013 by b

Posted in dining,veg | 7,167 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

testing animalia

I have a gripe with testing medications on non-humans. In those cases where it might remotely be useful, the animals are most like us. They’re the animals who think most like us. Those who say they aren’t conscious or sentient or sapient (they’re all of the above, it’s considered standard knowledge) are ignoring the fact that their similarity in exactly those ways is why they were chosen. The scientists who are researching on monkeys disagree with the common folk who support it, and on the most basic ethical level. After saying this in various ways for more than 15 years, I’m still waiting for a strong counterargument.

In other parts of the world, there’s a movement to give chimps the status of personhood, in terms of what’s allowable in terms of their treatment. A lot of people skoff at the idea, but it’s probably not as radical as most might think. The basic fundamental rights inherent to being a person are actually rather limited, in any legal sense. And it rests partly on the premise that some species might best belong in the Homo genus, on a biological basis. The past members of Homo don’t seem particularly bright, yet we recognize them as our own. Evolution is a funny thing. We didn’t suddenly become human in one generation, rising up from the non-concious monkeys. We are monkeys, we haven’t really changed enough biologically to fit elsewhere. Given the write environment, they even talk to us in our own language. I’d have a hard time doing that with someone of a different nationality, on intellectual grounds.

My fave movie (I, Robot), has an interesting scene that drives home the point. In it, a detective questions whether a sentient robot (Sonny) deserves personhood:

Detective Del Spooner: Human beings have dreams. Even dogs have dreams, but not you, you are just a machine. An imitation of life. Can a robot write a symphony? Can a robot turn a… canvas into a beautiful masterpiece?
Sonny: Can *you*?

For example, some monkeys can catch SIV, a virus that’s similar to HIV. Cats also can contract a similar virus named FIV. You’re never in any danger of catching either, because they can’t survive and reproduce and spread inside the human body. Yet were supposed to accept, as an unproven issue of faith that some the thing with stops SIV in apes will also stop HIV in humans. Nevermind that the two diseases have different sets of symptoms. It’s like saying I can be in the World Series because my brother hit a home run in a pick-up game last night. And then everyone begs: but the similarity exists. The burden of proof has never been met. in one hundred years of using the same techniques – long outdated – it was never conclusively proven to produce accurate results. So far we know chain-smoking 24/7 can cause cancer… if the soot is rubbed into the skin and never washed off. Show me a rabbit stepping outside for a smoke break. Because if the testing were conducted entirely within the human population, that’s the level of similarity required for useful results. We simply don’t do experiments like that, with such sweeping conclusions about the organism as a whole, in other scientific fields. Hell, even when drugs are tested on humans, the practical effect in a doctor’s prescription isn’t completely the same. The gold standard should be statistical analysis of a human population. The picky patient isn’t settling for anything less, today.

Laboratory testing is not actually wanted by the research companies. It’s expensive, and unreliable, and has negative political consequences. It’s no insulation against lawsuits for releasing harmful drugs, precisely because its inaccuracy is well-known and considered insufficient. However, it is legally required by the federal government. Those who disagree with the government touching your healthcare should take a step back to think about what they should really be saying wrt animal testing. It’s done for political reasons, to appease voters who don’t know better and have little relationship or understanding of how new drugs are created. A technique one hundred years old is unlikely to produce the fine-grained detail of the techniques designed to replace it. They pre-date pennicilin. By the way, those replacement techniques are used in every country with more advanced research than our own. Despite what politicians and well-meaning patriots say, the US is not at the forefront of drug research. We’re not even second. [document]. We provide a lot of money for it, but money is no substitute for skill. On the whole, they result in a much safer (to humans) set of drugs.

Thursday ~ November 15, 2012 by b

Posted in advocacy,veg | 6,994 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

Turkey Billboard from MFA

An animal rights (or at least vegetarian) group has put up a billboard near the small town where butterball turkeys mostly come from.

It sounds like a noble effort, and given that it’s only one billboard on a highway, relatively inexpensive. And seriously, it’s a billboard that is getting national press. Mission accomplished.

As far as AR billboards go, it’s fairly tame. No mention of violence, no chiding that “good” people are doing something the billboard recommends – even with the call to action, no trite sayings about how easy it is to go veg, no bold political statements, no pronouncements about society being evil. In short, the only way to make it less offensive would be to remove the allusion to vegetarianism.

