Vegetarianism & Animal Welfare
© 2008 Dan Piraro - Used with Permission

Dan Piraro’s Bizarro Outrage You probably won’t be surprised to learn the cartoon seen here has provoked yawps of indignation from both meat-eaters and, presumably, some who genuinely felt past crimes against humanity were being trivialized. Those who think of animals as mindless commodities were especially outraged that their mindless self indulgence should be framed in terms of moral lassitude. Some feel cruelty to animals is entirely divorced from cruelty to humans, more approaching a mere lack of decorum, like, maybe, littering or like a youngster pulling the head off his sister’s doll. But most vegetarians believe that cruelty is a continuum with no clear demarcations. The nation of Spain has determined, for example, that chimpanzees are genetically so similar to us that treating them as though they were laboratory petri dishes is unconscionable. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, says in the forward to Marjorie Spiegel’s The Dreaded Comparison, “the animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men." It may be wrong to equate the suffering of animals with the suffering of black people, but through much of our nation’s history black people were equated with animals and, as Ms. Speigel’s book reveals, many of the same justifications now being used to excuse various forms of animal cruelty were used to justify the mistreatment and enslavement of a race many liked to believe were ”sub-human.” Jewish author and Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer, who fled the holocaust to the US, made a similar and equally controversial comparison in his writings between cruelty to his people and to animals. In “The Letter Writer” the hero says: "In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka." So, Dan, you are, at least, in the very best of company. And thanks for expressing your own sense of outrage over the treatment of animals.

Fear of Flying Mammals A recent issue of Orion magazine, usually a pretty responsible publication, has added to the volumesBat of articles and stories designed to persuade readers to kill bats on sight. In “The Rabies Principle” author Sandra Steingraber, “ecologist” and “biologist,” has added her little bit to bat hysteria. She might have done a little research first. For example, among her other dubious claims, there is no indication that some bat bites are “undetectable.“ Even the vampire bat of South America causes pain to humans when it bites them. Most bat bites are undetectable because they are imaginary; the mouth of the insectivorous bat is ill-suited to clamping onto humans.

The massive effort of local, state and federal governments, which Ms. Steingraber finds so laudable, to combat rabies in humans, is aimed at reducing an epidemic that averages two cases a year in the US, most believed to originate outside the country. Maybe that money could be more practically spent to combat some of the toxic environmental hazards Ms. Steingraber complains of in this article.

Bats are one of the most useful animals in our eco-system destroying tons of harmful insects nightly, including the disease-carrying mosquito. Articlces like Ms. Steingraber’s help to feed the fear and loathing that leads to the persecution of bats and the destruction of their very fragile colonies. Perhaps she should also call for the extermination of raccoons which account for far more cases of rabies in animals in this country, or of foxes which harbor only slightly fewer cases than bats. Of course, the public would never buy into that: foxes and raccoons are cute and loveable; bats are ugly and scary.

BTW, I have had a course of twelve precautionary rabies shots myself many years ago as the result of bites and scratches from a former pet cat gone feral. They weren’t all that bad (the shots, that is; the bites and scratches were terrible). I didn’t get rabies, but I did get sepsis, which I learned recently, in my medical studies, has a 20% mortality rate, a much greater concern, it turns out, than rabies.

For real information on bats, see the Bat Conservation International site; contribute to them, if you can, to help counter fear-mongering like that of Ms. Steingraber’s.

Dolphins Save Humans   Since ancient times sailors have regarded it as unforgiveable folly to harm a dolphin; dolphins were known to guide ships through treacherous waters. Dolphins have saved people from drowning. And dolphins have saved people from sharks. In November of 2005, near the town of Whangerei in New Zealand, lifeguard Rob Howes was swimming with his 15 year old daughter and two of her friends when he was suddenlyalarmed to discover they had been encircled by dolphins who would not permit them to swim away. His alarm turned to astonished gratitude when he realized the dolphins were protecting them from a three meter [about 10'] great

Dolphin at Play
   Sea Shepherd
white shark which was circling about two meters away from the swimmers, just beyond the dolphins; "They had corralled us up to protect us, " he said. The event was also seen by another lifeguard Matt Fleet who was patroling on lifeboat and confirmed Howes' account. Throughout history there have been frequent reports of dolphins helping and protecting humans who have entered their world and found themselves in danger there. So how do we repay them?


