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Feeding the Hungry Without Hurting Animals

Posted by at 5:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)


frank_cullenWe’ve all met people who, despite their other fine qualities and good works, just “don’t get it” when it comes to animals. Perhaps regarding animals as tools and resources is too deeply and culturally ingrained in them. Maybe they fear that what seems to us the logical extension of “rights” to all sentient creatures would require a disorienting upheaval in law, government, business, culture, and even religion. Or perhaps they are so distressed by the scope of suffering and injustice within human society that they feel the plight of nonhuman animals has to remain at the bottom of any agenda.

For me, the truth is that the well-being of all life is indivisible. It is possible that if the facts are presented that way to our otherwise charitable and responsible friends, they, too, might “get it.” I’m a longtime member of PETA, and I am grateful for the opportunity that PETA has given me to write this message.

Treating animals as slaves or products does not improve the human condition beyond a temporarily filled stomach and does great harm to people in the long run. But when people are starving, displaced, and hopeless, or even fighting over rapidly vanishing potable water and arable land (as news reports about Darfur prove is happening now), who can blame them for accepting whatever food is offered, even if it is the flesh of a fellow creature?

Yet raising animals for food is the surest way for humans, even well-intentioned ones, to bring on environmental disaster. Even the production and burning of dirty coal or the heedless use of gas-guzzling cars, tankers, and airplanes, as bad as they all are, do not pollute as much as raising millions of cows, sheep, chickens, and pigs.

“Producing” animals for food causes more misery for humans and the environment than anything else. “Farm” or “ranch” animals produce methane gas, which is the number one cause of pollution (will someone remind Al Gore of that?). Raising animals for food turns arable land into desert, and thus, wars are being fought over rapidly shrinking arable land and supplies of water, and ever more people die because of that conflict.

Aid agencies, like CARE and Oxfam, try with a good heart to relieve the suffering that they see (and do work that most of us have not the heart for), but they don’t seem focused on a truly sustainable strategy. Heifer International claims to help people develop a sustainable living, but how does it help people to give them livestock to raise who damage crop land and produce more animals to compete with humans for grain and water?

Far better, in my opinion, are two small charities, Vegfam and HIPPO, which have a larger and clearer sense of the dimensions of disaster that threaten the earth, humans, and nonhuman animals. Both support a plant-based diet and the liberation of animals by providing seeds, fruit trees, plants, and irrigation projects to improve living conditions for people who are trying desperately to survive on several continents.

vegfam

By all means, please continue to support PETA in its great work, but when you want to make a contribution to help the most abused among our own human species, pick only those charities that are also working to end exploitation of the environment and the other sentient beings who should be allowed to share this earth with us. And tell your friends who “don’t get it” about those charities. It’s a good way to lead them to understand that the spread of compassion and good work is as interconnected as the spread of exploitation and misery. Who knows? Some of them might “get it” and become members of PETA.

-Posted by guest blogger and PETA member Frank Cullen of Edgewood, New Mexico

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    Phyllis says...

    November 7th, 2008, 9:57 am

    FANTASTIC! I am so glad to get this information!! I’ve been sending contributions to a feed-the-hungry charity and inclosing a note asking them not to purchase meat with it but never knowing if my donation was causing more harm than good. Thanks so much for sharing this informaion – I’m sure going to pass it along to others.

    christine says...

    November 8th, 2008, 11:36 am

    Thank-you so much for showing the other side of humanitarian aid. I never realized the added destruction caused by simply feeding the people meat and supplying cows etc. From now on when I give I will check first with the animals and environment on my list.

    teresa says...

    November 11th, 2008, 3:53 am

    Dear sir,

    thnak you for sharing your insight into this, I write from Italy, I wonder which book you could suggest me (even in english) on this matter…
    Thank you again! Teresa

    Frank Cullen says...

    November 11th, 2008, 10:13 am

    Dear Teresa,
    I think there are several useful books that explain the connection between a meat-based diet, animal exploitation, poverty and environmental degradation. One of them is John Robbins’ book “Diet for a New America” that he wrote in 1987. I think it has been translated into several languages.
    Thank you, Teresa,
    Frank Cullen

    David says...

    November 12th, 2008, 1:04 pm

    Frank,
    I never knew about these charities before, so I want to thank you for bringing them to our attention!

    Also, I wanted to ask you:

    As a future social worker, I am wondering if you are aware of any charitable organizations that, like Vegfam and HIPPO, are providing both education and charitable services to feed the homeless and/or hungry in urban settings? I am all too aware of the problems that charities who serve these populations face and it seems to me that feeding the hungry in urban areas with nutritious, environmentally sustainable food could well fill a need that is, as yet, unmet. If you are not aware of any such charities then perhaps that is my cue to take a few more business classes!

