By Patrice Greanville, Editor, TGP
Some readers have asked why we “waste” space on TGP defending ducks and geese…when there are so many urgent issues afflicting humans, the planet, and so on that need attention.
Such readers, am afraid, are missing the point, and their attitude is reminiscent of the famous “straw man argument” so frequently utilized by rightwingers, trolls, and corporate apologists to push back or shame leftists or anyone seeking to redress legitimate grievances. The assumption here, which seems so logical on the surface, is that there’s a scale of priorities in the universe of struggles against the status quo, and that concerning oneself with causes that, in the critic’s opinion, are of lesser value is questionable at best, and possibly a betrayal of the overall objectives of the struggle. Such attacks, mind you, usually originate with people who, while pelting activists for their supposed broken priority compass, do absolutely nothing to better this world in any way whatsoever. This, however, is not a fact that per se should disqualify their complaint. In truth, in a rational world, and following the most elementary rules of utilitarianism, we should pay attention to our priorities. We should always try to attend to the most urgent calamity afflicting the largest number of sentient creatures and inducing the most serious consequences. Waging any kind of battle, any kind of struggle, without a sense of where the importance of each campaign element lies is to doom the enterprise to chaos.
I said earlier that this peeve seemed to me to be a straw man argument, for it imputes that TGP is normally, disproportionally, foolishly and primarily involved in defending any and all animal causes at the expense of human, environmental and the myriad problems and crimes constantly emanating from the pores of a very sick society. Any person of fair mind can easily see that such accusation has no grounding. The Greanville Post —as a simple Google search will show—has a huge inventory of articles covering just about every issue of importance under the sun, and the mix, I daresay, is as rational and balanced as any rational person can make it. Defending ducks and geese—for which I offer no apology—is done without sacrificing a single moment in the battle against other gianormous ills. Quixotic as it may sound, we try to cover them all.
So why do we care about these most unfortunate ducks and geese? Simply put, first of all, because not being speciesists, any and all crimes against animals get our dander up. Crimes against animals (nonhuman animals who attack animals do not commit crimes) are crimes committed against the most helpless of sentient creatures. They are morally base, opportunistic and almost always cowardly, once we consider the grotesque imbalance in power between the victimizer and the victim.
Second, ducks and geese subject to the foie gras tortures are part of factory farming, and factory farming is demonstrably a very big deal. A huuuge deal. This is an agribusiness practice, a way of life for many—from absentee corporate owners to farmers and farmhands in the field—which encapsulates some of the most colossal self-serving, ethically-blind values, all in the name of tradition, sacred commerce and “feeding the people.” Its dehumanizing practices—where animals, and often the people who must do the killing, are reduced to mere cogs in a gigantic profit machine—have been amply documented. But assuming now that sentiment alone will not move you, and that you call yourself a “progressive”, wrap your mind around this little thought (not often if ever mentioned by the prostituted media):
Factory farming…accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transport combined. (1)
That’s right, if you’re at all concerned about the multitude of nefarious effects of an accelerating climate change due to the planet’s inexorable warming (and soon enough, heating, when the “methane bomb” goes off), a problem you attributed mainly to automotive and aviation pollution, industrial emissions, and so on, what do you propose to do now that you learn factory farming is a major factor in this manmade disaster? Obviously what we do to animals matters, even to those humble little ducks and geese who must endure lives of utter misery and die horrible deaths so that the more affluent amongst us can have their passing pleasures. And what we do to the environment
Industrial farms, also called factory farms or CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) pollute the air in many ways, emitting foul odors, airborne particles, greenhouse gases, and numerous toxic chemicals. In the United States and elsewhere, industrial farms are leading producers of noxious substances such as nitrous oxide1 and ammonia.2 United States farms alone produce more than 400 different gases,3 in addition to dust and airborne particles known as endotoxins4 generated during the handling and disposal of manure, the production and use of animal feeds, and the shipping and distribution of farm products. Air pollution from industrial farms can cause health problems in agricultural workers, in residents of neighboring communities, and in farm animals. Although strategies exist to reduce air pollution, many industrial farms do little or nothing in this regard.
Mountains of Manure
The USDA estimates that more than 335 million tons of manure are produced annually on U.S. farms.5 Stored for long periods of time in giant tanks or lagoons, the animal waste decomposes and pollutes the air with hundreds of different gases.6 These storage facilities are often located next to animal confinement facilities, with the livestock and the people who work with them continually exposed to harmful gases.7 Additional air pollution is caused when huge amounts of stored manure are sprayed onto fields.
Hydrogen sulfide, methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide are the major hazardous gases produced by decomposing manure.8 The EPA estimates that methane emissions from manure increased by 26 percent in the United States between 1990 and 2004, due primarily to larger, more concentrated dairy cow and swine facilities.9 North Carolina’s hog industry alone produces about 300 tons of ammonia each day.10
(Source: Air Pollution—Sustainable Table )
So, you see, everything is linked, after all. and like the scientist warned, “the flutter of a small butterfly’s wings can set off a tsunami across the world…” We also wish that it was always true that no crime ever went unpunished, but, about that one we’re not so sure.
—Patrice Greanville is editor in chief of The Greanville Post.
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