Living duck

Published on December 3rd, 2010 | by ziggy

33

The Day I Slaughtered a Duck And Ate It

duck

Last weekend, I slaughtered a duck.

My partner and I recently traded several jars of pickles and some homemade butter for a whole duck from our friends at a nearby community, Red Earth Farms. The trick was that we had to slaughter, butcher, and clean the duck ourselves.

I am an omnivore. I am very selective about the meat I eat. Typically, I will only consume it if I know where it came from — when I know who raised it and how it was raised. And unless it came from a responsible source and was raised organically, I won’t partake.

As an omnivore, I have felt some strong urge to take more responsibility in the process of eating meat. Simply cooking it is definitely not enough — to take a part of the process of preparing meat from the whole live animal is an experience that cannot be replicated, something that I had never experienced.

How to Slaughter a Duck… with Compassion

And so I walked to my neighbors’ home, where Chad opened up the pen with five ducks puttering about. We looked at them for a moment before he scooped one up and handed it to me. I then had the opportunity to feel the duck — the softness of its feathers, the gentleness of its muscles. It was a beautiful animal and I suddenly felt very inadequate holding it.

But the hard part had yet to come. I followed Chad’s instruction and sat down, with the duck between my legs. I stroked its neck for a while, feeling quite nervous about what was yet to come. This was an entirely foreign experience to me, the likes of which I had never experienced myself firsthand. In fact, I’ve only witnessed the slaughtering of an animal once in my whole life. How far removed from our food we have become, I thought…

Finally, I said thank you, closed my eyes, and swiftly cut the animal’s neck. I hesitantly looked down to see the duck twitching, its life now ended.

At that moment I noticed just how hard my heart was racing. Was it adrenaline? No… it was more akin to fear, leading into awe. Even more surprising to me was when I felt a sudden wetness come over my eyes. This I was unprepared for!

I was shocked. I walked home solemnly, duck in hand, holding back that wetness in my eyes, trying to find the words to describe the experience, the sensation to my partner. To wield such a power over an animal’s life, to take on that full responsibility, to be a part of that process made me speechless, simply in awe.

I have always claimed the importance of having a greater connection to our food, but I had not experienced that closeness with an animal before I slaughtered the duck. I can finally claim to know what it is like to end the life of an animal, to butcher and dress an animal, and to prepare it with love and gratitude. Truly, the experience cannot be replicated. It makes me savor the thought of a day when I am able to raise animals of my own.

This is an experience that, unfortunately, many people will never have. I would bet a pretty penny that many would not relate to hamburgers and fried chicken the same way once they have the experience of mindfully butchering an animal for a meal.

That roast duck was one of the best meals I have ever had the opportunity to prepare.

Not ready to butcher your own meat? Vegan meat substitutes provide an ethical means of adding the flavor and texture of meat to your diet… without the killing. Check out our full range of vegan food products, including Tofutti dairy substitutes and tofu.

Image credit: flickr via nbraier



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About the Author

I'm a 26-year-old currently living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in northeast Missouri, an intentional community devoted to sustainable living and culture change. Things you might find me doing here (other than blogging) are building with natural materials, gardening, beekeeping, making cheese, candlemaking, and above all else, living simply. You can read about my on-going natural building projects at: http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud



  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Thank you for sharing this, ziggy. I think the most poignant part of your post is this: “To wield such a power over an animal’s life, to take on that full responsibility, to be a part of that process made me speechless, simply in awe.”

    As a vegan, I (and other vegans and even vegetarians like me) cannot accept making this choice and taking another living creature’s life for our own benefit, either directly or indirectly, when we can choose to do otherwise. It does help that some animals are raised humanely, but ultimately it still boils down to slaughtering an animal that did not have to die otherwise…and that surely would seek to keep living if it could.

    I appreciate that you took it upon yourself to face the dilemma and difficulty of slaughtering your own food. At the least, this sort of ethic would help us to end the cruel practice of factory farming.

  • Animal voice

    These days, I’m so confused about what “green” means, it seems to mean different things to different people. In your case, it seems to mean the JOY of doing your own killing, evidenced by your anticipation of raising your own animals to satisfy your own selfishness, for which you are willing to kill. Hmmm, I fail to see any green. I just see selfishness, violence, barbarism, and you doing what you have to do to satisfy your taste addiction. Can you appreciate the addictions to illegal drugs?

    Meat is not a health food. It is a myth perpetrated by the meat industry–who would guess!
    Does it taste good? Yes. But a creature has to die to fulfill your addiction.

    Here’s what I think is green: When people die, eat them. It will save a lot of money and land, and I hear human flesh tastes like chicken. Don’t worry, create a need, and processing businesses will spring up all over the place. There are many will do anything for greed–just take a look around.

  • colluvial

    Justin,

    Similar to you, I am a vegetarian, and have been so for almost 40 years. What has motivated me are health concerns as well as empathy for animals that are raised and killed in cruel ways. My emotional revulsion to eating meat has more to do with the cheapening of life that’s a result of factory-farming.

