Animal rights activist and philosopher Peter Singer has won a well deserved prize of $1 million. The 2021 Berggruen Prize for Philosophy & Culture was awarded to Professor Singer for being an influential thinker whose practical ethics provided a framework for animal rights, effective altruism, and the global eradication of poverty.
Singer became one of the most influential people in the growth of the compassion for animals movement when he wrote the book, Animal Liberation in 1975. Since then he has been a proponent of animal rights and vegetarianism not only amongst the public but in academic circles as well.
In Animal Liberation, Singer argued that the pain and suffering inflicted by the current treatment of animals in food production and research is morally indefensible. Singer went beyond argument to direct action. He co-founded the Australian Federation of Animal Societies, now Animals Australia, the country’s largest and most effective advocate for animals. Working globally, he became a major intellectual force in the modern animal rights movement and related campaigns against factory farming and in favor of vegetarianism.
Singer explains that ”More than 50 years ago, I learned that many of the animals whose flesh I was then eating were condemned to miserable lives crowded into the dim sheds of factory farms. I became a vegetarian and wrote Animal Liberation, which in turn contributed to the rise of the modern animal rights movement. Factory farming remains a horror, ruthlessly exploiting tens of billions of land animals every year, and vast numbers of fish, too. Animal production is also a major contributor to climate change, and adds to the risk of pandemics. So I plan to donate more than a third of the money to organizations combating factory farming.”
We are glad that Singer has been given this recognition. We should all also be mindful that the younger animal rights activists stand on the shoulders of those who went before them. We hope his work continues to serve as an inspiration in the years to come.
Mexico just became the 41st country in the world, and the first in North America, to ban the testing of cosmetics on animals, following a unanimous vote in the country’s Senate. Not only are they banning any testing within Mexico, but also preventing the manufacture, import and marketing of products that have been tested on animals in any other country. This comes as a result of a multi-year campaign by Humane Society International, and was embraced by many of the industry’s largest companies, including Proctor & Gamble, Avon, L’Oreal, and Unilever among others, who are all working to replace animal testing with more viable human-relevant testing methods.
Antón Aguilar, executive director of Humane Society International (HSI) in Mexico, said. “This is a monumental step forward for animals, consumers and science in Mexico, and this ground-breaking legislation leads the way for the Americas to become the next cruelty-free beauty market, and brings us one bunny-leap closer to a global ban.”
Mexico joins 40 other countries worldwide that have already banned animal testing. Here in the US, California was the first state to pass a ban on cosmetic animal testing in 2018 and six additional states (Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Hawaii, and Maine) followed. Three additional states, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York, are expected to follow. At the federal level, the Humane Cosmetics Act was introduced in 2019 by bipartisan politicians, including vegan Senator Cory Booker to ban cosmetic animal testing nationwide, as well as prohibit the import of cosmetics tested on animals from countries worldwide. Currently, more than 900 companies officially endorse the Humane Cosmetics Act.
If you care about the animals and value their lives and welfare, you’re not alone. Caring about animals has never been more popular in America.
According to a poll conducted by the ASPCA, 94% of Americans agree that animals raised for food deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty. Yet the majority of the nearly 10 billion (yes 10 billion) farm animals raised each year in the U.S. suffer in conditions that consumers would not accept if they could see them. Most of our meat, milk and eggs come from industrial farms where efficiency trumps welfare—and animals are paying the price. Read more
Factory farming is cruel and has got to stop. However, saving the farm animals is often incremental work in progress as we work for the day when the animals are free.
When animals are raised in factory farm conditions, they are crammed into small spaces, and held in very unhygienic conditions such that diseases can run rampant. They are sometimes subject to horrific abuse. They are treated like machine parts with no regard to pain and suffering, and yet animals can feel pain just like we do.
But here’s a step in the right direction. The Supreme Court recently rejected a challenge by the North American Meat Institute to California’s Proposition 12, the strongest law in the world addressing farm animal confinement.
In 2006, Congress effectively banned horsemeat by forbidding the U.S. Department of Agriculture to spend money on inspecting slaughterhouses. Meat plants can’t operate without USDA inspection. The last three horse slaughterhouses in the United States (two in Texas and one in Illinois) closed in 2007, one year after the ban.
