Meet the real Vegan Police.

Monday, June 4th, 2012

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So I was bouncing around from one story to another on the science/fiction website io9

[If an alien invasion really happened, we’d be dead instantly: I would love for Joss Whedon to make this movie! (See e.g., The Cabin in the Woods); The 10 Most Depressing Alternate Realities From Marvel Comics: at least #6 has a happy ending!]

when I stumbled upon this gem: A tick bite could turn you into a vegetarian (appropriately filed under “Holy Crap WTF”). Discover Magazine reports on the work of immunologist Scott Commins, who’s been studying the link between ticks and allergies since 2009:

Warning: A walk in the grass could turn you vegan. Scott Commins at the University of Virginia has shown that tick bites can cause the immune system to produce antibodies to alpha-gal, a carbohydrate in beef, pork, and lamb. These antibodies can induce allergic reactions to meat. “We’ve had people nearly die,” Commins says.

Noting that you won’t know that you’ve developed an allergy until you exhibit a (potentially deadly) allergic reaction, io9 columnist Robert T. Gonzalez offers the following advice:

In any case, the next time you’re walking barefoot through a field only to find a tick between your toes, remember to be careful the next time you eat meat — your body may be on a self-destruct mission to kill all alpha-gal.

Or, you know, you could just not eat meat. Tofu > anaphylaxis, am I right?

The Vegan Tick Police is #13 in a list of twenty curious facts about allergies. Item #16 also gave me a good snort.

16. When your pets can’t stand the itching, can they send you to the pound? Human dander can cause allergic rashes in dogs and cats—and in other humans.

If only.

Tell them stories! Also: vegan experts needed, VegListings, and shopping vegan on etsy.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Emma loves her Papa

Emma loves her papa!
CC image via flickr user Vegan Flower (Molly!).
——————————

Hey there lovely people! I have a homework assignment for the dog people in the audience. Don’t worry, it’s short and kind of sweet and won’t distract from your holiday festivities. Dr. Frank McMillan at Best Friends Animal Society is studying human-nonhuman bonding and, as part of his background research, is soliciting stories of love and devotion from those who share their lives with dogs. How do you know that your dog friend loves you? The answer can be short or long-form, simple or multifaceted. Just TELL HIM STORIES! (Always quote His Dark Materials. ALWAYS!)

Here’s the call for submissions, which appeared in the November/December 2011 issue of Best Friends magazine:

BEST FRIENDS NEEDS YOUR HELP

If you have a dog who expresses love toward you, we would like to hear your story.

In a very special new study, we are looking in-depth at the emotions of bonding and affection – love – shown by dogs toward their human companions. For background research, we would like to collect stories of dogs’ expressions of love. The story could be about a single incident of your dog’s show of love and devotion, or the ways your dog demonstrates love within your overall relationship. It could simply be an answer to the question: How do you know your dog loves you? If you would like to share your story, please email it to Dr. Frank McMillan at dr.frank@bestfriends.org.

You may recall that 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 this is an awesome and fun way to contribute to science. And easy, too!

Dr. McMillan posts notices of current research opportunities in Best Friends magazine, which comes “free” with a $25 donation to Best Friends. (We made a donation in Ozzy’s name for their annual Blessing of the Animals ceremony.) In the future, I’ll try to relay new notices as quickly as possible, for those who don’t get the magazine. Forgetting is easy, since a) I tend to let my subscription lapse and b) the notices are somewhat inconspicuous and easy to miss! But I’ll do better, I promise. This stuff is important, yo!

While we’re doing the bulletin board thing, joyful vegan goddess Colleen Patrick-Goudreau recently posted this notice on her FB page:

Call for vegan experts: I’m building a directory of everything from vegan wellness practitioners (chiropractors, acupuncturists, dietitians, naturopaths, nutritionists, psychologists, nurse practitioners, massage therapists, veterinarians) to vegan cooking class instructor and chefs. Wherever you are, if you are vegan and fall into any of the first categories, please email lisa@compassionatecooks.com so we can include you. If you teach cooking classes or have a catering company or are a personal chef, please email colleendavis@compassionatecooks.com. We need the city and state your in, your name, and your website! PLEASE PASS IT ON!

Also, VegListings is a newish directory for vegetarian and vegan businesses; it might come in handy for shoppers as well as business owners, especially with the holidays fast approaching! In the past I’ve put together social justice-themed buying guides; this year, I briefly considered compiling a list of vegan shops on etsy (love me some etsy!) – and then I stumbled upon the Vegan Etsy Team page, making my idea seem redundant.

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…and I hope you will too!

So go, browse, buy (if you can). If not, maybe you’ll be inspired to give gifts crafted by your own two hands this holiday season. It’s fun!

(Image via Herbivore, by way of Vegan Etsy.)

Update, 4/9/12: Due to a recent negative experience on the site, I’m afraid that I can no longer recommend etsy to my friends, family, and readers (and ESPECIALLY not for expensive and/or custom orders!). While the majority of transactions do go smoothly, don’t expect any help from etsy’s customer service on those rare occasions when you have a problem with a seller. Seriously, they were a nightmare to work with – worse even than the seller who never delivered on my custom order, even after six months of haggling.