    Frank Cullen says...

    November 13th, 2008, 5:02 pm

    Hello Teresa,
    Thank you fior writing to the PETA Prime blog. Tim Enstice at PETA suggested these books as well:
    “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé
    “The Food Revolution” by John Robbins
    “Feast or Famine: Meat Production and World Hunger” [click on http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/71230
    The Case Against Meat [http://www.emagazine.com/view/?142&src]

    Hope this helps you.

    Frank Cullen

    Frank Cullen says...

    November 13th, 2008, 5:16 pm

    Hi David,
    You ask an important question: whether there are organizations in urban areas that provide nutritious, environmentally sustainable food to poor people in urban areas as well as education (I’m assuming education about nutrition and the connections among world hunger, animal exploitation and the degrading of the enviroment).
    I recall a number of such projects over the decades, but cannot name a single current project. Hey, David, you may not only have a cue to take a few more business courses but the topic for a thesis!
    Can anyone else out there in blogsville give David some current info?
    Frank

    Roger says...

    November 14th, 2008, 1:16 pm

    Oh yeah, let’s save the planet, don’t use what God commanded us to use (and eat). You people need to get back to what your name implies, ethical treatment of, not worshipping of animals (as in India).

    You’re all probably pro-choice too, go figure.

    carl says...

    November 16th, 2008, 4:34 pm

    Hey Frank, I have wanted to support PETA and came on this website to do so, but I am displeased at how every article I read you guys make meat eaters out to be so horrible. I am an animal lover, however to keep myself and family from going into any state of bad living, as you were talking about in your article, I work on the same 17,000 acre ranch my great grandfather has started in 1887. To keep my human family fed I am what you would call a cowboy. I honestly cant believe how PETA makes people like myself out to be such nieve and ignorant people because we eat meat. There is more protein by the way in beef than any tofu meal. By the way, David what is a future social worker? Did you commit a crime or something? Thanks for showing me your true colors PETA, this is why you guys are hardley EVER taken seriously in the world of animal rights.

    Luke says...

    November 16th, 2008, 9:34 pm

    I also know about an organization named Food Not Bombs that feeds vegan food to the homeless on the street, I heard of it when Las Vegas enacted a law banning anything that encourages begging and it severely hurt them

    Roger says...

    November 17th, 2008, 4:46 pm

    Nice move Frank, so much for free speech and alternative opinions. Interesting how Global Warming gets debunked more frequently, just today as a matter of fact, yet, you and your anti-beef types just keep pushing the Vegan religion. How about this, I won’t tell you to stop eating bean sprouts, stop trying to keep me from eating a cow!

    David says...

    November 18th, 2008, 1:38 am

    Thanks Luke!
    I’ll look into it.

    Mike says...

    November 20th, 2008, 11:53 pm

    What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian?

    Frank Cullen says...

    November 22nd, 2008, 1:09 pm

    Hi Mike,
    There are gradations among vegetarians. Some eat eggs, milk, cheese and their by-products (they’re called lacto-ovo vegetarians) but never the flesh of animals. Some wear leather (shoes, belts), and many wear wool.
    There are no such gradations among vegans. All vegans avoid any and all “products” that are the result of the exploitation and slaughter of animals, and that includes leather, silk and wool as well as eggs, milk, butter, cheese and the flesh of all animals: cattle, sheep, pigs, birds/fowl, fish and crustaceans.
    Back in the day when geezers like me turned vegetarian (first) the only veggie substitutes were cans of rubbery concoctions made to resemble weiners and cutlets. Options improved by the 1960s when soy products began to become widely available and “fake leather” (urethane products like Naugehyde) was being used to make shoes, belts, bags and upholstered furniture.
    By the 1960s, many of us realized that by drinking milk and eating eggs we were supporting the confinement, maternal deprivation and slaughter of calfs to produce veal and the forced laying of eggs by hens destined to be pet food once their laying capacity slackened.
    Thanks to PETA, we later became aware that wooly clothing came to market only after the sheep had undergone painful cuttings and hazardous ocean travel during which many perished.
    Nowadays there are so many options available to vegans that it is very easy (and far more healthful) to eat and dress cruelty-free—even if you live in the boonies, thanks to web-based marketplaces for vegan products.
    Hope this didn’t come off like a rant, Mike. Thanks for thinking and asking.
    Frank

    Pamela says...

    November 23rd, 2008, 7:23 pm

    Well said! Thank you so much for your compassionate and logical essay into an ethical quagmire.

    Christy says...

