Commentary: Newkirk’s tired old song

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Among advocacy groups, there’s always lots of talk about reforming animal agriculture—doing away with factory farming, releasing farm animals from generations of bondage and ending so-called livestock abuse that in their minds occurs hourly on every farm and ranch in America.

The queen of such slop is PETA’s founder Ingrid Newkirk. Far too much space has been wasted on dissecting her warped worldview, but for commentators like me, she’s kind of like a vaccination: Every once in awhile, you need to receive a booster shot to maintain your immunity to the persuasions of the vegan proselytizers.

So here goes.

Some time ago, as Newkirk recalled in a recent piece on The Huffington Post, “I began to view ground beef as about as appetizing as that flattened animal you see on the freeway. These days, I find it baffling that our species eats ova and flesh at all.”

Baffling, indeed. Why would anyone on Earth raise livestock, produce milk, eggs and meat and then actually eat those foods? What a ridiculous idea, one that’s been discredited, according to Newkirk, since way back in . . . the 1980s.

Listen to her explanation, and decide for yourself if this is someone with a grip on reality:

“It seems extraordinary that a human being wanders into a supermarket, inhales the aromas from the fruit and veggie aisles, passes right by the almonds and walnuts, the beans and grains, and stands drooling over the mortuary case in the back. It’s as if they are in a horror film called Supermarket Invasion of the Flesh-Eaters.”

Maybe she should be queen of dumb, derivative movie titles instead.

Personally, though, I’ll admit: It’s tough to pass by all those almonds and walnuts when I’m grocery shopping. I’m sure they’d make a dynamite dinner, one that mine and every other child in America would be dying to dig into. But the fact remains that for all the boosterism veggie activists lavish on meatless meals, most of the people in this world living solely on grains and beans are forced to do so because they’re unable to obtain the animal foods they’d prefer.

Plus, about two-thirds of North Americans live in a temperate climate zone, meaning there’s only a single growing season a year. So for a good six months every year, the availability of all those supermarket aromas wafting through the fruit and veggie aisles are due to imported products grown in tropical or semi-tropical climates thousands of miles away.

Different—yet the same

We already know that the distribution systems responsible for such luxury are less-than sustainable in the long run. Just because we have the technology and the distribution infrastructure to pull that off doesn’t make those foods any more natural—or appropriate—given what we know about the effect of burning up fossil fuels to transport stuff around the world.

Not to mention the fact that virtually every meatless product that purports to be “healthier than” its animal-derived analog contains added oils (fat), added sodium (salt) and highly processed functional additives like isolated soy protein, TVP and various emulsifiers.

Nothing wrong with any of that—only it’s not “natural,” as veggie types always try to insist. Furthermore, the negatives that activists like Newkirk tick off as indictments of “Big Ag” (that same dastardly entity responsible for the rice, beans and soy protein on which vegetarians subsist) are equally embedded in the development, production and marketing of foods veggies would heartily approve for consumption: Corporate control, excessive carbon footprints and price points guaranteed to gouge the working class.

In the end, what money-grubbing mouthpieces like Newkirk and her ilk love most of all is wailing about animal abuse, blubbering on about how livestock are mistreated and “cruelly used,” only to be slaughtered after too short and too miserable a life. They never mention the millions of animals that are killed and eaten every year by other animals.

So just to be clear: If you’re a calf, it’s not abuse if a wolf slashes your throat out in the pasture and waits for you to bleed to death. But if a human renders you unconscious before you succumb, why, that’s the height of rank cruelty!

Such a stance is preposterous. It would be like condemning the confinement of young toddlers in “prison-like” day care compounds, torn away from their parents and forced to spend all day in play areas so small they can’t even run around—and then ignoring hundreds of feral children left on their own to starve and die of exposure out on the streets.

Crazy, but no different than the rants PETA people love to launch about eating the “fecally contaminated muscle tissue of a slaughtered pig [on] a bun with ketchup,” or consuming “the flesh of hens confined to filthy, windowless sheds [with] dead and dying chicks and birds with raw, abraded skin and oozing sores.”

Even organic, free-range or any other natural, pastoral or guilt-free animal foods are verboten in Newkirk’s world. As she puts it, “It’s no more acceptable to raise animals for food as long as they’re treated ‘humanely’ than it is to keep slaves, as long as they’re not whipped or beaten.”

All we’re missing now is a Hitler reference and her analogy file’s complete.

But not to worry. She’s got plenty of Holocaust metaphors just waiting to be rolled out for her ideologically myopic followers to embrace.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.


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Johnny    
NY  |  December, 11, 2012 at 08:33 PM

You accuse vegan diets of creating excessive carbon footprints? According to a 2006 United Nations Study called Livestock’s Long Shadow; the meat industry creates more greenhouse gases that the whole world transportation system COMBINED.

Dan Murphy    
Everett, Wash.  |  December, 13, 2012 at 01:34 PM

No, I didn't say veggie foods produce excessive carbon footprints, only that they're not exempt from some of the same calculations that make meat look bad.

HB    
December, 12, 2012 at 08:59 AM

In November 2006, a report from the United Nations (U.N.) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) titled Livestock’s Long Shadow was released. Publicity surrounding the report focused on the finding that livestock production accounts for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. However, the FAO report does not call for reduced consumption of animal products and, in fact, suggests U.S. livestock production practices be considered a model for the rest of the world. According to Livestock’s Long Shadow (Page 17), intensification provides “large opportunities for climate change mitigation,” “can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation,” and is the long-term solution to sustainable livestock production. Also, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the entire U.S. agriculture sector accounts for just 6 percent of the country’s total annual GHG emissions. Of this, livestock production specifically is estimated to contribute just 2.8 percent. (EPA, Critical Analysis of Livestock’s Long Shadow).

Cuda B    
Iowa  |  December, 13, 2012 at 08:02 AM

Sounds like Johnny doesn't like facts.


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