Japanese Dolphin SlaughterHumans Slaughter Dolphins   Dolphins are the only creature on earth with more brain surface (thus more wrinkles [gyri]) than humans. Does that make them smarter than us? Or only more humane. The pictures here from Sea Shepherd show Japanese fishermen taking part in Japan's annual slaugher of thousands of dolphins (the crimson water has not been retouched, giving new meaning to the term "bloodbath"). Many fisherman believe dolphins are responsible for declining fish stocks in the oceans, apparently making no connection to the Japanese driftnet fishing trawlers (and those of other nations) which can tow nets up to 90 miles long. The dolphins' bodies are also sold for meat. Dolphins are highly intelligent beings that are fully aware of their own excruciating deaths and the deaths of their family members. Bay of Blood

But there are some humans as noble as the Dolphin. Members of the Sea Shepherd Society, among others, have risked and endured physical attack and imprisonment to interfere with the massacres and to free captive dolphins. They deserve your support as much as any animal welfare group. How about giving someone a membership or something from their gift shop? Perhaps a Sea Shephred pendant instead of roses for Valentien's Day this year for that certain someone special enough to care. Here in the Smokies you're not likely to see any dolphins, but, someday you may visit the ocean, and wouldn't it be good to know there are still dolphins frolicking in the seas beneath your excursion boat? Especially if you lean out too far to point at something and fall overboard…

Knoxvillian First Alleged Man Convicted of Felony Animal Cruelty in Tennessee Timothy Sawyer, 40, of Knoxville, will become the first alleged man to go to jail for animal cruelty under Tennessee's new statute which makes extreme animal cruelty a class E felony; he has been sentenced to two years in jail. Sawyer killed his stepdaughter's eight week old Jack Russel terrier Sophie by crushing her in a door and then, in what was a doubtlessly unwitting imitation of the cosmetics industry, pouring liquid make-up down her throat, choking her to death.
Photo of Sophie by Patricia Sawyer

As is often the case with animal abusers, Sawyer also has a lengthy history of domestic abuse. The killing of the puppy was part of his long campaign of tormenting his ex-wife.This fiend in more-or-less human form was also convicted of threatening his wife in an attempt to make her drop the animal cruelty charges and sentenced to an additional two years. Unfortunately, as part of a plea bargain, the two sentences will run concurrently. You can sign a petition urging the authorities not to lessen this wretch's sentence by a single day. I don't know whether parole boards heed such things, but Attorneys General do.

Congratulations to VSET Animal Rights Coordinator Cindy McDaniel and to all who contacted their legislators urging them to support this legislation. Sawyer has expressed consternation that he could face jail time for killing a puppy. The Knoxville Journal quoted Sawyer as saying, "It’s not like I killed a person. I just killed a stupid dog.” “Stupid,” of course, would apply more correctly to this human dung heap, or, perhaps, more accurately still, that old Smoky Mountain epithet, “Stupid mean.”

Let's not forget, though, that more than a thousand animals a month in Knox County's Animal Shelter alone die deaths just as senseless, though far more humane, because citizens of our county are too lazy and cruel to spay and neuter their animals, or greedy enough to breed their animals in hopes of easy money. And animals that are allowed to run loose often die deaths every bit as horrible, mangled by cars, convulsing in agony from drinking anti-freeze, or torn asunder by other animals. Let's let this Sawyer thug represent ALL the forms of animal cruelty we must fight to stop.

Lion man may prove high intellect of non-humans. The discovery, as reported in Nature Science, of the world's oldest figurative sculpture, a depiction of a human-lion hybrid, may have been the product of Neanderthals, already known to have created beads and pendants. The fact that this artwork goes beyond a straightforward depiction of real animals and into the world of fantasy suggests that its creators had highly developed imaginations comparable to our own. So what has this to do with animal welfare? Mitochondrial dna has proven that Neanderthals did not interbreed with humans; they were an entirely seperate species. Those who exploit animals justify their cruelty by claiming that non-humans have no higher sensibilities and no real intellect. Neanderthal art proves that at least one non-human species did.
Recent studies confirm, question Neanderthals as seperate species.

Photo © J.Duckeck /

Wild and Free on the Open Plains...
Or Specially Priced on the Blue Plate Menu

The tragic plight of American horses cruelly slaughtered for foreign tables and domestic dogfood - or dogs and cats slaughtered for supper in Asia, for that matter - is really no sadder than the plight of hundreds of thousands of meat industry animals who live lives of misery before being "harvested," often painfully. But Americans are more fond of horses than of cattle, and horses, at least, have a defender in the Doris Day Animal League. Scroll down our Advocacy page.

