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Conservatism and the American Tradition of Responsible Animal Stewardship

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PETA PRIME: Conservatism and the American Tradition of Responsible Animal Stewardship by Guest BloggerConservative principles informed my decision to go vegan after I learned how my purchases were directly supporting the widespread abuse of animals. I believe that conservatism has inherited the American tradition of good animal stewardship and with it the responsibility to offer liberty-oriented solutions.

I grew up in a small New England town, and some of my earliest memories are of time spent at my grandparents’ farmhouse. I remember how kindly my grandparents treated the dogs, cats, cows, pigs, and other animals at the farmhouse. They worked hard to make sure that the animals were happy, clean, and healthy. It was an integral part of how they approached everything and grew from their respect and compassion for one another and their faith. The idea of mistreating or neglecting animals would be incomprehensible to them.

Of course, my grandparents’ values have deep cultural roots and weren’t unique to my family. American small farmers have always viewed good animal stewardship as a source of pride and a sign of good character. Historically, farmers who kept animals in unclean conditions or neglected and mistreated them would earn the disapproval of the community. Mistreating animals was not only an indication of poor moral fiber but also a sign of a lack of decency, self-control, and work ethic. Ample evidence that these cultural mores were well-ingrained in early American society can be found in the documents of colonial America. The Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, for example, encouraged the ethical treatment of animals in their legal code, “The Body of Liberties.” They understood, as we do today, that it comes down to knowing right from wrong. Everyone, even a child, knows that mistreating animals or people is just plain wrong. None of us needs a politician, judge, or bureaucrat to tell us that.

How have we all unwittingly become participants in a system that is so cruel to animals? After the Second World War, the American small farmer began to lose more ground to industrialized animal agriculture. Today, while most Americans still imagine their food coming from Old MacDonald’s Farm, 98 percent of all the meat and dairy products that Americans consume comes from factory farms-industrial-type warehouses that confine thousands of animals. Hens’ cages are so small that the animals don’t even have enough space to spread their wings, and most animals, such as pigs, never walk on grass or see the light of day. Because living conditions on factory farms are so unhealthy, animals are fed a constant supply of antibiotics.

We live in a free society with a free market system. That means that the consumer is king. Honest businesses are proud to show how their products are made, but try getting a look inside of the factory farm where the chicken nuggets you bought at your local supermarket originated. Don’t count on it. The industry knows that the conditions that these animals live in would be absolutely abhorrent to us as Americans.

Conservatives have a moral imperative to recognize the difference between right and wrong and to act accordingly. The great thing about America is that we have the freedom to choose. I take personal responsibility for my own choices, voting with my dollars when making purchases and speaking to my friends, family, and community. Besides, big government and the special interests influencing it already siphon billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize cheap factory-farmed meat which, in turn, results in nearly $150 billion in additional obesity-related health-care costs each year.

They say the world has become too complex for simple answers. They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what is morally right. —Ronald Reagan

Small farming is hardly idyllic, as any operation that results in the taking of lives is problematic. However the natural progression of a long tradition of responsible animal stewardship in this country reminds us that animals are not here for us to abuse. Our system of free enterprise has built a society in which the abundance of food and meat-substitute products has made farming animals a choice. And that choice is clear: Eating meat and dairy products is detrimental to our health, our integrity, the environment, and the animals who suffer each day. I take inspiration from those who came before us and laid the cultural foundation of compassion and mercy for animals.

This guest post was written by Martin Moore. Martin currently lives and works in Manhattan, where he manages projects for a global financial-services firm. Prior to moving to New York with his wife, Robyn, he was a business owner in Connecticut and was active in both state and municipal government, including serving as an elected city councilmember.

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    Paul H says...

    September 10th, 2010, 2:36 pm

    I love the article. I am also a conservative and a vegan. I think that thee principles go hand in hand. Regardless of anyone’s political views, going vegan and living cruelty free should be an easy choice for anyone with a heart. Treat animals like you would treat a baby and you can’t go wrong.

    Melissa Larson says...

    September 10th, 2010, 2:58 pm

    I am a Vegetarian and say constantly that I am as guilty as the “meat eaters” because by consuming dairy and “free range” eggs, I still contribute to animal suffering. Your article makes me want to go Vegan and I promise to try my very best. Going Vegetarian was easy for me but I see Veganism as a much more difficult choice. I suppose if so many before me have done it and when years ago there were no specially packaged “Vegan” products, I too can do it. Thanks for the article; I could almost see your grandparents caring for the animals on their farm. :-)

    Kim says...

    September 10th, 2010, 4:09 pm

    With all the recent discussions about what the government should/should not be subsidizing in our current economic downturn, there is little mention of the meat industry. The reason that cheeseburger is on the $1 menu at Wendy’s is because our tax dollars are making up the difference between the actual cost of meat and what the customer pays at the counter.

    Does this sound just like the kind of government spending that many people complain about? Would it be more fair to let consumers pay the actual cost of what they individually buy? If the meat industry is unable to succeed on its own, should we the taxpayers prop it up? Is it fair that vegans and vegetarians have to pay for something that they don’t eat so that people who actually consume this product get to pay less and the industry is able to sell more of its product?

    I don’t consider myself political, and I know that there are lots of issues (jobs, shareholders, etc.) that play into all of this. I just wish the question was asked.

    Karl says...

    September 10th, 2010, 4:46 pm

    Well said! The only thing that will change the horrendous factory farming system is for consumers to vote with their wallets. Start by not purchasing the c#@p that fast food chains sell.

    Jacob Dijkstra, M.D. says...

    September 11th, 2010, 6:48 am

    It is clear that in this politically polarized country, love and respect for animals can be a uniting factor that will allow us to reach across the aisle. In this respect, it is of note that the only political party in the world that actually has seats in parliament is the Partij voor de Dieren (Party for the Animals) in The Netherlands. Its voters and members constitute a cross section of the population, including deeply religious and atheist citizens. They all come together and interact in one party and as such personify Gandhi’s well know philosophy that the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

    Mark says...

    September 12th, 2010, 8:23 am

    Well said, but disturbing that people thought more of animals and their living conditions back then, as seeing the further we get into the future, the more we’re supposed to be recognising all other non-humans as sentient beings in their own right. This article rams home once again that though there is greater awareness of animal suffering, and about all our participation of it, whether knowingly or not, or simply as slaves to the scumbags that be, it barely seems to catch up or change the widespread pointless killing all non-humans are put through every day because of us!

    Kim makes a brilliant point about why meat is really so cheap and available to all (eggs and dairy and sea-life too), and it’s a real shame this is still being deliberately shied away from-a peerless argument for everyone who moans at me and others that we should “leave them alone to eat what they like as they don’t bother us!”! Perleeaassee!!

    Casey says...

    January 31st, 2011, 6:24 pm

    thank you for this great article. It is wonderful to hear other conservatives who understand the link between conservatism and vegetarianism. So many of my conservative (and also Christian) friends think they have dominion over animals and therefore can eat them. They deny these animals are abused and they use the Bible and anti-govt regulation to justify their eating habits. thank you for making the clear link between integrity, the environment, and stewardship.

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