vegan-activism-basket-of-clementinesFor many vegans, the question of how to best advocate and advance veganism is often a challenging one. For some, the daily choice to live a vegan life will be their statement. For others, a more active advocacy is best suited to their lives. This subject comes up often on blogs and discussion boards, and there is usually no consensus, even among committed vegans. However, one of the things that continues to rear its ugly head in the blogosphere is the accusation that vegans are holier-than-thou, uppity, intolerant snobs. One particular theme that came up recently got me particularly incensed – it was the suggestion that vegans somehow retreat into their cocoon of vegan life, not really understanding what life is like for others, and not even trying to identify with others’ chosen lifestyles-that we hang out in some kind of vegan retreat, excluding and scorning the nonbelievers. The image that came to my mind was of some hidden-away tree house where one needs a secret knock to get in; inside which vegans are sitting around drinking refreshments and high-fiving each other while looking down contemptuously at those who have not yet arrived.

For most, if not all vegans, nothing could be further from the truth. The idea that any vegan stays, literally or figuratively, safely ensconced inside of some kind of retreat or safe house is beyond ridiculous. Many of us, I would say even most of us, by the very act of walking out of our own doors, are leaving the gastronomic and emotional safety that omnivores often do not have to think about (although people with food intolerances or on medical diets can probably relate to the feeling of concern upon leaving home). As we leave our homes, many on a daily basis, we are entering a world of families, coworkers, and neighbors who do not understand us and often challenge our way of life like there is something we have to defend about it. We shop at stores and attempt to eat in restaurants that do not always (or ever) have food we can eat and even if they do, we are still surrounded by the products of suffering for others to consume. We are constantly challenged to scour ingredient lists, ask wait staff about what might be in a restaurant dish, and deal regularly with the confused and sometimes critical questions and comments from those who share our lives. Even those of us who choose not to take a more activist role are often unexpectedly pressed into service, explaining to someone the realities of factory farms or the cruelties of circuses and marine mammal parks that lie behind the happy advertising. For most of us, just the very act of being who we are publicly is an act of advocacy, a defiance of the status quo. Even the educational foundation and thought process often involved in the decision to become vegan has exposed us to the realities of immense animal suffering, the knowledge of which the vast majority of omnivores do not (or choose not) know, and the sadness of which we can never un-know or forget.

And that’s just those of us living regular lives. Add to that collective effort the subset of vegans and vegetarians who engage in hands-on, proactive, direct activism – tabling at events, volunteering at nonprofits, literally getting our hands dirty doing direct animal rescue, talking regularly with farmers, vivisectors, and hunters, writing, blogging, tweeting, and interacting with many on both sides of the issue. Those involved in direct activism are often exposed to even MORE knowledge of suffering, more criticism, and more emotional heartache.

But frankly, none of it sounds like a walk in the park. This is not say that vegans are looking for sympathy or some kind of award. But for anyone to suggest that vegans anywhere on the activist spectrum are hiding away in a vegan-only clubhouse, safe from the realities of real life, is to not know truly and intimately the life of a vegan (which is why I am particularly puzzled when such critical statements are made by other vegans). Veganism IS vegan activism – by its very nature, veganism is love in action. However we choose to express ourselves to others, we are ALL activists for our nonhuman kin and advocates for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

Woman-on-Grass__48744-150x150 Vegans and vegetarians in ads are being portrayed very interestingly to say the least– particularly in the newest batch of commercials for fast food. First it was Red Robin with their veggie burger “in case your teenage daughter is going through a phase” campaign, and now it is Subway advertising the “veggie eater:” a young woman with long hair and a beaded headband dressed in attire that is reminiscent of the 1960’s. Now, of course there is nothing wrong with being either a teenager in search of oneself OR a person who is not locked into current fashion dictates. But the attempts by fast food companies (who profit primarily by selling meat based dishes) to homogenize vegans as different are signaling something – my guess would be concern, perhaps even fear.

