Category Archives: Our Legacy

The Guilt of Meat-Eating, the Forgiveness of Animals, the Redemption of Veganism

I recently finished reading Mark Hawthorne’s book, Striking at the Roots: A Practical Gide to Animal Activism. In the last chapter, he talks a lot about guilt, and how animal rights activists generally carry around a lot of it: they often feel like they’re not doing enough for animals, they feel guilty if they take time away from activism, they feel guilty if they say the wrong thing or don’t say enough….the list goes on.

I can relate to this, mainly because the suffering of animals is never far from my mind.  If it’s a bitterly cold day outside, I think of the animals on slaughterhouse trucks and feel guilty that I don’t mention them when someone complains about the temperature outside. When I’m menstruating, a cycle that is always accompanied by tender breasts and painful uterine cramps for me, I think of the mother cows, their lactating and swollen udders attached to mechanical milk machines multiple times a day, and I feel guilty for giving in to any of my own pain. Perhaps some of it is not so much guilt as it is an awareness: now that I know what animals endure day after day, it changes the context for how I process my own suffering. Continue reading

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Veganism and Elitism

There’s an old song by Melissa Etheridge called, I Could Have Been You.  The lyrics to the chorus are this:

I could have been you
You could have been me
One small change that shapes your destiny
If you want the proof
Cut me and you’ll see
I could have been you
You could have been me

From the first time I heard this song in 1995, those lyrics have stayed with me, often coming to mind when I read or witness any form of injustice or abuse, whether inflicted upon humans or animals. Needless to say, I carry a lot of white guilt too.  And while I had no more control over the colour of my skin or the country and circumstance to which I was born into any more than anybody else did, I frequently wonder why I got to have it so good compared to so many others. Continue reading

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Not-So-Super Predators

An interesting study was published last week comparing human predators to animal predators.  The subject of the four-decade study was the predator-prey hunt of wild animals, including fish populations, and included data from every continent except for Antarctica.  One of the study’s conclusive findings?  Human predators not only target and kill large, fully grown animals in the wild, “as much as nine times the rate of other predators,” but they also exploit mature and adult species of fish – meaning the biggest – at 14 times the rate as other marine predators.  The study even calls humans “a global super predator” right there in the publication.

Now before we beat our chests and beam with irrational pride over our self-appointed place on the food chain, this pattern certainly doesn’t speak to our intelligence or capacity for long-term planning.  ‘Cause here’s the part I found really interesting: when the study looked at nearly 400 fish species, it discovered that predator animals, like diving birds who eat fish or other marine animals, typically prey on the young and feeble.  In fact, those predators “overwhelmingly kill newborns and juveniles“.  What this means is that the adults who have reached sexual maturity and have the capacity to breed, are generally left alone and thus able to keep their population steady.  Whereas humans, “kill the more mature animals that are in their reproductive primes,” which has an enormous impact on current fish population and sustainability.  (A prime example of this: I was recently researching how caviar is “harvested” from sturgeon fish.  Humans catch and kill a female sturgeon just as she is preparing to lay her eggs.  They cut her open, scoop them out and sell them as a “delicacy” to suppliers for overpriced restaurants. Guess whose on the endangered species list now?) Continue reading

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