Friday, December 23, 2011

What More Needs To Be Said?

If an image is worth a thousand words, this one is surely worth millions!

Great People Fighting the Good Fight

I've made plugs for Toronto Pig Save before. This is a wonderful group of people, based in Toronto, nonviolently bearing witness and resisting the slaughter of these innocent animals.

Have a look at this video. It's a wonderful interview with TPS founder Anita Krajnc. Anita has been a huge inspiration in this region to other animal rights activists. Her eloquence, her persistence, her passion for the cause of teaching people about the barbaric practice of slaughtering pigs, makes her one of the most effective spokespeople of a movement I've seen in a long time.

This is a small movement, but it's growing. TPS now has 427 supporters on Facebook. They're fighting the noblest of noble battles. They deserve support, and for those who are thinking about starting a similar movement in their own community, the example of TPS is worth examining.

Check out Anita in this video and I'm sure you'll agree: This isn't just a Good Fight. It's a Great Fight.

The True Spirit of Christmas (courtesy of our German Brothers and Sisters)

This video made me weep.

It shows German animal rights activists preparing a wonderful meal of fruits and vegetables and then one of them, dressed as Santa Claus, delivers it to pigs inside of a factory farm. His solitary act of sharing represented, in my view, a gesture of profound kindness in a world full of cruelty and inhumanity.

Notice how the pigs gently share the meal with each other. Notice how they savor every bite. It is the same way they savor life, and the same way we, as human beings, savor living, and the same way the children savor it.

The language in the video is German, but really, this video speaks a universal language. It's the language of compassion. It's the language of humanity. It's the language of decency.

It has been said that the greatness of a society can be judged in how it treats its most vulnerable inhabitants. Today, no matter where you go, the most vulnerable are always the animals.

If that's the case, our world has a long ways to go. A long, long ways.

Let this video be a reminder of the real spirit of Christmas. When human beings finally live up to that spirit, when they live in accordance with what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature" - which will inevitably involve ending the exploitation, murder and consumption of animals - then, and only then, can we call ourselves a "civilization."

Meantime, watch this video and catch a glimpse of the meaningful yet simple goodness to which we all ought to aspire.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

At Christmas, We Will Not Forget the Animals

How can we go on referring to ourselves as a "civilization" and treat animals this way?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

'Nuff Said

What more needs to be said?

In Praise of Sarah Kramer

Canadian veganista Sarah Kramer - author of several wonderful cookbooks such as La Dolce Vegan and How It All Vegan (check out her Website here) - is featured prominently in this CTV piece on being vegan in the Holiday Season. The CTV crew visits her beautiful shop in Victoria, British Columbia. Have a look at the report if you get a chance. Even though it describes the situation here in Canada, a lot of what it says is also applicable to the United States and elsewhere.

If you're not already familiar with Sarah, her shop in Victoria, her great books and her just generally inspiring example, please get to know her better. She has been at the forefront of the vegan movement here in Canada. When I first converted, I went out and bought her cookbooks, which are available in bookstores and can also easily be ordered online. The recipes are superb - I haven't made a bad one yet. And I also love Sarah's thoughts and observations that she weaves in between the recipes. She's a wise soul, brimming with humanity and kindness.

If you get a chance, please Like her fan page on Facebook. You'll get regular updates from a truly inspiring person.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fighting the good fight: Canadian brothers and sisters spreading the word

My previous post (below) was a bit of a downer. Please watch this wonderful and very hopeful short film about our Canadian brothers and sisters spreading the truth and winning the hearts and minds of people. All it takes is one really well-placed image or documentary or article or leaflet to open someone's eyes. I was a meat lover and omnivore right up until when I watched Death on a Factory Farm. It was the jolt I needed. Something snapped in me. I woke up. I came to grips with the profound immorality of exploiting and destroying and consuming animals. If I underwent that transformation, anyone can.

The other side has a lot of weapons in its arsenal: Mass production facilities that destroy animals in an assembly-line fashion; a huge war chest to spend on advertising and finding new ways to increase efficiency; magazines and television shows and websites that promote consuming animal products.

But we have the most powerful weapon of all on our side. Truth. It's not always easy to know how to spread the word. But as one vegan banner showing a beautiful cow states: "They're worth it."

Victory? Not on your life - or theirs

The pork producer Smithfield Foods, Inc., has announced that - after lots and lots of pressure from animal welfare advocates - it will no longer keep pregnant female hogs in gestation crates. "VICTORY!" proclaimed a headline on "Smithfield Will Stop Using Gestation Crates."

Those who put pressure on Smithfield Foods to abandon gestation crates, particularly the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have good reasons to be pleased. Their efforts paid off. Now, female pigs will no longer be confined to areas that are so small, they can't even turn around in a circle.

But before anybody celebrates, let's take a cold hard look at how little things have changed.

Female pigs will still give birth to babies that will be torn away from their mothers. The babies will grow up in darkness, fattened up to eventually be murdered and cut apart for their meat.

And if you listen to the rhetoric of the HSUS, the struggle is over. The good fight has been won. The forces of darkness have been vanquished. "Smithfield's recommitment is an important and welcome move," noted the HSUS president/CEO Wayne Pacelle. "With the company back on track with its phase-out, we're getting closer to the day when the cruel confinement of pigs in gestation crates will be a bygone era for the entire hog industry."

But the real question we face is: Does this step bring us closer to the day when humanity sheds is barbarism and stops exploiting and murdering sentient beings?

I'm not certain the answer is "yes."

What it will mean is that one of the outrages that resulted in animal welfare groups taking hidden cameras into pork producing companies is now gone. Animal welfare advocates have emerged from this struggle feeling very proud of their accomplishments. Self-congratulation, unfortunately, leads to passivity and acceptance. Mass murder will continue behind walls, inside of cold, brutal killing plants. The only change is that a mother pig now has more space to move.

I recall when I first became a vegan, I used to read Gary Fancione dismissing these kinds of animal welfare triumphs as "meaningless," and I'd think, "He's being pretty hard on animal welfare proponents. After all, every little step forward is an improvement. Change is gradual. Victories come in small steps. The end result is a world without animal exploitation, without violence, without meat and leather jackets and cow's milk in our refrigerators."

But I've since learned that as long as tens of billions of land animals are murdered each year, we have no reason to celebrate. As long as our oceans are being depleted of aquatic life, any rejoicing is hollow and meaningless. As long as baby calves are torn away from their mothers to produce milk that human beings have no business drinking; as long as horses are being slaughtered (a cruel act blessed by a Democratic-controlled White House); as long as baby seals are being mercilessly clubbed for fur that human beings don't need to wear to keep warm; as long as the very foundation of a huge segment of our economy is based on mass killings, there is never a reason to applaud or find joy in "triumphs."

