Democrats & Liberals Archives

What About The Animals?

Anyone want to take a break from talking about the GOP Primary to talk about animal rights?

I haven't brought the subject up much on Watchblog yet because mostly my reading and writing interests involve economics and political polling. But in my personal life I have strongly held beliefs as far as animal cruelty goes.

I think a lot about the disconnect between the protection of certain animals in the United States and the treatment of the animals we eat. Dog fighting is a popular subject since Michael Vick. But why do people get so outraged by dog fighting while no doubt eating animals that suffered immense cruelty and torment while waiting to be slaughtered for our food?

What would happen if I had a well-read blog and I published a story about how police had found a man who had taken thousands of dogs and cats and placed them in small cages their whole lives, transported them all over the country, then slaughtered every last one of them? No doubt the comment threads would be full of outraged individuals calling for life in prison for the man, or worse. Of course this is the way chickens and turkeys are treated each and every day. They don't feel pain any different or comprehend their suffering existence on any different level than common house pets. So why is there a disconnect there?

I grew up in an area where people hunt and fish pretty much year around for one type of animal or another. Every now and again I'll run into people who consider themselves above the cruelty of shooting animals for sport. Sometimes I ask them if they eat meat from the store or at restaurants. Often these people are shocked to hear me defend hunting and fishing. I'd prefer it not happen but what would I rather people do? Kill wild animals that lived free on their own until their untimely, cruel demise? Or eat animals raised their whole lives in confusion and pain, shipped around, killed by somebody paid to slaughter animals for a living, packaged in neat little boxes making everything tidy and edible? Give me the hunters and fishers any day.

I gave up meat seven years ago this May. It doesn't seem like that long sometimes. Other times it seems like forever. Most people don't understand how comforting and social food has come for Americans until you're sitting in a group of people eating meat and dairy or eggs and you don't eat any of that. People who have food allergies or religion based dietary constraints will know what I'm talking about. Every social food gathering is a giant hassle.

Every time I meet new people and they find out then they want to ask certain questions. There are a couple of different types of people who want to ask me questions. First there are the people who are instantly concerned I'll die without animal based fats and proteins. I won't of course. Then there are those who understand the health benefits and want to think of me as a health conscious person. I haven't been that healthy though. When I tell them it has little to do with health and much to do with animal cruelty there are some that get immediately defensive about it as if I've just indicted them for their own eating habits. You never know what kind of person you'll get when you approach the subject in public.

I joked months ago about Herman Cain's connection between eating meat and being a man. That is a familiar story in America on TV and other media. If a man doesn't eat meat then he's not a real man, apparently. I'm OK with that though. I enjoy the food I cook for myself and my family. Heck, even my dog is a vegetarian and he's doing fine.

What I want folks to do is consider where their food comes from. Consider the cruelty involved. Consider the resources wasted in raising animals for money. Stop thinking of cattle, pork, and poultry as somehow lower than the house pets you'd guard almost as much as your own children. Stop being outraged by stories of cruelty to dogs and cats without being outraged that millions of animals are slaughtered every year for our food and fashion.

Factory farming will never end over night but we can begin to change the way we eat and change where our food come from over time. As an old vegan friend of mine always says: It will be better for the animals, better for the planet, and better for our bodies.

Posted by Adam Ducker at January 24, 2012 7:45 AM
Comment #335029

Adam, I have some sympathy for your concerns, but little to offer for a solution. Perhaps, in the future, price may be a deterrent for many in regards to eating meat.

A two month stint at a egg factory in the 70’s cured me of eating chicken and Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, but not the eggs.

When I was young I hunted, then certain events turned me against it. Today, I have less of a problem with people hunting for food, but most who do still consume significant amounts of supermarket flesh.

Every fall, there is a large influx of hunters into my county for turkey and especially deer season. It brings a lot of money into the area. I was surprised to learn that may of the hunters are from Virgina, Tennessee, and the Carolina’s, larger deer mean larger trophies.

