Archive: March 2009

Book Review: Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, Eric Schlosser (2004)

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Reefer Madness, the Brown Scare & Sex Crazed Fascis

five out of five stars

In REEFER MADNESS, Eric Schlosser looks at the effects of U.S. policy on the underground or “black market” economy. Specifically, he examines three diverse “commodities” – “recreational” or illegal drugs (specifically, marijuana), cheap labor (provided by undocumented workers or “illegal aliens” from Mexico and South America), and “adult” materials (primarily pornography) – and the American “war” on each. Schlosser narrows the scope of his study by focusing on a few key players in each of these underground economies: Mark Young, a recreational pot smoker and middleman who was given a life sentence for brokering a marijuana deal; California strawberry farmers and the migrant workers who pick the finicky fruit; and Reuben Sturman, a “pioneer” of the porn industry (and a jackbooted thug).

REEFER MADNESS is an engaging study of what happens when a supposedly free and democratic government attempts to stomp out vices that it deems morally corrupt. The section on U.S. drug policy is especially enlightening – and quite relevant, given the current upsurge in drug-related violence along the U.S.-Mexico border. Pornography receives the lion’s share of attention, seemingly at the expense of immigration, which is a shame; I felt as though Schlosser barely scratched the surface of the latter, while I grew bored of Reuben Sturman’s story by the end of the book. Schlosser concludes REEFER MADNESS by tying all three tales together, thus making a larger statement about civil liberties and the strengths and weaknesses of the “free market” in the U.S. Again, though, he probably could have devoted more pages to this synthesis had he not lingered on Sturman and pornography.

Overall, it’s a fascinating and engaging read, and vividly demonstrates why all American citizens should be concerned with their government’s attempts to regulate individual conduct – even if it’s conduct with which you may personally disagree.

(This review was originally published on Amazon and Library Thing, and is also available on Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you think it so!)

Animal Aid: Speak out against two culls in West Wales

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Via Animal Aid:

Two culls

Welsh Assembly Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, has announced a cull of badgers in West Wales. She said that there will be an ‘intensive action area’ covering 200 square kilometres in Pembrokeshire, and the cull would later be extended across Wales.

* Send polite complaints to: elin.jones [at]

Councillors in the Forest of Dean are planning to kill wild boars. Please contact them and urge them to act compassionately and use only humane ways to deter boars, should they present a problem.

* Send polite complaints to: council [at]

You can find a useful guide to Britain’s “War on Wildlife” here.

(More below the fold…)

"A cow is so much like a woman"

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

McDonald's - Austrian Teet

In which I take the metaphor a little too seriously.

A few months ago, I wrote about how the female members of non-human animal species suffer from especially egregious and prolonged abuse at the hands of their exploiters.

With brutal precision, farmers routinely turn the reproductive systems of female animals against them, finding newer and more callous ways in which to exploit them as science and technology allow. This isn’t to suggest that males don’t suffer as well – they do. But their suffering isn’t as prolonged or extensive as that of their female counterparts; veal calves, for example, are tortured for sixteen weeks and then, “mercifully,” (relatively speaking) slaughtered. Their sisters, meanwhile, are exploited as baby and milk machines for three to four years, after which they become ground beef. First, their babies and their babies’ food is stolen from them; and, finally, their lives are snatched away as well.

By the mere fact of their sex, sows, hens, ewes, does, nannies, cows and heifers – not to mention mares, bitches, jennies, jills, etc. – are ripe for especially brutal and prolonged exploitation. Oftentimes, this involves a constant cycle of pregnancy, birth, nursing and baby-napping, culminating with the female’s own death when she’s no longer able to breed or “produce” to her “owner’s” satisfaction.

Using excerpts from Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals for illustration, I explained how this process unfolds in “pork” production. Under the headline “Horizontal Women” (a play on one nickname for pigs, “horizontal humans,” so earned because they are so much like us), I emphasized how female pigs’ reproductive organs are turned against them, and the mother-child bond, severed and exploited, all so that Humans can continue to enjoy cheap “bacon”:

Breed, gestate, deliver, nurse, grieve, repeat: this is a sow’s lot. The whole damn “pork” subdivision of the megatheocorporatocracy rests on the female pig’s sexual organs – in her ability to give birth to the next generation of porcine “property.”

The process is much the same with cows: in a dairy operation, mother cows (“dairy” cows) undergo a continuous cycle of forced pregnancy and birth, followed by the theft of their children and milk. Breed, gestate, deliver, nurse, grieve, repeat.

Photo via Yamanize

A “dairy” cow’s children are taken from her shortly after birth, “ideally” within 24 hours; daughters may become “dairy” cows, like their mothers, or perhaps “beef,” while sons are destined to become either “veal” or “beef.” An estimated one million “veal” calves and 35 million “beef” cattle are killed annually, in the United States alone. About 9 million cows are confined in U.S. “dairy” operations in any given year. A cow’s natural lifespan can be 25 years or more, however, “dairy” cows are milked to excess within 3 to 4 years, after which they’re “retired” into ground beef.

As with pigs, mother cows and their children suffer immensely in factory farms. Their suffering is oftentimes tied to their status as females and youngsters – a quality which transcends species boundaries.

(More below the fold…)

easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-31

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Action Alerts

American Rivers: RiverAlert: Thank Congress for Designating 86 New Wild & Scenic Rivers
“Three years ago, American Rivers set the bold goal of designating 40 new Wild and Scenic Rivers by the 40th anniversary of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Last week, we far surpassed that goal when the House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act, designating 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers and increased by more than 50% the rivers in the Wild and Scenic System. We couldn’t have done it without your help telling your Representatives that you support river protection. Now help us thank Congress for passing this bill and permanently protecting 86 new Wild and Scenic Rivers.”

