Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Fantastic Interview with Gary Francione

I'm Vegan: Gary Francione from Eric Prescott on Vimeo.

By now, I've blogged numerous times about the vital contributions of Gary Francione to the Animal Rights Movement, both in thought and action.

This fantastic interview with Francione contains a lot of important information about the history of the Movement and the differences between the Animal Rights and the Animal Welfare movements. The numerous distinctions between the two movements are important and he lays them all out extremely effectively in this video.

This interview is about 20 minutes long, but it's well worth the time it takes to watch it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mother Hens and their Babies

Anyone who has spent time around chickens knows they're extraordinary birds. They're intelligent. They love their families. And they have a natural inner yearning to live freely that is shared by humans and other sentient beings. Check out some of these videos if you get a chance. They show mother hens and their babies living life and being together. Watching these amazing animals in action, I am grateful I no longer eat them - and never will again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I'm Proud of CNN: A FANTASTIC CNN Story on the Mercy For Animals Calf Abuse Story

Right on, CNN! The cable news channel ran a terrific story on the Mercy for Animals calf abuse scandal. The interviewer, Jane Velez-Mitchell, was brilliant. This newswoman is definitely in our corner on this issue. Please take about 10 minutes out to watch this video.

NOTE: The horrific violence in the Mercy for Animals video that I posted the other day is not shown in this CNN story, but Velez-Mitchell does a marvellous job of explicitly describing the different types of calf abuse. She is very sympathetic to MFA Executive Director Nathan Runkle and MFA's undercover investigator (whose identity is protected in this video).

MFA deserves our applause for showing these ultra-violent and excessively cruel practices. The word is really getting out about this case and I am very encouraged about the widespread shock and outrage this tragic story has generated.

Please watch this very important video. The struggle continues...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Immortal Words from Mario Savio (1942-1996)

Mario Savio, the heroic Italian-American working class leader of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement delivered this legendary speech on the steps of Sproul Plaza at the University of California, Berkeley, on December 2, 1964. This was the height of the Free Speech Movement, when young students - many in their late teens and early twenties - were protesting against the dehumanization and commodification of university students by the university's administration, the Board of Regents and local businesses putting pressure on the powers that be at the university to muzzle campus dissent.

Today, almost 47 years later, some things have changed for the better, thanks to the actions of brave souls who've found the courage to challenge the status quo. What hasn't changed, alas, is the horrible treatment of animals. These sentient beings are being commodified and turned into objects for our consumption. This snippet of a famous address given by Mario Savio nearly a half century ago is, therefore, as relevant today as it was when he gave it on that chilly day at the U.C. Berkeley Campus.

Today, those people - young and old, male and female, all colors and all walks of life - who are fighting for the rights of animals are fighting a very similar struggle as the students in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. It is criminal to deny a sentient being of his or her dignity and right to have a good life. That's what students at U.C. Berkeley were saying 47 years ago, and that's what we vegans are saying today.

Vegans, therefore, are carrying on a humane tradition, the noblest tradition of all. They've taken the big step to change their lifestyle to a truly compassionate one in the face of often tremendous incentives and pressures to stay the course. The history books will look back on this time as a barbaric period in human history because of how ghastly the human race treats non-human animals. But the history books will also note the presence of a far-sighted group of individuals who possessed the vision, character and bravery to resist by seeing beyond things as they are and acting against tremendous odds to bring about a very different kind of world.

May these powerful words of Mario Savio help guide us to our destination.

Shocking Mercy for Animals Video Shows That Meat Isn't Just Murder, It is Pure, Serial Killer-Style Sadism


I consider myself to be one of those sensitive souls. And watching this video horrified me. It absolutely horrified me. Thank God that Mercy for Animals had the courage to expose this sick, twisted form of sadism that is standard operating procedure at E6 Cattle Co. in Hart, Texas.

And it is probably regular practice at a lot of other facilities, too.

These are incredibly sick acts of violence shown here. Mercy for Animals announced some horrifying discoveries coming out of its investigation of E6. These include (in the words of MFA):
  • Workers bludgeoning calves in their skulls with pickaxes and hammers – often involving 5 to 6 blows, sometimes more – before rendering the animals unconscious
  • Beaten calves, still alive and conscious, thrown onto dead piles
  • Workers kicking downed calves in the head, and standing on their necks and ribs
  • Calves confined to squalid hutches, thick with manure and urine buildup, and barely large enough for the calves to turn around or fully extend their legs
  • Gruesome injuries and afflictions, including open sores, swollen joints and severed hooves
  • Ill, injured and dying calves denied medical care
  • The budding horns of calves burned out their skulls without painkillers

  • Mercy for Animals has pointed out that these sorts of actions are the logical outcome of a system that commodifies animals and turns them into objects instead of sentient living beings. How right they are.

