Archive for July, 2008

This weekend on my 6.5 hour drives to and from my parents’ farm in North Dakota, I saw several trucks transporting pigs to–I assume–slaughter. Every time I saw them, I’d look at them all crammed in there and wondered when they last had anything to eat or drink. I thought about how hot they must be in the 85 degree weather packed so closely together. I wondered how many of them would die on the way to their imminent slaughter. It broke my heart passing those trucks.

Technically, truck drivers are supposed to unload, feed and water the animals every 28 hours. They are to have 5 hours of rest. The thing is, that law isn’t always followed, so animals go days without food, water, rest, or any kind of comfort. Compassion Over Killing did an investigation a few years ago and spoke with truck drivers who admitted to falsifying their documents—saying they unloaded the animals when they never did. I had read that prior to this trip, and couldn’t get it out of my mind as I saw each truckload of doomed pigs.

Animals die all the time during transport because of a failure to provide food, water, and rest. According to a 2006 press release issued by the HSUS:

“…none of the pigs were offloaded after their cross-country truck journey. Instead, the animals, who arrived in Texas on June 26 and 27, were left in cramped confinement inside trucks until June 29, up to an additional 48 to 72 hours, suffering temperatures in excess of 95 degrees. As a result, approximately 150 animals perished.”

Imagine spending DAYS trapped in a truck with very little room to move in 95 degree weather with no food and no water. It is amazing, really, that only 150 of the animals died when you think about it. I don’t think I’d survive in those circumstances!

The other thing that occurs to me is that I used to eat these animals – these sick, starved, dehydrated animals. The idea now of putting the diseased flesh of an animal that knew no kindness in his or her life really does not appeal to me.  The only comfort I had (and it wasn’t much) when I saw those pigs sticking their snouts out of those trucks was that I know I no longer contribute to their suffering.  I wanted to be able to tell them that, to tell them that not all humans are like the ones who forced them onto those trucks, and who will eventually kill them for their flesh.  While I obviously couldn’t communicate that to them, it was good to know that I have at least removed myself from that suffering. I know it doesn’t make a difference to the pigs that I saw this weekend, but hopefully as more and more people go veg*n, fewer and fewer of their offspring will have to endure the same fate.

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How Could You?

This essay made me cry….
Copyright Jim Willis 2001

When I was a puppy, I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You called me your child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered throw pillows, I became your best friend. Whenever I was “bad,” you’d shake your finger at me and ask “How could you?” ­ but then you’d relent, and roll me over for a bellyrub.

My housebreaking took a little longer than expected, because you were terribly busy, but we worked on that together. I remember those nights of nuzzling you in bed and listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and I believed that life could not be any more perfect. We went for long walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for ice cream (I only got the cone because “ice cream is bad for dogs,” you said), and I took long naps in the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day.

Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in love.

She, now your wife, is not a “dog person” ­ still I welcomed her into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I spent most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted to love them, but I became a “prisoner of love.”

As they began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears, and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and their touch ­ because your touch was now so infrequent ­ and I would have defended them with my life if need be.

I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams, and together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There had been a time, when others asked you if you had a dog, that you produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me. These past few years, you just answered “yes” and changed the subject. I had gone from being “your dog” to “just a dog,” and you resented every expenditure on my behalf.

Now, you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. You’ve made the right decision for your “family,” but there was a time when I was your only family.

I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness. You filled out the paperwork and said “I know you will find a good home for her.” They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog, even one with “papers.” You had to pry your son’s fingers loose from my collar as he screamed “No, Daddy! Please don’t let them take my dog!” And I worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught him about friendship and loyalty, about love and responsibility, and about respect for all life. You gave me a goodbye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a deadline to meet and now I have one, too.

After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home. They shook their heads and asked “How could you?”

They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you ­ that you had changed your mind ­ that this was all a bad dream…or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and waited.

I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day, and I padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room. She placed me on the table and rubbed my ears, and told me not to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden which she bears weighs heavily on her, and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood.

She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I felt the sting and the cool liquid coursing through my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured “How could you?”