Kelly’s note: American Rivers’ sample letter is predictably rife with speciesism, so – if you use it – please read it over and make the necessary changes before sending it.

Animal Rights @ Change .org: Honoring César Chávez–and His Call to Stop Eating Animals
“Today is the late César Chávez’s birthday, and it is being celebrated as an official state holiday in California and other states. The Cesar E. Chávez National Holiday Web site tells us much about the admirable man for whom many of us, including President Barack Obama, want to see a national holiday. Yet despite a long “About” page detailing Chávez’s life, beliefs, activism, and many accomplishments, there’s not a word about the strong position he held regarding nonviolence toward animals. Not a word about his commitment to vegetarianism (including not only a vegetarian but even a vegan diet for at least some period) for the last 25 years of his life. Not a word about his opposition to exploitation of animals on all fronts, including research, “sport,” and entertainment. The same can be said of the many news articles that are noting today’s significance.” Please keep an eye out for news articles, and pen a letter or two correcting this error of omission!

CREDO Action: Tell AT&T: Stop supporting Bill O’Reilly
“FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly has made some outrageous statements on rape, suggesting that women can be held responsible when they are forcibly violated and even killed by their attackers. O’Reilly has a right to his opinion. But his advertisers should be accountable for their support of his offensive views and his use of ambush journalism to intimidate those who dare to challenge his public statements. Tell AT&T to stop supporting Bill O’Reilly’s right wing progaganda machine and his attempts to intimidate those who challenge his views.”

Dogwood Alliance: Take Action on Arby’s
“Arby’s is one of the 11 Fast Food Junkies buying their paper packaging from Southern forests. Arby’s is based in the Southern US, in Atlanta, GA, so they should know how important our forests are to Southern culture and to mitigating global climate change. These vital forests and their biodiversity are in danger…they are being destroyed to package sandwiches and fries for Arby’s! Act today!”

Grassroots Netroots Alliance: Make the Polluters Pay: Tax Greenhouse Gas Emissions!
“The current climate crisis will become a full-blown climate catastrophe unless Congress acts quickly to drastically reduce climate-destabilizing greenhouse pollution from our current, and rising, 387 ppm CO2e back to a level below the dangerous tipping point of 350 ppm. Big business, including agribusiness, has been profiting from cheap energy and saddling the public with the costs of its pollution for too long. Now, they’re trying to escape regulation through Wall Street-style emissions trading. It’s time to make the polluters pay. We need a tax on greenhouse gas emissions now!”

(More below the fold…)

Dear "Franz," (a postscript)

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Photo via gwenael.piaser

A few days ago, I posted a snarky little missive addressed to “Franz,” an angry, speciesist troll who left several (now deleted) comments in response to this post. At the time, I gave little thought to his all-too-predictable ranting before deleting the comments, however, upon further reflection, I kind of wish I’d left them up. So much to deconstruct!

Franz’s initial comment left me wondering whether he was an uber-militant vegan, or just another speciesist troll. In it, he noted that he’s an Ohio resident, and yes, all “pig farms” are like the one depicted in Death on a Factory Farm. And anyone who thinks otherwise is “fucking ignorant.” And furthermore, unless a “morsel of meat” has never crossed your lips, you’re a “fucking hypocrite” for criticizing factory farming.

He followed that up with an obviously speciesist rant about vegans (like myself, presumably) who spend (“waste”) time on animal advocacy issues when there are More Important Things to worry about. Who cares about the dismemberment of fully conscious pigs, when millions of Humans have died in the “civil unrest” in Darfur? And, ZOMG, what about the peoples?, and so on and so forth.

Obviously, anyone who spends more than a reactionary thirty seconds considering the issue can see what an utter load of bullshit anthropocentric excrement it is. For starters, we can play this game forever: Who cares about the rape of women in Darfur when other women are being murdered? Who cares about genocide in Darfur when there’s an AIDS epidemic in (Southern) Africa? Who cares about AIDS when the entire human population is threatened by climate change? Ranking oppressions is an exercise in futility. Who gets to decide which injustice is the most egregious – and thus the most worthy of our attention? Could it be the oppressors, hmmmm?

(FWIW, hop on over to any A-list feminist blog, and you can see the same dishonest attacks leveled at women who dare to criticize “trivial” examples of misogyny in Western cultures: Who cares about “Fat Princess” when women are forced into hijabs in Islamic countries!?!?1! This line of “reasoning” is nothing but a smokescreen, and a transparent one at that.)

Not to mention, such an argument assumes that we can only care about and work on a single issue at any one time; that different forms of oppression and social injustice exist separately and are wholly independent of one another, as if in a void; that one’s compassion, kindness, justice and ethics towards one marginalized group will not inform a person’s attitudes and actions towards other marginalized groups; and that a being’s compassion is a finite pie that must be doled out a slice at a time. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

But I digress. The most interesting part of Franz’s rant came in the second comment. By this point, my eyes were glazing over, but I’ll try to paraphrase as best I can. Franz implored me to consider the story of some dude whose wife and (three?) children had been murdered. I forget the man’s name, but seeing as Franz mentioned the case directly after scolding me for not personally rescuing the entire population of Darfur, I assume that the murders were a part of said genocide.

What about John Q. Smith, whose wife and children were murdered and dismembered right in front of him? Don’t you care about him?

The “casual” sexism inherent in this sentence didn’t hit me until a few hours later. Here, John Q. Smith’s (unnamed) wife and children are the primary victims: it is they who were murdered and dismembered. While I’ve no doubt that this is traumatic for John, the crimes committed against him (being forced to watch as his wife and children were murdered and dismembered) are nowhere near as serious as the crimes committed against the wife and children (murder and dismemberment). They lost their lives, while John was allowed to live.

