06 December 2010

Peace On Earth, Good Will to Animals

Walton Ford, "The Island" (Image via Paul Kasmin Gallery)
Anybody who blogs will be familiar with the phenomenon called "comment spam." Comment spam comes in several varieties. Some are anonymous comments full of links that blatantly advertise other web sites that have nothing at all to do with your blog. Other comment spam is actually relevant to the content of your blog, but advertises its own agenda. Usually this type of spam is done by using an alert program that hunts for relevant keywords and then places the spam into conversations about those words.

This morning I received the latter type of comment spam on my latest post, "Studying Peace." Rather than place it in the comments section I thought I'd elevate it and give it a post of its own, as it deals somewhat with the subject of "peace." Since it was an anonymous comment, I can't credit the writer, but because it falls into the category of spam I'm going to delete the portion of the comment that sends the reader to a vegan web site. (If you're interested in visiting a vegan web site, I'm sure you know how to find one.) Here's the comment:

A Holiday Thought...

Aren't humans amazing? They kill wildlife - birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed. Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer. So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

~Revised Preface to Old MacDonald's Factory Farm by C. David Coates~

First of all, let me state right up front that I'm repulsed by factory farming of animals. My own meat consumption has gone from daily when I was a child to about 2ce monthly just from contemplating the unpleasant notion of eating the carcass of a frightened cow. I also agree with the sentiment that humans are amazing. And I agree with the implied message that human logic is often ridiculous and flawed or simply absent.

What I don't like in this neatly packaged paragraph is the idea, also implied, that if we were all to stop eating meat there would somehow be peace on earth. To me this is a wishful oversimplification, not unlike "cut taxes and government spending" as the solution to all our economic problems or "just say no" as a method of stopping drug traffic. If things were that simple we'd be done with them.

As I discovered in my research for the Pilgrim series, the practice of keeping domestic animals is quite ancient and it came to North America with the colonial settlers. The practice of eating animals goes back forever as far as I can tell. So does the practice of making war. I don't know if it's possible for us to entirely stop doing either one.

The question we seem to be facing right now, in almost all areas of our living, is how/whether we can keep doing our human things at a global scale. How long can we continue to make war before our weapons wipe out the planet? How long can we keep privatizing goods and resources before we've sold our children's futures? How long can we keep consuming cheap goods before we run out of cheap labor and fuels and we have to pay what things are really worth? Our food cycle certainly falls into these categories too -- industrial farming of both plants and animals is unsafe and unsustainable.

Getting back to the topic of my current print, I'm pretty sure that adopting a vegan lifestyle will do little to solve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. But what would peace there look like? I believe that both the Palestinians and the Israelis want peace, but they disagree about what a peaceful Israel/Palestine would look like.

What would peace on earth look like? Is it possible?

Thanks for the topic, mr. spammer!


Anonymous said...

Not eating animals is really the first step to Peace on Earth.

There is so much more relevant information for the reader to learn by going to these two websites.

veganvideo.org & tryveg.com

Annie B said...

I see that you're following along so you're not a spammer per se, but why be anonymous, Vegan Person? It makes you seem kind of spammish. I'll let your comment stand along with your links. May we be at peace.

Hannah said...

As an omnivore I feel like biologically humans are designed to consume meat along with vegetables. That is why we have the little sharp teeth and molars.

The morality comes in when you look at industrial farming and as Annie says issues of sustainability. I think the commonality between industrial farming and war is the lack of compassion. The continuing to do the same thing or even more when it is painfully clear that it is wrong or unhealthy.

Andrew Stone said...

I'm in the midst of my own quandaries about eating meat-and have stopped and started several times.

Deep down it feels wrong and yet I do it anyway. I've been elbow deep in the chest of a dying human and the distance between a chicken's thorax and those other ribs is not so great at all.

The animals in your photo/illustration attacking the lambs looks like the Tasmanian wolf;
Hunted to extinction by humans in the late 1800's.
One of the last remaining is a stuffed example in the Museum
La Specola in Florence--along with a Passenger pigeon and Great Auk
collected long ago during the beginning and height of the great age of scientific discovery and exploration.....

Anonymous said...