What happened at Smithfield is not a victory. It is a droplet of insanity that has been removed from a merciless sea that churns with psychosis, denial and violence. Only by drilling down to the roots, and dramatically altering the worldview that says the mass murder of animals is acceptable, will we have reason to cheer.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

An undeniably gruesome image...

...but at least it captures your attention. And it makes you think. People need to think more. They need to connect the dots. They need to understand the impact of their decisions. Images such as this one help us tear down the wall of denial.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, family and loved ones. I hope it's a great Thanksgiving Thursday.

Hopefully, too, Thanksgiving will present a moment to reflect and think about what you're thankful for.

Most of us are thankful to be alive, to be living and breathing, to experience the joys of life.

Turkeys feel the same way we do about living. They love life. They don't want to be fattened up to be murdered. They form bonds with each other. They experience pain. And joy.

Last year, I posted on this very topic in a post titled, "The Tragic Fate of Ben Franklin's Beloved Birds." The title is pretty self-explanatory. It was about the gruesome fate that awaits turkeys that are bred for their meat. Ben Franklin, who loved the turkey (not the taste of his meat, but his innate dignity), wanted the bird to be a national symbol.

Alas, we didn't listen to Franklin. That's a shame. Turkeys are majestic beings. They deserve to live. If we are truly thankful at Thanksgiving to be alive and blessed with loved ones and families, surely we can connect the dots and appreciate the sanctity of all life, including that of the turkey.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Two Years as a Vegan

I am about to celebrate an anniversary: Two years as a vegan. Going vegan is a decision that has been a tremendous source of happiness for me. It has changed my life for the better. It has improved my general outlook on the world. It has helped me to feel better, both physically and emotionally. Most of all, the burden of having a diet based on the mass murder of innocent beings is now off of my shoulders. It is a great feeling.

The decision to go vegan grew out of an increased awareness on my part about the right of animals to live freely, without being exploited or butchered en masse. This heightened sense of consciousness about the rights of animals has been a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because I've been freed from the confines of my earlier ignorance. It is a curse because once you open your eyes, you begin to see the extent of the suffering and the ferocity of a system that commodifies animals. You realize the truth of that old Antonio Gramsci, about the necessity of remaining pessimists of the intellect and optimists of the will.

You begin to see the world in an entirely different way when you adopt a vegan/animal rights lifestyle. In my past life, I never noticed livestock trucks on the freeway hauling their passengers to death. Now I do. In my past life, I didn't understand that putting ham in my mouth or chicken in my mouth or turkey in my mouth or beef in my mouth comes at far too high a cost: the life of a sentient being. Now I get it. In my past life, I failed to grasp the deep contradiction of supporting human rights and eating animals at the same time. Now I comprehend the vast gulf between the humanistic worldview and the belief that it's OK to breed animals for the purpose of exploiting them, eating them, wearing them, confining them to dark spaces, tearing them apart from their loved ones.

We cannot have human liberation without animal liberation. Human rights without animal rights is a travesty. Supporting a socio-economic system that is based on using and murdering sentient beings is not acceptable. Arriving at these conclusions can be a deeply freeing experience.

But how do you change a system that seems like an impregnable fortress? How do you transform customs and traditions and mentalities built on using and harming and destroying innocent beings? How do you open the eyes of others who may or may not be prepared to embark on the same odyssey that you are experiencing? How do you stay sane while you're driving on the freeway and you look through the holes in the livestock trailer and see all of the eyes and snouts and you can feel the fear of animals in the last days of their lives?

I don't have the answers to these questions. But I do have the answer to one question: What does it feel like, as one person, to disengage - as fully as you possibly can - from this odious system?

Answer: It is but the first step on the road to reclaiming one's own humanity. It's a long road, full of twists a turns, but also a joyous one to finally be traveling. Think of the poor souls who never find it, who aren't willing to break the shackles, and who never reach a level of consciousness that moves them in the direction of reclaiming their humanity.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

This Damned Human Race: The United States Supreme Court and Pigs... Or: Remind me of the meaning of the word "humane" again?

Did you hear about this case going to the United States Supreme Court?

The National Meat Association is challenging a California law that says that pork producers have to "humanely euthanize nonambulatory pigs." Translation: Pigs that cannot walk.

In a universe full of bloodletting and murder, it is one teeny-tiny-itty-bitty glimmer of humanity. If a pig can't get up, find a way to put it out of its misery with minimal pain to the animal.

FOUL! cried the National Murder-er, uh, Meat Association. They say pigs are often lazy and don't like to get up, and the current California law would force them to "humanely euthanize" those beings, which would be a huge financial expense for the producers. Seven Wells, a legal eagle for the Association told the press: "Sometimes the pigs are stressed or fatigued from the trip, or they're just stubborn. Usually, they recover, and if they're fine, they go into the food supply." (Source)

"Go into the food supply." There's a euphemism, if ever there was one. If he had a shred of honesty, he'd say, "Uusually, they recover, and if they're traumatized but not so completely horrified that they can stand on their four legs, they're taken off, occasionally stunned (especially if there are meat inspectors or journalists present) and then have their cartoid artery and jugular vein severed, whereupon they flop in agony while the life blood is drained out of them, feeling excruciating pain the likes of which you and I can never imagine, and the last thing they ever see is a cold, concrete, blood-saturated world before they lose all consciousness. At which point, they go into the food supply."

On second thought, maybe the Orwellian explanation is better for the pork producers.

The state of California passed the law about three years ago to pressure the industry to euthanize sick pigs. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other animal welfare groups have applauded the law and they're critical of the National Murder Association (hell, I'm not even going to correct it this time) for challenging the California law before the highest court in the land.

If you think about it, this sad legal case - like the animal welfare movement in general - has taken one of the most important words in the English language - HUMANE - and made a mockery of it.

Let's break this down and see if we can understand it: So it is HUMANE to euthanize sick animals who can't walk to slaughter, but it's perfectly OK to violently butcher healthy and alert ones who can make it on their own to the gigantic mincing grinder that is the killing line?

Where's the humanity again? Someone please explain. Because in all of this madness, in all of this murder, in all of this systematic black nightmare that we human beings have created and perpetuate on a daily basis, I see NO sign of any trace of anything that could vaguely be described as HUMANE. Is it just me? Are you finding the "humane" anywhere in this equation?

Of course, the legal experts defending the California law think they're doing the "humane" thing. As California Deputy Attorney General Susan K. Smith explained: "We're not concerned about a pig who is taking a nap. Our definition of a nonambulatory pig is one who is unable to stand and walk without assistance." (Source)

In case you've missed it, the key part of that sentence there is "we're not concerned..."