Sic the G-Men on Animal Cruelty. VSET Animal Welfare Coordinator Cindy McDaniel urges all Americans to make three phone calls to bring the FBI into the fight against Animal cruelty. Not only is the crime of abuse against animals repugnant in itself, it is often a precursor to crime against human beings (see below). VSET joins with the Doris Day Animal League in this worthwhile effort.

The FBI already collects data on these crimes, however, the data is filed under a "miscellaneous" heading where it cannot be retrieved for analysis. If the FBI helps make available animal cruelty crime statistics to law enforcement and social service agencies, these agencies can track crime trends and develop more effective prevention and intervention programs.

TAKE ACTION: Please ask the following subcommittee members to support a separate FBI category for animal cruelty offenses: Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-SC) at (202) 224-6121; Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-VA) at (202) 225-5136; and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) at (202) 225-4361. Be sure to mention this category can be added at no extra cost, as the FBI is currently revamping its crime reporting system.

Fare Well, Marvelous Beast Five of the few remaining Northern White Rhinos on earth are, at last, being moved to a sanctuary. It is estimated that fewer than ten remain in the wild with another ten in captivity. This makes the Northern White Rhino the most endangered large mammal in the world. Recovery prospects look bleak as, it seems, this animal only breeds in a herd setting and the ten in captivity are not reproducing. This preservation effort, though laudable, would appear to be a case of too little too late. The Rhinos are slain by marauding bands armed with heavy weapons; the horns are hacked off and the carcass of this rare creature is left to rot. The horns are sold in the East to superstitious men with more money than sense who believe the powdered horn will cure their Erectile Dysfunction. The latest butchers to seek to exterminate the breed for profit are of the same ethnic group as the Janjaweed Arab militia, the group that has raped and murdered millions of blacks in the Sudan, an even greater tragedy than the Tsunami disaster, but one that doesn’t seem to merit a telethon. I think it was Frederick II who said, “The more I know people, the more I love animals.”

Here’s my suggestion: develop a powder chemically indistinguishable from powdered rhino horn and flood the market with it. Since any inert substance will have the same non-effect as powdered rhino horn, who’s to know? You’ll note I’m refraining from urging it be laced with a slow-acting but lethal poison. Meanwhile, begin a campaign to tranquilize as many wild rhinos black and white (the "white" actually derives from the Afrikaaner word “weis,” meaning wide) as possible and replace their horns with chartreuse fiberglass or something.

Many vegetarians - though certainly not all - are also fans of “alternative” medicine. Some herbal remedies and other traditional nostrums have value, others don’t (your correspondent confesses to being homeopathophobic). But to anyone who’s ever asked what harm a folk remedy could do: this is one example.

The LonelyBuffalo   The people of the Department of the Interior are the "stewards and guardians of our nation's natural resources and cultural heriatge." Or so they say. Nonetheless, our noble stewards felt obliged to kill a lone female buffalo who was trespassing onto the land of the Church Universal and Triumphant, despite having been warned repeatedly not to do so, reports the Buffalo Field Campaign. Certainly the CUT was Triumphant over this particular creature. It seems cattlemen are annoyed that buffalo are eating grass that could be fattening their cows, and have pressured the DOI to take drastic action. Another good reason, though we already had a sufficiency, not to eat beef. Increasingly, the Interior Department has become the Interior Department Store for Agribusiness and the Meat Industry, placing corporate profits over national heritage. Look closely at the bison on the DOI's seal: is that a spot of blood over its heart?

Atrocities at Kosher Slaughterhouse  Just after Thanksgiving PeTA released footage of cows slain according to Kosher law staggering and languishing long after their throats were cut, according to an article in the November 30 New York TImes (free registration required). "On the 30-minute tape, each animal is placed in a rotating drum so it can be killed while upside down, as required by Orthodox rabbis in Israel. Immediately after the shochet, or ritual slaughterer, has slit the throat, another worker tears open each steer's neck with a hook and pulls out the trachea and esophagus. The drum rotates, and the steer is dumped on the floor. One after another, animals with dangling windpipes stand up or try to; in one case, death takes three minutes," the article says. "Virtually all defenders of kosher slaughter, called shechita, insist that the prescribed rapid cut with a razor-sharp two-foot blade is humane because it causes instant and painless death. Jewish law also forbids killing injured or sick animals, so they may not be stunned first, either with clubs as in ancient times or with air hammers, pistols or electricity today." (Our VSET Animal Rights spokesperson, Cindy McDaniel, advised us of these cruel practices only days ago. Cindy... you were right.) Defenders of Kosher slaughter contend that once the throat is cut the brain, deprived of oxygen, is without consciousness and the anguished thrashing and bubbling attempts to scream are mindless reflex. My own observation as a practitioner of judo, which makes use of the "sleeper" hold, is that a person rendered unconscious by cutting off blood to the brain does not move about at all until consciousness begins to return. Until overturned on technical grounds in 2001 Switzerland outlawed Kosher slaughter. The practice which many consider barbaric, has been linked to a rise in anti-semitism in some countries. The Muslim method of halâl slaughter has raised similar concerns. Learn about Jewish and Muslim Vegetarianism on our Links page.

