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a rant about freedom

July 4, 2010

The 4th of July is here! Today is the day when we come together to commemorate our liberation from oppression. We celebrate by hanging out with the people we love, eating a lot of food and watching the sky explode with fireworks. But while we celebrate there are billions in this country who are not free.

Many are imprisoned physically and often unjustly. The prison industrial complex is big business and it is a growing business that leaves countless victims trapped without their freedom.

Since 1991 the rate of violent crime in the United States has fallen by about 20 percent, while the number of people in prison or jail has risen by 50 percent…[This increase is largely] because of imprisonment of people who have committed nonviolent offenses. Instead of community service, fines, or drug treatment [nonviolent offenders are sentenced] to a prison term, by far the most expensive form of punishment.

Adapted from Eric Schlosser

Others are imprisoned by a sense of fear because our society is sexist and homophobic; in 2008 the FBI recorded over 1,600 hate crimes against people based on their sexual orientation (likely a gross underestimate) and transgender individuals are so discriminated against that the Southern Poverty Law Center suspects that they have highest rates of being murdered compared with other hate crime targets. Still others are imprisoned by an unjust social system that perpetuates discrimination based on race, ethnicity and national origin and that allows for our citizens to live in poverty and without access to adequate education, health care or housing. There are grave wage, income, health and educational disparities based on race, ethnicity and gender with those who are white and male faring better than their non-white and female counterparts, respectively. And in one of the richest countries in the world about 3.5 million people will be homeless in an average year and 13% of our country’s population lives in poverty (the rate is over 30% for black and Hispanics).

The lack of freedom does not stop with our human compatriots. Among the most oppressed, the most tortured, the most imprisoned and most disenfranchised of our society are non-human animals. As a society we exploit their labor, abuse their bodies, steal their children and murder them for vanity. Animals that have every right to live lives free of pain and full of love are being caged by the billions. Mothers have their right to love, nourish and nurture their offspring taken from them so that we can have dairy and eggs. Pet animals, that were originally bred by humans to live symbiotically with us have been slighted; in exchange for their love and companionship we are supposed to provide them food, shelter and to return love but companion animals are being euthanized to the rate of 3-4 million per year because we haven’t held up our end of the bargain by spaying, neutering and housing them. The most grotesque thing we do as a society is to consume animals as food by the billions.  In the single second it takes you to read this sentence 363 land and marine animals were killed in the United States.

We have allowed our freedom to make us gluttonous and selfish and it is coming at a great expense within our borders as well as on a global and environmental level. As Americans bask in our freedom we forget the impact we have on the rest of the world so that our freedom ends up coming at an extreme cost to others. As a nation we have the privilege to determine world markets and our desire for an excessive amount of inexpensive goods has led to the proliferation of human rights abuses around the world, including unfair and inhumane labor practices, smuggling, human trafficking and market manipulation (think blood diamonds). We also perpetuate animal and environmental atrocities around the world such as clear-cutting of forests, “over fishing” of seas, the imprisonment and torture of animals for skins (leather and fur), “exotic animal” hunts and trading, kidnapping animals for use in the entertainment industry and the list goes on.

Today I will celebrate my privilege and my relative position of freedom, but I will do this with the understanding that none of us is truly free until we eradicate oppression from our lives. In the movie Bold Native, Charlie Cranehill reminds us that as long as we allow others to be imprisoned we are not free.

What is freedom? Are we born free or do we earn it? And if you deny freedom to the quiet ones, those that have no voice, can you be free yourself, or are you caged by your own lack of compassion? …They say freedom isn’t free. Absolutely Goddamn right. We spend our lives saying no. Not me, not my fight, not my problem, not tonight. What’s the difference between you and me? A few years ago I became someone who said yes. Me, my fight, my problem, tonight.

One of my favorite chants at demonstrations is: “Human freedom, animal rights!” This is a necessary call to action that speaks to me with a particular clarity today. If we hope to be free we need to buckle down, pick up the pace and get to work because there is already too much to do. Today I ask you to celebrate your freedom by fighting for the freedom of others. Pick up your signs, create your art, write your books, give your speeches, raise your voice, share your knowledge and, most importantly, break every cage that you find along the way.  Do what you do best to liberate the oppressed and do not stop until there truly is freedom for everyone.

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28 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2010 7:40 am

    Wanting to become the one who decides who goes to the prison is not the same thing as wanting freedom for everyone.

  2. July 4, 2010 9:32 am

    This is Orwellian newspeak. Human freedoms have to be curtailed for animal rights activists to have any say. This particular Vegina is an abolitionist so she has to place animal rights ahead of all human rights, effectively compromising those human rights. This does not liberate humans. It enslaves us.