    However, I think that animals can be an important part of small agricultural ecosystems. They can also be raised and slaughtered in humane ways. The duck that Ziggy slaughtered would never have existed if it weren’t being raised for food. If it was sad to have ended the duck’s life, it might also be felt that it would have been even sadder if the duck hadn’t been given the chance to be alive in the first place. Of course this depends on the kind of life and death provided for it, but I’m assuming that Red Earth Farms was a nice place to be a duck. And the death that Ziggy provided for it was probably as gentle and painless a death as anyone could wish for.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    @Animal Voice… I’ve got a lot of respect for the choices vegans make, and the motivations underlying those choices. But I think to write off ziggy’s choice as a matter of “taste addiction” and “selfishness” grossly oversimplifies the relationship between humans, other animals, and the environment. Homo sapiens has always been a meat-eating animal, and within the natural world, certain animals are food for others. Yes, we’ve perverted this system with industrial-style meat production, but to suggest that any meat-eating, no matter how sensitive to environmental conditions and animal welfare, is barbaric rhetorically places humans outside of natural systems… and that’s the mindset that’s produced the environmental challenges we currently face. Only those of us who eat completely within our foodsheds are in any real position to throw stones in regards to how “green” other’s food choices are…

  • Animal voice

    colluvial, I commend you on your 40 years of compassionate diet habits. I am a senior, and I have been vegan for only 5 years. I mourn the fact that there was no one along the way of my life to plant a seed of difference. Like the whole of society, I was one of the victims of the meat, dairy, and egg industries who were aided by our government.

    You state, “My emotional revulsion to eating meat has more to do with the cheapening of life that’s a result of factory-farming.” While I understand where you’re coming from, I feel this is faulty thinking. I see the cheapening in the premeditation of supplying animals for the mere fact of slaughter for consumption.

    “The duck that Ziggy slaughtered would never have existed if it weren’t being raised for food. If it was sad to have ended the duck’s life, it might also be felt that it would have been even sadder if the duck hadn’t been given the chance to be alive in the first place.” colluvial, ( I’m really trying to be kind) I find so much wrong with this mentality. Once life exists, it should be protected and respected not wantonly killed to satisfy a notion indoctrinated into us–meat is a health food–by profit-driven industries.

    ” I’m assuming that Red Earth Farms was a nice place to be a duck.” colluvial, Red Earth Farms , no matter how they raised their animals, exists as a profit-driven business. Like fur farms, the animals are merely production units with a price tag. I’m sure Ziggy paid a higher price to off-set the “humane” living conditions. That goose existed for financial gain for its owner.

    ” And the death that Ziggy provided for it was probably as gentle and painless a death as anyone could wish for.” First of all, an animal values its life. It would not wish for death for any sentimental notion. The term “humanely” has become a human notion of justification to kill and feel okay about it, to satisfy selfish cravings.

    No matter how you term it or how picturesque the conditions, when animals are raised specifically to become body parts on a plate, for profit, this is not love of animals. It is a business for profit. And as for those who raise their own animals for food; it is to satisfy their belief that meat is a health food and/or to satisfy their own selfish cravings. The term “humanely” is not for the animals benefit, it is to console self in its journey to supply for me, myself, and I.

  • colluvial

    Animal voice,
    I have the impression that you believe you occupy some sort of emotional safe haven by the fact of your veganism. This becomes shaky ground as soon as you consider the desolation produced by any kind of farm compared to the myriad life-forms in the ecosystem it displaced – whether it’s a mega-farm, a small-scale organic farm, or your own backyard garden. The mere process of turning up a shovel full of dirt is likely to result in the death of more individual organisms than there are humans on the planet. Maybe “life” for you includes only those organisms that look enough like you that you can feel empathy. But you’ll have to admit that even an earthworm certainly looks desperate as it tries to escape your shovel blade and writhes in apparent agony if unsuccessful.

    I find factory farming of animals morally objectionable because of the suffering it creates – both at the farm and at the slaughterhouse. However, animals allowed to pursue their natures, and then have their lives ended with as little suffering as possible, presents little moral problem for me.

    There is a give and take between the farmer and his/her animals – the farmer protects, houses, and feeds the animal, then the animal gives back by being slaughtered at maturity. Without this relationship, that animal would never have existed. If animal life is so precious that it should never be purposely ended, then never allowing it to exist in the first place must also be morally troubling. The argument that one cannot be humane if you benefit in any way from the action is your own interpretation.

    The ability to provide efficient meat production for humans is the only reason the domesticated Muskovy duck exists (they were domesticated by Native Americans before European colonization) and the only insurance of its future.

    There are certainly strong ecological arguments for decreasing meat consumption because of the resources consumed, but barnyard ducks (like those at Red Earth Farms), chickens, and pigs on small holdings produce food often with very little extra input by taking advantage of slugs, snails, insects, vegetation, kitchen waste, farm by-products, etc.

  • http://www.small-scale.net/yearofmud ziggy

    Red Earth Farms is a community of homesteading families. It’s not a business. If you check out the link to their website, you can learn about what they actually are (and do). The second sentence stated that I traded for the duck, which should have been a clue that this is no business we’re dealing with. (Did you ever try to pay for food at the supermarket by bartering…?)

    Small important detail here.

  • Animal voice

    I shall return.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Colluvial, I understand where you are coming from. There is definitely a HUGE difference between a factory farm and something like Red Earth Farms, or any other humanely oriented animal farm. While I agree with Animal Voice in the feeling about even these places for the most part, I do also feel very sensitive to the points that Jeff and you both bring up–especially when it comes to the fact that veganism is NO “safe haven” from inducing suffering to other beings.

