Yulia and I were walking to the bus stop in Yulia's grandparents' village one foggy morning. As we were walking I heard a sound I had never heard before. I could only describe it as a distant roar. It would roar for a few seconds and then stop. Then it would start again.
I asked Yulia what it was, and she didn't answer. I asked again. Nothing. It was a day or two before Easter, and I put two and two together. A pig was being slaughtered for the holiday.
We continued walking and the roaring continued. It had been screaming in agony for several minutes now. Tears welled up in my eyes. The sound vibrated through my ears. It was not dying of old age--this was the sound of a strong animal. It knew it was on its way out of this world. It didn't want to go, and it wasn't going quietly. This animal fiercely wanted to live.
We got to the bus stop and the screaming continued. The tears were hot in my eyes. "Why don't they just kill it already? Put it out of its misery!" I couldn't take it anymore. What the hell were the people who did that doing at that moment?? Sitting in their house? Standing there and watching? How could they??
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I feel that sharing this story is the least I could do for that animal, and I hope some good comes from such horror.
Admittedly, my telling of the story has been filtered through my emotions. I don't know what the pig felt at that time. I don't know if it actually knew it was on its way out of this world, but that's what I heard in its shrieking.
I understand that emotions and feelings are suspect in this hyper rational world we live in. I understand that we need to question our biases in the search for truth. But I don't think it makes sense to completely sideline our feelings either. Try to understand what they are telling you. If hearing an animal scream makes you cringe, maybe something is not completely right--especially if you are the cause of that screaming (If you hear an animal scream, and it does not make you cringe, maybe something is not completely right either).
If you want to objectively know how pigs are slaughtered around here--no emotions, no subjectivity, this is how: a knife is pushed through the pig's chest and into its heart. As I described, death is not instant.
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Yulia and I want this blog to be positive and inspirational. I tell this story to hopefully bring some good into this world.
I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I'm only going on because I hope my words will inspire other people to think. Do you really need to celebrate a holiday by making an animal suffer like that? There are literally thousands upon thousands of other things you could do to celebrate being with your family. Read a book with your niece. Teach your nephew how to ride a bike. Push your cousins on a swing. Ask the elderly people in your family to tell you a story from 60 years ago. Help out grandma in the kitchen. Why does the celebration have to involve an animal screaming in agony for half an hour? Why does it have to involve killing at all?
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I guess there's actually an argument against vegans now that claims that plants can feel pain. The article, smugly titled, "Nice try, Vegans: Plants Can Actually Hear Themselves Being Eaten," describes how a certain plant releases mustard oil as a defense in response to vibrations that mimic a caterpillar eating leaves. Even though this is not the conclusion of the study, many people have concluded on their own that plants can feel pain and are conscious.
To anyone who believes this, I have one question: If you actually think plants feel pain, are you going to change your life in any way in accordance with those beliefs? If you think the solution is to eat meat so that you don't incur pain on plants, remember that livestock are fed plants. You have to kill a lot more plants to feed the animals than you do if you just fed yourself with those plants. Then you have to kill the animal.
My guess is that no one is actually bothered by the suffering of plants. Rather, some people use it as a counter argument to ethical veganism--specifically, the belief that one should incur as little pain as possible. I'll be honest. I don't want to hear it. Don't compare a sheep who still tries to run away while laying on its side in a pool of its own blood after having its throat cut to me picking berries in my backyard. That sheep is making motions like it wants to run away because it does want to run away. Don't pretend they're so stupid. Animals know they are being killed when they are slaughtered, and they fight fiercely for their lives. When chickens are taken off the trucks at slaughterhouses, they hold onto their crates so tightly that their feet are sometimes ripped off their bodies (source).
If you want to compare that to me picking dried up beans pods off dried up vines in the fall, then this is your reality check. It annoys me to no end when people stop using common sense and make half baked arguments using the aegis of scientific studies to justify not changing their behavior, especially when the stakes are so high.
|There are many more comics like this at www.vegansidekick.com|
These two vegan athletes have a YouTube Channel, Vegan Bros, in which they critique both vegans and non-vegans alike. In this one they compare hurting plants and animals.
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I've talked about the suffering that a pig from a family homestead went through, but animals in slaughterhouses face unimaginable torture. I don't use the word torture lightly here. I recently read an article from the Los Angeles Times, "The Cruelty Behind Your Ballpark Hotdog," which documents botched slaughters and other animal rights abuses. There is an anecdote about one pig, for example, that was not immediately killed by a stun gun. Since there was no spare available, the metal rod had to be pulled from the pig's head while it was still alive in order to reload it. If you comfort yourself by pointing out that this is an anomaly (the article makes clear it isn't), then consider what happens day to day in animal agriculture. It is common practice to cut the testicles out of baby pigs without anesthetics and grind up male chicks alive (or suffocate them in plastic bags) in the egg industry.
It is also common for cows to be skinned alive at slaughterhouses. The video below describes how at one facility the first 10 cows slaughtered each morning are particularly susceptible to this because the owner doesn't allow time for the cows to be fully bled: "There is pressure to start dismembering the cows right away and not lose money by slowing down the production line." This is an everyday occurrence in Kosher and Halal slaughterhouses because the animal is not stunned. If it is not completely bled in time, it will still be conscious as the scalper begins to pull the skin off its body.
