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Glf:So Much Depends

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  • Introduction
    • Thanks You's
      • Thank Introducer
        • > Thank you [Name], for that wonderful introduction, (I hope I’m not blushing)
      • Thank Group
        • > ...and many thanks to xxx for hosting me and setting this up and doing all the work necessary to make this happen.
      • Thank Audience
        • >And thanks to all of you for coming.
        • Challenge Beliefs
          • >It shows you have an open mind and a willingness to hear something that for many of you, might challenge some of your beliefs.
        • Progress
        • Not Values
    • Website JFA
      • Sources
      • Followup
      • Replies


Thank you, Ned, for that wonderful introduction, (I hope I’m not blushing)

and many thanks to all the volunteers, our host Cahaba Brewing, our event planner Desare, the vendors and exhibitors and sponsors like Kind Perks.

And thanks to all of you for coming. It's likely some of you came to this talk knowing full well that you might hear something that will challenge some of your beliefs.

It shows you have an open mind, and that's important because without that, no progress could have ever been made on any cause that involved issues of justice and the oppression of others.

What I say here today might challenge some of your beliefs, but not your values, because what I’m going to say is consistent with values you already hold dear.

Before we get into the talk, let me just mention that I have a web site,, where you will find sources and citations for the factual information I will present today. For those who want to pursue the topIc further, you will also find articles for beginners, answers to objections, and other articles on a variety of related topics, some which go into greater detail on what I’ll touch on today.

If you wish to contact me, go to the site and search for my name, and that will lead you to my profile page with contact information and social media links.

We will have a question and answer session at the end of the talk.


The title of this talk, So Much Depends, is taken from the first line of a poem, a popular and visually evocative and very short poem by William Carlos Williams.

It goes like this: So much depends | upon a red wheelbarrow | glazed with rainwater | beside the white chickens.

I suspect that when the poem was published in 1923, so much did depend on the old homestead wheelbarrow. And, as anyone who has tried to maneuver and balance a wheelbarrow full of rocks or wet dirt over rough ground can attest, it’s quite the useful tool.

But things are different now. Since the time the poem was published, we are breeding far more of those chickens you see in the poem, one thousand 400 percent more, while during the same time period the number of farms producing those chickens has decreased by 98%.

This tells us something about the extreme concentration of farmed animals into factories that use manufacturing-like processes on living beings. Today over 97% of meat, dairy, and eggs come from such factory farms.

Our increasing demand such products has not only exponentially added to the number of farmed animals slaughtered, but has also added to the kinds of suffering each animal is forced to endure. But this is not even the root of the ethical problems with using animals, as I will discuss later.

This increase in demand has also contributed to a host of problems for humanity, including loss of wildlife and diversity, environmental devastation, impoverishment, food safety issues, and chronic disease.

So now, not so much depends on the old homestead wheelbarrow, but so much does depend on what we choose to put in our mouths every day...

because every time we buy food at the grocery store or order a meal at a restaurant, we are telling producers what to produce and what not to produce.

I'll be talking about these issues that depend on our food choices, ...

Hunger and Efficiency

...starting with the inefficiencies of animal agriculture and how that impedes our ability to feed a growing population.

In developing countries, over 5 million children under the age of five die of starvation every year and another 800 million are unable to lead a normal life because of chronic hunger.

And yet, eighty percent of these starving children live in countries where food is grown for livestock that will then be shipped to and eaten in more affluent countries.

That seems criminal.

One study shows that by feeding the food now grown for animals, directly to people, we can feed an additional 3.5 billion people in the world,

and a separate study shows that we could feed an additional 400 million just in the United States.

Now, you may be wondering how this could be. It’s because most of the calories we feed an animal go toward daily energy for living, as well as creating tissue and body parts that we don't eat, such as bones.

Very few of the calories go into making the meat, eggs, and milk we do consume.

The World Resources Institute determined that it takes on average, 24 calories of feed to produce one calorie of meat, dairy, and eggs.

Some point out that we already have enough food to feed everybody—the problem is a combination of social inequality, war zones, and logistics. But it would be hard to imagine that being able to feed at least twice as many people using less land would not help.

But the bigger long-term problem is that by 2050 there will be almost 10 billion people that need to be feed, 34% more than today.

Taking this into consideration, so much depends, so much of our ability to feed our growing population depends on having a more efficient food system, which we can support and encourage by what we choose to put in our mouths every day.


First, the environment and global warming:

Before I get into global warming and other specific environmental harms, let me say a few words about two factors that form the backdrop and have an overriding influence.

