Bea Elliott: “But words do mean exact things” [an exchange]


I had an Atlantic piece run today [] and I just spent some time reading the comments. And, lo, I discovered a diamond in the rough. A commenter named Bea Elliott, whom I do not know, has been writing some very smart, honest, and insightful responses to several defenders of animal slaughter. What I’m really impressed about is that she seems very nice about the whole thing. No flame throwing, no overheated rhetoric, no name-calling, just cool logic and compassion. She has a remarkable ear for the euphemisms and obfuscations that characterize so much of the happy meat rhetoric. Here she is at work, responding to “Just_Gross,” “Amy Philipson,” and “Rosemary Lees”:

Just Gross: I live in a small city in a larger agricultural county where people can have chickens in their backyards.  For eggs.  I’m all for that.  But if my neighbors with chickens started to slaughter their animals in their yards, nope:   the noise, the smell, the leftovers.. can’t keep all that inside the fence.  How can small scale slaughter be done without impacting neighbors?  I know the dangers of factory farms — I eat little to no flesh at all — but I also fear what pain a well intentioned amateur might inflict on a backyard animal.  How does one learn to butcher an animal humanely in their backyard?  I disagree with the entire premise of animals as property that owners can dispose of as desired, but thats a different discussion.   For the purposes of this discussion, I understand why people raise their own food;  maybe one way to address this would be to have a community “slaughteria,” — god forgive me, that sounds repulsive — where people can slaughter their animals humanely, isolated from neighbors, with the assistance of a trained butcher.  Public health concerns addressed. I’ve been to Joel Salatin’s farm.  Its hard to imagine anyone slaughtering their animals in the City of Oakland or any other urban area having as much privacy or isolation from neighbors as is present at Polyface.  Apples and oranges, folks.

Rosemany: We learned how to process our poultry from the Joel Salatin youtube vidoes!  He is amazing. I actually processed a chicken this afternoon.  It take about 40 minutes from coop to fridge.  It is humane, clean, and peaceful.  I put all of the chicken scraps and feathers into a disposable plastic shopping bag and throw it away in the garbage afterward.  There is little more in it than if you would clean a whole bird from the grocery store.  It isn’t apples and oranges.  It is education and respect for your animals and your neighbors, it can be done well.  The only apple to speak of here are the couple of bad apples that didn’t respect either and it’s why we’re having this conversation.  (And I think that it is way grosser to throw away a poo filled disposable diaper than organic chicken parts!)

Bea Elliott: Hi Rosemary – You say it isn’t apples and oranges… But that’s exactly what you’re turning it into. You say you “processed a chicken” – What you did was kill a living being. You say it’s “humane” – Since “humane” means to be concerned with the alleviation of suffering – Are we to assume that this bird was ill or in aging pain?  Sick?  No.  I hardly think that.  I assume this bird was quite healthy and fit for life.  So there was no thought of putting her/him out of misery – Nothing “humane” there. You say it’s about “respect” – But is there really “respect” for life when it’s taken?  No again.
It seems that people with a hunger for home-grown (and any) flesh like to use certain words to defend their actions… I have no doubt that animal-eating folks even consider themselves “kind”. But words do mean exact things… Apples and oranges have their own identity – And so does compassion and selfishness.Finally, to those who would say it is “your business” what’s done on “your property”… But this is not so either as we are an evolving species that sets new and better standards for our actions.  The more we know about life and the sentience of other beings – The more we should respond with genuine concern (respect) for their lives.  It IS our social responsibility to tear away from outdated and unnecessary killing.  What you do in your own backyard IS my business if it includes victims… If this was not the case, there would still be child labor, women as chattel, human slavery and so on.  For now there is also “processing” rabbits and birds – Surely we should and will advance beyond the unnecessary taking of innocent life.

