Book Review: A Murder of Crows: Seventeen Tales of Monsters and the Macabre, DeAnna Knippling (2014)

Monday, January 19th, 2015

Stories within Stories

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-copy of this book for review though Library Thing’s Member Giveaways program. Also, trigger warning for rape.)

It was we crows who took your daughter, in case you were wondering. She didn’t run away. We had–I had–been watching her for some time, listening to her tell stories in the grass behind the house. She would sit near the chicken coop and watch the white chickens pick at the dirt, pulling up fat worms and clipping grasshoppers out of the air as they jumped toward the fields.

Some of them were good stories. Some of them were bad. But that’s what decided it, even more than any issue of mercy or salvation or anything else. Crows are, for one, possessive of stories. And also by then I had pecked almost all the elders into coming to listen to her at least once, except Facunde, who was then mad and responded to nobody’s pecking, not that I had had the courage to exactly take my beak to her. “She is like a daughter to me,” I had pled with the others. “She listens.” They laughed at me, they rattled their beaks, they came and heard her and were convinced, or at least bullied into pretending they were convinced.

We took her on the same cold winter day that you traded your son to the fairies, the wind blowing in cold gray threads, ruffling our feathers. It had snowed a few days before that, a storm that had killed your husband, or so it was said. The wind had snatched the snow out onto the prairie, hiding it in crevices. It had been a dry year, and even though it was still too cold to melt the snow, the thirsty dirt still found places to tuck it away in case of a thaw.

I stamped my feet on a sleeping branch while the others argued. Some argued that we should wait for spring. So many things are different, in the spring. But old Loyolo insisted: no, if we were to take the child, we would have to take her then and there: there had been at least one death already, and no one had heard the babe’s cry for hours.

We covered the oak trees, thousands of us, so many that the branches creaked and swayed under our weight. I don’t know if you noticed us, before it was too late. You were, it is to be admitted, busy.

The girl played on the swings, rocking herself back and forth in long, mournful creaks. She wore a too-small padded jacket and a dress decorated in small flowers. She was so clean that she still smelled of soap. Her feet were bare under their shoes, the skin scabbed and dry, almost scaly. Her wrists were pricked with gooseflesh, and her hair whipped in thin, colorless threads across her face as the wind caught it. The house had the smell of fresh death, under the peeling paint and the dusty windows, and seemed to murmur with forgotten languages, none of which were languages of love or tenderness. Afternoon was sinking into evening. The girl’s breath smelled like hunger.

“Now!” called old Loyolo, at some signal that not even I could have told you. And thousands of birds swept out of the trees toward her. From the middle of it, I can tell you, it seemed a kind of nightmare. Wings in my face, claws in my feathers. The sun was temporarily snuffed out, it was a myriad of bright slices reflected off black wings…

DeAnna Knippling’s A Murder of Crows is, at its heart, a love letter to the art of storytelling. A collection of short stories which forms the backbone of a larger narrative, the sixteen tales here – macabre, horrific, sometimes surreal – are shared with a grieving young girl by the murder (flock) of crows who rescued her from her wicked, murderous mother. (Crows being both connoisseurs and collectors of the oral tradition, natch.) Their story, told between the lines and in the margins of the other sixteen tales, is the seventeenth piece in this delightfully dark anthology.

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Book Review: The Shadow Year, Hannah Richell (2014)

Friday, June 6th, 2014

A Tense Psychological Drama

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program. Trigger warning for rape and violence. The second half of the review contains spoilers, which are clearly marked as such.)

The Peak District cottage couldn’t have dropped into Lila’s lap at a better time. Still mourning the death of her five-day-old infant Milly – and haunted by the accident that sent Lila into labor two months prematurely, the details of which still elude her – Lila needs a change of a scenery, a project to keep her busy, and (perhaps most of all) some time away from her husband Tom. Long since abandoned and falling steadily into disrepair, the remote, diamond-in-the-rough cabin certainly fits the bill.

Adding to the cottage’s air of mystery is its unknown origins: this was an anonymous gift. Lila’s father, recently struck down by a heart attack, is the most likely benefactor; but the lawyers are holding fast to their client’s wishes, leaving Lila to speculate about the cabin’s original owner and his intentions in gifting this beautiful and seemingly untouched piece of land to her.

This is in July. For the next twelve months – “The Shadow Year” – Lila’s story alternates, month-by-month, with the events that transpired in the cabin in the summer of 1980 through 1981. The beginning of the flashback story sees five college friends – Kat, Carla, Ben, Mac, and Simon – visit the lake one lazy summer afternoon. Newly graduated and facing the daunting prospect of finding employment in the face of a recession, the friends decide to claim the seemingly abandoned cottage as their own. Instead of jumping on the treadmill to adulthood, they embark upon a one-year project to see if they can rough it on their own.