Thanks for allowing the post to the websites and for continuing the conversation. I have no particular interest in those websites other than they are powerful and succinct.

I'm a 20+ year vegan and consider it one of the best decisions I made in my life.

My name and contact is really irrelevant and I don't want to promote our website on your blog.

All the best to you Annie!

Annie B said...

Hannah, I like what you said about compassion. And I visited your web site -- your work is beautiful!

Andrew, I appreciate your perspective as a doctor. The illustration I used is Walton Ford's work. He makes paintings and prints about animals and how humans view animals, modeled on Audubon prints but with a wicked twist. He's done passenger pigeons, too -- funny you should mention them.

Anonymous, I think I like you :)

Anonymous said...

I know I like you :)

Hannah said...

I like the Audubon prints. We have such expectations that that particular style indicates textbook fact and some scientific approach. Pretty awesome.

Katka said...

This is a difficult issue and one that makes people on both sides very emotional. I tend to lean toward William Blake's approach of "everything that lives is holy" yet, while 95% vegetarian, I do find myself in situations where I slip sometimes.

On the other hand, as examined by Barbara Kingsolver in her excellent book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" there are people in certain parts of the world, such as the nearly barren mountain regions in Peru, who would die without meat as a food source.

I agree very much with what has been said here about compassion and in the end that's what it must come down to. If we could just treat our world, and each other, with dignity. Sadly, North America is reputed to have the most inhumane practices of animal husbandry in the world.

Jo Tyler said...

Although I have not followed your site, I am not a "spammer" -- I came across this post while googling for the quote you used so I may post it on my own site:

Aside from sharing the same quote, you and I have something else in commmon: I am a printmaker as well - working in poly litho, mixed media and monotype.

I'd like to address some of the points you raise in your post:

First, you say you are against factory farming. That's good. Many people aren't aware that 95-99% of all animal products purchased in the United States come from factory farms.

So - if you are against factory farming, do you order vegan meals when dining out? When traveling? Do you take care to purchase only vegan packaged goods at the supermarket, because those cake mixes, cookies and crackers and so on contain factory farmed eggs and milk? This isn't mean to be flippant, I am asking because I think it's something most people don't consider. They buy a dozen "free-range" eggs and think that means they aren't participating in factory farming somehow.

I have written a blog post about this phenomenon, if you're interested in checking it out:

Now - on to your next point -- I agree that it's unrealistic to assume that veganism can create Peace On Earth without exception. And yes, we have killed animals as long as we have killed one another - which is to say, a long time. But does that make it right? Does the existence of war in history mean we should accept it's presence in the future? Men have always raped women, too -- should we just accept that as a "fact of life"?

Also - a key difference here is that going vegan is directly opting out of injustice and cruelty. Would you go to the store and purchase a roll of paper towels that you KNEW for a FACT was made by enslaving and killing a dog....or a child? If given a choice between paper towel brand A that was made from plants, or paper towel brand B that was made from body parts of tortured beings -- wouldn't you make the obvious choice to buy the one made from plants?

So why do we choose violence and suffering when given the choice elsewhere? Why do we choose the violence and cruelty of cow's milk instead of buying Almond milk? Why do we choose the violence and cruelty of chicken instead of buying lentils? Or the violence and cruelty of eggs instead of eggplant?

If you're interested in the psychological and social ideologies that have created such a mind-set, I highly recommend reading Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows by Dr. Melanie Joy.

Now, going vegan may not bring about absolute World Peace, but it certainly is a step in the right direction. How could it not be? It is the dominant, violent ideology of enslaving others for our pleasure that is at the root of modern day animal use, and going vegan challenges that mind-set.

The oppression of human and nonhuman animals are intertwined.

As Tolstoy remarked, "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields."

As for your points about sustainability and scale, I absolutely agree. Which is why I find the myth of the "humane farming" movement so bizarre. Small family farms are not scalable to meet the demands of a population of 6 billion people and growing. Obviously. That's why factory farming emerged in the first place.

Those who are concerned with the future of our planet and about resources and sustainability and preventing climate change and global hunger...well, those people ought to go out and buy a good vegan cookbook -- pronto.

The United Nations agrees:


Thanks for drawing attention to these issues on your blog.