For those of you who missed Peter Singer’s presentation. Enjoy!
For those of you who missed Peter Singer’s presentation. Enjoy!
Last weekend, the weekend of November 30th, a handful of members of the BU Veg Society and others from the Boston area community trekked to Maple Farm Sanctuary, an animal sanctuary that provides lifelong homes for animals that have faced abuse and abandonment. The sanctuary is located in Mendon, Massachusetts and lies roughly forty-five minutes west of the Boston University campus. Needless to say, the drive was well worth the wait, and upon our arrival, two volunteers who were eager to show us around the facility and introduce us to the animals greeted us. Founded in 1998, Maple Farm sanctuary lies solely on the generous donations of people who care to provide housing, food, and veterinary services to the non-human animals that need it.
Our group last weekend was a mix of vegans, vegetarians and omnivores and it is my sincere hope that every one of us gained insight on the unique nature of each and every animal. I hope that everyone was able to see, as we moved through the stalls and met animals such as John the pig, that non-human animals, much like humans, are individuals, each with feelings and personalities.
Personally, I reflected on the way in which individual history shapes the personalities on non-human animals in the same way that our own pasts shape who we are today. In particular, I was reminded that non-human animals too can be subject to mental illness just as we are. I was particularly struck by the story a cow, Cassie, who suffers from extreme agoraphobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We were informed that she had been kept in the dark for the mass majority of her life and for this reason was incredibly photosensitive. It was only through careful reintroduction to light and cautious sensitivity to Cassie’s history of being abused and maltreated that the selfless volunteers at the sanctuary were able to finally install a window in her stall. Today, Cassie is able to venture from her room for a few minutes at a time and receives music therapy to help calm and sooth her.
While my experience at Maple Farm Sanctuary was certainly exciting and fun, (I had a truly amazing time getting to know everyone and better connecting with those who I have met before) it was also enlightening. My experience at Maple Farm Sanctuary better illuminated the real world consequences of our food choices, while at the same time showing me how a fulfilled life can be lived by the animals that are rescued. Sometimes it is not enough to simply watch a video on factory farming or read a book on speciesism (though these are also crucial to understanding the extent of cruelty against farmed animals); it is also important to visit facilities such as farm sanctuaries because they bring to light the severity of violence in our food system, and the legitimacy of our fight as people who care about the well being of non-human animals.
When you come face-to-face with a creature that has experienced cruelty as a direct result of your personal choices (and the choices of a nation), it can be hard not to feel guilty. But this guilt can be transformative and constructive, aiding you in effecting meaningful change in the lives of animals.
I drifted away from the group towards the end of the tour, as we were wrapping up, to visit the charming and curious llamas in their pen and they rushed over to greet me as I approached. They looked at me inquisitively and I stared back at them and something overtook me. The moment was powerful. I could not and cannot possibly conceive of subjecting that beautiful creature, or any creature, to slaughter, simply to satisfy my desires. Though we did not speak with word, those two llamas really brought home the message of why I choose to be vegan and I remain steadfast in my resolve to not treat animals as commodities.
Finally, we must not forget the purpose of farm sanctuaries; they exist solely because factory farming does too. If our food system didn’t work in the way that it does, these centers of refuge would not be necessary. And so, this unfortunate fact reminds me of what I can do to ensure that all animals can live out their days as the animals at Maple Farm Sanctuary do, beginning with my food choices.
If you are further interested in getting involved with the Maple Farm sanctuary, you can submit a donation here or you can become a volunteer here. The sanctuary is always looking for hard-working and compassionate volunteers to help them around the facility with a variety of projects. The Boston University Veg Society hopes to return to the sanctuary in the Spring semester to volunteer our services. You can also visit and like their Facebook and check out their Café Press online store! A portion of the proceeds goes towards supporting the Maple Farm Sanctuary.
Lindsay Crockett is a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences studying Biology and WGS studies. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, members of the Veg Society attended an event sponsored by BU Student Government entitled “Food Mythbusters.” The event was a screening of a new short by the same name followed by a brief discussion with representatives of different food and sustainability organizations. Attending the event were students from several student groups, all having a shared interest in food, the environment, and social justice.
The film focused on dispelling some of the myths around our food system. It asserted that we do not need corporate, industrialized agriculture to feed the growing world population. It highlighted that small, organic, local agriculture is just as productive as our current system, and much more sustainable in the long-term.
The individuals in the audience at the event probably did not need to be convinced by the film that corporate controlled agriculture is not the right path. However, the film is a powerful tool to be used when talking about sustainable agriculture with people who aren’t yet on board with these progressive ideas.
While the film touched on important points, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking what the film could have addressed and didn’t. The myths discussed in the film do not top the list of the myths that I often hear when discussing the food system. At the top of my list is the notion that we can eat as much meat, dairy, and eggs as we want and, as long as we use CLF light bulb, ride a bike, and recycle, we don’t have to worry about the impact we are having on the planet.
