NIU professor advocates veganism based on philosophy

Mylan Engel, a philosophy professor from Northern Illinois University, spoke to the EIU Philosphy Club in the Lecture Hall of the Doudna Fine Arts Center on Thursday. Engel’s talk, “Fishy Reasoning and the Ethics of Eating,” centered around the effects of raising animals for human consumption.

What Mylan Engel remembers most about his grandfather’s hog farm is when he was about 8 years old and he first saw piglets being castrated.

“It was horrifying,” Engel said. “My cousins were castrating those pigs like they were peeling carrots.”

Engel, a philosophy professor at Northern Illinois University, presented his reasons for following a vegan diet based on ethical principles and health reasons Thursday in the Doudna Fine Arts Center Lecture Hall.

Engel explained his advocacy for veganism by outlining HASK practices, or practices that knowingly harm, inflict suffering on or kill conscious sentient animals “for no good reason.”

He said in situations where no other resources are available, killing animals for food is acceptable, but in most situations, plant-based diets are viable options.

However, Engel did not always follow these guidelines; he himself was a hunter until the age of 20.

While in graduate school in 1984, Engel participated in competitive long distance running with a friend who was vegetarian.

He said he became convinced he could meet all his nutritional needs with a vegetarian diet when he realized his friend was the fittest person he had ever met.

“This guy could run circles around me, so I switched to a vegetarian diet,” Engel said.

Engel did not become vegan until 1996 when he attended the World Congress for Animals in Washington, D.C. and met animal rights leaders.

“Listening to them talk and seeing how healthy and vibrant all these vegans were around me, I realized that the only way I could be consistent with my own values was to give it all up,” Engel said.

Engel defended his premises by citing data that suggested humans’ nutritional needs could be met with a plant-based diet.

According to his presentation, the American Dietetic Association and the Dieticians of Canada share the position that vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate and can prevent and treat certain diseases, and well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets are appropriate for all ages.

One audience member asked about individual sustainable farming, citing that there were simple, efficient ways to kill animals that are quick and relatively painless.

Engel responded that killing animals when other options are available is still wrong because it is depriving the animal of half or more of its life.

“If in the middle of the night tonight when you’re sound asleep, I slit your throat and kill you painlessly, would I have harmed you?” Engel asked.

Engel also pointed out that vegan diets offer plenty of variety, contrary to what some might think.

“But this privilege of having a wide variety of choices, it’s ethically constrained,” Engel said. “The privilege stops once there’s a victim.”

Another audience member asked why eating eggs or milk was ethically wrong if those products were not sentient beings.

Engel said 900 million male chicks are grinded alive each year because they are considered byproducts of egg production, and similarly, bull calves are sold for veal and calves in general are taken from their mothers, causing them to grieve.

“We’re led to believe by the dairy council that milk, it’s a natural, it does a body good,” Engel said. “But human beings are the only mammalian species that drinks milk past the age of weaning.”

Another point of his lecture was that eating fish is unethical as well because studies indicate their intelligence and ability to feel pain, whether they are crushed by the weight of other fish in giant nets, suffocated on the surface, destroyed by the rapid changes in pressure, or kept in bad conditions on fish farms.

“Fish typically experience extremely painful deaths at our hands,” he said. “Treating fish in these ways harms them, causes them to suffer and kills them.”

Source: http://www.dailyeasternnews.com/2014/10/02/niu-professor-advocates-veganism-based-on-philosophy/

From Omnivore to Vegetarian to Vegan

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Hello everybody who finds and reads this blog!

I would never point fingers to people who are willing to learn and change, yet the other day I was considering my own life, beliefs and lifestyles over the years, and the finger is now pointed on me. I was raised like most people in the western world as an omnivore, milk was believed to be the best and healthiest thing, and nobody in my family would have ever considered a vegetarian or vegan diet acceptable. I was quite the odd one in my family (still am 🙂 when I decided to be a vegetarian at about 11 years of age. Everybody thought it was a “phase” and that it was almost “embarrassing”, which I now look back and am grateful most kids nowadays have so much more information available and could argue facts much more than I could. All I said was I would not eat meat again without any further explanation. Over the years I would be constantly asked about my health and why I was a vegetarian, I had no answers, I just was, there was no reason really, I just did not want meat! There was a short time of my 20 something years of vegetarianism, that I ate meat again, for maybe 1 year, because social pressure, brainwashing, marketing, advertising and the people I possibly tried to impress were a huge influence in my life and I thought “why not?”.

