05 March, 2008

"The Indians Killed Buffalo and Used the Whole Animal. When I Eat Meat, I'm Honoring Indians."

The Plains Indians of the 19th century didn't have the same choices as us.

The greater lesson of the Indians referred to in the title quote is not that they killed buffalo, but that given their constraints, they obtained their food and clothing in the most sustainable, least invasive way. To follow those principles today means to go vegan.

The Indians didn't kill buffalo gratuitously. To kill animals strictly for pleasure, as is nearly always the case when we eat meat, dairy, or eggs in the "developed" world and have some awareness of alternatives, may in fact be quite disrespectful to the memory of the Indians. The same should be said for severely confining animals, mutilating them, and distorting their bodies to be obese and top-heavy or to overproduce milk and eggs - all standard practices in modern animal agriculture.

The buffalo of lore ran free. But even if you consume no animal products other than those from free-ranging animals you kill yourself (which rules out virtually everyone in the Western world), from an environmental standpoint alone you're still irresponsible. If everyone hunted, we'd kill off all the wildlife and create an ecological disaster in no time.

Here's another way that eating meat (especially beef) and dairy dishonors Indians. In the 1880s, ranchers took over much of the land on which the Indians lived. Often the takeover was violent and deceitful. The Indians were killed en masse and relegated to reservations. The ranchers imported huge humbers of cattle, who chewed everything in sight and displaced native flora and fauna and greatly reduced biological diversity. In some cases, thriving ecosystems were turned into dry, dusty deserts. To support the beef or dairy industries is to add insult to the Indians' and the land's injuries.

One more thing I should add is that I'm quite sure that some of the people who claim to be honoring Indians when they eat meat don't seem to be that knowledeable about Indians, or care much about them, or mention them in other circumstances. In other words, the whole Indian thing is often just another seat-of-the-pants excuse. It's much more satisfying, and honorable, and honest, to be as kind and respectful as possible to all sentient beings, and to strive to leave as small an environmental footprint as practical, and in almost all cases in this neck of the woods, that means - among other things - transitioning to a peaceful plant-based diet. In that way you'll honor all life.

11 comments:

  1. This was well written! Thank you for showing this to the internet world!

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  2. Oh, this is a great post. Thanks for writing it.

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  3. Great post!! Thank you!

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  4. some excellent points. it should also be noted that "Indians" were not of a monolithic culture, including those living in the Great Plains areas. so to claim to be honoring "Indians" without claiming a specific nation or culture just highlights their true lack of empathy and understanding of Native people. but this just goes back to your point about it all be a seat-of-their-pants excuse.

    besides, there is reason to believe that there were plenty of Native people that lived solely off of plant-based diets or mostly plant-based diets with the possible addition of eggs taken from nests. so which "Indians" are they choosing to "honor" and which are they choosing to forget?

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  5. vegankid: I fully agre; well-said.

    Also, meat-eaters who try to justify their destructive habit by citing other cultures that, under vastly different circumstances, also ate meat tend to be quite selective in which aspects of those cultures they "honor." If it suits their purposes, they'll superficially hold the presumed diet of the "exemplary" cultures in high regard, while ignoring - and certainly not copying - other aspects of those cultures, such as restricted roles for women, methods of warfare, slavery, and so forth.

    If the desire to honor another culture by killing animals is sincere, it's misguided and myopic. But in my experience, in this part of the world, it tends to be insincere.

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  6. Hi~! This was an AWESOME post, as everyone else said. ^^ I actually have something to ask... can I become a contributor? I'm only 12, but I could add a great section on growing up vegan and facing scrutiny from young people. ^^

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  7. Land wasn't just taken for the purpose of ranching. Non-Indians sure needed a lot of land for farming. So farming agricultural products was just as guilty a purpose in displacing Indians as ranching was.

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  8. Hunters from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation traveled to Montana last week to hunt buffalo. Posted: Sunday, February 20, 2011 6:10 am | Updated: 10:57 am, Sun Feb 20, 2011. Jim Marsh knelt down and put his rifle to his

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  10. we took the land and then we kill the buffalo and the indians. with the trail of tears

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