By John Carbonaro (The opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY). “Retribution means we eventually do to ourselves what we do to others.” – Eric Hoffer Retributive justice is a systematic infliction of punishment justified on grounds that the wrongdoing committed by a criminal has created an imbalance in…
Posted by tinako on October 5, 2015
Posted by tinako on October 2, 2015
Two tasks I’ve been doing for an Animal Rights group lately have made me ponder. I’m organizing the large number of issue flyers we bring to tabling events, and responding to messages for help for animals via social media. We can refer people to animal rescue organizations and hope for the best, but we are an educational org and don’t do hands-on rescue. It is heartbreaking to feel so helpless in the face of the real-time suffering people bring to our virtual doorstep. But as I told a recent correspondent regarding farm animal abuse that she witnessed, rescue is mopping up the mess that meat makes. And isn’t that true of most of our brochures? “What’s wrong with…” Leather & Wool, Circuses, Dog Fighting, Fur Trim, Dairy, Cage-Free Eggs, Devocalization. This display rack represents a small portion of the mess that speciesism makes.
I was thinking this morning that attacking this multitude is like a game of Whac-a-mole, but that is a violent analogy I would prefer to avoid. So instead let’s talk about dikes, as in the little Dutch boy trying to stop a dam leak with his finger. To me this metaphor means that one person can make a difference, but it’s not a good long-term strategy, much less a permanent solution. I like this analogy with Animal Rights, because behind that dike is a body of water, and behind all the exploitation is speciesism. With the pressure of speciesism present, the only thing holding abuse back at all is human decency, and that is pretty darn leaky.
Now, once we look over the dike at the bog*, maybe we start thinking that the real solution is to drain it. This means that instead of talking about making cages a little bigger or even not eating chickens, we can speak generally about our underlying assumptions about animals that define how we relate to them. Speciesism.
After we’ve been working on that for a while, we notice that this bog has other dikes on it, and we wander over to see how they’re holding up. Just as leaky, and the victims getting drenched all around the bog are other races, other genders, other sexualities, other abilities. The bog turns out not to be speciesism, but the general belief that some lives are worth less than others. What is the word that encompasses all the ways that people decide others are not as important as themselves? Let me know what you think – I’ve been looking for this word that links all these assumptions.
Now, some of the people working over on the other dikes have also figured out that we need to drain the bog, so they’re bailing away, and that’s great, but you notice that sometimes they are bailing the water towards your dike. An example of this would be a social justice or rescue organization holding a chicken barbecue fundraiser.**
“Hmm,” you say, “This is all one bog. Wouldn’t it be better to bail outside all the dikes?”
“We are focused on those suffering outside our dike,” is the reply. “Those outside your dike are not as important. Everyone knows that, so if anyone heard your suggestion, they would be offended that you think so little of this dike that you compare it to that one.” Or, “We need to solve this problem first. After we’ve bailed this side of the bog completely dry, maybe we can bail your side.” So they continue to throw the water towards your end of the bog, and you wonder in what way these bailers, who rank the value of lives according to degree of perceived difference from themselves, differ from those who have filled the bog in the first place. Who is filling the bog?
And water does what it does when it’s pushed instead of drained, and human nature does what it does when biases are rearranged instead of uprooted. And we remember Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words freshly:
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Here are some rearrangements for you to ponder:
*Disclaimer – I have nothing against real bogs, which are valued ecosystems. We should only be draining metaphorical bogs, symbols of stagnation, disease and decay.
** An example going the other way would be a sexist animal rights protest. There are lots of these.
Posted by tinako on September 7, 2015
By John Carbonaro (The opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY). Often when people converse with vegans they attempt to find variations on how to use animals more “nicely”. We often respond that if you put a person in that “humane” situation, would it still be acceptable? This is…
Posted by tinako on August 10, 2015
by Linda Brink [The opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY.] I was thinking about how Cecil’s last hours might have passed. In the first cool breezes of evening, he would have scented the freshly spilled blood that drew him to the kill zone—the bait being another victim destroyed…
Posted by tinako on August 3, 2015
By John Carbonaro (The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY) Back when i was in high school, we didn’t dissect. That happened at my community college. A lot has changed in H.S. since then, including going from the ‘typical’ earthworm/frog to… cats. The focus on the dissection of cats and the…
Posted by tinako on June 28, 2015
I was tabling for our local vegan society and a GMO Labeling Bill a few weeks ago, and I was struck by the despair expressed by a few people who came up to me. “No one cares, even when they know the facts about animals,” said one woman. An organic farmer said, “Monsanto is so big. People don’t know. Who will tell them?”
