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On Smushing Bugs

Posted by tinako on March 6, 2015

16MENAGERIE-blog480I think this book excerpt from The N.Y. Times, “On Smushing Bugs,” is just beautiful.

I love his wording – a “karmic broken-window theory,” “the oubliette of the vacuum bag,” and his natural compassion tested by “the tiny black turd in my mug.”

I love the picture; this man is about to kill, but he is looking, peeking even though it is painful, and he sees.  He sees an anthropomorphic cartoon ant, but… more metaphorically, he sees himself in the ant, as the Buddha said:

All beings tremble before violence.
All love life.
All fear death.
See yourself in others.
Then whom can you hurt?  What harm can you do?

But mostly I love his humility, his questioning, his looking deeply into himself, looking for the truth no matter where it takes him, even to a cliff or dead end of choices he doesn’t want to make.

This isn’t a how-to essay, and claims only to ask questions, not answer them, so he doesn’t mention that prevention adds a choice between re-washing all your dishes every day or pulling on your executioner’s hood.

I must admit to mixed results with prevention.  But maybe we don’t need all the answers right away.  Maybe looking, within and without, is the path to figuring out how we want to be in the world.

 

Posted in Animals, AR, Buddhism | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ringling to phase out elephants by 2018

Posted by tinako on March 5, 2015

I don’t usually just repost news stories, but this one is so close to my heart and so exciting I just have to share:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/df575148221544f4adaf3bea2adbb635/apnewsbreak-ringling-bros-eliminating-elephant-acts

Mr. Feld says they’re reacting to the changing public mood.  Thank you to everyone who told him what you think of Ringling’s use of elephants.

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Revived AR website with local bloggers

Posted by tinako on March 2, 2015

aralogo521x521I’m in the local AR group Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate N.Y.  We just re-launched our website, arauny.org, with a schedule of local writers contributing to our blog a few times a week.

Check it out and subscribe by email or social media for updates.

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It’s Time for the Canadian Seal Hunt to End

Posted by tinako on February 28, 2015

by Anonymous
As February winds down and we look forward to spring, a grim reality disguised as “tradition” comes forth. The annual slaughter of baby harp seals begins as soon as the pups start shedding their white coats and ice conditions permit. A white, pristine nursery where hundreds of thousands of seal mothers nurse their young becomes a horrifying, bloody killing field.

It’s Time for the Canadian Seal Hunt to End was originally published on Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate, N.Y.

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I was an Omnitarian

Posted by tinako on January 29, 2015

Gary Francione with his rescued pound puppies

Gary Francione with his rescued pound puppies

I’ve been listening to old podcasts by Gary Francione while I clean, and while I don’t agree with everything I’ve read of his, I’ve found an awful lot of sense in these audio commentaries.  One of the points he makes is to stop telling people that vegetarianism is morally better than omnivorism.

This has sunk in, and a concrete effect is that when people ask how long I’ve been vegan, I have made a personal choice to stop mentioning when I went vegetarian, which was 15 years earlier.  I’ve also removed it from any social website bios.  I had been taking credit for that 15 years, but the dairy cows and egg-laying hens are unimpressed, and I no longer want to trumpet it.

I’m vegan.  I’ve been vegan since Easter 2008, full stop.  Before that I was an omnivore.

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The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food

Posted by tinako on January 17, 2015

chainI just read half of The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of our Food by Ted Genoways.  It seems well-researched, and though I personally found the history of slaughterhouse labor unions tedious, that does explain how we got the system we have.  Having read Fast Food Nation years ago, much of the material was not new to me.

I expected this book would explore the social justice issues around Big Meat, and I was hoping that would include justice for non-human animals. Halfway through, I seemed to have already passed the chapters dealing with inhumane treatment, and it became pretty clear that this author is only appalled by a factory killing 13,000 pigs a day in that it is unsafe for workers and consumers; as long as we can stop workers from beating or sodomizing the pigs (doubtful), he seems more-or-less OK with the pigs lives and deaths.  I have all compassion for the workers, both American-born and immigrant, and am grateful that their story is being told, and I greatly appreciated the paragraph that found compassion even for abusers, caught up in the system themselves. From other reviews, however, it seems as though I am justified in putting down the book, that I would read in vain for even a passing thought given to asking: Is this system not working because it’s big and fast, or because it’s inherently, *inescapably* violent.

