Thursday, December 15, 2011

Earthings - disturbing and powerful

Yesterday I watched the Youtube video Earthlings.  It was extremely disturbing and despite the 'viewer discretion advised' label I would advise that everyone watch it.  The video is a documentary pushing the vegan viewpoint and it does so by showing raw footage of slaughterhouses, factory farms, fur farms and other animal product manufacturing.  You need an hour and a half to spare but I think the understanding gained from doing so is completely worth it (I was tempted to say necessary).

I have read some books on the topic before like In Defense of Food and Fast Food Nation and watched Super Size Me but none of that hit home like this video did.  Watching footage of animals being boiled and dismembered while still alive is sickening and I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw an animal with the fur ripped completely off thrashing around obviously still aware and conscious.  Of course people do horrific things and watching those isn't necessarily helpful but when we are complicit in their reprehensible acts I think being aware of exactly what happens is critical.  When we buy commercial meat, leather and fur these things do happen to the animals used in the process and we have an obligation to acknowledge the consequences of our consumption.

That isn't to say I have suddenly become vegan.  I still find the idea that eating meat is morally wrong to be unsupportable as then we would have to solve various conundrums like either killing or starving carnivorous creatures and the ethical quandaries surrounding the murder of insects.  The critical feature to my mind is suffering rather than life since a reverence for life in general must get around the issue of eating *something* or righteously starving to death.  Eating as much meat as we do here in North America is bad for our health and bad for the environment but I don't have a problem with eating small amounts of meat as long as the suffering of the animals involved is minimized.  There are of course all kinds of issues with the nutritional quality of factory raised meats which was enough to get me to go for grass fed additive free meat and this video reinforced that decision but did not convince me to take the next step.

The movie had a section about using animals as research subjects in science and industry.  I was much less convinced by that part of it as they flat out stated that animals research simply cannot help improve medicine for humans.  I assumed that Wendy would agree with me on this as she does a lot of research on rats and I presumed that she felt like it was beneficial overall to do so.  Instead she backed up the film saying that many researchers feel that animal studies actually make things worse by requiring us to spend time and money on studying the animals we kill that should have been used on humans.  Apparently we know an incredible amount about mouse physiology because of medical experiments and much of it is utterly useless for treating people.  So though it seems to me that some animal research must have been beneficial it may well be that animal research as a whole simply brings no net benefit but has the real downside of causing substantial suffering.

I suspect you would find that a lot of people would say that this video is not suitable for children.  I would disagree.  My mother was raised on a farm and was used to watching animals be slaughtered for eating and her experience is by far the norm for nearly all of human history.  Children can deal with these things and can learn a lot from how their parents deal with the death and suffering of other creatures.  If you are going to eat grocery store meat then I do think you should accept the reality of what it takes to produce it and watch the video regardless of age.  If you can't take it, don't eat it.

Having thrown down the gauntlet I find myself in a position to have to deal with my own statements.  I didn't know how this post was going to go when I started but now that I have my ideas down I should stand by them.  I do buy local grass fed no additive beef but I buy eggs and fish from the grocery store.  I have (and love) a leather jacket and gloves too and so I should consider that issue as well.  I suppose it is time to google "cruelty free leather clothing" and see where it takes me.  Mitigating my own hypocrisy is going to be a lot of work.

1 comment:

  1. Here's a link to some info on the animal research debate:

    Basically my point of view is that we can get a lot of valuable information by doing animal research, but it is very difficult to do properly, and can often be quite misleading. On the other hand, without animal research, I suspect we'd be doing our drug studies on people from 3rd world countries...