Whenever a group of people is threatened by another group of people, one of the tactics often used is to portray the other group as different, foreign, other, or, in worst case scenarios- dangerous, terrible, and to be feared. Either way, it is an attempt to set the disliked group apart, to disenfranchise them, declare them as not part of the mainstream. We have seen it too many times before. Whether with fixed traits (such as race or ethnicity, for example), or chosen ideologies (veganism, political leanings, etc.), the group whose very existence or growth is seen as threatening to another group is discredited, mocked, and marginalized -especially if the threatened group is or believes itself to be more entrenched and powerful. In the case of the “vegetarians are confused teenagers or hippies” ads, I don’t know the exact motivation of the advertising agencies that came up with the themes. But certainly, even if not intended (and my guess is that it IS intended), it is an attempt to stigmatize and differentiate vegetarians and vegans from the mainstream of society. It is an attempt to suggest that we are different in a significant way from “regular” people. It’s as if they are saying “Don’t worry about your teenage daughter – once she goes through her veggie-phase she will come around and eat what the rest of us eat and be ‘normal’ again.” Or, “If you are vegetarian or vegan, you come from a time when people rebelled against the establishment, the norm – join us in the present, where everyone eats dead animal flesh.” It is condescending and infuriating, but then again, that’s probably the point – to make us seem like we are different and abnormal.

To me, the reason for attempting to do so is clear. Vegetarians and vegans (as well as other AR activists) are mobilized and outspoken like never before. We are using blogs, social media, film documentaries, and best-selling books to make the point to the public that animal agriculture and meat consumption is damaging to animals, the environment, and human health. High profile vegans, such as Stella McCartney, and no-to- low-meat consumption/health oriented advocates, such as President Bill Clinton, only add to the growing conversation about moving society to a plant-based diet. The writing is on the wall. Meat consumption will have to be replaced with either cloned meat (in-vitro meat), plant based alternatives (such as “mock meats”), or a vegan whole foods diet, or the world as we know it will not survive. Human health is suffering in many places, either due to lack of food (such as in Africa) or an excess of the wrong kind of food (such as in Western countries). The stream of horrific cruelties coming out of the animal agribusiness industry, as well as the crushing environmental effects of a worldwide meat-based diet, are more and more evident to the general public. People are starting to pay attention. And some people, many people, are changing their dietary choices as a result. But the fast food companies, who make most of their money off of death products, are getting nervous. So their strategy, rather to embrace the changing tide, is to attempt to portray vegetarians and vegans as one-dimensional, different, strange – to further push them out of the mainstream where they are clearly starting to take hold and have an influence. Too bad for them though, because soon enough there will be more vegetarians and vegans looking to grab a quick meal somewhere, and they just might not want to eat at an establishment that insults and mocks them. Why would any of us want to eat somewhere that continues to insult us for living our convictions?

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Foie gras is a human-consumed edible entity. It is the product of force feeding geese (such as the beautiful creatures shown) so that their livers become exceedingly large. The process of confining and force feeding these defenseless creatures is violent and is considered very cruel, even by many who are comfortable eating other animal species. Foie gras production and/or the force feeding of animals has actually been banned in a number of places around the world – including in at least seventeen countries. Some of these countries still allow the sale of foie gras, however. Israel bans the force feeding of geese, and a recent bill has been introduced to ban the trade of foie gras. In the United States, the State of California banned the production of foie gras beginning in 2012, and an effort is now underway by Mercy for Animals to get foie gras banned in the state of New York as well as to convince Amazon to stop selling it.

There is no viable argument that foie gras is important either for feeding the world’s hungry or as an important component of a healthy human diet. There are arguments for both in terms of conventional meat, although those arguments are generally put forward by those who profit from meat production and sales and by those who enjoy eating meat. And on both issues, the evidence is clear that a plant based diet is the way to go, both for conserving the resources needed to feed the world’s population and for maintaining and enhancing human health. But the meat producers have to try, I suppose, to convince consumers that the products they are buying are not disproportionately consuming the planet’s resources, are not contributing to vast suffering of sentient beings, and that they are a healthy lifestyle option.

But for foie gras, there is no such option to even try to put forth that kind of argument. Such an argument is ridiculous. Foie gras, simply put, is an extravagance. It is a luxury, a symbol of excess and opulence. It is a gastronomic treat for those who like it. It is completely obvious to pretty much everyone that the only reason it exists is because some people like to eat it. So if there is any type of edible product that could easily go away without even an attempt to justify its necessity on this earth, it is foie gras. So for this reason, among the previously stated others (including the inherent cruelty of its production), it is important that foie gras be banned more widely and in a swift fashion. After all, if we can’t even get this gratuitously self indulgent product to be recognized for what it is and banned for what it does, what chance do the other species have? If people are willing to stand by while geese are tortured for a spread on someone’s cracker, the billions of cows, pigs, and other land animals don’t have a chance for freedom from their suffering, not to mention all of the sea creatures killed as well.

