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Letters 11/15/07

- November 15th, 2007
Misery on a Plate
In a recent letter, Charli Henry attempts to defend the indefensible practice of foie gras production, in which ducks and geese are artificially force fed until their livers become purposefully diseased and swollen many times their normal size.
In order to produce this “gourmet delicacy”, the terrified birds are restrained several times a day, a long metal pipe is shoved down their throats, and meal is force fed, typically by pneumatic pump, into their esophagi. Throats are often bruised or punctured and many birds die in the process. The rest live in overcrowded cages and pens and endure a cycle of misery and pain until they are slaughtered, never having experienced anything resembling a normal life.
Why take my word for it? I urge readers to take a moment research foie gras production on the web. There are many good resources including the Humane Society of the United States.
We enjoy the privilege of dominion over the animals this planet, who are totally at our mercy. Does this mean we should continually to heap horrific abuse on sentient beings in order to satisfy our palates?
As the light of day begins to shine on another of the cruelest practices in factory farming, the public is responding with compassion. Pope Benedict XVI has decried force feeding and the degradation of living creatures. Whom, sir, did you say is on shaky moral ground? Let’s call foie gras what it is - misery on a plate.

Pamela Montry • Suttons Bay

Foie Gras: Not Humane
I read Rick Coates’ article on foie gras and appreciate his attempt to work out the “controversy,” but there was a fundamental problem with his desire to seem unbiased: he eats animals. He looks through a particular lens that enables him to eat animals (and their organs, as he attests to), which renders him unable to really truly offer an unbiased picture of animal cruelty. The truth is, all of us are biased, but some of us need our biases more than others when we want to justify our behavior.
The scales that weigh the opinions of people who kill and serve animals for a living against those who seek to protect animals are inherently tipped to begin with. Animal advocates have nothing to gain by opposing cruelty, and citing a few large national organizations does not a “gain” make. Animal advocates don’t get into this work for the money. But supplies, processors, butchers, sellers of “delicacies” such as foie gras have everything to gain. Even the journalists from the NY Times who saw nothing wrong with the practice HAVE to see nothing wrong if they don’t want their entire world rocked.
As a meat-eater, to admit there is something unethical about breeding and killing animals for human consumption is to question the very foundation of people’s comfort zones. Tradition and culture are just excuses, as we now oppose many things today that we once thought were acceptable - slavery, child labor, women viewed as property as their husbands and fathers.
The highest expression of human beings is that which compels us to remain open, willing to learn, willing to do better once we know better. There is no justification for breeding, force-feeding, and then killing another living creature just so we can enjoy a delicacy. We have no nutritional requirement for animal flesh, and certainly you would agree we have no need to consume the fattened livers of ducks and geese. To do so is to close our eyes to that which makes US uncomfortable but which continues to desensitize us to the needless suffering of living, feeling beings who, if they had a choice, would never put themselves in such a predicament.
In many ways, we have advanced as a species, but in many ways we have grown very little since people watched lions tear Christians to pieces and families gathered to watch criminals drawn and quartered. We should take “human” out of the word humane, because we have little claim to it.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau • Oakland, CA

Coal is Not “Green“
Thanks for another great environmental story by Anne Stanton on the truth about coal. Judge Swallow of Citizens for Environmental Inquiry is right-on when he says, “the DEQ and Granholm work for Us.” We have a state constitution that gives them a pretty clear job description: Follow the law. It’s as simple as that. Protect Michigan air quality from the largest single producer of our newest classified pollutant, carbon dioxide.
Let’s all see through the governor, as she talks ‘green’ about renewable energy jobs and then lets the coal lobby bring another corporate boondoggle to Michigan to enrich a few at the expense of the citizens. Coal is as filthy as it gets, from raping the Earth for extraction to spewing millions of tons of carbon that is quickly changing our planet for the worse. There is no such thing as clean coal, regardless of gasification.
I urge the public to get involved and learn which energy companies and electrical co-ops are involved in trying to bring this dirt to Michigan. And let’s not forget: coal is what you get in your stocking at Christmas when you have been BAD!

