Archive for the ‘ANIMAL LIBERATION NEWS’ Category

Hi, PALS!

Just an FYI, what follows is something I wrote yesterday; so whenever this post refers to “last night” it is in fact referring to Sunday night, the 12th of October.  Enjoy 🙂

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Walking Dead Season 5 Premiere: The Pig in the Room

Last night (10/12/2014), The Walking Dead— the most-watched drama series telecast in basic cable history, with its Season 4 premiere yielding a viewership of over 16 million viewers worldwide—aired its Season 5 premiere. I have been a serious Dead devotee since Season 1 premiered in October 2010, and awaited this premiere with baited breath. While it was ultimately among the most suspenseful, most captivating season premieres I have ever seen, it was also the saddest—and the hardest to watch.

I know I am not alone in this assessment. The public was shocked, outraged by where our Good Guys end up in this episode—from the very first scene, they are subjected to horror far beyond that of an animated corpse chasing them. They are exposed to the horrific violence that lies deep within the souls of the living.

Read no further if you haven’t seen the episode; this post contains spoilers!

Violence and bloodshed are by no means new to the show. It’s tough to watch, but we get through it; we control our mounting angst, and we celebrate the Good Guys’ inevitable victory—because at the end of the day, we can rest easy knowing that it’s all just pretend. There are no actual walkers; we don’t actually have to do these things; and independent of whether or not we had to, there aren’t people out there right now doing these things to each other, or to corpses.

What was so very horrific and depressing about last night’s episode is that what happened at Terminus IS happening. It is not pretend; it is all too real.   One detail, and one detail alone, was altered: the victims in this case were live humans.

Season 4 ends with the Good Guys trapped in a dark van by the newest Bad Guys—a group of survivors living in a place they call Terminus, and have advertised as a “sanctuary for all, community for all.” Maps promising safe harbor led the prison survivors to this location, where after noting that the Terminus survivors don apparel belonging to their missing comrades Rick and his now-diminished crew realize all is not as it seems. Rick pulls his gun on Garrett, the leader of the “Termites,” resulting in Rick’s group’s captivity.

Early in last night’s episode, some of our favorite Good Guys are dragged into a room and lined up in a row, on their knees. In front of them is a metal trough. The Good Guys watch as some other dudes in the row are slaughtered: they each receive one blow to the back of their heads with a baseball bat, then have their throats slit, pools of crimson blood running down the trough and into its drains.

Replace baseball bat with lead pipe; or, incorporate the use of a stun gun. There you have it: the fate of pigs. They were lined up, literally, “like pigs for the slaughter.”

"Like pigs for the slaughter."

“Like pigs for the slaughter.”

Two underlings set about this gruesome task. Soon Garrett, the leader of the new-Bad Guy-cannibals (to whom Conan O’Brien lovingly referred as “every uptight manager of a Starbucks you’ve ever met” on last night’s Talking Dead), interrupts them to ask for a “shot count” or some other number in relation to how much ammo is left.

He asks for a statistic, clipboard in hand.

His underlings squirm and apologize for not having the info Mr. Manager wants. They did not squirm as they swung the bat. They did not squirm as they slit each man’s throat; but they squirmed when Mr. Manager entered and asked them a question they could not answer.

I don’t normally watch Talking Dead. Frankly, when I first heard of its existence, I was insulted on behalf of the American people. A TV show about a TV show? Really?! Yet I watched last night because upon viewing the episode, from that very first scene at Terminus in which men are lined up at a trough for slaughter, I wondered: Will they say it? Would anyone address the Pig in the Room? Would anyone have the guts to state the obvious, to derail the conversation from how concepts and characters were developed and scenes choreographed to how this behavior is reflective of our own society, here and now—with no Apocalypse handy to excuse us?

No. Not one person said it; though the many allusions to it were painful to hear. The host (Chris Hardwick), the producers and Conan discussed the “trough scene,” the clipboard:

Hardwick: When Garrett comes in with that clipboard and sort of admonishes his staff…The most chilling thing about that whole scene is that this is really just another day at the office, to them.

Yes. Yes, it was. The employees had been trained to turn their empathy switches off and carry out these brutal executions as a matter of course.

Sound familiar? It should.

"Nothing personal."

“Nothing personal.”

I crossed my fingers—literally—with my eyes and ears glued to the screen in front of me, waiting for someone, anyone, to say it.

No one did.

The Walking Dead is arguably the biggest show in the world right now. Millions of people watch it religiously. If you look on any message board, any social media outlet today, you will quickly see the mortified reactions of the public from all over the globe. How cruel the Termites are! How gruesome! They should all die! Indeed, Talking Dead has a live poll component, and one of the questions posed to the public last night was: Do the Termites deserve their fate (to die)? An overwhelming 97% of viewers who responded thought that yes, they deserved to die for what they had been doing to humans.

