Jeffrey Masson on Our Fear of Being Eaten

A young crocodile who utters a distress call will bring immediate help from completely unrelated adult crocodiles, even if it means risking their lives…Obviously this altruism does not extend to us.  Saltwater crocodiles kill approximately one person every year in Australia.  The same is true, more or less, in North America, where between 2000 and 2010, the American alligator killed thirteen people.  In sub-Saharan Africa, however, it is believed that the Nile crocodile kills hundreds (possibly thousands) of people each year.

We are not prey for most supreme predators, but we are for crocodiles it would seem.  They happily consume us.

Read the full post and wish Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson a happy birthday here! (Birthday is the 28th; post timed to catch it in the New Zealand time zone.)


Banner photo from: 

The True Nature

Meg profileVeganism is about, primarily, non-exploitation. Making it about the animals is like making feminism about the females. Not only does it maintain and enforce the separation and hierarchy of us and them – it creates a victim group, leaving little room for a perception of the true nature of anyone involved.
– Meg Graney

Thank you, Meg, for that thought for today, and…happy birthday!

Animals 24-7: Humane Society CEO Woos Anti-Gay Evangelist

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, explained: “It’s part of my commitment, and that of The HSUS, to integrate – or to reintegrate – other voices and perspectives within the humane movement.”

Barrett Duke

Barrett Duke

Humane movement?

This is the same Barrett Duke who warned Baptist Press readers:

“If the radical homosexual agenda is codified into law our own government will be arrayed against us and our struggle to protect our religious freedom. We can fight this battle now or we can fight it later, but we are going to fight this battle.”

The full article, including historical commentary by editor Merritt Clifton on notable animal-protection proponents whose social lives would not win Duke’s approval, appears here.


Banner image: detail from photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Basic Respect

An Abolitionist View of Pets

By guest blogger Chris Kelly

For decades we’ve heard slogans such as “Animals are not ours to use…” We hear proclamations of anti-fur, labs, meat, zoos, etc. We rarely hear those individuals and advocacy groups proclaim opposition to pets…

Not just to puppy mills and abuse, but to the Frankensteinish manipulation of animals for the most frivolous of human-benefit reasons. I believe the large AR organizations have very specific reasons for avoiding this subject, and it has to do with donations – pet ownership is the “third rail” when it comes to fundraising. Forget animal humane-use/husbandry organizations (operating under the general term of welfare), as they are deeply entrenched in the pet status quo, some large ones even connected with breed activities.

People spend an incalculable amount of time and money fostering and rescuing pets in an attempt to alleviate suffering. Celebrities spend lifetimes begging people to neuter pets, we build bigger shelters, and we throw money at the horrors created by the pet mentality.

It’s easy to understand why many of us have large nonhuman animal families in our homes – we need to do something, if only by opening our arms and homes.

I think the vegan community needs to shine a light on the basic wrongness of the pet mentality. We need to acknowledge human responsibility to care for the animals we made dependent, while providing a path for phasing out pets. Webster defines respect (noun) as follows:  “a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way.”  Pet keeping means total control over other beings, from conception to death – no room for respect there.

And, users are very adept at justifying their own practices citing regulations governing other users (example: Church of Lukumi Babalu v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520 (1993), allowing religious animal sacrifice after comparing it with allowed slaughter practices, pest control, and pound deaths). I doubt we will ever see any changes in line with abolitionist principles in labs, meat, and other user areas until pet fanciers realize their own complicity in the suffering which is domestication, starting in their own back yards. Perhaps we need to start a nonprofit focused on changing “animal lovers” into animal respecters.


 

ChrisChris Kelly has worked with numerous shelters and sanctuaries, including in the processes of writing by-laws and hiring, and as a media spokesperson. Chris has served on animal-rights discussion panels and managed online discussion groups, and organized protests. Vegan for 31 years, Chris self-identifies as an abolitionist. 

 

Victory for Ringling Bros. Elephants? Not so fast.

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus just announced plans to phase out elephant acts from its performances by 2018. The Associated Press broke the news.

Don’t miss the bottom paragraph. The people in charge of the largest group of elephants in North America say the 43 will be “retired” near Orlando’s tourist attractions, so the elephants, in addition to being available for elephant researchers, are slated ultimately for public display. Swapping the circus for a zoo is no bargain.

