Friday, November 25, 2005


The night before Thanksgiving, I caught the end of Hannity and Colmes. They brought on Bruce Friedrich of PETA and conservative talk show host Mike Gallagher to discuss “Tofurkey” (take a look), a meat-free tofu based turkey look-a-like (sort of). Friedrich was, of course, advocating it as a substitute for turkey while Gallagher challenged.

There’s no transcript available, but the segment consisted of Friedrich describing the brutal process of turkey farm processing, pointed out that as warm-blooded vertebrates they feel pain similar to that of dogs and cats—the slitting of their throats is not a pretty end—followed with flippant, condescending remarks by Gallagher and Hannity’s sit-in directed at Friedrich, while the insipid Colmes sat back and said little.

Now, Friedrich is a radical. He’s assaulted people in debates, streaked publicly in protest, and is a vociferous, unconditional pacifist. Apparently he takes the Peter Singer position that human favoritism among humans is “speciest” and that the ethical thing to do is treat each animal’s life with an equal amount of reverence.

Yet I cannot figure out why people like Gallagher so callously declare to show no concern—even seem to derive pleasure—from causing animals tremendous agony. People have to eat, and the “green” business craze has some ugly unintended consequences. But why mock the idea of people eating healthier and abstaining from something they see as abhorrent? If you want a window into a man’s character, look at how he treats animals.

For full disclosure, I should say that I’m a vegetarian and practitioner of qualified, moderate ahimsa (one of those loons who traps the wolf spider in a paper towel, runs upstairs, and releases the critter in the backyard).

An interesting aside: Ben Franklin, who famously wanted the wild turkey to be the nation’s bird instead of the Bald Eagle, wasn’t facile in his reasoning:
"I wish the Bald Eagle had not been chosen the Representative of our Country. He is a Bird of bad moral Character. He does not get his Living honestly. You may have seen him perched on some dead Tree near the River, where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing Hawk; and
when that diligent Bird has at length taken a Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the Support of his Mate and young Ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him and takes it from him…

For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

No kidding! On long bike rides out west of where I live, I have on a few occasions come upon a flock of turkeys milling about in the road. The females tend to amble away, but the males (who are bigger and more vivacious in appearance) usually stay put, looking at me. If I can ride around at a distance, I do after watching them for awhile—once, however, I actually had to yell and flail my arms to get them going. The wild turkeys of Ben’s time must have been more feral than those living just outside the suburbs today, but there’s no reason to discount their potential for pugnacity:
"In April, Will Millington was riding his dirt bike down a narrow trail in Norman, Okla., when he stopped before a flock of wild turkeys. The hens scattered, but two toms flared their feathers and stalked toward him. Then they suddenly leapt in the air, beat Mr. Millington with their wings and tried to
scratch him with the sharp spurs on the backs of their legs.

Mr. Millington frantically revved his bike's motor. Thirty yards down the trail he looked back. "They were running after me," says the 46-year-old property manager. "That was kind of spooky."

As Americans prepare to eat some 46 million domestic turkeys slaughtered for Thanksgiving, their wild cousins are fighting back. The explosion of the wild turkey population to nearly seven million from just 30,000 in the 1930s has put a growing number of humans in the face of angry gobblers.”

You don’t have to train your eyes on an open field for long in the summer before seeing a Red-tailed hawk fleeing pesky starlings a tenth her size. But what little bird has the guts to tackle a turkey?


1 comment:

Jeremy said...

Yeah, its sad when people make fun of people who decide not to slaughter animals (or rather pay people to do it for them..) I used to hear 'Meat is Murder' and I would say 'Then I'm eating murder' jokingly. Now I am a vegetarian and I fele like a jerk for saying that.

The truth is, you have to joke and deny it to be able to eat it. Only certain people can heartlessly kill an animal and eat it all themselves, ie hunters, farmers.

Everyone else eats murder, and of course they are going to, no matter how high their cholesterol level goes or how fat they get. meat has historically been for special occasions or rich people, so of course Hannity is going to defend it.