Lisa Franseen • Interlochen

The Cost of Coal
The Northern Express has provided another great service to Northern Michigan by highlighting the insane proposal for coal power plant construction. I would like to point out that electrical cooperatives are being played for rummies in this corporate power game. We generally have a feel-good, down home, belief that cooperatives offer an alternative to the greed and profit-at-all-costs nature of industry these days. Not so!
The cost of carbon based fuels will be greatly effected in the near future. The cost of building new coal plants has almost doubled in recent years. Wall Street has downgraded coal company credit ratings consistently for the past year. Coal power executives are turning to the rural electric cooperatives as a way around the traditional way of financing huge power plants. Co-ops operate outside the normal regulations we commonly assume are set up to protect the consumer.
Co-ops in Northern Michigan are getting ready to “pass-through” the billions of dollars of cost to their enslaved ratepayers. Not only will the members of these co-ops self finance a new coal plant that will be largest pollution source in the North, but they will end up paying the added expense of carbon regulations very soon.
If you are a ‘member’ of an electric cooperative, exercise your rights and ask for the financial details of your future rates if this proposed plant gets built. Ask if the future cost of carbon regulation will be paid by an investor, or by the members. And don’t forget to mention that we are ALL in this together, and coal is the dirtiest form of power there is.
Thanks again for a great article.

Tom Karas • Interlochen

You Gotta Have Art
Hurray to Jerry Gates for his proactive lifelong commitment to supporting the arts. Promotion of the arts is crucial for Michigan in this era of shifting economic sands. Indeed, our nation is rapidly retreating from “left-brain” dominant occupations, such as manufacturing, as these jobs are out-sourced to other countries. The United States has embarked upon what is coined “the Conceptual Age,“ a time when creativity and intuitive problem solving skills are the dominant driving force of the world economy. Michigan should be on the cutting-edge of this new era.
It is disheartening that our schools have been forced to demote the arts in an attempt to meet the inadequate and antiquated standards of the No Child Left Behind Act. This, in addition to the pressure of the gross funding inequities between school districts, recently prompted a superintendent of a small local district to refer to the arts as “ancillary” to the core curriculum as justification for cutting arts funding. This is truly sad, sorry, and backwards thinking. The old-world view was that the arts “supported” reading, writing and mathematics. The new-world reality is exactly the opposite.
ArtServe Michigan, an arts advocacy group, reported that our state has moved from fourth in the nation (2001) in arts funding to dead last this year. Yet, we are living in a world where creative minds, like those at Google, will rule the day. As it stands, if our children are bright enough to score well on our out-dated tests, then they will have a good job waiting for them....somewhere in Asia.
In truth, the arts do not even need to be linked to the economy to be of profound value. They stand tall at the top of all human achievement. But, take heed; our new-world economy, with its myriad problems, absolutely will not survive without the arts.

Amy Kerr Hardin • Williamsburg

War is a Racket
Recognition is a feeling that everyone enjoys. Whether it’s the star on your elementary school paper or a star on the shoulder of a military General, recognition feels good.
The highest recognition that the military gives is the Medal of Honor. Marine Major General Smedley Butler received two of them. When he retired he reflected on his life and wrote a booklet titled, “War is a Racket”. He said that all of his battles were for the interests of business, and that he was a thug for business.
I’m a Vietnam veteran. As I research and reflect on my experience, I believe that General Butler was correct. The military is a pawn of the political/business cabal. You invade, fight, destroy, kill, and die because some politician says it’s your duty. They give you recognition, and they get even richer.
The 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month was originally called Armistice Day - a day recognizing an agreement to stop all fighting. Use this day as it was intended - recognize that agreements are possible, and war is a racket. As a veteran that is the highest recognition I can receive.

Arnold Stieber • Grass Lake
 
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