A Vegan Perspective

Jump to my first post to learn more about this project and why I as a Vegan have taken a particular interest.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Farewell Kevin & Francis

Kevin & Francis were slaughtered on Thursday.  I am glad to have had the opportunity to spend time with them and learn first hand what I have read so many times ie. that pigs are beautiful, intelligent, playful creatures with unique and wonderful personalities.

The past 3 months have been an interesting journey for me.  I’ve had some great discussions with Aarod and am glad to have gotten to know him better.  I have felt quite conflicted at times because I am ethically opposed to eating animals but recognize that if people are going to eat meat, this method offers animals a much higher welfare standard.  I also feel that Aarod’s project has allowed many people to connect with an animal that they would not normally encounter.  Hopefully these people have gained an appreciation for pigs and will consider the impact that their food choices have.

Most fascinating has been the varied reactions to the project.  I know of several people that have said they couldn’t eat Kevin & Francis because they were too cute, despite the fact that they consume pork from the supermarket.  More confusing still, other meat eaters have actually been opposed to the project.  I can understand why Vegans might not appreciate it but if you eat meat, I believe you should be supporting free range, locally grown, organically fed animals.  Considering that we live in an EcoVillage, I was surprised to hear that Aarod only received 17 orders for pork.  Either there are a lot of people in the village that don’t eat pork or they just have trouble doing it when there is a name and face attached to it.

Finally, I must offer an explanation for the cartoon below.  I wrote this about 2 months ago when I was anticipating the likely outcome for Kevin & Francis.  I hope that this blog and Bacon Bros. have generated discussion and deep thought about what it means to kill an animal.  I know that Aarod cared for Kevin & Francis, so the below cartoon is perhaps not entirely fair.  Ultimately though, eating animals is a choice, so if you think the cartoon is provocative, consider how Kevin & Francis would feel.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Monday, 8 July 2013

Piggy Choir

I visited Kevin & Francis for what I expect to be the last time.  It's very enjoyable just being in their presence - when they're not trying to bite you.  I'll be sure to think of them each time I visit the farm.  From the look of this picture you might think that I'm leading the pigs in a choir.  Their happy grunts and snorts will be missed.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Make you think, make you laugh

Life has been a little busy in the past few weeks, hence no blogs and now the big catch up.  I visited Kevin & Francis today for the first time in about a fortnight and they have grown a lot.  Apparently they are still considerably smaller than average though.  When I arrived, they were huddled up together in their shed having a sleep in.  Once I got close enough, they quickly hopped up and came outside to greet me...or look for food.

Here is a link to some recent research on red meat intake (BTW, pork is classified as red meat).
“Red and processed meat intake is convincingly associated with colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence, but its impact on prognosis after CRC diagnosis is unknown”.
Well not anymore it seems...
“This study suggests that greater red and processed meat intake before diagnosis is associated with higher risk of death among patients with nonmetastatic CRC.”
So basically, red meat causes cancer and the amount you eat determines the likelihood of it killing you.

And in case that’s all a bit doom and gloom for you, here is something to hopefully make you smile...although it really shouldn’t.
If you find Bacon Bros. comics a little confronting, well...success!! They should be.  I'm not aiming to offend but I want to generate thought and discussion.  Here is a great TED talk on the Anatomy a New Yorker cartoon.  I'm not sure where Bacon Bros. fits in.
I should clarify that the chosen method of slaughter for Kevin & Francis is not to cut their throats.  They will be receiving a bullet to the brain, which will hopefully be very quick and painless.  I certainly hope though that they will instead get to live out their days at Freedom Hill.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Something for the meat-eating environmentalists

Check out this website for a great infographic that demonstrates the environmental impact of dietary choices.  It's a little American focused but the numbers still provide an indication of the comparative difference.

I saw this picture on Facebook.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Docos Galore!

