Paul Watson, the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is best known for using direct action to protect whales from Japanese whaling vessels, but he’s also a world-renowned advocate for the oceans and all of its other inhabitants. During an interview with TheirTurn in New York City, Watson explained why protecting the oceans is not only vital to sea animals but also to the very survival of the human species. “If the oceans die, we die.”
Watson explains that oceans, which he describes as the “blue lungs” of the Earth, produce 70% of the oxygen that we breathe and that the source of the oxygen are phytoplankton. Since 1950, the amount of phytoplankton in the oceans has dropped by 40% due to whaling, commercial fishing, animal agriculture and other forms of pollution.
Watson is the subject of new award-winning documentary film, Watson, that chronicles his career as an eco-warrior on the high seas. Watson is available on Animal Planet.
On September 21, youth climate leaders from around the world converged at the United Nations in New York to participate in the Youth Climate Summit. During the summit, TheirTurn asked them why the youth climate movement isn’t using its platform to encourage grass roots climate activists and the mainstream public to make lifestyle changes to reduce their own carbon emissions.
One day earlier, tens of thousands of New Yorkers, most of whom were students, took to the streets of downtown Manhattan to participate in a youth climate strike with Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. Neither their posters nor the information they distributed focused on what individuals can do to reduce their own carbon footprint. Frustrated by the fact that youth climate leaders are not proactively encouraging the public to take steps to reduce their own emissions, a contingent of several dozen adult activists joined the climate strike to promote plant-based diets.
Adult climate strikers promote plant-based diets as a strategy to reduce carbon and methane emissions
“Eating animals is the elephant in the room of the climate change movement,” said Nathan Semmel, an attorney and activist who participated in the climate strike. “How can youth climate leaders expect world leaders to take action on the climate crisis if they aren’t encouraging their own constituents to stop engaging in environmentally destructive activity that can be easily avoided?
Ranchers are deforesting the Amazon in order to graze their cattle and grow cattle feed (photo: National Geographic)
During the interviews with TheirTurn, every youth climate leader mentioned meat reduction or elimination when asked what steps individuals can take. None of them, however, indicated that they are proactively conveying this message to their constituents. They are instead pressuring global leaders to make systemic change.
“It’s not an either/or,” said journalist and climate advocate Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnChained. “Youth climate leaders can demand accountability from our leaders and ask their constituents to reduce their own carbon footprint by making the switch to a plant-based diet.”
Waste lagoon at a cattle ranch (taken from above)
Unlike youth climate leaders, who understand the impact of animal agriculture on the climate and are reducing or eliminating their own consumption of animal products, grass roots participants in the youth climate strike were largely unaware. When asked what steps they can take to reduce their own carbon emissions, most recommended reducing single-use plastic and recycling.
Youth climate leaders speak about their advocacy at the United Nations Youth Climate Summit
Pedestrians lined up in NYC’s Union Square to watch a four minute video in exchange for $1, but many were so profoundly affected by what they saw that they declined to take their reward and instead engaged with the advocates on hand about transitioning to a vegan diet.
The “pay-per-view” event, organized by the 12,500 member NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Meetup Group, aims to expose New Yorkers to the cruelty of animal agriculture and help them transition to a healthier and more environmentally friendly plant-based diet. TheirTurn interviewed people who were willing to speak on camera about if and how the video, “Ten Billion Lives” (see below), would affect their behavior.
“One of the biggest challenges we face as advocates in our day-to-day lives is convincing people to watch footage of industrialized animal agriculture and slaughter,” said David Greene, who runs NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Meetup Group. “The ‘Pay-Per-View’ approach helps us overcome that obstacle and provides us with a platform to engage with a captive audience about making more compassionate choices.”
Activist Joyce Friedman conducts vegan outreach with a woman who was disturbed by the farm animal abuse in the video.
Here is the 4 minute video that the pedestrians were paid to watch:
If you live in the NYC tri-state area and would like to participate in pay-per-view events, other forms of vegan outreach or social events, please visit NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Meetup Group.
Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an animal rights organization that has visited many “humane” animal farms to investigate their claims, invited TheirTurn to document one of their many nocturnal visits to JS West, an egg farm certified by the American Humane Association. Our visit, which was intended to be an investigation, morphed into a rescue mission.
After spending less than a minute inside of a warehouse with 150,000 egg-laying hens, my worst fears were confirmed. The “humane” label is nothing more than a marketing fraud designed by the animal agriculture industry and retailers to make consumers feel good about purchasing their products.
A hen with a growth on her on her face that is larger than her head is rescued
Please visit Direct Action Everywhere to learn more about how the animal agriculture industry preys on well-intended consumers by fraudulently marketing their products with language that states or suggests that their animals are treated humanely.
A 2016 survey conducted with 1,000 Americans who purchase or consume meat, eggs or dairy products revealed that misleading advertising by the animal agriculture industry and grocery stores has succeeded in fooling consumers. The survey showed that:
65% of consumers believe that the label “free-range” means that animals spend most of their time on a pasture. In reality, a legal definition of “free range” does not exist for most farm animals. In fact, farmers do not need to prove that animals have access to the outdoors.
63% believe that “cage free” means the animals have access to the outdoors when it simply means that they are not raised in cages. Advocates point out that, in “cage-free” facilities, cages of steel have been replaced with cages of flesh, as the animals are stuffed so tightly into warehouses that they have little, if any, space to move.
Labels such “organic,” “humane,” and “cage free” are used to deceive customers.
60% believe that “humane” means animals have a better than average quality of life. In fact, the “humane” label is meaningless, as a legal definition does not exist.
46% believe that “USDA organic” means that animals spend most of their time outdoors. However, regulations do not specify the length of time that farmers are required to give animals access to the outdoors, and they do not specify the size or quality of the outdoor space.
46% believe that “natural” means animals have a better than average quality of life. However, “natural” only refers to how meat is processed and is unrelated to the treatment of the animals.
It’s not only the companies that supply the animal products that mislead the public. Grocery stores also perpetuate the “humane myth.”
In recent years, companies perpetuating the “humane myth” in order to make consumers feel good about buying their products have been exposed by animal rights groups that have conducted investigations at their facilities.
In 2016, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) and PETA exposed corporations that supply eggs, turkeys and pork to Whole Foods, a company that notoriously promotes the animal products on their shelves as humanely raised and slaughtered. These investigations revealed animals living in filthy, overcrowded warehouses, suffering from lack of veterinary care and being physically abused.
Turkeys and egg-laying hens at Whole Foods suppliers
In addition to conducting investigations, DxE has staged hundreds of protests in Chipotle restaurants and Whole Foods markets in order to educate the public about the animal welfare lies being aggressively marketed by those companies.
The results of the survey, which was conducted by Lake Research Partners and sponsored by the ASPCA, are available online.
According to Animal Equality, over 56 billion land animals are slaughtered each year by the animal agriculture industry. All of these animals – even those raised in the least objectionable of conditions – are treated as money-making commodities, not as individuals with a desire to live freely and in peace. If the animal agriculture industry and the retail stores who sell their products truly cared about the humane treatment of animals, then they wouldn’t sell them. After all, isn’t killing someone who wants to live inherently inhumane?
With hundreds of cruelty-free, plant-based alternatives to meat, fish, dairy and egg products, making the switch to an animal-free diet has never been easier. Please take the first step using this Vegetarian Starter Kit .