For example, the author indicates understanding that, when you have to move a mother that has been immobilized in a cage no larger than herself for months, and she finds it difficult or painful to walk and doesn’t want to, you have to make her, and that probably means hurting her. He seems satisfied that as a result of being caught abusing pigs while moving them, the business decided to move pigs less.  So… the solution to crippling animals by not allowing them to move is: to keep them from moving even more. What he doesn’t mention is that, on top of the obvious cruelty of immobilizing an animal even longer, the pigs do have to move at least once, to the truck and off the truck to slaughter, and that is where a lot of abuse happens, for exactly the same reason: crippled, terrified pigs. But he never makes the connection that we have another choice.

I didn’t expect this to be an animal rights book, but there was no acknowledgement of this choice, and the omission was glaring. This author is subtle, and often seems to let the facts speak for themselves rather than editorializing, but while you can often infer his discomfort with certain things, there is no hint given that he is not 100% comfortable with the killing.

Violence is arguably never useful, and in this case, it’s so unnecessary, so transparently frivolous: Spam. I was hoping that a compassionate author would make this connection, and my disappointment is why I didn’t like the book.  Would you want to finish a book about injustice written by a racist?  Perhaps an investigation on how difficult life in the southern slave states was for the poor whites, a book which only seems to be bothered by slavery if there’s beating involved?  Being a non-speciesist, that’s how I felt about this book.

Posted in Environment, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What is Speciesism?

Posted by tinako on December 8, 2014

HumanRightsCapitalism-1024x637An animal rights organization I’m in was invited to participate in a Human Rights Day program, organized by Rochester Human Rights Committee, whose website is almost as out-of-date as ours.  The program was fantastic, and very well organized.  I’d estimate 200 people attended.  And check out their event image, which totally includes animals in every way!

One of the speakers, Paola Macas Betchart, indicated she hoped to speak about Nature Rights that had been added to the national constitution of Ecuador.  Unfortunately I had to leave before she said any more about it.

Poster InjusticeI tabled, which means I sat and handed out leaflets and talked to people.  To prepare I made a poster about injustice.

I also wrote a handout about speciesism, because I couldn’t find a concise explanation that made sense to me.  I would have liked to include a cool banner image from veganism.com but I didn’t hear back from them giving me permission.  Here’s what my flyer said:


What is Speciesism?

Speciesism is discrimination against nonhuman animals based only on their species or irrelevant characteristics.

“But non-human animals are so different from us, right?”

In some ways, of course. The differences between humans and other animals mean they probably shouldn’t be given the right to vote or drive. But what about more fundamental rights, such as:

  • the right not to be property, to be exploited
  • the right not to have pain inflicted on them
  • the right to their environment and habitat

What would be the relevant criteria here? Most would say it is whether animals have their own interests, and can feel pain. What does science say about whether animals meet these criteria? It says, resoundingly:               Yes, they do.

“But animals don’t have… language, social structures, rationality, self-consciousness…”

Actually, science says many animals do. And many humans don’t (such as infants or the cognitively-impaired). So if we don’t offer rights to animals that do have these qualifications, and we don’t strip rights from humans who don’t, we are not deciding based on relevant criteria but merely favoring our own species.

And that is speciesism.

Does speciesism share any features with other biases that most people consider wrong, like racism, ageism, sexism, or heterosexism, features such as:

  • ignorance?
  • a preference for those who are like us?
  • the details considered (such as skin color) are irrelevant to the rights refused (such as freedom from slavery)?

“Wait, that can’t be right. That means we can’t use animals anymore!”

Our culture is so conditioned to think of animals as ours to use however we want, that it can be difficult at first to consider speciesism as wrong. It has always been challenging for people living in biased cultures to break free. But it is being done right now. Alongside people who are trying to eliminate racism and other biases, are people trying to eliminate speciesism, in their own lives and in their culture. Actions against all these biases complement each other, because the root is the same: ignorance about those who seem different.