Yet, the way Franz frames the sentence, you’d think the most horrific abuses were reserved for John. Franz doesn’t ask “What about this woman and her children, who were murdered and dismembered?” – rather, he saves the bulk of his pity for John, whose wife and children were murdered and dismembered. To Franz, John’s wife and children are not even worthy of names – they’re some man’s wife and children, i.e., property, and that’s all we need to know. Seriously, we may as well identify the woman and children with numbers and ear tags. You know, like “livestock.”

(More below the fold…)

"This is the oppressor’s language." *

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Photo via KayVee.INC

Will Potter wonders, Why Aren’t the EPA’s Most Wanted Fugitives Labeled “Eco-terrorists”?:

The brilliance of the “Green Scare” and the War on Terrorism more broadly is how the government and corporations have twisted language to push a political agenda. When environmentalists put their bodies on the line to stop environmental destruction? That’s “eco-terrorism.” When corporations destroy the environment for personal gain? That’s just business as usual. […]

Now, which is more worthy of receiving the “eco-terrorism” label? Crimes that indiscriminately put humans, animals and the environment at risk, for personal profit? Or narrowly-targeted actions (not all of which are even criminal) intended to stop environmental destruction?

Who do you think is the “eco-terrorist”: The tree sitter or Boise Cascade? The Earth Liberation Front or Monsanto? Tim DeChristopher or mining corporations? Earth First or General Motors?

Since ours is indeed the oppressor’s language, those who terrorize the environment are “smart businessmen,” while defenders of the earth and its inhabitants are labeled “violent” “terrorists” and punished with disproportionately harsh prison sentences – even though the former’s so-called “white collar” crimes destroy far more lives (human and non) than the latter’s so-called acts of “terrorism.”

* Adrienne Rich, quoted in Animal Equality.

It’s worth noting that Rich’s observation comes from a feminist perspective, however, the same applies to the relationship between human and non-human animals, and humans and the earth. Humans [in Rich’s words, men] are the oppressors, and our language necessarily legitimizes and reinforces the misdeeds we [men] commit against non-human animals and the earth [women]. Notice how the same processes are at play in each pattern of exploitation?

(More below the fold…)

Oatmeal Banana Cookies: Doggy edition! (And a big plate of lemon FAIL)

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Update, 3/30/09: Actually, I take that back. The lemon cookies weren’t so much a huge plate of FAIL as an exercise in delayed gratification: they tasted much better the next morning, once the doughy-ness had transformed to chewiness. Methinks the problem rests not in the batter or cook time, but in my lack of a cooling rack. Currently, I have to remove freshly baked cookies from the sheet asap, otherwise they tend to stick. The lemon cookies probably needed to sit a bit, hence the trouble I encountered when scraping them off. A cooling rack might make all the difference.


The last time I made a batch of Oatmeal Banana Cookies, I wasn’t able to enjoy them as much as I would’ve liked. Truth be told, I felt a wee bit guilty. The dogs, you see, started begging like lil’ vegan monsters before the goodies even came out of the oven. I’m fairly certain that they thought the cookies were meant for them, since the week before I’d made some pizza biscuits for Rennie’s birthday. So I resolved to adapt the recipe to make a doggy edition.

Which I did, yesterday. I took the last version of the human Oatmeal Banana Cookie recipe and made a few changes: omitted the salt, cut the sugar down to almost nothing, and added a few extra ingredients that I just so happened to have on hand. The result? Total success! The dogs absolutely loved the cookies. They’re also 100% suitable for human consumption (really, shouldn’t everything we feed our nonhuman friends be?), if a little bland. By which I mean unsweetened. But maybe unsweetened is your thing?

Again, this recipe has proven extremely versatile. The oat/soymilk combo makes the dough impossible to mess up: Too dry? Add some soymilk! Too wet? Toss in some oats and/or let sit! As long as you taste test the dough before baking, and like what goes in, you’ll love what comes out of the oven.

Oatmeal Banana Cookies: Doggy edition!

2009-03-28 - Oatmeal Cookies for Dogs - 0004


1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon + a little extra to taste
1/2 cup of dark brown sugar (or less)
Slightly less than 1/3 of a cup of vegetable oil
1 banana, mashed to liquid (the riper, the better)
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup of water or soy milk
2 1/4 cups of quick oats
Several handfuls, give or take, dried fruit (cranberries, cherries, blueberries, apricots, etc.) to taste; for this recipe, I used about 4 handfuls of dried cranberries and 4 of homemade dehydrated apple slices

Note: If this is for your furry friends, do not use chocolate chips! Or raisins! Or grapes! Or onions or onion powder! Um, not that you’d put onions in oatmeal banana cookies. That would just be gross.

Optional: Add some backstrap molasses, nutmeg and/or wheat germ.

(More below the fold…)

Kinship Circle: Icy Waters Rising – Help Animals In North Dakota

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kinship Circle – kinshipcircle [at]
Date: Sat, Mar 28, 2009 at 3:29 AM
Subject: Icy Waters Rising – Help Animals In North Dakota


ONLINE VOLUNTEER FORM: Tell us what you can do! Be on file in our Disaster Aid Network:

3/28/09: Icy Waters Rising – Help Animals In North Dakota

1. North Dakota Flooding – Incident Summary Report
2. Help FM Humane Society Emergency Animal Shelter
3. Adopt-A-Pet Pitches In For Displaced Animals
4. More Local Rescues In Flooded North Dakota
5. UAN/EARS Response In Fargo
6. IFAW Expects Up To 5,000 Animals Need Aid
7. Other National Orgs Mobilizing For ND Animals

Kinship Circle - 2009-03-27 - Help Animals In North Dakota 01

One of Doug Stensgard’s dogs, Annie, looks out over what used to be a 5-acre yard and an outbuilding, now flooded by the rising Red River in Fargo. Stensgard built an earthen and sandbag dike around his home in the hope of holding back the floodwaters. Associated Press.

