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Posts Tagged ‘animal advocacy’

This weekend I got into a rather passionate debate with some friends of friends about animal rights. One of them was pretty educated about the evils of factory farming, and said that she didn’t eat much meat because she had to know where it came from. Her husband on the other hand, didn’t know much about factory farming at all, though he was curious about what I had to say and was a good, respectful listener.

After a lot of back and forth about how animals are treated, how ethical meat consumption is, and why I’m vegan, we ended up with them stating that animals wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for humans to eat them – as in, they were put on this earth specifically for us to use as we see fit.  I said that I think animals exist for their own purposes, not for ours.  They exist to be pigs and cows and chickens and zebras and elephants.  I asked them why lions exist, since we don’t eat them (okay, maybe some humans eat lions, but I don’t think many).

“To eat zebras”, they replied.

“Um, ok, why do dogs exist?”

“To be our companions and protectors.”

“So why do humans exist?”

“To eat animals.”

“Wait – so everything on this earth exists to either eat other animals or to be

Here's my l'il doggy, just being his doggy self!

eaten by them? Or apparently, in the case of dogs, to be our buddies?”

They didn’t really have an answer to that.

It is kind of weird to think that we’re all just here to eat each other, isn’t it?  I mean, to be fair, I don’t know why the hell we’re all here either, but I certainly do not think it’s to eat or be eaten.

They also tried to tell me that veganism is no better because of all the animals that are killed in the process of harvesting vegetables and grains.  UGH. I am so tired of hearing that one.  Let’s walk through this: yes, small animals and insects are killed in modern agriculture in the planting and harvesting of various crops.  Those crops are then largely fed to “food animals”, which are then slaughtered and fed to humans.  So, logically speaking, we could kill significantly fewer animals by simply harvesting those crops and eating them directly, could we not?    And isn’t that better from an animal rights perspective than the alternative?  Yes, yes it is.  Plus, I don’t claim to be perfect – I step on ants and insects all the time, I’m sure. I hit them with my car.  I live my life trying to do the least harm possible, but I can’t claim I’ve done no harm to animals.

It gets exhausting fielding these same questions again and again to people, and yet I have to remind myself that I once thought that way, and if no one had ever explained things to me, I’d still be eating the standard American diet – SAD!  Do I think this couple is going to be vegan now?  Heck no, but at least I tried to explain my perspective to them, to show them that not everyone thinks that animals are here just for our selfish human purposes. Maybe eventually it will sink in, maybe it won’t, but I did what I could!

So, friends, why do we humans exist anyway?

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There have been SO many things I’ve wanted to write about lately, but I’ve let summer get the best of me and been a bad little blogger. In an effort to “catch up”, here are just a few of the things I’ve been thinking about the last couple months:

  • If you haven’t seen the documentary THE COVE yet, you need to.  It is a haunting, disturbing, thrilling, and often heartbreaking film about the dolphin trade and consequent slaughter in Japan.  While it will probably make you cry if you are anything like me, it will also inspire you to see how passionate the dolphin advocates are about this issue. They will stop at nothing to end this injustice, and that depth of passion just isn’t prevalent enough. The LA Times wrote up a good review of it if you want to read more.
  • Alec Baldwin wrote a great piece for the Huffington Post about the vilification of Michael Vick, and how in a lot of ways it’s hypocritical of a lot of people – specifically, if you are a meat eater, a leather-wearer, and an animal user.  Not that what Vick did can be in any way condoned, mind you, but that we all need to look at what we do day-to-day to contribute to animal suffering, and ask ourselves if it’s really worth it?  Are dogs any more special than pigs, cows, turkeys?  Should we condemn Michael Vick while letting ourselves off the hook just because we aren’t the ones directly torturing these animals?
  • This NYTimes.com article about the treatment of aging horses that have been used for racing is a great read.  It talks about the need for retirement homes, essentially, for these majestic animals.  About 3000 race horses are retired each year, and right now only about 1/3 of those animals find such homes. Most are abandoned or euthanized, or sometimes sold into slaughter.  Quite the “thank you” for years of making their owners mvdayposteroney, huh?
  • As for our human animal counterparts, one of the stories that really got my attention this summer was about the pervasiveness and brutality of rape in Congo.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Congo this summer is what first brought my attention to this matter, and I haven’t been able to stop reading about it.  It is devastating.  While women are the main victims of these crimes, Congolese men are increasingly being targeted.  One organization that is trying to help victims (primarily women) there is called VDay, a non profit established by Eve Ensler, who wrote The Vagina Monologues (a show I highly recommend).  Check out her site and see how you can help.