That said, I still love and support the many vegan storefronts on etsy, and will continue patronizing those that have a presence elsewhere on the web.

Book Review: The Moral Lives of Animals (Dale Peterson, 2011)

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson (2011)

“The right to do something does not mean that doing it is right.”

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Moral Lives of Animals through Library Thing’s Early Reviewer program.)

What is the nature of morality? Which behaviors do we consider “moral,” and why? Are humans the only animals to have developed a sense of morality and rules for moral living? Dale Peterson’s The Moral Lives of Animals (2011) attempts to answer these questions, with mixed results. While he presents ample evidence which suggests that nonhuman animals have literally evolved their own moralities, in so doing Peterson demonstrates how terribly disrespectful, cruel, and (dare I say!) immoral human treatment of other animals and the planet we all call home remains, even after thousands of years of evolution and revolution.

When you think of “morals” and “morality,” most likely terms such as “just,” “kind,” “compassionate,” and “fair” come to mind. And ideally, what is considered “moral” in any given society is that which is just, and kind, and fair. However, “morality” differs in time and space; morals are relative and context-specific. Morality (or what we consider “moral”) is not fixed, but changes over time and across cultures. Those behaviors and institutions that were thought “moral” in colonial America, for example, are quite different than what we consider moral today. So too does morality vary across species: elephants, bonobos, mice, chickadees – all have their own moral rules, codified not in language (as human moral codes often are), but written into the DNA of the species by evolution. Sometimes these moral principles resemble our own; other times they do not.* This is the crux of the author’s theory of animal morality.

Peterson looks at animal morality in seven areas of animal life: authority, violence, sex, possession, communication, cooperation and kindness. The first five he groups together to form a system of “rules morality” – i.e., something is moral if it follows the rules – while cooperation and kindness together form “attachments morality” – i.e., compassionate behaviors, or those that encourage attachments among social animals, are moral. He presents a wealth of evidence – anecdotal, laboratory studies, field research – attesting to morality in nonhumans. Since each of these seven areas could easily command its own book, the sections are necessarily brief – but compelling nonetheless. (Curiously, Peterson barely touches upon rape – even though it could fit into two different chapters.) Primates receive quite a bit of attention (gotta love those sexually liberated, matriarchal bonobos!), as do elephants, hyenas, lions, whales, wolves, various species of birds, dogs – and humans.

It’s this last group that many of my fellow LT reviewers takes issue with, and with good cause. Though I take the title of the book to mean “the moral lives of nonhuman animals” (the omission of “nonhuman” when referring to animals being a nice/nasty linguistic trick that separates “us” from “them”), examples of human morality are introduced quite frequently, usually as a point of reference against which to consider nonhuman morality. Along these lines, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick serves as a framework on which Peterson weaves his own discussion, and passages from the Bible – used to illustrate written human moral codes – abound. As an atheist who Cliff Noted Moby-Dick in high school, I wasn’t thrilled with either device. That said, by the end of the book, I’d come to see the usefulness of Moby-Dick for shaping the structure of Peterson’s book; and, while the endless Biblical excerpts essentially excluded other religions from the text, I suspect that Peterson used them because he expected that Christianity would be the religion with which most of his audience would be most familiar. (Certainly, this seemed true of the author himself.) So I guess you could say that I came around on both points.

(More below the fold…)

rebirth

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

2010-05-01 - Geese & Goslings - 0054 [flickr - cropped]

Two geese, swimming in the pond, waddling through the pastures. I’ve been watching them all week. At least one week, possible two. Watching, wondering, revering, daydreaming. Could it possibly be the same pair from last year? The same mother and father who built a home within a stone’s throw of our own, nesting and laying and incubating, eventually welcoming their children into this cruel and beautiful and remarkable world in the relative safety of our pond and its shores, teaching them to fly, swim, graze and live?

Have the birds I fell so in love with last year returned?

Ducks Unlimited (ugh, I know, it was the first useful result to come up!) suggests yes:

When do they breed?

Generally speaking, Canada geese do not breed until they are two or three years of age. Breeding takes place earlier in the year than it does for most birds so that their young hatch right when the plant food they need is in its prime.

When it comes time to choose a nesting site to lay the eggs, the female always returns to the same area where her parents nested. While there are exceptions, females will usually return to the same nesting area every year.

Do Canada geese form families?

The Canada goose is a very family-oriented bird. Usually in their second year of life, Canada geese find a mate and stay together for life. However, if one mate dies, the other will re-mate.

Breeding takes place earlier in the year, with nesting usually happening from late March to early May. Once the eggs are laid, the female incubates them until they hatch around 28 days later.

During the nesting and incubation period, the male stays near the nest and keeps a close eye on the female and the eggs. If a predator should threaten them, the male will attempt to protect the nest by luring the predator away.