    But this is not to say that being vegan does not do a lot of good to the “highest” beings, and that we can take very real steps to prevent causing them suffering and death. AV makes the important point that, once given life, any animal (or plant for that matter) will do whatever it can to continue surviving (except in a few exceptional cases). To me, that deserves to be respected, and because we humans are not *forced* to be carnivores and to kill (directly or indirectly), that to me seals the argument about vegan or non-vegan…for myself at least.

    However, the main response I want to give you is regarding the “sanctity of life” issue. While life, when it exists, should be held in high respect, there is nothing that makes creating NEW life a “good” thing or even worse a required thing. That is, I or anyone else is never under the moral obligation to create NEW life. Given how much damage our human overpopulation causes, I would in fact argue that humans have a moral duty to STOP creating new life until our numbers are more manageable. There is a big difference between protecting and respecting existing life forms and creating new ones. For a non-existent duck, there is no question about whether life is good or bad, or about whether it wants to have life or not. But once it has life, for whatever reason, then its life should be respected and valued.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Also, @Jeff, I would not dismiss the motivation that taste can have on one’s thinking and actions. Given that only 10% of our thoughts are conscious, and most of our reasoning is motivated by (unconscious) biological and mental drives, it is easy to see how the habit and taste for eating meat can lead to any number of measures to continue doing so…and ways to keep feeling okay with it. That is not to say, though, there is a big difference between factory farming and slaughtering an animal you (or someone you know) raised with more personal care and attention.

  • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

    @Justin — Oh, I didn’t mean to dismiss taste, or the kinds of motivations you mention… I just thought that attributing meat eating simply to satisfying taste was an oversimplification. Again, I think the relationships here are pretty complex… and also have complete respect for the vegan approach to food, and the philosophy that underlies it.

  • colluvial

    Justin,
    You’ve drawn a line between those “beings” that matter, and those that don’t, or at least not enough to care about. This does allow for a calmer mind when doing simple things like turning the soil or mowing the lawn, activities that are directly responsible for the destruction of countless lives of “lower” beings – almost all of whom, by the way, will struggle to preserve their own lives. But it doesn’t address the reality of the line you’ve drawn, or whether you’ve simply drawn it out of convenience. Can you say that a slaughtered duck suffered more than the spider you mangled with the lawn mower? I don’t think one can claim that dietary choices necessarily lead to a morally superior position simply because, of all the myriad species that died because of you today, none was a mammal or a bird, or at least you didn’t eat it.

    You lost me with your statement that “…there is nothing that makes creating NEW life a “good” thing.” I’m not really sure if you meant it that way, but this idea takes me down a dark train of thought where it might be better if no life existed at all, for that would guarantee there would be no death. I certainly agree with you that human overpopulation is a problem. However, it’s largely a problem because it’s decimating one ecosystem after another, and lowering the carrying capacity of the planet. But humans population problems aside, what could be a more noble goal than to preserve and encourage the flowering of life on this planet, whether that be preserving and restoring natural ecosystems, or setting up diverse agricultural ecosystems rather than monocropping vast acreages?

    Death is not a villain. Life implies death, and most deaths entail suffering, whether it be at the hands of a predator, a disease, or old age. I think it’s a mark of a perceptive being to be sensitive to the death and suffering that’s a direct consequence of it’s existence. But there’s value in encouraging as much life as possible and guarding its diversity – more life is better than less life, even if that means more death. And for those so inclined, raising animals in small agricultural ecosystems can result in more life, more diversity, and more productivity than those that don’t. To attend to the lives, and deaths, of fellow creatures in a sensitive way should be an expectation, but to try to remove oneself from the drama of life and death is a fantasy.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Colluvial, I am in no way trying to paint death as some sort of villain or thing to be gotten around. That is impossible, obviously. What I am saying is that one should do what one can to avoid causing unnecessary death to a being that would continue, and would likely want to continue, living. Veganism is not about feeling superior and thinking one has gotten out of the suffering and death game; no living thing exists without causing the death of some other thing to survive. I am not going to get into the value argument, because it is never really satisfying to say one being is more valuable in some way than another. And I was not trying to do so. Yes, it bothers me that every moment of my life, every action, likely involves the death of some other being. And perhaps it is “inconsistent” for vegans even to try to avoid causing death to animals in order to survive. But I am not concerned so much with some logical consistency, but the very real and very obvious ways that I (and every vegan) can reduce, in great amounts (around 100 animals per year), the suffering and death of animals.

    To ignore that difference is to miss the entire point of veganism. Some people can and do turn it into an ideology, not a principle to be lived–in the sense of Gandhi being the change. I shudder at that. And being vegan in no way is an excuse to rely on other exploitative systems of surviving, be they monoculture agribusiness or sweatshops and slavery. Being vegan does not preclude also being conscientious on other levels…nor is it an excuse not to (and using it as such is, to me, a travesty).

    As far as the life issue goes…I am not saying it would be better if any living species did not exist. Yes, we need to reduce human numbers, but I am not advocating our extinction or a sort of systematic reduction via forced death. Good grief! What I AM saying is that to argue that creating new forms of life is a moral imperative on all living beings is, to me, a false argument. It seems like some quasi-religious notion that there is this long queue of souls just waiting to be given physical form, and so we living folks have to do our best to give them all that chance. Life is precious when it happens, but I do not think you can say that a non-existent life form is “good” or “bad” before it exists; only afterward does it enter *our* moral sphere. Otherwise, every spinster and other person who does not have a child would somehow be immoral, and I just cannot stomach that. Sorry if none of this is making much sense…

    Anyway, @Jeff, thank you for clearing that up. There was a fascinating BBC show on this topic, related specifically to climate change, you should check out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00c1sw6#synopsis.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby

    It’s so refreshing to see angst on the blog without being the antagonist.