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 26: Milk Thieves, Body Hair, and the Cannibals Within

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

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Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: A Powerful Statement

This stunning sculpture by Liu Qiang is an accurate depiction of humanity’s use of, and utter dependence on other animals and, in particular, the savage and bizarre habit of consuming the breast milk from mothers of other species-milk that these mothers have produced for their own babies, babies that we forced them to become pregnant with only to kill shortly after birth so that we can take the bereft mother’s milk, milk that we drink as though we were the children that we murdered.

Live vegan. There is no excuse not to.

Learn about non-violent living
Learn who is spared when you live vegan…
…and who suffers when you choose not to:
Milk Comes from a Grieving Mother
Dairy is a Death Sentence
The “Humane” Animal Farming Myth

29h59’59 by Liu Qiang is on exhibition at the 798 Art District in Beijing, China
Photo by Ng Han Guan

VegNews: June Twitter Chat, Wednesday, June 20 @ 6pm PT/9pm ET

In honor of LGBT Pride Month, we’ll be talking with prominent gay animal-rights activists about the connection between both movements. Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Don’t worry. We have a handy guide to explain it all. Join us at the hashtag #VegNewsChat. You don’t even need to have a Twitter account to enjoy the discussion.

Kaili Joy Gray @ Daily Kos: Safeway’s general counsel tells hilarious sexist joke at annual shareholder meeting

You can listen to the audio at the link above, but here’s a transcript for the a/v averse:

You know, this is the season when companies and other institutions are interested in enhancing their reputation and their image for the general public, and one of the institutions that’s doing this is the Secret Service, particularly after the calamity in Colombia. And among the instructions given to the Secret Service agents was to try to agree with the president more and support his decisions. And that led to this exchange that took place last week, when the president flew into the White House lawn and an agent greeted him at the helicopter.

The president was carrying two pigs under his arms and the Secret Service agents said, “Nice pigs, sir.”

And the president said, “These are not ordinary pigs, these are genuine Arkansas razorback hogs. I got one for former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and one for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.”

And the Secret Service agent said, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Women as livestock. Nonhuman animals as items of trade. Sexism and speciesism, the stuff of high comedy. TAKE MY LAWYER, PLEASE!

Fat Girl Posing: Vegans.. I need to talk to you..

This is a year-old piece about fat shaming in the vegan community that recently recirculated on Facebook. h/t to Emelda (I think).

The whole piece is worth a read, but here’s the excerpt I posted on FB:

So here’s your strategy, right? Animal products are full of fat and calories and, therefore, if you stop eating them you’ll lose weight.. so, market veganism as a diet or “lifestyle change” will bring more people to the movement by preying on their low self esteem and body hatred. While the strategy may work initially what do you intend to do when all the newbie veg’s don’t lose weight? Or when they lose it but then gain it back? As a diet, it fails, just like any other, and you’ve lost your pull. More so, you’ve become part of an industry which is cruel to animals.. specifically the human animal.

Word.

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Cops are not pigs: a handy checklist!

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

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Image: A smiling, curly-tailed, adorable pink cartoon pig looks up at a checklist that reads:

COPS ARE NOT PIGS

Pigs are our friends
Cops are not

Pigs mind their own business
Cops do not

Pigs have curly tails
Cops have guns

Pigs defecate freely
Cops are anal-retentive

Pigs grunt with joy
Cops grunt with aggression

Pigs are highly intelligent
Cops are mindless clones

HOW DARE YOU INSULT A PERFECTLY GOOD PIG!

By way of disclaimer, obviously I don’t think that all cops are mindless, cruel bullies, more interested in asserting (and abusing) their authority than protecting and serving the public. I’d certainly argue that the system – increasingly militarized in nature and always protective of its own – encourages such behavior; however, in spite of this trend, some cops are perfectly nice people, and remain so throughout their careers!

This graphic simply refers to that subset of cops worthy of insult (and more) – for example, cops who rape vulnerable women and shoot cowering dogs with impunity – with the gentle reminder that such insults must not further marginalize already oppressed groups: animals (pig, cow, rat, jackass, wildebeest, etc.), women (bitch, cunt, pussy, etc.), and people of color (a whole slew of words that I, as person of Italian and German descent, don’t feel comfortable typing here), to name but a few.

Words are powerful – so use them wisely!