As icy floodwaters climb to a record crest of 43 feet at Fargo’s Red River in North Dakota, forced and voluntary evacuations continue. The Red River is expected to crest at about 52 feet Monday or Tuesday in Grand Forks, ND. More rivers, creeks and streams rise around the state…

Kinship Circle has spoken to some resources below, as well as local authorities. If we’re asked to deploy any volunteers in our independent network, we’ll update you. In the meantime, below are ways to help flood-stranded animals via monetary donations and/or supplies. Fargo-Moorhead Humane Society lists a phone number for potential volunteers [#2 below]. YOU MUST CALL THIS NUMBER; circumstances change daily.

(More below the fold…)


Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Photo via kendiala

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about intersections: been speciesism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, colonialism, classism and (especially) sexism, and between animal liberation and other social justice movements.

While it’s become clear to me that all forms of prejudice and oppression are interrelated – and indeed, spring from the same well – what I find most vexing is how all these injustices first came about. Were nature and non-human animals subjugated first, followed by women and marginalized men, or were many of these rungs built into the social hierarchy at once? Which came first – organized religion, what with its oh-so-convenient justifications for mistreating the aforementioned “lesser” beings, or were these dogmas created after the fact, as a way of rationalizing and continuing these inequities? Did women as group resist when their brothers began to betray them en masse? Perhaps nature betrayed us as well, by “blessing” us with bodies that, on the one hand, are capable of bringing new life into this world – yet by the same token are vulnerable and ripe for exploitation? Why do men (and not a few women) seek to bully and oppress others? Why can’t we all just get along?

pattrice jones has touched upon this subject in her writings time and again. At the most basic level, she links the rise of pastoralism to that of the patriarchy. Take, for example, this exchange from an interview published in Vegan Voice:

Q. In Australia we have an appalling track record with regards to indigenous rights. How is racism shaped to some degree by animal exploitation.

A. I’m glad you asked about that, because it was my scholarly investigations into the origins of racism that led me to understand how speciesism is related various forms of oppression among humans. Basically, pastoralism (human dominion over animals) and patriarchy (male dominion over women) — which arrived on the historical scene together and cannot be separated — formed the template according to which all subsequent forms of exploitation would be patterned. It’s not an accident that people who are going to be exploited because of their religion, ethnicity, disability, or race are first “dehumanised” — the very act of subjugation is the act of forcing the target group into the category of “animal,” which means both “being without rights” and “object to be used.” You mentioned the Australian record with regard to indigenous peoples. The European conquests Australia offers a case in point concerning the use of the category “animal” to oppress a group of people. Indigenous people were, essentially, treated as just one more species of indigenous animal, to be exploited when possible and exterminated otherwise. The atrocities that were committed against indigenous peoples would be unimaginable were it not for a long history of treating living beings in exactly the same way. That history made it easy to just add indigenous people to the list of beings who may permissibly be enslaved, killed, or used without regard for their own aim and interests. As long as the category “animal” exists, it will be possible for some human animals to push other human animals over the line into it. If we are serious about ending the exploitation of people, then we have to get rid of the idea of a living being without rights, who can be exploited or killed at will. There’s more — much more — but that’s the gist of it.

In her contributions to Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004) and Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (2006), jones examines animal liberation in general (and direct action specifically) through a (anarcha~)feminist lens. In both pieces (“Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the Animal Liberation Front” and “Stomping with the Elephants: Feminist Principles for Feminist Solidarity”), she returns to the theme of intersecting oppressions, and in so doing she conjures up many of the same questions that have been dancing around in my head.*

In particular, this passage from “Stomping with the Elephants” scratches the surface of the problem – ever so slightly, as the issue is enormous – which might be the concept of “property” – ownership, of both the land, and the beings residing upon it:

(More below the fold…)

easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-28

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Action Alerts

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Ideological Exclusion Must End Now
“Over the last eight years, the Departments of State and Homeland Security revived the practice of “ideological exclusion” refusing visas to foreign scholars, writers, artists, and activists, not on the basis of their actions but on the basis of their ideas, political views, and associations. Individuals currently excluded from the U.S. include Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss national and professor at the University of Oxford, dubbed “the leading Islamic thinker among Europe’s second- and third-generation Muslim immigrants” by Time magazine; and Adam Habib, a South African national, prominent human rights activist and public intellectual. […] Stand with the ACLU and demand that the new administration close the door once and for all on this misguided and unconstitutional Bush-era practice. Send a letter to the Attorney General and the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security asking them to end the policy of ideological exclusion immediately.”

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): It’s Time to Learn the Truth
“It’s been six years since the first reports of detainee abuse and nearly five years since Abu Ghraib. A recent confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross provided undeniable documentation of torture at Guantánamo. Yet the Justice Department has failed to prosecute any civilians for crimes related to interrogation, except a single contractor in June 2004. These stunning revelations only underscore the need for an independent prosecutor. With mounting evidence of deliberate and widespread use of torture and abuse, we deserve to have the assurance that torture will stop and never happen again.”

