Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I Don't Need Your Dead Animals!

` Just so you know, two blog entries I had been working on just got erased! The window they were in suddenly closed for seemingly no reason!
` And what was the culprit?
` Directly after that, Adobe Acrobat Reader popped up (after being stuck?) and it was asking for me to initialize it! Not today, buster!

` Adobe Acrobat - Not only is it impossible to navigate in, it can wreak havoc with your internet browser!

` So... what had I been writing? Unsurprisingly, one entry involved science, and the other was about how my earlier life was probably not all bad - there had to have been good times, too. Right?

` Oh well... onto Something Else I've Been Wanting To Write:

` The other day, TurkishChic and... well, Phil more than me - had an interesting... discussion over the phone about eating meat. You see, Phil, EdgeWalker and I are all vegetarians, and she is not. It was... well, unsatisfying because we were... well... not even talking on the same level.
` I figure that some people might be curious as to how anyone can refuse to eat meat. For me, Phil, and EdgeWalker, there are three main things of consideration:

1 - Fact: We, as human beings, do not require meat in order to live. The ideal human diet is largely plant material, although our species is much better adapted for hunting and eating animals than our pot-bellied, herbivore ancestors. Even so, among people who can afford to cut meat out of their diets altogether, most can do so with no ill effects.
` (I am aware of studies that have reached other conclusions, so I'll get to those!)

2 - Fact: There is very little reason to think that many other species are that mentally different from very young humans and/or those with various types of learning disabilities, brain damage, etc. The most significant difference between us as those other species that anyone is aware of is that they don't look or talk like us and have different instincts because they are adapted for different ecological niches than humans.
` (I am also aware that it is impossible to say whether or not such animals actually experience their own sensory systems, internal imagery, solution of problems, or even their physiological emotional reactions - though there is no evidence that they do not. The same also goes for adult humans with certain neurological problems as well as infants.)

3 - Conclusion: What could possess you to eat babies, mentally retarded people, and other individuals of lower intellect who are presumably conscious in some way, especially if you didn't have to?
` No, really! What is the difference between eating the average pig - whose various mental skills are on par with dogs, monkeys and human toddlers - and a human infant, which by comparison, is pretty senseless?

` The answer is, of course, unknown, but if observations of animal behavior are any indication of their states and levels of awareness, then eating the flesh of livestock and poultry is in many ways similar to practicing cannibalism on the mentally infirm/immature.
` Of course, when you word it that way, some people are bound to think that this sounds ludicrous. But my point rests: What makes us humans so immune to being eaten in this culture (but not in every culture)? Also, since I'm mostly talking about Westerners, here; What makes dogs immune to being eaten?
` First, it evidently has nothing to do with intelligence - dogs are smarter than babies, but we don't eat them. Pigs are, in some areas, much more intelligent than dogs - they can learn more things, and do it faster. And yet, lots of people eat them!

` What does it have to do with? The general American culture discourages the eating of dogs, and especially babies. (They are after all, our own offspring.) Why? Because we love them so much! Adults have a natural instinct to take care of babies, especially their own, and pets often trigger those instincts. That's why dogs and cats are often regarded as part of the family, and may be treated like small children.
` What if someone has pigs as pets? The pig is then often 'the baby'. Being omnivores and prey animals with different habits, they behave somewhat differently than dogs. They are, however, similarly sociable, they love being petted and scratched, are eager to learn, and can be trained in similar ways: Housebreaking, leash-training, and any 'stupid pet trick' are things that pigs treated as pets are commonly known to do.
` How are they different than dogs? Instincts and such. Luckily, in hot weather they prefer to keep clean by wallowing in water over mud (though the mud keeps them from getting sunburn and bug-bites), but they require being able to tear up the ground, and may not make a distinction between dirt and flooring.
` Dogs are less likely to do those things, but their instincts give them other 'bad habits' such as 'marking' their territory, chewing on shoes, etc. Really, keeping pigs and dogs as companions is much the same sort of thing, as pig owners generally agree. (Some actually prefer pigs...)

