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Meat-Eating and Michael Vick

Militant Vegetarianism is troubling.

While there is no denying that vegetarianism is a healthy choice – consuming vegetables and fruits is a good thing – what it accomplishes is nothing that an increased intake of fruits and vegetables and decreased intake of red meats would accomplish.  The diet then, is something that should be taken for other reasons – primarily moral or political.  Morally, people often choose vegetarianism due to the fact they care about animals and don’t want them to die simply to produce food.  Politically, it can protest the disagreeable parts of the meatpacking industry (whether treatment of animals, treatment of humans, etc.)  Vegetarianism isn’t so much a diet choice as it is a statement, and I kind of take issue to that.

Vegetarianism is something that I tried for a while.  I am not currently practicing it, though my diet rarely contains much meat anyway.  I don’t like the taste of some meats, and it isn’t something I particularly crave, so I prefer lighter foods.  It’s a personal choice and says nothing about how I feel about animals (I adore them), or the meatpacking industry (I don’t take very much issue with it currently.)  If change is to be made in how we as a country/species/etc. view animals and view meat-eating it needs to be done for good reason and not just because animals are “like us.”  They are like us biologically in many ways, but in many ways they also are not – and they are NOT neurologically identical to us or even close.

The reason for this post is that recently I heard someone comparing meat-eaters to Michael Vick.  When someone buys and consumes meat, they are ordering the death of a creature to sustain them.  Similarly, Michael Vick killed dogs knowingly and with intent.  I disagree with this comparison, and I disagree with it for several reasons.  Yes, both situations involve the death of an animal; one involves the intentional slaughter for entertainment, the other the intentional slaughter for nourishment: there is a difference.

Slaughterhouses have to conform to high standards of care for the animals that they process.  McDonalds, for instance, buys beef from slaughterhouses that conform for a 98% humane standard.  If any place is found to fall below that high standard, they are given a week to fix the problem before going on once more.  Raise the bar any higher, and you are going to be putting a lot of people out of work and running into even more issues.

The animals at slaughterhouses, in spite of the PETA videos, are often treated extremely well.  Highly stressed animals are not going to be healthy, and healthy animals produce a good deal more meat than unhealthy ones.  It is poor business practice to brutally abuse creatures that are later going to be processed into meat that has to meet standards of care.  A single bruise on a cow can ruin the meat in that area.  The last thing slaughterhouses want to do is lose money.

Meanwhile, dog fighting rings are very different.  These places mutilate their animals (they commonly dock tails and slice the lips off of their dogs so as to create a permanently aggressive display to avoid the dog from being social.)  The dogs tend to be kept malnourished to a certain extent so as to produce even more territorial behavior in the sight of food – compare this to the very well-fed cattle.

Dog-fighting is just that – dogs fighting.  The cattle are kept social, they are kept happy.  The dogs are kept solitary until released to kill and cannibalize the other dogs.  In Vick’s case, the dogs that were losing were finally killed via hanging – a slow suffocating death.  Compare this to the shots that kill the cattle, a painless and quick death unless messed up.. and too many mess ups and the place goes out of business.  In dog-fighting, that isn’t the case at all.

Meat-eaters are in no way condoning the death of animals for entertainment.  They are condoning the humane slaughter so as to nourish themselves.  It’s a dietary choice, and a dietary choice that unfairly receives too much criticism.  Us meat-eaters, we are not brutal murderers and sociopaths.  We are just people doing what we need to to stay healthy, more often than not, and in the meantime are keeping thousands upon thousands of people employed.  Stop comparing us to the real monsters, and crack down a bit more on them.

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Dead Dog Blues?

Suicide Bridge

The Overtoun Bridge

The Overtoun Bridge, located in Scotland, is a spot of intrigue and mystery to many.  It was built in 1892, and though it is a beautiful piece of architecture the reason it is primarily so well known now is due to the high number of suicides that jump off the bridge each year.  Many bridges can boast a high suicide rate, though… what makes this one different is that it isn’t humans taking the leap – it’s dogs.

Some papers have reported a little over 50 dogs having taken the leap in a single year, most report more.  The only consensus is that all of the breeds are long-nosed breeds.  If the lack of intent is questioned, there are accounts of dogs leaping off of this bridge to the rocks below and surviving – only to run back up to the bridge and make the leap again.  To make matters stranger, the jumps are all made from almost the identical spot.  Why would these dogs do this?  Different reasons have been given.

To get the strangest one out of the way first, it has been proposed as a psychic hot spot.. some evil force is compelling the dogs to jump.  Psychics have been brought in and reported no ill-findings, though.  Given, they did keep their dogs leashed and the dogs that leapt were under no such safety measure.   Even leashed dogs, though, have tugged at this spot.. that indicates something different going on, and something with a far more natural explanation.

The best explanation that I have heard is that there is an abundance of mink in the area.  The breeds being long-nosed would indicate a specialty in olfaction, so they would have a higher probability to pick up the strong scent.  Dogs lack the same sophisticated depth perception that we have, so perhaps they are making the leap thinking that they are just jumping across a small expanse to something more level?  When viewed from a lower center the bridge does look just like a normal garden path.

Although the explanation is not perfect it is the most logical I have read.  Anyone have any other ideas of how to explain this strange phenomenon?