    • July 4, 2010 10:27 am

      I think my post is pretty clear about “this vegina” caring about all oppression, human and non-human. What is wrong with you? You lurk around this blog and read my posts the second they are posted. You never just read and sit with what I say. You post negative comments within seconds of my posting. You read only to find something bad to day. On my last post you said something so out of line and disrespectful that it violated my extremely liberal troll policy and for the first time ever I was forced to delete a comment. If you want to have a dialogue you are welcome here, even though I disagree with you. If you just want to slander and rant, please keep it on your own blog.

      • July 4, 2010 7:51 pm

        The comment that you deleted was the one about the fact that I like staring my food in the eye, you know, tilapia and those bug-eyed shrimp.

  3. Eric Prescott permalink
    July 4, 2010 10:00 am

    Tom, you make no sense whatsoever. Abolition of animal use does not place animal rights *ahead* of animal rights, it acknowledges that humans and non-humans are both sentient beings who have the same morally relevant interest in life and autonomy and recognizes that those interests must be respected as we respect our own. That’s merely justice.

  4. Eric Prescott permalink
    July 4, 2010 10:00 am

    Oops. Correction:

    “Abolition of animal use does not place animal rights *ahead* of HUMAN rights…”

    • July 4, 2010 7:50 pm

      Yes it does. That’s the only way that “animal rights” can have any effect. A human has a right to eat. If the animal has a right not to be eaten and that trumps a human’s right to eat, then the rights that the animal does not even know that it has are considered superior to the human’s right to eat. There is precedent for starving humans to death to protect animal populations.

      • Eric Prescott permalink
        July 4, 2010 8:01 pm

        Tom, this is absurd. Of course people have an interest in not perishing due to a lack of nourishment, but that does not give them the right to ignore an animal’s interest in continued existence, or in not being the property of another, when it is entirely unnecessary to do so. So, one can respect an animal’s right not to be used as a thing and still satisfy one’s interest in–and right to–eating. In circumstances where a person would starve to death without killing and eating another animal, which certainly is not the case for anyone reading this blog, you’re looking at a legitimate rights conflict (this puts the rights of different species on even footing–not one above the other–but humans are considered by other humans to be justified when they kill to survive… and non-humans ought to as well, instead of being killed for doing what comes naturally). Regardless, this is a marginal case that doesn’t determine how we ought to eat on a daily basis in our everyday world.

        As for the precedent you’re speaking of, you’d have to fill me in. Anyone who starves humans to death for any reason is making a huge mistake. I can assure you that no animal rights advocate is in the business of starving humans to protect non-humans. In my experience, animal rights advocates seek justice for all sentient beings, both human and non-human (we are all animals).

      • July 4, 2010 8:43 pm

        Hello Tom, That “precedent for starving humans to death to protect animal populations.” Are you referring to the fact that about a billion people could be fed with the grains and plant crops that go to fatten “livestock” with? I guess in that case, then yes – Animal growers are threatening the lives of humans to “protect” the cows, pigs, chickens, goats and lambs…

        20 vegans can live off the land required by one meat eater
        # Every 3 seconds a child dies of starvation somewhere in the world
        # If Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10% it would free 12,000,000 tons of grain – enough to feed 60,000,000 people (the population of Great Britain)
        # If all Americans became vegan, it would free enough grain to feed 600,000,000 people (the population of India)
        # Intensification in animal farming has displaced 1,000,000’s of people from their traditional lands –
        Due to overgrazing 850,000,000 people live on land threatened by desertification & over 230,000,000 already live on land so severely desertified that they are unable to sustain their existence & face imminent starvation
        # 1,000,000,000 people in the west gorging on meat & dairy leave 1,000,000,000 to waste away & 3,500,000,000 teeter on the brink

        So yeah… guess you’re right there is unprecedented care of animals over humans – But for entirely different reasons than you think!

        Source: John Robbins – Diet for A New America

  5. July 4, 2010 1:06 pm

    I too must disagree with Tom. Vegina couldn’t have been more clear about her position on the injustices faced by humans and animals alike.

    Additionally, at no point in this post does she claim that one human/animal’s unnecessary suffering is worse than another’s.

    She has even been tolerant enough to continue a dialogue with you, rather than blocking your comments or simply ignoring them.

    Misplaced anger does not benefit anybody in the crusade for equal treatment for all.

    • July 4, 2010 1:10 pm

      If this was facebook, idreamofgreenie, you would get a big “like” right now!

  6. July 4, 2010 1:23 pm

    Thank you for this post!