` I briefly knew someone who had a pot-bellied pig, though she felt really weird when she ate pork chops. That's the thing: How can pigs be both pets and food? We find a similar thing in Chinese culture: They've bred small dogs that resemble their bug-eyed drawings of lions for being squeaky little watchdogs that fit up your sleeve. They also bred larger dogs, such as the Chow as... well, chow.
` Yet, in Western culture, dogs can only be... 'dogs'. There is no distinction between them.
` So, what probably influences what animals that people eat and what to keep as pets, more than anything, probably has to do with both practicality and cultural attitudes. If you are raised thinking that it's not okay to eat such-and-such an animal, but it is okay to eat another, because that's just what people do, then that may well be what you will think for the rest of your life.

` In other words, you're encouraged to be friends with some animals, but not others, because you have to eat them. It's a fact of life for a lot of people. But nowadays, in developed countries, it doesn't need to be that way!

` Practically any large-brained animal can make an affectionate animal companion. Chickens, for example. Some say that chickens are just boring, stupid birds. But if you treat one like a house pet, you may discover that it likes to follow you around the yard, affectionately bury its head in your hair, tease the dog, act as your personal toothpick, have you act as its personal chauffer, and cluck until you tuck it in at night. Not much different than a canary or a parrot... or even a cat! Plus, you get lots of eggs whether you want 'em or not.
` Well, unless it's a rooster. Then you get lots of crowing whether you want it or not.
` Come to think of it, Phil had a large, friendly rooster named Foggy as he grew up in rural Ohio. At daybreak, Foggy would be let out of his doghouse, scramble up to the top of it and crow. He was normally a happy-go-lucky bird, but one night, a hungry weasel got into the doghouse and there was quite a big ruckus! This wasn't known until the predator's bloody remains - with a hole right through them - were found in the morning.

` Phil has always described Foggy as being a 'very sweet chicken'. He also has never liked meat that much. And yet, this had never stopped him from eating dead chickens. Then again, Foggy wasn't exactly a house pet. The closest thing he'd ever had to a brother was a house pet - an amazingly intelligent and self-aware dog named Bucky.
` What if he'd never had Bucky, or any dog? He probably would not be able to fathom the complexities of the canine psyche, nor know just how close people can get to dogs.
` And what if people here ate dogs? Being that his adoptive sibling was indeed a dog, Phil thinks that eating our domesticated lupine friends is an unthinkably sick idea. However, if he had never had that experience, he would probably have not been hesitant to eat one if everybody else was.

` See what I'm very blatantly getting at? The actual reasons why people eat animals in this society - and many others - has largely to do with habit and how well people can relate to and identify with species other than our own. This stems from long lines of cultural tradition surrounding the fact that eating meat was something you did to prevent yourself from dying a slow, painful death.
` So, since refusing meat millenia ago would be a totally inconsiderate and cruel thing to do to one's self, it didn't occur to most people not to. Of course, I very much agree with something if it is a 'fact of life.' After all, we're still animals, and in 'the wild', it is not (usually) appropriate to refuse your life and health if it doesn't suit your ideals. Hence, starving people, from pioneers to concentration camp inmates, have been known to eat one another, alive, against their own ethics... but I digress.

` In modern times, however, we're finally at the stage where a lot of people can afford to 'quit the habit' of slaughtering animals for food. Of course, most of them don't.
` Why?
` So far, I haven't come across any valid argument against the idea of vegetarianism, as far as the principle goes. Scientifically, I can't find any reason not to, though there are wads of pseudoscience and biased studies.
` Off the top of my head I can think of a perfect example: A few months ago, I ran into an article in Nature about the effects of dietary supplements (and lack thereof) on the children of poor African farmers. Those kids generally eat the same kind of thing - low-nutrient corn and beans and whatever else their families can grow.
` For the experiment, some of the kids were given a certain amount of calories in ground beef, some were given the same amount of calories in milk, some got an equivalent of calories in vegetable oil, and some were given no supplement at all.

