Scientists, Poets, Changemakers and Heroes (Volunteer Opportunities & Action Alerts)

October 26th, 2009 9:09 pm by Kelly Garbato

There are several “actionable items” – not quite action alerts, but rather opportunities for participation, if that makes sense – I’ve been meaning to share, but just haven’t had the time to blog about in depth. Rather than neglect these projects altogether, here’s a handy-dandy roundup. Please scan through each item and help out where you can; these virtual volunteer opportunities are perfect for activists who have more extra time than they do money!

1. Science

It really chaps my rotund hide when speciesists claim that animal advocates are “anti-science.” Being all diverse and stuff, I’m sure the animal rights and welfare movements are home to a fair share of science-averse humans, but for the most part, we’re hardly anti-science. On the contrary: many of us harness the power of scientific research to demonstrate that veganism is a healthier alternative to “meat” and dairy consumption; that nonhuman animals can experience complex thoughts and emotions; that our exploitation of nonhumans animals is both unnecessary and harmful; etc., etc., etc. (you get the idea). On the whole, I don’t think we’re any more anti-science than our omni counterparts.

Personally, I love science; once upon a time, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, specializing in anthrozoology and world vegan (then vegetarian, but wev) domination. I still peruse research articles and scientific journals (of a social nature) on occasion, just for the fun of it. No, it’s not science per se that I take issue with. Rather, I object to the imprisonment, torture, killing and exploitation of sentient, non-consenting animals, usually for redundant and frivolous research.

So I’ve become increasingly interested in “vegan” science, particularly in supporting such endeavors whenever possible. For example, I would love to donate my body to science when I die. The thought of spending my “afterlife” rotting away on a body farm somewhere brings a smile to my face; doubly so if my remains can save a nonhuman animal from being birthed, tortured and killed in the name of science. Oooh, Dr. Brennan, pick me, pick me!

Anyhow, when I saw an ad for research volunteers in the latest issue of Best Friends magazine, I immediately fired off an email to Dr. Frank McMillan to see how I might help. He pointed me to five open surveys, all of which are related to studies he’s conducting at Best Friends (as described here):

Dr. Franklin McMillan has been the director of well-being studies at Best Friends since October 2007. As director of well-being studies, Dr. Frank assesses and studies the mental health and emotional well-being of animals who have endured hardship, adversity and psychological trauma. Through these studies, he hopes to learn what the effects of trauma are – the psychological injuries and scars – and how best to treat them in order to restore to these animals a life of enjoyment rather than one of fear and emotional distress.

He is currently conducting such studies on cats from the Great Kitty Rescue in Pahrump, Nevada – an institutionalized hoarding situation – and the fighting dogs taken from the estate of former NFL quarterback Michael Vick.

The ad in Best Friends (September/October 2009, p. 66) offers additional details on the research:

Best Friends needs your help in our mental health studies of traumatized animals.

First, be assured that all the studies we conduct here at Best Friends involve observational methods that do not harm animals.

Many of our studies require a large number of animals for the study to be valid. For this, we rely on volunteer participation by individuals with certain types of animals. All studies involve nothing more than filling out an online questionnaire about your pet.

If you are a guardian to a cat or a dog, you’re eligible to participate in at least one (if not several) of the following surveys:

Dogs: Suspicion of Abuse Survey – for guardians who suspect that one or more of their dog-kids were abused, mistreated or neglected (the definition of abuse is left open for interpretation).

Dogs: Canine Fear Survey – for all dog guardians.

Dogs: Physical-Emotional Interaction Assessment for Dogs – a mind/body study that’s open to all canine guardians.

Cats: Physical-Emotional Interaction Assessment for Cats – a mind/body study that’s open to all feline guardians.

Dogs: Best Friends Canine Attachment Survey – A bonding/attachment study for dog guardians.

If you are a guardian to multiple cats and/or dogs, you can fill out one survey for each of the eligible animals. That is to say, if you have three dog-kids and suspect that two were abused, fill out two separate “Suspicion of Abuse” surveys, one for each dog.

Since I live with five dogs and a cat, I completed a grand total of 18 surveys over several weeks. Each survey takes about 15 minutes to complete, depending on how much you elaborate on the open-ended questions.

Additionally, Mia Cobb of Monash University in Australia is looking for people aged 18 years and older to complete an online questionnaire about

your attitudes towards the welfare of dogs and kennel facilities, as well as a few general questions about yourself.

The questionnaire is not restricted to Australian participants and you do not need to have had any direct experience with a kennel facility to take part. You don’t even need to ‘like’ dogs.