Wherever they are, I hope they’ve survived. The babies, too. And maybe I’ll be lucky enough to witness the birth of another generation again this spring. ‘Twas by far the highlight of the season.

Heartwarming Video Alert: Heroic Tortoise Saves Friend

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Via the Huffington Post, which led with the following commentary:

When it comes down it, we all want to be like this tortoise. The kind of person that goes around saving lives and doing good deeds just for the hell of it. But the unfortunate reality is that we can’t all be heroes. And that’s what this tortoise is.

Oh, my darling grasshopper! Of course you can be a hero – every day! You can start by going vegan; vegans spare the lives of about 100 nonhuman animals every year.

And that’s just on your plate! Look around, open your eyes, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to do good deeds. Yesterday, for example, I saved six worms – who would have otherwise died of dehydration on my patio, after the recent rain evaporated – simply by relocating them ten feet to a nearby dirt-filled planter.

Six worms may not seem like much, but I’m sure it meant the world to them. And it took me all of three minutes.

(In case you can’t view the 99-second video, here’s the rundown: as one tortoise lays struggling on his back, a second tortoise comes to his aid; she pushes and “head-butts” the side of his shell until he’s flipped back upright. The two then proceed to walk away from the videographer together, the second tortoise following the first, as if to ensure that he really is alright after the harrowing incident.)

The Animal Experience (On the Peaceful Prairie Signature Billboard Campaign)

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

Peaceful Prairie - Signature Billboards

Eight of Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary’s sixty-two Signature Billboards, all from the “We Know Our Victims Well” series. Clockwise from the top left:
They long to live as much as we do.
(A single white duck gazes into the camera.)
They long to be loved as much as we do.
(Hen and rooster Libbie and Louie find refuge in one another’s touch.)
They face life together like we do.
(A pair of ducks wander through the snow.)
They love their children as much as we do.
(An adult llama and his child smile together.)
They need their mothers as much as we do.
(A cow nuzzles his mother.)
They protect their children as fiercely as we do.
(A cow and her calf stare defiantly ahead.)
They raise families like we do.
(A duck family – complete with five youngsters – strolls along in harmony.)
They fall in love like we do.
(One cow licks another with obvious affection.)
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A few weeks ago, the always-awesome Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary unveiled a new campaign to aid activists in combating speciesism – and all the oppressions it sanctions – specifically that directed towards “food” animals. With its Signature Billboards, Peaceful Prairie gives faces, individualities, life stories, and emotions to the many animals we call “food” – cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, sheep, lambs, goats and fishes:

They speak for themselves…

We don’t always have the opportunity to raise awareness of the animals’ plight during daily email correspondence but now, with Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary’s latest campaign, we’ve made it easy and effective for anyone to learn how their actions can save the lives of other animals, lives that matter to them as much our lives matter to us.

The graphics – each of which pictures one or more nonhuman animals, as well as a brief but powerful statement about her life experiences, relationships with/to other nonhumans, and/or personhood – are organized around four main themes:

  • We Know Our Victims Well;
  • 55 Billion Reasons to Live Vegan;
  • Humane Farming, An Oxymoron; and
  • Subjects of a Life

Designed for use as email signatures, you can also display these graphics on your blog or website, or share them on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

(More below the fold…)

Libby and Louie (a Valentine’s Day Love Story)

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Peaceful Prairie 2010 V-Day Vegan eCard

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Deer Trail, Colorado this Sunday, stop by Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary for a Vegan Valentine’s Day Brunch. In a delightful re-imagining of an otherwise blasé day, filled with tired gender roles and patriarchal mores, the Peaceful Prairie celebration will include a commemoration of animal love – that shared by chickens Libby and Louie – told over a plate of cruelty-free waffles, quiche, tofu scramble, fruit and coffee cake, of course!

A lame, silent hen and a handsome, fire-red rooster, respectively, these rescued birds have sought solace in one another’s presence – and one another’s presence alone – for the past five years and counting. If anything, their story serves as a gentle reminder that human animals do not have a monopoly on love – nor on kindness, compassion, selflessness, sacrifice, devotion, and family.

In Libby and Louie, A Love Story, Joanna Lucas writes of a love so pure and so true, undying and never-ending, such that any human would count herself lucky to be caught in its bonds.

And there they were. Just the two of them in the world. A monogamous couple in a species where monogamy is the exception. Determined to stay together even though their union created more problems than it solved, increased their burdens more than it eased them, and thwarted their instincts more than it fulfilled them.

It would have been easier and more “natural” for Louie to be in charge of a group of hens, like all the other roosters, but he ignored everyone except Libby. He paid no attention to the fluffy gray hen, the fiery blonde hen, the dreamy red hen, the sweet black hen dawdling in her downy pantaloons, or any of the 100 snow-white hens who, to our dim perceptions, looked exactly like Libby. Louie, the most resplendently bedecked and befeathered rooster of the sanctuary, remained devoted only to Libby – scrawny body, scraggly feathers, missing foot, hobbled gait and all. It’s true that, with our dull senses, we couldn’t grasp a fraction of what he saw in her because we can’t see, smell, hear, touch, taste, sense a scintilla of the sights, scents, sounds, textures, and tastes he does. But, even if we could see Libby in all her glory, it would still be clear that it wasn’t her physical attributes that enraptured Louie. If he sought her as his one and only companion, if he protected that union from all intrusions, it wasn’t because of her physique but because of her presence.