And us? What will be our fate? Do we deserve to die, for what we do to pigs? Did any of those 97% of Talking Dead viewers who chose to respond to this question even think, for one moment, about the parallels between what they had just seen less than an hour ago and what happens on farms all over the world every day? What did those people have for dinner last night?

The episode ends on an ominous note: While the other prison survivors, having escaped the Termites thanks to Rogue Ranger Carol’s assistance from the outside, simply want to flee and forget this ever happened, Rick asserts of the Termites: “They don’t get to live.” Here we see a cycle of violence begin. Mary, a Termite, explains to Carol in an earlier scene that once upon a time, the Termites were just like Rick’s crew. Their sanctuary was captured by Bad Guys who did atrocious things, and the Termites had to fight back to reclaim what was theirs. But Mary claims that her group learned a valuable lesson from that experience: “You’re the butcher, or you’re the cattle.” Thus, she and the other former Good Guys become the human-slaughtering cannibals Rick’s group encounters.

The Butchers

The Butchers

Now, upon having reclaimed his freedom as well as that of his post-Apocalyptic family, Rick can’t let go. He can’t just leave. Something’s brewing inside of him—bloodlust, desire for vengeance; take your pick. He will not walk away peacefully; now he and his crew will, presumably, become the New Bad Guys themselves. Whether or not they will actually eat people remains to be seen; but they will commit violent atrocities such as they never imagined they would a week ago, let alone a year—let alone a decade.

What of our own vicious cycle of violence? When will that end? Ours is not rooted in vengeance; the pigs didn’t do us any harm. Neither did the cows or the chickens. Ours is not rooted in survival; this is not the Apocalypse, and there is no shortage of nonviolently attainable food. We do not need to slaughter innocent animals to survive.

What is our excuse?

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Hi, PALS!

On Wednesday evening, I intended a short film viewing session hosted by Food First’s Real Food Media. Food First is a group that advocates for socially conscious and sustainable food choices. The event featured seven of the ten finalists in Real Food Media’s sustainability video contest, which drew participation from a variety of US states as well as roughly ten different countries. Each film was approximately four minutes long, and dealt with a different issue.

The first video shown, while touching, wasn’t very informative; it seemed simply to celebrate those who work hard in the food industry and appreciate fresh produce. The film didn’t even indicate a specific problem, much less a solution. Many of the films that followed raised an issue, but again failed to point the way to any concrete solution. My personal favorite was the one shown last, which featured a program called the Green Bronx Machine. The Green Bronx Machine brings gardens to schools in the Bronx and teaches kids not only how to grow plants, but later how to cook or otherwise prepare them. This was the only video, in my view (slash memory), that not only pointed at a problem but also illustrated a solution. The problem: kids in low-income neighborhoods seldom get enough fresh produce, and even when said produce is available kids know little to nothing about it and so are wary of it. Solution: teach kids how to grow and cook fresh food themselves so that not only will it be available to them more often but they will also grow a greater appreciation for healthy eating and begin to prioritize it.

The secondary problem this film addressed—the problem-within-a-problem, so to speak—is that many kids in low-income areas, particularly those with academic handicaps, fail to graduate. One former Green Bronx Machine member declared definitively in the video, “If it weren’t for this program, I probably wouldn’t have graduated.” He claimed to have missed eighty-plus school days of his freshman year and pointed to drugs and gang activity in his neighborhood as other factors that may have eventually led him astray were it not for his enrollment in Green Bronx Machine.

That was my favorite.

My least favorite was a video about a pig-farming family. It showed how kind the humans were to the pigs, how much space they had to roam around, play, eat…but ultimately, this family intends to slaughter each and every one of the precious pigs whose company they claimed to enjoy so much. Not only did I feel sorry for the pigs in the natural, sympathetic way; on an intellectual level, I failed to see how this video could have been a frontrunner in a contest about sustainability. Eating animals is not sustainable! Meat consumption is one of the largest contributing factors to global warming that there is; and global warming poses one of the largest threats to agriculture as we know it. So how does a video about a family that engages is this wholly unsustainable practice earn recognition as one of the best videos submitted in a contest about sustainability?

The video that struck me the most on an intellectual level, tapping into something I knew vaguely about but to which I had not previously devoted sufficient attention, was entitled “Who Keeps the Beekeepers?” It was about the roll of bees in the farming of various crops—almonds in particular—and the struggle of modern beekeepers to stay afloat, travelling cross-country several times a year to the places where bees are most needed and losing many of the bees in the process. I knew that bees were central to many types of produce, which grow in different parts of the country; I did not know that there were so few beekeepers in the country and that these individuals shlep themselves and their poor bees from state to state as the seasons change.

I also didn’t know, until a speaker at the event said so (this information was not disclosed in the video), that the state of California produces 80% of the world’s almonds. That’s not a typo; I don’t mean America’s almonds, or even the West’s almonds. I mean the world’s. So we have 80% of all almond in the world growing here in California, and I wonder how many bees it takes to sustain that? I imagine that there aren’t enough bees naturally living here for this to be the case; the bees must be imported, in the manner described in “Who Keeps the Beekeepers?”

