Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mad as Hell

In the words of anchorman Howard Beale, as so aptly portrayed by Peter Finch in the movie Network, I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.

What am I mad about?

I'm mad that the animal agriculture industry is perpetrating horrors the equivalent of the Holocaust on farm animals in this country every single day. Nobody seems to care, and nobody, except the tiny fraction of the population that we vegetarians and vegans represent, does anything about it. Why? Because to care would mean thinking about things that are unpleasant. To do something would require a change in lifestyle that might be inconvenient.

I'm mad at the fast-food industry for luring our children into their restaurants, and into a lifetime of horrible eating habits, with clowns, playgrounds and free toys. Even more, I'm mad at our government for allowing this to happen, particularly when armed with the knowledge that more and more of our children are becoming obese and diabetic at a younger and younger age.

My anger with the politicians doesn't stop there. Must they compound the problem by selling out our schools to the soft drink companies who install vending machines in the corridors and to the meat and dairy industries that dictate the school lunch program? Why is it that every single "food" item that receives a government subsidy is something that is bad for us (dairy, crops used as sweeteners, crops used for animal feed)? Shouldn't our government be spending its money to make our health better rather than worse?

I'm mad at meat-eating environmentalists who promote their causes while conveniently overlooking the 800-pound gorilla in the room—the animal agriculture industry. Not only is that industry our biggest (by far!) consumer and polluter of land and water, but it's all so unnecessary, and all so wasteful. I'm similarly mad at the medical professionals who promote a "healthy" diet, while always ensuring that it's based around ever-so-unhealthy meat and dairy products. I'm mad at "pacifists" who still condone the least pacifistic of all activities—the torture and killing of animals, and I'm mad at "feminists" who don't seem to have any problem continuing to consume dairy products and chickens' eggs despite the fact that they exploit the females of other species and require rape and the taking of babies from their mothers.

I'm mad at the way my fellow vegetarians and I are consistently discriminated against. We're uninvited to social events, left off of dinner invitations, made fun of, and all too often shunned by family, friends, co-workers and potential mates. What is our crime? We back up our moral convictions with our behavior. We "put our tofu where our mouth is" (to coin a phrase), and that makes other people feel uncomfortable. It's easier to avoid us than to think about the message we send by our example.

I'm mad too that none of this will change substantially in my generation's lifetime. It won't change in the lifetimes of our children or our grandchildren either, and maybe not until the earth, and the human life on it, is destroyed by our own greed and stupidity.

Most of all, though, I'm mad at the millions and millions of educated, compassionate people out there who continue to be part of the problem rather than the solution. In their brains they know the facts about animal rights, environmentalism and nutrition, but in their hearts they still don't "get it." The old saying goes that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of crisis, stand by and do nothing. Well, this is certainly a time of crisis. Where are these people? Can't they change their behavior just one little bit? Couldn't they manage to go just a meal or two without digging the graves of animals, the earth and themselves with their dinner forks? We need them on our side, and we need them now.

The other night I had a long conversation with an Episcopalian reverend. We talked a lot about my reasons for being vegan. She brought up the Biblical reference about the lion lying down with the lamb, and I finally had to ask her what her religious view was on killing animals for food. She thought about the question for a moment, and finally explained that there were different levels of morality—some moral ambitions that we can achieve within the confines of our society, and others that will have to wait for a better day and a better place. I didn't believe that for a moment, and from the look on her face I could tell she didn't either.

I personally don't want to live in a world where our morality changes to accommodate what's popular, pleasurable, and convenient. I don't want to live either in a society where the vast majority of the population is in a state of cognitive dissonance and rationalization—where their daily actions are totally inconsistent with their beliefs on the most basic concepts of what's good for them, how to treat others, and distinguishing right from wrong.

I guess I don't have a choice though. Room reservations on the other planets are awfully hard to come by right now, and around here almost everyone eats meat. I'm the odd man out.

I'm mad as hell about it.


Provoked said...

Well said! You read my mind.... I too am sick of this world with it's double speak: "I love animals" .... but "yeah, I eat them too". There is nothing so darn hard about being vegan - it's all very simple in fact.... but getting someone in this meat-eating world convinced is like resurrecting the dead. Indeed I believe they are as addicted to meat as a junkie to heroin. Great post - thanks for writing it.

For health & heart... Go VEGAN!

Anonymous said...

I agree. All those poor animals in Africa, especially Darfur, Sudan, Chad, Kenya, Sierra Leone. What are you doing to help them? Oh, Rwanda, too, and the children in Kenya who are being used as children soldiers, as they were in Sierra Leone.

Not to forget the 4 million or so displaced refugees in Iraq. Imagine, all the starving people in India and the cows wandering all over.

It is good one has their priorities straight, and knows about what to be "mad as hell."

And throwing in morality is really funny. I'd talk to a Buddhist instead of an Episcopalian. They would better be able to explain the morality to you. Really.

It is amusing that Eric Schlosser, the auther of Fast Food Nation, is the executive producer of the movie
based on Oil by Upton Sinclair, who also wrote Jungle. And now there is a world wide food shortage because we are planting corn for ethanol.

Should the animals or the homo sapiens be fed first?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Morality (the author of this blog)
agrees with the Supreme Court overturning the verdict giving the poor people of Alaska compensation for Exxon Mobil's oil spill, in favor of Exxon Mobil, in the ruling on the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Imagine. Writing a blog about loving animals, but favoring a decision causing the probable starvation and destruction of wildlife for millenium, and all so an oil company could save one day's earning. Think of all those bears with four arms.

Mark Warren Reinhardt said...

I never said I agreed with the Supreme Court decision in the Exxon Valdez case. I haven't even read it. As I understand it, that decision was strictly about whether punitive damages can exceed compensatory damages. I don't have strong feelings one way or the other. High punitive damage awards encourage people to sue wrongdoers, but at a high cost. It's a very inefficient way to distribute the wealth. The people who sue (and especially their lawyers) get rich, while others go uncompensated. Governmental fines that can be distributed more uniformly might be a better way to go in many cases.

It's easy to target Exxon, especially when they are making obscene profits off of America's addiction to gasoline. Certainly they should be punished and they should compensate the public for such wanton destruction of the environment. But I've never understood why it's somehow noble for the native fisherpersons to intentionally murder our wildlife, but its a travesty if Exxon kills those same fish by accident. In a perfect world I'd protect our wildlife from all who would do it harm.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take a very big stretch of the imagination to differentiate the situation of the fisherman, and their right to compensation, and EM doing huge contamination, by having a drunk driving one of their tankers through a dangerous stretch of waterway.

Fishing is a way of life in Alaska. It is a cultural phenomenon.

Didn't the Judge in the Rocky Flats award recently DOUBLE the punitive damages the Jury awarded, from about 500 to 100 million against Dow Chemical and others?

Those fisherman lost approximately 15k each when that judge reduced the award. It wasn't all going to the sharks (oops, attorneys). $15,000 is a lot of money to a poor fisherman in Alaska.

We are not talking about the corporate shrimpers in Latin America and Asia destroying indigenous populations with this case.

Government fines? What governement? Our corporations are all subsidized (corporate socialism) and through trade agreements, have moved most of American industry to other countries, causing part of the reason for our failing economy. This has resulted in our huge immigration problem, but I don't think Mexicans are vegetarians, so never mind!

If anyone wants it, I have a great quinoa recipe.

Mark Warren Reinhardt said...

Good quinoa recipies are always welcome on this blog!