AR-News: Nice Chicago Tribune interview with Tom Regan headed, "Minimizing the bad that's done to animals"

Karen Dawn KarenDawn at
Sun Apr 4 19:58:02 EDT 2004

(The Chicago Tribune takes letters at: ctc-TribLetter at and says,
"Include your name, address and phone number. The more concise the letter,
the better the chances for publication." )

Chicago Tribune

April 4, 2004 Sunday
Chicago Final Edition

 Q ; ZONE C; Pg. 2

Minimizing the bad that's done to animals

 By Wendy Navratil, Tribune staff reporter.

Consider the Easter bunny as poster child.

"What it illustrates," animal rights advocate Tom Regan says, "is our
schizophrenic relationship with animals. When it comes to Easter, we
encourage children to think of animals as friends, and then we betray that
friendship when we slice them and dice them and mince them."

Don't hop to any conclusions. Regan, a vegan, is no latter-day Grinch. A
conversation with him focuses on the 48 billion animals being killed for
food annually (and many more for clothing), not any Easter egg hunt.

Q. The tactics of groups such as PETA turn off a lot of people. What's your
point of view?

A. All organizations do some good, and no organization does only good. You
encourage them to do the good that they can do--and only they can do because
of their size and influence--and at the same time, you don't fail to say,
"Hold it! Don't do that!" You have to be an ally and sometimes a critic.

Q. We've heard of vegans forsaking leather shoes, but wool? Do animals die
for sweaters?

A. Merino wool, which is ubiquitous, comes from merino sheep that have been
selectively bred for generations in Australia. If [the sheep] have perfectly
smooth skin, you have a limited surface for wool to grow on. But if it's
wrinkled, you get more flesh per sheep and more wool.

The problem is, when sheep urinate or defecate, waste collects in the folds
of skin, flies collect and [infection] can literally kill a sheep in a few

So what merino ranchers have said is, "We have to fix this problem."

They cut large sections of skin from the crotch area. No anesthetic. No
post-operative care.

Q. Are you concerned about your books using paper?

A. When I get in my car and go to my office, I'm driving through land that
once belonged to animals. And I'm driving an automobile that has animal
byproducts in its interior.

So, I'm not supporting the pork or the fur industry. But am I supporting an
industry that has side effects that harm animals? None of us can remain in
the world and not do that.

Everybody has to just strive to minimize the bad that their life makes them
complicit in.

Q. About 2 percent of the U.S. population is vegetarian? How does one come
to relish foods such as tofu?

A. People always think of what you lose when you stop eating meat and dairy,
but it's really what you gain: the cuisine of the world. The Vegetarian
Resource Group [] estimate is somewhat higher: 2.8 percent, or
5.7 million Americans, never eat meat, including fish and poultry.

Everyone has a bad, bad, bad image of tofu. I don't like it when it's slimy.
But here's the secret: You must find the firmest tofu you can. Go to a good
Asian store; they have the best stuff. Then you have to freeze it, then
squeeze the water out of it as if your life depended on it [after you
defrost]. Put it between two plates and press, get every single drop of
water out of it you can, cut it up and cube it.

Q. What does the resurgence of fur say about anti-fur potency?

A. Things run in cycles. The hope was that we would continue to drive the
market down, and it would become like whalebone corsets. We don't wear those

Obviously it's proven to be more resilient. There's just a need some people
have to wear fur. It's not just a question of fashion or comfort. In our
culture today, wearing fur makes a statement. It says, "Notice me. How
sensual. How strong. How successful."

Q. What about animal overpopulation? What about a mouse in your house?

A. Why there are so many animals is, they're being bred for human
consumption. So, presumably, if we come to the point where we're no longer
going to breed 10 billion animals to kill and eat [overpopulation won't be
an issue].

If a mouse is in your house, you've invited him in by how you live. Try to
figure out what you do so a mouse doesn't come into your house. There are
non-lethal ways of trapping animals. You don't know, when you let him go,
the mouse maybe doesn't make it too well. But you've done what you can.

Q. How did you become an animal rights advocate?

A. I wouldn't have become an animal rights advocate if I hadn't been a human
rights advocate.

My wife and I were because of the war in Vietnam. During that period I
thought I should use my training as a philosopher to write a definitive
critique of war. I went to the library, took down a book from a shelf, "An
Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth" by Mohandas K.
Gandhi. That changed my life.

How could I be out marching in Washington when I'm conducting a war in my
own life? I didn't have to eat animals. My fork was a weapon of violence.
That was the beginning.

The Regans co-founded The Culture & Animals Foundation,

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