Of course, humans didn’t invent almonds; so, how did the almonds come about in the first place, before we started shuttling bees here, there and everywhere? The answer lay in the centralization of production. Almonds weren’t always so exclusive to California; once upon a time, as was the case with many other crops, almonds were grown regionally in small operations—and pollinated naturally by the bees that inhabited those places.

Then two things happened. First, the bee population became threatened. Threats to naturally occurring bee populations include, but are not limited to: habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation; the introduction of non-native species to their habitat; pollution (including the use of pesticides), and climate change.

The Great Pollinator Project offers the following insight on the Bee Issue at the turn of the twenty-first century:

The serious decline of several native bumblebee species was largely a mystery until 2007, when it was linked to non-native parasites introduced to the U.S. from abroad. Subsequent studies have found that the declines are most likely caused by commercially reared bumblebees used in greenhouses to pollinate tomatoes and a variety of other crops. The parasites were probably introduced in the 1990s when colonies of North American bumble bees were taken to Europe for rearing and became infected by parasites common to bumble bees there, and brought them back home when they were reimported for agricultural use. When commercially reared bees harboring pathogens escape from greenhouses, native bees can become infected.

The second change in the almond market (and others as well, but almonds form among the strongest examples of this) is that it became centralized; over time, smaller almond operations shut down while bigger ones grew. California is now the last man standing: absolutely the only place in all of North America where almonds are grown commercially. While it’s no secret that recent droughts in California (beginning at least in 2013, if not earlier) have threatened various crops—becoming so severe at times that some California restaurants felt compelled to post notices declaring that they would only serve water to customers upon request—California’s annual almond yield has quadrupled in the past thirty years.

Almonds are the seventh largest US food export, with over ninety nations currently importing California almonds. They are also incredibly nutritious and especially important to anyone who has decided to stop imbibing on animal flesh and other byproducts. Almonds also form the base for my preferred milk substitute, almond milk—on which I imbibe daily, if only a few splashes in my coffee.

To put it mildly, almonds are mad important.

So here on the one hand we have this super-important, super-nutritious crop that everyone wants—indeed, needs—and on the other we have hundreds, thousands of bees being tormented by long days and nights on the road, unable to properly roost anywhere because they never know how long they will stay. I’m not suggesting they endure any form of existential crisis; but fear of being handled, being moved, at critical moments, causes stress. Confinement in trucks for long hours can contribute to illness, to violence. Bees aren’t meant to live that way.

Humans also aren’t meant to live as the beekeepers live, moving themselves and their families here, there and everywhere that bees are needed. Beekeepers are human victims of the Animal Holocaust.

Once again, we face a gray area of our own creation. Just as we now “have” to have pets because we’ve disabled cats and dogs from living in nature, so too have we created a bee deficit that threatens our existence almost as much as it threatens theirs. Almonds, apples, okra, onions—you name it, bees pollinate it; except that we’ve hardly any bees left, so we’re overworking them—them, and their keepers.

So, what do we do? The video did not provide an answer. I’m not sure I can, either; but I’ll try:

• Support native bee populations.

There are lots of small, simple ways you can contribute to supporting your native bee population—especially if you live in a fertile, temperate area like most of California, where growing stuff is easy-peasy. One way is to grow native plants such as cherries, blueberries and cranberries. You can also refrain from using pesticides, which you really shouldn’t anyway as they are bad for pretty much everyone: us, the bees, other animals, and the environment as a whole. Provide a breeding place for native bees: pesticide-free water or mud near your native bee-friendly plants. Clean water in particular is a “bee need” that is often overlooked; it is especially essential during the hot summer months. Finally, provide a nesting area for native bees. This can be a tilled spot on your lawn for soil-nesters, a handmade “bee house” or a standing dead tree.

• Decentralize almond production (and that of other crops).

Supporting small produce farms, particularly in regions where they are few and far between, may take some pressure off of the main production points for crops; however, in the case of almonds, given the extremity with which California dominates that particular market, I’m not sure this is a realistic solution. Can any small almond farmer anywhere else in the country hope to compete with the Almond Giant? Not sure; but there may be more room for the little guys with less centralized crops. While we may not be able to entirely reverse the mistake made here, we can certainly at least learn from it, and avoid repeating it. It’s our responsibility to do so—for our planet and for our children.

GASP! Does this mean almonds aren’t vegan? Technically, yes, it does; it requires animal labor, just as silk is not properly vegan because it requires worm labor. Am I going to stop eating almonds or drinking almond milk? Hell, no; but I will try my hardest to make myself care enough about bees to pay attention to how and where my almond products are being sourced.