    I think that Jeff has a point which I will paraphrase by saying, “In the natural world, animals kill to survive.” If humans are part of the natural world, we have no choice but to live by the paradigm. Whether carnivore, omnivore or vegan, one can only survive by consuming the corpse of another organism. Vegans berate carnivores and omnivores for killing and eating animals, because they view animals as sentient beings and – to a degree – equal in value to humans (Ref. Ingrid Newkirk’s famous quote). Vegans may claim the higher moral ground by not consuming animal flesh, but do they give enough consideration to the plant life they terminate in order to support their habits? Some people claim that talking to their plants helps those plants thrive and produce fruit. If that is true and plants can respond positively to kind words, do they not exhibit a modicum of sentience? Should killing a plant or eating its fruit (its offspring) be viewed any differently through the prism of morality than killing a duck? Do crops shake with fear when the sickle approaches? Just because we cannot hear their screams, does not mean that they cannot experience fear. If you Google banana DNA versus human DNA, you will find articles and papers claiming that humans share 50% of their DNA with bananas. Are Chiquita and Dole raising and slaughtering our distant cousins just for our culinary pleasures? I know that most would consider this an extreme extrapolation, but should not someone ask why crops – whether factory farmed or organic – exist only to satisfy our perverse appetites?

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    And that, Bobby, is exactly why I am fruitarian!!! ^_^

  • http://www.repairlaunch.com/ JJHerman

    I enjoyed the article! Thanks for doing the write-up. The closest I’ve ever come to killing and animal, cleaning and eating it is with fish. I’ve done that plenty of times, as well as crabs, ect.

    I’ve spent the last couple of months in Brazil. Before that, I had greatly reduced my meat consumption in the U.S. and based on the above comments, you all understand why. I’m no vegetarian but I can honestly say I ate maybe 5% of what I did. Since coming to Brazil, that has changed. I’m still not eating as much as I once did but it is impossible to avoid.

    My future inlaws all have their own animals (Pigs, cows, chickens) so the majority of the time, that is what I eat, including the cheese from the same farms….and of course an assortment of fresh veggies. The taste is much better than in the United States and I don’t feel as guilty. Being in a foreign place, I don’t cook much. They literally put meat in everything down here. Rice, beans…everything has meat attached to it. My sister in law in the U.S. is vegan and I really don’t know what she’ll do if she can make it down for the wedding.

    I’ll be returning to the U.S. and my eating habits will change again. I don’t really have a point, other than to say living in a different culture, where you see the pigs face that you are now eating, does change your perception.

    I have a tremendous respect for those who stop eating meat but at the same time, I have no patience for those who take morality jabs at those who do eat meat in a conscious manner.

  • animal voice

    @ziggy – 12/4, I did misinterpret your description of how you acquired the duck. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Unfortunately, knowing the facts does not change the way I see this situation. As a matter of fact, after viewing the farms web site, reading the bios and reading the mission statement, I find the duck issue more appalling than ever.

    The following are excerpts from Red Earth Farms’ mission statement:

    “Our mission is to creatively explore and evaluate sustainable ways to meet our needs with love and respect for all beings.”

    “We share a number of core values and beliefs. Those that we feel are most important are the following:
    All beings are sacred and have a right to freedom,respect
    and love.
    We value diversity, peace, compassion, and nonviolence.”

    The bios are from three men and two women, only the women claim to be vegetarians. I don’t know if I should assume the men do not fully live the mission statement.

    ziggy, no matter how many times you use the term “humanely” to convince yourself that premeditated killing is humane, it’s not By your own admission the duck was little more than a product to be consumed–and why did you want to consume it?

    Also, I find it painful that the duck’s life and your freedom to kill it cost only “several jars of pickles and some homemade butter.” Talk about the cheapening of life. And, by-the-way, bartering is a form of compensation.

    ziggy, you have killed a duck, and you have eaten the duck. Now, I hope when you raise your own, you will see something more than a product to be eaten.

    @colluvial -12/4 “Maybe “life” for you includes only those organisms that look enough like you that you can feel empathy. ” Yes, I’m sure there is some truth in your statement: the ones who have five senses, a heart, lungs, kidneys, bladders, eyes, ears, tongues, teeth, brains, nervous systems, blood in its veins, bare and care for their young, the ones who experience fear, stress, pain, hunger, thirst, heat and cold, the ones who work hard to care for themselves, the ones who have great capacity to suffer, the ones who value their lives.

    “There is a give and take between the farmer and his/her animals – the farmer protects, houses, and feeds the animal, then the animal gives back by being slaughtered at maturity.” No, the animal does not “give” back. The only thing the animal owns–life–is taken from him for the immediate gratification of man. ” Without this relationship, that animal would never have existed.” For some that is true, for others it is not.

    “The ability to provide efficient meat production for humans is the only reason the domesticated Muskovy duck exists (they were domesticated by Native Americans before European colonization) and the only insurance of its future.” I fail to understand your point.