Of course this means that the comments on the story (on websites that I’ve seen) includes complaints like the highly intelligent, open-minded, and incredibly humorous “gobble gobble” to “mind your own business”. Comments on the web are about as insightful and intelligent as comments in a jr high gym class.

MFA’s blog post about the billboard

I’m not sure how many animals are going to be saved by one billboard. Possibly even none before December. Critics might say that it’s futile, that the effort isn’t big enough to matter, and the usual other ideas presented by people who won’t act on them. To quote one of my favorite t-shirts… “Understand the Power of a Single Action”. In other words, a vegetarian doing something is not cause for an existential crisis. If it is, then perhaps you should be a vegetarian yourself. Just a suggestion, wouldn’t want to go overboard with the Big Brother angle. I never can get that balance right – the tension between ‘irrelevant’ and ‘mind your own business’. Frankly, in the minds of detractors of vegetarianism, the two extremes overlap. To those complaining it’s a billboard… it’s still just one billboard. If you can’t handle a vegan stating their viewpoint publicly once, you don’t understand how a democratic society actually works.

Also, the next person who says it’s too hard to got veg for a holiday meal will earn a full ten (10) minutes of silence. I’ve gone to thanksgiving meals in many houses for nearly 20 years as a vegetarian, more than once to a house in the middle of nowhere in which people cooked the same meals every year since birth. Thanksgiving is an awesome time to go vegetarian. If you eat only the veg fare on the average
table, your odds are still high of being stuffed. If there’s not veg fare, it’s likely because somehow puts ham hock or pig snout or cow ears or whatever in the beans. Easy fix: pour can of beans into dish, insert in microwave 5 minutes, salt to taste. There’s one replacement.

Of course, you can’t actually both eat the turkey and be vegetarian at the same time. You have to not eat animal products which you currently like the taste of, like every single other new vegetarian.

As far as the comments on news sites… vegetarians who abstain from eating meat because it comes from animals are technically doing it because of their ethical stance. Anyone who tells a person doing that to mind their own business grossly underestimates the important of the 1st amendment, never mind basic logic. Color me not surprise.

Sunday ~ October 7, 2012 by b

Posted in dining,veg | 6,797 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

On Pigs

part of a series exploring the specific harm presented by exploiting particular animals or by particular animal products

Pigs are cool. They’re more intelligent than dogs, for starters.

They also dominate animal agriculture.

Many parts are used for animal products. Not just meat for eating but also fat for lard, soap, fertilizer, testing of animal tissue destruction by firearms in the armed forces, cartilage and other connective tissue for gelatin.

Pigs in domestic agriculture live in crowded barns, with concrete grates for flooring. The grates are there so that their waste can be easily hosed down into the subflooring, where it is then pumped into a pond next to the barn. There’s no soft ground, dirt, or mud within sight. Just pig crap on steel. The barns smell bad enough that when you wear clothing into one, it must be washed several times to no long smell offensive. Pigs naturally live in clean mud, not their feces. They don’t sweat, so the mud is used to cool off. They actually go to great lengths to remain clean.

Most pigs in domestic agriculture receive a steady battery of drugs to plump them up. Unfortunately, many develop joint problems as a result and are effectively crippled. However, when pigs receive injuries on the farm (including broken legs), they do not typically receive treatment. A broken leg or two in the group is common when moving pigs between barns and trucks.

All baby pigs have their tails docked (by a red-hot knife) and molars removed (by pliers) without anesthesia. If their tails are left natural, they will eat each other’s tails when confined in an overcrowded barn. Piglets spend most of their time waiting in highly overcrowded pens.

Mother pigs (sows) spend their lives in a pen small enough that they cannot usually turn around. They occasionally crush a piglet without knowing.

Slaughterhouse conditions for pigs are nightmarish. The production lines of restrained pigs moves so quickly that many are not properly stunned and anesthetized before slaughter. Pigs who survive their intended slaughter don’t receive any sort of mercy killing by slaughterhouse workers. Some live until they reach other parts of the slaughterhouse, like where boiling water is used to remove skin.

So there’s a steady progression of problems that pigs face from birth to slaughter, when raised on farms.