I say “make myself” care because to be honest, I’ve been holding a serious grudge against bees since I was a child. In one day, I both stepped on a bee and sat on one, resulting in painful stings on my five-year-old foot and five-year-old butt. I’ve hated bees ever since; but we must have charity, mustn’t we? It’s that which we like least for which we ought to have the most sympathy. Bees serve a crucial function on this planet—one that is vital not only to the survival of my own species but that of many others besides. No one can replace them; indeed, no one ever will. So it’s important that we support them in their native roosts and help those populations grow; with a concerted effort in this direction, the day will dawn on which the hectic, hellish lifestyle of both kept bees and their keepers will be wholly unnecessary.

Great; but what about right now? What about the bees suffering right now? What about the keepers suffering right now?

I wish I had an immediate solution; I really do. The best I can do is outline something of a plan: support the natives and the small-time farmers. I don’t know how long this plan would have to be in effect for it to “work” in any tangible sense; indeed, I didn’t just invent these solutions yesterday and these plans have been underway by countless organizations for nearly a decade already. Beyond being serving as ideas or desires, however, plans like these need to become a national priority. They need to be discussed not strictly within the animal liberation community or even strictly within the agricultural community, but at every dinner table in America—and beyond.

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Hi, PALS!

Oh, how I’ve missed you.  I’ve been itching to blog about this ever since I first read the offending article, about a month ago; but it has been a crazy month for me personally, so I’ve only now finished jotting down the cruxes of my offense, which will also be in my book if and when that ever gets published (almost done, guys!  I’d say…65%? Maybe 70%?).  Feel free to join me in the ranting and raving, or tell me I’m full of sh*t; either way, PALS and DxE love to hear from you!

Here goes…something:

How the Media Threatens the Movement

While perhaps the least respected victims of the Animal Holocaust, fish have previously been spared from murder in the quantities other animals face due to concerns over whether or not fish consumption is healthy. While misinformation about protein has thoroughly convinced most of the world that humans need land meat for nutritional reasons, concerns about the mercury content of fish flesh in particular has steered many people away from fish-eating—without any moral or ethical eyebrows needing to be raised. The question of whether or not it was “okay” to eat fish was irrelevant, because the prevailing attitude of the medical community was to avoid fish consumption for your own safety. In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency released a “seafood advisory” that set upper—but no lower—limits to the amount of fish that various segments of the population should consume.

Some celebrities touted high-fish diets for a while, beginning around the turn of the century and apparently undeterred by the EPA’s advisory in 2004; but these were merely desperate weight-loss attempts intended not to improve one’s health but simply to minimize one’s daily caloric intake (for some, cholesterol was an additional concern–although some fish, like salmon, are high in cholesterol).

On June 10, 2014, I was shocked to discover that the New York Times had published an article entitled, “Health Officials Call for More Fish in Diets of Children and Pregnant Women.” How could this be possible? I wondered. I’m ashamed to say I have actually grown accustomed to the Meat Myth at this point, and am never shocked to see an article about how important it is to eat enough land animal flesh—even though scores of doctors and nutritionists (not to mention vegan bodybuilders and professional athletes) have already proven this false. Angry? Sure. Shocked? No. But at least fish were (largely) safe, I thought, because even people who were not compassionate towards animals were at least compassionate towards themselves and typically (though not always) avoided that which could hurt them.

Now here’s our nation’s flagship newspaper telling everyone that it’s not only okay to eat fish (‘cuz they don’t have any feelings…), but that you should—indeed, need to—eat fish. Perhaps fish sales have been on the decline, and someone up the food chain (so to speak) is trying to turn that around? Or could there really, actually be a concrete reason that we—especially the young and the pregnant among us—should forgo empathy and imbibe on the flesh of innocent sea creatures?

From the article:

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, the F.D.A.’s acting chief scientist, said the agency was concerned that pregnant and nursing women were missing out on the benefits of eating fish. He cited studies showing that children born to women who consume fish have higher I.Q.s and better cognitive development than children born to women who do not.

“A large percentage of women are simply not eating enough fish, and as a result they are not getting the developmental and health benefits that fish can provide,” he said. “Studies very consistently demonstrate that among women who consumed more fish during pregnancy — or at least the amounts we’re currently recommending — that there were improvements in children.”

Before we go any further, I’d like to remind everyone that the FDA receives roughly half of its funding from pharmaceutical companies, as the 1992 Prescription Drug User Act requires that any company seeking drug approval pay user fees. Therefore, half of the FDA’s funding comes from companies that sell treatments for illnesses and conditions such as Haff disease, high cholesterol, impaired memory, and scombroid poisoning—all of which can be traced back to the salmon, tuna and other low-mercury sea creatures now being touted as beneficial for children and expectant mothers.

I’m going to go out on a huge, rather precarious limb here and endeavor to illustrate how and why the New York Times is dead wrong on this one:

  • PCBs found in fish—including low-mercury fish, such as salmon and tuna—cause memory loss (i.e. mild brain damage) and vertigo, as well as contribute to such devastating conditions as cancer and infertility.