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Oprah’s Favorite Things: Cracker Box Palace ("You get a rescue goat! And you get a rescue goat! EVERYBODY GETS A RESCUE GOAT!!!")*

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

2010-09-18 - Cracker Box Palace (Meesh's Cam) - 0260

So you’ve vicariously tasted the yummy vegan eats at The Owl House as part of veganmofo iv, and last week I introduced you to Ms. Chicktoria. Though it’s now four months after the fact, there’s still one set of vacation photos I’d like to share from my September visit to Rochester. Because they’re from an ANIMAL SANCTUARY and who doesn’t like pictures of SUPER-CUTE RESCUE ANIMALS, hmmmm? Besides, it’s like zero degrees outside and there’s a three-foot snow drift on my patio and I could use a vacation, even if only in my own head.

Initially, my sis and I had our hearts set on visiting Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen – but unfortunately the fall tour hours (weekends only!), coupled with the lengthy drive time and previous commitments, just didn’t fit into our schedule. My mom suggested that we instead visit Cracker Box Palace Farm Animal Haven, a new-ish farmed animal sanctuary located in Alton, NY. (Alton is a short drive from Sodus – which is where I spent the first five years of my life – and Sodus, in turn, is a 45-minute drive from Rochester. In comparison, Watkins Glen is twice as far.)

2010-09-18 - Cracker Box Palace (Meesh's Cam) - 0199

According to the group’s website, CBP opened in 2001 on a 50-acre former migrant farm. Originally dedicated to horse rescue and rehab, the sanctuary is now home to geese, ducks, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, and several breeds of pigs as well. Currently, it’s leasing and attempting to purchase Alasa Farms, a 500-acre historic Shaker farm.

2010-09-18 - Cracker Box Palace (Mom's Cam) - 0160

The weekend we visited, the group was holding a fair to help raise funds for the purchase.

2010-09-18 - Cracker Box Palace (Meesh's Cam) - 0416

Before we begin, a bit of a disclaimer: on its website, Cracker Box Palace isn’t particularly forthcoming about its positions on animal rights and veganism/vegetarianism. In some newsletters, for example, the founders allude to the cruelties of factory farming and ask for donations of vegetarian cookbooks for CBP’s gift shop. They also speak approvingly of Farm Sanctuary and credit its courses with teaching them the skills necessary to start and run an animal sanctuary. (While you may disagree with some of Farm Sanctuary’s positions – and I do – the group does include animal rights and veganism in its advocacy.)

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 20: Forgotten Mothers, Disappeared Daughters

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

It has been many a week since last I posted a link roundup, ’tis true; and, while I’ve managed to hoard a literal ton of ’em (okay, not really), rather than dump them all on you at once, all haphazard-like, today I present a short-and-sweet, family-themed mini-link roundup in honor of Mother’s Day.

Liberation BC - Cow Ribbon Campaign eCard

One of several Mother’s Day eCards from Liberation BC. Grab your own here.
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Liberation BC: The Cow Ribbon Campaign and

Striking at the Roots: Campaign Raises Awareness About Forgotten Mothers

As with many mainstream holidays (Thanksgiving, Easter, Earth Day – I’m looking at you!), Mother’s Day can be rather bittersweet for animal advocates. While it’s nice to set a day aside for loving and pampering and honoring your mom (which is something that most of us should be doing 365 days of the year, I might add), the holiday celebrations and rhetoric are predictably anthropocentric, ignoring and erasing the experiences of the billions of nonhuman mothers across the globe – many of whom are enslaved, exploited, raped and killed for the very fact of their “miraculous” ability to give life to the next generation. Some miracle, right?

Enter Glenn Gaetz and Joanne Chang of the Vancouver-based animal advocacy organization Liberation BC. This April, the group launched The Cow Ribbon Campaign. Modeled after similar awareness ribbon campaigns, the Cow Ribbon Campaign uses black and white spotted ribbons to draw awareness to the estimated nine million “dairy” cows imprisoned in North American dairy operations in 2010 alone – and, by extension, the billions of additional female farmed animals whose reproductive systems are hijacked for human wants and convenience.

Normally, I’m not a huge fan of awareness ribbons – who on earth can possibly remember what all those colors mean!? “awareness,” meh – what a meaningless term.; etc. – but the Cow Ribbons are rather distinct and unique, and make for a great conversation starter. Plus, their meaning is immediately obvious: what Westerner doesn’t associate black and white spots with cows – and cows with animal agriculture?