    @Jeff, – 12/5″ Homo sapiens has always been a meat-eating animal, and within the natural world, certain animals are food for others.” Jeff, in the natural world, humans don’t have a good tract record. And I’m against the we’ve always done it that way so it must be right mentality. Man has always postured himself as superior to all other life, and he has always made his own rules according to his needs and wants.

    @colluvial – 12/6 “Can you say that a slaughtered duck suffered more than the spider you mangled with the lawn mower? I don’t think one can claim that dietary choices necessarily lead to a morally superior position simply because, of all the myriad species that died because of you today, none was a mammal or a bird, or at least you didn’t eat it.” For goodness sakes colluvial, there is no comparison to raising a creature for the sole purpose of killing it for personal gain to what happens when you plow the ground. That argument is nonsense. Plowing up the worms and such is more compared to road kill. And being vegan has the nothing to do with feeling “superior,” If it relates to animals, it’s a matter of compassion, not superiority.

    @Bobby – 12/6, “Do crops shake with fear when the sickle approaches? Just because we cannot hear their screams, does not mean that they cannot experience fear.” This is a popular ruse by the younger generation. A young woman once even stated she could hear the plants screaming. It’s just plain silly. I believe this nonsense was started by a Professor who has a vested interest in the meat industry. I have serious concerns for anyone who might truly believe this.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Hear, hear, Animal Voice. And thank you for steering this discussion (I hope) back to the point of main concern for you, I, and others who are vegan for *ethical* reasons. I would ask everyone who uses animals for food (especially for meat) and supports humane methods of husbandry and slaughter (aka “happy meat”) this one basic question: If you value the animals so much in and of themselves, as living beings, *then why not let them live out their entire natural lives before even thinking about slaughtering them for food*? The clearest answers, and Ziggy’s post only supports them, are 1) supply & demand, or 2) the quality of the meat would be unsatisfactory.

    This is what makes people like me and Animal Voice so concerned with any use of animals for food.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby

    @animal voice: I was unaware that a Professor – a meat industry shill, no doubt – could be credited for the nonsense that I was spewing. I was being overtly sarcastic. In my version of Newkirk’s quote, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a carrot is a turnip is anything but human.”

    @Justin: Allowing animals to live out their natural lives often spoils the meat. Animals – including the human animal – do not die of natural causes. They either die from infections or diseases, or they are killed by predators or in accidents. Infections and diseases that lead to death generally affect enough of the beast to make its corpse useless.

  • Clark

    @ animal voice: Have you ever raised and slaughtered an animal before? Have you ever grown and harvested your own veges? Taking the life of an animal is a hard thing to do. Every time I slaughter my ducks ( i just did 15 a week ago) I am very conscious to the fact that i’m taking a life. I can not say the same for veggie farms. I’ve seen them think of there produce purely as money just the same as you accuse meat producers.

    you said” A young woman once even stated she could hear the plants screaming. It’s just plain silly. I believe this nonsense was started by a Professor who has a vested interest in the meat industry. I have serious concerns for anyone who might truly believe this.” Now I’m not going to say I hear the plants scream but they do give off electromagnetic pulses. These pulses can be sensed by humans. Read The Secret Life of Plants. Its a great book that makes the point that plants are sensitive beings that are aware of their surrounding.

    ” Yes, I’m sure there is some truth in your statement: the ones who have five senses, a heart, lungs, kidneys, bladders, eyes, ears, tongues, teeth, brains, nervous systems, blood in its veins, bare and care for their young, the ones who experience fear, stress, pain, hunger, thirst, heat and cold, the ones who work hard to care for themselves, the ones who have great capacity to suffer, the ones who value their lives.” Plants experience fear, stress, pain, hunger, thirst, heat and cold, hard work, and have a capacity to experience suffering. These things you share in common with plants but you ignore them. That is belittlement of life. That is the veggies industry trying to make the point that plants are nothing like us so we need to give them little to no respect. Thats saying wasting veggies are ok because they don’t have any conscienceness. Look at trees. Did you know they communicate with each other? Did you know that there is a full network of fungi and mycelium that connects the trees allowing them to share nutrients and information? Same with other plants. Read Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World.

    My point? Plants deserve respect. Some vegans forget that plants deserve this. Yes i eat duck meat because i think it tastes great. The same thing can be said why you eat you favorite veggie. But I also know that duck has high amounts of vitamins and minerals as well. Many of which are fat soluble and harder for vegans to get into there diet. My stance is that until you become a airatarian you have no basis on telling others what is moral to eat because it has concieceness or not. All things deserve respect. I for one respect my ducks and the veggies that go with it. Not just the fact that the are feeding me but I also respect the fact that they had to give up there lives for me to be fed.

    to finish up. @ Justin:”If you value the animals so much in and of themselves, as living beings, *then why not let them live out their entire natural lives before even thinking about slaughtering them for food*?” Do you eat baby Brussels? Micro greens? Sprouts? They are all just infants in the plant world. but they taste better when they are young like most foods. Asparagus? they look like small Christmas trees when they grow past the shoot stage that is usually harvested and brought to market. Not very eatable as an adult. Plus while they are younger some foods have higher nutritional properties. The point of eating is to have energy(according to Animal Voice at least). If this is so then eating things while they are young makes sense to give the body the most of what it needs.

    what scares me is that there is a lack of compassion for veggies, even from the vegans out in this world.

  • Clark

    a quote from ziggy”Finally, I said thank you, closed my eyes, and swiftly cut the animal’s neck. I hesitantly looked down to see the duck twitching, its life now ended.