However, no federal law exists to block the transport of horses across American borders for slaughter in Canada or Mexico. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that more than 100,000 American horses are exported to Canadian and Mexican slaughterhouses each year.
However, the Safeguard American Food Exports or SAFE Act, with bipartisan support in Congress, would “permanently ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption” and “prohibit the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses to be sold overseas.” This bill has been introduced this year and we hope for its passage.
César Chávez, the famous civil rights leader and labor organizer who did so much for farm workers, was also a vegetarian. Chavez was a genuinely religious and spiritual figure as well as a community organizer and social entrepreneur, a champion of nonviolent social change, and a crusader for the environment. He also deeply loved his two German Shepherds.
The German Shepherds provided security for Chávez and his family at La Paz, the United Farm Workers’ headquarters in Keene, Calif. They went almost everywhere with him, including on the road when he traveled by car. He credited them with deepening his belief that without exception, all lives are valuable.
The dogs even helped deepen his commitment to vegetarianism. As he said, “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings. The basis for peace is respecting all creatures.”
Chávez also was committed to animal rights. Chavez said. “Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society… “Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting, and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence.”
It’s the latest thing. They can now make vegan leather from plants.
First of all what is vegan leather? Vegan leather is an ethical and cruelty-free fabric that mimics the look and feel of genuine leather. Vegan leather is also referred to as faux leather, polyester leather, or pleather. While genuine leather is made from animal hides, vegan leather is usually made from two synthetic plastic-based materials: polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane. While this avoids the cruelty of using animal hides, the plastic-based materials are not biodegradable, so they may contribute to landfills and plastic pollution.
But now there are companies making vegan leather from plants. One company uses cactus. This cruelty-free material allows the brand to cut down on water-use. Another company uses the fique plant, grown in Colombia. The plant has long been used to make fibers and other materials and now can be used for vegan leather.
The following is an excerpt from our book “Say No to Meat“, a book to guide the new vegetarian on ditching meat and going veg! Written in question and answer format, it addresses key issues along with practical and social aspects of being a vegetarian.
Will consuming eggs and dairy still result in animal suffering?
Those who have cut out meat but still consume eggs and dairy products because they do not directly kill the animal are well intentioned. At one time, it was not that hard on an animal to supply eggs or milk, but with factory farming that is no longer the case. Unfortunately these days, dairy and egg production cause a lot of animal suffering. The objective of a dairy or egg farmer is to produce as much milk or as many eggs as possible for the least possible cost, so farmers give very little thought to caring for the animals, except to ensure that they continue to produce. Dairy cows and egg-laying chickens have miserable lives and end up in the slaughterhouse just like their meat-producing relatives.
Slaughterhouses kill more than just animals. Meatpacking plants, along with prisons, have become the nation’s leading hot spots for the spread of COVID-19 infections.
Thousands of meatpacking workers have fallen ill, many have died. Virus outbreaks at meatpacking plants have lead to the virus spreading more widely in surrounding communities, said Nicholas Christakis, director of Yale University’s Human Nature Lab and a specialist in how contagion travels through social networks.
While we wrote back in June 2020 about Covid 19 spreading in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, we now know so much more about how the virus spreads in these places. Slaughterhouses and meat processing plants are favorable environments for SARS-CoV-2 transmission. The virus thrives in lower temperatures and in very high or very low relative humidity. Metallic surfaces retain live viruses. Aerosols, densely combining dust, feathers, and feces, are produced in the plants, and intense water use carries materials extensively over surfaces. Workers must speak loudly or shout over the noise, releasing more droplets and spreading them further. Workplaces are crowded, and social distancing is difficult. The plight of the slaughterhouse workers was already dire, but this just puts another layer on their hardship.
The COVID 19 pandemic seems to have arisen from a perfect storm. Eating animals, wearing their fur, keeping wild animals in zoos, and having an unnatural relationship with nature have created the perfect storm. With human to human transmission, that storm has become a hurricane.
COVID 19 is a zoonosis. Zoonotic diseases are illnesses that can spread between animals and people. The flu and Ebola are also zoonoses. While scientist are still trying to understand the origin of the virus, it appears that it originated in bats. Bats are eaten in China and so are pangolins. The virus could have infected people directly or through intermediate animals, possibly pangolins or a combination of both. It begs the question, what are we doing eating these animals? Is it worth the amount it is costing us and the rest of humanity?