The ribbons are available for a minimum donation of $5 – and, while it’s a little late in the game to order them for Mother’s Day delivery, another great thing about the Cow Ribbons is that you can wear them any day, or every day; the ribbon retains its significance throughout the year. In the meantime, though, Lib BC has plenty of geeky goodness that you can use to spread the word: avatars for Twitter and FB, eCards for Mom, fliers for your friendly neighborhood billboards.

This Sunday, encourage others to remember mothers of all species.

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Lady Pork: The Other Other White Meat?

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

Firstly, a big, shiny hello to everyone arriving here from The F-Word! (And can I just say how stoked I am to see yet another vegan feminist guest-blogging on yet another kickass feminist blog? More, please!) In addition to the posts singled out by Amy, you might also enjoy browsing the Intersections post category. And if you’re feeling especially adventurous, check out this list of vegan/vegetarian bloggers who regularly discuss the intersections of human and nonhuman oppressions. It’ll keep you occupied at least through the summer, I tell you what.

So. On to today’s vegan feminist WTF. While searching for a related image last night, I stumbled upon a rather disturbing poster for the movie Saw IV:

Saw IV Poster 01

Shot in tones of black, gray and red, the poster is rather macabre (and quite fitting for a horror flick). Highlighted by a dim ray of light, in the middle of the poster sits a masked figure. She is confined to a torture device of some sort. Seemingly homemade, the instrument – similar in shape to a small chair – looks as though it was cobbled together from pieces of various mechanical devices, including a push mower. There are knobs, tanks, wheels and blades galore. The victim sits facing forward, her arms confined to her sides, ankles chained to the chair.

Masked, robed and photographed from behind, the prisoner’s gender is impossible to determine. However, the figure does sport some obvious trappings of femininity, including knee-high, black stiletto boots (“fuck me boots,” if you will) and tight, black stockings or leggings. The robe is red, possibly velvet. Clearly, the audience is to assume that the victim is a woman (or one very “emasculated” man).

Oh, and the mask? It’s of a pig. Holy woman-as-meat / meat-as-woman meme, Catwoman!

Having only watched the first installment of the Saw franchise, this poster initially sent my head reeling re: its possibly significance, if any. Luckily, Wiki has the answers (some of them, anyhow):

That evening, Rigg is attacked in his home; upon awakening, a videotape informs him that Matthews is still alive, with ninety minutes to save himself, with Hoffman’s life at stake as well. He finds Brenda (Sarain Boylan), a female pimp, chained to a chair with a pig mask covering her face. The first test, “see what I see,” is for him to leave her there; he ignores the message and ends up triggering a device to begin peeling her scalp off. He manages to free her, but she attacks him; she had been told that she would be arrested if Rigg saved her unless she killed him first. He throws her into a mirror and leaves; her corpse is later found by police.

And, from the character description:

Brenda was a prostitute who appeared in Saw IV as a victim in Daniel Rigg’s game. Brenda was placed in a machine designed to tear her scalp from her head and Rigg was instructed to simply walk away from her as she was not worth saving. After her scalp was partially torn away, Rigg managed to save her but Brenda then attempted to kill him, instructed by Jigsaw that if she didn’t Rigg would send her to jail. Rigg overpowered Brenda and threw her into a mirror. She was later found dead.

I suppose the overriding purpose of the pig mask is to conceal the “scalping” contraption, but one has to ask…why a consumable (i.e., “food”) animal? Why not Ronald Regan or Freddy Krueger instead? Is Jigsaw (or his torture porn confederate) making a statement about women who “pimp out” other women? (e.g., Such people are “not worth saving,” much like “worthless,” “dirty,” “gluttonous” nonhuman animals such as pigs.) Or is the pig mask merely a handy prop for upping the film’s shock value? (Meat and corpses and slaughterhouses, oh my!)

There’s a vegan feminist analysis lurking here somewhere, but I’ll be damned if I can find it. Perhaps someone who’s actually seen the film(s) can clue me in?

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Sexy Meat, No. 4: Portrait of the meat as a sex pot.

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Update, 2/8/10: These lovely ladies are now shaking their meaty bits on Suicide Food!

Update, 1/7/10: In the comments, Cara pointed out that the cow isn’t in leaning on a bar counter as I first thought, but into a car window. She is indeed a prostitute – a “street walker,” if you will – picking up a john (that would be us, the viewer!). In this context, I think it likely that all three “food” animals are dressed as prostitutes from different decades: the ’80s, the ’50s, and the ’20s, maybe?

Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse.