    November 25th, 2008, 3:21 pm

    I wish all the kids in schools had to read the things that Frank writes here. Then maybe they could educate their parents. You’re one smart and informative man!!!!
    thanks!

    John says...

    November 29th, 2008, 4:03 pm

    Frank,

    Do you really believe a vegetarian diet is sustainable world-wide? Have you seen the abject poverty that people live in within these developing countries? A vegetarian diet is a privilege. Those of us in American and other such countries can and should be vegetarians, but a small village in the cold, mountainous regions of Tibet can’t sustain all the plants they need to live and thus RELY on a sustainable use of water buffalo or oxen. To want to stop these people from using animals at all is not only immoral, but ultimately deadly for such people.

    ambika shukla says...

    December 7th, 2008, 3:30 am

    John,
    The animals these people eat — water buffalo and oxen- are vegetarian. So if the soil can produce food for them –10times more than is needed for humans — it can certainly support a human vegetarian diet. There is no place on earth that humans cannot be vegetarian . It is our natural state of being.

    John says...

    December 8th, 2008, 6:18 pm

    Ambika,

    But they also use these animals for milk. Where else would they acquire that? Also, What should they do for protein? I just do not believe every climateon Earth, when isolated, provides the adequate nutrients from for it’s inhabitants without the use of animals in some way.

    Besides, Heifer International is a very large organization. How many people, that they are helping feed, would just be left to themselves to suffer in poverty and hunger? Can VegFam really cover all the ground that Heifer does? When it comes down to it, this is about the survival people living in extraordinarily harsh conditions.

    Kelsey says...

    December 11th, 2008, 1:44 pm

    John,

    Like all other mammals, they would get milk from their mothers rather than from another species. For a list including some of the many sources that you can get protein from, please go here: http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=105.

    Doug says...

    February 16th, 2009, 1:39 am

    Everyone,

    Vegetarianism is only sustainable for wealthy countries with access to large markets and some very well cultivated land. These people in these poverty stricken areas often have very little if any education and many of the animals that Heifer uses, eat a variety of different grasses and so forth that grow easily and are acclimatized to the area. A person can work very hard on a small field of edible plants only to have a blight destroy them or birds or other animals destroy and ruin them. The animals today used in most of their projects are purchased locally (to the region) because they are acclimatized already to the area and in that way remain far healthier. Not every region can consistently or easily grow plants that will provide adequate nutrition to sustain human life. Goats can be fed by and large on plants that grow like weeds and are found easily. Plants capable of sustaining and increasing a person’s quality of life to the extent of which a goat that produces milk can require far more effort and is a far greater risk. These people who are generally in the bottom fifty percent of those below the poverty line make less than nine hundred dollars a YEAR. Be grateful you are sitting at your computer drinking your fruit smoothie instead of being as impoverished as these individuals. In many areas of the world the types of plants that would provide the necessary nutrients in order to sustain a human being just aren’t feasible. I do think that some of what is going on in research, such as the new rice that is flood tolerant is a step towards better farming and sustainable crops though. Without the necessary protein and nutrients a person won’t develop properly and be all that they might otherwise be capable of being. It is easy for people with so much at their fingertips to preach that using animals is wrong, try being in their position and then preach it. You can preach it all you like to people who have other sustainable and viable options but give it some though before saying it to someone without other sustainable means.

    Sue b says...

    March 11th, 2009, 10:58 pm

    Human animals are omnivorous, that is how we developed over eons. It is “natural” for us to eat both meat and plants. Our species would not exist without eating meat.

    If you people are so against the human species eating meat, is it ok for wild animals (wolves, lions, etc) to eat meat? Have you ever seen a wolf pack take down a deer? Nature is not kind!!

    So what do you propose to do about cats and dogs that cannot live a healthy life without eatign meat? Oh, that right, you folks thing all cats and dogs should be euthanized rather than live a life of slavery.

    I have worked in animal rescue/welfare for over 40 years. What we need to fight is animal cruelty, not animal “ownership”. Not all farmers are cruel, not all pet owners are irresponsible. Don’t brand those compasionate people with the bad ones.

    Frank Cullen says...