This film could have been a tool to inform people that animal agriculture is one of the top sources of water and air pollution, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions. It could have highlighted how eating more vegan meals is one of the most powerful ways an individual can help stop the destruction of our planet. These are two topics most discussions of sustainable food like to conveniently avoid, and it’d be nice to have a short, effective film that addresses them.
“Agriculture, particularly meat and dairy products, accounts for 70% of global freshwater consumption, 38% of the total land use and 19% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, says the report, which has been launched to coincide with UN World Environment day on Saturday.” – The Guardian 6/2/10
I understand that it may be unreasonable for me to expect the film to address the issues that matter most to me, and that it was intended to combat the notion that we need industrial agriculture. However, based on the research I’ve done, we wouldn’t need corporate agriculture if the demand for meat wasn’t so high. The rise in the demand for meat in the last 50 years is correlated with the rise in industrial agriculture. Among local and organic food advocates, it’s popular to criticize the huge monocultures of soy and corn that require massive amounts of artificial fertilizer and pesticides.
However, given that the vast majority of all corn and soy is fed to livestock, it stands to reason that if we didn’t need to feed it to livestock (i.e. if we didn’t eat meat), we wouldn’t need these destructive farming practices. Rather than just arguing against the idea of corporate agriculture, the film could have demonstrated that an individual can fight corporate agriculture with her every day food choices by choosing not to eat meat.
While aspects of the film disappointed me, it was really great to see different student groups come together around such an important issue. I hope to see this kind of collaborative environment at future events.
Graham Boswell is a junior in the College of Fine Arts studying cello performance. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.
A great many issues in this country which begin as inherently moral have become so highly politicized that any discussion surrounding them becomes dry and heavily saturated with platitudes. The food industry is not one such area in which only soundbytes and clichés dominate the conversation. When I first became a vegetarian, and then a vegan, my personal reasons for doing so were largely governed by the abysmal treatment of animals in factory farms, with the health benefits as a close second; however, the arenas of vegetarianism, veganism, and the food industry as a whole are multifaceted and are as much about human rights as animal rights.
According to the University of Windsor’s recent study on the psychological effects on workers in the slaughterhouse profession, profound trauma has emerged in countless individuals whose job it is to kill the animals which we consume. In short, it is not an overstatement to say that the work these men are employed to perform destroys their psyche, sense of inner peace, and overall well-being. In fact, the book Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry not only chronicles the plight of billions of animals, but of the workers who suffer through a significant mental and emotional toll.
The Texas Observer Article “PTSD in the Slaughterhouse” summarizes this phenomenon perfectly. The fact that these workers are required to take life but are forbidden to feel the emotional ramifications of such a task often leads to substance abuse, many forms of anxiety, and domestic violence. Incidentally, the meat packing industry is the only industry to be singled out by Human Rights Watch for broad workers rights abuses – a testament to the fact that much, much more needs to be done to get society to view the food industry more holistically. The desensitization to which these workers are subjected adversely affects their ability to adjust into a society where killing is “bad,” and a general fondness for animals is “good.”
My personal opinion is that the human spirit is not designed to adapt to such brutality. For the very same reasons I believe war is unnatural, for the very same reasons I believe that our inclination for compassion innately overrides our propensity for hostility, I wish to see an end to the barbaric practice of slaughtering animals in such a mechanized and inhumane fashion. So, why am I a vegan? I aim to reject cruelty to sentient beings, both non-human and human. I reject the speciesist approach to food consumption, but also view the issue through a human rights paradigm.
Gunita Singh is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying political science. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BU Dining’s annual lobster night is again upon us. As the sole animal advocacy student organization on campus, we’d like to offer you another perspective on the event, and hopefully inspire you to think about it more critically.
The truth is that lobsters feel pain. Researchers specializing in animal behavior have demonstrated this several times. In fact, physical pain and emotional stress are important survival mechanism for all animals. Sure, the suffering a lobster experiences may be different than what a human experiences, but that doesn’t make it insignificant. To unnecessarily cause another individual pain when there are easy alternatives is inherently unethical.
The Humane Slaughter act, the only federal law regulating how animals raised for food are slaughtered, provides minimal humane consideration for the slaughter of cows, pigs, goats, and sheep, but excludes poultry and seafood. As is the common method of preparing lobsters, BU Dining will be boiling these animals alive on Thursday night. To the members of our organization, this represents a complete disregard for the animals’ basic interest to be free from pain. And we’re not just talking about a few lobsters, either- we’ve ordered 7,400 lobsters for the event.
Please, consider the impact that your food choices have on the other sentient creatures of the planet.
The Vegetarian Society is holding a dinner for anyone who does not want to participate in lobster night this Thursday. Our Facebook event page is here. We hope to see you there!