Saturday, June 21, 2008

farmer and nazi are two words that should not routinely be linked

Just watched an episode of 30 Days in which a hunter lives with PETA activists for a month. The hunter at first considers all of PETA's stories of animal abuse exaggerations, but eventually he gets to see it for himself and becomes more sympathetic to animal rights, although he doesn't give up hunting or become a vegan.

So I began wondering if there is a place in the world for omnivores who support humane farming, and I found the same answer I found the last time I wondered about that: no, there's not. I tried googling for "meat eaters for humane farming" and found nothing but a list of articles about how "humane farming" is a contradiction in terms and that there's basically no such thing as a humane carnivore.

This is unfortunate. Those who call for humane farming are organizations like PETA whose ultimate goal is to make this world vegan. They've got members, like a woman on the episode of 30 Days, who compare eating animals with the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews. And I think that's nuts.

I actually think the PETA people are similar to the anti-abortion people, in that they divide the world up into the innocent and the guilty. Animal rights people think of animals as innocent beings that should be saved, and humans as fairly evil (like a friend of mine who doesn't care if children are starving in Africa but is broken-hearted about animal deaths). Anti-abortion people think of babies as innocents that must be saved, but once you're out of the womb you're no longer innocent, which is why the anti-abortion people who are pro death penalty are not actually being inconsistent; they just want to save the "innocent."

The problem with extremists is that they don't change the world nearly as much as if they set realistic goals. The world will never be vegan. Ever. Forget about it.

But when I once joined a mailing list for humane farming, I started getting a lot of anti-meat email. And even though I was a (non-judgmental) vegetarian for many years, I considered all those vegetarian-activist emails a waste of my time and dropped off the list. Because there just wasn't much about making animal farming better, only stuff about stopping it altogether. Which as I mentioned before, ain't gonna happen.

(Once again, anti-abortion forces are in the same boat, so focused on ending abortion that they fail to sufficiently focus on stuff they they could actually change - if every person picketing an abortion clinic would volunteer with an organization devoted to giving pregnant women the help they need to bring a baby to term and care for it they could lessen the number of women getting abortions, but by choosing an all-or-nothing approach they fail to achieve much beyond the occasional murder of a doctor.)

PETA, by focusing on a narrow agenda, pushes away people who would support more humane farming. But because extremists have the most energy, they control the agenda because they're willing to do the work. I don't have the motivation to start an organization to make farming more humane, and the people with that motivation tend to be the people who are thinking of each animal as a little innocent person being murdered by Nazi-like carnivores.

It's a shame. If anyone knows of an organization working for humane farming that is not connected with PETA and is not set on vegetarianism, let me know. I may go back to vegetarianism one of these days - I probably eat 90% vegetarian anyway - but I'm never going to support an organization wasting resources on an impossible goal.

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