I want to talk about two factors which are alarming enough on their own but him find it really set the stage for everything that I'm going to talk about and multiply the devastation caused by animal aid.

But take them together they really highlight fine animal agriculture is such a problem for the environment

This first is land use.

There is no disagreement in the scientific community that animal agriculture is a major contributor to global warming, and by some estimates, it is the major contributor to global warming.

By most estimates, animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than all cars, trucks, trains, buses, airplanes, and ships combined—more than the entire transportation sector, which the EPA pegs at 14% globally.

You would think that might have some ramifications for personal action, and it does.

Researchers from the University of Chicago determined that you reduce your personal contribution to global warming more by changing to a vegan diet than you do by switching to a Prius.

Over 19,000 scientists from 184 countries have signed a report known as the "Warning to Humanity," which, among other suggestions, promotes plant-based eating as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2018, the Oxford Study was published. It was called the most comprehensive analysis to date of its kind.

Joseph Poore, who led the research said "A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth"—"It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Global warming is a serious problem, threatening all life on earth but it’s not the only environmental issue with animal agriculture.

It would be an understatement to say that meat-based diets are strongly implicated in water wastage and water pollution, ocean dead zones, fish depletion, species extinction, and deforestation.

I wish I had time to give over all these, but I’ll just barely expound on one. The World Bank concluded that animal agriculture is responsible for 90% of Amazon Rainforest destruction.

And rainforest destruction of just one of the ways animal ag contributes to species extension.[1] Scientists say we are in the 6th mass extinction, the last one being the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, and that we are losing dozens of species every day, and that, unlike extinctions in the past, current extinctions are caused almost entirely by human activities.

We are losing the rainforests, which are the lungs of our planet,

we are losing the diversity of life on our planet,

and we are losing the ability of our planet to sustain life,

To a large degree because of animal agriculture.

So the health of the planet depends, in a major way, on what we choose to put in our mouths every day.


World hunger, and our ability to feed a growing population, is a related problem.

In developing countries, over 5 million children under the age of five die of starvation every year and another 800 million are unable to lead a normal life because of chronic hunger.

And yet, eighty percent of these starving children live in countries where food is grown for livestock that will then be shipped to and eaten in more affluent countries.

That seems criminal.

One study shows that by feeding the food now grown for animals, directly to people, we can feed an additional 3.5 billion people in the world,

and a separate study shows that we could feed an additional 400 million just in the United States.

Now, you may be wondering how this could be. It’s because most of the calories we feed an animal go toward daily energy for living, as well as creating tissue and body parts that we don't eat, such as bones.

Very few of the calories go into making the meat, eggs, and milk we do consume.

Feed conversion ratios show just how inefficient this is: it takes from 5 to 25 calories of plant feed to produce just one calorie of meat, dairy, or eggs, depending on the animal.

Some point out that we already have enough food to feed everybody—the problem is a combination of social inequality and logistics. But it would be hard to imagine that being able to feed at least twice as many people using less land would not help.


Some say that grazing, which doesn’t require as many cultivated crops, is the answer.

But studies show that grazing, even regenerative, rotational grazing, and so-called holistic land management techniques

actually harm the land,

don’t provide near enough land for current demands,

take up land that could be inhabited by wildlife,

and increase greenhouse gas emissions, all contrary to what its proponents claim.

Grazing is not the answer.



Running plant calories through animals rather than consuming them directly has consequences for health as well.

Leading medical organizations and dietetic associations have explicitly stated, that not only is eating a plant-based diet adequate, but it is also advantageous to good health.

Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Public Health, Kaiser Permanente and others are all on board.

These prominent organizations and others point out the ability of a plant-based diet to prevent, reverse, or lower your risk of

heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis, and other diseases and conditions.

Cleveland Clinic says there are no disadvantages to a herbivorous diet;

Kaiser Permanente even advises their doctors to recommend a plant-based diet to their patients.

And it's not just the clinics, hospitals, and research organizations I just mentioned.

The real experts on human nutrition are the dietetic associations.

The U.S.-based Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest dietetic association in the world with over 100,000 credentialed professionals,

says that a vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of life, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, the elderly and for athletes. (2009, 2016)

The dietetic associations in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia have issued similar statements.

Whole Foods Plant Base Movement

You might have noticed is a world-wide plant-based health movement, which runs parallel to the animal rights movement.

In this country it’s led by people like:

Dr. Kim Williams, past president of the American College of Cardiology. Doctor Williams says that "there are two kinds of cardiologists—vegans and those who haven't read the data."