It would have been easier for Libby too – so vulnerable in her stunted, lame body – to join an existing chicken family and enjoy the added comfort, cover and protection of a larger group, but she never did. She stayed with Louie, and followed him on his daily treks in the open fields, limping and gimping behind him, exhausting herself only to be near him.

What bonded them was not about practical necessities or instinctual urges – if anything, it thwarted both. Their union was about something else, a rich inner abundance that seemed to flourish in each other’s presence, and that Libby nurtured in her silence and that Louie voiced, sang out loud, celebrated, noted, catalogued, documented, expressed, praised every day of their 1,800 days together.

Should we all – humans and nonhumans alike – be so blessed.

(More below the fold…)

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

Monday, October 26th, 2009

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.

(More below the fold…)

A tale of Karma.

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Last November, the kind folks at Gentle Barn animal sanctuary rescued a group of cows – along with many “Thanksgiving” turkeys – from abusive living conditions on a “local ranch” (one of those small family farms of lore, perhaps?). Unbeknown to Gentle Barn, one of their newest bovine residents had recently given birth to a calf – a baby – who was not ferried to safety with his mother.

Though the “rancher” neglected to inform Gentle Barn of the situation, the estranged mother did not:

While we were rescuing Thanksgiving turkeys from a local ranch in 2008, we couldn’t help but notice the horrific conditions in which the other animals were living. Unable to stomach what we were witnessing, we came home with two of the ten cows who were in the worst shape and were pregnant.

When they got home to The Gentle Barn, one of the cows seemed inconsolably distraught. She was trying to get out of the pen, pacing, sweating, and mooing as though screaming for someone. Throughout the first night, she kept crying out, barely pausing to take a breath.

At first, we thought her stress was from missing all of the animals she had left behind, or from feeling unsure of her new surroundings. But by morning, when her cries had not stopped, we realized something more serious was going on. We also noticed that her utter was full now and she was expressing milk. When we called back to the place we rescued her from, our fears were confirmed. She had been separated from her calf, and we were informed that her baby was being sold that day to someone else for slaughter. We demanded that they release the baby to us, knowing that this cow would die of heartbreak otherwise, and they agreed, especially because their truck had broken down and they couldn’t deliver the calf to the other people and we had a trailer…small miracles!

When we arrived at The Gentle Barn with the calf, his mom heard his voice, she jumped up and practically broke through the pasture fencing to get to her calf. When we lead her tiny baby to reunite with her, the calf collapsed on the ground in front of her. As she licked him and nuzzled him with the gentlest touch, he got up. As the baby nursed, for the first time in twelve hours, the mom let out a long moo, like the biggest sigh of relief. Now that her baby is with her, she has not made a single sound. She is happy and at peace, and the two will never be separated again.

Once they were reunited, we went back and rescued the rest of the cows. So now, all ten cows are safe and sound at The Gentle Barn.

The reunion of mother Karma and baby Mr. Rojas is documented in Karma’s Reunion. Embedding is disabled, so please head on over to YouTube and watch the video. It clocks in at just under five minutes, and is a real tear-jerker. While the images are moving enough on their own, Gentle Barn further emphasizes the themes of nonhuman intelligence, family and love through the addition of captions.

Karma’s story is beautiful and moving – but it doesn’t end with the birth of Mr. Rojas. In a recent newsletter, Gentle Barn updates us on “Karma’s Surprise”:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: The Gentle Barn – info [at] gentlebarn.org
Date: Fri, Aug 21, 2009 at 1:57 PM
Subject: Karma and Her Big Surprise!

Karma’s Surprise

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As you might remember, we rescued a cow named Karma last year. The man we rescued her from did not let us know she had a baby, until she cried for 12 hours straight. We then realized that the only thing that could cause her so much distress is being separated from a baby. So, we went back to the cruelty site we rescued her from and sure enough there was her baby about to be sent to slaughter. We rescued her tiny baby boy and brought him home to the safety of The Gentle Barn. Karma and her son, Mr. Rojas, have been together ever since.

(More below the fold…)

Green Porno 3.0: Compassion is sexy!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

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Back in June, I raved about Green Porno, a subversive (and delightfully cheesy!) documentary series starring Isabella Rossellini (whom I’ve had a massive girl-crush on ever since her turn as Katya Derevko in Alias). Green Porno examines the sex lives of nonhuman animals – which, oftentimes, are far from “conventional.” To this end, the show has great potential to change how humans view “others”: women, homosexuals, transgendered persons, gender nonconformists – and even nonhuman animals.