After that 1 year I was not feeling or thriving on a meat diet, I was feeling horrible physically. At the same time I started to look into charity work, where I realized I would be a huge hypocrite if I ate meat yet wanted to help animals. So I became a vegetarian again. I was so proud of myself to cut meat out of my life, yet I ate fish, dairy and eggs, and considered myself such a good person. I thought I was informed, and could sleep with a clean conscious. Little did I understand and know at that time. 

A few more years later I read a book “skinny bitch” and immediately went Vegan, for the right reasons, and that was for the utmost compassion for animals, yet I was not prepared nor was I educated on the subject and didn’t know how to get or ask for help and support. I checked every label for their ingredients and found hardly anything without milk, cream, eggs etc. Going for dinner I would ask the server if the salad dressing was vegan, they did not know what vegan meant, I said no honey, no dairy, no eggs, no cream, no butter etcetera… and they seriously didn’t have one item at the restaurant (at that time where I lived), that was vegan, it was a social nightmare and I felt so helpless because I didn’t know how to cook or prepare vegan food, all I knew was to eat fruits, veggies, chips and tofu. I am so grateful for all the vegan cookbooks available nowadays as well as many great Facebook groups!

Another few more years down the road, around Christmas, I had a lot of time off and started to read books about animal rights and a plant-based diet, I liked pages on Facebook and joined groups that involved veganism, either animal or food related. I read more and more and realized, what a hypocrite I was, how I could have ever considered being a vegetarian something superior than a meat-eater. The dairy industry (milk, cheese, veal) and the egg industry are most probably the worst of all offenders. For the first time in my life it “clicked”, I realized what was going on and connected, it was as if a lightbulb went on and I could connect the dots. Hazed by misleading advertising and large corporations, false and outdated scientific researches and health information, I could finally find my way to the truth. It was time to set new standards, rules, researches and point of views. After only 3 months I had noticed my asthma being completely gone, after over 30 years of every single drug or therapy nothing helped but going vegan did! I have more energy and I feel better than when I was 10 years younger, my blood work, heart rate, blood pressure are out of this world amazing. I have battled bad skin my whole life, everything is clear and perfect now. However these are all side effects, all I wanted to do with going vegan was to stop my part in this horrible torture, slavery and exploitation of innocent animals.

And going vegan made me a perfect target to be ridiculed and belittled. Yet it did not affect me because I was educated on the subject and had every counter fact ready available, and seriously if someone is willing to have a productive and knowledgeable talk without letting emotions and old beliefs come in their ways, the person questioning a vegan will be left with loads of information to think about, and there is no argument to be won on the subject of protein, health, animal welfare, environment, pollution, “naturalism”, history, tradition etc… 

I feel that everybody has the right to their opinion, but everybody should start at the same point when getting into an argument. If you want to discuss veganism, please read up on it and read both sides and we will both eventually come to the same conclusion. 

We have become a society of over consumption and poor health. We abuse whatever resources we have and rely on TV commercials and other large corporation advertising. 

If we raised every kid to be compassionate for ALL living beings, we would foster acceptance of every race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and species. Why would anybody consider that extreme or laughable?

I encourage every person who rather close their eyes to the terrors of hell that are going on in every animal transportation or slaughter house, be it from your organic, pasture raised, free range, certified humane or factory farmed animals, to watch the documentary “Earthlings”. There is no “humane” in killing. Don’t think you can sleep sound at night because you let a “label” fool you. And why would you want the animal to have a beautiful life to afterwards be killed? 

 

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“There is NO fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery.”

― Charles Darwin

Let me be honest, YOU (anybody who isn’t a vegan who thinks others are at fault for all the problems) are the problem not the farmers, not the corporations, not our governments. You fill all their pockets by demanding a product that not only kills billions of animals but causes world hunger, environmental pollution and health problems. With your own money you pay someone else to do the horrible dirty jobs of raising animals, impregnating them, transporting them and killing them.

If you love your dog, consider him being bred, tortured, killed, butchered, packaged and sold. 

I don’t want to point fingers or sound elitist but I would like to point out the facts, and I would like to be able to bring forward arguments I wished someone pointed out to me when I felt I was doing all I could. 

Slaves were once acceptable, women’s rights were non existing and smoking was allowed in hospitals, consider the changes and steps forward we have made. No matter where you are in this world, if you consider that you alone can do nothing, you can make a choice each day by deciding what to put on your plate. 

Please consider your kids or future kids, what world do you want to leave behind? Compassion for all living beings is the world we wish for all people on earth. 