` I was thinking to myself: 'Why vegetable oil? Assuming this is a study about the effects of protein sources on children, then how is a fatty substance containing no proteins at all even appropriate? If it's a study about fatty substances, then why not use a plant-based alternative that is actually comparable to meat or milk so it will have more similar effects?'
` Now, the results were that the children who had the meat supplement improved in learning, socializing, strength etc. in the largest amount over the kids who had no supplement. The ones given milk came in second, and the kids who had the vegetable oil were the least better off of any of the kids given dietary supplements.
` That wasn't so surprising - however, it was then concluded that raising children as vegetarians - especially vegans - was simply unethical.

` Um... I think I missed a step there. Perhaps if they'd used something that actually reflects the true diet of, say, vegans... perhaps something involving a true meat or milk substitute, the experiment would not have been as pointless.
` Seriously, dietary studies like this should not even be conducted if they're not going to do them right! Unfortunately, too many experiments are, and it's very upsetting for me to think that time and money is being wasted in this way. (So I won't; I'll just continue with my rambling.)

` Basically, I think it kind of goes unsaid: If you want to eat animals that at least seem to think and feel, in order to be consistant, at least some people (who also seem to think and feel) should then be acceptable for farming and consumption.
` As you probably don't believe in that, this is one excellant reason to think about the whole situation (if you've never considered it).
` If you do think some people are fit for farming and consumption, then who? Surely not people with the same IQ as cattle? (What did they ever do?) Is it personal? I suppose I can understand that, especially if whoever you have in mind is hopelessly delusional and extremely sadistic.
` But, seriously...
` Any kind of arbitrary bigotry going on here is not something that's funny. It makes people tend to think that some other people are somehow not as human as they are. This, of course, makes for the perfect setting for slavery, whether the slaves be from different countries, certain castes, or other gene pools.
` For example, rich white people on this continent enslaved Native Americans, and later, Native Africans, and forced them to live in their supposedly civilized countries as slaves. Especially in the 'black slavery' era, these people were not to be allowed to learn to read, etc., were made to do all the things the rich white people didn't want to do, and at the end of their usefulness, they were slaughtered like horses!

` Why? It was a way of life, and people couldn't imagine the economy being any other way. But things changed, though it took much bloodshed, and we no longer rely on people being treated like beasts of burden. (And, as it is with beasts of burden, this might involve being terribly abused.) However, phenomena like racial pride, racial hatred, and pseudoscience for and against perceived races in this country tend to come from the 'old' way of life.
` It still effects us.
` Fortunately, bigotry in general is looked down upon in today's society. Strangely, not as much thought is given to outside of the realm of humans.

` A friend in Ohio broke up with her boyfriend because he turned out to be very cruel towards animals, but didn't seem to know it. As one example, she liked fact that he was building a barn for his and his parents' horses at some point... however, the horses were not allowed to leave the barn. They were kept in a cement corral and had not had their hooves trimmed for four years.
` Why? For one thing, the horses lived on his parents' property, which was very nicely landscaped... perfect for horses, though if they were allowed to graze and get fresh air and sun, this would ruin the lawn.
` What the other rationales were, I don't know, but they were very strange people, I hear. They said they loved animals and they had so many of them... all treated in the same horrid way! All of their goats were crawling on the ground, unable to walk due to foot-rot. There were five dogs in kennels outside, and they were never allowed to leave them.
` There was another dog, and a cat, which had spent the last eight years tied on two-foot leashes in the pitch-black garage. The cat, which wasn't given any water until it yowled for someone, had lost all the fur on one side from lying on it all the time. Luckily, my friend managed to take the dog out on a leash.
` That dog was so happy! She danced around on the grass, wagging her tail, and growled at her owners. Surely, the dog didn't buy any of this crap about them loving her.
` Of course, this friend of mine tried to get the SPCA in there to rescue the animals from this tormentous existence, but as they have no jurisdiction in Holmes County where they were, there was no way they could help. She also talked to some people from the Humane Society, but there was nothing they could do, as the animals weren't being starved or otherwise at death's doorstep.