Some of you may be familiar with Dr. Michael Gregor who points to a large body of research showing that 14 of the 15 leading causes of death are linked to eating animal products.

There are lots of initiatives in the country like Plant Pure Nation, as documented by the movie of the same name.

They went into rural communities and fed volunteers vegan versions of the kinds of meals they would normally eat, like veggie burgers and vegan lasagna,

And after just two weeks, many saw their cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood sugar and other markers improve dramatically.

People were getting off of, or reducing their medications.

The independent lab tester said that in his 25 years of experience, he had never seen results like these.


Think about not only the cost of suffering from these diseases, but the monetary costs to society and to individuals.

A study published by the National Academy of Sciences calculates an annual health-care savings of over $3,000 for each person on a plant-based diet in the United States.

Eating vegan, the food itself, is not more expensive - quite the contrary.

Mayo Clinic says that meatless meals are not only healthier, but they’re budget friendly and can be used to save money.

A study published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition—apparently there’s a journal for everything—this study reaches the same conclusion.

This is consistent my own personal experience. I saved a ton of money when I went vegan.


This plant-based and vegan movement is also reflected in a surge in the number of professional athletes who are vegan.

Endurance athletes like Ultra-marathoner Fiona Oakes, who holds 4 world records, and Scott Jurek, the most accomplished male ultra marathoner, are both vegan.

Vegans are taking podium positions in bicycle racing, track, soccer, surfing, and tennis.

A number of NBA and NFL players are vegan.

Body builders and weight lifters are in on this too.

Pat Baboumian, who holds the world deadlift record and has been called the strongest man in the world, says a vegan diet only made him stronger.

When someone asked him how he could be as strong as an ox without eating meat, he replied, "have you ever seen an ox eating meat?"

The only USA male weightlifter to qualify for the last Winter Olympics, Kendrick Ferris, is vegan,

Vegan bodybuilding is a thing now.

When you look at their interviews, these athletes say that eating vegan has resulted in more strength, better endurance, quicker recovery times, and fewer friends.


But it's interesting that many of the athletes going vegan were motivated out of a concern for animals…



As far as harm, we harm animals by the way we treat them when they are alive, and we harm them by depriving them of a life.

Animals used for meat are slaughtered after living less than 10% of their natural lifespan, and those used for milk and eggs are slaughtered after living less than one fourth of their lifespan.

But many feel that we are not harming animals when we use them for food as long as we treat them well while they are living.

The justification given for this view is that animals don't have a sense of the future, and thus don’t have an interest in continuing to live.

However, current research in cognitive ethology and neurobiology says otherwise.


But if one holds this belief, in spite of the science, and wants to live by their own values, they might, with good intentions, decide to buy only products from animals that have some sort of humane label or certification.

So we go to the grocery store and buy some

free range chicken breasts,

some cage-free eggs,

some Whole Foods Global Animal Partnership, that’s GAP, G-A-P, GAP certified hamburger meat,

and some milk with a certified humanly raised sticker on the carton.

We feel we’ve done the right thing, and all is well.

But let’s take a closer look.

Consumer Reports says that the free range label is misleading. The free-range space itself may be nothing more than an enclosed concrete slab that the chickens never use. They also advise you ignore cage-free claims.

Because of loopholes in the USDA definitions, most cage free and free range birds live in crowded chicken houses, the same as those without such a label.

They lack the room to engage in their natural behaviors of preening, nesting, foraging, dust bathing, and perching.

And the ammonia-laden air in these buildings is often so noxious that humans dare not enter without a gas mask;

consequently, the birds commonly suffer respiratory disorders, severe flesh and eye burns, and sometimes blindness.

How about hamburger meat with the Whole Foods GAP certification?

The Open Philanthropy Project criticized GAP for having weak enforcement and for providing only slight improvements over standard factory farming conditions.

And the Certified Humane milk?

Consumer Reports says that “we do not rate Certified Humane as a highly meaningful label for animal welfare”.

It’s the same for other labels and certifications.

Standards are weak and unenforced, audits and inspections are rarely done, and if they are done and violations are found, which is infrequent, no one gets fined.

Humane labels and certifications are, for the most part, marketing ploys.

They are designed to assuage our guilt, and they can engender higher profits, because the industry knows that concerned, kindhearted consumers are willing to pay more for products they perceive to be humanely produced.


But what about birds that really are free range?

They represent only a small fraction of chicken products that are labeled free range, which in turn represent only a small fraction of total chicken products. That’s a lot of leading zeros after the decimal point.