    At that moment I noticed just how hard my heart was racing. Was it adrenaline? No… it was more akin to fear, leading into awe. Even more surprising to me was when I felt a sudden wetness come over my eyes. This I was unprepared for!

    I was shocked. I walked home solemnly, duck in hand, holding back that wetness in my eyes, trying to find the words to describe the experience, the sensation to my partner. To wield such a power over an animal’s life, to take on that full responsibility, to be a part of that process made me speechless, simply in awe.”

    When was the last time you saw or heard a person with such compassion for a veggie? Thank you ziggy for giving thanks to the bird, not just verbally but emotionally with tears in eyes.

  • Andrew

    Great discussion, congrats to all who make an effort, within their individual capacity (the real determining factor in what we argue for), to curb animal suffering *as well as* recognize the pleasurable remainder of animal’s lives and their inability to give consent to give it up. The author suggests that a deep connection to nature is possible when one partakes in the chain of carnage that humans are uniquely able to dissent from on moral grounds. I have no doubt that there is human pleasure in this enterprise on some social and especially primal physiological level, but is it reciprocal? No. Would it be reciprocal if advanced aliens came down and did the same thing to us under the same rationalizations? No. We would not feel we are “giving back” in any sentimental or metaphysical sense, the overwhelming majority would be begging for the potentially pleasurable remainder of our lives, however mature we were. As for the comments, IMO, there is too much focus on animal suffering and not enough focus on consent or pleasurable remainder of life. That said, the author’s recognition of more ethically obtained meat may be a necessary precursor to a larger paradigm shift in dietary ethics and is probably a step in the right direction, merely by highlighting the ethical dimension of diet (there’s an increasing number of what I might call “Omnivore’s Dilemma” types- conscious of just about every ethical parameter to diet except an animal’s right to life).

    @Bobby: there are plenty of healthy (veal-like) embryos from the IVF clinics if human roadkill is not preferred. You’ve also put forth a slippery slope excluded middle fallacy (also a tu quoque/ad hominem really) by suggesting that the value of a moderate (“middle”) good has no value if one kills spiders in lawn mowers or turning soil or picking fruit (BTW, as the trees drop the fruit and have no further contact with it, they do not recognize it nor care for it as mammals do- anyway, the *preservable seed* is the “offspring” [and more analogous to semen than a child]- not the rotting fruit). I call this ‘the leather shoes fallacy’ (i.e. you wear leather shoes, so you might as well not be a vegetarian/vegan. In this case, ‘if you kill microscopic insects, you might as well not be a vegetarian/vegan’). The extreme position does not negate the moderate action performed at the limit of the person’s ethical capacity (e.g. If I feel that I can only give a homeless person a dollar, rather than all my $, the action still has ethical value). You also wrote, “[from Jeff]“In the natural world, animals kill to survive.” If humans are part of the natural world, we have no choice but to live by the paradigm. Whether carnivore, omnivore or vegan, one can only survive by consuming the corpse of another organism.” Careful of the naturalistic fallacy here; second, the latter part is not true in light of fruitarianism (as Justin mentioned and many vegans and vegetarians increasingly lean toward). That is not to say all microbes, etc, are avoided (as Jainists strive to do), but again, it doesn’t mean we have to throw in the towel either. Other things being equal, a world with less unnecessary pain and suffering is better than a world with more pain and suffering. Considering that we know animals suffer and are not sure about plants and microbes (but have a good idea based upon studies), then avoiding higher sentience animals is the more consistent choice for someone who wants to reduce suffering in this world. There is an empirically verifiable difference in the sentience of various beings that should be part of the equation. There is a reasonably observable hierarchy. I don’t know *exactly* what the perfect equation is, but it’s certainly not classic nihilism and sociopathy. If and when our knowledge of this changes, we should adjust our behavior commensurately, as we do in any other ethically challenging situation.

    @Colluvial: you’ve also put forth a slippery slope fallacy to imply that if we don’t always create life, we might as well not exist (“this idea takes me down a dark train of thought where it might be better if no life existed at all…”). Then there is “animals allowed to pursue their natures, and then have their lives ended with as little suffering as possible, presents little moral problem for me.” Surely we would not apply this kind of ethic to elderly humans for our convenience. Your “the animals [e.g. Muscovy ducks] never would have existed” argument should also be reconsidered in the context of humans. Parents can NOT do what they want to a child because it never would have existed without them.

  • Andrew

    @Clark The Secret Life of Plants is widely regarded as psuedoscience and those studies have never been successfully repeated. In any case, you are equivoquating for your convenience. Even *within* species we see greatly varied potential for awareness and the ability to feel pleasure and pain, depending directly upon fundamental physiology (e.g. brain development, nerves, etc), so it would seem obvious that between species there is even more variation- or at least comparable variation. It may be that plants suffer some profound existential trauma that we can’t fathom, but until we know, we must go but the principle: Other things being equal, a world with less unnecessary pain and suffering is better than a world with more pain and suffering. Considering that we know animals suffer and are not sure about plants and microbes (but have a good idea based upon studies), then avoiding higher sentience animals is the more consistent choice for someone who wants to reduce suffering in this world.