American Freedom Campaign: Tell Attorney General Holder to launch a criminal investigation of Bush administration crimes
“On March 26, the British government launched a criminal investigation to determine whether British intelligence officers were involved in the torture of a British resident detained by the United States. While the British are seeking to restore international respect for their nation by adhering to the rule of law, President Obama is “looking forward” and Attorney General Eric Holder is twiddling his thumbs. On March 15, the world read leaked details from an International Committee of the Red Cross report concluding that the treatment to which detainees were subjected while under the control of the CIA “constituted torture.” Was this enough to spur Holder to act? Shockingly, no.”

DawnWatch: ABC’s Nightline covers puppy mills, tonight, Friday 3/27/09
“Many in the rescue world have already heard that tonight, Friday March 27, ABC’s Nightline will cover puppy mills. A video on the Nightline web site shows sad conditions referred to as “state of the art” by a puppy mill owner. The story description lets us know that we will also see undercover video taken by Main Line Animal Rescue.”

National Wildlife Federation (NWF): Help Pass a Wildlife-friendly Budget
“Currently Congress is considering the budget resolution, which provides the tools necessary to increase investments in a clean energy economy, support a cleaner, healthier environment, and paves the way for comprehensive climate and energy legislation this year. Ask Congress to pass the budget resolution to safeguard wildlife and natural resources for generations to come.”

(More below the fold…)

Dear "Franz,"

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Re: your attempt to denigrate my ethics by implying that I care about non-human animals to the exclusion of human animals – YOU FAIL.

And also, please to read a blog’s comment policy before trolling, mkay?

As per said comment policy, yes, you are banned, so don’t bother. That is, unless you’d like to share with everyone the steps you’re taking to end the genocide in Darfur.



On "owner" vs. "guardian": IDA’s Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Given yesterday’s post, the Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey IDA highlighted in their latest newsletter is especially timely. In it, the group urges Oprah to refer to herself as her furkids’ guardian, rather than their owner:

I’m writing to you about language, a subject about which you care deeply—how words alter history, how movements are spearheaded by words. I’m writing about how words affect the forward march of animal rights and protection. (In Europe, the Swiss amended their laws to change the status of animals from “things” to ‘beings.”) I am writing about the transfixing power and importance of words and how they are the source of our very being. Words can stir us into action, mobilize nations. Words can also become weapons, arrows, enslaving, unconsciously encoding a certain kind of behavior. “Owner” has become such a word, with its patina of arrogance, compared to the more humane and humble “guardian.” “Owning” a dog has become a diminishing thing, an impoverishing thing, above all obsolescent, a term that has lost its usefulness, for our beloved animal companions are not things, property, or commodities to be “owned” and thus discarded like an old chair.

Your choice of books, always in some way about justice, compassion, and truth telling, has transfigured countless readers around the world. In a similar way, the idea behind using the term “guardian” when referring to one’s animal companions is built upon a deep and abiding reverence. Every time the term “guardian” is uttered instead of “owner,” it illuminates in the public consciousness the singular and profound bond that exists between human beings and their animal companions. It alters our perceptions of our personal relationships with animals and embraces the powerful idea that we respect and honor their essential value, feelings, interests, and lives. Implicit in the term “guardian” is everything that embodies responsibility, and thus we are creating the most treasured, the most lasting, and the most fundamental relationships with the animals who share our lives. This seemingly nuanced, almost imperceptible, but critical change in language elevates in our eyes our companions’ status from easily disposable property to individual being.

Guardians protect, guard, and preserve. Guardianship is about how people think and imagine and, thus, act. It reflects a refashioning of the way we look at ourselves and the animals among us—it’s a way of seeing the world anew.

Using the term guardian is infinitely more than symbolic—guardians are less likely to chain their animals or abandon them or betray them and are more likely to have them spayed and neutered and given appropriate veterinary care; they are more likely to adopt and rescue rather than buy and sell. Guardians are people who fervently reject dog fighting and puppy mills. Guardians recoil from exploiters and abusers. The term “guardian” refreshes the imagination and allows us to make distinctions—one thing is not another. An “owner” is not a substitute for guardian, where the bond between human and animal is a thing sacred.

There are now six and half million Americans in sixteen cities, two counties, and an entire state who refer to themselves as “guardians ” even on official documents, thus recognizing the true import of the word and our responsibility to our animals’ well being.

I hope the spirit of guardianship moves you to give it a public name. The word “guardian” exudes hope and promise for all animal lives.

(More below the fold…)

Animal Aid: European Union vivisection vote on March 31st

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Animal Aid
Date: Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 10:04 AM
Subject: Urgent call-to-action from Animal Aid

A critical vote on the future conduct of vivisection is imminent. Your help is needed now.

An absolutely vital vote on the future of vivisection is taking place this coming Tuesday, March 31. The vote relates to the new Directive that will govern how animal research is conducted across the European Union – the UK included – and will replace the current rules, which are 23 years old. Tuesday’s vote will be by the European parliament’s Agricultural Committee, which has the biggest say of all the parliament’s committees on how the new Directive will look.

On Tuesday, its members will be voting on a set of proposals produced by the committee’s ‘rapporteur’ – an English MEP called Neil Parish. Parish’s proposals have alarmed animal protection bodies throughout Europe for the way they would seriously weaken existing animal protection measures. They would, for example, permit animals to be subjected to ‘severe, prolonged suffering’. And, instead of providing additional protection for primates – which is what the European Commission has called for – he wants monkeys to be used for curiosity-driven research that, for example, involves the infliction of severe brain damage, the withholding of food and water, and holding brain-damaged animals in restraint chairs, while they are forced to press icons on a computer screen over and over again.