"We're not concerned..."

Say it again: "We're not concerned..."

One more time: "We're not concerned..."

For good measure: "We're not concerned..."

Time to rephrase that: "I am concerned." I am concerned about pigs that are napping. I am concerned about pigs that are too sick to walk. I am concerned about pigs that are healthy and can walk and are terrified of this dark world that is the only world they'll know in the last moments of their lives. I'm so concerned, in fact, that I'll never again touch bacon, or ham, or any other product made out of pigs. I'm so concerned that I'll do everything in my power to nonviolently resist this scourge that is the pork industry, and expose their lies and their doublespeak and their violent agenda, full of death and misery and blood.

I am concerned.

This case will go to the U.S. Supreme Court. And unless the highest court in the land rules that murdering a pig is illegal as well as immoral, then - once again - the real victims of this sick and depraved and violent system will be the weakest, the most vulnerable, the voiceless - the pigs themselves.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Vegan Art That Really Brings the Message Home...

"The Last Thing You Will Ever See"
Painting by Dan Dunbar

A Great Graphic From Our Comrades in Australia

What else is left to add?

McRib=McHell for Pigs

It should come as no surprise that McDonald's is coming under fire for buying meat from a producer that abuses its animals. Smithfield Farms in Virginia is especially notorious for the way it abuses and exploits pigs.

So notorious, in fact, that the company produced a slick piece of propaganda called "Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production." This surreal short appeared on this blog earlier in the year. It featured Dr. Temple Grandin - a shill for the biggest mass murderers on earth - defending Smithfield's procedures. It would be downright laughable if there weren't so many lives at stake.

Now the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is filing a lawsuit against Smithfield for its terrible treatment of pigs, including routine castration without painkillers and keeping the poor beings confined to gestation crates. As Paul Shapiro of the HSUS noted:

They make outlandish claims: that their pigs live in ideal living conditions, that every need of the animals is met. It's hard to imagine that a pig crammed into a cage where she's unable to turn around for months on end would consider that to be ideal.... It doesn't take a veterinarian to know that locking up a 500-pound animal in a cage barely viable for movement is inhumane. (Source)
The HSUS's lawsuit is laudable in many respects. It has received a lot of publicity. It has made McDonald's look bad. It has spoken truth to power. How anyone can put a McRib sandwich in their mouth, even if the murdered pigs were treated "humanely" during their short lives, is beyond me. But the fact that the pork used in those ghastly things is saturated with pain and misery makes it doubly perplexing.

Equally perplexing to me is the insistence by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the HSUS that getting rid of gestation crates is all that is required to remove McDonald's and Smithfield Foods from the shit list. As Shapiro stated, "It's time for McDonald's to make gestation cages part of the company's past."

Agree. But it's also time to make mass murder and the exploitation of animals part of the past. It's time for McDonald's to stop the assembly-line slaughter of pigs and chickens and cows.

Condemning McDonald's for using pigs raised in gestation crates sends out the wrong message. You know what will happen? McDonald's will get a little bad publicity. The gestation crates will be jettisoned. The bad publicity stops. The mass murder continues.

In the past, McDonald's has actually been praised by animal welfare groups for using "humanely" treated animals. In 2005, the BBC reported that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals singled out McDonald's for using "humanely" killed animals:
Burger giant McDonald's has won an award for its humane animal treatment. Firms which promote better treatment of animals were recognised this week at the RSPCA's first Alternative Awards held at the Natural History Museum. McDonald's was praised for changing egg suppliers to those that use only free range eggs, and its cattle handling standards also drew RSPCA plaudits. Now McDonald's can use the RSPCA's logo to identify it as a business committed to higher welfare standards. (Source)
Is this really the message that we want to send out to McDonald's? Just tweak a few of the worst animal abuses and then mass murder is acceptable?

Think about it. What message does that send to the millions and millions of pigs that are sent into this Kafkaesque hell? It says that human beings are concerned only with cosmetic "feel good" measures that - once instituted - make it perfectly acceptable to butcher pigs en masse.

There is an alternative message: Stop the killing now. Stop the exploitation now. It is immoral to murder pigs. It ought to be illegal to murder them. The McRib sandwich will still taste of misery and heartache and pain, of life cut short, even without gestation crates, even if pigs are anesthetized before being castrated.

As long as human beings exploit and murder animals there will be no peace. Do not give McDonald's and Smithfield a way out by only cleaning up their act slightly, and thus ending the negative media scrutiny.

When you think about it, that's about as Orwellian as it gets.

Friday, October 14, 2011

We'll Never Forget the Animals!

Signs of hope...

This very impressive, orderly and nonviolent demonstration against speciesism was held in Madrid, Spain recently, sponsored by the Spanish animal rights group Igualdad Animal. Our European comrades are always coming up with creative new ways to protest against the exploitation and destruction of animals.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When the word "terrorist" loses all meaning...

For those of you who think that Canada is a much more open-minded place than its mighty neighbour to the south, think again.

OTTAWA — A government agency responsible for tracking financial transactions to ensure they aren't used for illicit purposes has identified animal rights activists and "environmental extremists" as terrorist groups on a website rife with references to al-Qaida.

The page is part of an online terrorism-financing tutorial hosted by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre.

The government established FINTRAC in 2000 to detect and prevent money laundering and other illegal financial transactions by terrorists and organized crime groups.

The story goes on to say that animal rights activists are "single issue" terrorists who resort to violence to achieve their goals, and they deserve to be lumped together with other extremists and zealots, including Al Qaeda.

If being horrified by the systematic murder of 59 billion land animals a year makes me a terrorist, then I'm a terrorist.

If hating the violence that goes into the commodification of living, sentient beings puts me in the same league as Osama Bin Laden, then scoot over Comrade Bin Laden. You've got a new sidekick.

If believing that sentient beings on land and in the sea have rights and that human beings have NO right to breed them, rip them apart from their loved ones, put them in dark places for their short lives and then sever their veins and eat their flesh and other excretions makes me a kindred spirit to the maniacs who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, then this blog has officially become a "Jihadist Zone."

I'm a terrorist because I hate mass murder. I'm a terrorist because the very thought of putting flesh in my mouth sickens me. I'm a terrorist because I can't look the other way when seals are clubbed, whales are harpooned, fish are gutted while they're still flopping, lobsters are thrown into boiling water alive.

I'm a terrorist because I lay awake at night, haunted by the thought that the average calf who is turned into veal has a shorter lifespan than a housefly.

Never mind the institutions and people that murder billions of sentient beings. They are simply fulfilling "demand" in the glorious "free market" system upon which our civilization is built.