  • Clark

    @Andrew just because we don’t know something doesn’t mean its ok. if thats how you do your science then go a head and eat your GMO soy and corn. Nothing really proving that it is bad for you as of yet. what i’m saying is respect life no matter if it is a mammal or a plant. Giving one for of life more value is the same thing as saying white people are more important than black. just plane false. stop only looking at the facts we know and start looking for new ones. yes i know The Secret Life of Plants is shaky science but the point is still there. The true way to reduce suffering is to be more humane. Not just animals but with plants as well. Treat them like the sacred life forms they are. Treat them with respect.

    Would there be more pain and suffering if this animal was to be raised in the wild or on a farm? the bird would have a higher chance of being eaten in its early stages of life. and most likely it wouldn’t be killed quickly. most predators like to “play” with their food. at least on a farm i can make sure their quality of life is higher. I can make sure they get the best diet possible. I can make sure that predators have no way of getting to them. If anything i am reducing suffering and pain. I am striving to give the best quality of life possible while raising them as naturally as possible.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    @Clark, first off, please read my responses more carefully. I state both that 1) veganism by itself is not an excuse to rape the planet or use unethical vegetal products, and 2) I myself am a fruitarian out of concerns that you specifically mention (and that Andrew touches on–for me, not harming plants is important, too). But beyond that, I find it absolutely, unfathomably strange that you are framing the whole “be kind to plants” thing as a *criticism* of vegan whilst yourself slaughtering animals for food. I am sorry, but the hypocrisy in that is just staggering. As Andrew rightly says, until we know more about plants, we cannot lay down moral strictures about how to treat them. But we *do* know about animals. And if you are as concerned about animals as you seem to be about plants, then how in the world can you kill and eat them?

  • Clark

    Ok So my point was somewhat lost. I’m not saying its wrong to eat plants. What i am saying is plants and animals are equal in my view. To eat one and not an other shows disrespect to that plant or animal you are eating. And to frame this, not only am I a farmer (grass farmer) i am also a cook. I’m a cook that respects, cooks for, and understand the vegan diet because my brother and many friends are vegan. The argument i’m making is that vegans need to understand there is more than one way to make a dietary choice that help reduce suffering. Not everyone can be a fruitarian. At the moment i live in VT. Try getting threw the winter just on fruit is not very realistic. If your eating local then you have a small choice of food options and would need a lot of winter storage and even then you would be out of food by the time the next crop was coming up. For you, Justin, fruitarianism works because you live in a climate where your seasons work better to meet your dietary needs. The only other thing i can really say about fruitarians is that they are still not letting the plant complete it’s full function. Unless you are using humaneure, you are not putting the seeds back into the earth. Even if you are using it, your compost pile , if hot, would be killing a lot of the seeds. The reason for fruit is to attract animals to eat the fruit and spread the seed. If your not doing that then your still interrupting that plants full life. Your going to say that again i have no proof on how plants feel. No proof that says plants care that there young are dispersed and grow happily. First i would say why would they go through all the trouble to evolve these deferent methods of seed dispersal if they didn’t care if they reproduced. Second, i’m going to say the same thing i said before, no proof doesn’t mean its not true. We didn’t have proof that DDT was bad at first and we spread that stuff everywhere. Now we know differently. My feeling is why wait to find out we were wrong? Just treat all thing equally and understand that we need food to help us survive, be it plant or meat. And if you choose to just eat fruits or veggies realize that you do not need to call others immoral if they do not agree with you because they may be able to say the same to you for just eating veggies. Giving one form of life more value then an other is plane crazy and wrong.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Thank you, Clark, for respecting and serving vegans, but more so for trying to treat your animals and plants with more compassion than the majority of humans.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Bobby

    @Clark: There has never been an examination that conclusive proved that DDT was bad. A few questionable studies yielded a small number of samples which suggested DDT had thinned the shells of eggs laid by certain birds of prey, after they consumed mysteriously mutated amphibians. This was enough to politicize the chemical’s effects on the environment and ultimately resulted in its ban in the developed world. DDT is still manufactured and used successfully in several third world countries. British scientist Kenneth Mellanby wrote in his book The DDT Story, “I myself, when lecturing about DDT during the years immediately after World War II, frequently consumed a substantial pinch of DDT, to the consternation of the audience, but with no apparent harm to myself, either then or during the next 40 years.” Professor Mellanby was born in 1908 and died in 1994 at the age of 85, which is considerably longer than the average lifespan of men around the globe. Below are a few links (note there are none from junkscience.com) for reference:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/4264030/DDT-is-safe-just-ask-the-professor-who-ate-it-for-40-years.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3532273.stm

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-kenneth-mellanby-1406138.html

    I always find it interesting how people who claim to have a greater respect for life often push to eliminate the products that improve human life.

