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April 2006
10,000 Years Is Enough
By David Cantor

 

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In 1991, I received a call from an undergraduate student at the University of Florida at Gainesville, a large land-grant university (LGU). Studying to qualify for veterinary school, she had enrolled in an animal anatomy class. After the semester started, she learned of a troubling requirement: students were to kill members of four different animal species at the campus slaughter facility. Anatomy was taught as cuts of “meat,” not body tissues, organs and systems.

Ever since that conversation, I’ve wondered how animal rights and vegetarian education can out-teach the nation’s prestigious and influential LGUs that promote speciesist ideologies and have vested interests in serving the flesh, milk and egg industries.

A Seed Is Planted
Human beings have practiced agriculture and raised animals for food for at least 10,000 years. It began with simple technology when fewer people lived on Earth than now inhabit New York City. Yet, animal “farming” today bears no resemblance to the original. The merciless industrial monster it has become is often called animal agribusiness. Treated as mere grain-processing equipment, animals live short lives and suffer constantly. About 10 billion chickens, pigs, turkeys, cattle, and others are killed for food each year in the U.S. The LGUs design and promote much of the animal agribusiness machinery and teach their students to manage it.

In the mid-1800s, when most Americans were farmers, Congress passed the Morrill Act of 1862 enabling the states to set up colleges of agriculture that would also teach many other subjects. Created with profits from the sale or leasing of public land given to the states under the Morrill Act, these colleges became known as land-grant colleges. Additional land-grant colleges were also established through acts of Congress after 1862, and today 105 exist.

But should our LGUs collude with the flesh, milk and egg industries or any animal-exploiting industry? Should they serve “food” industries whose products promote illness rather than human health? And what about agribusiness corporations whose methods contaminate and deplete soil and water, and waste energy?

It comes down to the fact that LGUs were created in 1862 to serve the American people, when more than 50 percent were making their living from farming. Today, less than one percent of the population farm for a living. The LGUs betrayed farmers by serving agribusiness over agriculture. The LGUs’ food industry priorities are animal factories and agrichemical-intensive monoculture feed crops grown to feed factory imprisoned animals.

LGUs fallaciously call their training for the flesh, milk, and egg industries “animal science,” “poultry science,” and the like. Zoology—studying all known nonhuman-animal species for the sake of knowledge—is true animal science. “Animal science” programs promote themselves to students and parents by emphasizing professors’ stature and industry connections, animal facilities’ size and newness, jobs obtained by graduates, and other marketplace factors while ignoring a wide range of knowledge and ethical concerns.

By “agriculture,” President Lincoln and Congress in 1862 did not mean flesh, milk and eggs. Nonhuman animals are mentioned neither in the LGU law nor in the 1862 law establishing the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They used “agriculture” in its original meaning: the cultivation of fields.

The Seed Germinates
Today LGUs award degrees to people who become legislators, corporate executives, news writers, producers, and others who influence attitudes and food choices. Witnessing throughout their years of study professors in every field condoning “animal science” and flesh, milk and eggs produced on campus served in dining halls, they are unlikely to challenge what nutritionist Kerrie K. Saunders, Ph.D., calls “SAD,” the “Standard American Diet.” Or to explore T. Colin Campbell’s warnings against eating animal protein in The China Study: Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health—though he published hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and has taught for decades at Cornell University, an Ivy League school and New York’s primary LGU.

Add to this the vast amounts of training and research our LGUs provide for the animal industries, and we’re faced with incalculable billions of dollars’ worth of taxpayer and tuition-payer support for what may be the most harmful and destructive industries on Earth! Not what the government intended in 1862—and not something animal advocates should accept.

Campaign Blossoms…
To address the LGU problem, Responsible Policies for Animals (RPA) shows influential people how to establish responsible policies for nonhuman animals that are also responsible policies for humans and ecosystems, i.e., animal rights.

RPA’s primary campaign, 10,000 Years Is Enough, began in spring 2003 when we mailed the presidents of the 50 states’ main LGUs a letter and fact sheet. Responses to the mailing were encouraging, indicating no LGU administrator or professor could refute any of RPA’s many assertions—that there can never be a “humane” raising of animals for food; nonhuman animals have moral rights that should be established in law and custom; animal agribusiness rapidly wastes vanishing fresh water supplies and topsoil, contaminates water and soil, and otherwise threatens ecosystems; and flesh, milk and eggs harm human health.

We harbor no illusion that informing LGU presidents will suffice to end their schools’ service to animal agribusiness. And RPA has now begun the process of informing the LGUs’ boards of trustees and regents, the legislatures’ agriculture and education committees, and additional people who can influence the LGUs. Vast amounts of such direct communication are needed to show people with their grip on the levers of power their responsibilities toward nonhuman animals.

All In Good Taste
University animal agribusiness programs must cease because, no matter what the university may teach, all jobs for which university animal agribusiness programs prepare students inevitably support animal exploitation and abuse. No matter how animals may be raised for food, it is extremely rare for them to live more than a small fraction of their natural lifespan.

Our society does not need universities to help people continue exploiting animals. What we need from universities is the courage and integrity to help stop it. I see no way for the animal rights movement to prevail as long as our nation perpetuates the injustice and the spectacle of higher education institutions’ serving, promoting and rationalizing animal exploitation.

I think 10,000 years is enough.

David Cantor is founder and executive director of Responsible Policies for Animals, in Glenside, Pennsylvania. A full-time animal advocate since 1989, he has worked for several national organizations, published many articles, and has contributed to several books. For information on RPA’s 10,000 Years Is Enough campaign, visit www.RPAforAll.org.

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