A world where the murderers are the virtuous and the compassionate are terrorists is absolutely unthinkable. And, yet, here we are. We're in it. This is the reality we must confront.

I will let my lifelong hero Mario Savio have the last word in this case:

"There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part; and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop, And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Something to Be Said for Being Short & Sweet...

Academics talk a lot. They get paid to talk. They use their words to analyze and interpret and dissect events and people and trends and ideas. Many love to use big words, 25 cent words, to make themselves sound more erudite.

But there is something to be said for choosing only a few words, but choosing words with meaning. A short statement, with a picture, can move people deeply. Winning hearts and minds is a fine art. And often, one of the most effective ways of doing it is to get right to the heart of the matter, as fast as possible.

That's exactly what the wonderful souls who create these banners (below) have done. These types of banners turn up frequently on Facebook (thank you to my good friend Vee Elder for posting many of these) and on the Web. The designs made by Evolve! Campaigns are particularly moving. Effective propaganda can distill thousands and thousands of words into a sentence or two, and when paired with images, the effect is quite powerful.

I'm going to quit writing now and let them speak for themselves, because I think these are some of the most effective and eloquent and moving ways of conveying profound truths.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

The Wall Street Protests and Animals

The massive, spontaneous and leaderless Wall Street protests in New York City have been inspiring to behold. It has often been said that if these protests were being held by the Tea Party, the press coverage would likely be far more extensive. As it is, the protests have been so big and so dramatic, the news outlets can't ignore them.

And they're spreading, too. Similar protests are now being planned in other cities in the United States and Canada. This could be the beginning of a grassroots protest struggle on the Left.

If that's the case, and the optimist in me likes to hope that it is, I would ask the brave men and women on the front lines of the struggle not to forget our animal comrades.

No human beings are being treated as savagely as animals. In 2009, 59 billion animals died to feed human beings. Here are some statistics worth remembering:
In 2009, about 20 billion sea animals were killed (by the US) for human consumption . . . Note that both the land and sea animal numbers are those killed by the US, not killed for US consumption (since we import and export much of the slaughter). Animals killed worldwide for Americans' food in 2009 amount to 8.3 billion land animals and 51 billion sea animals. (So, a total of about 59 billion animals.) You can see that those imports and exports make a huge difference. (Source)
The very same forces that have led to a decline in the quality of life for ordinary people around the world have also resulted in the commodification of animals. Most of the people with power and wealth and influence have come to regard human beings and non-human animals as nothing more than numbers on profit-and-loss statements.

In this stark view, workers become statistics, and whether they are kept working or laid off is determined by the amount of profits that a company is making.

The same thing is true of animals. They, too, have become statistics. They, too, have been reduced to numbers, to figures in profit-and-loss statements. Their lives mean nothing to the people and the institutions that profit from their mass murder.

When I was younger, I was one of those idealistic young men who was out on the front lines of so many struggles: Central American solidarity protests, anti-apartheid protests, anti-nuclear protests. I believed, in my heart of hearts, that the vulnerable needed to be protected, and the best way to fight for them was to go out into the streets. Seeking political solutions in the hallowed halls of power wasn't enough. Like those brave souls on Wall Street right now - men and women, young and old, of all races and all walks of life - I felt like militant resistance was the only way to change the system.

The optimist in me still believes that. But once I opened my eyes to the suffering of animals, an entire new vista was illuminated for me. I started to wonder how I could go so long preaching nonviolence and talking about human rights while also shoving barbecued buffalo chicken wings and pork fried rice and steak in my mouth. How could I profess to believe in the sanctity of life and yet embrace habits and ways of doing things that were destroying so many innocent beings who deserved the right to live as much as I did?

Once I became a vegan (I'm almost approaching my second anniversary - and I feel better than ever!), I put all of the puzzle pieces together. I began to see the world in an entirely different way. To me, animal rights became the most important single issue in the world. It remains so, in my mind. In the case of human beings, most countries around the world now at least pay lip service to the primacy of human rights. And, at this very moment in history, mass genocide does not appear to be happening anywhere, despite wars and rampant violence in certain hot spots.

The same cannot be said for animals, who - in the billions - live in terror every day, and who - in the millions - are murdered each day to feed human beings who do not need to consume them (and have absolutely no right whatsoever to consume them, except by sheer brute force) in order to survive.

The Wall Street protests are showing us that people - when collectively pressed against the wall by fat cats and governments and inhumane economic institutions - will resist. And that resistance will grow over time. New adherents will join the cause. Young and old alike will see the wisdom of resisting at this moment in history.

Those of us who want to bring an end to the mass murder of animals have an obligation, it seems to me, to connect the dots whenever possible, in order to show people that the same institutions that cause human misery on such a large scale also result in the mass extermination of living, breathing, sentient beings who have the capacity to form bonds, experience feelings of happiness and sorrow and loss and pleasure.

Ordinary people have the right to live a good life, without worrying whether they'll be able to make their mortgage payments or keep the lights on or feed their kids.

Animals have the right to live free of terrorism, free of mass murder, in the open air, in the sunshine, where they can savor the sweet mystery of life for the fleeting moment they're in this world. Storming Wall Street and demanding that people be treated with dignity and ending the commodification of animals go hand in hand. You can't have one without the other.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Superb Speech by Gary Francione - in two parts...

This is a superb speech by Dr. Gary Francione, delivered in July 2011 at the JAINA convention in Houston.

I've said it before numerous times on this Blog, but I'll say it again: Francione is a brilliant thinker and writer, and he has had a huge influence on my worldview. Please take some time to watch this speech (in two parts, both here) and please consider, very carefully, his words.

In this speech, Francione links dairy to meat and shows how the two are tied closely together. He goes into some of his own personal history, which is fascinating, then does a brilliant job of spreading out into a big picture view of the issues.

Luckily, these videos aren't gory. But they will make you think. Francione continues to have a huge impact on my way of looking at the world. Sometime, I intend to thank him in person for helping me to see the light.

Until then, I'll continue to get a lot out of his fantastic talks.

Part One:

Part Two:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Of Cows and Music

Maybe you've already seen the recent YouTube video (above) of band members from Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, entertaining a group of cows in the French Alps. The video, showing Steve Call and his Dixieland Band playing tunes for a group of music-loving cows, instantly went viral, now approaching a million views. To be certain, it is a delightful video, but it is by no means unique. Below are other videos, posted long before the BYU jazz band performed for French bovines, showing similar results when musicians wander out to farm pastures.

The next few videos show cows enjoying the handiwork of accordionists.

And a violinist...

And yes, even a little classic hard rock...

Dairy farmers have apparently understood for years that cows love music, so music has become an important part of numerous dairy operations, as the next few videos show.