To this, I’d like to add that, in addition to their anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-anti-sex thrust (pun most definitely intended), these shows are anti-speciesist as well.

While [the] disavowal of animal homosexuality and sexual variety serves to justify and reinforce “isms” directed at humans (homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, etc.), it at also functions at another level. In denying non-human animals the full range of their behavioral, emotional and sexual expression, we rob them of their complexity, their personality – for lack of a better term, their humanity.

Like us, non-human animals can be complicated creatures, driven by a range of goals and desires. Animals, humans included, aren’t just about reproduction; our sole purpose in life isn’t simply to spread our DNA and produce as much offspring as possible. Sometimes we have sex, mate and form bonds because it’s fulfilling in other ways. Nor do we only nurture and protect our own genetic material: sometimes we act with altruism and compassion rather than selfishness and narcissism.

By insisting that animals only copulate in order to introduce sperm to egg, we simplify trillions of sentient beings, taking from them characteristics which make them seem that much more human.

Ironically, in so doing, we also reduce the human species to a caricature, a boring, two-dimensional model which scarcely resembles h. spaiens, in all its diverse, eccentric, animalistic magnificence.

Watching animal sex play out amidst kindergarten construction paper cutouts and human-sized bodysuits, the viewer (hopefully) comes to see nonhumans as the unique individuals they really are. When one ceases to regard a group of beings as a single, undifferentiated mass of “stuff,” othering them – based on species, sex, sexuality, race, breed or whatnot – becomes a difficult, twisted task indeed.

Season 1 focused on bugs (spiders, flies, earthworms), Season 2 on ocean dwellers (barnacles, whales, starfish). Both Wiki and I had thought Season 3 would shift focus to farmed animals such as pigs and cows, but it looks Season 3 will continue to examine marine animals. In a subtle shift from Season 2, however, Rossellini’s attention turns to ocean dwellers whom we commonly kill and eat (and oftentimes “farm” as well).

(More below the fold…)

Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 3

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I’ve been feeling kind of crappy since Friday, so I all I have to offer is this link roundup. Happy reading…or not.
 


 
Kelly Garbato @ Animal Rights @ Change.org: Egypt’s Pigs: Beaten, Stoned, and Burned Alive (Part 1) and Religious Discrimination and the Killing of Egypt’s Pigs (Part 2)

In my second round of guest posts at change.org, I look at the recent pig culls in Egypt, and explain how the mass killings may have less to do with concerns over the swine flu than with religious discrimination directed at the country’s Coptic Christians – as well as “their” pigs.

I, Bonobo: Guess who’s really at the bottom of the shitpile? and

Vegan Soapbox: Why Women Should Care About Animals

Bonobobabe and Eccentric Vegan both respond to a recent piece that appeared in the community section of Feministing. Not surprisingly, the author asserted that animal rights and feminism are unrelated movements, such that the animal rights movement has nothing to contribute to feminism and vice versa. Thus, it’s perfectly acceptable for good liberal progressive feminists to eat meat, wear fur and shit on animal advocates when they complain. I’m taking liberties, of course, but you get the idea.

Bonobobabe’s reply, in particular, is a must-read. I skimmed it over several times, trying to boil it down to an excerpt or two to illustrate her argument, but it’s all awesome. This about sums it up, though:

So, while I think it’s fine for a woman who calls herself a feminist to put her time and energy towards women-centered things, I also feel that if a feminist is supposed to be sensitive to class and race issues, that she should also be sensitive to speciesist issues. It’s not OK to say that you are better than an animal. Besides, hierarchies are the invention of men. Being a speciesist, even if one is a feminist, is playing by men’s rules. You’re better than that.

Hat tip to Stephanie for this one.

(More below the fold…)

Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 2

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

lol jayne - speciesism 101, pot 1

Kelly Garbato (that’s me!) @ Animal Rights at Change.org: Intersectionality 101: Sexism, Racism, Speciesism, and More and Intersectionality and Animal Advocacy

Stephanie at Change.org kindly invited me to guest post at the Animal Rights blog; Intersectionality 101 and Intersectionality and Animal Advocacy are my first contributions. This is a two-part post in which I introduce the concept of intersectionality, explain how intersectionality can help us better understand (and dismantle) our exploitation of animals, and argue for the inclusion of other anti-“ism” activism in the animal advocacy movement. Please stop by and share your thoughts!

Also worth checking out: the new(ly visible) “oppression connections” post category on Animal Rights.

Briar Levit @ Bitch Blogs: Nicole Georges pays tribute to the Queer Animal Kingdom

Last week, I noted how media such as Green Porno, by celebrating non-human animals in all their sexual diversity, has the potential to liberate and uplift animals of all species.

In this vein, Briar Levit introduces us to Nicole Georges, “a zinester, illustrator, and pet portrait artist” (and also a contributor to Bitch magazine), whose latest project is “an exploration of the Queer Animal Kingdom” – as explained in this documentary:

Nicole Georges 5/1/09 from cat on Vimeo.