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To date, all of the advertisements involving “sexy meat” that I’ve dissected have depicted, literally, “meat” – i.e., dead meat. While this conflation of sex with death and violence is incredibly disturbing, the advertisers’ motives for doing so are obvious: clearly, they want us to think not of the living, sentient beings these corpses used to be, but of the delicious, succulent foodstuffs that they have been processed into. Objectified, the animals are things to be bought, sold and consumed. Worse still, they are absent referents – invisible, erased beings whom we aren’t meant to consider at all.

In this context, I’m not sure whether these advertisements for Martini Bitter are more or less disturbing than those for Rachachuros and McCormick seasonings or the DIY tutorial for making bikini-clad turkeys.

Each image depicts a living “food” animal dressed to look like an “easy” woman.

From top to bottom, we have:

Martini Bitter - Beef

“Beef”: In a smoky, hazy (read: seedy) bar or night club, a cow leans suggestively on the counter, as if to order a drink or “pick up” the man standing next to her – that is, the man behind the camera (hello, male gaze!). Her hoofs – which, somewhat suggestively, resemble the tips of two penises* – are crossed loosely at the wrists (ankles?). She’s white, with a full head of flowing white hair. However, the lighting in the bar casts a soft pink hue on her fur.

We know that the cow is a “she” because her body has all the trappings of femininity: she wears a tight blue dress, complete with cleavage and plunging neckline (instead of multiple udders, the cow has been enhanced with two D-cups!); her outfit is accessorized with multiple necklaces and bracelets; and she carries a pink purse slung over one shoulder. (In fact, her garish pink purse doesn’t quite obscure the subtle curve of her ass; you can spot it, hiding in the shadows – if you dare!) The cow wears makeup, too: a hint of pink eyeshadow and lipstick. Sadly, the makeup might be the most tasteful aspect of this “artwork”!

All in all, the “beef” ad has a very ’80s feel about it. Possibly the cow is just a “loose,” liberated women, looking for a one-night stand; or perhaps she’s a (*ahem*) “working girl.” Either way, the viewer is meant to understand that she (*gasp*) enjoys sex – and quite a bit of it, at that.

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#oink, #oink

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Photo via Farm Sanctuary

In Friday’s weekend activist link roundup, I included a piece by Tracy @ Digging Through the Dirt, Use Twitter to Advocate on Behalf of Pigs. Tracy put out a call to animal advocates to tweet in support of the pigs on Sunday the 16th, for example, by including links to undercover investigations of factory farm operations, talking about the swine flu, encouraging people to go vegan for the animals, etc., etc., etc.. In order to piggyback (pun intended) on the anticipated success of the animal ag. propagandists, all tweets needed to include the hashtag #oink.

I’ll let Tracy explain:

Animal exploiters on Twitter hope history repeats itself Sunday.

On Aug. 2 a group of dairy farmers worked to make “#moo” a trending topic on the social-networking site. They want to do the same for “#oink” on Sunday.

With “#oink” a trending topic, those in animal agribusiness want to convince people to call swine flu “H1N1.”

If the “farmers” succeed, animal advocates can use this opportunity to raise awareness of the suffering pigs endure in agribusiness.

If enough people use a word, phrase or hashtag, said word, phrase or hashtag will appear in all Twitter users’ right-hand sidebars, under the headline “Trending Topics.” These are fluid and change on a constant basis; while some topics, such as “American Idol” or “Les Paul” are rather intuitive, others – like #moo and #oink – are less so. Whether they’re familiar with the topics or not, many Twitter users look to the Trending Topics as a guide or sort of news ticker, clicking through to weigh in on a topic, or to see what all the fuss is about.

Animal exploiters (along with other spammers), then, hijack the Trending Topics tool in order to disseminate their industry propaganda. Whereas animal exploiters hoped to “educate” Twitter users about the safety of “pork,” extol the virtues of “happy meat,” and frame the debate about swine flu/H1N1, the goal of animal advocates was to counter their message with a healthy dose of reality.

(For more on Twitter, trending topics, etc. check out this Twitter FAQ.)

I’m not a big Twitter user – the 140 character limit is enough to make me pull my hair out – but I was vaguely aware of the #moo movement. So with the advance notice about Sunday’s planned #oink takeover, I pledged to participate this time around. To make things even easier, I developed a list of Tweets and links the day beforehand, since I knew I’d be in and out of the house on Sunday. (It’s a good thing, too, since my Internet connection was spotty throughout the day on Sunday.) I added to the list, which I stored in a Word doc, throughout the day on Sunday, mostly by copying and pasting RT’s – re-tweets, that is, tweets from other animal advocates on Twitter, which I “crossposted” on my own account. I also kept an eye on the Trending Topics and adapted my hashtags as necessary. (For example, #fact became a Trending Topic later in the day, so I added it to #oink where appropriate.) Every two, ten, twenty or 120 minutes, I’d post a tweet or two, then go back to whatever it was I was doing.