With that, I promise to post more regularly – enjoy the reading!  Oh, and check out my new food blog: Veg Out With Us!

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I get frustrated when people suggest that all Pit bulls are a danger to society.  I work with someone, in fact, who is so prejudiced against these beautiful dogs, that she will leave a dog park with her dogs if a pit bull arrives.  While Pit bulls are incredibly strong and can therefore inflict a dangerous wound if they do attack, they are by no means the only breed that bites.  My dog was once bitten by a Golden Retriever at a dog park.  My father was badly bitten on the leg by a Springer Spaniel once and needed several stitches and hospital visits.  Not that I want to give Golden Retrievers or Springers a bad name – I’m just pointing out that any breed of dog can bite.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document that a chained dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite than an unchained dog.  This shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Additionally, if you look at the breeds of dogs that are most often obtained to be “guard dogs”, you’ll find Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers – usually the same dogs we hear about in dog bite or dog attack stories.  Is it any wonder that a dog who is kept chained, or treated as a security system instead of as a part of the family might act out or become aggressive?  When these kinds of dogs are kept indoors, are well-trained, and treated as part of the family, they are excellent companions, and rarely aggressive.  I mean, do these Pit bulls look like cold-blooded killers to you?

Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

A recent article out of the Victoria Advocate sums up this issue nicely, I think:

Pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other dog. They are loving and loyal animals.

Don’t ban pit bulls. Ban abusive owners.

“There’s a chance for any dog, even a good dog, to bite someone,” said Larry Green, a chaplain for Hospice of South Texas. “The aggression comes from how people raise them.”

Owners should properly care for pit bulls – love, train and keep them humanely enclosed. Besides, banning a breed is ineffective.

“It’s the deed and not the breed,” said David Kirkpatrick, spokesman for the American Veterinarian Medical Association. “There’s quite a bit of science that says banning a particular breed of dog has not proven to reduce dog bites. Breed-specific legislation is stereotyping certain breeds as being vicious. We oppose this.”

A dog’s tendency to bite depends on several factors. Chain any dog to a tree for lengthy periods and the dog will become angry and aggressive, Kirkpatrick said.

“If the dog is trained, socialized, kept in an environment that doesn’t increase its aggressiveness, than you will have a happy, healthy dog.  Dog bites are preventable,” he said.

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If you’ve been following the whole debate about what to do with all the wild horses in the western United States, then you probably know that there was a possibility that thousands of these beautiful animals would be rounded up and potentially euthanized. Well, it looks like the horses might actually “win” this one, thanks to a wealthy philanthropist & horse lover, Madeleine Pickens (wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens) who recently announced that she would adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. While she looks for land that would be appropriate for the horses, the Bureau of Land Management will continue to care for the animals for another year.

Wild horse & burro populations have become more “problematic” as of late, because while their populations are growing, the number of people willing or able to adopt them has fallen, as feed prices have skyrocketed, and the economy has dipped into a serious recession:

The federal government has been rounding up wild horses since the 1980s, putting them in holding facilities and offering them for adoption to horse lovers, who promise not to sell them for slaughter. But the roundups became aggressive under the Bush administration. As of June, BLM was holding 30,088 animals, more than triple the 9,807 held in 2001…. Meanwhile, the pace of adoptions has been falling as the cost of feeding and caring for the wild horses has skyrocketed. The price tag to federal taxpayers for maintaining the horses tripled from $7 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007. Hay prices for one short-term holding facility in Nevada rose from about $160 per ton in 2007 to almost $300 per ton in 2008, for example.

Luckily, these American icons will not meet the fate that many of their predecessors have, thanks to Ms. Pickens.

