The two-part One Planet: Animals & Us programme is half way through. In the style of "half-time analysis" at a sports event, Professor Gary Francione, Elizabeth Collins of the NZ Vegan Podcast, and I, talked about the first show which was focused on factory farming (the next one is about vivisection).
The podcast can be heard by following THIS link.
Gary, Elizabeth and I talk about all the points raised in the following critical review of the first programme.
I was impressed in that it covered quite well a great deal of themes in such a short time. It included the state of industrialised farming today, which is still horrific, and the globilisation/spread of animal farming and meat consumption over the wider world, its increased intensification and “meatification” of the world’s food system, to a point that may not be sustainable for people and the planet; a visit to the Mind Lab, a neurological institute, to investigate, via an approach-withdrawal response experiment, if eating meat is part of our human makeup and root cause of why we want to eat meat; it is alleged how from children on we generally don’t make the connection between eating meat, and the psychologist, Melanie Joy’s notion of “an invisible dominant ideology” (called “carnism”) that shapes our perception of meat and the animals we eat, that enables us to eat some animals as meat and love other animals as pets; our use of routine language we use and euphemisms regarding animals which, its alleged, dissociate us from the animal origin of our food.
The program featured Gary Francione, Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS and the prominent Austrian animal activist, Martin Balluch in an interesting discussion on the animal movement’s working strategies and to what extent the animal movement groups have actually made any real changes for animals with respect to meaningful humane treatment, or abolishing animal use or even to significantly reduce the number of animals used. (I noted that the radio host called the HSUS an “animal rights organisation” and talked of “the animal rights movement”, whereas Francione said “the animal movement.”)
There was discussion on promoting a non-animal based diet, how our dietary guidelines come about, and the lack of published peer-reviewed scientific literature on vegetarian and all-plant/vegan diets to replace meat in a general population context in spite of continents with populations doing well on at least vegetarian diets, and mention of an American Dietetic Society report that reviewed the medical literature regarding nutrition and which concluded vegetarian and vegan diets as healthy for all stages of human life. Then a pessimist (or realist) view of the difficulty in getting people to think about food and change from meat to non-animal.
There was the Holocaust analogy used to compare what was done to the Jews in Nazi Germany, which, Joan Dunayer (also a Jew) said pales in comparison to what is done routinely and continually to factory farmed animals in numbers and in atrocities. Also, Holocaust scholar, Prof Dominick LaCapra, discusses the usefulness of the Holocaust analogy because of there are similar structures )”the open secret” and the very active process of turning oneself off in spite of knowing what is going on).
I found the programme generally a reinforcement of the no animal use beliefs, which was fine and interesting in itself. Not sure if there were any new insights for me as to why the majority continue to eat meat: I still think it’s because we are physiologically omnivores and we’ve got to where we are as a successful and unique species in large part because of meat eating. All species seem to exploit other species. I found the Mind Lab experiment most attention-grabbing for me, though not completely convinced of the interpretation of data based on using just those 3 people, but I’m open to learning more on the experiments and subject. The idea that vegan diets must be artificially supplemented but meat-based diets not, but also the phenomena of people who turn vegetarian and/or vegan but return to meat eating, and people who make serious efforts of vegan diets but find them not fulfilling and strength-sapping as compared to meat-based diets, yet how others are just fine on long-term vegan diets - I find interesting.
The program did focus solely on factory farming, the industrialised over-intensive use and exploitation of animals as food, which is the most dominant form of animal-based food production and which I do believe is the least humane of all forms of animal ag. I guess that is relevant to the question of why, given the intensive conditions of most animals produced (particularly chickens and pigs, who sometimes never see the light of day) which are really less than humane, why do people still eat not so much meat per se, but meat that is produced in this fashion. I think the taste and nourishment of meat and the fact that it is there (the animal is now dead and the flesh on the shelf, and people don’t feel directly responsible for how the animal was treated) and that it is cheap trumps. Still, issues of what keeps meat so cheap were not discussed. Also, other forms of animal farming, ranching and other meat procurement means were not mentioned in the program as more humane that could play a more dominant role in a meat-based food system (with industrialised meat as less dominant and, as such, could then be made more humane) and as a better strategy for change than asking people to completely stop eating meat.
One must respect, though, that the presentation is a personal perspective and very much from the no animal use standpoint. Indeed, from the beginning the listener is forewarned that “this is not balanced, dispassionate journalism.” The radio host makes it clear from the start that he is opposed to animal suffering for human needs and pleasures, and most of the people featured were as well.