Other animal advocates were even more engaged, for example, responding to followers who wanted to know what all the #oink-ing was all about, arguing directly with animal exploiters, and providing further information to those interested in a vegan diet. Stephanie at Change.org falls into the first category, and has an excellent write-up of her online animal activism over the weekend” “Vick, Dogs, Dairy, Cows, Pigs, Twitter, and the Rape Rack,” Parts One and Two. Tracy also summarizes her experience here.

In a related note, Happy Herbivore is using Twitter hashtags in a different way. In a new section of the website called Weekly Eats, HH will feature recipes submitted by Twitter users, with a different theme for each day: “meatless Mondays, tofu Tuesdays, raw Wednesdays, tempeh Thursdays, fat-free (or gluten-free, if you prefer) Fridays, seasonal Saturdays and seiten Sundays!” To participate, you can either tweet about your recipe or meal idea, or email your submissions to HH directly. Try to use the hashtags #vegan and #meatlessmonday (or wev) – ‘twould be awesome to see #vegan elevated to a Trending Topic! Or keep an eye on existing Trending Topics, and tweet about your animal advocacy using existing popular hashtags where appropriate.

After the jump are my tweets for Sunday. Because I’ve more or less abandoned my other blog, I set up my delicious and Twitter accounts to post digests of each day’s activities to Smite Me!. So that’s how I came up with a nice lil’ roundup of Sunday’s #oink tweets, just in case y’all are wondering.

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 4

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

LGBT Compassion - Screenshot

LGBT Compassion

One of the newest additions to the “Intersections” category on my blogroll, LGBT Compassion is a

coalition of San Francisco Bay Area gay animal advocates (and some non-gay friends) working to promote awareness of animal welfare, health, environmental, and civil rights issues within our community – along with any other important social issues that we feel strongly about.

We feel that the LGBT community, having experienced discrimination, oppression and suffering ourselves, having special health issues, and often having unique bonds with companion animals, should be open to learning and helping others who may not be able to speak up for themselves – whether human or non-human.

Their motto: Fighting oppression and discrimination for all. Love it.

I first learned of the group through its investigation into San Francisco’s live animal markets, where chickens are kept and displayed for sale in plastic bags (!). If you haven’t yet, definitely go check ’em out.

PETA Asia-Pacific: Urge Egypt’s Prime Minister to Stop Cruel Pig Cull

When I saw that PETA was campaigning against the pig culls in Egypt, I was excited. Last I checked, the WSPA had reached a standstill with the Egyptian government, which was insisting that the culls had ceased, despite evidence to the contrary. Writing about the issue at change.org, I wanted desperately to offers readers an opportunity to take action. But nada – until now.

When I actually read the sample letter provided by PETA, though, my heart sank. Rather than calling for an end to the culls, PETA asks the government to “Please place a moratorium on the pig cull until guidelines can be put in place to ensure that the killing is as humane as possible.” This despite the fact that the culls are wholly unnecessary – an inefficient way to guard against swine flu. And this comes not from animal advocacy groups, but government experts (such as those at the UN) – who, on the whole, aren’t really known for their animal-friendly views.

Add to the mix the possibility that the culls might have as much to do with religious discrimination as swine flu paranoia, and PETA really dropped the ball here. Not only has the group failed to defend the pigs from slaughter – it also failed to take the majority Muslim government to task for oppressing the minority Christian farmers. PETA even reinforces the government’s bigotry by pleading for a “humane” pig cull at a later date!

Oh, with friends like these…

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White Castle: Now with edible porcine strippers! (1983 vintage)

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Vegan Butterfly sent me a link to this detestable White Castle ad a few months ago. I meant to blog about it straight away, but naturally procrastinated. The video has since made its way ’round the interwebs; see, for example, I Blame the Patriarchy and Suicide Food.

No matter. ‘Tis never too late to deconstruct some Grade A kyriarchical Homer shit. Let’s get started, shall we?
 


 
In case you can’t view the video, here’s a breakdown.