“How do people avoid speciesism?”

Veganism is the first step, a moral baseline for those who reject speciesism. Veganism includes non-participation in any exploitation of animals. This and other actions we take, such as protecting habitat, supporting legal rights for animals, or reconsidering our speech, can express our respect for all our fellow creatures, and help to build a more just world.

Vegan Ethic

Veganism is a moral and ethical way of living.

It is the practice of non-cooperation and non-participation in anything that exploits nonhuman animals, humans, or the environment.

It is a moral baseline for our conduct and how we are revealed to the world.

Posted in Animals, AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Hunter Accidentally Shot in the Face

Posted by tinako on November 24, 2014

A local hunter was accidentally shot in the face on opening day here; I guess he’s going to be OK.  Some in our AR community struggled with their feelings following this news; how does it make you feel?  After about a week of online comments, I offered the following:

With understanding that it is normal and natural to have many different reactions to this news story, but that we can choose which paths to follow, I wonder if anyone would be interested in my understanding of karma, which others here have been mentioning?  If not, click delete.  Nothing here is new, just hopefully clarity on a concept that is often muddled with several meanings, and how karma can work for us.

By my understanding: Karma was originally Hindu, and that is the idea most modern people have of karma: divine justice, something (“the universe”) or someone who keeps track and evens the score.  The Buddha, who lived in Hindu India, found this unhelpful because it didn’t allow room for change.  He understood that even good people may have to suffer for their past harmful actions, but that they would be better off because of the good they were doing now (example: Angulimala) – pertinent to any of us who ever screwed up!  Anyway, Buddhist karma can be seen in two lights: One is the ripple effect, that the kind acts or speech or even “vibe/energy” we put out, affects others and has a chance of coming back to us – we are making the world a better place, and that’s the place we live, so it’s better for us.  Even if the effect is small, we are not making things worse.  I think this is pretty evidently true.  The second way Buddhist karma can be understood is that no matter what effect our acts have “out there,” they have done something to us on the way out.  For example, loving someone who hates us is better than hating them, because we will be happier filled with love than with hate.  I have found this “instant karma” to be true as well, and the effect will probably be huge, life-changing.  So you see, Buddhist karma is more like a law of nature than a faith in justice.

Celebrating accidental violence may fill us with a much-needed sense of satisfaction that the scorekeeper is on duty, but how does it impact us under the Buddhist understanding?  What do we set into the world when we express gladness at others’ misfortunes (what kind of world are we creating), and what does this Schadenfreude (harm-joy) do to us on the way out?

None of this is to say that a person struggling with feelings of joy is a bad person, just that an understanding of the harm it does to ourselves and others may be useful in letting it go.  And we can choose to be glad that the man is not hunting right now, without being glad that it’s because he was hurt.

Namaste.

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Elephants Wish They Could Forget

Posted by tinako on November 24, 2014

My friend George Payne of Gandhi Earth Keepers International came out with us to picket the opening night of Ringling’s visit to our city.  Afterwards he wrote the following:

by George Payne

Along with a dozen other local animal rights advocates from Upstate New York, I recently participated in a silent demonstration against the Ringling Brothers Circus. We gathered on a chilly October night in front of the Blue Cross Arena, while hundreds of people trickled into the building’s entrance. Our handmade yellow signs bore slogans such as, “Animals are born to be wild;” “Elephants Wish They Could Forget;” and “Boulder, CO Banned Animal Circuses.”

While standing in line with my yellow sign, I began to think about the evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, who once said: ”Each culture has its own creation myth, the primary functions of which are to place the tribe that contrived it at the center of the universe, and to portray history as a noble epic.”

It occurred to me while contemplating Wilson’s quote that most people cannot psychologically consume the pain of these animals because they are not portrayed as being at the center of their noble epic. By and large, animals in our society are treated as resources, tools, pets, game, mascots, predators, clothing and costumes. Rarely are animals seen as having intrinsic value with their own “special” center. The reason for this blindness stems from a condition called aristocentrism. This is an unwarranted claim to superiority. In different ways we conclude that we are special, and insist that the cosmos have anointed us. We believe that our existence has the most special meaning of all, and that we have rare knowledge or a message to give to the rest of Creation. Inevitably this world view degenerates into an inordinate claim to superiority for oneself or one’s group. (The word aristocentrism comes from the Greek words agathos, “good” and kentrikos, from kentron, “the center of a circle.”)