  7. July 4, 2010 2:16 pm

    Vegina, after reading some of the more negative comments on this post, I felt I had to say that this is actually my first time reading your blog, and I absolutely loved and agreed 100% with everything you wrote in this post. Even the bit about our prison system in the US, which by the way, I’ve never supported prison reform, or prisoners right, but I found my self agreeing with you 100%.
    I’m always amazed at how mean people can get when you challenge their ideas of what is just and what isn’t. Well, I’m going to start following your blog, and thanks so much for the great post. 🙂

  8. July 4, 2010 2:52 pm

    I’m in total agreement with what idreamofgreenie had to say… And others as well – Working for nonhuman rights has no impact on rights for humans. In fact, I would say the opposite is true. Odds are if you are empathetic to the social conditions of one you will sympathize with the plight of the other. That’s how compassion seems to go – It broadens one circle of concerns… And this evidence is clear in the tone and content of this essay.

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece – It confirmed what I already suspected: I am not free – because we All are not free.

    • July 6, 2010 2:38 am

      Bea, thank you for your awesome response to Tome above!

  9. Olivia permalink
    July 4, 2010 3:01 pm

    Thank you for this excellent post. The second and third photos are proof that every sentient being is beautiful, full of dignity and worthy, and deserving of the respect we call rights. I appreciate the supportive comments as well.

  10. July 4, 2010 9:45 pm

    Bogus statistics, Bea. Not very many animals are fed significant quantities of grain. Herbivores live off a variety of plants, generally grasses. Not very many of them are grazed on ground that can be used to produce plant-based foods in preference to raising corn or wheat. When they are it is to salvage what the harvesters leave on the ground.

    You simply don’t understand how animal-based agriculture works. Food animals are fed things that humans can’t eat and as much of the waste from human food production as can be salvaged safely. Too many false accusations are made that depend on the ignorance of the public. Why would anyone feed an animal first to produce food if it would be cheaper and easier to produce plant-based foods and just eat them? That’s because it isn’t cheaper to just produce plant-based foods and eat them.

    • July 6, 2010 2:43 am

      Tom, you ask: “Why would anyone feed an animal first to produce food if it would be cheaper and easier to produce plant-based foods and just eat them?” Clearly you are completely unaware of how farming subsidies in the US have led to an inefficient system of food production. The first chapter of Omnivore’s Dilemma explains how this works. I recommend this particular book because the author actually does not like vegetarians very much, so you could read it without your illogical angst toward vegans from blocking you from actually trying to absorb new facts.

    • July 6, 2010 7:57 am

      You seem to be unaware of almost everything that concerns farming, Vegina. A comprehensive knowledge of how farming works and why they do what they do wouldn’t work well with your agenda.

      The first order of any business is to keep their customers coming back. This means that a food business has to keep their customers alive and with the existence of competition it also means that they cannot starve their customers or raise prices too high. I despise anyone who would make me spend more money than I already do for food because those costs are already too high. Coupon clippers who get about $10,000 quarterly can pay high prices for “organic” food that rots almost before you get it to the house and I can’t.

      One of the things that a vegan culture would demand would be fresh fruit and vegetables arriving daily from around the world. Do you know what “seasonal” means? It takes energy to preserve food and maintain that food. Meat becomes pretty efficient when the food that is fed to food animals requires no special technology or energy use to preserve. Grain doesn’t have to be refrigerated. Neither does hay. Animals can be slaughtered year-round. They can be brought in from the field in December and January and converted into fresh steaks. Those steaks will contain the nutrients that are either missing from grain or can’t be assimilated by humans from grain or from hay. They are shipped much shorter distances than fruit and vegetables have to be.

      Inefficient as compared to what? You can pull something out of thin air that does not exist in the real world, but organic farming of vegetables requires heavy use of technology. The methods that you would point me to are extremely inefficient and come from a time when we fed more of our food production to rodents than we ate ourselves and suffered short, brutish lives during which we were sick from contagious diseases and malnutrition.

      We have the excess grain because we work and we earn it. When we’re the billion people who can and do feed ourselves, what does that say about the billion people who sit in their own feces and can’t and don’t? Did I hear the term “Western imperialism” begin to cross your mind? Maybe so, but “conservationists” work to prevent people in India and Africa from eating meat or even from grazing their cattle. So you have conservationist imperialism, don’t you?

      I will not compromise my nutrition in the least for the likes of you. This vegan crap was debunked so long ago that some of you weren’t even born yet. It has taken a billion dollar effort and a lot of arsons and vandalism to bring it to the forefront of the news again.