Trophy hunters have gained some respect for donating meat to charity, but all to often I have stumbled on to deer carcases in the woods with the head and or a hind quarter removed and the rest left to rot.

Posted by: jlw at January 24, 2012 11:24 AM
Comment #335030

I grew up in poverty for the most part. We ate frozen deer meat almost year around to save money. My dad still hunts for food to this day including turkey when he can get it. Hunting and fishing are an important part of the economy where I’m from as well in the Ozark mountains and near the White River.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 24, 2012 11:59 AM
Comment #335036

The thing is that animals do not have rights, they have laws to protect them from mistreatment. These laws are based solely on emotions and the animals we have the most emotional attachment to are dogs and stupid cats, so they receive the most thought and care.

The sad fact is that people do not have the same emotional attachment to cattle, swine or fowl so mustard, ketchup or BBQ sauce is about all the thought they get.

Good post Adam. I would love for us to find a more humane way to raise and process the animals we use as food.

Posted by: kctim at January 24, 2012 1:45 PM
Comment #335037

My dad did not hunt and he would not let me own even a BB gun. On my 16Th birth day, I bought a Remington single shot shot gun and hid it at my Grandmothers house. After securing a mess of Squirrels for her, there were no repercussions emanating from her son.

My first hunt, solo on the back side of the hill overlooking my town and the Ohio river, bagged 3 fat fox Squirrels and a grey. I was quite proud of myself. It was only the second time I had shot a gun, the first being when I was 12 and after much begging, my Ky. uncle let me shoot his antique Ky. long rifle with expected results. It set me on my rear and gave me a bruised shoulder to the delight of my uncle and a couple of his friends.

When I took the Squirrels to Grand Ma she looked up and said, “lordy, the boy is a natural.” “Take them up the street and let Jiggs Porter show you how to skin them.”

Grand Ma made Squirrel with gravy and dumplings. I liked the dumplings.

Posted by: jlw at January 24, 2012 1:50 PM
Comment #335039

Kctim, Science Fiction has addressed the problem. In the future we will have meat beasts, huge elongated masses of animal protein bathed with super fast growth hormones and nutrients on one end, while huge slabs of meat are carved off the other end. No brain and no nerve system, only a tiny heart that pumps nutrients through the beast.

Posted by: jlw at January 24, 2012 2:07 PM
Comment #335048

Kctim: “The sad fact is that people do not have the same emotional attachment to cattle, swine or fowl so mustard, ketchup or BBQ sauce is about all the thought they get.”

Right. An if Americans thought dog tasted as good as flamed grilled beef the dogs might have a problem. We’ll deep fry or grill pretty much anything in America.


Does the future still have tofu? What you’re describing turns my stomach.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 24, 2012 4:07 PM
Comment #335050

JLW: Where are you at again?

I never hunted growing up. I’ve never intentionally killed an animal in my life though I’ve eaten more than I can count. I was never much into fishing but I did fish occasionally if I could throw them all back. I just never had the stomach to kill like that so years later my change in diet would confirm nicely to that.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 24, 2012 4:14 PM
Comment #335058

Hunting is a necessity if we are to balance ecosystems in which humans are participants - i.e. most of the world.

On my land we have too many deer for the land to support. My neighbors have to cull the herds. They eat the meat, but even if they didn’t, somebody would have to kill those animals. The same goes for beavers, coyotes, rabbit and lots of other animals.

We could use “natural” methods and reintroduce predators. That takes humans out of the loop but doesn’t stop the cruelty. A hunter kills with a gun or bow. The kill is often quick. Predators often tear their prey apart and sometimes start eating the unfortunate beast while it is still alive. If you have ever seen a cat kill a mouse, you know what I mean. Animals will also waste much of a kill if there is enough to eat. The bad habits exhibited by some human hunters are actually more rooted in the untamed world than in the civilized world of humans.

Of course, most of us would be unwilling to share our neighborhoods with large numbers of mountain lions and even coyotes. People with little dogs have them killed by coyotes.