So as foie gras goes, so goes the world? Perhaps. Foie gras is, in some ways, a combination of sentinel and prognosticator. It stands at the gate of animal cruelty, suffering all the while. But its disappearance will signal something critical in the effort to end animal exploitation for human consumption. The ability to ban it from being produced and sold is certainly an indicator as to where the world is going on animal rights and food production. If more people can get to a point where they say foie gras is wrong and should not be produced and sold because of its cruelty, then the argument that it is ok to continue to eat cows, pigs, and turkeys will ultimately fall. As disturbing as it is to think of force feeding geese in the manner in which it is done, the other atrocities that occur on any given day at any slaughterhouse are equally horrific. As sympathy for the victims of foie gras production increases and awareness of cruelties in all types of farmed animal systems emerges, the realities will become more widely known. And if the continued education as to the cruelties to those other species is able to be effected and sustained on a large scale, foie gras may just be the beginning of the end. It will not likely be a quick process, but as more people are educated about what really happens on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, it will become increasingly difficult to justify liberating one species while continuing to confine, torture, and kill other similar ones. Philosophically, there is no other outcome. Practically, it will be a very long road. So as foie gras goes,……maybe….


Sources
Care 2 re: foie gras in New York State
The Decanter re: Worldwide attempts to ban foie gras
The Examiner re: Mercy for Animals Amazon campaign
The Jerusalem Post re: foie gras in Israel

earth-2 I’ll admit, the inspiration for this post title came from watching a rerun of the Big Bang Theory pilot, in which Leonard tells Sheldon that they need to invite Penny over for dinner to “widen our circle.” While I don’t normally look to sitcoms to guide my writing and thought, it seemed particularly apt in light of a couple of experiences of the past week that have inspired me to try and widen my own circle a bit.

The first experience came via a blog which used to be one of my favorite daily reads. I say used to be, because the author of the blog decided to stop writing for now because of reasons having partly to do with a disrespectful, scolding, and very public series of tweets by another blogger. It’s always sad when a strong and respected voice in the AR movement becomes silent. It’s even sadder when that silence is precipitated by the blistering attacks of another AR advocate, which, again, took place not in private, but in the public sphere. I am not going to mention either of their names here partly due to wanting to maintain their privacy as best I can. I also don’t want to have to link to the very ugly exchanges that have transpired, not to mention attacks against the first blog’s readers, some of whom chose to disagree with the sentiments expressed by the second blogger. Some very cogent and insightful comments were proposed by the readers of the first blog, only to be summarily dismissed and mocked by the second blogger. While there were intense expressions of emotion coming from both sides, the whole thing might have been avoided if the second blogger had made a different decision as to how to approach the subject of disagreement. I’m not suggesting silence but rather a discussion with a more measured tone. The whole episode is a very sad example of what can happen even in a movement that is so dedicated to respecting the integrity and value of all beings.

The second experience came recently, after I had posted a series of admittedly snarky tweets about McDonald’s and their refusal to adopt the same standards of treatment (of chickens) in the US that they currently have in place in European countries. The treatment of chickens at McDonald’s’ US suppliers is hideous and deplorable, and I do not regret anything that I said or linked to. But what became even more interesting is a conversation I had with a cattle farmer in the UK who found and responded to one of my tweets about McDonald’s. What could have turned into a hate-filled, angry exchange of venom actually was a very peaceful conversation about healthy eating, locally grown food, our common concern about zoos, and, ironically enough, the vitriol that is already plentifully available on social media. We wished each other well and are now following each other on twitter.

I find the juxtaposition of these two events in the past week simultaneously inspiring, disappointing, and infuriating. On one hand, two people who disagree on a fundamental issue (eating other animals) were able to find some common ground, speak respectfully, and exchange ideas. On the other, two people who are strenuous advocates for veganism and the rights of all non-human animals have both been affected by an ugly disagreement – one having shut down a much-loved and influential blog, and one whose name-calling against another blogger has set up a chain reaction of upheaval in the AR community which has taken the focus off the main issue – the status and suffering of animals.

We all come to these issues from different backgrounds, cultures, and life experiences. But sadly enough, because two people are dedicated to animal rights does not mean that they will get along or even be able to work together towards their common goal. And people who may not even be on the same page about one aspect of animals rights (food, for example), may be able to agree and perhaps even co-advocate on another issue (conditions at zoos or supporting local farmers). Erik Marcus recently wrote about how dialogue and meeting people where they are is so important to increasing awareness about food issues.

