Friday, September 19, 2014

It's time for you... watch the documentary Cowspiricy. There are a number of reasons for you to do so, but to me a primary one is that it does an excellent job of illustrating the power of intersectionality. Wikipedia says: "Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society."

The documentary isn't about animal liberation or animal rights or's about the fact that animal agriculture is one of the primary driving forces of global warming and environmental destruction...and...none...absolutely none of the national and international "environmental" organizations make this driving force a focus of their efforts. It seems, even, that some of these organizations (e.g. Sierra Club, Greenpeace, etc) are either oblivious to this fact or they are aware of it but choose not to do anything about it. The documentary goes into more detail about the probable reasons they avoid pushing against animal agriculture.

One of the delightful things shown in this film is the total cluelessness of those who promote "sustainable" animal agriculture. There's no such thing and the hucksters who are pushing it are simply liars or ignoramuses.

One rather poignant interview with a spokesperson for Amazon Watch (if I remember the group correctly) resulted in the woman speaking for these folks admitting, after being pushed a little, that one of the reasons they avoid addressing the problem of animal agriculture is that in South America over 1,100 activists have been murdered over the past 20 years...mostly those who spoke out against the devastation caused by animal agriculture.

Veganism is the basis for human animals living in harmony with other also offers a massively effective way for us to counter the forces that are disrupting the climate. The intersection here is between animal harm and climate change. One of the most effective ways to ameliorate the forces harming the Earth is to quit farming (harming) her beings. That's called a  "win-win".

One group...and only one...of all the groups out there who are soliciting money to combat climate degredation makes the effort to point out that what you eat can harm mother Earth....only one. Their name is Rainforest Action Network.

Watch this documentary (caution there are several instances where extreme violence and brutality toward animals is shown...not many...but it is present)...preferably in a setting where you can fast-forward past some scenes of horror (if you wish). But watch it...and if you're like me...any luster and or respect you might have held for most of the big environmental organizations is going to evaporate into the warming climate. We're being flimflammed by the very folks who say they are trying to help our planet. It's a very disheartening thing.

In the meantime, go vegan, for the animals, for the planet, for your own integrity and well-being. And watch Cowspiricy...and get your friends who claim to be concerned about the environment to watch it too. You'll be doing everyone a favor.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A letter unpublished...

My last three letters to our local paper (Norman Transcript) have gone unpublished in their print edition. I've presumably exhausted their willingness to allow anyone to speak up for our fellow Earthlings. Prior to this they had been publishing about every 2nd letter I sent. I was really upset by the photo that prompted the letter and wanted to present a different take on what appeared, at first blush, to be a seriously cute and wonderful scene. They did stick it onto their website edition where few look and even fewer can find anything. It is one of the more confusing conglomerations I've ever seen.

You might want to read the comment below the electronic edition wherein I'm characterized as having "gone off the deep end" but maybe it was Disney that did it to me. Such is the mentality of many in central Oklahoma.

Well, at least I can publish it here.

Dear Editor,

This past Saturday, Sept. 6, the front page of the Transcript featured a color photo of a fuzzy yellow baby duck being petted by an apparently awestruck and delighted young human child. Dominant cultural narratives (made-up stories we tell ourselves to justify our behaviors and perceptions) are rarely examined, indeed much of their power derives from their invisibility. This photo was captioned “Petting Zoo” and presents us with an image of two babies, one a duck and one a human, both who are beautiful in their youth and innocence. We are also presented with some untold life stories.

The baby duck is a prisoner, held in captivity by humans and her (or his) future is likely very bleak. Soon the duck baby will grow and not be a baby. What will happen to her, what does her future hold? One source indicates ducks are killed for food at around 7 weeks of age (ducks can live 10 to 15 years). Petting zoos feature babies of various species; they obtain their attractions by buying or breeding babies. Those youngsters don’t remain babies for long and most zoo operators then either kill the older residents for food or sell them to be killed elsewhere.

