Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Which Makes Them More Evolved Than Republicans

Apparently, researchers have discovered that chickens are capable of empathy.

Aside from providing the obvious, though less than civil, punchline, this story is as good a lead-in as any for this 1995 rant:

Recently, I ranted at length about sustainability as perhaps the most crucial issue of our times. Last month I provided four pages to local organizations who are working to save the planet from the power-addicted greedheads before it's too late.

This month I'm proud to provide some more ink, at or below cost, to a couple of other worthy groups. The first is the Vegetarian Resource Group of Tucson. The VRGT is sponsoring the Great American Meat-Out at Reid Park from 1 to 4pm on March 19, which, appropriately enough, also happens to be Earth Day.

The connection between the standard Western diet and the degradation of the planet has been clear to me for some time, and I finally got around to swearing off the meat habit about a month ago. I'll tell you how this works for me:

I don't necessarily have a moral problem with eating animals; life, after all, feeds on death. And besides, animals taste great. What I do have a moral problem with is the meat industry, and the way they treat these creatures like, well, so much meat. They live in virtual torture on factory farms, and are slaughtered in cruel and inhumane conditions, despite laws to the contrary. If Western meat consumption were on a level comparable to most of human society, this abuse of animal husbandry would be unnecessary.

My second problem with meat is a physical one. I know that high levels of meat consumption are linked to cancer, heart disease, strokes and a host of other preventable ailments. I also know that meat, as well as eggs and dairy products, are high enough on the food chain that they collect high levels of pesticides and industrial contaminants. Along with the hormones and other drugs pumped into the hapless farm animals, these conditions are enough to make meat literally sickening. I've had a lifetime of propaganda pumped into me by the meat industry which deceived me into thinking I couldn't get enough protein from plant sources alone, but I'm not buying it any more.

Now, maybe I could get around my moral problem by purchasing only organic, free-range meat; and maybe I could get around my health problem by limiting my consumption to occasional holiday feasts. But I have a political problem with meat, too, and I am nothing if not a political animal. We live on a planet in which 60 million people a year, many of them children, starve to death. Take a moment and say those words again: "starve to death." No words can convey the horror. Under these circumstances, the Western diet is not only killing us, it's killing our brothers and sisters.

The world's cattle alone consume enough grain to feed twice the population of the planet. 90% of the protein in the food we feed to our farm animals is wasted. And an acre of land can feed one carnivore, as opposed to twenty vegetarians.

Finally, apart from the crimes against humanity perpetrated by agribusiness, the meat industry, and their goons at the IMF and World Bank, we have the ongoing damage to the planet itself. The amount of land and water wasted on meat production is a leading cause of desertification, both here in the US and in the vital tropical rainforests.

Apart from the loss of topsoil, forests and aquifers, we have the intensive use of pesticides and excessive burning of fossil fuels under the factory farm system. Not to mention an extra billion tons of excrement to deal with, in this country alone.

Under a truly sustainable economy, meat production would not be subsidized by the taxpayers, as it is today, but taxed, like tobacco, for the burdens it places on our our health care systems.

If, like me, you're ready to make a change, come on down to the Meat-out for more information, as well as great food and some truly nice people. Be sure and bring your own utensils.

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