While they may actually be free range, there are other systemic cruelties, shared with warehoused birds, just as bad or worse than being confined.

for example, in laying hen hatcheries that supply chickens to producers, even free range and cage-free producers, the male chicks are useless because they are bred specifically for eggs, so the newly-hatched male chicks are thrown down a chute to spinning blades that grind them up alive. Millions a year.

Laying hens are bred to lay not only larger eggs, which strain their orifice, but 30 times more eggs than the jungle fowl from which they are mutated.

This burdens them with high rates of osteoporosis, bone breakage, and uterus prolapse.

Chickens bred for meat don't have it any better. They have been bred to grow at an unnaturally fast rate and have breasts three times as large as their forebears.

As you can easily imagine, This leads to high rates of leg and skeletal disorders, degenerative diseases; as well as heart, lung and respiratory problems.

Chickens deserve better. A prominent neurobiologist—she’s probably the worlds leading animal neurobiologist—Leslie J Rogers, says “birds have cognitive capacities equivalent to those of mammals, even primates.”

And by the way, numerous studies show that fish feel pain and have mental powers that can exceed those of some mammals.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we base our degree of moral consideration on cognitive abilities, but most of us, I think, are unaware of the rich mental and emotional lives of chickens and fish.

On the positive side, many are aware that pigs outperform 3-year-olds on cognition tests. But they’re still not allowed in pre-school.

Back on topic.


What about dairy cows?

Very early in her life a dairy cow will be dehorned—yes both female and male bovines do have horns and both are dehorned.

The dehorning is done by gouging the horns out with a sharp blade, —picture that in your mind—or burning them off with a torch, another troubling image.

These procedures are excruciatingly painful and almost always done without pain medication.

Cows must be pregnant to produce milk. They are forcefully impregnated through artificial insemination, which involves an entire human arm stuck up her anus to guide the semen injection gun which has been inserted into her vulva. Not a pretty picture.

To artificially inseminate a cow, semen must be collected. The most common procedure is to trick one bull into mounting another bull by releasing female pheromones to induce arousal. This often results in tissue damage, after which sperm is collected in what the industry has the audacity to call "a loving cup."

Back to the cow. She gets pregnant, and like humans, 9 months later, her calf is born.

Cows are very maternal; they love their young. There is no reason to think they don’t love their babies as much as our mothers love us.

But their calves are taken away, separated from their mothers soon after birth. The mothers have been known to grieve and bellow for weeks after.

And the baby calves? They will never know the love and nourishment of their own mothers. The common practice is that they will be isolated and fed a sugary solution instead of their mothers milk, so we can take their milk.

But If they are male, because they have been bred for milk not meat, they will be slaughtered as waste and thrown in the trash shortly after they are born, or they’ll be raised as veal.

Veal—where calves are constrained and intentionally deprived of nutrients to yield a more desirable quality of flesh.

Veal is a product of the dairy industry.

If the calf is female, she will enter the same life of servitude as her mother.

Dairy cows are made to stand for hours with machines attached to their udders which often become painfully irritated, infected and inflamed, a condition called mastitis, which calls for antibiotics.

As an aside, 80% of antibiotics used in this country are used on farmed animals. They get passed on to humans, causing antibiotic resistance, yet another serious problem with animal agriculture.

The mother cow’s agony is repeated for 4 or 5 years, 4 or 5 cycles of insemination, pregnancy, birth, separation from their babies, and daily mechanical milking.

After that her reproductive system is used up and she is no longer profitable,

so she is slaughtered, sometimes for hamburger meat. sometimes to be discarded as waste.

But when we go to the grocery store, we see the picture of a happy cow on the carton of milk or the package of cheese.

But you know, also in the grocery store is almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, flax milk, macadamia nut milk, and a variety of vegan cheeses, which are improving in flavor and texture all the time.

Animals Endure

This is what these animals endure. You can see it for yourself in industry-produced training videos, and in undercover investigation videos,

and you can read about it in interviews with former and current farm workers.


And I haven't even covered what happens in slaughterhouses.

Numerous firsthand accounts, some from USDA inspectors who have been fired for talking,

show that the increased production line speeds compel workers to move animals toward their death rapidly by any means necessary.

They are rushed through the killing line and often still alive, twitching and writhing, when they are hung up on hooks to be cut open, bled out and skinned.

A slaughterhouse is truly a house of horrors. There is a reason that visitors are not allowed inside their bloody walls.

Harms are Systemic

There is no plausible deniability that these abuses happen, and they are, either standard practice or not unusual, and that they happen in certified humane facilities.