I came across a fantastic website (filmsforaction.org) where you can view hundreds of documentaries for free.  There are more than 80 listed under Animal Rights, including one called Pig Business.  Haven't watched it yet but the content seems relevant.  Check it out here.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Pig Wrestling

When visiting Kevin & Francis yesterday, we noticed some curious behaviour.  Are the boys wrestling, posing for the camera or starting to get a little frisky?  I am reading a book, The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery.  She has a pet pig (700 pounds worth) that loves belly rubs.  Apparently many pigs appreciate this and will roll onto their backs to accommodate it.  Sy has even achieved this with a rhinoceros!  I tried with Kevin and Francis but only managed a brief roll on the ground.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A New Tactic

Computer hacking didn't work for the Bacon Bros.  Perhaps this new ploy will prove more successful.
I did warn Kevin & Francis to be a little more sensitive when making jokes about religion but they were not deterred, "Anything goes when on death row".

Friday, 31 May 2013

Pig Girl

Oh no!  Too many visits to the pigs.  She has been making snorting noises when she laughs as well.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Wilbur 101

Photo: Dave Blackey/Getty Images

Radio National is conducting an experiment where listeners can (supposedly) influence the practice of rearing a pig named Wilbur 101.  A poll was conducted to determine if Wilbur 101 should be castrated.  The voters said ‘No’ but the farmers used their veto power and decided to castrate him anyway.  The reason for this is explained in an article by Tammi Jonas.

I appreciate Tammi’s enthusiasm for transparency in farming and think that an experiment such as this one helps to bring the issues of animal agriculture to the attention of the public.  I don’t really understand the point of having a poll though if it can be overridden when the results don’t match the desired outcome.

When reading the original article regarding the poll, I felt that there was a bias toward castration and very little information was provided about the process or possible alternatives.  I will be curious to see what future decisions are presented or if the experiment is abandoned altogether.

Aarod chose not to castrate Kevin and Francis and I personally think this was a great decision... and no doubt they agree.

My own poll from 17 May is not working, so I have removed it from the blog.  Apologies to those that voted but the results were not tallying.  I was very interested to see the results, so feel free to post comments instead.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Free Range

Free range is by far the exception, rather than the rule in Australia.  Free range conditions should be the bare minimum, rather than a niche market.  Such a change would require Australians to drastically decrease their meat consumption though.  Scalability is something I plan to discuss in another post.

I applaud Aarod for trying to improve welfare standards for animals in the meat industry.  The ultimate outcome for animals being raised for meat is the same though ie. a knife to the throat or a bullet to the head.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Freedom Hill visit

Today I visited the animal sanctuary, Freedom Hill. I was joined by Aarod and his dad, Michael.

Freedom Hill is a sanctuary in the Adelaide Hills for rescued farm animals.  They currently have 22 residents, including sheep, cows, horses, goats and chickens.  One of the bulls, Trevor, is the biggest I have ever seen. The photo does not do him justice.

We were introduced to all the animals by Kym, who shared some amazing stories of how each of the residents came to be at Freedom Hill.  Some of the stories were truly horrific, so it was wonderful to now see them living happy lives in a beautiful setting.

At the end of our visit, Kym offered Aarod the opportunity to bring Kevin & Francis to live at Freedom Hill permanently, should he choose to spare them from slaughter.  We'll have to wait and see what comes of that offer.

I was amazed at the sacrifices that Kym and her family have made in order to establish Freedom Hill and was inspired by their dedication. Please visit their website if you would like to support them.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Survey says...

A survey has been created for residents of the Aldinga Arts EcoVillage to ascertain who would like to purchase pork and what cuts they would prefer.

I felt that there was a question missing, so I have decided to host my own poll here on Piggy Predicament.  Whilst people will be given the choice of ribs, sausage, chops, tail, brain, heart (amongst others), there was no mention of which of the two pigs you would like to eat.  So, will you be eating Kevin, Francis, both or neither?  Please vote using the poll on the right of screen.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

A lot to digest

An interview with author, Lierre Keith, was recently posted to Facebook and I felt it deserved some blog space.  You can view the talk here and read a thorough rebuttal to Keith’s book here.

