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Waste and Hypocrisy and Pigs and Geese

Every so often I open my eyes and read the newspaper. Then I get really, really angry about the wastage and inhumanity that is ingrained into our lifestyles. I clutch my head in despair, and curse at our foolishness, and usually end up doing nothing about these evils.

Strangely enough, I usually wake up to the evils of the world when my mind is not preoccupied with thoughts of school or work. Perhaps the problems are not so severe when I am busy dealing with projects and essays and deadlines and exams.

Yeah. Right.

What I am, of course, is a hypocrite. I think the thoughts, but don't walk the walk. I'll sit and write at this dumb terminal until my wee fingers fall off, because talk is cheap and action is expensive. But ask me to do anything, and I will be certain to come up with some excuse as to why it's somehow okay for me to continue leading the wasteful cruel life I lead.

And how does that make me different from you?

But, I digress.

Being a hypocrite does not mean that I can't observe the world around me, however. Even as I participate in the madness of this life, I reserve the right to understand that this is madness, that we have no justification for much of the wastage we are guilty of. And even though I am as much a criminal as you, I reserve the right to document some of the things that bug me:

SYMPTOM THE FIRST: Who Speaks for the Pigs?

So here I am, reading the Saturday, May 9, 1998 edition of the Toronto Star, when I stumble across an article entitled "Whole Hog" and a picture of pink little piggies in barnyard cages. What could this fine article be about?

As it turns out, the article is about manure. A whole lot of stinking, messy pig manure. It seems that local farmers are protesting the introduction of Intensive Hog Farming (IHF) centres in Ontario, because the pigs produce too much manure for their own good. All of this excess manure often ends up in the water, which leads to much pollution.

Nobody seems overly concerned about IHF itself, and the "lives" these pigs lead, penned up in their individual stalls. After all, who cares about the pigs? They are but a commodity, a way to make money. Who would dare interfere with a farmer's right to make money?

Especially since I have been known to eat pork products.

Especially since I still eat pork products.

But again, I digress.

Quite frankly, the entire concept of livestock farming sickens me. Hyporcritically enough, I suppose that I would feel a little better if these animals were allowed some quality of life, as opposed to spending their year of life stuck in a completely industrialized, disease ridden barn. These animals never see the light of day. They are not given the chance to obey their instincts -- to look for food, to mark out territory, to mate and raise offspring. They are commodities. They live to be processed. Their well-being is not to be considered -- rather, the goal is to optimize the amount of meat that can be output for minimum cost. That's what makes me sick. In raising them as objects, we are taking away any pretense of respect we have for them.

So, you ask, would it be better if livestock was raised free-range? I don't know. Maybe. The end result is that we would still be slaughtering these animals for our luxury, but surely free-range "produce" leads a better life than an animal subject to the horrors of being "Intensively Raised."


But isn't it a moot point anyway? A free-range cut of meat would be more expensive than one raised intensively. That would immediately turn off many consumers. I am ashamed to admit that I would probably be one of them. It's amazing just how powerful a quarter can be. I doubt that many of us are willing to pay for humanity, if given the choice. Conscience seems to be as cheap as talk. That's reality. That's our hypocrisy. And that's why pigs -- just to name one victim -- are suffering.

SYMPTOM THE SECOND: Who Speaks for the Geese?

While pigs are intensively farmed and species all around the world are going extinct in our pursuit of health, wealth and happiness, the Canada goose is doing very well, thank you very much. In fact, it's doing too well, and my fair suburb of Mississauga is again planning a cull.

You see, there seem to be too many geese. They drop their droppings in our parks. They make our bike paths too slick to use. They are a nuisance. And they must be... controlled.

Meanwhile, you push a person onto live subway tracks and they commit you to a mental institution. Whose madness is this, anyways? Oh. I forgot. The geese are only animals, like chickens or pigs or whooping cranes. People are so much more important -- at least people who lead rich North American lifestyles of luxury, as opposed to miserable existences of slavery in Asian shoe factories or carpet sweatshops or brothels. I understand now.

Oops. I've got to watch those digressions.

So anyways, the geese (as opposed to the people) are too full of manure for their own good, and just like last year, plans have been made for a cull. 2000 geese are to be live-trapped and taken to meat-processing plants and slaughtered. Perhaps the corpses will be donated to food banks.

This is pretty much the same plan as last year, except that last year New Brunswick came to the geeses' rescue and shipped 2000 warm goose bodies to their bilingual lands. This year, however, nobody wants our geese. So they will be culled.

Just like seals are culled because they eat too many cod. Yet, we didn't cull fishermen and consumers for letting the cod stocks get so low in the first place, just like we don't cull consumers for allowing forests to be clearcut or oil to be drilled or piddly little Blue Box recycling programs to be scrapped.

And the Gentle Reader asks Paul whether this situation is any better than the plight of the overfarmed, antibiotic-laden pigs, and Paul -- stupid, useless Paul -- has no good answers. Yes, this situation is a little better because at least the geese are allowed to be geese, and the meat that is "harvested" will be put to good use.

No, this is not all that much better because again we are punishing other species for being successful when we ourselves put no checks on our own wastage. This is what really makes me angry. The seal eat the cod, and they are bludgeoned to death. The geese pollute our streams, and they are live-trapped and processed. A bear or a pet dog attacks a human, and it is shot. But people are completely different.

People, you see, are allowed to drive cars that are really unncecessary in an urban environment, all in the name of convenience. People are allowed to eat too much meat, which, in addition to being cruel and inhumane, wastes an enormous amount of energy that could be better used to feed the starving masses of Africa or Asia or North Korea or even North America, for heaven's sake. People are allowed to use toilets that waste gallons of clean water every time they are flushed. People are allowed to pave over prime farmland to establish malls and suburban developments. People are allowed to have electricity and large plots of land, because a person can be forced to pay taxes for electricity and land, while a meadow justs sits there and teems with life for free. People are allowed to argue that they deserve a good quality of life, despite the fact that we are only leading everybody down a dark and very obvious path of self-destruction.

It makes me so angry. But I'm too caught up in my own life to do anything about it. What's more, my words are worthless, because I contribute to the problems of the world as much as anybody else. It makes me feel helpless and worthless and utterly disgusted, until I find something else in my utterly vapid life to distract me.

And it's hypocrisy. Utter, total hypocrisy. And it goes so far beyond animal rights, extending to every facet of our lives. And I don't know whether there are any solutions.

But what can I do?