Compassionate Choices

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Compassionate Choices

By Vesanto Melina on CommonGround.ca
November 2009

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.
– Sir Paul McCartney

It baffles me that so many ‘animal lovers’ can chow down on a chunk of animal flesh. People attribute human emotions to their pets and take their beloved pup, cat or bird to an animal clinic when medical care is needed and then proceed to eat another animal that is equally intelligent and capable of feeling.

For example, pigs are easily as smart as dogs and have shown capabilities comparable to those of chimps in playing computer games, problem solving and using computers to control the environment in their pens. All ‘food animals’ can feel pain, fear and distress.

For interesting reading on this topic, see When Elephants Weep by Jeffrey Masson (available at libraries and bookstores) and Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy.

It is strange that people who are critical consumers when it comes to which jeans they buy will leave their food choices unexamined. If the possibility of choosing a plant-based diet arises, people may support their animal product choices based on outdated notions that animal protein is superior or required; that vegetarian meals necessarily take longer to cook; that they can’t change habits from childhood or that the animal had a reasonably good life up to the point it was sent to the slaughterhouse.

Each year, more than 55 billion pigs, cows, turkeys, chickens and other sentient land animals suffer and die in the world’s factory farms and slaughterhouses. Loving parents, dedicated teachers, kind hearted philanthropists and even environmental activists somehow run out of compassion or look the other way when it comes to creatures that we have designated as ‘food animals.’

Children are naturally compassionate and they sense our kinship with animals. When a youngster has raised a pig or chicken, she or he recognizes the cruelty involved in sending their little friend to ‘market.’ That child must be convinced, through a flood of tears, that a sudden switching off of sentiment is required and that such lack of concern for the animal’s plight is the norm in our culture.

Certainly, we have no dietary requirement for any animal products. “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life-cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence and for athletes.” See the latest version of the Association’s position on vegetarian diets.

In addition to giving us tons of fattening foods and increased risk of the major chronic diseases, factory-farming operations are breeding grounds that have provided us with swine flu and avian flu.

There are appetizing alternatives to all animal products. One that I look forward to trying is a cheap, healthy, 100 percent non-dairy ‘cheese’ for pizzas and other prepared dishes that was recently launched by Cargill. Apparently, it is an improvement over earlier cheese alternatives.