I was thrilled to see the video of cows in the French Alps enjoying a jazz music performance go viral. The other videos posted above of cows loving music boast only a few thousand views at most.

I'm not sure the viral video is going to necessarily convert any viewers to veganism. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear people say how adorable it is to see cows savoring music, then those same people turn around and devour steaks and hamburgers and pot roast.

Sadly, so many people possess an incredible capacity for denial. They can somehow adore cows and eat them at the same time. Indeed, dairy farmers - as one of the videos points out - play music to calm their cows in order to increase productivity.

Also, there might be some animal rights purists out there who insist that appealing to human compassion by showing animals enjoying music is a form of speciesism. People have no right to exploit or harm animals, they argue, whether or not those animals enjoy human music.

Hard to argue with that logic. And yet... And yet... Part of what it means to be sentient means to be aware, and awareness comes in many forms. We can be aware of pain. We can feel what it feels like to suffer. But we can also be swept away by the beauty of images and scenery and music. These videos show that we are not the only animals who love music. Cows love it, too. That's not the main reason we shouldn't eat them. But it's yet another item to add to a long and growing list of reasons why it's criminal to mass murder these extraordinary beings.

Imagine eating meat from a being that once savored music. How could you possibly do it?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This video speaks for itself...

... there's nothing really for me to add.

Vegan Odds and Ends

Above: Anne Hathaway is transitioning to veganism. Take the leap, Anne! You won't regret it!

Watching What You Eat & What You Spend: The wonderful website Care2 Healthy Living offers Six Helpful Tips on how to eat vegan on a budget. Being vegan need not be prohibitively expensive. The tips are all excellent ones. Stuff I never thought of before. I won't give it away - you should read the story. Check it out here.

Campus Vegans: Thumbs Up - big time - to the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, for opening a 100% Vegan full-service cafeteria. Imagine that: A vegan cafeteria! I'd give anything to have one of those where I live. Best of all, it is refreshing to see this development happen in Texas, which has a reputation for being a state full of meat eaters. If it can happen in Texas, surely we can make it happen in other parts of North America. (Source)

Recommended Reading: Vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier will be holding a big book launch in New York City on September 14 for his new book Thrive Foods. Sounds like a wonderful book. Here's a description:

Vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier presents his new nutrition guide, Thrive Foods, that features 200 Plant-Based Recipes for Peak Health and recipes from chefs at award-winning restaurants. (Source)

Celeb Vegans: The lovely and talented Anne Hathaway recently told an interviewer, "I'm trying to transition into being vegan, so I'd cook vegan dishes." (Source) Jump in, Anne! The water is fine once you get used to it. We need you on our side. We've lost a couple of vegan celebrities in the last several months. We could use some new high-profile converts. Best of all, you'll eat better knowing that you aren't harming any sentient beings.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kudos to Ke$ha!

When I'm driving alone in my car, I usually listen to one of the Sirius XM Satellite stations that plays the music from my youth in the 1970s and 1980s. But when I'm chauffeuring my son and his buddies, they prefer the loud dance music and hip hop. I've heard plenty of Ke$ha songs and I have to admit, I've never been blown away with her wild and crazy tunes about partying all the time and brushing her teeth with Jack Daniels and "hittin' on dudes... hard!"

But I just read that Ke$ha (actually, her real name is Kesha Rose Sebert - she's the one who stuck a dollar sign in her name where the 'S' should go, not me) has just been named the Humane Society International's (HSI) first Global Ambassador. In that capacity, she'll be lobbying on behalf of animals. She'll be a voice for the voiceless. One of her first actions will be to encourage her fans to sign petitions to stop animal testing. Right on, Ke$ha!

Smart move, too, on the part of HSI. The organization picked a singer who an reach out to young people like my son, who might otherwise not have much interest in animal welfare issues unless a high-profile celebrity with whom they're familiar speaks out on the topic.

The best part of Ke$ha's acceptance of her job was when she said in a written statement (and I've got to bold this), "I take this opportunity incredibly seriously because we are ALL animals."

We are all animals. Where have I heard that before?

Right on, Ke$ha! Welcome to the movement. As Ke$ha told the press, "One of the main underlying sentiments of my music is to respect all living creatures just as they are."

If more people shared Ke$ha's attitude about animals, the world would be a far saner, more humane place. (Source)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rule Number 1: Always check the ingredients list!

It ain't easy being vegan.

Oh sure: Defenders of the lifestyle who are trying to win over new converts insist it's easy. But it really isn't. It literally boggles the mind when you consider how many types of food contain animal products of one sort or another.

I'll give you a frinstance. Amy's-brand soy cheese pizza, on sale in the frozen-foods section of our supermarket. Soy cheese pizza!?!? Right? How can you go wrong?

Check the ingredients. What? You're kidding me. Amy's frozen soy cheese pizza contains milk ingredients. Huh?? A soy cheese pizza, sans meat, that contains milk ingredients? Why? Why? WHY?

Oh, Amy's. You got my hopes up there for a moment.

Frinstance Number Two: Earlier tonight I ordered a tofu dish at a newly opened Chinese food joint down the street. I just assumed that a tofu and vegetable dish would be safe.

Turns out this was mapo tofu and I had no idea that the dish is made with minced meat, often pork or beef. I got it home and before I even tried it, I noticed those little teeny, tiny bumps in the sauce didn't look right.

I Googled mapo tofu and discovered the bad news. I called the Chinese food joint. They confirmed the bad news.

I feel ghastly. My stomach is still twisted up in knots. The moral of the story: Always check the ingredients. Don't be afraid to ask someone in the restaurant if their dishes contain meat. When in doubt, do not buy it.

I've even taken to bringing a magnifying glass with me to the supermarket. Yeah, I look like a dork checking ingredients. But who the hell cares?

I really beat myself up over that mapo tofu. I won't keep beating myself up, though. We learn from our mistakes. We try our hardest not to repeat them. In my past life, I never checked the ingredients lists. The fact that I do it nearly all of the time - but occasionally I slip up and forget - means that I should probably call it a night with the self-flagellation.

But it does mean we vegans have to be ever vigilant. "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," said Thomas Jefferson. We vegans know the meaning of those words firsthand.

We understand that eternal vigilance is the price we pay for our own liberty, for severing ties with a lifetime of denial and reckless consumption.

Oh yeah. One more thing. "God damn you, mapo tofu! God damn you to hell!" Seriously. Who the hell puts minced meat in a tofu dish?

There. I feel slightly better.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Ones That Got Away... (or the Cult of the Escaped Animal)

In Germany, a cow named Yvonne has become something of a folk heroine. The six-year-old dairy cow has been on the run since May, hiding out in the dense Bavarian Forest, and her plight has captured worldwide attention.