 

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Let’s talk “dair(t)y”

MILK – DAIRY – CREAM – CHEESE – SOURCREAM – WHIPCREAM – ICECREAM – CHEESECAKE – BUTTER – COTTAGE CHEESE – CREAM-CHEESE could go on and on, dairy is pretty much everywhere! The advertising of milk is huge, and we are taught to believe it is healthy and necessary, let’s look at what is inside of milk: (Of course store purchased almond, soy, hemp or any kind of nut/bean milk also contains other additives, best is to make your own fresh plant milk at home with non GMO and Organic 🙂   whats-really-in-your-carton1Milk-Comparison-webwhats-in-your-milk-graphic

 

And what about the cows?

 

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Zoos Drive Animals Crazy

Zoos Drive Animals Crazy

 
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A polar bear’s natural range may be about a million times the size of a zoo enclosure.

Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images

In the mid-1990s, Gus, a polar bear in the Central Park Zoo, alarmed visitors by compulsively swimming figure eights in his pool, sometimes for 12 hours a day. He stalked children from his underwater window, prompting zoo staff to put up barriers to keep the frightened children away from his predatory gaze.* Gus’s neuroticism earned him the nickname “the bipolar bear,” a dose of Prozac, and $25,000 worth of behavioral therapy.  

Gus is one of the many mentally unstable animals featured in Laurel Braitman’s new book, Animal Madness: How Anxious Dogs, Compulsive Parrots, and Elephants in Recovery Help Us Understand Ourselves. The book features a dog that jumps out of a fourth floor apartment, a shin-biting miniature donkey, gorillas that sob, and compulsively masturbating walruses.* Much of the animal madness Braitman describes is caused by humans forcing animals to live in unnatural habitats, and the suffering that ensues is on display most starkly in zoos. “Zoos as institutions are deeply problematic,” Braitman told me. Gus, for example, was forced to live in an enclosure that is 0.00009 percent of the size his range would have been in his natural habitat. “It’s impossible to replicate even a slim fraction of the kind of life polar bears have in the wild,” Braitman writes.

Many animals cope with unstimulating or small environments through stereotypic behavior, which, in zoological parlance, is a repetitive behavior that serves no obvious purpose, such as pacing, bar biting, and Gus’ figure-eight swimming. Trichotillomania (repetitive hair plucking) and regurgitation and reingestation (the practice of repetitively vomiting and eating the vomit) are also common in captivity. According to Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson, authors of Animals Make Us Human, these behaviors, “almost never occur in the wild.” In captivity, these behaviors are so common that they have a name: “zoochosis,” or psychosis caused by confinement.

The disruption of family or pack units for the sake of breeding is another stressor in zoos, especially in species that form close-knit groups, such as gorillas and elephants. Zoo breeding programs, which are overseen by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Animal Exchange Database, move animals around the country when they identify a genetically suitable mate. Tom, a gorilla featured in Animal Madness, was moved hundreds of miles away because he was a good genetic match for another zoo’s gorilla. At the new zoo, he was abused by the other gorillas and lost a third of his body weight. Eventually, he was sent back home, only to be sent to another zoo again once he was nursed back to health. When his zookeepers visited him at his new zoo, he ran toward them sobbing and crying, following them until visitors complained that the zookeepers were “hogging the gorilla.” While a strong argument can be made for the practice of moving animals for breeding purposes in the case of endangered species, animals are also moved because a zoo has too many of one species. The Milwaukee Zoo writes on its website that exchanging animals with other zoos “helps to keep their collection fresh and exciting.”  

To combat zoochosis, many zoos have enrichment programs in which animals are given distracting toys or puzzles to play with, food that takes longer to eat, or more complex additions to their enclosures. While acknowledging that enrichment is better than nothing, Braitman says it is “a band aid … when you have a lemur in an enclosure, even if it’s a great enclosure, it’s still an enclosure.” Enrichment has been found to reduce stereotypic behavior 53 percent of the time.

Drugs are another common treatment for stereotypic behavior. “At every zoo where I spoke to someone, a psychopharmaceutical had been tried,” Braitman told me. She explained that pharmaceuticals are attractive to zoos because “they are a hell of a lot less expensive than re-doing your $2 million exhibit or getting rid of that problem creature.” But good luck getting some hard numbers on the practice. The AZA and the Smithsonian National Zoo declined to be interviewed for this article, and many zookeepers sign non-disclosure agreements. Braitman also found the industry hushed on this issue, likely because “finding out that the gorillas, badgers, giraffes, belugas, or wallabies on the other side of the glass are taking Valium, Prozac, or antipsychotics to deal with their lives as display animals is not exactly heartwarming news.” We do know, however, that the animal pharmaceutical industry is booming. In 2010, it did almost $6 billion in sales in the United States.