So what does this all mean? For me, it means widening my circle and trying to learn from all of the people I encounter, whether or not we are in agreement on all the issues. It means I will also try and learn from the disappointing exchange that occurred elsewhere in the blogosphere this week, while encouraging those who disagree to try and find a mutually respectful way to work it out. It especially means that I will refocus my attention on the plight of suffering animals everywhere, which is, after all, why so many of us do this.

I have decided to add a page toplink to highlight the great work of animal rescue and advocacy organizations. There are so many wonderful organizations I am sure it will take the rest of my blogging career to cover them all, but I am going to try! Instead of placing it in an already crowded sidebar, I added it as a page on the top bar. For my first highlight I wrote a bit about the organization Animals Asia, which is doing great work in helping and saving moon bears from the horrific bile industry. If you look at the top bar, you will see a number of pages – it is the furthest on the right. I will periodically be changing the highlighted organization and hopefully will find a way to archive the previously highlighted ones. So please take a look and read about the hard work so many are doing for our fellow creatures. peace, Linda

funerals-296-1226348580VH2IThere is a series of television commercials for a particular vacation destination in the U.S. One of them starts out with a number – the number of mornings each of us gets in life based on the average number of days in a person’s lifetime. I was at a funeral today – not as a mourner but as a volunteer helping at the service. I had a chance during a relatively quiet moment to think of all the animals killed every minute of every day – in slaughterhouses, in laboratories, in the wild, on fur farms, by individuals in acts of cruelty, in shelters, and everywhere else they die – mostly unseen and unknown by the vast majority of people. The sadness that overcame me was crushing and nearly took my breath away. I started thinking what would the world look like if we honored every one of those lives the way we try and honor the lives of people who have passed? How many funerals would we have to have? And how much of an impact would it have on our lives if we all had to witness and work around the acknowledgement of all of the lives taken?

To use one country as an example, the number of animals killed in the United States each year by humans for the reasons stated above is in excess of 60 – 70 billion per year – and that is probably a very conservative estimate (breakdown at the end of post). A little math determines the rest. If each of the approximately 30,000 incorporated cities and towns in the U.S. hosted funerals for the animals killed, that would mean that each city and town in the U.S. would have to conduct 5,479 funerals EVERY DAY for the entire year. Think about how just one funeral or two in a town can be noticed – lines of cars, pedestrians crossing the street to get to their cars – sometimes traffic jams resulting – not to mention the emotional toll. And that is from one funeral. There would have to be over 5,000 funerals every day in every town in the country to honor the lives taken each year – lives taken intentionally and unnecessarily. Obviously, that number of funerals, for whatever species, would overwhelm the resources of any town or city – and that is the point. The volume is overwhelming, and the suffering is unknowable. The number of animals killed by humans for voluntary reasons is almost too high for the mind to truly comprehend, which is one of the reasons I did this mathematical exercise. I wanted to present a concrete image of the amount of death that is really involved due to the human choices for food, clothing, entertainment, scientific curiosity, and neglect of companion animals. And the image, at least for me, is horrifying.

Estimated number of animals killed in the U.S. per year:
Land animals killed for food: 10 billion
Sea animals: 51 billion
Shelters: 4 million
Laboratories: 20-70 million
Fur slaughter facilities: 4 million (mink only – more if other species are included)
Hunted on land: 200 million
Hunted in sea – non commercial (also referred to as sport fishing): up to 25% of fish catch of some species
Killed as “bycatch”: almost uncountable – millions upon millions

Sources:
ASA
ASPCA
Free From Harm
Greenpeace
IDA USA
Science Daily
Vivisection Info

veganism4182898562_cfcf720592_b_wide The recent news that obesity is now going to be considered a disease by the U.S. American Medical Association could have very far reaching consequences – for individuals, doctors, insurance companies, the food and pharmaceutical industries – and animals? Maybe. There are many concerns about how this new classification of obesity is going to affect the practice of medicine, the distribution of health care dollars, and the personal investment of individuals trying to lose weight. Since this blog is about animal rights, though, I am going to let others sort out the economic and policy issues of this decision. But in terms of animal rights, this decision could make a difference. IF the focus becomes lifestyle over medicine and food choices over the latest-greatest weight loss pill, it COULD make a difference. If a vegan diet is seen as a real treatment option rather than just the choice of a few people who are concerned about animals, it COULD make a difference.