    August 9th, 2012, 5:01 pm

    The great majority of folks who responded to my post answered eloquently and knowledgable the few who protested. I offer four responses:
    (1) I did not characterize any rancher, farmer or flesh eater as cruel or bad. The evidence for that resides in all the messages above. If people made the assumption that I consider them “bad” or “cruel”, that is more a matter of their own inner conflict than any judgement by me. More than half of my good friends eat some flesh, although only a few still eat mammals (cattle, lambs, pigs). These friends are no less good than my vegan friends (and I admire and love all my friends). For some reason or another, they “just don’t get it.” I’m sure that regarding some other issues they are vital to some of my flesh-eating friends, they remain mystified why ” don’t get it.”
    (2) People who claim, because there is predation within nature, that it is our nature and/or birthright to resort to red-of-tooth-and-claw behavior ignore the rational for presumed human superiority is that humans are endowed with reason, compassion and a soul. If that is so, we shouldn’t mimic the behavior of non-human animals or our prehistoric ancestors. And we should extend our compassion to every form oflife that shows us they feel fear and pain.
    (3) We are far more suited to eat what herbiverous animals because of our 32 teeth, we have 12 molars and 8 pre-molars for grinding grains, fruiits and vegetables. Incisors count for 8 more teeth and are used to bite into fruits and vegetables; if they were intended to cut into flesh they would be sharper. Only 4 of our teeth are canines, and these are vestigial remnants of those our ancestors used to tear at flesh. Ours are neither sdharp no long enough to spear prey.
    Claims that animal flesh and milk are necessary for protein are wrong. There are plenty of sources of good-quality protein including soy products, Indeed, there is more protein in nut/legume products, ounce for ounce, than in animal flesh.
    (4) I enjoy the company of humans far more than the company of animals. I enjoy seeing the deer, rabbit and birds around my mountain home, but I do not presume to “make them friends.” I do, however, respect their right to live as god or nature intended them and that they feel pain, joy, fear and take responsiblity for their young and defend their families.
    I understand that they enjoy many things that I do not, and I wouldn’t invite one of the critters I share this land with to come indoors to watch Netflix with me. Nor are all my issues theirs as not all theirs are mine, but they don’t injure or insult me, so I shan’t injure or disrespect them. I don’t fault them for any lack of human skills because they have skills and some levels of understanding more acute than I.
    It is useful, when humans get puffed up about their species, to remember that this planet Earth can well get along without us but it would cease to exist without bees or ants.

    scoo says...

    December 3rd, 2012, 2:51 pm

    DO NOT GIVE TO HEIFER. I worked there as a temp for their donations drive and was SHOCKED to find out they actually send animals for slaughter – like GUINEA PIGS. Who the hell needs to eat a guinea pig? They let me go after 2 days because they said they get a lot of angry PETA calls, and I told them I support PETA. I was really torn because I needed the money but I felt sick about what they did. Now I’m broke and still upset about being broke but I felt like I couldn’t support them. Personally I think they are a SCAM.

    Pam Woodson says...

    December 29th, 2013, 12:48 am

    I had heard of Heifer International before but this weekend, watching the “Breaking Bad” marathon, I was BOMBARDED by ads for them (Susan Sarandon). Sorry, they just don’t seem right to me. I HATE the thought of animals being delivered to people who are incapable of caring for themselves let alone livestock! Does this REALLY solve problems? I just feel that it’s introducing 1st world problems to 3rd world people. Susan, makes it sound like the kids will get milk because of these poor creatures. REALLY? If they’re ALL that hungry then how long is the supplier of the milk going to last? How do you feed and take care of them without feed or water? Can we trust the parents to keep the animal alive to supply the milk? The parents are probably just as hungry as the kids so are they going to be satisfied with “just” milk? This whole concept sounds NUTS and inhumane! Do they follow up on these animals? Look, maybe YEARS ago people didn’t “get” the idea of birth control but we do now! IF YOU CANNOT TAKE CARE OF AND FEED A CHILD THEN DON’T HAVE THEM! It’s that simple! It becomes natural selection! BTW, I think that this is the correct attitude even in 1st world countries (or parts of those countries). Signing a death sentence, for other animals, is NOT the way to go! There HAS to be a better way! Now, I do agree with someone who posted that nature is harsh (or something to that affect). Yes, it is. I wouldn’t fault someone who REALLY needed to eat or feed a family and actually NEEDED to go out hunting.(BTW, these animals for “Heifer International” are just “lambs to the slaughter”). These days, in the U.S. most people do not NEED to go hunting. Hunting is a sport! I cannot even begin to understand how ANYONE can actually enjoy killing another living creature! I don’t get it! I catch spiders in glasses an move them outside! How the hell does ANYONE get pleasure out of KILLING any animal? I’ve heard the argument of “Well, I eat everything that I kill”. That’s nuts! If you didn’t NEED to kill something then why would you choose to do it? Go to the grocery store and buy it! Why on earth would anyone go out and kill an animal if they didn’t REALLY NEED to? If I was on a desert island and the ONLY way that I could survive was killing other animal THEN, MAYBE i could. Probably not! That bad of a situation I’m probably dead anyway. IF I did, then, I certainly wouldn’t ENJOY it! It would be sport and it wouldn’t be fun!

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