As far as feminist media goes, Bitch seems to be the most animal-friendly magazine out there (with a very vocal – albeit minority – vegan/vegetarian readership!), so if you’re so inclined, you can check ’em out here.

Igualdad Animal / Animal Equality: Press release about ‘The Running of the Nudes’ and PETA

Igualdad Animal (Animal Equality) describes itself as “an international non-profit organisation dedicating to gaining equal consideration and respect for animals. Founded in Madrid (Spain) in January 2006 by Sharon Nunez, Javier Moreno and Jose Valle, it is currently active in Spain, Peru, Venezuela and Colombia.”

In this press release, Igualdad Animal offers its thoughts on PETA’s upcoming annual anti-bullfighting demonstration, “The Running of the Nudes.” Not surprisingly, the group is unimpressed, both with PETA’s animal welfare efforts, as well as their poor record vis-à-vis marginalized groups of humans, including women.

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Why this vegan feminist is red hot for Green Porno.

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

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I’ve heard mention of Isabella Rossellini’s latest project, Green Porno, here and there – ecorazzi, The Colbert Report, CNN even – but never bothered to follow up, seeing as I don’t get the Sundance Channel and all. But an article in Bitch magazine’s Spring ’09 issue (No. 43, appropriately titled “the buzz issue”) made me take a second look.

In “Wings of Desire: Bug sex as a gender revolution,” Katura Reynolds examines the subversive nature of Green Porno (as well as British evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson’s alter ego, Dr. Tatiana): by depicting (non-human) animal sex in all its kinky, decidedly non-vanilla glory, these projects challenge our traditional views of what “natural” sexuality and gender expression look like in the animal kingdom.

“Bug sex” is so much more then heterosexual, missionary style pairings: bugs may be male, female, or hermaphrodites; heterosexual, homosexual or asexual; reproduce through sexual activity, parthenogenesis, or an alternative combination thereof; etc. (Some, like the preying mantis, even engage in sexual cannibalism, consuming their partners during coitus.) The same holds true for many animal species, humans included; for example, in his 1999 book, Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (which I highly recommend, by the way), Bruce Bagemihl reviewed existing evidence which points to observed homosexual behavior in nearly 1500 animal species.

Green Porno, which is currently in its second season and airs on the Sundance Channel Tuesdays at 9 PM ET, is a bit cheesier and cheekier than its British cousin, – which is so raunchy that it’s not even available on Region 1 DVDs, let alone running on U.S. television. (You can, however, view a few clips of the show on You Tube.)

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Writes Reynolds,

The eight short films in [season 1 of] Green Porno were written by Rossellini and codirected with Jody Shapiro. They feature Rossellini acting out the sex lives of flies, praying mantises, earthworms, dragonflies, gees, fireflies, snails and spiders. The films are simultaneously hilarious, scientifically accurate, unrepentantly corny, compellingly sexy, and completely bizarre. […]

Rossellini strives for a simple, childlike atmosphere in the films. She starts each in a bodysuit, saying, “If I were a [type of bug],” and then her costumes gradually build as the film progresses: extra arms, compound eyes, snail shells, you name it. The props and supporting characters are made from giant cut-paper sculptures, like she’s wandered into a kindergarten classroom plastered in giant paper flowers.

The schoolroom setting is chosen very deliberately – it’s a foil for overtly sexual content. Rossellini gets it on with huge paper models of flies, mantises, and bees; she gasps and moans in orgasmic ecstasy as a firefly and a snail; she runs around waving hands covered in paper cutouts of sperm as a spider. As stated in the press release, “If human, these acts would not be allowed to air on television. [Indeed, Dr. Tatiana’s human reenactments and live non-human animal footage is not.] They would be considered filthy and obscene.” But the silly costumes and absurd props distract audiences from the flagrantly, graphically sexual content. Comedy often serves as a harbor for the unspeakable. By laughing at the silliness of it all, we can disarm the taboo.

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Bob Woodruff on boiling humans.

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Journalist Bob Woodruff made an appearance on The Daily Show last night in order to promote his latest project, Earth 2100:
 

 

I find it interesting that Stewart and Woodruff open the discussion with a clip of Earth 2100 that invokes the anecdote of the frog submerged in a pot of boiling water: namely, if you put a frog in a pot of water that’s already boiling, she’ll jump right out, having sensed the heat and danger. But if you place her in a pot of cold or lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she’s none the wiser, and will remain in the deathtrap until she becomes frog soup. In this metaphor, humans are the frogs, and the pot is earth.