See, this is why I should be a billionaire – I’d be a totally good billionaire!  I’d save lots of animals and throw money at different non-profits that were doing animal advocacy work. AND I’d be able to volunteer my time instead of working for a paycheck.  It seems ideal….so, yeah, I should be a billionaire. Heck, even being a millionaire would suffice.  How can I make that happen?  Dear Lottery, pick me….??

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“With the passage of Prop 2, California becomes the 5th state to outlaw gestation crates (joining Florida, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado) and the third to outlaw veal crates (joining Arizona and Colorado).  Perhaps most significantly, it becomes the first state to ban battery cages for laying hens, who are killed in far greater numbers than either pigs or calves.”

That’s what awaited me in my email inbox this morning, courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.  How exciting is that!?  No longer will chickens in California have to live like this:

And with California’s lead, the rest of the nation’s egg laying hens might also have a chance to someday live free of cages, able to spread their wings and turn around – such modest requests, really.

I am very excited about this, and want to thank all the animal advocates who worked so hard to make this happen. I know the folks at HSUS and Farm Sanctuary have been working tirelessly to make this a reality, and how wonderful that they have another success under their belt!

To read more about Prop 2, check out these links:

Farm Sanctuary Action Alert: Success on Prop 2!

HSUS: Californians Make History

HSUS President Wayne Pacelle’s Blog: The People Have Spoken

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A week from today, Tuesday September 30th, marks the kick-off of VegWeek here in the Twin Cities.  If you live here or nearby, you definitely have to come check out some of the great events that Compassionate Action for Animals has lined up:

Tuesday, 9/30 @ 7pm:  Jim Mason, author and attorney, will give a presentation called The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.  This will be followed by a reception catered by the awesome local restaurant chain, Pizza Luce.

Wednesday, 10/1 @ 5pm: Veg cooking class! Learn how to cook some awesome vegan food, and then you get to eat it!

Thursday, 10/2 @ 5:30pm: Vegan potluck – bring something to share and enjoy meeting other vegans.  New to vegetarianism?  Come check out all the great food we eat, and talk to people about what it’s like to be vegan.

Friday, 10/3 @ 6pm: Film screening of The Emotional World of Farm Animals.  We’ll have snacks and refreshments there, and what promises to be a thoughtful discussion will follow the showing.  I’ll actually be hosting this one, so come on down & say hi!

Saturday, 10/4 @ 6pm:  Dine out at Evergreen Chinese Restaurant. This is a great opportunity to meet and hang out with other people who have pledged to be veg for the week.

Sunday, 10/5 @ 2pm: Guided tour of a local chicken sanctuary. Come meet these amazing animals and hear their stories.  Again, we’ll have snacks available (yes, we really like our food!).

Monday, 10/6 @ 7pm: Dine out at the Red Sea Bar & Restaurant. Enjoy some delicious Ethiopian food & drink, and celebrate the closing of what will undoubtedly be a successful week.

Sounds fun, right?  That’s because it will be!

I have to say, last year was my first VegWeek, and despite the fact that I didn’t know many people, I always felt totally welcome and I had a great time.  CAA is all about community (OK, and food, we admit it) and that sense of community is especially strong during VegWeek.  I encourage everyone to come & check out at least one event–you won’t be sorry!

Go check out the website for more information, and shoot me an email if you have any questions.  If I can’t answer it for you, I will find someone who can.  Hope to see you there!

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Animals Australia
has made waves across the globe with its latest radio ads called “Lucy Speaks”. The ads feature the voice of a 3 year old girl, “Lucy”, speaking for “Lucy the pig” about the horrific conditions on Australian hog farms, which are incredibly similar to those in the US. The ads end with a narrator saying, It is commonly accepted that a pig has the intelligence of a three year old child”. Apparently the ads have made quite an impact on Australians (rightly so), and I’ve noticed the ads showing up on a number of blogs here in the US as well. Thank you, Internet!

