Should we eradicate carnivores? Ending wild animal suffering

Should we eradicate carnivores? Change them? End the suffering of wild herbivores? Fire up your imagination and get ready for a crazy ride on a hypothetical train of thought that is sure to get a reaction out of you one way or the other!

The reality of wild animal suffering

Every day, wild animals who do not want to die are ripped apart and eaten while still alive. As technology progresses, we have the opportunity to end this suffering. But should we?

We can accomplish this goal in a number of ways. Very soon the question will soon be not CAN we reduce wildlife suffering, but SHOULD we? There are a number of theories to how this might be accomplished, whether by altering carnivore’s DNA using CRISPR, reducing carnivore populations, or offering alternative food sources. In the past I have suggested that one of the best uses of lab grown meat would be for feeding domesticated cats, and of course we could offer this meat to wild animals as well.

Should we eradicate carnivores?

I’m sure many of you will find this question problematic simply because it implies interfering with nature, or “playing god.”

But the reality is we alter “nature” constantly. Nature is cruel, no question. But we are rapidly approaching an era where we can ameliorate the suffering of a Darwinian world. Or even come close to eliminating it.

Of course, this question might not be relevant for years. By the time it is, we may have been replaced by intelligent robots and won’t even be the species responsible for making these decision. But I think it’s worth contemplating, if only to challenge some of the common conceptions concerning the primacy of nature.

Further reading

If you’re interested in hearing more about this topic, philosopher David Pearce has been discussing reprogramming predators for many years. His concept of the “hedonic imperative” is well worth consideration, even though it is still mostly theoretical.

If you’re an ethical vegans, you already consider animal rights in a way society as a whole may find strange. So it’s not much of a stretch to ask yourself why wild animal suffering is acceptable.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, when you really get to the heart of the matter, the question is not CAN we address the issue of animal suffering, but SHOULD we. People tend to have very passionate reactions to this issue. I admit that the first time I encountered this questions I was very skeptical about the idea of interfering in the lives of wild animals.

Try being just a bit open to this idea. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in preventing animal suffering, please take a look at the link above. While might remain unconvinced, it will give you some interesting ideas to contemplate, and that’s always nice, isn’t it?

Margaret

Is Vegan YouTube Drama Making You Sick? Video.

Is Vegan YouTube Drama Making You Sick? A new study out of Brown University demonstrates that Negative Facebook Experiences (NFE’s) can lead to depression. This has implications for all social networks, not just Facebook.

 

The benefits and drawbacks of social media

Social media is very valuable because it allows us to connect with each other. But the flip side of this is that we can also have negative experiences that can damage relationships and lead to depression.

We’ve all seen what happens when YouTubers experience a lot of negativity. Many quit or take breaks (which can be a good thing).

Vegan YouTube drama can be especially harmful

In the video linked above, I talk about self-care and self-preservation. It’s vital to ensure you have a healthy balance in your life, whether you are a YouTube creator or a viewer.

One of the challenges with vegan YouTube drama is that the vegan YouTube community is a real community. And that has benefits and serious drawbacks. Having a vegan community can make us feel less isolated, but it can compound feelings of loneliness if we feel ostracized.

It’s easy for negative voices to overwhelm you. Especially since trolls are by nature outspoken.

You aren’t immune, so protect yourself

Remember, no matter how impervious you feel to YouTube drama, it’s important to treat yourself kindly and limit the amount of negativity in your life.

Even if you’re just watching videos, it’s impossible not to be affected by massive amounts of negativity. It’s vital to step back occasionally and regain perspective. Find positive people that support you and ensure the majority of your subscriptions are to people who build you up, not tear you down. Try to make friends you trust are working to make a positive difference in the world.

Life is short. Take good care of yourself, find supportive, positive people and always make sure you have more positive than negative interactions online.

Thanks for watching,
Margaret

Humane Meat is an Oxymoron

Humane Meat is an Oxymoron. If you think about it for a minute, the concept of humane meat or “humane slaughter” makes no sense. But the problem is, we don’t think about it. It’s far easier to put this issue far from our minds. In my latest video, I discuss why people who love animals continue to eat animal products, and why they need to look a little deeper.

Why humane meat makes no sense

There’s really not a humane way to kill someone who wants to continue living. Although we might like to pretend it’s hard to know if animals care about living, it’s probably the one aspect of animal behaviour that is easiest to interpret. Even Rene Descartes, famous for his belief that animals were simply mindless automatons, could tell animals didn’t want to die. He bizarrely postulated that animals avoid pain by mechanical reflex – they cannot “feel.”

Beyond Descartes

Today, even die hard meat eaters would be hard pressed to defend Descartes “automaton” theory. And yet, although we acknowledge that animals feel pain and want to live, we continue killing them. Actually, it’s a little worse than that: we continue raising them in deplorable conditions on factory farms, mutilating them and then killing them. And then we eat them.