So, the photo most likely shows a soon to be dead victim of human willfulness (it isn’t necessary to eat animals for human survival or health) and a small human female who will probably, statistically speaking, grow up to be someone who eats animals. We can now look at this image of two innocent and charming babies and realize that we are seeing a future killer (probably a killer by proxy) looking, with delight and awe, at her future victim. The photograph takes on a whole different tone when we consider what the probable fates are of the two beautiful babies. The photograph loses some innocence and attractiveness once we consider some context.

Someone once wisely said that compassion alone stands apart from the continuous traffic between good and evil proceeding within us. Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul. Where there is compassion, even the poisonous impulses remain relatively harmless. Readers might want to remember this next time they’re presented with de-contextualized photographs of currently innocent babies who are future victims and victimizers. We don’t have to harm others or to make our children into those who do harm.

If I'm off the deep end by living vegan...then hooray for the deep end.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The cherished illusion.

Unless and until we come to accept and appreciate the unity we share by virtue of being the remarkably fortunate children of mother Earth, we will persist in feeling unsettled and lonely and to behave abysmally. As long as we cling to the notion of alienation from and superiority to our relatives, we will act to confirm our depravity. It is the cherished illusion of "specialness" which creates and ensures "awfulness".

Only those who've come to embrace all living beings as their kin can fully feel at home, surrounded by their family. Only by living vegan can we be desirable and worthy kin for our relatives.

I miss Carl Sagan...and I miss my sister.

Friday, August 29, 2014


things pop up on Facebook that provoke some serious thinking. I previously posted a bit about Red Earth Vegans. Membership has expanded in size way beyond what was envisioned...right now it is well over 100...which is a bit stunning to those who started the group. Most (guesstimated at 80% or so) are individuals living in Norman or the OKC area. Who would have thought?

Those joining range from having been living vegan for decades to some who are only exploring veganizing their lives. As a result, contributions to the page are varied.

A recent post asked: "Thoughts on Vegan dog food?..."

There were something like 65 comments made. At one point I inserted an observation that occurred to me as I looked over what other folks were writing...because it seemed to me some conflating of two different things was happening. I wrote: "There seems to be some degree of confusion presented between living with "domesticated" animals versus "breeding" domesticated animals. Literally millions of "pets" are killed annually in the US because they have no human who will provide them a home. I spend lots of time working at a rescue and also have several animals living in my home. Adopting someone to save their life and provide them with a setting where they will be cared for is a terrific thing..."breeding" more animals while others languish and are executed for being homeless, to my mind, is a different issue altogether."

Right afterward another member commented: "I have had dogs as pets all of my life - none were adopted, none came from a store or puppy mill, none were euthanised (which is a whole other debate) or otherwise disposed of but lived long good lives with my family. While we can be empathetic, protest mass killings of pets and work with shelters, that does not mean we are responsible for taking in the homeless. The responsibility lay at the previous owner who failed to be a good pet guardian. For some that say (no one has here) we should all get pound dogs is not too far off from saying folks should only adopt children..."

One of my thoughts was...well...from where did these dogs he has had as pets all of his life come from? The commenter is more than a few decades old so several generations of dogs must be involved..."none were adopted, none came from a store or puppy mill"...  We're left with speculating...we notice he didn't say none were purchased, he just ruled out purchasing from a store or puppy mill.

Or is the commenter saying that the family allowed their dogs to reproduce? I can't tell from the information provided. That none were "otherwise disposed of" I take to mean the family kept all the babies and cared for them? Again, this is unknowable, I'm speculating here because the comment was not specific about this. We're told none were euthanized or "otherwise disposed of" but lived "long good lives" with his family. That suggests (but ambiguously) that this is a family with a (large) number of dogs?

The comment goes on to say "we are not responsible for taking in the homeless." There's where my thinker kicked in. Then my thinker went into overdrive as a result of this statement: "The responsibility lay at the previous owner who failed to be a good pet guardian. For some that say (no one has here) we should all get pound dogs is not too far off from saying folks should only adopt children.