Comically enough, a New York Times article published on July 22, 1984 asserted that:

Predatory fish like lake trout and salmon can have especially high concentrations of PCBs. Because of the cancer risk, pregnant women, nursing mothers, women of childbearing age and young children have been advised in the past to limit their consumption of fish species likely to have high accumulations of PCBs…

“I would advise women of child-bearing age not to eat fatty fish like salmon and lake trout at all,” said Joseph L. Jacobson, one of the researchers…[of a study published in the journal Developmental Psychology in 1984.]

Soooooo I guess we’re all just supposed to forget about that now? PCBs don’t matter all of a sudden, and mercury is now the only enemy with which fish-eaters must contend? How convenient. Way to flip-flop, NYT.

  • Even mild/minimal exposure to mercury can result in both heart and brain damage among fetuses, babies and children.

Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that fish consumption can cause heart damage, as well as irreversible impairment to brain function in children, both in the womb and as they grow. Professor of environmental health at HSPH and co-editor of the journal Environmental Health Philippe Grandjean asserts: “If something happens in the brain at development, you don’t get a second chance.”

Environmental Protection Agency biochemist Kathryn R. Mahaffey reported in 2004 that mercury levels in a fetus’s umbilical cord blood are roughly seventy percent higher than those in his or her mother’s blood; therefore, even if an expectant mother’s mercury consumption is minimal, the impact it will have on her baby can be severely detrimental.

  • Fish is not the only source of omega-3 fatty acids.

In researching this portion of the book, I came across site after site, institution after institution and publication after publication bowing to the FDA’s recent decree by asserting the fact that fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids—which are indeed a necessary part of a healthy diet. However, fish are not the only source of these essential nutrients, and there are ample sources of omega-3 fatty acids that do not present one with the risk of brain damage, high cholesterol, impaired motor skills and the like. Such sources include, but are not limited to: flax seeds, chia seeds, seaweed, winter squash, spinach, broccoli rabe, kale, blueberries, mangoes, honeydew melons, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

Let us not forget also the moral imperative that these are THEIR bodies, NOT ours.  Even IF fish were “good for you,” many at DxE would forgo them because they are sentient beings and whatever benefits they may have nutritionally can either be found elsewhere or be lived without.  I dig into these analyses knowing that other PALS/DxE-ers may resent it because the moral argument is the most important; but I’m more cynical than they are (must be the New York in my blood), and I know that compassion for fish alone is not enough for mothers to forgo it.  They need to know that the media is lying to them; that fish consumption will HURT rather than help their babies.  The media is putting the lives of human babies at risk, in addition to the lives of numerous innocent fish.

That’s all for now.  Keep fighting the good fight, don’t believe everything you read (including this blog—go ahead and check up on me if you don’t believe me!), and enjoy the early days of summer 🙂

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Hi, PALS!

Today’s New York Times reported that Tommy, an adult chimpanzee, with the help of notorious non-human-animal-friendly lawyer Steven Wise, is suing his captors for unsuitable living conditions, including solitary confinement.

Full article above.

From the article:

Inside the shed, the repairman inched open a small door as though to first test the mood within. A rancid milk-musk odor wafted forth and with it the sight of an adult chimpanzee, crouched inside a small steel-mesh cell. Some plastic toys and bits of soiled bedding were strewn behind him. The only visible light emanated from a small portable TV on a stand outside his bars, tuned to what appeared to be a nature show.

“It’s too bad you can’t see him when he’s out in the jungle,” the repairman said, pointing to a passageway nearby, which opened onto an enclosure that housed a playground jungle gym. “At least he gets fresh air out there.”

On the way back out to the car, Wise paused.

“I’m not going to be able get that image out of my mind,” he said, his voice quavering. “How would you describe that cage? He’s in a dungeon, right? That’s a dungeon.”

Tommy was once a circus chimpanzee, whose “owner” recently passed away, leaving him under the care of the man referred to as the repairman. Wise met Tommy and the repairman at Circle L Trailer, the owner of which apparently also makes his living renting out reindeer during the holiday season for photos and such, including commercials for Macy’s and Mercedes-Benz (no data concerning the fate of these poor souls was given in the article).

Wise, Natalie Prosin (Executive Director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, or Nh.R.P.) and Elizabeth Stein (New-York-based animal rights expert) filed their petition at the Fulton County Courthouse in Johnstown, NY last December. The petition described in detail Tommy’s miserable living conditions, such as his isolation and lack of space, and culminated in a series of nine affidavits from primatologists around the world asserting the cognitive sophistication of chimpanzees and the suffering Tommy was being forced to endure.  In essence: “Chimps have feelings, JUST LIKE US!”

Here’s the thing. I love these guys for fighting the good fight–for caring about someone other than themselves, and especially for caring about someone who isn’t human; but…Okay, well, there’s racism, which says one race is better than another (or all others); and there’s speciesism, which says one species is better than one (or all) other specie(s).  This is kind of like racial speciesism, to me; or perhaps a better phrase would be the development of a speciesist hierarchy.  It doesn’t dispel the myth of human supremacy, but rather adds a footnote to it, an addendum:

“Humans are better than all other animals; but primates are pretty close.”