Which is all fine and good, except according to Snopes, this is a folk tale:

Like a fable, the “boiled frog” anecdote serves its purpose whether or not it’s based upon something that is literally true. But it is literally true? Not according to Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Zoology, whose research interests include “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles to include determinations of the factors which influence lethal temperatures, critical thermal maxima and minima, thermal selection, and thermoregulatory behavior”:

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

The “boiled frog” legend is a ubiquitous one – one that, given its falsehood, is both speciesist and completely inappropriate for what I assume is supposed to be a scientific documentary. The latter point is a given, but allow me to explain the former: central to the anecdote’s premise is the idea that a frog is so utterly stupid that, given subtle but entirely discernible cues, “it” would remain oblivious to the increasing danger and allow “itself” to be boiled alive. “Let’s not be like those lesser animals!” the tale cautions. Except. In denying climate change and poo-pooing slight increases in average global temperatures as “insignificant,” the human species is actually exhibiting less sense than Dog gave a frog. The frog isn’t earth’s complacent village idiot – we are.

Also of note: Jon alludes to the presumed vivisection which led to the “discovery” that frogs might allow themselves to be boiled alive, given the right circumstances. Both Stewart and Woodruff appear to think that such gruesome experiments probably took place years ago, in the distant past. Except.

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

While I can’t locate citations for these experiments, Wiki suggests that they’re more recent debunkings of “research” performed in the late 1800s (“research” on which the legend is apparently based).

So, yeah, we boil frogs alive – or attempt to, anyway. And that’s not even the worst of it.

Anyhow, back to Earth 2100.

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"It’s what they do."

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

While poking around the youtubes for some vegan cooking tutorials (I’ve been craving homemade granola lately), I stumbled upon this heartwarming video. Aired on a local CBS affiliate (?) last Mother’s Day, the segment highlights Lilly, a lab mix who, abandoned and pregnant, made her way to the Burlington, Iowa Human Society. Her six pups were adopted; she, sadly, was not. Sadly but luckily, as the Humane Society soon took in a litter of orphaned kittens, all in need of a mother’s love – and milk. Enter Lilly, who nursed the felines and even rescued one lil’ guy from drowning in her water bowl.

The reporters also point out that Lilly’s isn’t an unusual case; in domesticity and the wild, non-human animals of many species step in to care for the young of other species, some who might normally be their rivals: “For most mothers, it’s just what they do. An instinct so deeply wired into them, that often, all they know is to love and care for life.”

A little cheesy and oversimplified, sure – and, in humans, this sort of essentialism can lead to gender stereotyping and misogyny – but, in many animals, human and non, those sentimental cliches about “a mother’s love” ring true. And the fact of the matter is, when you consume eggs or milk or “meat” (as I’m sure the oooh-ing and ahhh-ing reporters do), you’re exploiting a mother’s love, perverting and severing a relationship so vital to individual and species survival, that many mothers would die protecting their children, need be.

It’s what they do.

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"…even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings…"

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

 

Prologue
Sound of a Battery Hen

 

 
You can tell me: if you come by the
North door, I am in the twelfth cage
On the left-hand side of the third row
From the floor; and in that cage
I am usually the middle one of eight or six or three.
But even without directions, you’d
Discover me. We have the same pale
Comb, clipped yellow beak and white or auburn
Feathers, but as the door opens and you
Hear above the electric fan a kind of
One-word wail, I am the one
Who sounds loudest in my head.

 
Over the past few months, I’ve written a series of posts on the themes of motherhood, maternal exploitation and deprivation, and the intersection of speciesism and sexism in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals. Previously, I discussed examples of these vis-à-vis “pork production” and the “dairy industry.”

While Masson also explores the exploitation of sheep, goats, ducks and chickens in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, the mother-child bond between a mother hen and her chicks receives the most attention of these remaining groups – so I’ll conclude my discussion with a look at “egg production.”

Photo via Jeanette’s Ozpix

In previous posts, I noted how female non-human animals (like their human counterparts) are especially vulnerable to exploitation because of their reproductive systems. Their ability to give birth – oftentimes referred to as a “miracle” in humans – makes them particularly valuable as the producers of future “commodities.” Their value, unfortunately, does not lead to preferential treatment from their captors. Instead, they suffer especially brutal and prolonged abuse.

As such, females become machines, assembly lines, destined to produce milk, eggs, flesh – and a replacement generation of baby-, milk- and/or egg- machines:

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.

Certainly, we recognize that the theft of a mother’s child is an atrocity when the victims are human mothers and children. At the same time, we argue that non-human animals deserve no rights because they are mere brutes, “lesser” beings, ruled by instinct and instinct alone. Yet, what is the drive to reproduce and parent if not an evolutionary instinct? And if we follow the popular line of reasoning – i.e., animals are creatures of instinct – does it not stand to reason that the maternal instinct is especially powerful in non-human animals?

Many – if not most – non-veg*ns find it difficult to relate to non-human animals, who (supposedly) are so different from us. At a fundamental level, our differing modes of communication make cross-species communication more difficult, particularly when one species (that would be us) has little interest in communication (and mutual understanding and respect) to begin with. Even so, many humans live with “pets,” the majority being dogs and cats; and, as we’ve come to recognize certain expressions and non-verbal cues in these mammals, such empathy can be extended to other, similar species – such as cows and pigs.

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Woman bites dog.