I hope the elephants are indeed let out of these degrading shows. I have been moved to protest — alone, when I could find no companions — by the sight of elephants paraded through downtown Baltimore, right past the law school. And while I’m sure it’ll come as a relief to the elephants to be spared the street parades, the amplifiers and the acrobatics under the stage lights, that relief does not address the fundamental fairness issue. On whose terms will the elephants live — ours or theirs? Other questions are all details springing from the root injustice, which involves a group of officious primates maintaining supremacy over their lives, bodies, histories, and all of their daily affairs.

Last month, I read the news that Ringling Bros. introduced its “Xtreme Camel Act” with Mongolian camel stunt riders. That tells us, loud and clear, how little this business comprehends or cares about the harm it does.

How Pro-Pitbull Crusades Harm Workers — and Dogs

Industry groups such as the American Pit Bull Foundation are out to vaunt the public image of these dogs, and “promote responsible breed ownership through providing owner and public education.” Why should animal advocates buttress their exploitive, deadly position?

Full article at CounterPunch today.

Fifteen Buzzwords Vegan Educators Can Stop Using Today

Semantics, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, is the science of meaning in language. To be understood, we need words to mean what the receiver thinks they mean. Semantics matter.

What about creating new phrases? When we choose coined terms, we’re usually communicating to insiders—others who’ve read the same literature. These terms often come from specific non-profit groups or individualsEureka - from espaciotiempo.org.ar claiming to advance a groundbreaking theory.

The use of a coined term even in a small group of insiders can cause misunderstandings, for it might suggest agreement with the whole kit and caboodle set out by the phrase’s inventor.

You might ask: Isn’t vegan a coined term? And so it is. But in its 70 years of use, it has become plain language. The word was offered by a community rather than an individual, and it functions as an essential signal to a unique and liberating pathway. It draws on a principle known and expressed for many generations, and channels it into a social movement’s terms.

Beyond that, the animal-rights idea takes no special jargon to explain. The idea that animal husbandry involves inflicting unnecessary harm is not a novel theory; it appears in Henry Salt’s 1892 book Animals’ Rights Considered in Relation to Social Progress. International Vegetarian Union historian John Davis says that although Salt died five years before the founding of The Vegan Society, the last 55 years of Salt’s life were lived (as we now say) vegan.

Much term-coining and buzzword creation that’s come along since vegan has muddied clear waters, as our competitive culture promotes the act of personal marking—branding, to use today’s infelicitous term—on something that could just be straightforwardly recalled.

Here are 15 words and phrases we could drop and be better off for it:

1. Welfarist. For anyone who missed the “abolition-versus-welfare” back-and-forth, a quick synopsis. The animal-rights ideal would mean everyone opts out of using other animals. Instead of making that clear, charities continue to use heart-wrenching images and vow to fix the most “barbaric” abuses. Pity doesn’t challenge the status quo. A donation to reduce spectacular suffering can affirm the donor’s superior status in the system, changing nothing. PETA asks restaurant chains to prefer chicken suppliers that use gas slaughter technique. If any businesses enter into such preference agreements, PETA will publicize their promises to consider better animal welfare. Because it’s been connected to this kind of industrial whitewashing, welfare is used by some critics as a negative word; people who promote minor changes in animal enterprises are derided as welfarists. But does the word welfare have anything to do with the way businesses adjust their handling of the animals they own, use, and ultimately kill?

In contrast, an authentic caregiver promotes animal welfare. Trap-neuter-return work—catching abandoned domesticated cats and their offspring, neutering them, and supplying continued care—is praiseworthy welfare work. Welfare, to the ordinary ear, means well-being. So, right now, we should stop using welfarist as a negative code-word. (I should add that rescuing or “helping” animals does not, by itself, advance animal rights. But rescue and genuine caregiving are needed when we humans have caused an emergency in other animals’ lives, or imposed dependency upon them.)

2. “Stop factory farming!” Can we object to all animal farming at once? Even the small, family-run farm violates other beings’ most basic personal interests, beginning with the purpose-breeding of them because we can. And such farms still use resources that could feed hungry humans. Mathematician Adam Merberg published rough calculations suggesting a well-known free-range farm uses more calories in feed than it produces in food; and with the needless waste they generate, these property developments degrade water, soil and air. The very existence of any pastureland signifies predator removal. There is no benign animal agribusiness. Not for the planet, ourselves, the animals we’ve domesticated or those we haven’t.

3. Euthanasia. The term means a good death. It does not mean killing refugees to make space or save resources. Starting today, let’s all rule out the term euthanasia to mean the cold-blooded killing of a bear who chased a camper, or the death of a dog in a so-called shelter.

