Eating our Words

A friend that is a veterinarian, and whom I greatly respect sent me this commentary piece entitled “Life in the Wild Can Be Pretty Wild”  regarding the misconceptions that animals rights activists/vegans/vegetarians have regarding the life of animals (after being released) they so fervently defend to be free. I have several friends who are vegan, and several others who are not. What struck me is the bias and disrespectful tone that undo the author’s ability to garner a wide audience. Here’s my response.

Thanks. I found some of the other articles much more informative, and am glad you shared this. I can see some of the points of the piece, but sadly this is a perfect example of the kind of snarky backlash that occurs when we reduce sides of an argument to false binaries. The tone here is dismissive and the discussion is neither supported nor developed. In fact, this is the way I teach my students not to write when trying to enter into a controversial debate.
Of course, this is an opinion piece, which seems to give free license to rant (a right I would protect, but not suggest as a primary mode of communication). Still, such a method is ineffective in persuading anyone except those who already agree with the author, or who are too afraid, or better, too lazy to try to think for themselves and actually consider multiple perspectives on the topic. I do not believe that any educated or dedicated animal rights activist is unaware of nature’s duality, or the existence of an essential predator and prey system, or the complex system of interrelated hierarchies and ecologies we are embedded in and that we rely on.
That said, I agree that there is, as with nearly all flawed and significantly biased media, false representations of both extreme sides of the issue. For example,

Animal rights groups, seizing on the unfortunate but fortunately rare cases of real animal abuse, often demand that Byzantine laws be passed that would end the occasionally real but usually vividly imagined tortures suffered by animals in agriculture.


They think it’s better to turn the animals loose to bask in the sun, drink from freshwater streams, procreate on public thoroughfares and do with more frequency what bears do in the woods.


Let’s not be concerned about predators taking down a calf. Wolves can be trusted to do it humanely. Forget about a herd of cattle wandering somewhere in the Four Corners region during the dead of winter. They can naturally forage for themselves, even in snow that can drift 8-10 ft. deep.


What’s lacking here is this acknowledgment (false or reductive representations of both extreme sides of the issue, and perpetuating those), and the importance of educating people how to read such images and sensational headlines as not being the absolute truth, and more importantly not representing all perspectives of even the majority of those on one far side of an issue when many, especially when they pursue some research, will land somewhere in between.


We do love extremism because it’s easy to diminish what we consider as polarizing views and reduce them to caricature, and even more easy to blame the opposition than to actually attempt to respectfully disagree with some illogical points therein, or identify numerous fallacies. Here, in this piece, hasty generalizations abound and hyperbolic descriptions attempt to distract.

There is nothing wrong with a natural death, albeit sometimes a violent one. There is no preventing mortality or the many intersecting circumstances that may deliver any of us at any time. What is perhaps overlooked here is the significant difference between that and being bred/born purposefully to live in unhealthy conditions en masse in order to be killed solely for another’s gain, without any choice in the matter. Certainly, if we were to do so with our own kind, which we seem to believe deserve so much better, we’d perhaps feel some concern and consider the act “evil.” I know well that we are damaging our health and our planet as a result of factory farming.
I do eat meat. I recognize the myriad ways that I could improve things by eating more local and organic products, and it is something I strive for. Regardless of my own admission of guilt and even hypocrisy in the matter, I am not against farming, or eating animals, clearly. Eating meat less often or eating local and better quality products would still shift the conversation if more people who had the means did so. The ultimate ability for us to have the environment to sustain us or our livestock depends on these very small considerations in the present.

It’s time to invite the animal rights people to the dinner table, ask them to put down their hidden cameras and have them spend a few days on the farm.


Too many of them show a shocking lack of knowledge about the animals they want to free.



For those who ignore the possibilities of understanding by neglecting to pursue credible research or other thoughts on the matter, by choice or because they have not been afforded the opportunity to learn how to think critically or do not know that they do not have to take at face value whatever appears in print, and I mean those on each far side of the spectrum, actually providing such knowledge to others with dissimilar views in a fair minded way would bridge the gap. There’s plenty we could all learn from one another, and from evaluating the source of our biases.

Let me know what I should bring to the dinner table.


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