    There are lots of things you can do. Donate to Mercy for Animals (which is what I'm doing). Write a letter to E6 Cattle Co. (1750 Country Road 628, Hart, Texas, 79043). Share the video on Facebook or Twitter or other on your Blog. Get the word out any way you can.

    And if you haven't already done so, please go Vegan. The violence you see in this video is far more widespread than you think.

    Oh, and please do not fool yourself into thinking there is a "humane" way of murdering living beings. You know what? There is not. The only "humane" way is veganism.

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Happy Easter, Blog Pals!

    Have a Wonderful Easter Weekend! I guarantee you that you'll love this video of a little bunny chowing down on a flower and then taking a bath. It is so cute.

    Incidentally, this time of year there are plenty of online articles discussing all aspects of Easter celebrations. Many articles are wisely warning moms and dads to refrain from buying their children bunnies and chicks. Others are urging the continuation of such Easter traditions as egg hunts and leaving baskets with fake grass and candy and treats for the little ones on Sunday morning.

    One of my favorite Easter articles appeared on the Swazi Observer's website. The Swazi Observer is a Swaziland-based newspaper with all kinds of cool stories. The paper's Q&A on Easter was fascinating. At one point, the FAQ raises the question of "Why bunnies?" on Easter. The answer:
    The Easter bunny or rabbit comes from the hare, another ancient, pre-Christian symbol of fertility associated with spring. But it gets even more complicated than that. Anglo-Saxon mythology says Eostara changed her pet bird into a rabbit to entertain a group of children, and the rabbit laid brightly coloured eggs for them. The chocolate bunny, like the chocolate Easter egg, is a much more recent idea, stemming from 18th and 19th-century middle European confectionery traditions, many of which were adopted in Britain.
    Makes sense. Check out the Swazi Observer Easter Q&A if you get a chance. They manage to pack lots of cool information into a very entertaining format. Another highly entertaining article comes from Denmark's Copenhagen Post. The headline: "Church Leaders: Fewer Chocolate Bunnies, More Jesus." The article contained some alarming news for the religiously inclined. A key graf:

    A recent Gallup poll indicated some discouraging facts about the Christian Easter in Denmark: only a third of Danes said the religious aspect of Easter was important to them, while some 60 percent mainly associate Easter with a break from work. A majority of Danes also placed a much higher value on self-made traditions such as travelling and spending time with the family than on the religious meaning of Easter.

    Good for the Danes. Unfortunately, on the other side of the world, New Zealanders have an unfortunate way of getting into the Easter spirit. "New Zealanders go rabbit hunting for the 'Great Easter Bunny Hunt,'" said an L.A. Times headline. The event is scheduled to occur in the Otago region of New Zealand. As one of the organizers explained:
    Each team has 12 shooters, so that means we've got 564 hunters, plus their entourage - the 'picker-uppers', the cooks, the supporters -- heading out on to farms throughout Central Otago to do battle with the rabbits.

    If I could Blog one parting wish to the bunnies of New Zealand: Be careful. Run fast. Avoid the marauding bands of humans. Actually, let's face it: That's good advice for bunnies and other animals everywhere.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Watergate and Iran-Contra it ain't...

    On this Blog, I've lamented the actions of puritanical vegans who take it upon themselves to make sure that the vegan population in North America (which is so small, it almost can't be measured statistically) is adhering to all the rules and regulations of the lifestyle.

    Days ago, the purists went on the warpath against VegNews magazine, a respected vegetarian and vegan publication (in more recent years, it has been more strictly vegan), after it was discovered that the magazine has used stock photos of food containing meat and dairy to accompany its recipes. The New York Times (April 18, 2011) described some of VegNews' transgressions:
    In one case, an ordinary slab of grilled ribs was made to appear meatless after the bones were digitally airbrushed out of the picture. In other instances, images of hamburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and ice cream were featured so as to appear meat and dairy-free.
    The Ultra-Vegans, predictably, went crazy. The Blogosphere caught on fire, and the "TILT" sign lit up on Facebook and Twitter. Attacks against VegNews came at a steady clip. Threats of subscription cancellations abounded. VegNews rushed to apologize. "We screwed up," said their editorial team in an April 18 statement. "With regard to our use of symbolic imagery in VegNews, our readers got it right. We wholeheartedly apologize." (Source)