` Does that really piss you off? Does it make you feel sad and hopeless? It reminds me of those reality shows where SPCA officers rescue animals from horrific abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, the animals I spoke of - if they are still alive - are doubtless being treated like petty objects that people keep and obsess over.
` If you feel sorry for those animals, you probably agree that they're not machines - they are emotional creatures which need protection from cruelty! Personally, those weird people's attitudes towards pets makes me nauseous. They remind me of... well, abusive laboratory technicians. They are very casual about the way they joke about dogs, cats, and monkeys that are dying because they just chewed their tail or a foot off from the insanity induced by their living conditions.
` How does this happen to people?
` I suppose it's not hard to imagine having to be indifferent and apathetic toward any animal if you have to lock it up all day and perform experiments on it until it dies or you kill it. (Also a very troubling thing!) But my friend's ex-boyfriend was raised by people who apparently taught him that this was an acceptable attitude towards pets whom they weren't required to lock up or mistreat at all!
` Kids tend to listen to their parents, no matter how crazy they are... like me and my psychotic dad, whose delusions are not only fictional, but are utter fantasy! I took on his attitudes about everyone and everything, even though that meant I had to believe that my mom and I were hell-bent on killing him and capable of manipulating the laws of physics to do it.

` That aside, what's the difference between a dog and a cat being tied up in a dark garage and reams of cattle, pigs, or chickens unable to move in a dark industrial farm building?
` Realistically? Not much. But if your family said it was okay, and showed you this by having you eat such animals, I would expect that you would grow up fairly apathetic to those poultry and livestock who live in the blackness of those stifling places, where the thick ammonia is usually the only thing that can burn your eyes.
` Even if the animals they ate lived on regular farms and were allowed to go outside and behave normally, is it still fair? Or did they eat animals at all? I've always wondered what that would be like, to live in a family where people didn't joke about how the animals they're cooking must have suffered horribly...

` The whole way my own vegetarianism started was when I was looking for reasons to be compassionate about other people and other species. I just couldn't do it. I tried to act that way towards other people, but most of it was obviously for show.
` Strangely, not that many people noticed...
` Then, I got to PETA's website and, though they somewhat frighten me, I watched some of their videos of animals being abused horribly. For example, elephants were being trained (= broken down) for Carson & Barnes Circus in the video called 'Make 'Em SCREAM!' - from a quote from one of the trainers saying things like: "Tear that foot off! Stick it in there! Make 'em scream!"
` He was like; 'If you don't want to be hurting animals, then you don't belong in this barn.' They did all kinds of horrible things to the elephants, which screamed a great deal - they purposely whacked them as hard as they could with bullhooks and chased them around, yelling in a deranged fashion with a cattle prod. It was nothing but panicked, crying elephants, fleeing in a confusion.
` Animals being raised for food were, of course, abused even worse.
` Pigs being sodomized with a metal rod, and the men doing it were bragging about it. The pigs which were being rejected for slaughter were beaten and 'tap-danced' upon, thrown in fires while possibly still alive, and one struggling sow was being both skinned alive and having her leg sawed off while the perpetrators laughed at her and called her a 'bitch' for apparently being a pig and for her pathetic attempts to escape.
` Pretty horrifying.

` Sure, you're not supposed to terrorize livestock, but even the videos of animals not being abused at intensive farms are still pretty sad because the only thing they can do is stand there and collect dust and neurological disorders... the way any human would.
` Also, the different animals have to go through unbelievably painful procedures like tail amputation, toe amputation, the cutting off of teeth, and 'de-beaking', which cause them to shriek, kick, or 'freeze' in shock. These 'operations' are to keep them from eating and/or killing one another when they go insane.

` I think PETA, though it's done many great things, is kinda dodgy, but videos don't lie. Of course, some human beings are regularly known to abuse, neglect, and kill younger humans in orphanages in countries such as China (where there are rooms designated for unwanted children to die of starvation and loneliness).
` Why? Immediate atmosphere. Conditioning. Being able to get away with it.
` Since I'm kind of a visual person, videos tend to hit home with me, though they are short and only show the worst parts. When I saw injured, blood-covered chickens and turkeys fluttering around to escape being bludgeoned on random body parts with a metal pipe (and otherwise being roughly handled), I vowed never to eat poultry again.
` I told Phil about this whole thing, but he basically rolled his eyes at me and said; "That won't stop me from eating meat. It's still perfectly fine if the animals are treated like animals instead of machines."
` After being in college for a while, though, and living in a house with EdgeWalker, who was vegan at the time, they got to talking about the whole thing. Phil basically came to the conclusion that; "You know, even if you do give animals everything they need in life, what's the point of making them happy if you're just going to kill and eat them?"
` So, he became a vegetarian and learned how to cook from the great master chef of the household - who is now the master chef of this one.

