I'm not against the ethical treatment of animals, I think that PETA has done some sterling work in relation to having people think about the ways animals react to things and considering them as beings versus objects and this isn't a bad thing. However, I do object to PETA's demand that Australian farmers stop mulesing their sheep and their critique of Sam Neil and his support of the meat industry.
Lets start with mulesing. PETA state that it's "cruel and painful and that more humane alternatives exist" (wikipedia), without actually stating what "more humane" alternatives there are... you know being useful instead of just condemning. It would be nice if they decided to research said humane alternatives and provide a response instead of getting businesses to boycott Australian wool for our alleged cruel practices.
The Wikipedia article linked to above has a good summary of the debate and what is being done where. If you want more education on the whole debate, that's not a bad place to start.
I don't know if PETA have actually seen a sheep with flystrike, but my mother cared for one a couple of years ago, and what she described sounds far worse than mulesing. She told me that the sheep looked like it was walking mince meat... it was in obvious pain and midway through the infestation was unable to walk and barely able to feed itself. It eventually healed thanks to both my parents care and is now a healthy sheep... but is it crueller to provide short-term pain (much like a vaccination) or let an animal (or person) suffer the consequences of an infestation/disease because the short-term pain is considered cruel?
Now Sam Neil. You can see his long term involvement with the meat industry here, here, here, and here. Some of them are funny, go and see.... this post can wait. He also did, though barely recognisable, an ad for vegetarian food, suggesting that vegetarianism is the next step in human evolution. Clearly Sam Neil also has bills to pay.
Anyway... What annoyed me about PETA's commentary on Sam Neil's personal decision to be, or not to be, involved in an ad campaign was their language and assumptions. Firstly they banter around the word "Jurassic" because he was in the movies... failing completely to realise that the Jurassic period had no ape like ancestors around at the time, and that all the mammals at that time were small rat-racoon like things (evolution of mammals here and human evolution here). The first primates, our ancestors, appeared about the same time that dinosaurs died out.
Of course PETA could be suggesting that meat eating is a dinosaur thing... but really most of the mammals around at that time would have been insectivores. And Sam Neil is right, well the script writer for the ads that Sam appeared in, is right. Without eating meat, it is unlikely that we'd be the species we are today. Whether we consume too much meat or not is another issue... and one I'll address shortly.
The whole "Meat: It's What's Rotting in Your Colon" myth that PETA continue to push, without any medical citations also annoys me. Snopes have a good commentary on that here, but lets just think about the whole claim logically. I eat meat... I have various digestive issues that relate to fructose malabsorption and the fact that I have had my gall bladder removed recently, so I also have what is called an enzyme dump, which will rectify itself in time. On that basis, my colon is often spasming due the laxative effect of the fructose and enzymes... on the days that it is not, I certainly don't notice the horrible effects of meat rotting in my colon. I live with two other people, and I don't notice any horrible effects of meat rotting in their colon... and given what road kill smells like, surely my house would smell the same if meat was rotting in anyone's colon here.
Oddly enough its actually very hard to dig up enough information about the veracity of the claim that red meat (or any meat) rots in your colon. The internet is full of people with opinions and agendas to push (hello there) and so there are doctors who are devoutly religious who have vegetarian agendas to push, PETA with their agenda to push, misinformation and other stuff... This site suggests that meat can take some days to digest, depending on your individual circumstances.
Wikipedia (and here) doesn't suggest that meat sits in the digestive system for days, and as its the most reliable source of information I can find at the moment, I'm going with them.
Now, if PETA had gone down a sensible path... suggesting, for example, that farming animals is bad for the environment, uses too much water and produces large amounts of Greenhouse gas, as the WhyVeg.com people have leaned to, then they'd be more credible about the whole thing. If they'd run with, "abattoirs are horrible places and animals suffer terribly in them AND meat eating is terribly bad for the environment" I probably wouldn't be so annoyed with them.
In the end, I personally recommend eating less meat... don't eat it every day, exist on less, eat more vegetables and fruit than meat, etc. The current editorial thing on WhyVeg.com advocates that, and that is a far more successful message... tap into the growing green consciousness and welfare of animals versus scoring cheap political points.
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