There is so much I would like to say about this talk but I haven’t the time to write it, nor do you probably have the interest to read it.  It seems to tie in with the view of Allan Savory, which has been getting some attention lately.  His TED talk can be found here and a response to that can be found here.  The key consideration I propose is that both speakers may present compelling arguments but scratch beneath the surface and you will find many unsubstantiated claims and some simple investigation will lead you to compelling arguments that strongly refute them.

In regards to Keith’s claims about poor Vegan health, I would suggest people read, The China Study by T. Colin Campbell.  It will provide a wealth of scientific evidence (the largest epidemiological study ever conducted) to support a whole foods plant-based diet.  Keith’s claims regarding specific vitamins and fats is not one I’ve come across before, so I will need to look into it further.  I would warn people to take what she says and writes with a hint of scepticism though – just because the host is enthusiastically swallowing what is being dished out doesn’t make it true.

Here is an example: Keith states, “The number one cause of death right now in farming countries is suicide”.  Not sure if she says farming or foreign but in either case, I’m not sure where she is pulling her stats from.  Have a look at this data from the World Health Organization and tell me where suicide fits.  Cardiovascular disease and cancer feature prominently in the stats for high-income countries – diseases that Keith seems to attribute to a Vegan diet.  Watch out, we’re being overrun by Vegans!  Or could it be that wealthy countries consume the most animal products?

Clearly Keith has had a very poor experience with a Vegan lifestyle.  Although she points to her own poor health as an example, I get the strong impression that her disdain for Vegans has more to do with the people she has encountered, than with the nutritional inadequacies that she attributes to the diet.  Over the years I have heard of these ‘sick Vegans’ but it is almost always a friend of a friend who knew someone once.  All of the Vegans I know are healthy, disease free and thriving.  All of the people that I have met with cancer, heart disease and diabetes consume animal products.

Keith says, “One of the things about being a Vegan is, it’s not just what you eat, it’s who you are.  That makes it really hard to examine new information”.  Replace the word ‘Vegan’ with ‘meat-eater’ and you will see that this statement can apply to anyone.  I believe probably even more so for meat-eaters though because eating animals is a lifestyle choice that most of us were born into and encounter reaffirming influences everyday; whereas most Vegans have arrived at an alternative through research and careful consideration.

Please share your comments.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Bacon Bros.

Ever wondered what goes through the mind of a pig?  Oh good, so it's not just me then.  I love comic strips and thought it was time to give it a go myself - not quitting my day job just yet.  Big thanks to my lovely wife, Jodie, for doing the artwork.
Click the pic to view full size
By the way, in case you find it a little distasteful, it wasn't me that named the pigs, Kevin & Francis Bacon.  I did however find it quite amusing to learn that Kevin Bacon is a Vegetarian and felt compelled to write about it, so here is the result.

Did you catch the news that a library was recently named after George W. Bush? Where else but Texas.  I love this piece from Andy Borowitz about the first library opened by Bush. Where else but Guantanamo Bay.  Anyway, getting off topic a bit.  More Bacon Bros. comics to come - stay tuned.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Walk For Wheels

Kevin & Francis had lots of visitors on Sunday when the fundraising event, Walk For Wheels, passed through the farm.  Check out the video below with a brief appearance from the boys.  There is still time to support the cause by donating here.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Pig Farm

Documentary on SBS tonight called, The Pig Farm.  It's about "one of the worst serial killers in history" - more than 60 women.  No mention of how many pigs.


Someone posted this on Facebook.  I don't think the author has the same intentions as me -- probably a butcher -- but I will choose to twist it to suit my argument.  I would consider making a 'SAVE KEVIN' T-shirt but people might think I'm a K-Rudd fan.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Cogs In A Machine

I recently took this picture when I visited Yankalilla for the Leafy Sea Dragon Festival.  I’m not sure of the artist’s vision but for me it brought to mind the idea that animals are often treated as cogs in a machine.  In fact, there was a time in history when great minds (eg. Rene Descartes – read the gory details here) actually believed that animals were nothing more than very complex organic machines, incapable of feeling pain or at least not pain that was ‘morally relevant’.  Hmm... factory farming... vivisection... I guess history does repeat itself – you were wrong Neil Finn.

