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.

Make a difference for animals! Click to order a FREE vegetarian starter guide

Boycott Cruelty: Go Vegan

The question is not, Are they cute? nor, Are they rare? but, Are they suffering?

Boycott Cruelty: Go Vegan

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: