Thursday, August 30, 2012

To Eat Meat or Not Eat Meat: A Meat Eaters Dilemma

To Eat Meat or Not Eat Meat: A Meat Eaters Dilemma

Over the last several months, I have been having an internal philosophical debate about the concept of eating meat.

This is not an issue that I have really given much thought to over the course of my life. Over the past several years, I have read an increasing number of books about how animals experience the world and the humane treatment of animals. This self-education has shifted my thinking a little. I have become more concerned over the welfare of farm animals and I would like to see the nation and world shift its practices to treatment that is more humane. However, this view did not really impact my behavior. My overall feeling was still that these farm animals which we consume for food exist for the very purpose of being consumed as food or producing food for us and while I would like them to have the best lives possible there is little that I can do about it and for that reason I have very little problem with eating meat or other food products produced by animals.

Over the last several months, a discussion about the issue of eating meat has grown between friends and family. As this discussion has been ongoing, my thoughts about the issues surrounding animal welfare and eating meat and farming have been evolving. Where I used to think there was nothing I could do to help farm animals obtain a more humane existence I have begun to as my friend puts it vote with my dollar. I try to influence businesses to adopt more animal friendly practices by looking for and buying more products that are produced through more humane treatment of animals. We have begun buying eggs produced by cage free chickens. We recently bought a whole chicken that was raised cage free. One thing I noticed is when switching from factory farm produced eggs to cage free eggs is that the shell on factory farmed eggs is brittle and easy to crack but the shell on the cage free eggs is sturdier and the membrane coating the inside of the shell is thick and the egg is more difficult to crack. While I have no scientific evidence to support this but from literature I have read it seems a logical conclusion to reach is that the cage free eggs are stronger because the chickens raised in a more humane environment are healthier and stronger themselves.

I am not going to pretend that the only thing that I buy is humanely raised food products because I do not. However, I do try to get them when I can. I am simply becoming more interested in them and I want to find out more information about those processes. It is not easy to find humanely raised farm products. It requires much more research and planning in one’s shopping routine. As I slowly conduct this research and become more well informed about the humane farming practices and where I can find these products I hope to shift my buying practices more heavily in this direction.

At some point during this internal debate, my thoughts often turn to the history of human kind. It seems pretty well established that throughout the course of human history we have relied at least in part on animals to provide us with sustenance. Even before humans began farming, we hunted animals for food. This brings up the point that maybe it is more humane to simply hunt our food than to raise it on a farm. Considering this point of view, I first turn to how the animals die. In the farming industry mechanisms are designed to deliver a death that is quick and as painless as possible. I am sure that there are occasions where this does not happen. It is my belief, without any data to back it up, that most of the time the mechanisms perform their function as designed. However, in hunting an animal that is shot seems much more likely to be only injured and not delivered an immediate and merciful death. Animals may be shot and then run frantically through the woods as their life essence drains out of them. Hunters often have to follow blood trails to find their quarry. This does not seem like a more humane way to provide sustenance.

The other aspect I consider when comparing farming to hunting is the life the animals lead prior to death or otherwise producing food. On its face, hunting seems the logical winner in this comparison. Animals that are hunted live out in the wild. They live the lives nature intended for them. However, nature is often a cruel and uninviting place. Animals may very well suffer at times during their lives in the wild. Animals may experience food or water shortages causing suffering and even death. Animals that are typically hunted for food are also prey species in the wild so they are animals that spend much of their lives being on alert, constantly wary of predators. They may be chased down to the point of exhaustion by predators and killed often being torn apart while still alive. In farming, the goal is to produce the most healthy and thus profitable animal possible. Animals are fed and watered well so that they can grow or produce as much as possible. Farm animals have no need to be ever vigilant for predators as they are protected. It would seem that as far as for the basic needs of food and safety farming provides a better life for our food animals.

The biggest problem is trying to provide a farm environment that meets the emotional and psychological needs of an animal. This is where industrial scale farming falls behind. I know there are many issues and needs for improvement in the farming industry so I will not get into that here.

I do believe that farming animals for sustenance can be done in a humane and sustainable way. The question is will we as a nation or world hold industry accountable to implementing those practices. That is the only way it will happen. Farming is a business and if the can make more money by cutting corners in animal welfare they will. A business is about making money. If they are not making money because people decide to only buy products produced through humane and sustainable methods business models will have to change. The people have to demand it. We have to vote with our money. Buy products from industries that do business the way you believe it should be done.

As a side note, I have also learned about the various benefits to our environment and our health that can be achieved by eating less meat. So, while I am a meat eater and probably always will be I believe it can be very beneficial to eat less meat.

I continue to think about all these issues on a regular basis. I try to educate myself on the facts of what is best for animals, what is best for me and what is best for our environment. I use these facts and my feelings to revise my position on this topic as I become more educated. I look forward to continually engaging myself in this internal debate and growing because of it.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Dogs Vs. Guns

One of the phenomenon that occur in our country that I fail to understand is the breed specific bans that have been implemented in various regions in the United States. These bans make even less sense to me when you look at it from the perspective of other things that we choose not to ban. The most obvious item to look at here is guns. We do not ban guns but we do ban dogs.

There apparently are people in this country that view certain breeds of dogs as inherently dangerous. This inherent danger that these breeds of dogs posses in their eyes warrants their being banned.  Guns on the other hand are inherently dangerous. The very purpose of a gun is to cause destruction of objects, injury, and death. The primary reason people own dogs is for companionship. The primary reasons people own guns may be for hunting (killing things), protection (threat of injury or death), or target shooting (destruction of objects).

I won't argue that dogs don't have the potential to be dangerous. However, there is no breed of dog that is in and of itself born dangerous. I would argue that any dog raised in a good home and has its needs met including proper socialization and training is a friendly dog to people.

Of course dogs can be trained to be a weapon as in the case of the police or military, but I would argue that those dogs are the least likely to be dangerous to anyone other than criminals because they have had extensive training and are handled by people with extensive training. Dogs have to be trained or conditioned to be made any danger.

Guns are dangerous right out of the box no training required.

Lets look at the statistics.

"Man and woman's best friend bites more than 4.7 million people a year.... Each year, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites; half of these are children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about 16 die." (Dog Bite Fact Sheet, CDC,
From a report you can generate on the CDC website at using 2009 statistics there were 8,021 fatal firearm deaths in just 16 states in the United States. (CDC, SAS output 16 states is roughly 32% of the US population. According to a report generated by the CDC website there were 73,505 gun shot wounds in 2010. (CDC, WISQARS Nonfatal Injury Reports,

I will admit to being surprised by the number of dog bites that occur each year. There is one glaring difference that cannot be ignored. Dogs cause 16 deaths nationwide while guns caused 8,021 in just 16 states. So dogs may cause more overall injuries but guns clearly cause excessively more deaths in comparison. Also not all dog bites require treatment in an emergency room. In fact less than half do. I am pretty sure that most if not all gun shot wounds require an ER visit.

There is another way to look at the statistics. I am not sure if there is any way to get solid data for this but think about how often each thing is present in daily life. Dogs are much more frequently present in our daily lives, even for those that don't own a dog. I think it is likely that most people at least see a dog every day if they are out and about. Now think about this. How often does the average person see a gun? I know I can count on my fingers the number of times I have seen a gun maybe even on one hand. A gun owner may not even see a gun every day. My thinking on this topic is for the amount of time a gun is present in daily life they cause more injuries. Guns are only present in certain circumstances. They are not present at all times like dogs are. So the opportunity to cause injury or death is greater for dogs because they are present more of the time yet guns still cause way more deaths than dogs do. To me that tells me that guns are much more dangerous.

I know many people that hunt and I enjoy eating the deer meat they have as a result of hunting, but there is no question that the sport of hunting is inherently dangerous. Many people are accidentally shot and sometimes killed across the United States while hunting. These are supposed to be people who have knowledge of guns and know what they are doing and yet accidents still happen during the limited time they are around guns. On the other hand I have never heard a report of a dog and their owner running the agility course at a dog show and suddenly their dog attacks and mauls them.

A good dog owner brings joy into the lives of others by having their dog around. A bad dog owner can potentially be a dangerous situation. A good gun owner may be able to put their firearm to good use, but they may also have an accident and shoot someone. A bad gun owner is dangerous to everyone.

My point is that if it is OK to ban dogs because they have the potential to be dangerous then it is at least equally acceptable to ban guns for the same reason.

Guns have many legitimate uses but there is no arguing that the purpose of a gun is to allow a person to kill something.

The purpose of a dog is to give big wet slobbery kisses.

Which sounds more dangerous to you.

I want emphasize I am not advocating banning guns simply drawing a compassion of banning guns and dogs.

I would encourage people to comment and defend with rational logical thoughts why it should be acceptable to ban dogs but not ban guns.

Saying the second amendment gives us the right to have guns is not a logical and rational defense. This amounts to saying my mommy said so when you were a kid as justification. I want to hear your own thoughts and opinions not those of people who are long since dead.