I’m reminded of one of Orwell’s Animal Farm laws: “All animals are equal; but some are more equal than others.”

This article highlights the fact that the chimpanzee case is only the beginning for the Nonhuman Rights Project:

Along with chimps, the Nh.R.P. plans to file similar lawsuits on behalf of other members of the great ape family (bonobos, orangutans and gorillas) as well as dolphins, orcas, belugas, elephants and African gray parrots — all beings with higher-order cognitive abilities.

Excuse me? Higher-order cognitive abilities? Let’s pretend for a second that that even matters.  If it mattered, there are several animals left off of this list: pigs, for instance, among the smartest animals in the world.  And birds.  Why only the African gray parrot? Many, MANY bird specie are possessed of exceptional cognitive abilities.  Some even have the capacity for aesthetics: The ability not only to create art, which speciesists love to argue happens in nature “by accident” and not due to anyone’s intent, but also to judge art–to deem this bit of art unpleasant and this other bit of art pleasant.

The male bowerbird, for instance, creates a tower known as a bower for the sole purpose of attracting a mate.  This is NOT a nest; he does not live in it.  He does not store food in it or shit in it or anything else.  He makes it solely in the hopes of attracting a lady.  The lady, in turn, judges the art; she selects which bower is the most pleasing to her aesthetic tastes and mates with the corresponding male.  This is a truly remarkable ability that few creatures have; but bowerbirds did not make the list.  Pigs didn’t, either.  Why?

Because THIS ISN’T REALLY ABOUT COGNITIVE ABILITY.  AT ALL.  This is about who is “like us” and who is “not like us.” This is otherization at its finest.  It’s easy to sympathize with chimps because they look and act a lot like humans.  It’s relatively easy to sympathize with parrots because they (well, most breeds, anyway) can be taught to speak in human tongues.  But it’s hard for most people to sympathize with pigs, in spite of their cognitive abilities, because all most people seem to know (or want to know) about pigs is that they are delicious.  They hear pig, they think pork; they do not think friend.

And what implications might this have for us humans, if universally accepted? Should humans with lesser cognitive abilities be subjected to mistreatment, isolation and exploitation? Should adults have to take an IQ test before society determines whether they get to live in peace or under a boot?

I really hope Wise and the others enabling animals to sue their captors have their way.  I hope the suit is successful; even though I blogged not too long ago about another attempt of Wise’s to defend animals in court, which failed.  The fact that he’s at it again so soon is encouraging, and I’m sure if he’s persistent enough he will make great waves.  He’s already making waves, by getting people like me (and other, far more important people, besides) to talk about him.

But it can’t end there.  We can’t let it end there.  We can’t allow the law to define a group of creatures as “special” and deserving of better treatment than others.  Not only is this not fair to the others but it also leans dangerously towards the welfarist mentality.  The issue can’t be how the captives are treated or how big their cages are; the issue at the forefront of our minds must always be the fact that we have non-human captives at all.

We must continue making waves, letting these chimp cases be but the first of a series of animal cases; but even when Tommy is given a bigger cage, and even if and when they capture a friend or two for him, and even if and when he is rescued from captivity altogether (which must remain our ultimate goal for him), we at DxE will continue fighting until every animal is free.

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Animal Liberation Demonstration at the Former Rancho Feeding Corp. Slaughterhouse

Hi, PALS!

Above is a link to an article posted this Monday, April 7th, 2014 in Press Democrat.  This past Monday, approximately thirty animal liberationists from various groups— including one young woman sporting a Direct Action Everywhere-produced t-shirt, which reads “We are all earthlings, united for animal liberation,” and a gentleman holding up a DxE placard that reads “It’s Not Food, It’s Violence”— demonstrated against both Petaluma and Marin Sun Farms. At the center of an international meat recall, the former Rancho Feeding Corp. slaughterhouse (now Marin Sun Farms) reopened on Monday under new management. Activists gathered at the site to raise their voices against the humane myth being perpetuated by said new management; Marin Sun Farms CEO David Evans claims, “The humane treatment of animals is in line with the principles of this company.” Maybe so (assuming anyone who believes in the principle of humane treatment of animals has ever decided to purchase a slaughterhouse, which I doubt); but it certainly isn’t in line with the company’s practices.

Various animal liberationists, including at least two possible members of DxE, protest the humane myth perpetuated by the new Marin Sun Farms’s management.

One of the demonstration’s organizers, Lisa Soldavini, told reporters:

“We thought that the slaughterhouse was going to get shut down and we were going to get rid of one more slaughterhouse…David Evans touts the fact that he is a humane farmer, but we believe there is no humane slaughter.”