Cue the scene: a bevy of skeevy, college age, white dudes sits in a smoky, dimly lit dive, hooting and clamoring expectantly. Onstage, a pig (!?) appears. Our “pig” is clearly a human decked out, head-to-hoof, in a cheap plush pig outfit. But let’s forget about that for a moment. This is one sexy stripper pig. She – we assume the pig is a she, since men are rarely reduced to sex objects – bursts into a sultry dance, thrusting her ass towards the audience, hips grinding to and fro. The camera pans around to two guys – and an animated White Castle paper bag (!?) – sitting at the front table. Miss Piggy shimmies herself onto a strategically placed chair, opening a creepy ole can of Flashdance on our asses. Still dancing, she thrusts a leg into the air, then back down to the floor.

Suddenly, a flirtatious female voice over:

“Introducing tempting pulled pork…”

Here, Piggy reaches for a chain, dangling down from the ceiling – and gives a good yank. Barbecue sauce rains from the sky, covering Piggy (whose back is predictably arched at this point) and splashing the audience, which doesn’t seem to mind a bit.

“…in barbecue sauce.”

The audience cheers! Piggy twirls and dances in triumph!

Cut to shots of murdered, dismembered, processed and cooked pig, i.e., “meat.”

“Shredded pork in a come-hither barbecue sauce. Sweet. Saucy. Oh so naughty. White Castle – what you crave.”

The ad ends with a fadeout of the aforementioned white dudes – sitting with a now grease stained White Castle bag – licking barbecue sauce off of themselves and enjoying the “entertainment.” Happy ending, anyone?

Where to start, where to start?

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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.

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Mama’s little Kenneth Lays!

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Over lunch, I caught myself admonishing the dogs, a few of whom promptly inhaled their food and then went scrounging around their siblings’ bowls in hopes of catching a stray piece of kibble, thusly: “Don’t be little piggies!”

I followed that up with a quick correction: “Not to insult pigs, of course.”

Except, conjuring up metaphors of pigs in order to scold someone for being greedy or gluttonous does, in point o’ fact, constitute an insult to pigdom. Even if done in a loving and affectionate manner, for all involved (and oh how I loves the piggies!). After all, the insult relies upon supposedly porcine faults: greed, gluttony, eating and indulging to excess, obesity in the form of pork fat, etc. Strip the stereotypes away, and the saying no longer makes sense.

A more appropriate phrase, then, might be “Don’t be heterosexual white fundie Christian dudes!” or something similar.

Or, more to the point, “Don’t be a Kenneth Lay!,” “Why you wanna be an Enron exec!,” or “Not my Nigel!

See? Purge one speciesist insult from your vocabulary, gain a whole slew of novel, creative and varied slurs. It’s like going vegan, but verbal. The possibilities are endless!

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Sexy Meat, No. 1

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Apropos my reintroduction of the “consuming women” series last week, I decided to create a second series of similar images I like to call “sexy meat.”

“Sexy meat” is a sort of hybrid of “consuming women” and “suicide food.” Whereas the “consuming women” series features women who are posed to resemble “meat” (or other consumable animal products), “sexy meat” is just that – “meat” that’s been sexed up, usually in a traditionally “feminine” manner (women, of course, being the sex class). Oftentimes, this “sexy meat” is flirtatious in appearance, seemingly beckoning the audience to devour her, hence the “suicide food” angle.

Possibly, the two types of images are so closely related – each is essentially an inverse of the other – that they might be grouped together, but I chose to tease out the differences for maximum visual impact.

The first series of photos I’d like to share is a collection of three adverts for Rachachuros Seasoning. Each ad features an animal corpse, arranged in a pornorific pose for the camera (i.e., the male gaze), a concept which is reinforced by the product’s tag line, “The Temptation of Taste”:

Rachachuros Seasoning - Chicken

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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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Book Review: The Pig Who Sang to the Moon by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (2003)

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

I know I offered a semi-review of The Pig Who Sang to the Moon a few weeks ago, but I wanted to write something more appropriate for Amazon, Library Thing and the like. Posting positive reviews of animal-friendly books, television shows and films is a good way to help such media garner more exposure and business – and support the team, too! As is voting for positive review of animal-friendly materials – hint, hint, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson (2003)

A beautifully tragic look at “food” animals

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My first introduction to Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s work was in high school, when I read his 1996 book, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals. At the time, I was a newbie vegetarian, just becoming involved in animal advocacy. When Elephants Weep helped validate my decision to go veg, and reinforced my resolve to stay that way.

Fast-forward thirteen years. I picked up Masson’s latest ethology tome, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, on a whim. Remembering his earlier work, I expected a beautiful, brilliant, touching look at the inner lives and experiences of farmed animals. I was not disappointed.