Excluding weight issues in those for whom weight gain is due to a primary medical condition (and there are some), most medical and weight-loss experts agree that weight management has to do with diet more than any other lifestyle feature. Sure, exercise is important for creating a calorie deficit and building muscle, and getting enough sleep is important for hormone balance. There are many important aspects to losing weight, but the most important by far, is WHAT WE EAT – day in, day out, month after month, year after year. And on this point, the science is clear. Individuals who consume a plant-based diet have lower body fat and cholesterol, lower bmi and blood pressure, and are at reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. It has even been shown to create conditions that may slow the human aging process. The very visible physical transformations of high profile plant eaters, such as President Bill Clinton, who is now following a diet that is very close to vegan (reports are that he occasionally eats fish), only drive home the point that eating a plant based diet is healthier. It is more conducive to weight loss and maintenance. It lowers risk for a variety of diseases that are weight related, as well as diseases that are a result of too much salt, cholesterol, or pesticide or hormone intake. No matter how much the farmed animal industry might wish to deny it, it is healthier.

The question is, with this new classification of obesity as a disease, will the patients trying to lose weight be treated differently? Will there be more of a focus on a healthier diet? Will physicians educate their patients on the benefits of a plant based diet? – assuming, of course, that they physicians are themselves educated on the issue. Will the interests of science and medicine be able to stand up to the farm and pharm lobbies, who will be only too happy to try and breed a lower fat cow or whip up a new weight-loss drug?

IF the emphasis can be focused on individual lifestyle choices, IF people are willing to see the reality which is supported by science, and IF the desire of people to lose weight and be healthier is stronger than the influence of the groups who do not want to hear about the benefits of a plant based diet because it hurts their bottom line, then yes, there is a chance that this latest reclassification of obesity as a disease could not only end up helping many people, but many animals as well.

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This week, something remarkable happened for surrendered and abandoned companion animals. The commission in Miami-Dade County in Florida approved a shelter animal plan which is nothing short of revolutionary. With the new plan, up to 20 million dollars could be raised annually to cover costs associated with widely offered spaying and neutering services, public education on responsible companion animal care, and additional veterinary services for shelter animals. The result? The new plan could save 20,000 lives and make the county shelter very low or even no-kill. The goal is to increase the “save rate” to 90% and to drastically reduce the number of animals who end up in the shelter in the first place.

The coolest part of this program? It was voted on by the taxpayers, who voluntarily agreed to an increase in property tax in order to fund this innovative plan. The citizens of Miami-Dade, despite all of the economic woes of the past few years, chose to put lives first – they made their choice clear at the ballot box with a 65% “yes” vote.

If this plan meets hopes and expectations, it could be a new model for cash-strapped cities and towns who very much want to save lives but feel they have run out of option. As it becomes refined over time, it could serve as a good example for other municipalities to follow. Hopefully, people in other cities and towns have the same will and desire as the people of Miami-Dade to put animals first and to be willing to invest a few additional dollars to save a lot of lives.

It is a great day for humane leadership – and this time, it was the people themselves who took the lead.

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Chimpanzees in laboratories may soon be classified as endangered species if the recommendation by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is implemented. The current status of chimpanzees in the wild is endangered but it is only threatened for captive ones. This difference in classification, the only split status ever, does little to protect the thousands of chimpanzees under private control, including those in research facilities. Upon urging from animal rights organizations, USF&W has put forward the proposal that ALL chimpanzees be classified as endangered. They determined that there is no provision in the Endangered Species Act for wild and captive animals to be assigned to different status groups.

Unfortunately, a number of countries still keep and experiment on monkeys, but the United States stands alone among developed countries regarding apes. The U.S. has continued to subject apes to a variety of experiments, while such research has been banned for years in Europe. This proposal, if adopted, will mark yet another step of progress towards the end of subjecting primates to research experiments. Earlier this year, the NIH took a step closer to releasing to sanctuary most of the chimpanzees in its research colony. In addition, the recent news that Harvard is closing its primate center was another welcome development in the effort to end primate exploitation and abuse in laboratories.

The tide is clearly changing. Based on a recent US poll, support for vivisection in general is dropping, particularly among younger people. This recent trend towards reducing and ultimately eliminating primate research is just another indicator that this is going in the right direction. One of the interesting things here is that, although much of the concern regarding primates is for ethical reasons, it has also been shown that primate research in many areas just doesn’t work. Chimpanzees do not function as a model for human physiology as well as some scientists hoped. And what about that? If our closest genetic relatives are not reliable predictors of reactions and responses to various experimental manipulations, what makes us think that species even more distantly related to us will? It is becoming more and more clear that, although there are many similarities across the animal kingdom, response in one species to a certain stimulus cannot accurately predict the response to that same stimulus in a different species. Even mice, the standby for scientists, are not reliable as models. Clinical human studies and in vitro testing using human tissues are much safer and reliable methodologies.