This is not the first time Petaluma has found itself in hot water.  While I knew nothing of the meat recall, having left meat consumption behind me a decade ago, research for a book I am writing brought this company to my attention late last summer.  In 2012, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued both Petaluma Farms and Judy’s Family Farm (both in California) for using cage-free-indicative labels on their eggs and charging cage-free prices while continuing to keep their chickens in cages.

According to the lawsuit:

 “…the estimated 13,000 hens at Petaluma Egg Farms ‘spend their entire lives inside modern, barren industrial sheds with no grassy fields and no outdoor access,’ says the group, and are not raised in wide open spaces in Sonoma Valley, where they are free to ‘roam, scratch, and play.’ Nor do they have access to the outdoors and enjoy large communal areas with natural ventilation and sunlight.”

I love synchronicity. This lawsuit already helps to beautifully illustrate why “cage-free,” “grass-fed” and all these warm and fuzzy buzzwords don’t mean a thing.  This company lied to its consumers for who knows how long, tricking them into paying top dollar for eggs so as to alleviate their (the consumers’) own guilt.  Countless citizens naively thought that they were minimizing animal cruelty and supporting “humane farming” by buying Petaluma eggs rather than other eggs; and they were all wrong.  Fundamentally wrong, as Laura’s comment illustrates; but even in a more literal sense, they were incorrect.  Petaluma eggs did not come from chickens who were raised more gently or kindly than any other industrial egg-farmer’s chickens.  Petaluma, like Chipotle and humane-washing establishments everywhere, manipulated public sympathies to increase its profit margins.

Laura’s comment pushes the envelope even further, and illuminates the truest, strongest, “real-est” reason that humane-washing buzzwords miss the point entirely: at the end of the day, slaughter is slaughter, and it is inherently cruel.  There is no humane way to kill someone; and in the case of chickens, there is no humane way to keep them captive while stealing their bodily byproducts.

Even if you think it’s “okay” to eat eggs because they’re unfertilized, the chickens “don’t need them” or any of a number of explanations I’ve heard in the past, what do you think happens to the hens when they can no longer produce eggs, or can’t do it quickly enough to turn a profit higher than the cost of feeding and housing them? To the slaughterhouse they go; or even worse, to the alleyway or field or even garbage bin, where they are abandoned, left to die of starvation and/or exposure.

Petaluma, Marin Sun Farms and Chipotle are just the beginning.  The movement is building; the ship is at sea. Will you take the helm?

Hi, PALS!

Before we get to the nitty-gritty, I just want to let y’all know that I’m moving to Oakland and will be joining DxE there, and so will not officially be a member of PALS anymore 😦 This may be my last post for a while, but I will still post occassionally and will still also be contributing to our newsletter, PALS Quarterly: Animal Liberation News and Fun Stuff.  Our next issue is scheduled for release in April 2014.  It’s been a pleasure working with PALS and I thank them, and you, for making my yearlong sojourn in Arizona meaningful.

Today’s New York Times released an article entitled The Mammoth Cometh, addressing the very real possibility of bringing back extinct specie via new genomic technologies developed by Harvard molecular biologist George Church. The article begins with a romantic ode to the passenger pigeon, a species which existed in abundance as recently as the 1860s but of which the last known representative– a captive pigeon named Martha at the Cincinnati Zoo–passed away in 1914.

“The fact that we can pinpoint the death of the last known passenger pigeon is one of many peculiarities that distinguish the species. Many thousands of species go extinct every year, but we tend to be unaware of their passing, because we’re unaware of the existence of most species. The passenger pigeon’s decline was impossible to ignore, because as recently as the 1880s, it was the most populous vertebrate in North America. It made up as much as 40 percent of the continent’s bird population. In “A Feathered River Across the Sky,” Joel Greenberg suggests that the species’ population “may have exceeded that of every other bird on earth.” In 1860, a naturalist observed a single flock that he estimated to contain 3,717,120,000 pigeons. By comparison, there are currently 260 million rock pigeons in existence. A single passenger-pigeon nesting ground once occupied an area as large as 850 square miles, or 37 Manhattans.”

The article goes on to explain how Stewart Brand, founder and former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, learned of the aforementioned technologies and got to work on a campaign to resurrect the passenger pigeon. Brand hoped that the pigeon project would provide “a beacon of hope for conservation,” and conference attendees at both Harvard Medical School and the National Geographic Society (where conferences about this movement were held) tended to agree.  The prevailing voice at these conferences was one of support: and Church saw it was good, it was good.

And why shouldn’t they show support? This is already happening; it just hasn’t happened to the passenger pigeon yet, or any of the large, “cool” animals like mammoths. Over ten years ago, Dr Alberto Fernández-Arias and his team “de-extincted” the bucardo, a subspecies of mountain goat also known as the Pyrenean ibex, that went extinct in 2000.