Nature is red in tooth and claw. To the extent humans are part of nature, and we are, we also take part in that, whether or not we do that personally.

I take the point about factory farms. But it depends on alternatives. Raising meat in more extensive ways takes more land than we can devote to it.

Posted by: C&J at January 24, 2012 5:07 PM
Comment #335064

There’s care to be taken at every step of the way. For instance electrocution, grinding, or stabbing animals to death can be replaced with more humane means of death. Animal rights groups have been pushing for controlled atmospheric killing processes that show promise but could increase costs of food in the long term if they were adopted broadly. There’s always a tradeoff of course.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 24, 2012 7:06 PM
Comment #335065

Research actually has started to point to the idea that hunting actually increases the animal population and that hunting for population control is simply a myth promoted by wildlife agencies with dual agendas both to control wildlife and promote sport hunting as a source of state revenue. I’d be interested in seeing some research on both arguments. It’s kind of hard though because this is a subject that attracts radicals on both ends.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 24, 2012 7:08 PM
Comment #335067


Those studies just don’t make sense. I have seen those sorts of things. It depends on what you want to say.

If you want to keep the deer herd within bounds, you indeed have several options. If you hunt properly, you can keep the herd healthy and limited. My hunters practice Quality Whitetail Management, i.e. they have quotas for does and bucks, they plant feed plots and hunt in patterns that spread the harvest.

If you don’t hunt, and don’t reintroduce predators, which also hunt but just are non-human hunters, the deer will destroy their habitat, begin to weaken and starve and then the population will crash. So indeed, absent hunting the population will decline, but not in a way you want.

I would also say that hunting is not only to limit population. Hunting fees are necessary to maintain wildlife habitat and hunters are the best conservationists. There interests are to maintain the sustainable habitat and to study it.

I have hunt clubs on my land. They pay fees roughly equal to the property taxes, which defrays my costs. They also protect the land from dumping and vandalism etc. And they plant cover crops. For example, we recently restored eight acres to bobwhite quail habitat. I say “we” but I mean them. A wildlife biologist and I made the plan, but they did the work … for free. Well, not free. They plan to hunt. But w/o them I could not have afforded to do the work. Multiply this thousands of times over rural America and you see that w/o hunting there would be a lot less open land and it would not be well cared for.

Indeed, my goal on my land is to both increase and control the populations of game species. They pay the way for other conservation activities.

I also think that hunting creates a spiritual connection to the land. Not for every hunter, obviously. But a good hunter needs to understand the land and its interactions.

I used to attend a lot of seminars where people present research on wildlife. The academic research often confirms what hunters knew and when there is a conflict the research often is later corrected.

This was the case with wild turkey. Research in the 1970s said that turkeys required large ranges and so could not be reintroduced successfully into most areas. Hunters reintroduced them and now they are all over the place. The same goes for beavers and - unfortunately from my point of view - for bears. Animals can be very adaptive. This is good and bad, depending.

Habitats can be intensely local. What is true for a forest in one county might be very different fifty miles away. This is one of the things that makes forestry and wildlife management more an art than a science and also so much fun to do. But to understand the multifaceted local variations, you need lots of people on the ground. Hunters tend to have local commitments that others do not.

I am certain that if I didn’t have the cooperation of local hunters, my trees would not be safe. We would suffer timber theft, fires and dumping that these guys prevent.

Posted by: C&J at January 24, 2012 8:08 PM
Comment #335072

AD, I watched forks over knives and my wife and I gave Vegan a shot for almost a month but then her hair started to fall out and we were both grumpy as hell so I fixed us some butterflied moose back straps from last fall and we gave up Vegan that day. Managing your meat intake is sound, but even with a personal test and (if you believe the scientific claims in the movie) the future of humanity at stake, I wasn’t “man” enough to forgo meat at the table.

We raise our own Chickens, and I get 2-4 fresh eggs each morning, and each summer I stuff a freezer full of salmon that literally goes for $150 a plate in New York, and each fall I bag a moose come hell or high water. I agree completely about the foul nature of our processed, packaged meats. And the proof is in the pudding if you explain to most people, or have them watch food inc or supersize me etc. they lose their appetites.