Authorities have tried to capture her. They sent a bull out with the hope of luring her back to captivity, but the scheme failed. They tethered her sister, Waltraut, to a tree in the forest, but Yvonne didn't take the bait. They put up a reward of £9,000 for her capture. Millions have been following her plight in newspapers. An animal psychic made news when she said that the escaped bovine has been in contact through mental telepathy. "She said that she was fine," the psychic reported, "but didn't feel ready to come out of hiding." (Source)

Animal sanctuary workers are also pursuing Yvonne. As Michael Aufhauser, founder of a sanctuary called Gut Aiderbichl, which is actively involved in trying to rescue Yvonne, explained: "Day and night, we have up to seven people on the search for the cow. We are even using an infrared camera, two four-wheel drive Jeeps and a quad bike, but no luck so far." (Source)

No question about it: Yvonne has become an animal celebrity. And her fame speaks to an element of our culture that is both encouraging and maddening.

On the one hand, it is heartwarming that when people see an animal fleeing death, many feel instinctively sympathetic toward the fugitive.

But it is also maddening - deeply, deeply discouraging - because of the public's tendency to pay attention to the plight of only one animal (or a handful of animals) while ignoring the suffering and murders of billions of others.

Earlier this year, Gary Francione wrote a brilliant blog post about his very issue. In a February 25 blog post titled "And What About the Four Other Dogs?", Francione wrote about a puppy in Oklahoma that was euthanized with four other dogs, yet somehow survived deadly two lethal injections (one of which should have killed him). In doing so, the puppy became a national celebrity, a "miracle canine." When the story hit the news, hundreds of offers to adopt him came pouring in from all over North America. The story went out around the world - on Google News, over the Blogosphere, on Twitter - and generated widespread interest in the puppy's plight.

Francione's commentary on the puppy raised one of the most important issues confronting animal rights activists: The tendency of the masses to zero in on the suffering of a few representative animals, while ignoring the horrific violence carried out against the billions.

You hear it all the time in stories about farm sanctuaries. A pig escapes. Or a chicken escapes. Or a cow escapes. Or some horses narrowly survived terrible abuse. Or a cat or dog got loose from an animal shelter. The animal ends up at a sanctuary and people speak about it as if it's a "miracle" or an "amazing" feat that the animal got away.

Francione's observations on this issue are profound. They are worth quoting at length:

Many people think that when an animal escapes death in this fashion, it is some sort of divine sign. These sorts of events ironically reinforce our view that because there is no divine intervention for all the other animals that are killed at “shelters” or in slaughterhouses, then this is the way things ought to be for those other animals. They are killed as part of the “natural” order.

My guess is that if God exists, s/he is as concerned about the four other dogs that were killed on Friday by the Oklahoma officer, the millions of others who are killed in “shelters,” and the billions who are killed for no better reason than that we are so selfish that we think that our palate pleasure justifies depriving another sentient being of her or his life.

And whatever God’s view of the situation, I suggest that our reactions in these sorts of situations should compel us to think about why we engage in the injustice of animal exploitation at all rather than thinking that only the “lucky” animals who escape our institutionalized injustice matter morally.

Eloquent. And powerful. Once again, Francione hits the nail on the head.

Here's a theory: I think that many (by no means all, but a hell of a lot of...) human beings cannot cope with gazing down into the abyss. We build our walls of denial high to avoid having to glimpse the piling stacks of corpses. Historically, people have done the same thing during genocides. That's why genocides have occurred in places like Nazi Germany and Pol Pot's Cambodia in the 1970s and Rwanda in the 1990s without any intervention from the global community for the specific purpose of halting the mass murder.

Even to this day, we cannot always cope with assembly-line killings. Think about cinematic representations of the above genocides. There have been films about the Holocaust (Schindler's List, The Pianist, Sophie's Choice), Cambodia (The Killing Fields) and Rwanda (Hotel Rwanda). They're all about people who make it out of the murderous cauldron alive. No wonder a colleague of mine who teaches about the Holocaust once said, "Just once, I'd like to see a Holocaust movie where all of the main characters are put inside of the gas chamber and murdered and then that's the end of the movie. That would be the most accurate representation of the Final Solution, but Hollywood won't go there."

It's not exactly fair to blame Hollywood. Hollywood makes movies that people want to see, and powerful studio execs do their demographic homework. They know what consumers want. No, Hollywood isn't to blame for widespread denial. The inability to grasp the profundity and finality and totality of death rests with the public, whether it has to do with the popular culture or the animals they consume.

Which brings us back to Yvonne the dairy cow, a global folk heroine, an animal being cheered on by millions who otherwise have no interest in animal rights. Many of those who sympathize with her eat hamburgers and drink milk without thinking twice about it, yet they root for a "plucky" cow who's on the lam.

Therein lies the problem.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Going Vegan With Ellen!

Thank you to my daughter, Madeline, for pointing out that Ellen DeGeneres now has a vegan website, called Going Vegan With Ellen.

It is a stunningly beautiful Website, with great looking recipes, articles, tributes to vegan celebrities, links and a promo for the wonderful folks at the Gentle Barn animal sanctuary in Santa Clarita, California. With advocates like Ellen in our corner, we keep growing and gaining new converts.

Right on, Ellen! Thank for the inspiration!

A Nice Dose of Vegan Humor...

If you get a chance, watch this hilarious vegan video. In a mere 3 minutes and 19 seconds, Aletha manages to capture a multitude of responses that we've all heard before from non-vegans who can't believe that we'd adopt such a "crazy" lifestyle. Aletha is another one of these wonderful vegans with a YouTube channel, and - like Beverly (in the post below) - she needs our support. Subscribe to her YouTube channel if you get a chance. She's a very insightful commentator.

Words of Wisdom from an Incredibly Eloquent Young Vegan

Here is a deeply moving and eloquent video of a 16 year old named Beverly who converted to veganism last year. She has her own YouTube Channel (subscribe, if you get a chance). She is absolutely wonderful and when I see videos like this one, I feel a lot of hope for humanity.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Planet of the Apes (1968): A Profound Critique of the Human Race

There is a new Planet of the Apes film out, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel that explains how the story began. I will probably end up seeing it, although with some reluctance. You see, I'm a hardcore fan of the original 1968 Franklin J. Schaffner film, starring Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans and James Whitmore.

Long before I went vegan, long before I embraced animal rights, Planet of the Apes helped plant the seeds in my mind that blossomed into those commitments.

WARNING: For those of you who still haven't seen this superb science fiction film, you may not want to continue reading this Blog post, especially if you're someone who doesn't like spoilers (i.e., a piece of writing that divulges a surprise or twist in a film).

