Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Michael Moore: SiCKO?

Our friends at PETA just sent a rather blunt letter to Michael Moore as his new movie SiCKO hits theaters. PETA wants Moore to take some personally responsibility for the healthcare system by leading a healthy lifestyle—ie, by going vegetarian. An excerpt from the letter:

“Although we think that your film could actually help reform America’s sorely inadequate health care system, there’s an elephant in the room, and it is you. With all due respect, no one can help but notice that a weighty health issue is affecting you personally. We’d like to help you fix that. Going vegetarian is an easy and life-saving step that people of all economic backgrounds can take in order to become less reliant on the government’s shoddy healthcare system, and it’s something that you and all Americans can benefit from personally. Vegetarians weigh, on average, up to 20 percent less than their meat-eating counterparts—meaning less weight-related problems like heart attacks and strokes—and live about eight years longer. I’m sure that your fans would appreciate having you around longer! By going vegetarian, you would also provide a powerful message of personal responsibility for one’s health, allowing others to become less reliant on a system that doesn’t care about them.”

What do you think—too harsh? Personally, I think he can take it. And after Moore brought live animals outside PETA headquarters wearing signs telling PETA employees “You are wasting your time,” I think he might even deserve it.

Too bad more good liberals like Michael Moore don’t recognize the connection between human rights and animal rights.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Some Global Warming Facts

In his last post, Alex mentioned that PAWS will be taking on an important issue next year: the link between meat-eating and global warming.

Given the media and government silence on this link, the facts are pretty stunning.

According to the United Nations' very own Food and Agriculture Organization—about as unbiased a source as you can ask for—the livestock sector contributes to a whopping 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. That’s more than the entire transportation sector, including cars, planes, trucks, etc. Read the whole report here.

A University of Chicago study tells us more about individuals’ contributions to global warming. Authors Gidon Eshel and Pamela Martin looked at five different diets, ranging from average American to vegetarian. They discovered that the average American diet yields an extra ton and a half of CO2 equivalent than a strictly vegetarian diet. The most interesting thing is putting this information in context of car use: reducing animal products in your diet from 20% to 0% is the same as going from a Camry to a Prius; going from a red meat diet of 35% animal products to a vegan diet is the same as going from an SUV to a Prius. That’s right: if hybrids are cool, than a vegan diet is even cooler.

So why haven’t we heard more about this clear link? Perhaps because policy-makers and global warming leaders don’t think the public is willing to make big sacrifices. Encouraging consumers to buy hybrids and compact fluorescent lightbulbs– that’s no problem. Taking away someone’s hamburger, on the other hand, is out of the question.

In an email leaked to the press from the British environmental agency to a vegetarian group Viva, a British official acknowledged “the potential benefit of a vegan diet in terms of climate impact,” but admitted that would be a hard case to sell to the public, adding “it will be a case of introducing this gently as there is a risk of alienating the public majority.”

No government agency will actively encourage vegetarianism until it knows that its constituents care enough to reduce their meat consumption, no matter how many convincing reports stare them in the face. By going vegetarian, you’re not only contributing to a reduced demand for damaging animal products, you’re also showing policy-makers that people are willing to make sacrifices for animals and the earth.

Let's break the silence on meat and global warming - spread the word!

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Making the Connection

When PAWS did its "Meat Tray" demonstration outside of Frist, I was struck by the number of people who confronted me asking why we would worry about saving chickens and pigs when there were people dying in Iraq, humans suffering in Darfur. One person - whose banal and uninformed statement earns her anonymity - told me that "Telling someone not to eat meat is like Catholics telling Jews not to be Jewish."

Is our movement really one that should relegated to the backseat? Is it just a matter of preference or personal philosophy? Many people think that caring about animals is a good thing - but that animal treatment is not a major political issue.
When asked about the nature of animal liberation even Dan Mathews, Vice President of PETA, asserted that our movement is not a political one, but a consumer one. Certainly, if we were to track the number or success of bills going through congress or listen to the presidential debates, it would be pretty clear that animal liberation is on the political backburner.

Or is it?

Whether or not politcians will admit it, many contemporary issues are undeniably tied to the way our society treats animals. Take the VT shootings for example. Whether or not Cho Seung-Hui turns out to have been an animal abuser, animal abuse is one of the most prevalent signs of a budding school shooter. Moreover, it signals other forms of violence; according to the American Humane Association, 88% of families engaging in child abuse also abuse their pets.

Here's another connection few people know about. Animal liberation would seem to be totally unrelated to the bills on undocumented immigration stalled before the Senate right now. But the next time you hear a commentator arguing that immigrants take jobs no American wants, its worth noting that 40,000 undocumented migrants work in slaughterhouses. Is it a coincidence that our most invisible workers are sent to the places we most want avoid seeing - where our meat comes from? Perhaps we should ask why so few Americans would work in such places. If we bring the immigrants out of the shadows, will the places they work also become visible?

Finally - and this is an issue that you'll be hearing from PAWS about a lot in the upcoming year - animal liberation ought to be part of any serious political solution to global warming. When global leaders met at the G-8, they quibbled over cutting automobile emissions and switching to renewable energy, all the while ignoring that 18% of global warming - more than transportation emissions - is a result of animal agriculture. To pretend that we can ignore the source of one-fifth of the problem in crafting a solution is an exercise in willful ignorance. Sorry Al Gore.

So it seems to me that whether or not our leaders choose to confront these issues directly, they cannot entirely avoid them. This seems to be the opening for Animal Liberation advocates. It requires no philosophical sea change of thinking to convince people that school shootings are bad, that jobs so horrendous that no American will take them might be in truly horrendous places, and that it is not a good idea to let the earth fry. Add in the health benefits, and it seems like you could convince people to free the animals without convincing them to care about animals in the slightest.

I do wonder, however, if we can truly acheive a cruelty free world without forcing people to accept that animals do truly have interests.

Read. Muse. Respond.

Alex '09


Welcome to the Princeton Animal Welfare Society's blog! Although your friendly PAWS officers (Jenny, Sam, and I) will be posting news, thoughts, and ideas about animal liberation at Princeton, the main purpose of this blog is to serve as a forum for broad discussion. PAWS originated with the aim of provoking a dialogue; this is your chance to participate.

In solidarity,

Alex '09