Sunday ~ June 24, 2012 by b

Posted in advocacy,veg | 7,435 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

on the amendment…

Dear State of North Carolina,

Thank you for your selfless moral guidance this past week at the polls. Guidance to a greater degree than my own mother. It has helped me greatly during the troubling period of my life known as “being engaged”. I didn’t actually need the extra pressure to get married, but I appreciate how that pressure would obviously improve the prospects for a healthy marriage.

Fortunately, I did not need your moral guidance the last time you amended the constitution, providing guidance about interracial marriages. You did repeal that, didn’t you? I should probably double-check. I can only wonder what else needs to be enshrined in the state tax code or traffic laws to help with the citizenry’s ethics.

If my fiancee should need health insurance during the next 6 months or so, I’ll be sure to consider the State’s firm moral guidance when choosing between her health and continuing to live here. I’m sure that you wouldn’t miss that high-tech job leaving for more liberal lands, anyway.

After all, being a 30-something animal advocate, ethical vegan, environmentalist, someone who supports the civil rights of my friends, Southern Baptist at one point (yea verily, I am actually from around here), college-educated person, voter who goes by ethics more frequently than “economics”, hybrid car driver, who chooses jobs based partly on the ethical stances of the company must not have any clue about right & wrong nor a firm grip on reality. Unlike someone who claims to have only straight friends.

I look forward to your next installment of this church pamphlet, wherein you explain what my fiancee and I are allowed to do in our home, which you seem to claim does not exist. I always look forward to a lesson in geriatric morality.

blessings of the state,
GoodTofu

Friday ~ May 11, 2012 by b

Posted in poli | 7,461 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

Chimps one step closer to full protection

The National Institute of Health has decided that most Chimpanzee research is unnecessary and should be phased out.

The rationale?

From the NIH press release:

However, new methods and technologies developed by the biomedical community have provided alternatives to the use of chimpanzees in several areas of research.

CBS News explains the scope of the new rules:

Collins also announced the NIH temporarily barred new government-funded studies involving chimps as his agency began implementing the new limits. The NIH will also decide whether to phase out about 37 ongoing projects, half of which Collins said probably don’t meet the new standards.

The rule changes only apply to government-funded experiments, not private research. Nonetheless, it’s nice to codify the sentiment that chimpanzee research is generally unethical, even if there are exceptions seen today in practice. I’m not at all sure (yet) about chimp research, but in general animal testing is conducted in the U.S. almost solely because it is required for FDA certification of new drugs. That requirement is generally considered outdated by the scientific community, something added after research is basically complete. Note that places in the world with more stringent rules and bans on animal research also tend to create and certify new drugs years ahead of U.S. schedules.

Some researchers want to use chimps in medical research is because they are like us biologically and mentally. That sounds like a macabre rationale to me. Destroying something or someone doesn’t become more ethical because it’s like an activity most people would label criminally violent.

Friday ~ December 16, 2011 by b

Posted in advocacy,news | 7,334 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

wining

laxatives in wine?:
“Do consumers need to be told about the substances that go into wine production?” Lee [the Wine Institute’s general counsel] asked. “I’m not sure there’s a lot of useful information in that.”

Winemakers are notorious for failing to disclose enough information for vegetarians to know whether they’re willing to drink a particular wine. Apparently they don’t care whether consumers like it or not.

Wednesday ~ December 7, 2011 by b

Posted in dining,veg | 7,572 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

compromises

“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” — Margaret Mead

I think some may not understand that “vegan” describes the general concept of life without exploitation of animals. Without reliance on animal agriculture. Most vegan groups describe being vegan as attempting to realize an ideal thru practical actions. The idea of compromising to live in the real universe has always been a defining part of being vegan. It’s the reason for the phrase “as far as is possible and practical”, not a technicality.

The word “veganism”denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.

That doesn’t mean the end decision is any different, as The Vegan Lightbulb pointed out.

Abolishing animal killing and slavery (known as abolitionism) requires a steady, committed hand. Luckily, that’s how human minds actually like to work, as it lets us form these things called “habits” that we spend the vast majority of our life doing. The process lets humans be both committed to a line of action and on autopilot without thinking “omgwtffbqq must be vegan” 24/7. It lets us do things like drive, get ready in the morning before fully awake, keep pets alive, take medications daily, eat at similar times every day… the list just goes on to describe much of what we do. Basically, we can be vegan because we are human. But frankly, a few weeks of being vegan pretty much means one is a vegan & can treat it as “normal” or habitual.