` I, on the other hand, was convinced by my mom that I had overreacted, so I continued to do things like make buffalo chicken each night as a midnight snack.
` Being easily shamed and discouraged in everything I believed in, I continued carrying on as I had been before, and didn't actually commit to being a vegetarian until I moved in with him on 3, September, 2004. With him, it was quite easy, and I was rather eager to quit the meat habit.
` I'm glad to say that since then, my willpower in general has been getting about as strong as the average person's. I actually respond to encouragement nowadays, and don't depend on others to give me permission to do my own thing (that used to be a requirement).

` So... that's the whole shpiel on my being a vegetarian. I just can't think it's right to discriminate between species. I mean, I spent a half an hour on Monday carrying my 11 1/5 - pound cat in a cardboard box to the vet because her left nictitating membrane is swollen. Turns out she may have a kind of. herpes infection it. Joy! An eyelid canker sore.
` (Credit goes to a Mrs. Sheehan for driving me back home! Thanks again!)
` Anyway, I went through all that trouble just for a cat. Whom I'd never eat. Sure, so would a lot of people, but they may also see a steer and think; 'Mmmm!'
` Do you see? How can people just decide to use one animal and not another? Just because a cow is bigger and juicier than a cat, cows are bred to be eaten, and cats are bred to look funny. Now, I think my cat must be bothered from her inflamed eyelid - she probably feels that it is sore and burns. It affects her so much that she isn't even trying very hard to bite, and every time I put ointment in it, she jerks and flails around like it really hurts.
` Because I see things like this, I can't possibly maim or kill cats! Much less eat them. Cows are much the same way as cats in the suffering department, so when I think of a cow hanging upside-down and licking the blood pouring from its slit throat, I think; That could be a cat! Or a human being! But when most people see a cow hanging like that, they probably aren't bothered so much.
` But... why? What's the difference? It actually makes no sense when you think about it. It's mindless discrimination.
` It's called speciesism.
` You may laugh, but the word stands: It's just as nonsensical as racism.

` Anyhow, when you see something you recognize as suffering and don't care because you're not supposed to, how do you justify that? Pathetically, these are the only reasons I've heard of which go against my argument:

` "They might not be conscious, and if they were, you couldn't prove it."
` Better to make an educated mistake and be wrong than to not act and be right on my part. For now, I don't see what in a human brain makes us less conscious than other species with similar brains.
` Clams, on the other hand, have no brains...

` "Oh, that thing with animals... they're made to be our slaves, so we shouldn't care! The only reason I recognize for being a vegetarian is for the health benefits!"
` Sorry, I prefer to coexist with other species, rather than exploit them.

` "Come back to the dark side! Meat is delicious!"
` Yes, I recall that filet mignon was especially good, but he agreed to stop eating meat if we could make something that fooled him into thinking it was steak! For some people, it's all about taste...

` "Animals are stupid and therefore we're better than them, which somehow gives us the right to use them as we like."
` Like I said... would you eat a human who can't help having the mentality of a common goat? That argument clearly does not stand up on its own. Mmm. Juicy, inferior human. Delicious!

` And the last one is from what started this whole rant off today, from TurkishChic:
` "The FFA taught me it's fine. I know what I'm talking about."
` *Cough* Oh, they don't want you eating meat!!
` "The FFA says that since God told people to eat animals, then not eating meat is a sin. So it's okay."
` *Sigh*... yes, those are all the arguments I've come across. And answering a question with a more complex and unanswerable response (invoking God), isn't a valid argument for people like me who care about logic! (Nothing personal, I just have a thing for critical analysis.) Phil, while he is a Christian, interprets that one line in Genesis (about having dominion over animals) to mean that we're supposed to have guardianship over plants and animals.
` And you have dominion/guardianship over your own children, right? But that doesn't mean that you have the right to eat your children, does it?

