Sunday, June 15, 2014

More Reasons to Be Hopeful

Every now and then, when the posts on this blog begin to get a little gloomy, I make it a point to spotlight reasons why those who love animals should be hopeful. Despair comes so easily in our day and age. Yet if all we do is despair, if all we do is wring our hands and focus on the bad news, then we miss out on some very wonderful acts of conscience, compassion, and - yes - even heroism.

There are reasons to be optimistic. Unfortunately, in a time when bad news dominates the headlines and television reports, it's easy to miss out on those reasons. That's why I like to steer attention to positive examples of change, and what better place to do so than in this blog?

So with no further delay, here are some developing stories that will hopefully augment our hope in our troubled times.

The Saugatuck Craft Butchery - closed for
Meatless Mondays!
1. CLOSED FOR MEATLESS MONDAYS: Check out this front display window for Saugatuck Craft Butchery in Westport, CT. It now closes on Mondays in honour of "Meatless Mondays." This may not seem like a big deal, especially to the vegan uber-purists. However, it is a big deal! A decade ago, most people didn't even know what Meatless Mondays was. Today, by contrast, Meatless Mondays is so big that a butcher shop like this one refuses to do business on the day. In most locales across America, Monday is a heavy shopping day, which makes this act all the more remarkable. Saugatuck, which prides itself on selling on the finest "pasture-raised and organic meats" doesn't have to close its doors on a day that would likely be incredibly profitable. To close it for this reason shows that even among butchers, there is a growing mindfulness about the move away from meat consumption. I say: Good for Saugatuck! It's an important first step. I hope other butchers follow suit.

Mayim Bialik's new
vegan cookbook.
2. VEGAN HEROINE OF THE YEAR: Mayim Bialik is a busy woman! Star of the hit show The Big Bang Theory, she is also a mother of two and has a doctorate in neuroscience from UCLA. Add to her long list of achievements that she's the author of a vegan cookbook! Mayim's Vegan Table (New York: Da Capo Lifelong Books) spotlights over a hundred of the actress's favourite vegan recipes. (source) Bialik went vegan at age 19 and she has never looked back. As she explained to The Vegetarian Times: "A taste aversion stopped my eating meat, then my deep love and respect for animals started informing more and more of my decisions. I had an innate sense of wanting to be vegan, but I needed more information. The change was gradual, which let me think through every step. I was still eating dairy when my first son was born; he couldn't tolerate my breast milk and I realized I had a dairy allergy. So it kept evolving. I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, and that did it." (source) Good for Mayim! Her cookbook looks fabulous!

Director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar) went
vegan in 2012 and hasn't looked back.
3. SCHOOL OF VEGANISM: In Calabasas, California (northwest of Los Angeles), an environmentally-conscious private school heavily founded and financed by director James Cameron, the dietary menu has - like the famous director of mega-blockbuster hits Avatar and Titanic - gone 100 percent vegan! MUSE School CA, thanks to Cameron and his wife, Suzy Amis, is now the first school in the country to go entirely vegan. I should note that one public school in Queens, New York, has gone entirely vegetarian, and another school in San Diego has adopted Meatless Mondays, but an all-vegan school is unprecedented. Cameron and Amis - motivated by a love of animals, respect for life in general, and concern for the environment - deserve praise for going out on a limb and showing that a vegan diet is proper and healthy. This was a brave thing to do, and let's hope their decision inspires other schools to do likewise. (source)

Garfunkel the pig, resident of
Happy Trails Farm Animal
Sanctuary in Ravenna, Ohio.
4. INSPIRATION FOLLOWING TRAGEDY: Kudos to the wonderful folks at Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary in Ravenna, Ohio. Earlier this year, on Valentine's Day - February 14 - tragedy struck the sanctuary when a building burned down, killing two goats, a pot-belly pig and a rooster. Thankfully, two cats and two goats were rescued from the inferno, yet the irreplaceable loss of these four precious lives was devastating. Remarkably, the sanctuary has been busily rebuilding. The goat-sheep barn that burned to the ground in February is now being replaced by an even nicer, safer structure, and the sanctuary will also be seeing the addition of a new horse arena and multi-purpose building. Happy Trails is seeking donations (at the link above), and welcomes visitors to the beautiful 10-acre farm, where - at any given time - about 150 animals are living a good life of love, rehabilitation, and happiness. I've said before, and I'll say it again, that folks at farm sanctuaries are doing the work of saints. Countless happy animals - spared from the factory farm and the butcher's knife - are the reward for their tireless efforts. Way to go, Happy Trails!

5. The decision last week by Mexico City's legislative assembly to prohibit animals from appearing in circuses was a great move, although it has sparked some controversy. (source) According to an Associated Press news report from June 9: "More than 1,000 acrobats, clowns and other circus employees marched through downtown Mexico City on Tuesday to protest a new ban on animals in circuses." (source) Despite complaints from Mexican circus workers that the move is going to have devastating economic effects, the ban actually represents a principled move by Mexican politicians to end one of the worst forms of animal exploitation in existence. Mexico City isn't the first city in the country to enact such a ban. Actually, the nation's largest city is a relative latecomer in a nationwide movement to outlaw the participation of animals in circuses. The aforementioned AP report went on to note: "Armando Cendeno, president of the national circus association, said the measure will affect about 50,000 circus employees and 3,000 to 3,500 animals, mainly elephants, tigers, camels and hippos. 'It is impossible to take these animals back to their natural habitat, because they would die,' he said." As the demonstration in Mexico City shows, changing society so that animals are no longer exploited can potentially be painful, especially when jobs and livelihoods are at stake. Change is seldom unambiguous and straightforward, and it is never easy. But the Mexico City legislature has the right idea. Animals ought not to be exploited for entertainment. Or for any other reason, for that matter. Let's hope other places where animals are integral to circuses follow Mexico City's example.

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