I know points when I will compromise. I don’t ask if my injections were grown in chicken eggs, or refuse them if tested on animals, or any other medical choice when there is no vegan alternative. Most vegans I’ve met seem to feel very similarly and none have condemned anyone for making use of any medical products. In my mind this is not even compromising, as it’s implied by the definition of “vegan” being those things which are practical. The point is to prove that many, many non-vegan things can be done in a vegan but practical way. The trappings of cults are conspicuously absent.

But what about the leftovers? Not just the family turkey dinner (“don’t make so much next time, then”), but also things like the leather jacket or even hotpants, the shoes, the leather trim and upholstery that people seem to like against their own bodies (ew, that’s just nasty in a bad way), the wool sweaters, the 20-yo coat with “fur” trim that might not be real… the list goes on as long as any evangelical anti-vegan can stand to talk. There’s no list in the mind of a vegan, so it’s not exactly an exercise in how consistently a vegan thinks. A vegan is human, and therefore must be inconsistent at some point. We’re in the habit of eating meat, but it’s a habit and not a requirement. We are not slaves.

It simply blows minds, apparently, to conceive of an ethical systems that intentionally has guidelines with individual interpretations rather than strict rules. The differences are intentional and might stir useful debate, not something to divisively fight over. Just as much as it blows minds that an ethical framework won’t answer other questions & even cooperates with other frameworks (like religion or social politics). Again, this is another source of compromise when it comes to being vegan.

To me, I’ll sacrifice (indirectly) the well-being of another animal when it’s required to avoid permanent harm to another human being. I will not forget my vegan ethics for something that I feel would personally be purely an issue of convenince for me. I will try new vegan products that I don’t need or like, simply to be an authority if anyone asks me about them.

So I came up with a list of “compromises” I make, when most people might think I’m not being the Best Vegan Possible.

always compromise:

  • medical care
  • elections
  • gray (situational):

  • pets (mine aren’t vegan)
  • tobacco
  • refined sugar
  • old non-vegan clothing
  • dyes
  • places I won’t settle (I’ll reliably send these back to the producer):

  • honey
  • basic meals
  • restaurants
  • zoos
  • seafood
  • insects
  • new clothing, even gifts
  • luxury goods
  • upholstery (even rented, where possible)
  • I do have guiding principles that help me to define my preferences and frame situations inside a vegan ethic.

    As for which animals are on & off limits… basically most things in the animal kingdom. I don’t need to split hairs about which are “ok”, so I won’t. Life’s too short to be that complex. In practice that means no products from seafood or insects.

    I’ll always choose vegan when there’s a choice presented as a matter of taste or preference. After seeing videos of sheep shearing and animal slaughter and a billion other instances of animal agriculture in video and in-person, I’m pretty sure that I don’t want non-vegan things. Interestingly, most non-vegans agree with me on this point. The vast majority don’t like being reminded of that agreement.

    I will not sacrifice my immediate, acute health for the sake of a vegan ethic. I am an animal, too. I have a right to self-defense that is above judgment from others who do not fully understand my viewpoint. Only a very few, rare individuals can’t relate and say similarly.

    I will base my choices on reality, not obscure and irrelevant hypothetical situations designed to see what’s vegan… in obscure and irrelevant situations unrelated to meaningful science or ethics. No one really knows if they’d eat an already-dead wild boar if absolutely required to survive on a barren desert island. I’ve never heard of a child beginning to support animal rights because of a zoo, or supported their propaganda. I don’t have a choice between cancer treatments designed from animal tests and those designed from statistical analysis (which is actually scientific). I’ve never pretended to be better. I’m not better. That’s part of the point. I wouldn’t voluntarily face the choice, anyway. But I do voluntarily go to restaurants.

    I accept that any system or even body of rules has limits which require common sense and practical experience above dogma, a point where things break down at the edge. Somehow many anti-vegans find this stance more offensive than making a dish creamier by killing someone smarter than any family pet that they’ve taken care of. Apparently this rationale for killing is acceptable when planned in advance of the animal’s birth.

    Friday ~ October 14, 2011 by b

    Posted in advocacy,veg | 6,188 Comments | blog@goodtofu.org

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