Please send an email TODAY or TOMORROW to the eight UK members of the Agricultural Committee. Their addresses are as follows:

* jim.allister [at]
* james.nicholson [at]
* neil.parish [at]
* brian.simpson [at]
* alyn.smith [at]
* struan.stevenson [at]
* robert.sturdy [at]
* jeffrey.titford [at]

Some key points to stress are:

1. You are alarmed by attempts to weaken animal protection measures that the European Commission wishes to see introduced.

2. The Commission wants to phase out the use of wild-caught primates. Amendments that conflict with this goal must be opposed. Despite scaremongering by pro-animal research industry groups, there is no evidence that such a phase-out would damage medical research.

3. You oppose proposals that would allow any animal to be subjected to ‘prolonged, severe’ suffering.

4. Reducing animal use will improve the quality of science, as well as preventing animal suffering. This will make European laboratories attractive to business and academic researchers rather than – as has been threatened – lead to an exodus to parts of the world where standards are lower.

5. It is vital that all proposed ‘projects’ using animals are scrutinised rather than being given automatic approval. The Committee is faced with proposals that would allow most research projects to go through on the nod.

6. You support measures that call for regular thematic reviews of specific areas of animal use and replacement by non-animal systems. Without such a systematic approach, the introduction of non-animal methods will be an unnecessarily protracted process.

7. Increased accountability, transparency and access to information – as well as data sharing to avoid duplication of experiments – are all vital.

8. You urge Committee members not to bow to the powerful, self-interested biomedical lobby. They should vote instead for measures that increase animal welfare and which tackle unjustified secrecy and concealment.

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No Kill Advocacy Center: Free copies of REDEMPTION to gov’t officials

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Update, 7/5/09: The offer has been extended to regular citizens and activists.

Redemption by Nathan J. Winograd

This is pretty cool: the No Kill Advocacy Center is offering free copies of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America to “any elected official, staff reporter, or animal control director” who requests it. Basically, Nathan is giving the book to anyone in a position to influence shelter policy. Total awesomeness.

Please pass this on to your local elected officials, and spread the word!

—– Original Message —–
From: No Kill Advocacy Center
Sent: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 1:30 PM
Subject: We’re giving away the store…

We are giving away the store for the sake of the animals…

The No Kill Advocacy Center is offering free copies of Redemption, the most acclaimed book on animal shelters ever written, to any elected official, staff reporter, or animal control director.

We need to change the way shelters operate and our director is willing to pay for it! He has generously donated “as many copies as it takes” of his award-winning book to get City Council Members, Board of Supervisors, Mayors, Assemblymen, Senators, County Commissioners, even staff reporters and animal control directors to read it. All they have to do is ask for it.

If we receive a letter on official stationary from them asking for a copy, we’ll send it free, no strings attached.

For more information and limitations, click here.

6114 La Salle Ave. #837 Oakland CA 94611

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easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-26

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Action Alerts

Farm Sanctuary: National Defense: an exercise in cruelty?
“Although the art of warfare has changed over time, the U.S. military still hurts animals as part of their combat trauma training program. The idea is to create combat injuries so that medics-in-training can fix them. This exercise in cruelty must be stopped. The Department of Defense is currently doing a self-evaluation of this training, opening the door for a clear protocol to end use of live animals to train infantry, medics and physicians. The military must consistently adopt modern medical training regimes rather than utilize cruel and ineffective techniques. There is absolutely no reason for this inhumane treatment of animals, or to force our soldiers to perform such heartless actions under the guise of national security.”

Feminist Majority Foundation: Urge Afghan President Hamid Karzai to pardon Afghan journalist
“The Afghan Supreme Court is upholding a 20 year prison sentence given to student and journalist Parwez Kambakhsh for blasphemy after he simply downloaded from the internet and circulated an article about women’s rights under Islam. We now must rally together to pressure Afghan President Hamid Karzai to pardon this innocent man.”

Humane Society International: Stop the trophy hunting of bears on the BC Coast and throughout the Great Bear Rainforest
“British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is one of the last tracts of temperate rainforest on earth. It is home to thousands of species of plants, birds, and animals—including black bears, grizzlies, and spirit bears. You might think that here, the bears could live and thrive in peace. But trophy hunters have set their sights on the vulnerable animals, shooting them with rifles and crossbows for entertainment. If the trophy hunters get their way, we may one day have a Great Bear Rainforest without bears.”

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC): Tell Congress to vote Yes for President Obama’s clean energy budget
“Congress is considering a budget resolution based on President Obama’s proposed federal budget. Tell your senators and representative to vote YES on a budget resolution that provides the resources necessary to cap global warming pollution and invest in clean energy solutions and other environmental priorities.”

Oxfam: Afghanistan in Crisis: Tell Congress to act now
“The crisis in Afghanistan continues to worsen while the US continues to spend millions of dollars per month in foreign assistance. What’s worse is that US foreign aid in Afghanistan is failing to reach its full potential because it is short-term and security goals are being emphasized over a coordinated and effective strategy to reduce poverty. Tell Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman to make foreign aid more effective at fighting poverty.”

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easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-25

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Action Alerts

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): USA: Urge Senate to Pass Captive Primate Safety Act!
“On February 24, the Captive Primate Safety Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate. Please take a moment to contact your U.S. senators and ask them to support and cosponsor this important humane bill. When the 111th Congress convened, the Captive Primate Safety Act was among the first bills introduced. Although the Act passed the House of Representatives last year, it stalled in the Senate—and federal bills need to pass both chambers of Congress to become law. Since this is a new session of Congress, we now are back to square one. Please email your U.S. senators about this important legislation, even if you already did so in 2007 or 2008.”