` He told that to the Turkish Chic.
` The reply? "Why do you have to be such a jerk?"
` It just kind of deteriorated after that. TurkishChic, though, explained that basically, if you can get meat, why not take advantage of that?
` I was interrupted after that by the men, but I say now: Sure. Eating animals. Animals that can suffer. You can. I can't see how that's a good reason to, though, unless you're pitted against nature. Just because you can doesn't automatically make it okay to take advantage of another's plight.

` Later, she left one angry-sounding word on Phil's voice mail: "Die."

` If anyone ever finds a new argument, pointless or not, let me know. So far, there's just no debating over this. I'm off to go do something. Bye.

` (Update:) Fig. 1 for Comments =>
` The gorilla eats plants!


Joey M. said...

See those canines? The teeth, I mean? There for ripping the flesh off a bone.

Meat rules. Yum.

Vegatarianism is fine, it's just that when it starts to become obsessive (like people who won't eat french fries from McDonald's because it contains beef extract) it becomes annoying.

S E E Quine said...

` Actually, what's funny is that I won't eat stuff like candy made from animal bones. Not that I eat candy much at ALL but even *I* have to be hypocritical sometimes:
` I figure, since I require medication for my well-being, the millions of animals that were killed in making it didn't die in vain.
` Especially those involved in cancer research.
` Damn 'way the world works'...

` Oh, and I know I said for anyone to give me a pointless argument, but... if I could point out to everyone, that's NOT why we have canine teeth anyway.
` It's the scientist in me.
` Various primates, including strict plant-eaters, have long, pointy fangs (fig. 1) similar to the ones cats have, because they snarl and bite one another.
` Ours are much smaller and more blunt because we don't use them that way.
` Usually.

Surrounded by Bad Karma At Home said...

Ugh! Nasty, nasty, meat! I will try to wean myself off of the evil stuff.

What about fish, though?

S E E Quine said...

` Good question. How do you draw the line between an animal that is aware and an animal that is not? (This also applies to people in hospitals with incredible amounts of brain damage.)
` It is apparently true that a fish that has been caught with a hook and thrown back will forgo eating for a few days while it takes time to rub its jaw against things. Does it hurt? Its hard to say.
` Starfish act as if they are in pain, and so do single-celled organisms. Shrinking away and fleeing 'harmful' stimuli are all responses that occur in the spinal cord and brainstem - and in humans, they occur BEFORE the perception OF pain.
` Apparently, fish DO depend on their brainstems more than we do - if you destroy a human's cerebral hemispheres, they will be, more or less 'braindead' - sometimes they move or blink, but it's not conscious behavior as far as anyone knows.
` *Also, keep in mind, people who have, for example, the part of the brain that allows you to be CONSCIOUSLY AWARE of sight destroyed (but not other parts associated with sight), they can see things perfectly fine, BUT NOT BE AWARE OF THEM! They can, however, somehow 'guess' correctly. This also applies to painful stimuli - they might be conscious but won't FEEL the pain.*
` On the other hand, if you destroy the cerebral hemispheres of a fish, instead of going limp, it continues to behave like it did before. So what are its cerebral hemispheres for?
` Personally, I don't know. But as it lacks the parts of the brain that seem to be essential in the human perception of pain (or really, the perception af ANYTHING), it probably does not. I will note here that the response in fish to being wounded is basically the same as their response to being chased by a predator.
` In other words, it would seem that the REACTION to injury evolved before the perception of pain.
` Does this mean that fish are not conscious? Being that they lack parts of the brain that we seem to depend on being conscious of things, they cannot be conscious IN THE WAY WE ARE.
` Is that even possible? It is if other parts of our brains are conscious SEPARATELY from our own minds.
` Is there any scientific evidence or hypotheses that support that idea? No.

S E E Quine said...

* OOPS bad edit. 'The idea' is that fish are conscious without the types of brain parts that we have.
` I suppose this IS possible - I will have to do some extensive research if I am to figure this out, though.
` I know, fish do communicate with sounds and can recognize one another, etc. but this does not necessarily MEAN that they are aware of what they're doing.
` How they can do these things without being aware? We can do pretty complex things without being aware. So unless there is another type of awareness...