      • July 6, 2010 5:28 pm

        @Tom:

        How are you compromising your nutrition by going vegan? According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), veganism is healthy at all stages of the life cycle. (That means YOUR life cycle, too; ergo, no compromised nutrition.)

        Secondly, let’s assume you have “the right to eat”. I would also submit to you that you have “the right to have sex”. However, in neither case, is that “right” absolute. You may have “the right to have sex” but there are limits on the exercise of that right. And one such limit is when you begin to cause harm. Similarly, unless you can DEFEND an argument otherwise, your “right to eat” is limited at the point where you begin to cause harm.

        Put differently, if you can eat X or Y, but eating X will cause harm while eating Y will not, AND you choose to eat X, then you are acting immorally on premises I am almost certain YOU accept.

        So, it seems to me that WE ALL accept limits on our exercise of “rights”. What “animal rights” does is merely LOGICALLY extend those limits to nonhuman animals.

  11. July 4, 2010 10:04 pm

    Such a lovely post! Shared on Facebook 🙂

  12. July 5, 2010 11:30 pm

    I just had to say that you, Vegina, couldn’t be more right and Tom couldn’t be more wrong. This was a fantastic post clearly expressing your want for non-humans and humans alike to have freedom. You didn’t even jump into non-human freedom until after you had established your views on human freedom. You shouldn’t have to deal with such absurd and negative comments on such a beautiful blog. Just know that a lot of people out there are on your side for human rights and non-human rights alike! =)

  13. July 6, 2010 2:44 am

    thank you ❤

  14. July 6, 2010 6:21 pm

    Hello again Tom… I am on a fixed income and a limited budget and I have no problem eating well. Just because I’m thrifty my health is certainly not “compromised”. And no, I don’t have “constant fresh fruits and vegetables” either.

    But you know, the bulk of what I buy in grocery stores never had to be refridgerated at all – Not in shipping, not on the store shelves where they are available for purchase or in my home. You’re right beans, grains, lentils, rice, pastas, tvp, etc don’t require refridgeration at all! Imagine what an energy saving trend it would be to advance to smaller fridges rather than the new “meat-locker” types?

    Yes, I buy and eat canned and frozen vegetables and fruits as well… So what’s the difference in buying 6 month old “fresh” meat or buying frozen veggies? Well… The slight difference is – If my power goes out for 3 days, as it did during hurricanes – My food was still fine – Not my neighbors though, who threw out hundred of pounds of flesh. (ick)

    Anyway, just another thought for you – As you seem to be very stuck in the old way of doing things… Have you ever heard of vertical farms or urban gardens? They could very well be the solution to total plant-based sustainability in the future. You see progress is all about leaving the cow behind:
    http://www.verticalfarm.com/index.html

    Finally, “This vegan crap was debunked so long ago that some of you weren’t even born yet.” At least I sited my source – And yours is?

  15. July 6, 2010 6:22 pm

    Hello again Tom… I am on a fixed income and a limited budget and I have no problem eating well. Just because I’m thrifty my health is certainly not “compromised”. And no, I don’t have “constant fresh fruits and vegetables” either.

    But you know, the bulk of what I buy in grocery stores never had to be refridgerated at all – Not in shipping, not on the store shelves where they are available for purchase or in my home. You’re right beans, grains, lentils, rice, pastas, tvp, etc don’t require refridgeration at all! Imagine what an energy saving trend it would be to advance to smaller fridges rather than the new “meat-locker” types?

    Yes, I buy and eat canned and frozen vegetables and fruits as well… So what’s the difference in buying 6 month old “fresh” meat or buying frozen veggies? Well… The slight difference is – If my power goes out for 3 days, as it did during hurricanes – My food was still fine – Not my neighbors though, who threw out hundred of pounds of flesh. (ick)

    Anyway, just another thought for you – As you seem to be very stuck in the old way of doing things… Have you ever heard of vertical farms or urban gardens? They could very well be the solution to total plant-based sustainability in the future. You see progress is all about leaving the cow behind:
    http://www.verticalfarm.com/index.html

    Finally, “This vegan crap was debunked so long ago that some of you weren’t even born yet.” At least I cited my source – And yours is?

  16. Else Scholer permalink
    February 18, 2013 12:05 am

    hrough the ages man has been in cultivation. The Early man lived on cultivating the land around him. Most people had huge lands under cultivation. As the years passed, different kinds of building came around. People started to build houses in one area and various kinds of businesses came into existence. In this process people started to cut down trees. Due to this fact we know in many countries the agricultural output has also decreased. For who people who still cultivate agriculture, the land for cultivation has significantly decreased. Not only this with the increase in population, people need more places to stay. :

    Go look at our new online site too
    <.http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com/caffeine-overdose/

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