Here’s where it gets interesting for us animal liberationists. On the surface, this does in fact sound like a great thing. We’ve caused so much damage to the Earth that we’ve sacrificed many of its previous occupants.  If we can bring them back, perhaps we can treat them better this time around.  Perhaps they, and the Earth, will forgive us our past transgressions. The world naturally aims at genetic diversity. Wouldn’t bringing back old specie only contribute to Earth’s natural intention? Re-instate Mama Nature as the true decider of what lives and dies–instead of us?

Not so much. For starters, many extinct animals lived in conditions that can no longer be replicated–or at least cannot be replicated without a lot of time, money, and planning.  In short, can’t be replicated naturally. Nathaniel Rich in the NYT article argues:

“Just as the loss of a species decreases the richness of an ecosystem, the addition of new animals could achieve the opposite effect. The grazing habits of mammoths, for instance, might encourage the growth of a variety of grasses, which could help to protect the Arctic permafrost from melting — a benefit with global significance, as the Arctic permafrost contains two to three times as much carbon as the world’s rain forests.”

How exactly would the fact that mammoths require certain grasses to feed naturally result in an abundance of said grasses?  Wouldn’t they just look for the grasses, not find them, and starve? I thought it worked the other way around: that the presence of grasses would increase the mammoth population, rather than an abundance of mammoths resulting in a magical increase in food supply.

An alternative would be to unnaturally plant these grasses again, in places where we want mammoths to live–which means we humans would have to decide in advance where we will allow these creatures to live and where we will NOT allow them to live. Is this any different from keeping an animal at a zoo? Are we to bring back all these glorious creatures we prematurely sentenced to death (okay, so maybe we didn’t kill the mammoth; but that’s one of precious few exceptions), only to sentence them to imprisonment instead? And if we decide, “Okay, so these pastures here, these will be for the mammoths,” what will happen to the people who are doubtlessly already living on or otherwise utilizing said pastures? What will happen when the mammoth population outgrows the area we have allocated to it?

This is not re-instating Mama Nature; it’s mocking her. It’s God-play if ever I saw it:”We giveth, and we taketh away”–We beginning with the Scientist and ending with the Politician.

“So what would you have us do, Miss Saryta? Let them stay dead? Isn’t it always kinder to give life than to give death?”

Depends on the quality of life, I suppose. I don’t know.  I don’t have an answer at the moment–though, as you can probably tell, I’m leaning ever-so-slightly towards This is a very bad idea.

So far I’ve tried to be practical about it; but let’s explore the sci-fi-slash-not-so-fi-anymore side of things.  We know we can genetically “modify”/mutate animals (and plants, for that matter) already. Featherless chickens. Fast-aging, anorexic tilapia. Glow-in-the-dark cats. Glittery, golden seahorses–made with REAL GOLD. Look it up.  I sh*t you not.

Now imagine what someone with a vast intellect and limited moral compass could do with a friggin’ MAMMOTH. Scared yet? You should be.

And to keep our egos in check, let us acknowledge just for a moment, as Rich dutifully did in the NYT article, that “de-extinction” is a misnomer.  We’re not talking about bringing pigeons back from the dead; we are talking about altering the genetic makeup of currently existing pigeons (band-tailed pigeons, specifically) in an effort to replicate the departed. Ed Green, a biomolecular engineer who works on genome-sequencing technology in the U.C. Santa Cruz paleogenomics lab, said “There are a million things that you cannot predict about an organism just from having its genome sequence.” Will these be passenger pigeons, reborn? Mutated band-tailed pigeons who can no longer mate with, or perhaps even peacefully co-exist with, natural band-tailed pigeons? Or will they form a new species entirely?

My final concern is with respect to the effect this might have on human/societal behavior.  If we knew we could bring back any extinct species whenever we wanted to, what would be the impetus to halt species-destroying activities such as meat consumption and deforestation? Might humans begin to act even less ecologically responsibly than we already do, armed with the presumption that we can simply “undo” any harm we cause down the road?

Eager to hear your thoughts, as always!

Thanks for reading,

SARYTA_Blog Signature

Hi, PALS,

In 2013, the following animals were killed by industrial means here in America (figures courtesy of the Humane Society):

Over 10,500 cattle

Nearly 3 million chickens (over 2,800,000)

Over 8,000 ducks

Over 37,000 pigs

727 sheep and lambs

Nearly 79,000 turkeys (over 78,800)

Total: Over 3 billion animals

Since 2012, with the exception of cattle, each and every one of these figures has risen.  Cattle deaths experienced a drop of fewer than 100.

These numbers also fail to express the number of fish and other ocean-life deaths, as well as the deaths of rabbits and other animals the USDA doesn’t feel are “important” enough to even bother reporting on! The most recent data concerning rabbits is that approximately 2 million of them were slaughtered in the US in 2001.

I humbly ask that you engage in a Moment of Silence after you read this sentence, in honor of the above victims.  

Thank you.  Let’s do whatever it takes to see ALL these numbers drop in 2014.

SARYTA_Blog Signature