After reading Animal Madness, I visited the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. I encountered a pair of burrowing owls in a small glass enclosure whose informational placard unironically stated that their natural habitat is “open spaces.” I also encountered a meerkat pacing for nearly all of the four minutes I stood at his enclosure. In the Great Ape House, I watched Mandara, a 34-year-old female gorilla, as she sat with her back against the glass, facing away from the children gathered behind her. The children touched the glass to get her attention before losing interest. In Animals and Society, author Margo Demello explains that zoos often disappoint visitors: “People do not just want to see animals; they also want to connect with them, a condition impossible given the structural limitations of the zoo.”

The central conundrum of the zoo is that people love animals and remain curious about them, and yet the very animals that attract crowds pay dearly for our affection. Lowland gorillas in the wild have a range of roughly one to 16 miles, and Mandara’s enclosure, though full of tires, hay, and artificial tree trunks, is the tiniest fraction of that. While taking notes in the Great Ape House, a zoo volunteer inquired about what I was doing. I explained that I was a journalist writing a piece about animal well-being. My response seemed to concern her and she told me that the gorillas “are very happy here.” She encouraged me to touch a sample of gorilla hair she carried in a pouch. It was rough, but surprisingly human-like.

Zoos are, first and foremost, for people—not animals. Zoos exist to serve the human gaze. Braitman explains that this is a problem because “most animals don’t want to be stared at—that’s stressful. And an animal that you can’t see, that’s a pretty crappy zoo exhibit.” At the San Francisco zoo, the gorilla exhibit is recessed, so visitors look down on gorillas from above.* This is in some respects an inventive way to keep the gorillas enclosed without bars, glass, or electrical wires, but being seen from above puts the gorillas in a vulnerable position and makes them uncomfortable.

Zoos portray themselves as the arks of the animal kingdom, safeguarding the future of biodiversity. And it’s true that many zoos do have conservation, research, breeding, and reintroduction programs, which are certainly noble projects. But what about the rest of the animals that are not endangered? At the National Zoo, only one fifth of the animals are endangered or threatened.

And for those animals that are endangered, is it a requirement that the same kinds of animals being conserved also be kept in zoos? Zoos argue that they are promoting appreciation of wildlife that will translate into environmental conservationism. The AZA released a study in 2007 on the educational impact of zoos, arguing just this point. However, an examination of the study by researchers at Emory Universityfound the results exaggerated, noting that “there is no compelling or even particularly suggestive evidence for the claim that zoos and aquariums promote attitude change, education, and interest in conservation in their visitors.” Animals and Society highlights research that found that the average visitor spends 30 seconds to two minutes at an enclosure, and that most visitors do not read the labels at exhibits. Stephen Kellert, a leading social ecologist at Yale, argues that zoos encourage the notion that humans are superior to animals, rather than encouraging kinship with nature.

Many zoos cite the longer life expectancy of zoo animals to show that living conditions are humane. The animals are free from the danger of predators, so how bad can it be? To this, Braitman writes, “A tally of years lived and calorically balanced meals eaten doesn’t account for quality of life or the pleasure that can come from making one’s own decisions.” But longer life expectancies are not found in all captive animals. A study in the journal Science found that zoo elephants’ life spans were less than half that found in protected wild populations in Africa and Asia.

When I spoke with Braitman, she went to great lengths to explain that zoos’ failures to provide satisfactory habitats are not the fault of the zookeepers, adding that most truly want what is best for their animals. During my visit to the National Zoo, I too was touched by my encounters with zookeepers. I met one gingerly handling a tenrec (a hedgehog-like creature native to Madagascar) who knew the answer to every question I peppered him with about the animals in the exhibit.

But if not zoos, then what? Both Braitman and DeMello agree that our desire to interact with animals is a good impulse. DeMello suggests non-intrusive activities like whale watching. Braitman offers a more drastic prescription: End zoos as we know them and replace them with hands-on petting zoos, teaching farms, urban dairies, and wildlife rehabilitation centers, where people can interact with the kinds of animals “who often thrive in our presence,” such as “horses, donkeys, llamas, cows, pigs, goats, rabbits.” Braitman chides us for our delusion “that it is our right to see exotic wildlife like gorillas, dolphins, and elephants in every major American city … especially since it often costs the animals their sanity.”

 

Source: http://www.slate.com/blogs/wild_things/2014/06/20/animal_madness_zoochosis_stereotypic_behavior_and_problems_with_zoos.html?wpisrc=burger_bar