  • Andrew

    @Clark. I really think you are equivocating here. Others here may disagree with me, but IMO, all life and/or awareness and/or sentience are not the same (and hence each act upon them is not ethically equal). While you or any of us might still have enough respect for all life to regret our situation, described nicely by Robert Ingersoll in a critique of Christianity, “Who can appreciate the mercy of so making the world that all animals devour animals; so that every mouth is a slaughter house, and every stomach a tomb? Is it possible to discover infinite intelligence and love in universal and eternal carnage?”– even to acknowledge this, does not make every one equal in the ways I’ve described. All we have is the scientific evidence to go on, but there is a lot. Do a human, an extremophile, a dolphin, a blade of grass, a cancer cell, mold, a shrimp, a mushroom, and a squirrel all have the same awareness, ability to suffer and feel pleasure (e.g. have nerves and brains and pleasure centers), ability to grieve over loss of companionship, ability to recognize their offspring, etc??? All of these are factors in a life that should determine our dietary choices and we cannot conflate/equivocate them. It’s not about “proof”- it’s about evidence. I’m not saying that I know for sure that any of those beings don’t suffer loss or would not want to continue to exist, but I am saying that there are some who (as I said, even WITHIN our OWN species we can see this) at least appear and/or claim to feel *more* pain, loss, and grief than others, and if that’s all we have to go on, then we should do it. If you give someone certain drugs, anesthesia, sever nerves, or disconnect certain parts of the brain, then they *will experience less pain*. Some animals already *innately* have or lack analogous components that increase or decrease pain or pleasure (e.g. brains, nervous systems). Some animals already *innately* have or lack analogous components that increase or decrease existential pleasure or suffering (e.g. based upon many mammals ability to recognize and care for their offspring, they experience a kind of loss that creatures who don’t recognize or even lose their offspring *can’t* suffer). Your running with a bad idea my friend and I implore you to concede the implications of what you suggest, for it entails no less than saying that eating an apple is as unethical as eating a baby. Who’s plain “crazy and wrong”?

    All of us may not be able to immediately switch to a fruitarian diet at once, but again, that is a slippery slope to say that we couldn’t switch a few meat meals to a few fruitarian meals every week (and if desired, continue to increase the change) unless the whole world does it.

    If the world was fruitarian, we would be planting a lot more fruit trees. Everything interrupts every life cycle- nature is a play of forces, but we take care of fruit trees better than nature would without humans and do so until they die of *natural causes* (as for doing this in the context of animals, that is debatable). Fruitarians do not *kill* fruit trees (a la Jesus and the fig tree), so your analogy fails there too. You have conflated farming to kill with farming. Your whole fallacious argument boils down to this- it’s a kind of perverted Pascal’s Wager: “why wait to find out if plants suffer… let’s just eat the animals that *we know* suffer and treat them all equally!” BIZARRE!! It’s equivocation with a twisted egalitarian disguise… but thinly veiled. Please give up on this one. No shame. You weren’t the first to try it. Honestly, I do appreciate the dialogue, but we are getting into absurd notions now when we are at the point of a) ignoring science (absence of absolute knowledge is not absence of reliable knowledge) and b) ignoring the fact that we can choose a diet empirically demonstrated to produce less suffering.

  • http://justinvankleeck.blogspot.com Justin Van Kleeck

    Thank you so much, Andrew. I would also add @Clark, in case you ever *are* interested in trying to live fruitarian in Vermont, it surely is possible. I know that you all can grow winter squashes up there, which provide both the meat of the “fruit” (squashes *are* fruits, Clark–as are many other non-sweet, non-tree things like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, coconuts) as well as seeds. (And if you only use a proportion of the seeds, then you are not completely thwarting the plant’s “desire.”) Plus, there is canning, drying, preserving, and cold storage, all of which can fill your larder well. My grandmother, who grew up on a farm, regales me with stories of her mother canning and preserving, so that they had both fruits and vegetables through the winter (while, I admit, they did also eat meat–but not even then as the primary food source). You can also consider things like legumes (not including soy, which is horrible), which, though not fruits, can be harvested without causing any harm to the plant…they are just seeds in inedible pods. And as far as the “eat local” thing goes, yes, it is ideal to eat as much local as possible. However, keep in mind the Cornell study that found that switching to a *vegetarian* (not even *vegan*) diet has more of a positive impact on the environment than does shopping 100% local. So do not give up and just default to animals without really thinking this through…since you can do it, combining growing your own, buying local, and buying non-local judiciously.

  • http://mathuni.wordpress.com Andrew Marshall

    Humans have the capacity to be the most humane predator, by far. In hunting animals who would otherwise die of disease, freezing to death, or in the jaws of an animal ripping them apart, are usually killed swiftly. In farming, the animal is protected and can be raised in happiness until slaughtered, although that is not the norm. Ethically, humane farming is defensible. On the other hand, veganism/vegetarianism really isn’t. Animal Voice, above, is advocating against the personal act of taking an animal’s life. But we are responsible for more than just whether we engage in the act. There is nothing pristine about nature that gives wild animals a life without pain and fear, and there is nothing pure or ethical about insisting that the wild be every animal’s fate, particularly animals which are not even suited to the wild. I think personally you can find the idea of killing a pig, say, repugnant, and that may lead you to consider other possibilities for us all, such as vegetarianism or growing meet without brains, but the paradoxical fact remains: we value nature, we value the wild, and it will never be a safe place for its inhabitants.

    For instance, take the plight of cows, individually or as a species. Would we have them ‘liberated’? Where would they go and what would their fate be? Or would we shelter them to their old age, as we were the ones who domesticated them? Would we sterilize them to prevent the species from existing or would we deem that barbaric and go on supporting cows and their offspring indefinitely?

    I don’t have the resources to support generations of cows and I don’t want a cow as a pet. Personally I am unashamed to be human and enjoy my position of dominance in the food chain. I am not a pinnacle of ethical purity and I don’t aspire to be one. I am a thoughtful, omnivorous savage, and I like it that way.

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  • Non-veg

    Vegetarians eat plants and their organs because they are addicted to veg food. What makes you think killing or injuring a plant is a lesser crime? Is it because you can’t hear their cry? Plants are green not animals. If you want green, stop eating veg.

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