Perhaps because she understood my dogspeak, she said “I’m so sorry.” She hugged me, and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldn’t be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself ­ a place of love and light so very different from this earthly place. And with my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my “How could you?” was not directed at her. It was you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of. I will think of you and wait for you forever.

May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty.

The End

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I found this article and had to share it. Sorry I’ve been a little MIA lately – I was in a wedding this weekend up in my hometown. Doggy pictures forthcoming…

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Spain’s Parliament could soon be making history for the animal rights cause.  A parliamentary committee recently passed resolutions that would extend some basic human rights to the great apes.  If passed next year, the law would give chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans the right to life, freedom from arbitrary captivity and protection from torture, which would include preventing them from being used in harmful scientific testing.  They could also no longer be used in circuses, for television commercials or for films, though they would still be kept in zoos (under revised, improved conditions).  This law would be monumental, and is expected to pass, which is very exciting!

We share almost 99% of our genetic makeup with chimpanzees.  They are similar to us in so many ways:

Male chimps have a drive for power; females have strong maternal feelings. Studies indicate chimps plan for the future, have a sense of fairness, empathy and altruistic tendencies, and they can be violent during warfare.

Their mental capabilities surpass those of many humans – children or the mentally handicapped, for example – and yet so many people still feel that they do not deserve some of our most basic rights.  I don’t understand it.  What are humans so afraid of?  Why are so many humans determined to put nonhuman animals into an “other” category – a “they’re not like us” mentality?  So what if they are like us?!  What is the problem with that?

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  After all, it wasn’t that long ago that certain minority groups, women, and children were considered property.  How long will it take us to realize that just as that mentality was misguided, so is this idea that nonhuman animals can be used by humans in whatever way we deem appropriate or acceptable?

Kudos to Spain for taking the lead on this. I will be following its progress and hope that it does indeed pass next year and the movement can gain some momentum from it!


Thanks to Please Do Not Tap on the Glass for writing about this & inspiring me!

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So, I still have a lot more to say about the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference I attended last month, “Their Lives, Our Voices“. I have all these notes I took during the speeches and in the workshops just staring at me waiting to be written. The guilt! Okay, guilt is a little strong, but I really have meant to say a lot more. So, let’s start with one of the discussion groups I attended: Dealing with Grief & Stress.

Let’s face it, we animal rights activists aren’t dealing with super-duper-happy-topics every day. It’s incredibly difficult to see pictures or watch videos of humans abusing and killing non-human animals. It’s depressing to think about how many animals are killed every second while I sit here in my comfy chair writing a blog post. It can get a person feeling down and out, let me tell you. Lucky for those of us who attended TLOV, the coordinators planned a discussion session on how to handle grief and stress so that we can be the most effective activists possible.

The discussion was moderated by the very down-to-earth, smart, and thoughtful activist/author/blogger/eco-feminist Pattrice Jones. I’m not gonna lie: things got a little emotional. We all talked about the things that hurt us the most–sometimes it was how our veganism and our passion for animals had affected our personal relationships. Often it was about how our efforts sometimes feel futile and hopeless, like no one is listening and no one cares. Yet there we all were, sitting in a room full of people who do care and who keep trying to get people to listen despite what feels like the many failures. There was something that was just incredibly comforting about being in that room and knowing that we had a lot in common, and it was so nice to have an outlet to be able to talk about how we felt with people who really wanted to listen. I think Pattrice summed it up nicely in her blog about this session:

Activists do hard work that brings up hard feelings and have the tendency to subordinate self-care to what always seem to be more pressing goals. Over time, pent-up feelings build up, so much so that sometimes people start to cry even before the discussion gets going, just from the feeling of being in a place where it might be safe to say anything. Once it does get going, people have different things they want to hear, different things they want to say, but almost everybody learns the same thing: I’m not alone.

Speaking of not being alone, this weekend I hung out with the vegan women’s group again, and we were discussing this very issue–how nice it is to be surrounded by people who don’t think we’re crazy! That is seriously one of the best things about hanging out with all of them, in addition to the fact that they’re just a solid group of people. I think we all agreed though: it is nice knowing we are not alone!