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

 


 
Dear WABC Reporter,

Do you honestly not see the irony in using a speciesist phrase like “dog eat dog” to introduce a heartwarming story that, in fact, demonstrates the exact opposite: that canines are complex animals who display a range of emotions and behaviors, including altruism, selflessness, bravery, friendship and love? “Dog is eat” is a prejudiced and hateful term that should be abolished from the human lexicon. Should you find yourself in need of an appropriate substitute, “human eat human,” “human eat dog,” or “human eats everything” may all suffice.

And also, re: your censorship of the injured dog – really? Methinks that the “food” on 99.9% of your viewers’ dinner plates was more gruesome, offensive and disturbing than the remote sight of a broken and bloodied* – but ultimately rescued – dog. There is no such redemption for the eight (give or take; no one knows for sure) murdered, dismembered, ground and processed cows in a “beef patty,” for example.

Otherwise, a beautiful piece.

Regards,

– A grumpy vegan and adopted mom to six furkids

* I first spotted this story on AC 360, where the sight of the injured dog was not blurred from sight. It was upsetting, but again, much less so than, say, the sight of a butcher carving up an animal corpse, which any man, woman or child can take in at more than a few grocery stores.

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WaPo: Boys Continue Stoning Geese to Death; Ask Police to Investigate

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Via Animal Advocacy:

Boys Continue Stoning Geese to Death; Ask Police to Investigate

The Washington Post reported that boys are stoning nesting geese to death in a park in Springfield, Virginia (Fairfax County). (source)

Please contact the Fairfax County Police and ask them to assign a detective to this case. Mention that these animal abusers are exhibiting severe psychiatric disorders and the FBI has found they often progress to crimes against humans. Make your request online here.

For ideas to include in your request, you may want to reference information found here.*

The letter is short, but heartbreaking:

Senseless Violence in Springfield

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A Canada goose guards his mate’s body at a pond in Springfield.
(Courtesy Of Tom Norato; photo via The Washington Post)

There is a pond near a bike path between the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station and the Greenwood Community in Springfield. Each year, Canada geese arrive at the pond in the fall to nest and raise their families.

Recently, some young neighborhood boys have found a new hobby: They have been stoning the geese to death. Above is a photo of their latest prize and his mate, standing over the body. The goose has been standing vigil for many days now, waiting for her to join him. They mate for life, you know.

He wards off all other geese that come near, as if he were protecting her in a nest. Her final repose does give that illusion. I am beginning to worry that he may himself expire for lack of nourishment, and I had thought of removing the body in the hopes that he might move on. But then I thought I’d just be making things worse. I have a tendency to think that his reactions are instinct and just nature’s way.

But nature didn’t cause this.

Perhaps the boys who did this will see this picture and reflect on what they have done. Perhaps not.

— Tom Norato, Springfield

While this instance of animal abuse is characterized as “senseless violence,” it’s no more (less?) senseless than slaughtering billions of animals for food annually, when a pant-based diet will do. Nor are geese the only non-human animals who feel grief and sorrow, or form deep family and social ties.

Just…remember that, before you start decrying the sociopathy of today’s youths. They’ve got to learn it somewhere, right?

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Raining "Veal" Calves

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Yesterday, Gentle Barn sent out the following plea for donations. Coming on the heels of this post, I couldn’t help but consider the former in the context of the latter.

Read on, and see if you don’t agree.

When It Rains, It Pours

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We’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that because of the economy a lot of dairies are shutting down, which means a lot less needless suffering for mommy and baby cows. The bad news is that the now unaffordable dairy cows are being sent to slaughter. And, they are being sent to slaughter pregnant. When they get to the auction house to be purchased by the meat companies, some are having their babies in the auction house. The meat buyers take the moms and leave the orphaned newborns on the floor of the auction house to die. In addition, many of the older separated veal calves are also being sent to the stockyard sickly and premature due to lack of funds as well.

The Gentle Barn received a call from the auction house this morning asking us to please come get these babies because they didn’t want them to die on their floor and become a problem for them. We immediately sprang to action and drove the 2 hours to the stockyard where the site was absolutely devastating. Hundreds of cows terrified and screaming, crying for each other, many of them sick, blind, and some downed (an animal that can’t get up on their own due to fatigue and illness). Mommies and babies were being separated, best friends were desperately looking for each other – the pain and the fear was horrific. We loaded up six orphaned babies, one blind from malnutrition and one almost lifeless from having no nourishment since God knows when. The Gentle Barn rescue team had to physically carry these two downed calves into the trailer.

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As we write, The Gentle Barn staff quickly heads home to meet the veterinarian. With the vet’s help, dedicated volunteers, and prayers, we hope that we can keep these babies alive. We know that if we can get through the next 48 hours, these cows are promised a peaceful, loved life at The Gentle Barn. As with all that we do, we cannot do this without you. For the next 48 hours, these calves will need round-the-clock care. They will need to be bottle fed, loved, and reassured that it will be OK. Even though the next 48 hours are especially critical, these cows will need the constant attention for at least the next two weeks.

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"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.

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