The plot: Sometime in the future, Colonel George Taylor and his fellow astronauts awaken from deep-sleep hibernation (a state they've been in for thousands of years) when their ship crashes on a planet. They escape the ship as it sinks into a lake and when they reach the barren landscape, they search for signs of life. Eventually, they encounter human beings who behave like wild savages: mute, fleeing through cornfields, behaving like primitive cavemen.

At this point, the astronauts and the wild humans clash with apes on horseback. One of the astronauts is killed and the other two, Taylor and Landon, are captured and separated. Landon is later lobotomized. The apes give Taylor to two chimpanzee scientists, the open-minded and kind-hearted Zira (Kim Hunter) and Cornelius (Roddy McDowall).

Over time, Zira develops a friendship with Taylor. Cornelius is slower to come around, but he also warms up to the astronaut. Because Taylor has been shot in the throat by the apes who captured him, he has to use pantomime to communicate. At some point, he tries to escape, and when he's captured by ape soldiers, his voice returns. "Take your paws off me, you damned, dirty ape!" Taylor shouts.

Taylor is later brought before a tribunal, led by the venerable Dr. Zaius (Maurice Evans) to explain why he can do things that other human beings cannot. The "wise" orangutans who head the tribunal threaten to punish and lobotomize Taylor for being a subversive, but Zira and Cornelius plot to free Taylor with the help of Zira's nephew Lucius. Their plot succeeds. They free Taylor, along with Nova (Linda Harrison), a mute female human with whom he has fallen in love.
Zaius reveals that humans and apes once lived side by side, but human beings destroyed their civilization thousands of years earlier in warfare. The cradle of this dead civilization is called the Forbidden Zone.

Taylor and Nova leave the apes behind and travel a great distance until they reach the Forbidden Zone. When they arrive, they find the top of the Statue of Liberty, revealing that they are on earth, and that human civilization collapsed, presumably in nuclear annihilation.

In 1968, Planet of the Apes was a radical critique of the human race, based on a 1963 book Monkey Planet (or Planet of the Apes) by French novelist and screenwriter Pierre Boulle. The screenplay to Planet of the Apes was co-written by Rod (The Twilight Zone) Serling and Michael Wilson, an Academy Award-winning screenwriter (he netted the Oscar for 1952's A Place in the Sun) who was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. He wrote several screenplays under pseudonyms or using "front writers" during the 1950s and early 1960s (including, ironically, for Bridge on the River Kwai, which was credited to "front" writer . . . Pierre Boulle). Wilson also wrote the screenplay to Salt of the Earth (1954), a pro-labor movie about a miners strike in New Mexico made entirely by blacklisted filmmakers. Salt of the Earth, like Planet of the Apes, has become a cult film.

Serling and Wilson very deliberately set out to write a subversive script that challenged some widely held assumptions of the day. Amazingly, the concept of speciesism - the notion of or belief in the superiority of one species over all others (in this case, apes) - came under intense assault in Planet of the Apes. I remain convinced this film was actually a thinly veiled attack on human speciesism.

Despite their backwardness and arrogance, the apes in Planet of the Apes despise human beings for very good reasons. At one point in the film, Cornelius reads from the ancient, sacred ape scriptures:
Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.

Throughout Planet of the Apes, the "wise" orangutan leaders harbor a deep distrust of the chimpanzee intellectuals, who are the gentlest and most thoughtful and inquisitive of the apes. At one point, Dr. Zaius warns Zira that her faith in science puts her in danger of being judged as subversive. Zaius tells Zira:
Dr. Zira, I must caution you. Experimental brain surgery on these creatures is one thing, and I'm all in favor of it. But your behavior studies are another matter. To suggest that we can learn anything about the simian nature from a study of man is sheer nonsense. Why, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It's a question of simian survival.
And to Cornelius, Zaius cautions:
Ah, yes - the young ape with a shovel. I hear you're planning another archeological expedition. Cornelius, a friendly word of warning - as you dig for artifacts, be sure you don't bury your reputation.

Zaius is the voice of conservatism in this ape civilization. He is a brilliant simian, a sort of Grand Inquisitor, who fully understands the past and knows that certain truths have to be kept a secret to keep ape civilization intact. Before Taylor wanders off into the Forbidden Zone with Nova, he turns with his firearm to Zaius and the following exchange occurs:

Taylor: Don't try to follow me. I'm pretty handy with this.
Zaius: Of that I'm sure. All my life I've awaited your coming and dreaded it.

All along, Zaius knew something that naive Zira and Cornelius did not: Human beings lacked humanity and destroyed themselves. To prevent the calamity from occurring again, the apes brutally repressed the wild humans in their midst. But Zaius understood, more than any other character in the film, that this repression was a necessary evil.

Planet of the Apes showed the gorilla soldiers handling human beings like animals. And yet, as awful as human beings are treated in this film - trapped in nets, thrown into cages, occasionally beaten or shot - they are not murdered en masse the way that human beings destroy animals. Repressive as the apes in Planet of the Apes were, there was a method to their madness, and a decency completely lacking in human beings.

Planet of the Apes may have been the most radical film to ever have come out of Hollywood. This should come as no surprise. Earlier in the decade, Rod Serling - eager to keep finding work as a writer at a time when Cold War attitudes were still strong in America - disguised social critique in the form of science fiction in The Twilight Zone. In adapting Planet of the Apes to the screen, Rod Serling and Michael Wilson wrote a profound and deeply pessimistic tale about the human race that remains as relevant and powerful in today's world as it was 43 years ago.

(Left: Dr. Zaius, who understood the evil of human beings more than any other character in Planet of the Apes.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight: SHARK is Shining the Spotlight on Animal Abuse

There are so many wonderful groups fighting the good fight against animal abuse and cruelty. One of those groups, which has been putting videotaping to its very best and most effective use, is Showing Animals Respect and Kindness (or SHARK for short). SHARK is a group that deserves our support.

SHARK maintains a highly effective Facebook and YouTube presence. SHARK's head, Steve Hindi, is an incredibly effective spokesman for the cause. A former hunter, Steve goes from place to place, camcorder in hand, documenting human brutality against animals. As Steve points out in the introductory video on YouTube, SHARK relies on volunteer efforts and operates with a skeletal budget, so they need all the support they can get.

SHARK has been particularly effective in exposing the abuse at rodeos. Far too many animals have died extremely violent deaths in rodeos, which has tripped off warning bells among animal advocates. In one of SHARK's most recent videos, documenting the death of a Wyoming rodeo horse on July 30, 2011, thugs attempted to prevent Steve from filming the horse's painful death. This sort of scene has repeated itself over and over. No wonder the rodeo bosses - and all people who profit from the abuse of animals - fear SHARK's videocameras. Thee are modern-day video guerrillas, taking the best weapons imaginable - camcorders - into the belly of the beast.