Do you believe pigs are capable of experiencing pain in the same way as humans?

Monday, 22 April 2013

New research on heart disease

New research has revealed another way in which red meat may cause cardio vascular disease.  Pork is considered red meat in case you were wondering.
“...researchers found a chemical in red meat called L-carnitine is associated with a build-up of fatty deposits in blood vessels, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes”.
“...eating red meat may result in heart disease, separate to the influence of cholesterol or saturated fat in the meat”.
Read the full story here.

The article also makes mention of bowel cancer and the increased risk associated with eating “large amounts of red meat”.  Read the below excerpts from Geoff Russell’s book, then ask yourself why the Australian Dietary Guidelines still recommend “no more than 2.5 to three serves of lean unprocessed red meat a week”.

From CSIRO Perfidy (2009) by Geoff Russell:
“Official Australian health statistics predict that a million of us will get bowel cancer during our lifetime.”
“The 2007 Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer report by the World Cancer Research Fund is the most thorough review of the scientific evidence relating to lifestyle, nutrition and cancer for a decade.  Its judgement was absolutely clear.  There were no ifs, no buts, and no caveats – red and processed meat cause bowel cancer.  The report was equally clear that this isn’t a “statistical association”, but causality.”
“Scientists... at the Victorian Cancer Council calculate...that about half of all cases of bowel cancer are attributable to eating more than one red meat serve per week.  This is 6,000 new cases annually.”

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Kids & Pigs

Gracie met Kevin & Francis for the first time and was a little tentative to begin with - perhaps because I had warned her that they can be a bit bitey.  "It's OK, they just like to taste you with their teeth".  She really enjoyed giving them a pat and touching their curly tails.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Make It Possible

Check out this fantastic poster made by fellow villager, Karen Nilson.  It's constructed from the images of the thousands of people who have already pledged their support.  See the full version here.  Then visit the Make It Possible website to watch the video and show your support for the campaign.  Be sure to watch the 11min video.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Something To Consider

I recently saw the film, Lincoln – which by the way I enjoyed, contrary to some bad reviews.  There is a moment when the white male American politicians are debating the abolition of slavery and they collectively voice their outrage at the suggestion that it could lead to blacks and women having the right to vote.  They were regarded in much the same way as animals are now ie. that they are less intelligent and therefore not entitled to equal rights.

It led me to consider how cultural beliefs can evolve and made me wonder how future generations will regard our treatment of animals.  Peter Singer says, “What one generation finds ridiculous, the next accepts; and the third shudders when it looks back on what the first did” and “If possessing a higher degree of intelligence does not entitle one human to use another for his or her own ends, how can it entitle humans to exploit non-humans?”

I'm interested in hearing some other opinions, so please share your comments below.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Seeing Pigs

I'm noticing pigs everywhere now. Check out this colorful character at the McLaren Vale Garden Centre.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Remembering Edgar

This big boy is named Edgar and he is a little larger than Kevin & Francis...combined.  This photo was taken in 2009 when I visited Edgar's Mission with my wife.  Edgar’s Mission is a not for profit farm sanctuary for rescued animals in Victoria and Edgar was their first resident.  It was my first encounter with a pig and it was a memorable experience.

We thoroughly enjoyed being helpers for the day.  Who would have thought picking up poo could be so much fun?  The animals were all incredibly friendly and trusting, despite the traumatic conditions that some of them would have come from.

Edgar died in 2010 but the wonderful work of the sanctuary continues in his name.  During that same year, approximately 4,500,000 pigs were killed in Australia.