In The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, Masson lays out the evidence – from the highly scientific to the folksy anecdotal – which points to a wide range of emotional experiences in farmed animals, including love, grief, sorrow, joy, empathy, altruism, fear, trust, friendship, contentment and the like. Far from being unfeeling brutes, the billions of animals bred, farmed and slaughtered for human consumption (10 billion annually in the U.S. alone) have complex emotional and intellectual lives. Some of their emotions – such as the strong maternal instinct – mirror our own, while other emotions and intellectual abilities far surpass those of humans. For example, when suffering egregious cruelties (such as those found on modern factory farms), non-human animals can’t always identify the source of or reason for their pain and abuse. This serves to heighten their fear, such that some species of non-human animals may actually have a greater capacity for suffering than humans. Clearly, this could – should – have profound implications vis-à-vis our treatment of non-human animals, particularly those of the “farmed” variety.

Masson structures the book so that each chapter covers a different species of farmed animals: pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, cows and ducks, in that order. He juxtaposes information about the animals’ emotional lives – thoughts, feelings, sentience, capacity for joy and sorrow, etc. – with the brutal reality for the vast majority of these “owned” animals. Treated like milk and meat machines, dehumanized and objectified, their individuality obscured and their needs ignored, farmed animals suffer the worst of humanity’s whims and wants.

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Horizontal Women, Redux

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

This is extent of interaction allowed between piglets and their mothers “living” on modern factory farms:

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Horizontal Women

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

Last week, I started reading Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals. Well, not so much “reading” as “listening to the audiobook.” (Hey, how else am I supposed to occupy myself while I clean the house?) I read Masson’s When Elephants Weep a long time ago – back when I was a newbie vegetarian – and enjoyed it immensely. I figured I’d like The Pig Who Sang to the Moon as well, and so far, so good.

Masson structured the book so that each chapter covers a different species of farmed animals: pigs, chickens, sheep, goats, cows and ducks, in that order. He juxtaposes information about the animals’ emotional lives – thoughts, feelings, sentience, capacity for joy and sorrow, etc. – with the brutal reality for the vast majority of these “owned” animals. Treated like milk and meat machines, dehumanized and objectified, their individuality obscured and their needs ignored, farmed animals suffer the worst of humanity’s whims and wants.

Though I’m only about a third of the way in, a theme which keeps resurfacing is the extra-special abuses (the collective) we mete out to the female members of the species. 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.

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?

100 million pigs are birthed, raised and slaughtered for “pork” annually – just in the United States. 100 million piglets are stolen from their mothers. Mothers who, without a doubt, grieve for their disappeared babies. These poor mothers are forced to relive the trauma over and over, as each new litter is stolen from them. This is what I mean when I say that a female’s – a mother’s – suffering must surely be the most painful to bear.

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A comic interlude from the veg*n language police.

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Namely, the veg*n language police at Create For Animal Rights (they’re the good cops to my cranky cop, natch):
 


 
The comic strip, entitled “PIGS AREN’T SEXIST,” is an anti-speciesist language lesson in three acts:

In panel one, two stick figures discuss Howard Stern’s misogyny as a cuddly little porcine looks on. Stick Figure One says to Stick Figure Two, “Howard Stern is so sexist!” To which Stick Figure Two replies, “He’s such a pig!”

In panel two, the sad-looking pig protests, “Hey! I resent that!”

In panel three, the lil’ pig despairs, “I am soooo much more likable than Howard Stern!”

Why, yes you are, little piglet. Yes you are.

In other words, and apropos of my previous comments on the New York Post/Sean Delonas Obama/chimp cartoon, it’s inherently speciesist to insult a human animal by referencing a non-human animal as the point of comparison. While such aspersions can sometimes be sexist, racist or otherwise marginalizing to human group x, they almost always serve to Other and deride the non-human animal point of reference – as is illustrated above.

Don’t our non-human brothers and sisters deserve better? Think before you speak, peoples!

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Valentine Piglets & Cow Kisses!

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Now for a much-needed (over)dose of cuteness. Behold! Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s Valentine Piglets!

The story of the piglets’ origins is a sad one, which I’d rather not delve into for fear of negating the cuteness factor*; suffice to say that their story runs counter to popular, romanticized conceptions about “sustainable meat,” “small/backyard/diy farming” and the like**. Luckily, Nemo, Eva, Pinky and Wally survived their first days on earth, and in time made their way to the good folks at Woodstock FAS. Here, they’ve found permanent sanctuary – until, of course, a pig lover (read: not eater!) whisks them away to their new home, for a lifetime of piggy snuggles and belly rubs.

Bonus cuteness: Kisses from Dylan the Cow!

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