Because we aren’t quite as far gone as Descartes, we find other ways of excusing this behaviour. First, we try not to think about it. But if that is unavoidable, we resort to sad excuses like “it’s natural” or “they’d eat me if they had the chance”. Of course, these arguments don’t really hold water, but they are mostly a stop-gap to deflect attention away from the real issue.

We know it’s wrong. So we treat our companion animals with kindness and try to look the other way when it comes to animal exploitation. It’s much easier to just go with the flow.

What can vegans do?

Most importantly, stay vegan! There are many more former vegans than current ones. Vegans are a tiny minority, and it’s easy to get discouraged.

I often feel confused by the “I’m an animal lover/but I love meat” statements. I try to remember that I wasn’t always vegan, and sometimes that helps. But sometimes it gets on my nerves. At those times, it’s really nice to have a supportive community, even if it’s just online!

Thanks for watching,

Margaret

The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J Adams

I just finished reading The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams. This book explains how both women and animals are both objectified, dissected and consumed by society.

The Sexual Politics of Meat was groundbreaking in its day, and remains so. Many of the philosophical concepts expressed in the book, such as “the absent referent” are important parts of feminist theory that are also critical to a holistic understanding of animal exploitation.

My history with The Sexual Politics of Meat

I first came across The Sexual Politics of Meat during my undergraduate studies. I was writing a paper on “Ethics of Care” feminism at the time. Ethics of Care is its own branch of feminist studies based off the idea that the female gender is more caring and less rational. This is portrayed as a good thing,  because it challenges traditional male patriarchy.

I wasn’t much of a fan of the “ethics of care” idea, mostly because I don’t think I’m any more caring than most men. I tend more towards a rational view of everything, and I don’t think that’s sexist or gendered. But I’m sure there are plenty of people who disagree!

Sex and Meat

Since I finally got around to reading The Sexual Politics of Meat, I’ve started to pay a lot more attention to sex and sexualized violence and how they relate to meat consumption. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s surprisingly prevalent.

There is definitely a strong association between meat consumption and virility. It’s odd that such a thing persists into the 21st century, but it does.

I’ve noticed, for example, that nearly every food truck in my town has menu items that allude to the sexual nature of meat consumption (like the “big beautiful breasts”-of chicken- I saw advertised on a downtown food truck this weekend).

Objectification

It’s almost impossible to ignore the way we objectify women and animals.

We’re used to recognizing animals almost exclusively for the function they perform. But we do this with women, too.

I don’t know if any of you have seen the TV show “Suits”, but it really is incredible how the show reduces the secretaries to intelligent, sexy, clothes hangers. It’s really quite terrifying. No matter their intelligence, they’re sexy, above all else. Their intellectual and interpersonal gifts are a mere after thought (in stark contrast to the show’s male characters).

Even though one of the secretaries, Donna, has been doing her job for decades, she only receives a decent wage thanks to the kindness of her boss, Harvey, who supplements her wages without her knowledge. Without his “generosity”, her performance would not be rewarded, so she is unwittingly “beholden” to him for the comfortable life she leads. This is in spite of the fact that she works the same hours he does and puts in the same intellectual effort. Society simply rewards their work differently.

Dismemberment

Okay, this happens literally with animals, less so with women (one would hope). In the same way that a person might look at a woman and merely see sexualized body parts, they might also look at a pig and see pork chops.

This can happen to any person, whether they are male or female, and to any member of the animal kingdom. But it’s also deeply disrespectful and a sign of our inability to see others as living, breathing creatures with their own (legitimate) lives and needs.

Consumption

The final part of this cycle is consumption, in which we consume the “object” of desire. Again, this happens quite literally, in the case of animals, and a bit less literally with women. Of course, when one considers the prevalence of rape culture, it becomes easier to conclude that our society consumes women in a very real, very destructive way.

The Absent Referent

My favourite concept in the book is the “absent referent”. This notion is as valuable for feminists as for animal rights activists. The absent referent is the being who is “absent” from our lives, yet present. For example, when you eat a steak, there’s an absent referent (the cow), that is ignored, but whose spectre remains. We ignore this, of course, but if you scratch the surface, he or she is still there.

Despite the individual’s transformation into an inanimate object (meat), it is both present and not present.

It’s a strange contradiction. Meat is no longer a living, breathing, creature.  It’s rendered invisible. But it’s also a reminder of the animal that was once there.

Dairy, of course, is in my opinion the ultimate example of this. In a bizarre commodification of the maternal, the breast milk of forcibly impregnated cows is given to us as a sign of health and parental love. Through powerful marketing symbolism, we divorce milk from the tortured creatures from factory farms that produce it. Instead, it’s presented as a friendly, bucolic beverage. The cow, the veal that died so that you could drink its mother’s milk – all are absent. They’re replaced with pastoral images and a comforting feeling – the ultimate absent referent.

Conclusion

There are so many great concepts in this book. 25 years on, The Sexual Politics of Meat remains a great resource for anyone interested in feminism and animal rights. I hope you’ll take the time to check it out!