4. Companion animals. It’s not fair to selectively breed other animals to suit our desires, then call them companions as though they chose to hang out with us. I know: this is a tough one. Most people reading Vegan Place care for and love individual animals in our homes. So it can be hard for us to challenge the practice of keeping household animals. It might feel unloving. But step back and consider how they got here. These animals’ domestication is based on neoteny—the purposeful retention, in an adult cat or dog, of juvenile characteristics that prompt an animal to need and solicit care.

Most vegans already agree that nursing on another species is weird, and indeed that selectively breeding animals so we can take their milk is weird. Isn’t it also weird to want wolves and wildcats selectively bred so we can make them forever dependent?

And fashioning toys out of powerful wolves and wildcats—separating them from their families, buying and selling them, subjecting them to praise or punishment at whim, making ourselves their indispensable overseers—can hardly be justified on the grounds that pets benefit from the arrangement. Did it really benefit wolves to become Schnauzers? The land that is now the United States was once home to hundreds of thousands of wolves. Today, it has a few thousand wolves and 80 million domesticated dogs.

rackIf we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that we have, over time, forced free souls into submission. And when we think of it that way, companionship is an unfair term.

5. “Why love one but eat the other?” I’d think genuine advocacy seeks to cultivate an attitude of respect, not love in a system of inequality. If so, the best thing we can do as teachers is to inspire communities to respect other animals’ natural freedom and power—all that is taken away when we transform the Earth’s other conscious life into shapes that please us. The vegan issue isn’t about why we only eat one, but why we purpose-breed either.

6. Farm animal rights movement. There is no such thing. To animal agribusiness, the effective response is conscientious objection. Those who feel they are missing an ethical duty by not showing undercover videos or lobbying for animal-husbandry adjustments might consider farmer Harold Brown’s counsel: Let the animal farmers themselves improve conditions (they will, for PR reasons) as the vegan movement grows without them. Leave them without assistance, threats, cajoling or praise. It’s not the advocate’s role to police an abusive system.

7. Farmed animals. Why, instead of farm animals, has it become fashionable to say farmed animals? As in: animals who just happen to be farmed? It’s not as though we could just stop using them on farms, and the problem is solved. These animals have been selectively bred as farm animals: to be as easily confined and herded as we can make them. We need to do more than rescue them from farm use; we need to challenge the purpose-breeding at the root of the wrong.

8. Vegan cats. One of these words is not like the other… Veganism is an ethic that can be safely, harmlessly, naturally embraced by human primates. Forget about forcing cats to eat plants, and start getting vocal about the making of pets in the first place. See #4.

9. Single-issue campaigns. Should we dismiss the defending of any targeted group because it’s “single-issue”? What wrong done to a community or even to one person is beneath concern? All lives matter.

10. Wildlife. Aren’t we talking about animal communities? The word wildlife can mean plants as well as animals. Moreover, wild means uncultivated—a concept that falls short of representing the complexities of the non-human lives, systems, and interactions.

11. Humane, non-lethal alternatives.  Don’t do it. Don’t ask managers to put free-living animals on birth control rather than shoot them. Earlier on this blog I shared my column examining the way forcing contraception on animals became confused with advocacy; here is that link again. Read it and weep for the deer of Valley Forge National Historical Park and at several other National Parks in the eastern United States, where plans are being carried out to kill kill kill for as many years as park managers say so—until they get approval for some disappear-deer drug. The Natural Resources Director at Valley Forge claimed to have implemented this plan as a compromise with animal-rights activists.

12. Ethical vegan (also: abolitionist vegan). There is no unethical or pro-exploitation kind of veganism. Nor must we establish subcategories, subcultures, or exclusive clubs for only certain vegans. Vegan is vegan.

13. Meatless. Meat means an article of food or an essential part of something. It’s the term animal agribusiness which covers all the interconnected exploitation of an industry at once—and doesn’t suggest that vegans lack anything.

14. Veg. Nobody knows what that means. 

15. Vegan options. How about vegan offerings? In contrast to the if-we’re-lucky connotation of options, vegan offerings has a ring of confident generosity. Let’s imagine, discuss, and create a culture that makes animal farms history, one where vegan living is embraced as the way to sustain our world.


Thanks to Meg Graney and Kate Sparkman Sharadin for helpful online comments that got me in the mood to write this up. Source of banner detail: Shop With Meaning. Source of Eureka! drawing: EspacioTiempo (PDF). Source of St. Bernard breeding rack photo: Stornum Kennels.