    VegNews went on to say:
    Here's our commitment to you: • Recipes in VegNews will be represented only by custom vegan photography. Count on it. • All stock images used in the magazine and website will be vegan. We will make sure so that you can be sure. • VegNews will build and host a vegan photo bank to assure the availability of vegan stock images. Look for details in the coming days.
    Even this act of extreme contrition didn't satisfy certain purists, who continued to go on the rampage. As far as they're concerned, an important element of trust has been violated and the magazine could no longer be trusted. National Public Radio cultural affairs commentator Linda Holmes said as much on her blog:
    Unfortunately, when you use pictures of non-vegan food in a vegan publication, you're playing with a whole different kettle of ... well, not fish, obviously. Kettle of something, though. It certainly can read like an implication that if you used vegan food, it wouldn't look good enough, so that's why you're using that juicy beef burger. It can seem like you're disrespecting vegan food in a magazine for vegans. It's tough to think of a better way to anger your readers, other than including a ham hock with every issue.
    For the record, this Blogger you're currently reading does not think it is a wise idea to use photographs of animal-based foods to accompany vegan recipes. No question that the editors at VegNews, which had a stellar reputation before this "scandal" and serves a readership of 210,000 (at a time when so many magazines are going down like the Titanic and virtually everything is going up online) suffered from a serious error in judgment.

    Still... Still... Still... This is a publication that reaches close to a quarter of a million people (when you factor in all the magazine "sharing" that goes on, it's probably well over that number of people who actually read it). It has won countless awards. While its images were deceiving, its recipes encouraged people to follow a purely humane diet. It did not celebrate the virtues of "cheatatarianism" or "flexitarianism" or "happy meat" or any of that nonsense. Using real meat and dairy products in stock footage was not wise, but they didn't do it out of spite or for malicious reasons. There were deadlines to meet, issues that had to be on the newsstand.

    Days before the big VegNews scandal (and I'm sorry, but if this is a scandal, we're in sorry shape scandal-wise, because folks, Watergate and Iran-Contra this ain't...), a lot of purists went ballistic because Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman decided she could not adhere to a strict vegan diet during her pregnancy. On April 12, Portman said in an interview with Atlanta's Q100 Radio, "I actually went back to being a vegetarian when I became pregnant, just because I felt like I wanted that stuff. I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy." (Source)

    Cue the Red Alert sirens. Buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz-buzz!!! Sure enough... The savaging of Natalie Portman that I read online was horrible. Keep in mind, this is an actress who has promoted the cause more effectively than anyone else, who said she was becoming a vegetarian only temporarily during her pregnancy, and who has come out with her own line of vegan fashion items to promote humane living.

    You'd think, based on the online reaction I encountered, the woman was a serial killer of children. Among the adjectives I saw on Facebook included "bitch," "clueless," "murderer," "sellout" - probably "hypocritical" was the kindest one. On some Blogs, people posting comments showed real understanding for Portman's choice (see here, for example). But, on the whole, the level of visceral rage toward Portman was intense and unsettling. People who admired Portman just months earlier now vilified her in very troubling ways.

    I raise the issue of Natalie Portman's move from the vegan to the vegetarian camp as a parallel example of the collective rage triggered by a lack of purity. To be certain, in past posts I have explored some of the reasons for this rage: it comes from the powerlessness we feel to change the fact that millions of animals are being murdered every day; historically, protest movements often suffer from internecine conflicts and sectarianism; in our current age of "rage politics," this anger simply reflects the pervasive political culture of our times.

    Also, it is crucial to point out that the majority of the vegans I personally know are kind-hearted, compassionate, open-minded people who embraced the lifestyle out of a commitment to the noblest values imaginable. Many of us have made a conscious decision to shun the politics of rage and live a completely different lifestyle, free from the anger and abrasiveness and shouting. It is important not to forget this.

    But there is another factor at play in the public displays out outrage: Tribalism. No matter where political groupings and subcultures happen to fall on the political spectrum - left, right, center - they are often characterized by an intense form of tribalism. And we all know that when it comes to tribalism, consensus, not dissent, is the goal. In the seventeenth century, Puritans banished dissenters like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams into the "howling wilderness" for disagreeing with the dominant views of the society. Today, the equivalent of seventeenth century banishment is attacking "apostates" as savagely as possible. In 2008, when conservative commentators Christopher Buckley and Kathleen Parker had the audacity to criticize Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, they received thousands of furious responses, including death threats. A few years earlier, Christopher Hitchens similarly aroused the ire of the Left when he supported George W. Bush's war in Iraq.