Without the systemic cruelty, driven by pressures of production and profit, meat, dairy, and eggs would be so expensive that only the most affluent could afford them, even with government subsidies. And you would still have to deprive them of their lives.

Catalog of Abuses

The catalog of abuses is long and draconian.

Horrid Living Conditions: Confinement, Crowding, Fecal Filth —having to stand in their own excrement.

Painful Mutilations: Dehorning, Debeaking, Tail Docking, Castration—all without pain relief.

Denial of Natural Behaviors: Courtship, Sex, Roosting, Rooting, foraging, preening.

Debilitating Breeding: Larger Breasts, More flesh, More Milk, More eggs, Bigger Eggs.

Reproductive Violations: Semen collection, Insemination, Separation of Offspring from their mother and from their family and from their communities.

Cruel Handling: Beating, Prodding, Transport in the heat without water or the cold without cover, Maceration—being ground up alive.

Disease and Mental Health

It's no wonder farmed animals suffer high disease and mortality rates, almost always without veterinary care.

And you can imagine what all these physical abuses do to their mental health, causing trauma, anxiety, and depression.

Buy in: Labels

So even if you buy into the idea that it’s OK to eat animal products as long as the animals are treated well, there is virtually no chance that the animals have, in fact, been treated well, regardless of what label is on the package.

While certain labels may represent less suffering for some of the abuses, other abuses remain. The mitigation of some of the cruelties does not justify the remaining ones.


The lives of farmed animals can best be described as ones of commodified abusive servitude ending in brutal slaughter at a young age.

When viewed objectively, free from the fog of our cultural norms, our treatment and slaughter of animals, by any standard of justice, cannot be considered just, and cannot be considered humane, regardless of any humane-sounding labels that may attached to their packaged flesh and secretions..

In all the ways that matter ethically, a dog is a cat is a cow is a pig is a chicken is a fish, yet the animals we treat as mere commodities before we slaughter them are no less deserving of their lives than wild animals or the pets we adore and protect.

They have desires, preferences and emotions, just like us.

They have a sense of themselves, a sense of the future, and a will to live, just like us.

The have families and communities.

They feel pain, just like we do.

They are each individuals; somebodies not some things, and what happens to them matters to them.

They are here, sharing this beautiful little planet with us, not for us, and deserve to be treated with respect.

Not as property.

Not as living factories to convert feed into flesh.

Not as the raw material for maximum profits.

Not as carcasses to be consumed for pleasures of the palate.

The billions of land animals and fish that are slaughtered each and every year have done nothing to deserve having their throats slit, then being hung up, bled out, passed around on conveyor belts, chopped into pieces, and wrapped in cellophane, just because we like the way they taste.

For us it’s a meal enjoyed then soon forgotten: for them, it’s their very lives.

This cruelty will end only when we change our personal choices. There is power in the purse.

As we stop buying products made from animals for food and other uses, they will stop being bred, abused, and slaughtered for food and other uses.

So, if you think it's a good thing to be a voice for those least able to advocate for themselves,

if you wish to expand your circle of compassion and justice to all sentient beings,

if you believe that animals, are worthy of moral consideration,

consider making a change—connect to the best part of who you are and live out those values of compassion, justice, and non-violence—values you already hold.

I don’t think there’s anything else we could do that would have such positive consequences on so many fronts, to the benefit of both human and non-human animals, than going vegan and leaving animals and animal products off your plate.

Being vegan will prevent the suffering of many innocent lives who would otherwise be born or hatched into a system of brutality,

and being vegan will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’re no longer contributing to the violence that is an unavoidable consequence of buying products made with violence.

In addition, the other benefits to humans are substantial. The science is clear that it will lower your risk for chronic disease, diminish your footprint on the planet, and promote a more efficient food system better capable of feeding the world’s starving, hungry and impoverished.

Henry David Thoreau said he had no doubt that it’s the “destiny of the human race … to leave off eating animals.” I believe Thoreau was right about our future, and I believe this is our opportunity to be on the right side of history before it becomes the norm.

Imagine a future where all sentient beings are allowed to live their lives without human oppression.

[Imagine a future where wildlife can once again flourish by re-inhabiting some of the lands they never should have lost to animal agriculture.]

Imagine a future where we can feed every child on our planet without destroying the planet.

and imagine a future of better health and vitality for everyone.

This can be our future, but it all depends, so much depends, on the choices we make every day.

I'll close with this final thought from Albert Einstein: “Those who have the privilege to know have the duty to act.”

Thank you for listening.

Notes for Later

  1. “Evidence of Species Loss in Amazon Caused by Deforestation.” ScienceDaily. Accessed June 8, 2017.