Visit their website to find out more information and see how you can help.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Don't Wear Thongs

Once again Kevin & Francis gave me a warm greeting when I visited them yesterday.  They emerged from the trees and trotted up to the fence, making happy(?) grunting noises – I’m not exactly a pig whisperer yet.  They greeted me again by sniffing and biting me with their muddy mouths (Note to self: don’t wear thongs again or white pants when visiting the pigs).

They followed me around the entire time I was there.  When I ran from one end of the enclosure to the other, they galloped (or cantered? Clearly not a horse whisperer either) along behind me.  I was surprised to see how quick their little legs can move.  Whenever I stood still though, their snouts were instantly buried in the dirt.

I was starting to think that they weren’t quite as interested in me as I was in them.  They were constantly rooting around in the ground and not paying me any attention.  Am I really less interesting than dirt?  I wondered if they were just following me around, hoping that I knew where the food was.  It wasn’t until I left that they ran over to the fence and for the first time ceased their food foraging.  Their ears pricked up and they were looking at me and making a different kind of grunt than I had heard previously (last scene of the video).  It seemed to be saying, “Come back”.  How could I resist?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Clever piggies

I must admit to having had a little chuckle when I read that Kevin and Francis have already escaped a few times from their enclosure.  It seems an electric fence isn’t enough to stop these inquisitive little guys.  It got me thinking about other stories I have read about pigs escaping from slaughterhouses and lead me to a little searching on the internet.  Apparently pigs are “more intelligent than most dogs and three year old children” (http://www.animalsaustralia.org/media/photos.php?photo=Pig+intelligence).  I wonder what my three year old child would have to say about that.

Read about other research into pig intelligence here: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/hidden-lives-pigs.aspx

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

New Residents Arrive

Today I went for a run.  The mornings seem to have gotten colder very quickly.  When running through the village farm (www.aaev.net), I came across our newest residents, Kevin and Francis, two Berkshire pigs.  One of our young villagers, Aarod, is doing a year 12 project to “explore animal husbandry that is as humane and ethically sound as possible”.  You can read his blog here: http://tailoftwopiggies.blogspot.com.au/

I kept my distance initially, thinking that Kevin and Francis might be a little frightened but they seemed very keen to run up and greet me, grunting all the way.  They are very cute, as you can see by the pictures on Aarod’s blog.  They enthusiastically sniffed me, not deterred by my post-run man stink.  Next they decided to see what my shoes and legs tasted like – pigs do use their teeth to taste, right?  My shiny new sneakers are not so shiny anymore.  They are very friendly and inquisitive little piggies and brought back memories of my dog when he was a puppy.
I applaud Aarod for taking on such an ambitious project.  It will be far more work than I can remember doing in school.  I also appreciate the fact that he is trying to find more humane methods for raising animals.

The purpose of my blog though will be to discuss alternatives to animal agriculture.  I hope to demonstrate to people that animals are more than just meat and that regardless of the conditions that an animal is raised in, the final outcome is the same – slaughter.  For these two pigs, that day is due to come in just a few months, an incredibly short life by any standard.

I have been Vegan for more than 5 years and believe that humans can live happy and healthy lives without the use of animal products.  I also believe that a Vegan lifestyle is a better choice for the health of the planet and humans.

When I first learned of the project, my initial thought was to object.  I did not want it setting a precedent for animal agriculture on the farm.  So my piggy predicament or curly conundrum was.... Do I support a well intentioned project that shares my concern for animal welfare, even though it conflicts with my ethics?
I felt that Aarod and other villagers could learn a lot from the experience and it would open the door to a broader discussion of ethics and the differing opinions of how we define ‘humane treatment’.  Many people speak of the disconnection that our culture now has from food and the need to develop a greater appreciation for the source and process involved.  I decided that the best approach was to share my opinions and hope that the love and appreciation for these beautiful animals will grow within our community in the coming weeks.

I hope you will join me (and Kevin, Francis, Aarod and the residents of the Aldinga Arts EcoVillage) for the journey.