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I looooove pigs. I love how curious and sweet they are, and how animated they can be. When I was at Farm Sanctuary earlier this year I had so much fun rubbing their bellies and listening to them grunt with satisfaction. That’s why when I see pictures of the poor piggies who have been rescued in the Iowa floods, it just makes my heart melt. I mean, look at these guys!

Oh my goodness, look at those babies! And how nice is it to see a mama WITH her babies like that instead of confined to a gestation crate where she has no interaction with them besides nursing?

Anyway, while these pigs are undoubtedly lucky for having survived the flooding, they have been through a lot. They are sick, thin, and traumatized. Farm Sanctuary has rescued 69 pigs so far, several of whom are pregnant and expected to give birth soon. I am so happy that those piglets will never know the pain and suffering that their mothers have endured – but in order to make that a reality, Farm Sanctuary needs your help! If I had a farm I would TOTALLY adopt a bunch of these guys RIGHT NOW. As it is, I was only able to donate some money to the cause. I encourage you to do the same to give these tenacious survivors a new chance at life – a life that will never involve being confined, forcibly impregnated, abused and ultimately slaughtered. If you can’t donate money, at least go check out their blog & leave some encouraging comments. I’m sure the rescue workers are exhausted and would love to know that you appreciate their efforts and support them!

Photos from Farm Sanctuary email alert.

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A couple weeks ago my sister and I took my Boston Terrier, Otis, and her new puppy mill rescue, Ellie, for a long walk around Lake Calhoun. It was something of a nightmare because Ellie still has no idea how to do normal dog things like “walk in a straight line”. She kept tangling us all in her leash again and again and again. I thought maybe she’d follow Otis’s lead, but no, she has her own ideas about how to walk and that’s that. She is making tremendous progress, however, and is even getting a little cuddly now with us! She still prefers other dogs, and that may always be the case, but she’s warming up. She is such a doll. Here are some photos of our walk:

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The basis of all animal rights should be the Golden Rule: we should treat them as we would wish them to treat us, were any other species in our dominant position.
~Christine Stevens

Simple as it is, “The Golden Rule” is basically how I try to live my life. In my personal relationships, I try my best to treat others in a way that reflects how I want them to treat me. I don’t always succeed, granted, and I’m no saint, but I really do try, and I think most of the time I do all right. This philosophy has always extended to dogs and cats as well. As a kid, I was insanely in love with our farm cats and couldn’t get enough of them. I’d spend so much time outside in the summers and loved to pet them and play with them, and yes, probably squeeze them a little too tightly at times. As an adult, I have had a pet kitty for 7 years now, and got my dog 3 years after that. They’ve been like my children. I think about what I would like to do if I were a dog or a cat, and I make every effort to bring those things into their lives. My dog LOVES going on walks and being outdoors and going to dog parks, so I walk him a couple times a day, take him to the dog park as much as I can, and we sit outside and enjoy the weather when it’s nice out. My cat loves chasing around these little toy mice, so I make sure she has plenty of them (though they always seem to disappear…hm…).

Anyway, it was only in this past year that I extended this same empathy and compassion – the Golden Rule – to all animals. If I were a cow, what would I want to do? Would I want to be forcibly impregnated year after year, and have my baby ripped away from me so that humans could steal my milk? Would I want to spend my last few months of life in a feedlot, forced to eat food that makes me sick, and to stand in my own waste day after day? If I were a hen, would I want to have my beak cut off? Would I want to be crammed into a cage with several other hens, some of them dead or dying, so that humans could steal my eggs? If I were any other living being, would I want humans–a supposedly more “advanced” animal–to kick me, poke me, prod me, kill me, and eat me?

I don’t think anyone can actually imagine reversing roles with a cow or a hen and saying “yes, that sounds like exactly how I’d wish to be treated if it were me!” Animals of all kinds deserve fresh air, sunlight, clean living quarters, the ability to raise their young, to walk and run freely, and to LIVE.

At the very minimum, I think the Golden Rule requires this, don’t you? It’s simple: treat them as you would wish to be treated were they in the dominant position. More concisely: stop eating them; stop wearing them; and stop buying products that were tested on them. I promise it’s not as hard as you think.

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