SHARK is doing so much that is worthwhile. I urge you to support them. I'm going to be logging on to PayPal shortly to give a donation.

We're fighting an uphill struggle, but it's worth it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dear Morrissey: You're Not Helping...

Back in the Eighties, I used to be a huge fan of the British alternative rock band The Smiths. Their songs of angst and irony and pain were, in some ways, the anthems of my youth. I was an alienated teenager growing up growing up in Reagan-era suburbia, out of place in my high school, where I skipped classes more frequently than attended out of boredom and unhappiness. Not much spoke to me in the way of pop culture, but The Smiths proved to be one of the few exceptions.

The Smiths broke up long ago (1987) and they haven't gotten back together, not even for a reunion concert. I've moved on (though I confess: I still listen to their music, although it does seem a bit - how can I put it? - whinier than it did when I used to listen to it). And the lead singer of the band, Morrissey (real name: Steven Patrick Morrissey - he goes by his last name only) has moved on to other solo music projects, gaining some acclaim along the way.

Morrissey is a very controversial figure. He's a classic iconoclast and contrarian. He loves to offend. His views have always been anti-establishment. He was a fierce critic of George W. Bush's administration and the war in Iraq. He has spoken out against British PM David Cameron and he's even knocked the Royal Family. He's made a number of controversial statements about a broad range of issues. In other words, he's not afraid to live life on the edge.

Good for him. Too many people prefer that mushy, warm middle, right on top of the fence, where they don't have to speak out or feel strongly about much of anything at all. Compared to the masses of colorless dullards in the world today, Morrissey can often be like a breath of fresh air.

Which is why I so regret what he said in the aftermath of the recent massacre of innocents in Norway. At a concert in Poland this last Sunday, Morrissey ranted into the microphone:
We all live in a murderous world, as the events in Norway have shown, with 97 dead [sic]. Though that is nothing compared to what happens in McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Shit every day. (Source)

On the heels of such an appalling loss of human life, Morrissey's words were, at best, misguided. The message is clear: So a few human beings perished? So what? That's nothing compared to what animals experience on a day-to-day basis.

Well, yeeeeeeeaaahhh, but...

The picture is more complicated than that. Unfortunately, those of us who are ardent supporters of the Abolitionist Animal Rights position, which includes living a vegan lifestyle at its very core, often have to deal with absurd accusations of being anti-human or misanthropic. Just look at the response to Morrissey. The Blogosphere and the comments section of online newspapers has lit up with a bright, flashing "TILT" sign of angry responses. Many are predictable: The animal rights "types" don't care about human life the same way they care about human life.

You've heard it all before. You get the picture.

It's not surprising that many of us frequently feel distressed, horrified, revolted and saddened by what our species is doing to other living beings. Who among us doesn't look at the mass murder of innocent animals and hang their head in shame? This history of human-animal interaction has some noble moments, but most of it is a history of savagery and cruelty in the extreme.

But our realization that animals are being murdered en masse does not mean we have to abandon our humanism. In fact, it should reinforce our reverence for the sanctity of the lives of all sentient beings.

Perhaps a better thing for Morrissey to have said - and I know it's hard to give long speeches at concerts (they'll boo you off!) - is that the loss of life in Norway is appalling and sad. Each of those Norwegians - beautiful young men and women in the prime of life - died a horrible, violent death, and each deserves to be mourned. The world is a lesser place without them. Their families deserve our deepest sympathy and support. BUT: It is also true that the very impulse that drove Anders Behring Breivik to murder all of those innocent human beings comes from the same disregard for the preciousness of life that too many human beings have exhibited toward animals for far too long.

Consider one of Breivik's victims: 14-year-old Sheridyn Meegan Ngahiwi Svebakk-Bohn (right). She was the youngest victim to perish in the deadly, nonstop volley of gunfire at Utoya Island. She was one of 76 people killed in this most ghastly of terror attacks. Consider the unimaginable grief her parents are feeling. Their baby girl is gone and she can never, ever be replaced. She had her entire life ahead of her.

Born in New Zealand, raised in Norway, she went to that camp out of a love of humanity, to see if she could learn something about improving the world in which she lived. She was murdered before she had a chance to leave her mark on the world. And when her family learned the news, it is impossible to imagine the shock and grief and emptiness and rage and utter and complete anguish they felt. Multiply that by 76. Imagine the collective grief.

Is this how we should remember Sheridyn: Well, it's sad, but it's no worse than the horrors in a KFC or McDonald's? Surely we can do better than that.

Just as Sheridyn came into the world 14 years ago, an innocent newborn, the animals that come into the world who are slaughtered to become meals at KFC and McDonald's also met a violent end, and they, too, were unable to live long lives to the fullest. They, too, fell victims to a way of doing things and a worldview that disregards the sanctity of life.

But why does it have to be an either/or proposition, as some animal rights advocates insist? Why do we have to care about either the innocents who are murdered in Norway or the innocents murdered in the slaughterhouse? Is there not room enough in our hearts to weep for both?

I hope Morrissey keeps fighting the Good Fight. And I understand his disenchantment with the human race. But part of that disenchantment grows out of an awareness of the depraved things that human beings are capable of doing to other human beings, in addition to the depraved things they are capable of doing to nonhuman animals.

To live a richer and fuller life, and to create a world with any hope of decency prevailing, it seems to me that connecting the suffering of human beings to that of animals is essential. All lives matter. No species is more important than any other. Ending violence, and promoting peaceful coexistence - among different peoples and different species - is the only hope to save a world where a stark disregard for the sanctity of life, which is woven into the apocalyptic and nihilistic philosophy of Anders Behring Breivik, is the only other alternative.

First row from left are: Silje Merete Fjellbu, Birgitte Smetbak, Margrethe Boeyum Kloeven, Bano Abobakar Rashid, Hanne Fjalestad, Diderik Aamodt Olsen and Kjersti Berg Sand (26) from Nord-Oda. Second row from left are: Sharidyn Meegan Ngahiwi Svebakk-Boehn, Guro Vartdal Haavoll , Syvert Knudsen, Simon Saeboe, Haakon Oedegaard, Johannes Buoe and Eivind Hovden. Third row from left are: Sondre Furseth Dale, Sverre Flaate Bjoerkavaag, Gizem Dogan, Dupe Ellen Awoyemi, Silje Stamneshagen, Tove Aashill Knutsen. PHOTOGRAPH BY: HANDOUT, REUTERS/SCANPIX