I didn't know what was going on with the animals I ate for a long time. No one had ever shared the information with me. Even after I learned what was happening I didn't go vegan overnight. But it got me thinking, and once things got lined up in my mind, I realized that going vegan was the only conclusion that made sense.
I understand that just because it makes sense to me doesn't mean that it will automatically make sense to you, so don't let me convince you. You need to convince yourself. You need to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. I think if you go veg' because of this post or because you watched a couple of videos, you will not have a strong enough foundation to continue long term.
So take the time to learn about the world around you. What is acceptable to you and what isn't? Only you can answer that. For a long time eating meat was acceptable to me. I went vegetarian when I was 18, then went back. I was off and on for several years. Grass fed beef caught my interest the summer before I met Yulia. I had a bacon sandwich the first time I went out with Yulia and continued eating meat for the first two months after we started dating (though I stopped eating meat in front of her). After that, the two of us were ovo-lacto vegetarians for some time, though we gradually started to cut that out of our diet. I've been on a vegan + honey diet for about a year now.
Yulia has been vegetarian and/or vegan for eight years (and off and on for four years before that). When she met me she actually went from vegan to eating more eggs and dairy, but since then she's stopped.
This is what makes sense to us right now. We're not writing this to judge you, and we're open to the idea of changing if we see a better way of living. Our eyes are open. If we see some good in what you're doing, we'll notice.
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In this post I just covered the ethical aspect of veganism based on causing as little pain and killing as possible. There's a lot more to talk about, and future posts will deal with those topics (I'll have to turn this into a series).
I realize Yulia and I aren't strict vegans, but veganism is the movement we most closely identify with, so that's why we chose to go with that for the title. For the sake of simplicity, I will continue to use the term, but you should know that we keep bees and haven't thrown out our old leather shoes or wool slippers (though we don't buy leather or wool anymore). We also have a down comforter that Yulia's grandmother gave us. It was old, so we had the feathers cleaned and put into a new sack (again, we don't buy new down products anymore). We have two cats and a dog. Our cats would have been drowned as kittens if we did not take them into our care, and our dog was homeless when she appeared in our backyard. We encouraged her to leave when she first arrived, but she literally had nowhere else to go, so we're doing our best to give her a loving home.
We mainly focus on life at our home in this blog, so I centered this post on our own experiences. There's obviously much more that can be said, so in no way consider this blot post comprehensive.
To get started, see the pages I linked to above. If you think you can handle it, watch the film, Earthlings. I link to it reluctantly because it is by far the most upsetting, violent movie I have ever seen. The images and sounds are nothing short of medieval, yet they were filmed in our time. In the future, I think people will see the things we did and shake their heads at what primitive savages we used to be.
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I don't think Yulia and I have a large vegan audience. I assume most of our readers eat a standard diet including meat, dairy, and eggs and wear leather and so on. And I know that we have a lot of friends and family who read this blog who are not vegan. We still want to be friends with you, and we do not want a divorce from our families. We write about this because this is a large part of our lives. Unfortunately, we live in a world where this is not the norm. Outside of our home there are few spaces where we are not bombarded with animal products. When I go to the bazaar I see sellers shoeing flies away from the cuts of meat on their tables. From the street I see pig's heads hanging in butcher shops. When we shop for shoes, we have to ignore most of the shoes we see because they are made from a cow's skin (forget the euphemism). Yulia and I can't even sit down at the table with our own family without having to see and smell meat (though our parents are open to eating what we eat when we're together, and Yulia's grandparents even had a vegan Easter with us last year--no questions, no complaints). But this blog is our little space on the internet, and we want it to reflect our own thoughts and opinions. If you don't like what you're reading here, move on. We'll deal with having less page views because of it.
If you want to understand the world as we see it, imagine if I stuck a knife into our dog's chest, and she screamed so loud that you not only heard it as you walked by our house, by that you could even hear it ten minutes after walking by. In half an hour, after she finally stopped wailing, I would take our electric saw, cut her head off and display it so that people walking on the street could see. If anyone got offended I would remind them that she wagged her tail and had a happy life. Plus, this is a world in which people eat dogs. It wouldn't be against the law, so you couldn't do anything about it anyway. Then I would cut her body into little pieces and eat it in front of you, knowing that the very idea of this disturbs you. I would take the small pieces of her body that no one would otherwise eat (like her cheeks, heart, and anus), stuff it into her own intestines, and feed it to my children with mustard and ketchup as a fun snack food. I would boil her bones and use the broth as a base for vegetable soup and be surprised if you wouldn't want to eat it. I would raise more dogs and let them run around the streets of our village, so that they poop everywhere and make a lot of noise. When it rained, the poop would get wet and turn into mud. When it was dry that poop would turn into dust and fly into the air whenever a car drove by. I would also buy dog meat from the store and tell you that it is cheaper than buying rice and vegetables even though rice and vegetables are less expensive than dog meat. I would make fun of you and call you an elitist yuppy for not buying dog meat. After eating this way for a while I would get chronic constipation and constantly get "the bug that was going around" (even though you would never get it). I would talk about how hard it is to be healthy and lose weight. If you ever questioned me I would tell you that the world is a brutal place and that you should stop being so naive and get used to it.
This is the world as Yulia and I see it.