Urgent Action to Protect Tennessee Animals! VSET Animal Welfare Coordinator Cindy McDaniel urges all Tennesseeans to write, call or email Governor Bredesen to ask him to sign SB 3209 & HB 3458 into law. In the words of the letter she submitted to the Governor: "These bills are designed to strengthen the current cruelty law by defining aggravated cruelty to include 'the failure to provide food and water to a companion animal resulting in death or a substantial risk of death.' A first conviction under the newly passed legislation will be a Class A misdemeanor, subject up to an eleven month, twenty-nine day term of imprisonment, and/or up to a two thousand dollar fine. Subsequent convictions would be Class E felonies, subject to a one to six year term of imprisonment and up to a three thousand dollar fine." We lost the effort to outlaw scattering unrestrained dogs down the highway from open pickup trucks, but we can win this one if you will please take just a moment to let the governor know there are a lot of Tennesseeans who care about animal suffering. Thanks.

Governor Phil Bredesen, Office of the Governor, Tennessee State Capitol, Nashville, TN 37243, (615) 741-2001,

Study: Cruelty to Animals Becomes Cruelty to People. Criminologists have long known that animal cruelty is a good indicator that the perpetrator is also capable of vicious cruelty against people. Now a new book, Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence Against People, details research that confirms this. The authors are Linda Merz-Perez, former Humane Society Executive Director in Alabama and Animal Cruelty Investigative Officer, and Kathleen Heide, Professor of Criminology and a licensed mental health counselor. Theirs is the first study to present qualitative and quantitative data clearly establishing a link between childhood animal cruelty and violent crime in adulthood. The researchers found that more than half of violent offenders had committed acts of animal cruelty in their youth, as compared with only 20 % of non-violent offenders. The authors said their study showed the importance of early intervention in cruelty cases, and the urgency of prosecutors taking animal abuse cases seriously.

The authors broke animal abuse cases down into four categories, violence against strays, violence against pets, violence against wildlife, and violence against farm animals. Of course, farm animals are not accorded the same protections agains cruelty in our society as are companion animals. The suffereing of meat animals is regarded lightly, often even joked about. Reviews of this book do not indicate whether the national indifference to the agonies of factory-farmed animals makes us as a culture more willing to tolerate the cruelty toward human beings...

Skip a Burger, Save a Wolf.
Giving up beef will not only help save major predators, like the wolf; that dietary change can also help save whole ecosystems. At Yellowstone the recovery of the wolf has helped restore willow groves, since browsing elk now tend to eat and run. This, in turn, has led to the comeback of moose, beavers, minks, muskrats and ducks. Ecology, it seems, is a complex business, and chopping whole parts of it away for the benefit of special interests can have unanticipated consequences. Learn more at NPR.

No one will be suprised to find that ranchers are wolves' most implacable enemies. They were primarily responsible for the bounties that exterminated wolves from most of our country to start with. They are the group most resistant to reintroducing them. They are the ones who push hardest, once wolves become re-established, despite all odds, to re-exterminate them or at least to be allowed to shoot them on sight; beef producers are now urging that wolves be removed from Endangered Species protection. And some cattlemen, such as gentleman rancher and newscaster Sam Donaldson, advocate following the Triple-S wolf management program, thus avoiding government red tape. The three S's stand for: Shoot, Shovel and Shutup. Meanwhile the cattle of most major beef producers graze on your public lands, often causing substantial damage. Cattlemen don't much like wild horses roaming those ranges either, by the way.

The war against predators is only one of many ways ranching harms the natural wold. A few of the others: rain forest destruction, second-most source of greenhouse gas methane, the worst cause of non-point source water pollution, soil erosion - you really just can't be an environmentalist and still eat beef.

(I almost headed this "Shoot a Rancher, Save a Wolf" as a satirical take on the bumper sticker popular among cattlemen: "Shoot a Wolf, Save a Rancher." But beef producers and anti-environmentalists would be all over something like that - "Vegetarians Call for Slaughter of Ranchers" - so I resisted the impulse. See below for other examples of "Vegeterrorism.

