A powerful speech by a former corporate executive lays out, in passionate and powerful terms, the multiple arguments for eliminating the consumption of animal products. Delivered by Australian philanthropist Philip Wollen, this video of his participation in a debate this past spring is mesmerizing:
Who is this passionate evangelist for animal rights? He’s not exactly a hippie. Philip Wollen was a successful corporate executive, who held management positions at Citicorp and Citibank. In the early 1990s he had a change of heart and has since devoted his life to philanthropy, speaking and spending his money to further animal rights and human welfare around the world through his charity, the Winsome Constance Kindness Trust.
The ten minute speech is both hard and inspiring to watch, as Wollen makes the case for forswearing animal consumption. While he seems to exaggerate or misspeak in a couple of instances, nevertheless his words are a strong indictment of much of Western society’s collusion with the meat industry, citing:
Animal cruelty – The appalling terror and disgrace of factory farming, where terrified animals are slaughtered by the millions in what Wollen calls “ignoble gulags of despair.” He points not only to the animals killed for food, but to the animals that would be inconvenient if allowed to live, such as the billions of chicks that are ground up alive simply because they are male.
Human health - Wollen dismisses any argument that we need to eat animal products to be healthy, drawing attention to research at Harvard and Cornell to support this case that meat is not necessary. It seems he is referring to the Vegetarian Diet Pyramid, which, indeed, does not include meat but does include dairy and eggs.
Environmental sustainability – Livestock production places terrible demands on water and land, and causes dangerous pollution. For example, a 2008 study found that “90% of small fish caught in the world’s oceans every year such as anchovies, sardines and mackerel are processed to make fishmeal and fish oil,” which is then fed to farmed fish, pigs, and poultry.
Social justice - Demand for meat and other animal products uses up a disproportionate amount of the world’s resources, including water. Poor countries raise and export meat to developed nations for cash rather than focusing on feeding those at home.
Despite his palpable anger, Philip Wollen is not totally pessimistic. He invokes hope through our technological progress and the growth of the animal rights movement as the greatest social justice issue since abolition of slavery, and urges those who do not consume animal flesh to make their voices heard. He mentions an estimate of 600 million vegetarians worldwide; this may be accurate given that India has some 400 million vegetarians, but the number of vegans is certainly much lower.
It would be a huge, perhaps fruitless challenge to convert the entire human race to a vegan diet. However, with articulate, passionate activists like Philip Wollen who use their money to support their beliefs, perhaps we can move toward a kinder, more equitable global dinner table. As Wollen suggests, the map of (inter-species) peace can be drawn on a menu.
What's the back story of this juicy dinner item? Image: Tarale via Flickr, CC license http://www.flickr.com/photos/tarale/6688989961/
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