Amnesty International: Make Detention Standards Enforceable and Use Alternatives to Detention!
“After being sworn in three months ago, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued a series of Action Directives designed to review and evaluate the five primary missions of the Department. Please write or call Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and urge her to address the current state of immigration detention by making meaningful use of alternatives to detention and by ensuring that conditions in detention are humane and meet international standards. Amnesty International is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to make U.S. immigration detention standards enforceable, and to use alternatives to detention in a meaningful way.”

Animals Rights & Change .org & SHARK: Stop Coke’s Sponsorship of Animal Abuse at Rodeos
“We have a very important update today and we need your help. Coca-Cola sponsors animal abuse and they are feeling the pressure from animal advocates, and we need to keep contacting them! The animals need you to make your voice heard at Coca-Cola…TODAY!”

CREDO Action: Tell Conservative Democrats: Don’t block progress.
“This could mean the end to meaningful legislation to combat global warming. This could block a real solution to healthcare. A small group of Democrats in the Senate, led by Evan Bayh of Indiana, are threatening key pillars of President Obama’s progressive agenda. The House “Blue Dog” Caucus has often stood against important progressive values, supporting causes from the war in Iraq to passing FISA. Now, a new group in the Senate — the “Moderate Dems Working Group” — is attempting to do the same thing.”

Green is the New Red: “Good Time Bill” Could Reduce Prison Times for Environmentalists and Animal Rights Activists
“The Good Time Bill (H.R. 1475) […] will reduce the sentences of people in federal prisons by increasing the “good time” credit they can receive. The bill would impact all federal prisoners (except those serving life sentences), but Green Scare prisoners would be some of the ideal candidates. The bill was introduced last week, and has 11 cosponsors. It’s still early in the process, which makes it a great time to get involved and take action. Visit for a list of things you can do.”

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"Pet," "companion animal," or… "nonhuman companion"?

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

2009-03-06 - South Park Kelly 04

I started reading Joan Dunayer’s Animal Equality: Language and Liberation last night, and – true to form – I skipped ahead and leafed through the last chapter first. Such a cheater, I am!

As I mentioned previously, the book concludes with suggestions for improvement, including a list of problematic terms and possible alternatives, the use of which can help combat the speciesism embedded deep within our language. No doubt, readers will be familiar with many of the speciesist terms identified by Dunayer: “euthanize” vs. “murder” or “kill,” “bacon” vs. “pig flesh,” “animal research” vs. “vivisection,” “it” vs. “he” or “she,” etc. The list of problem words also includes a number of terms which initially surprised me: “brutal,” “bestiality,” “humane,” “neutered,” “spayed” – the list is long. While flipping through the thesaurus, it became clear to me that I’ve quite a bit to learn.

Still, I did a double-take when Dunayer singled out the term “companion animal” as speciesist a mere eight pages into Animal Liberation. For years, I’ve been using “companion animal” as an alternative to the more noxious (or so I thought) “pet.” “Pet” implies that Ralphie, Peedee, O-Ren, Kaylee, Jayne and Ozzy are simply here for my amusement – they’re my silly little play toys. (Similar to the ways in which “pet” has been used by men in reference to women: “my pet.”) But “companion animal” – that elevates the relationship, no? They’re not just “pets,” they’re family members, friends, equals. My dogs are my companions, and I, theirs.

Well, not so much, Dunayer argues. Word order and the exclusive use of the term “animal” are the well-intentioned term’s downfall.

Labels borne of exploitation indicate that nonhuman people exist for our use. Furbearer tags a nonhuman person a potential pelt. Circus animal suggests some natural category containing hoop-jumping tigers and dancing bears, nonhumans of a “circus” type. The verbal trick makes deprivation and coercion disappear. Companion animal reduces a dog, cat, or other nonhuman to the role of companion. Minus that role, the term implies, such an animal has no place; if they aren’t some human’s companion, or their companionship fails to please, they can be abandoned or killed. [8] (page 8)

[8] Companion animal is doubly speciesist. First, it turns “companion” into a trait, something inseparable from a nonhuman’s being; the term obliges certain nonhumans to be (and remain) some human’s companion. Second, it restricts animal to nonhumans. Nonhuman companion, nonhuman friend, and pet avoid these problems. Meaning “an animal kept for amusement or companionship” (American Heritage Dictionary), pet indicates a nonhuman’s situation without labeling them of a certain type. Whereas nonhuman companion and nonhuman friend declare a nonhuman animal an active, equal partner in a loving relationship with a human, pet suggests a less egalitarian, possibly exploitative relationship. Pet, in fact, bears longstanding associations of breeding, buying, selling, and discarding nonhuman animals. Unfortunately, pet’s negative connotations are in keeping with the plight of many dogs, cats, and other nonhumans who never receive the respect implied by nonhuman companion or nonhuman friend. For these reasons, I use nonhuman companion and nonhuman friend with reference to nonhumans treated with full respect; I use pet with reference to nonhumans who are sold, discarded, or otherwise disrespected (as in pet store); and I always avoid companion animal. (page 204)

One barrier activists face when trying to restructure their language to better reflect their ideals is convenience: oftentimes the more acceptable alternatives are awkward, unwieldy, tiresome – a mouthful. However, “companion animal” only requires a slight deviation – a change in word order, and a switch from “animal” to “nonhuman.” It’s rather simple, actually. Say it with me: nonhuman companion. Use it enough, and it’ll roll off the tongue!

But wait – there’s more.

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Family and friends.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I’ve been busy and tired and stressed and [insert your excuse here]. Still recovering from a weekend spent hauling railroad ties to and fro, in order to prepare the garden for the coming season. I was so tired last night, I had trouble sleeping, and woke up exhausted. I hate it when that happens.