The problem with aristocentrism is that it is based on an illusion. We are not the center of the universe. Our species is not the most important group in the cosmos. There are symbiotic relationships between all living beings that make superiority impossible. That is precisely why Gandhi wrote: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how its animals are treated.”

The way we view our place in the cosmos has a direct impact on the way we treat all other animals; and the way we treat all other animals determines the quality of our character as moral agents. It was Gandhi’s belief that the strong have an obligation to protect the weak. The fact that circus animals are kidnapped, caged, drugged, intimidated, beaten, and exploited, means that people of freedom, sobriety, fearlessness, and physical strength should come to their aid. By coming to the aid of weaker animals in their time of ultimate need, we activate our best selves and overcome our limitations as a fundamentally egocentric species.

But to be in true solidarity with our fellow bio-companions, means that we see their worth as existing independent of our ability to appreciate and defend it.

In the Emotional Lives of Animals, author Marc Bekoff proves that nonhuman creatures exhibit Charles Darwin’s six universal emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise). He shows that wild and domestic species have a kaleidoscopic range of feelings, from embarrassment to awe, and that we dismiss them not only at their peril but our own. Bekoff writes, “It’s bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions. Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, and social neuroscience supports the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich and deep emotional lives. Emotions have evolved as adaptations in numerous species, and they serve as a social glue to bond animals with one another.”

One of the main reasons I chose to participate in the silent demonstration against Ringling Brothers was to physically and spiritually acknowledge this primal wisdom that Bekoff writes about so eloquently in his books. Elephants are a prime example. Just to acknowledge the suffering of elephants trapped in circuses is an act of resistance. Nearly all 60 Asian elephants incarcerated by Ringling were captured in the wild. Baby elephants suffer painful rope lesions when being pulled prematurely from their mothers. There is a chronic failure to test elephants for tuberculosis, unsanitary feeding practices, and a failure to maintain, clean, and repair their transport cages. There is an overall inability to provide adequate veterinary care. Elephants get pushed and prodded with bullhooks, and they are forced to perform whether they are healthy or sick.

According to PETA, Ringling has admitted to chaining elephants by two legs, on a concrete floor, for 16 hours a day, which is a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act. They have also admitted to chaining elephants in boxcars an average of 26 straight hours (often 60 hours) when traveling. Treatment of animals like baby elephants has gotten so bad even corporate giants such as VISA, MasterCard, Denny’s, and Sears & Roebuck have ended their promotion of the circus.

These creatures are not dependent on human beings to guarantee them their rights; but we cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner without animals as miraculous and beautiful as Asian elephants being free of confinement, harassment, torture, and murder. Asian elephants console others who are in distress using physical touches and vocalizations. They have been shown to demonstrate keen intelligence. Like people, they live in complex societies with family units at their core. For these reasons alone, we must put a stop to this slavery. Let’s prove that we are not a nation of cowards and killers but a community of friends working for the betterment of all species. This is what Gandhi meant when he employed the term Sarvodaya. The least we can do is stand outside with a yellow protest sign.

Information obtained from: http://www.MediaPeta.com/Peta/PDF/RinglingFactssheet.pdf
Spring 2014 Emory Magazine (What Can Animals Teach Us? pg.35)

Posted in Animals, AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Your newspaper may print the truth about circuses

Posted by tinako on November 1, 2014

Educational or Entertaining?  You decide.

Educational or Entertaining? You decide. You can view videos of Ringling’s backstage beatings at RinglingBeatsAnimals.com.