Delicious ChickenThank God for the COK anti-Hardee Commercials  We never thought we'd be thanking God for commercials, but those great folks at Compassion Over Killing have reached thousands with their powerful commercials emphasizing the cruelty meat-eaters inflict by not giving a moment's thought to their dietary habits. This sort of outreach is precisely what the vegetarian community should be doing if we want to change the world; otherwise vegetarian groups like VSET only serve as self-adulatory organizations, congratulating one another on our moral superiority. I'm proud to say, however, that the hardworking members of VSET do go to great lengths to explain the merits of vegetarianism at as many public events as possible. But if only we had the funds to run commercials like this one. Your donation of only $25 can run this ad on MTV in a targeted city. Maybe even Knoxville. Your webgrasshopper called the advertising department of Comcast, and found them wary when I carelessly mentioned “compassion.” This is, apparently, a red flag word; I was handed off to the head of the advertising department. ”Mmmm… would this be… an issue ad?” he asked warily. “Oh, no...” I responded, now, belatedly on guard. “More… informational.” He promised to send info. We’ll see; hopefully I’ll be requesting donations for this purpose soon, probably through COK.

What Good is a Crocodile?  Lord knows nothing is more worthless than a crocodile; not only can't they collate or juggle, they can't even lay eggs. Oh, they can? Well, I'm sure they wouldn't make good eggnog. The point is, crocodiles are another of those worthless animals really good for nothing. Except curing AIDS, of course, if you care about that sort of thing. It seems crocodile blood may be the magic bullet for destroying all sorts of otherwise untouchable viruses. (Research indicates we might also be able to use crocodile blood for human transfusions, despite its great dissimilarity from ours.) It's always reckless to dismiss the value of big chunks of our planet's ecology.

Animal Abuse Task Force A Knox County task force is studying ways to provide for the cross-training of animal control officers and human service workers in recognizing abuse of all sorts. Since those who abuse animals often abuse people, animal control officers are encouraged to watch for signs of domestic, child and elder abuse. According to Elizabeth Strand, Task Force member, 40% of those who have requested orders of protection report that their abusers have threatened, injured or killed their pets; among those who have taken refuge in domestic abuse shelters the number rises to 76%. Some women postpone leaving an abusive situation in fear that a beloved pet will be killed or tortured in their absence, or return to that situation in response to threats to pets.

Road Home Animal Rescue, in response to this neglected problem, has established, in their words, "Tennessee’s first and only shelter designed to specifically aid the animal victims of domestic violence" They have protected thousands of pets, no doubt thereby saving many animal and possibly several human lives. However, this innovative rescue group is desperately short of funds. If you were thinking of donating to PeTA (see article below), here's a better place to put your money.

Will You be Having Just Deserts with your Foie Gras? Activists all over the world have been proclaiming how exceptionally cruel, even in the unspeakably cruel meat industry, the production of pate de foie gras is, requiring, as it does, the force feeding of geese for weeks prior to their cruel slaughter (read Slaughterhouse* by Gail Eisnitz to learn more about that). It’s hard to imagine that those who demand this expensive delicacy are unaware of the misery they cause. Perhaps the knowledge that their little indulgence is the product of pain adds to their enjoyment. Now research performed by Dr. Alan Solomon at Knoxville’s own University of Tennessee indicates that mis-folded proteins called amyloids produced by the forced feeding can be transmitted to those who consume them, resulting in amyloidosis, amyloid deposits that might be related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or other amyloid diseases. (Mad Cow type diseases also propogate by inducing amyloid folds.) There is said to be an especially sadistic culinary practice involving eating the brains of a live monkey trapped in a special table. The brain itself does not feel pain, so the monkey remains alive as its brain and consciousness are eaten away. Perhaps this is a good analogy for the terrible ravages of Alzheimers, whose victims have, in most cases, done nothing to deserve such a fate.                                            *2nd Review

Duck Justice. Or maybe that should be, You Can't Duck Justice. Animal rights groups have opened a campaign against restaurants and their chefs who prepare and serve pate de foie gras, a "delicacy" that requires the forced feeding of geese and ducks. These activists, like so many who value compassion over currency, have been described as "terrorists." We may object to their methods, but, thus far no environmental or animal activist in the US has harmed any human beings. Only the most dedicated materialist would equate the spray-painting of a restaurant with the carnage of true terrorism.