Anyway, go check out Sanctuary Tails, one of Farm Sanctuary’s latest projects (the other being Making Hay). I’m totally digging on the new blog, and find myself returning to it whenever I’m in need of a smile – it never fails to deliver.

Many of the most recent entries deal with love, family and friendship among the sanctuary’s varied inhabitants: there’s Dutch the duck, Molly and Morgan the goats, and Sprinkles and Tim the piglets.

Oh, the piglets!

There’s not an animal species on earth I don’t love, but I’ve got a special place in the cockles for pigs. Probably because my own two (canine) girls, Kaylee and O-Ren, remind me of a mama sow and her baby piglet. They both have cute lil’ piggy butts; Kaylee, owing to the several+ litters she birthed before making her way to us, has a slightly stretched belly and large, obviously, err, used nipples, whereas Rennie’s got a bald, pink, pokey lil’ tummy. In the morning, Kaylee barks and dances for breakfast, while Rennie will stay behind in bed with me (if Shane’s nice and present enough to feed the dogs before I arise), roll over onto my pillow, and rub her “piggy fat” in my face. I cannot think of a more delightful way to start the day. Seriously.

Speaking of the family, now’s as good a time as any to share a few photos of Shane and the dogs. I took ’em Sunday afternoon, after we’d finished the weekend’s yardwork, which is why he looks so beat. The dogs, on the other hand, spent the day lounging in the sun, so they were full of…something. Ralphie and Peedee were play-fighting all over the place, totally oblivious to Miss Kaylee, who just wanted a little lovin’ from daddy. Rennie, as usual, was all about the tennis ball.

2009-03-22 - Shane & Dogs - 0007

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easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-24

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Action Alerts

Animal Person: Maple Farm Sanctuary Needs Your Help!
“When our film comes out, more people will become aware of the inspiring journey that led Cheri and Jim to doing what they do today. In the meantime, I hope other animal advocates will join me in supporting this sanctuary to help it succeed, as Cheri and Jim represent the journey we hope more farmers will make, away from exploiting and killing animals to cherishing and helping them live full and natural lives.”

Audubon: Protect Marine Wildlife – Say No to Arctic Ocean Drilling!
“The Chukchi and Beaufort seas of the Arctic Ocean are home to America’s entire polar bear population, the endangered bowhead whale, threatened Spectacled and Steller’s eiders, walrus, and several species of “ice seals.” New oil and gas drilling could bring significant, lasting, and adverse impacts to this sensitive marine environment. The Department of Interior’s Mineral Management Service (MMS) is seeking public comments on an Environmental Impact Statement that would open up the Arctic Ocean to new drilling—please submit your citizen comments today!”

Center for Biological Diversity: Help Save Polar Bears
“Congress, however, just passed special legislation granting President Barack Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar 60 days to revoke the damaging Bush regulations with the stroke of a pen. Please sign the petition below and pass it on to a friend today. With your help, we’ll reach our goal to get 50,000 signatures and convince Interior Secretary Salazar to revoke the Bush regulations before the May 9, 2009 deadline.”

Defenders of Wildlife: Will Your Representative Help Sea Otters?
“Once on the brink of extinction, California’s sea otters have been slowly recovering over the last seventy years. But recently, sea otter populations have stagnated, prompting concern among conservationists and scientists. Biologists need to be able to study causes of sea otter deaths in order to help save these beloved animals — and the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act will provide vital funding to do just that. Please ask your Representative to help sea otter recovery by cosponsoring the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act (H.R. 556).”

National Organization of Women (NOW): Speak Out to Overturn Dangerous HHS Refusal Rule
“President Obama has started the regulatory process to rescind the dangerous and unethical “provider conscience” healthcare refusal rule that George W. Bush pushed through in his final days in office. NOW and allies had urged the president to withdraw this rule as one of his early actions, and we are happy to see that the process has begun! The process started with a formal regulatory notice on March 6, which is followed by a 30 day public comment period. That’s where you come in! We are asking you to take a few minutes to send a message supporting the rescinding of this rule that dramatically undermines women’s access to a wide range of reproductive health services.”

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easyVegan Link Sanctuary, 2009-03-22

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Action Alerts

All Creatures: Save the Geese of Ballwin, Missouri
“Ballwin geese, beware! A roundup of the sometimes bothersome birds, with the cooperation of the Missouri Department of Conservation, will start sometime after April 1. However, Ballwin Mayor Walt Young said he opposes the move, calling it a ‘shotgun approach’ and contending the board ‘will regret this decision; it will be a big mistake if this happens.’”

Animal Person: Newsweek Editor Goes Vegan
“Did you see that Newsweek editor David Noonan went vegan (see “I Can’t Believe I’m Still a Vegan”)? He clearly needs a bit of encouragement as he finds it “sort of a pain in the ass. And kind of boring, too.” But congratulations to Noonan for doing it and writing about it and sticking with it! […] Chime in, and because this article is in the magazine issue dated March 23, write a letter to letters [at] Include your name, address and daytime phone number.”

DawnWatch: Fun Newsweek article, “I Can’t Believe I’m Still Vegan.” 3/23/09 edition
“There is a delightful article in the current, March 23, edition of Newsweek, by David Noonan, titled, “I Can’t Believe I’m Still a Vegan.” (Periscope, Pg 16.)”

Kinship Circle: 3/20/09: Stop Horse Slaughter Blitz At State/Federal Levels
Please take a moment to see whether your state has pro- or anti-horse slaughter legislation pending, and then use the tools provided to take action!

Kinship Circle: 3/20/09: Get Great Apes Out Of Laboratories
“The Great Ape Protection Act, HR 1326, is back on the legislative schedule. Please [tell your Congresspeople to] support this bill to ban experimentation on great apes.”

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