The problem is MUCH easier indicated than remedied however. If everyone tried to ‘subsist’ on wild game, I’d give it a year or less before there was no more wild game. People don’t have any connection to seasons anymore. You can get a yellow bell pepper or a kiwi from the grocery store every day of the year.

I honestly have no idea how you convince the lower and middle class that eating McDonalds chicken nuggets and shamburgers are about the most foul diet you can have, I just count my blessings I was raised on moose meat and salmon and can do the same for my two girls.

Regarding predator control and wildlife populations, I can offer evidence from Alaska that is substantially indicative that Wolf hunting leads to larger Moose populations on which people can then subsist. The irony is that environmentalists who protest Aerial wolf hunting got very quiet when one of their harbingers of moral doom had their golden retriever eaten by wolves while on a nature walk in the dark of a winter morning walk. ROFL. It was all any of the local talk shows talked about for weeks a few years back.

But… This is the last frontier. Things are different here, and people (for the most part) up here respect a man or woman who goes out and fills the freezer.

Can’t agree more though on the processed meat, I just don’t know what you do for people in downtown Cleveland…

Posted by: Yukon Jake at January 25, 2012 1:14 AM
Comment #335073

Adam, I hunted for 2 years, 2 seasons, and gave it up because it bothered me and honestly, like most people, I preferred to have others do the killing. Today, I eat far less meat, only a couple times a week and usually bacon.

I believe awareness is growing about the animals for consumption industry, but they have very powerful lobbies and much support in the Congress.

The meat beast is not appealing? I agree, but the people of the future may not.

C&J, in the late Nineteenth Century, the deer population was completely annihilated in Ohio. In the 1960’s hunting deer was a far greater challenge than today. Today there are an estimated 700,000 deer in the state and hunting brings in a lot of money for the state, thus the state has a priority in maintaining a large and healthy herd, whether car owners and farmers care or not. Deer hunting attracts some 500,000 licenced hunters in the state. this years kill was around 90,000 deer, 14% lower than in previous years due primarily to much rain in the early part of the season.

I would say that weather controls the population more than hunting. There are good hunters and they often average 2 kills each. Then there are the other 400,000 hunters. Without the state hunting system, hunters would control the deer population to a much greater extent. The 400,000 could purchase a deer from a hunter. A good hunter could be more productive with a sharp stick than many of our modern hunters with their ever improving and costly gear.

Posted by: jlw at January 25, 2012 1:53 AM
Comment #335074

Yukon, we want to go to McDonald’s, we want to go to McDonald’s. That is where you can find Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, and happy meals. It’s generational now. No one believes that they can be conditioned and for a minority of them that is true.

Posted by: jlw at January 25, 2012 2:14 AM
Comment #335122

Americans have become very addicted to cheap, fast, medium quality foods over the last century. The inevitable outcome of any solution to solve this (including reform of factory farms) is more expensive food but perhaps it will be made up for in the long run if we begin to understand our foods better and potentially live healthier lives at the same time.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 26, 2012 8:59 AM
Comment #335138

Adam, I believe you are right, “in the long run.” People are saying they don’t want mountains of excrement piled high on river banks or near their communities. They want it composted. Seeing a drone picture of a river of blood flowing out of a Dallas area slaughterhouse is going to upset a lot of people. The cost of slaughterhouse convenience is on the rise and it is having an effect on consumer choices, and will even more so in the future.

In the future, almost everyone will be driving their electric cars down to Tofurkey’s, under the golden arches of McSoyburgers, and or over to Tofruities. Of course, the wealthy will always have more options.

Posted by: jlw at January 26, 2012 3:55 PM
Comment #335145

“Of course, the wealthy will always have more options.”

People like Mitt Romney will be eating grass fed humans by the time your vision is reached.

Posted by: Adam Ducker at January 26, 2012 5:06 PM
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