    Unfortunately, an awful lot of people want to be a part of a larger tribe, even if it means jettisoning the right - no, make that, the responsibility - to criticize your own group if you think they're being excessive or unreasonable. But isn't it ultimately more fulfilling - and doesn't it make life far richer - to be a Tribe of One, and to think freely, break free of partisanship and come to whatever conclusions seem the most rational, than to simply say what seems to be the easiest and most politically correct thing to say?

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Kudos to British Columbia in the Fight Against Animal Cruelty

    This week, the Premier of British Columbia, Christy Clark, unveiled some of the toughest anti-animal cruelty laws in North America. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, a response to the slaughter of a hundred sled dogs in Whistler last year, has increased maximum punishments for animal cruelty from $10,000 and six months in prison to $75,000 and two years in prison. As Premier Clark put it:
    The thing is that people will do bad things. That certainly happens not just to animals, but to other people, to property. But what we can do as a government and as a society is to try to put in place deterrents that are strong and will be enforced. (Source)
    The move toward stricter animal abuse laws in British Columbia will set an important precedent and serve as an example to other animal advocates who are trying to achieve the same thing elsewhere. There's a movement afoot across North America to crack down on animal abusers. Efforts are already underway in Ohio, Illinois, Rhode Island, Mississippi, New Jersey and across Canada. What happened in British Columbia was only the beginning. There are ample reasons to be optimistic.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    My Sentiments Exactly...

    This is a very thoughtful video on the question of Human Rights versus Animal Rights from YouTube user porolita22. Have a look if you get a chance. It's not very long. And porolita22 manages to squeeze a lot of important arguments into this video in a way that is very friendly and accessible. If all vegans could argue this eloquently and this calmly, the movement might even win over more converts. Already, we're making great strides, and thanks to rational arguments like these, we'll keep making progress.

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    You call that "Throwing the book at 'em"? I call it pathetic...

    Case 1: On June 17, 2010, Bobby Elliott of Merritt, British Columbia, tied his Golden Lab mix named April Rain to the back of his truck and dragged her around. He claimed he was giving her "exercise." A kind bystander find April Rain badly injured and took her to a vet. Elliot's punishment?

    He was sentenced to 30 days of house arrest and another 60 days of arrest with certain conditions.He is required to pay $2100 in restitution to Angel's Animal Rescue, the organization that rehabilitated the dog. Elliott is banned from owning a dog for the next five years. (Source)

    Case 2: Kisha Curtis, age 28, employee at Klimaaxxpromos Girls, an adult entertainment agency in Newark, N.J., starved her pit bull and then tossed the emaciated dog down a garbage chute on March 16, where the poor, whimpering animal was left to die. Once again, a kind soul found the dog and saved him by taking him to the vet. The pit bull was named Patrick (pictured above) and he has become a Facebook celebrity. Legions of wonderful folks from around the world have donated to help this beautiful dog (Source) Meantime, latest reports indicate that Curtis is out of jail and her $10,000 bail has been dismissed. (Source)

    Case 3: In Rhode Island, State Rep. David Bennett is fed up. And with good reason. He was outraged when he heard that local authorities fined a Providence woman $50 for "mistreating" her Labrador retriever mix after the starving animal was found suffering from dehydration and hypothermia. Bennett decided the animal protection laws weren't strong enough. He has co-sponsored a bill that will fine animal abusers $1,000 and prohibit them from owning an animal for five years. The bill awaits a vote in Rhode Island's General Assembly. (Source)

    The common thread running through these cases is obvious. Across North America, anti-abuse laws are not strict enough. Too many sadists, sociopaths and thugs are able to adopt animals. And when they harm those animals, laws do not serve as deterrents to prevent them from engaging in these types of abuse in the future. If anything, the laws in place in most parts of the United States and Canada encourage abusers and fail to protect the abused.

    Good for Representative Bennett and others like him who are out there fighting the good fight on behalf of animals. More people are needed in the trenches. Our anti-abuse laws don't go far enough. The time to toughen those is long overdue.

    Look at the lines of pain etched into Patrick's face (above). He makes a beautiful "poster dog" on behalf of the need to clamp down and hit animal abusers hard.