My responses? Who will tell them? “Me!!” No one cares? “On this side of the table, I return to the same locations and every year hear from people who have come to care based on the info that I gave them last year. In my personal life, I know several people who are vegan directly because I am.”
While I am sad at the effects of animal exploitation and GMOs, I am undaunted by the scope of the problem, because that is not my task. Someone said,
It is not for us to peer dimly into the future
but to face the issue clearly at hand.
What I can’t do is not my job. My job is to do what I can do.
What other people do is not my job. My job is to do what I can do.
And I can show up with a table and some vegan and GMO materials, stand there a few hours and do my best to answer questions. This is not impossible.
Vegan educator Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something.”
I thought about all this as I have spent many hours pulling and bagging invasive alien Garlic Mustard from woods by myself (with permission), and knowing I will have to repeat this for several years in each site before the seeds existing in the soil are all gone. I would look up and see a large area infested, but before I could lose heart, I looked down at my feet and said to myself, “That area is not my job. Next year is not my job. This right here within my reach, this is my job right now. Now it’s this plant. Now this one.” I would think about the relief the remaining, native plants will have with this individual allelopathic poisoner gone, and the relief the animals who live here will have when a co-evolved native plant of use to them can flourish. After a while I looked around and the area was cleared. This year.
My son thinks I’m nuts with a goal of eventually clearing an entire woods, but I see no contradiction in attempting the seemingly impossible. I can’t rid the continent of this disruptive pest by myself, but as long as I have sufficient health, and as long as I care, I can pull that one. And now it will never seed.
I tutor inner city elementary students, mostly immigrant refugees, a few hours a week. Will I solve our country’s education crisis? That’s not my job. One week my task was to show 40 kids, not all of whom speak English, how to use a protractor. Done.
In analyzing what is my job, two aspects to consider are, 1. are my efforts efficient and useful?, and 2. what do I do with failures?
As for the first, I try what seems sensible, listen to constructive feedback (seeking out contradictory opinions), watch carefully for results, and adjust. I will choose this path over paralytic indecision. As for the second question, first be sure you have defined failure correctly. If I am vegan, someone asks me why, and they don’t immediately go vegan, have I failed? Not if my goal was to express my veganism – automatic success. If I approach a non-profit and they talk with me about social justice for animals but ultimately decide not to make any changes, did I fail? Not if my goal was to offer a wider view of social justice for their consideration. If I find I could have done better, I can learn and either try another direct approach or “go around.”
Each plant pulled, each person spoken to, each person who sees me rejoice in my vegan life. Was I solving animal and consumer exploitation at that tabling event? No. That is not my job. Was I making a difference? You betcha.
Will you join me? Please consider volunteering for any organization which is striving to make the world a better place, one action at a time.
Posted by tinako on June 1, 2015
The woman in line in front of me was buying a baby chick.
He was dead of course.
And his little mutilated body was displayed in a clear plastic casket.
I could have turned away.
But I felt that to do so would have been one more insult to the short life of this creature.
I had a chance to be the only one to meet him who had ever had a kind thought for him.
And so I stayed with him as he rode the conveyor belt.
And I thought about what his life must have been like.
Only six weeks old, he still had the peeps of a chick when he was sent to slaughter along with everyone he had ever known.
I’m so sorry, I said to him, and I cried.
It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. – Jiddu Krishnamurti
I’m grateful to the person whose car I was behind on the way home. Her hatchback plastered with defiant vegan stickers, I bet “CHICKIDEE” would have understood.
Posted by tinako on June 1, 2015
By John Carbonaro [The opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY.] In the 1950’s Dr. Harry Harlow conducted psychological experiments on baby rhesus monkeys to research the effects of maternal deprivation on attachment and growth. He created wire “mothers” capable of dispensing milk, and mothers made of cloth which…
Posted by tinako on May 29, 2015
by Linda Brink
Bryan Graczyk recently posted these extraordinarily interesting quotes on AR-Global:
Navajo warning: “If you kill off the prairie dogs there will be no one to cry for rain.”
Hopi Elder: “Water under the ground has much to do with rain clouds. If you take the water from under the ground, the land will dry up.”
Posted by tinako on May 13, 2015
Wesleyan U. Social Psychology Professor Scott Plous studies people’s attitudes towards using animal products. I’m taking his intro to social psych online course and we had to participate in this interesting survey. I plan to read his research, but this survey shows you what the front end looks like (at least part of it – your answers determine what further questions you get, like a “Write your own adventure.” It’s open to the public, so give it a try, help Prof Plous figure out what’s going on.