Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why aren't mainstream churches at the forefront of the animal liberation movement?

Few things are as cruel--evil, actually--as factory farming, one of America's largest industries. Laboratory animal testing is also unbelievably cruel. Though many of us are opposed to any exploitation of non-human animals (as well as human animals), our consumer society makes such exploitation hard to avoid. From the jelly you eat to the wine you drink to the capsules you take--unless you are 100% vegan, which is difficult in most communities and in most cases-- animals were exploited to make the products.

Even for those who are comfortable with eating meat and who support some animal lab testing, it would seem crucial that the meat be from free-range animals and that the testing be done under the most humane standards imaginable (very rare in the U.S.). But the only ones who advocate for an end to the horrible cruelty are animal rights activists.

Why are mainstream churches not part of this movement? While physical and psychological suffering of billions of animals goes on every day, the churches' response, as a rule, is to have another factory farm-driven church supper and pray for peace. Bruce Friedrich writes:

One would be hard pressed to find a political race or cause in the U.S., other than the animal movement, that does not get significant support from, especially, progressive Jewish and Christian organizations and people.

Marianne Arbogast writes that there is hope, that some church members and clergy are taking the lead in awakening the consciousness of religious America to the horrors of institutionalized cruelty. I hope she is right. We expect nothing of churches who exist to suppress women and gays, but the rest of the denominations--the ones whose mission is not bigotry--need to look at the suffering of billions of creatures who have no voice, and who desperately need peace-loving humans to demand that the suffering end.

11 Comments:

My husband and I are trying to free ourselves of eating and using animal products. Our first step was to change from traditionally factory farm raised animals to free range animals, and I thought my heart would not hurt any longer, that I would be free from the guilt of eating the chicken or the egg, but I still think about the death of that animal, and so lately, I have been cutting out meat for a day or two at a time. It gets easier and I love vegetables. My relgious sisters and brothers think I am a freak and that I am being stupid and my friends laugh and my class mates say they are just chickens. My god, doesn't anyone have any compassion?

By Blogger zelda1, at 5:51 AM  

There is literature you can give to people, and there are videos. But perhaps a more effective approach with your siblings and friends would be to ask if they would be okay with their pets having to live in a 12"x12" space their entire lives. Or be force-fed every day. Or have parts of their bodies cut off without anesthesia. Or smashed against a wall. Or stomped to death. Or thrown live into boiling water. Or packed so tightly into a truck that their legs broke. Or have their legs pulled off.

By Blogger Diane, at 9:49 AM  

the testing be done under the most humane standards imaginable (very rare in the U.S.)

As someone who spent many years as a bench scientist working on projects that had to rely on animal models, I have to disagree with you that humane standards for lab research using animals is "very rare." I can assure you that in most academic settings, the AUCUC review and approval process I had to endure in the lab was much more difficult than any submission/review/approval process that I have ever had for conducting research on human beings (even children). I'm not discounting the fact that there are people in the lab that have the "G-d gave man dominion over the animals" so I can do as I damn well please (ironically, this was something I heard primarily from those of evangelical faiths, which may explain why mainstream churches aren't at the forefront) but I found very little of that in my own experiences.

One of the things I think also keeps people/churches that are generally compassionate from the animal liberation movement are that tactics that many of the "animal rights" organizations use (and, possibly, the hypocrisy of some of the celebrities that endorse &/or used to endorse those organizations).

I'm not sure if the video or general disgust tactic will work on most people. What I've found most effective is when vegies live the life consistently without getting too "preachy" or evangelical (it's pretty much the same as religion). It also helps that when you have people over for parties/meals to serve tasty and filling animal-free meals, especially when the recipes are easily reproduced by folks who aren't gourmet cooks. I had to cut back on my soy (thyroid problems), but I think one of the things that keeps people away from tofu is that it just doesn't seem to be the easiest thing to cook with. I was glad when I was able to start getting quorn here in the states (and that I tolerate it), since the gorunds gave me a great alternative for making a "meat" sauce for spaghetti squash and taco salads (I use the tenders for stir fry).

By Blogger Ol Cranky, at 12:16 PM  

I was not attacking the standards (though personally, I disagree with some of them); I was attacking the lax enforcement of them. Your experience was a good one, but over the past couple of decades, enforcement of lab standards has decreased. Look at Kensington: They still have the biggest contracts, and they are manufacturing cruelty, at this point.

In the 90's, there was a movement in place by the EPA to decrease a lot of testing and increase alternative testing when possible. That program was trashed by Christine Todd Whitman as soon as she became EPA director.

As for the tactics of some animal rights groups that turn people off--I believe they are necessary. Every movement, in my opinion, has to have an anarchist wing in order to move ahead (the lack of one is one of the things I believe hurt the women's movement). I understand the warning against being "preachy," and people must move ahead in the way they think is the most effective, but think of how angry we get when people say "Hey, stop that stuff about the Holocaust," or "Hey, stop going on about slavery." People who care about animal rights are treated not as messengers of morality, but as members of a silly fringe group. No other bearers of a truly moral message are treated that way by everyone, even "liberals."

(Personally, as a vegetarian of many decades, I find tofu unnecessary, though I do use it from time to time and am not sure why you had trouble cooking with it. You may have been using the wrong texture for the dishes you were preparing. There are so many soy products now, though, for those who choose not to use tofu. And then there are just good old vegetables.)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:36 PM  

The thing that finally pushed me over the edge, after wanting to go completely veg for most of my life, was subscribing to Vegetarian Times. I read it cover to cover every month, and soon began to identify myself as a vegetarian. I think I really needed to feel I wasn't "out there" (my dad used to make fun of me and try to scare me into eating meat). Now, I'm completely comfortable being vegetarian.

Dean Ornish says it's easier to make big changes rather than small ones. For example, when you try to go from whole milk to skim, if you drink whole milk every other day, you'll never completely switch--there will always be the memory of what you're "missing" with skim. He says go cold turkey, and having done the same when I cut out dairy, I agree. It was easier for me to do it that way.

But then, I never liked ice cream.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:55 PM  

Diane:

One of the weirdest things Ifound out while working at a small biopharmaceutical was that some of the [completely unnecessary from a clinical/scientific perspective] animal testing drug companies are required to do are actually mandated by the DOT. It is certainly well past time to review CFR to remove any testing that has absolutely no justification except for "we used to think it was necessary and codified it as law".

[I don't know why I had problems with tofu either, my stuff just never tasted anywhere near as good as the stuff I get at restaurants. All I can say is I was so glad when I was able to get quorn here and pretty happy when the taste of many soy based products - like soy cheese - improved greatly and morningstar farms and boca made a huge splash].

By Blogger Ol Cranky, at 4:21 PM  

You would be in Quorn heaven here. There is a much wider range of Quorn products available and you don't have to go to a HFS store to find them.

Which may be why the HFS here are so puny. No incentive to carry the items already sold in supermarkets.

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