Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PETA annoy me

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.


  1. Hey Rebecca so loved reading your blog - its like it was seeing so many of my own thoughts laid out before me on this subject of religion.

    I so could not get over the Catholic Church excommunicating a little girl of 9 - its really unthinkable how doctrine and theology come before the mothers life - a complete denigration of women on so many levels and the irony of the fact that they say they are pro life when in fact they are prepared to forgo life just so their teachings are upheld. Which life is more valuable? Surely the value of human life is denied in this context. When dogma rules over the value of human life then something is seriously wrong.

    And yet prayer/meditation does us good - amazing - truly a practice for this modern/postmodern world.

    I liked the fact that it was pointed out in one of the links you provided that fundamentalists dont take the bible literally - they just choose the parts they want to focus on. Neva saw it that way before - cool stuff. Its all about interpretation and if thats the case how can it be literal? Even if we decide to live the bible as literally as possible its still an interpretation...

    Blind faith is dangerous its like why do we need to see the miraculous that these church leaders want to provide? Does it prove that God is the author of the miracles? If we look at the Old Testament there is more than one God and they were all able to provide miracles. Wouldnt the real miracle be people letting go of their dearly held doctrine and theology and then, maybe then we might stand a chance of finding one another instead of letting division stand between us.

    Here is something from the nakedpastor site you provided a link to:

    1. If your predjudice separates you from your brother, relinquish it.

    2. If your opinion separates you from your brother, forsake it.

    3. If your preference separates you from your brother, abandon it.

    4. If your theology separates you from your brother, reject it.

    5. If your religion separates you from your brother, reject it.

    6. If your religious institution separates you from your brother, renounce it.

    7. If your God separates you from your brother, deny it

    Now I like this in the the sense that it captures the value of humanity except for the fact it uses a male pronoun. Obviously its possible to use a gender inclusive pronoun in its place - its just as I found it on the naked pastor website.

    But I think its possible to hold to what you believe and respect others and this will work well if others do the same. Sadly this is not the case although there is a small but growing interfaith communities which I greatly admire. They are examples that humans can get on - despite having different beliefs they do not allow this to come between them and each other. Power to them.

    Nakedpastor is an interesting site and so was Nate Phelps blog - so lovely, and refreshing to read his post about the real bible

    Thanks again for this blog

  2. Actually PETA does do the things that you say. They clearly ask for 8 alternatives which you can read about on their website: http://savethesheep.com/report.asp

    I've listed them here as well (not all 8 because the comment size has a limit):

    More Humane Alternatives to Mulesing
    Many more humane, effective, and cost-efficient alternatives to mulesing are available, as has been discovered not only by Australian farmers who do not employ the procedure—a group that is estimated to include as much as 40 percent of producers (Beck et al. 1985 in Counsell 2001)—but also by all sheep farmers in the U.K. (the world’s fifth-largest supplier of greasy wool), where mulesing is generally prohibited in favor of alternative flystrike-prevention methods. Moreover, unlike mulesing, which only addresses breech strikes, most of the alternatives described below help prevent all forms of flystrike, including strikes on the breech, body, and face.

    Selection for Less Susceptible Breeds
    Experts regard genetic selection of sheep who are resistant to flystrike as the most effective long-term solution. Tellam and Bowles (1996) cite a study in which only 8 percent of 1-year-old resistant sheep suffered from fleece-rot (a condition that predisposes sheep to flystrike), as compared to 53 percent of susceptible sheep. Also, the incidence of body strike in the resistant and the susceptible groups was 1 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Selection of merinos with smoother skin would not only reduce flystrike, but would also improve wool quality. Scobie of AgResearch (2004) observes that “[w]ool quality tends to suffer on wrinkly sheep” and, citing the findings of other scientists, further reports, “Australian research has shown that mulesed wrinkly sheep were just as likely to be flystruck as plain-bodied sheep that were not mulesed.” Scobie et al. (2002) found that sheep with naturally occurring areas of bare skin on their breech were significantly less likely to develop flystrike. In these experimenters’ study, lambs with the greatest breech bareness were not flystruck, whereas 22 percent of those with the least breech bareness were—statistics that suggest that breeding for breech bareness can be an effective flystrike-prevention tool.

    Increased Monitoring and Treatment
    Perhaps the most effective option is simply to increase monitoring for early signs of flystrike and to provide treatment when necessary. Evidence gathered through communication with organic producers suggests that “fly strike is largely preventable if farmers keep sheep healthy and inspect them regularly” (Morris 2000 p 205). Dr. John Auty, a veterinarian who formerly worked with the Australian Department of Primary Industry as the assistant director of the Bureau of Animal Health, has been quoted as saying, “Mulesing does not free the sheep from blowfly strike, but proper husbandry practices, including close inspection of sheep, will reduce and virtually eliminate flystrike.” Early-warning computer-simulation models can help predict times of increased blowfly activity (Tellam and Bowles 1996) and may be useful for warning producers to increase monitoring efforts.

    PETA also does list on their GoVeg.com website very sensible talking points about the environmental and ethical concerns about eating meat. Which does just as you say go down a sensible path.