Amy PhilipsonSo you are saying we should let them suffer before we kill them?  How much should we let them suffer?  It there a line where, on one side is not enough suffering and on the other is useless torture?   All life ends, where we differ is in the opinion of when and how is appropriate.  The real question might be, “Is it better for the chicken to never exist at all than to have a short life?”  or,  “How long does the chicken need to live before it’s life is worth living?”  or, “How much suffering at the end does it take to negate a life filled with scratching, bugs, sunbathing , pecking your neighbor on the head, and all the other little things that make a chicken’s life fulfilling?” or, “If you get eaten, does that make your life less good than if you are buried in the ground?”  There is more there to consider than just “Meat is Murder”. Also, your statement, “But is there really “respect” for life when it’s taken?  No again.” is a little offensively assumptive.  This is your opinion, your religion, not mine.  I respect my chickens.  They are beautiful, they are alive, they are walking miracles.  I do not let racoons chew their heads off, I do not let small children chase them around the yard, I know who they are.  However, in the ecosystem that is my garden, they have their place, I have mine.  I let their population grow a bit high this year and the garden is suffering accordingly.  That is my responsibility which I will be fixing here soon, not waiting until they scratch the garden to bits and die of hunger, neglect, or age.  We are omnivores, they and I, I’m not going to throw them in a hole in the ground when they are dead, nor am I going to feed them to each other (though they are more than willing).  Again, I work hard at keeping and improving the balance here in my little corner of paradise and I am offended that, because I can eat meat without hurting my conscience, somehow I am supposed to be disrespectful and a lesser being than you.

Bea ElliottHi Amy… Of course I’m not saying to let them suffer!  I’m saying not to breed them to kill them in the first place!  It is double speak to say that when there are alternatives to killing… And doing so anyway is “humane”.  That’s just truth. “All life ends”… Yes, but taking life doesn’t have to be part of that mandate.  Millions don’t kill and don’t pay to have someone else kill for us… Obviously being an omnivore we do have a wide range of other nutritious foods…I too have given home to a small flock of “walking miracles” – They were rescued from an industrial “farm”… I have no intentions to ever end their lives, unless of course I was starving and every bit of vegetation on the earth was gone — Thankfully, for now I have no desire or need to consume any body.Finally, I’m not suggesting that anyone live up to my opinions, my standards or my “religion”… I’m merely hoping that people live up to their own.  Most people will recognize that it is wrong to cause unnecessary suffering… Since there are many healthy and satisfying options to flesh – Seems that they *would* be living up to their *own* values if they chose to opt out of “meat”. I don’t mean to be offensive – Just rational in using words for the exact meaning they represent.  Kindness, justice, mercy, compassion just don’t mix with frivolous killing.  Sorry.


Go Bea.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

5 Responses to Bea Elliott: “But words do mean exact things” [an exchange]

  1. veganelder says:

    Bea Elliot offers up a couple of blogs for readers, Once Upon A Vegan ( and Provoked ( She is a serious and staunch and unflinching supporter of the rights of all animals to possess, control and to live their own lives for their own purposes. You noticed the intelligence and honesty she exhibits in her comments and many more examples of those can be accessed by reading her blogs.

    I’m proud to be a long time reader of her writing and am glad you have discovered her for yourself. She is a real gem.

  2. I would just like to add that we human animals are NOT omnivores! We are herbivores/frugivores, and ONLY erroneous “behavioral” omnivores; our erroneous diet is why we have epidemic levels of dietary disease (heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, etc,)! If anyone can show me ONE biological omnivorous (bears, raccoons, etc.) marker for the human animal, please do!

  3. beaelliott says:

    And thank you James for laying such a good foundation on the negative costs and impracticality of urban farming. It left a lot of people desperate to defend such nonsense…

    I appreciate your acknowledgment that my words and delivery are solid. And ever-wise Veganelder is right… They are honest! The rationalizations to kill are pitifully lame and deserve to be exposed every chance we get! If I do well sometimes – It’s because of the examples of countless other advocates who don’t tolerate the lies! If I deserve a “Go Bea”… Then so do we all who speak for the oppressed!

    And Vegan Zeitgeist… I suppose I conceded “omnivore” for the sake pursuing the ethical issues instead. Picking one battle can often be challenging… I’m grateful for the link as I often refer people to Dr. Milton Mill’s essay on Comparative Anatomy of Eating – And this provides me/us with yet another tool in the arsenal. 😉

    We have an enormous task to set things right. I’m grateful to know we’re all motivated by the urgency to make it so – Thank you!

  4. larry says:

    “What you do in your own backyard IS my business if it includes victims”

    That’s a good line.

    I don’t read Bea’s blog but I have seen her name several times, commenting on the blogs of others. I’m not surprised to see her getting acknowledged for her persuasive writing and her dedication.

  5. CQ says:

    My praise of Bea is contained in my back-to-back comments on the Atlantic webpage:

    Indeed, “Go Bea.”

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