I think these ads are especially powerful for two reasons: 1) they examine the plight of farmed animals from a personal perspective by using one pig’s experience to highlight the horrors–they show Lucy the pig as the individual she is, an individual with feelings, thoughts and desires; and 2) the ads personalize the issue further by making the human-animal connection – by showing Lucy, an adorable 3 year old child, next to Lucy, a tormented factory farmed sow. By stating that pigs have the intelligence of young children, people who might not otherwise think about farmed animals are now looking at their own toddler and imagining what it would be like to be as smart as they know their child is, and yet be so incredibly helpless and mistreated on these farms. Brilliant, really.

Go see for yourself and listen to the Lucy Speaks ads here.

AND, please go read “Please Do Not Tap on the Glass” to learn about PETA’s recent investigation into a pig farm in Iowa – the abuses are unimaginable.

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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 promised I would tell you more about The Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference at the University of Minnesota that took place from June 6th-8th. It’s time to make good on that promise.

I’d like to talk a little bit more about some of the things Colleen Patrick-Goudreau discussed in her “Being a Joyful Vegan” speech, and it’s especially relevant to me at the moment because someone recently asked me if I would compromise what I eat in order to be polite. Specifically, let’s say I’m at a wedding: would I eat what the couple served to avoid being an inconvenience? I didn’t even have to think about the answer: no. Does that mean I’m going to throw a big fit about it? No. I would just quietly excuse myself and find something more suitable to eat and/or plan ahead and bring something with me that I could eat. I don’t really care if people notice or if they think it’s rude. This brings me to what Colleen said (I’m paraphrasing here): “Don’t apologize for your values just to avoid making someone else uncomfortable. How people react to your values isn’t your problem, and someone else’s comfort level isn’t more important than your principles.” Sooooo true.

All I can control are my own actions, and the way I choose to live my life. I cannot control how others react to my choices. Living in a constant state of worry over how someone will perceive me or feel about my choices – my choices that don’t hurt anyone, to be exact – doesn’t seem like a very healthy way to go about life. I admit that I do sometimes worry about people having to accommodate me, and I try not to be a total pain in the butt, but at the same time, I know that I would sooner inconvenience other people than compromise my values.

Bottom line: stick to your guns! As Colleen said: There are no neutral actions. Kind of scary, isn’t it? Scary, but also incredibly powerful if you just stop and think about that for a minute.

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One of the highlights of the Midwest Animal Advocacy Conference this weekend was a standing ovation-worthy keynote address given by author and animal rights activist Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. It. was. amazing.

The speech titled “Being a Joyful Vegan in a Non-Vegan World” was inspiration, tips and tactics for doing just that. Let’s face it: it can be easy to lose steam or feel down and out about the animal rights movement. On top of it, vegans sometimes get a reputation for being negative – but Patrick-Goudreau’s approach emphasizes the importance of being a positive representative for the movement. That doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the horrors of the pervasive cruelty against animals—just the opposite, in fact. We can talk about that, but we can and should also show non-vegans that it truly is a joy to be vegan.

There has been nothing more powerful for me than adopting a vegan diet and removing myself from the violence committed against “food” animals. Contributing to the suffering of animals became such a source of crippling guilt in my life that I needed to make a change. As an example, I remember the moment I gave up eggs. I went to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make cookies. MA rescued heny grocery list took me to the egg section—organic, cage-free, mind you, but eggs nonetheless—and there I stood. I stood there for several minutes just staring at the cartons of eggs. I put a half dozen in my basket, looked at them sitting there, and put them back. I did it again. And then again. I looked at them sitting back in the refrigerated case and asked myself if I could continue to support an industry that tortures so many hens (see right) and kills billions of “useless” male chicks each year. I just couldn’t do it—the guilt became too overwhelming. I gave up eggs in that moment and felt a huge wave of relief wash over me. Then I went home and made some vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. Not only were they delicious, but I felt so happy for having removed myself from the violence of that industry.

Anyway, Colleen had a lot of really great things to say, and I’ll blog about more of them later, but this message really stuck with me. Showing people that being vegan isn’t about deprivation or negativity is important for the movement. If the only thing omnivores see when they meet a vegan is crankiness, they’ll never understand the joy we have in not exploiting animals for food, and they’ll never want to join us. I plan to remember this next time I’m feeling not-so-joyful, and I encourage other vegans out there to do so as well!

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