With Ringling Circus coming to our city, a group of us were inspired to take some actions against this barbaric industry (and other animal entertainments).  To support these efforts, I wrote a letter to the editor which was published in our city newspaper last month:

Ban Barbaric Businesses

Ringling Brothers Circus is coming to Rochester at the end of the month. Both dog fighting and animal circuses abuse animals for profit and entertainment. Why condemn and outlaw one and buy tickets to the other? Patronize the wonderful non-animal circuses that come here instead, such as Circus Orange and Cirque du Soleil. Tell your friends, and ask the City Council to ban these barbaric businesses from our community.

Ringling’s PR person got right on that and fired off a response:

Once again, animal rights activists are using our return to Rochester to distort Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s excellent record of animal care.

Everyone with Ringling Bros. takes great pride in presenting quality family entertainment to audiences across the country, but animal rights activists continue to level spurious charges against Ringling Bros.’ dedicated team of animal care professionals.

Ringling Bros. is proud of its human and animal partnerships and the needs of our animals are a top priority. Ringling Bros. meets or exceeds all federal, state and local animal standards, is subject to regular unannounced inspections, and has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Rather than take what animal rights groups say at face value, we invite Rochester families to come see for themselves how the animals are thriving at The Greatest Show On Earth.

STEPHEN PAYNE
FELD ENTERTAINMENT (PARENT COMPANY OF RINGLING BROS.), VIENNA, VA

His distortion of the truth and silly logic made it easy for us.  Someone I don’t know but would like to meet responded in a letter printed October 15th:

Circus should allow access behind the scenes

In response to Stephen Payne, Feld Entertainment, parent company of Ringling Bros., who invites Rochester families to see for themselves how their animals are thriving in their circus, I wonder why he doesn’t invite these families behind the scenes to see how well the animals are housed and treated or install live Web cameras on a website for the public to view.

Each city Ringling Bros. comes to, including Rochester, should install video cameras in the animal quarters to personally view Ringling Bros.’ supposedly humane treatment and hold it accountable for any mistreatment.

This is great, but League of Humane Voters of Rochester felt that the claim that they’d never been found in violation of the AWA had to be answered, and our letter was printed a few days ago:

Ringling Fine Wasn’t Mentioned

In a recent letter, a Ringling Brothers’ representative claims Ringling “has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.” But in 2011, Ringling was slapped with a $270,000 fine (the maximum allowed by law) for 27 violations.

In addition, the writer suggests people come to watch the show to see how the animals are thriving. Behind-the-scene abuse, however, is there for all to see online by Googling “Ringling abuse.”

Join the families who have said “no” to this sort of animal cruelty. Support non-animal entertainment as an act of compassion and support a proposed ordinance recently presented to the Rochester City Council that would ban animal circuses.

This was printed in the paper days before the circus came.  It was better before they edited it*, but see how easy it is to reach thousands of people with the truth?  It took me less than ten minutes to write those two letters, some time over the course of a day for our group to revise the second one, and probably forty seconds to submit it to the newspaper.

You can support our efforts here by starting or intensifying your own action in your city.  The more we can show that this is not a handful of local nuts but a worldwide movement of compassion and justice, the sooner we can end this nightmare.


* For the record, here is what we actually wrote to the newspaper, which was well within their LTE word count:

A representative of Ringling Brothers, Stephen Payne, recently wrote a letter to this newspaper defending the treatment of the animals under their care, saying Ringling “has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act” and suggesting people come watch the show to see how the animals are thriving.

Mr. Payne failed to mention that in 2011 the USDA slapped Ringling Brothers with a $270,000 fine, the largest in the history of the Animal Welfare Act and the maximum allowed by law for what the USDA said was 27 violations.

And while it’s ridiculous to think that anyone could confirm what Ringling calls their “excellent record of animal care” by attending a public performance, the behind-the-scenes evidence of abuse is there for all to see online by Googling “Ringling abuse.”

If any of this makes you too uncomfortable to enjoy the circus, you’re not alone – Ringling continues to cancel performances (73 fewer than 2013 – a reduction of 12%) due to declining attendance.

Join the families who have said “no” to supporting this sort of animal cruelty and abuse. Support non-animal entertainment instead as an act of compassion – and support an ordinance banning animal circuses which was recently presented to the Rochester City Council.

Posted in Animals, AR, Social Justice | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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