As primates become obsolete in labs as a test animal, both because of ethical concerns and because the science just doesn’t support it, the next logical step becomes clear. If chimpanzees and other primates should not be used because they experience pain and suffering, what about the dogs, cats, mice, rabbits, and other species subjected to invasive, painful experiments? Do they not have the same ability to feel pain? Do they not have the same neurological and emotional make-up that causes them to suffer as well? Of course they do. And that fact will become more evident as the line between “us” and “them” becomes more blurred. Once we fully recognize that the dividing line between human animals and nonhuman animals is an arbitrary one put in place by humans, it will become increasingly more difficult to justify vivisection at all, no matter what the species. Hopefully this will signal the beginning of the end of experiments on ALL animal species in research settings.

Additional sources:
Dr. Ray Greek
NPR
St. Louis Today
photo: Vera Kratochvil via publicdomainpictures.net

daily-Ag-gag

Ag-Gag laws made news on The Daily Show – it may not seem like much, but it means something. TDS has a large and demographically young audience – people who may be making decisions about not only policy, but who often re-evaulate their personal dietary practices. On Wednesday, June 12, The Daily Show did a video piece about pending bills and already-passed laws in several states which were crafted and supported by big agriculture – bills/laws that are designed to criminalize videotaping of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses. These laws are known as Ag-Gag laws. Naturally, the facilitators of this systemic cruelty don’t want people to see what really happens to the animals that are going to be neatly packaged and sold as a food option at a supermarket near you. In the piece, the spokesperson for the Animal Agriculture Alliance (i.e., the animal slaughter industry) had plenty to say about Ag-Gag laws. I think it is important to look at the primary arguments made by the industry, because they are arguments and tactics that clearly do not have staying power in an environment where people are fed up with being patronized and lied to by large corporations only interested in making a profit.

First, she claimed that the organizations making these videotapes were showing them “…with a false narrative.” Really? So what is the true narrative behind footage of people beating animals with tools, torturing them with cattle prods, and tossing them around as they would a football? She never did explain what a true narrative of those circumstances might be. Translation: Even though the videos are of actual events, the people making them are somehow lying about the (clearly visible) content. Again, she was unable to explain in any way how this phenomenon of altering a witnessed reality occurred.

Second, the spokesperson for the big ag PR group claimed that what we were witnessing were “standard industry practices” and went on to explain that if she saw a video of someone doing surgery, she would have no way of knowing whether that surgeon was a hack or a gifted practitioner. Translation: the public is too stupid to know the difference between an effort to conduct a more humane kill and someone laughing while they torture a defenseless creature. Not to mention the very long list of legal industry practices (castration, tail docking, debeaking, all without anesthesia, just to name a few) which, although legally allowed, are hardly humane and which would shock and horrify the average person even if shown as is. In fact, there were many “industry practices” throughout history which today would be seen as indefensible. Mentally ill people used to be kept in confining cages, often drugged or restrained, in deplorable conditions. At the time, it was the industry practice. In the United States, people used to be legally owned by others as slaves and were at the total mercy of their captors. They were routinely beaten, separated from their families, and raped. It was standard industry practice at the time until a war which claimed over 600,000 lives was fought to pave the way for human freedom. So calling something “standard industry practice” hardly qualifies it as being acceptable, humane, or ethical.

The final attempt by the slaughter industry to appear to have a legitimate response to these undercover videos came in the ploy of the desperate: attacking the messenger. The spokesperson tried to denigrate the activist featured in the story by wondering what name he might go by next – the attempted implication being that he is somehow shady, deceitful, an evil interloper who can’t be trusted. This truly is an indication that nothing substantive could be offered by the spokesperson as a response to the content of the videos. When one has to resort to insulting the messenger, one clearly has no justifiable response to the message.

So what can we take away from this video piece on a show which is often comedic while simultaneously targeted in its analysis of the facts? TDS has an average audience of 2.3 million viewers (2011 statistic). Many of them are young and likely to be very tuned in to the issues of veganism, animal rights, and corporate greed. These images and messages are getting out, and they are getting out to the very people who will be poised to make significant changes for these suffering animals. And that is a reason to be hopeful.