Public opinion is often a driving force in the provision of care for animals housed in captivity. Therefore, a survey is important to accurately establish the views of the general public as well as dog trainers and primary care givers (such as kennel attendant staff) who are generally directly responsible for decisions regarding the care provided to dogs housed in kennel facilities.

You can access the “Attitudes regarding the welfare of dogs housed in kennel facilities questionnaire” at Monash University here.

Finally, speaking of surveys, Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan and Vegans of Color concluded her “Vegans by Race/Ethnicity in the USA” poll and has made the results available as an ebook, available for purchase and download on Lulu. Also of interest is her Masters thesis, “Cyber-Territories of Whiteness, Sistah Vegan Consciousness.”

2. Poetry

Author/activist Mickey Z. is soliciting poetry for his latest project, The Big Book of Revolutionary Poetry:

From: “Mickey Z.” mzx2 [at] earthlink.net
Date: Sat, 24 Oct 2009 19:25:50 -0400
Subject: Call for poems

Calling all feminists, wizards, Queer theorists, ex-Black Panthers, Christians, Green activists, avant-gardists, Kabbalists, vegans, Hawaiian nationalists, kickboxers, Punks, Hip Hop evangelists, New New Leftists, pink-haired emo warriors, organic gardeners — submit your work for “The Big Book of Revolutionary Poetry,” edited by Sparrow and Mickey Z. Send up to 3 poems to: sparrow44 [at] juno.com or info [at] mickeyz.net

Also, please forward this announcement far and wide, post it on your website or blog or Facebook page, and tweet it if you must. Thanks…

P.S. Please don’t reply to find out what we mean by “revolutionary.” As they say, if you have to ask…

Creative vegan feminist types, I’m looking at you!

3. Change (.org)

Change.org recently launched a new feature on its website. Heavy on audience participation, Changemakers invites readers to nominate and vote for activists, advocates, agitators – you know, changemakers – in 23 categories, including animal rights. Because the feature is user-driven with little quality control (that, and there’s no dedicated animal welfare category to highlight the distinction), some of the nominations are, shall we say, puzzling. (Since when is Leonardo DiCaprio an animal rights activist?) Rather than shun Changemakers, though, this is precisely why actual vegans and animal rights advocates should get involved and make their voices heard, particularly as Change.org will invite Changemakers

to periodically write on an issue they’re passionate about and have their content featured on Change.org and pushed throughout our network of 500,000 activists, 4000 organizational partners, and 20,000 affiliated bloggers.

Each user has ten votes that she can spread across all 23 categories, so vote wisely. I’m not 100% sure what the nomination policy is – how many activists one user can nominate, whether the nomination automatically counts as a vote, whether that vote is unchangeable, etc. – so please contact Change.org directly with any questions you may have.

So far I’ve only voted for Gene Bauer, but plan to nominate between three and six women as soon as I have a free moment. Care to guess who my choices are?

Stephanie recently blogged about Changemakers, so see her post (or Change.org’s FAQ) for more details.

4. Heroism, CNN

Last but not least, CNN Heroes is open for audience voting. Now in its third year, CNN invites viewers to nominate their own personal Heroes for the contest. From there, a panel of judges selects ten finalists, and then through online voting, viewers choose a winner, who wins a grand prize of $100,000. All ten finalists are featured on CNN throughout the final phase of the contest – October through November – and all nominees are profiled on CNN’s website.

Obviously, CNN Heroes is a great opportunity to put animal advocacy issues front and center. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to see an animal advocate make the final cut – and this year is no different. Again, the only way we can remedy the situation is by getting involved: if you know an animal advocate, please think about nominating her in 2010. Judging from when last I posted about Heroes, nominations open rather early in the year – as in, January or February. I can’t seem to find the nomination form online (probably it’s no longer available), but as I recall, it was somewhat comprehensive, and included questions personal enough to imply that one must be familiar (i.e., in the real world sense) with one’s nominee. In other words, now’s the time to start thinking about next year’s nominations.

I’ll post a notice when the 2010 nominations open up, but for now, hop on over to CNN and vote for a Hero.

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Hard-at-work doggy via Flickr user stretchdog.

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2 Responses to “Scientists, Poets, Changemakers and Heroes (Volunteer Opportunities & Action Alerts)”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Ooooh, looks like I need to revisit some of the poetry from my MFA years….

  2. Tell them stories! Also: vegan culinary experts needed, VegListings, and shopping vegan on etsy. » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] I’ve written about Dr. McMillan’s research previously in this here space; see, e.g. Scientists, Poets, Changemakers and Heroes (Volunteer Opportunities & Action Alerts). (Wow, has it been two years already?) Participating in vegan-friendly research projects such as […]

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