Hmmm...thinks I. "We are not responsible for taking in the homeless." Hmmm. Since some members of the human species "bred" (made them exist in the form they have) these "domesticated" animals that we usually call "pets" (dogs, cats, bunnies) they're responsible for them being here. Not the commenter, not me. one is making those responsible rectify their harm. So...the homeless animals are just sucking wind, right? According to the commenter, such is the case. It's not his problem and tough noogies for the dogs or cats or any other homeless animal who is unable to live (at least not very well or long) without human assistance. If they were unlucky enough to be associated with lousy "previous owners" then too bad little doggie.

I suppose the disavowed (but implied) statement that humans should adopt instead of reproducing was some sort of attempt to denigrate my comment...but actually it is (to me) a fairly good idea. Paul Ehrlich once wrote: "The mother of the year should be a sterilized woman with two adopted children." Sounds pretty good to me...given the current size of the human population. We've overused the "freedom" to reproduce to the point of absurdity.

Speaking of's a nice word...all sentient beings aspire to have lots of "freedom" but...what is often forgotten is that freedom is loosely inversely related to group membership and group size. You are free to do things when you're all alone that become problematic when you aren't all alone...freedom's meaning and value changes depending on context as well as on outcomes.

If we as a group of animals tolerate or ignore harmful behaviors by members of our group...if we don't seek to stop them and hold them accountable for their we then put ourselves on the hook to remedy the harm? If we don't intervene, require them to rectify their errors...then who's going to do the rectifying? No one?

We do almost nothing to hold people accountable for their behaviors toward our sister/brother Earthlings (or the planet).'s freedom, right? Well, enjoy the party...but who's going to clean up the mess? Who's going to take care of the homeless? Who's going to care for the sick and the hungry....the scared and the innocent? Victims are victims, right? Not my problem if I didn't do the victimizing. We can feel bad and gripe about it and help the shelter but we're not responsible for the mess so we have no obligation to pitch in and help clean it up.

The problem is...unless you've lived your whole life as a're responsible for misery, for oppression, for the death of innocent beings. Yup, we're (all who've not lived vegan all their lives) all victimizers. Every single one of us. But hey...who's going to hold you responsible...and if no one does...then you're off the hook...right? That's freedom, right?

Freedom is wonderful, isn't it? The problem is that it makes my thinker hurt and all that freedom has millions (billions actually) of victims. We live in dark times and the darkness is of human making. One of the factors of that darkness is all the "freedom" that we've gleefully exercised and clung to. Freedom to kill, imprison, "breed" (both in the sense of increasing the number of humans and in forcing...via forcible rape or otherwise the number of the other Earthlings), torture and terrorize. Freedom to destroy plants, animals, ponds, lakes, oceans, freedom to pollute the air, destroy mountains (for "resource" extraction)...whee....freedom is great...yee haw.

We've been on an orgy of "freedom" and our sister/brother Earthlings have lived in dark times for a long long time because of it, now the whole planet is entering dark times because of human animal "freedom". And now...we humans are beginning to feel the effects of the dark times.

I don't know what we're going to do about this...I'm pretty sure though that thinking as exemplified by phrases like "we are not responsible for taking in the homeless" is not going to withstand even minimal scrutiny. The option to turn our back on the behavior and the effects of the behavior of other human animals is rapidly disappearing likely is that our closing our eyes and turning our backs on the behavior of other humans has been and is profoundly contributive to the rapidly approaching planetary environmental disaster.

I'll take care of me and mine, you take care of you and yours and all will be well...sounds good in the abstract...but since all that "taking care of" has included perpetrating the horrors we've inflicted on the other Earthlings and on mother Earth herself...well...maybe it's time to do some serious and radical transforming of what is meant by "taking care of". Like it or not.

Live vegan, minimize your hurting of the innocent...that's a good thing. But remember...there are still victims out there and...unless you've always been vegan...there are victims in your past (and in mine). And...those not living vegan are perpetrating new victims everyday. But, since no one is calling us out about that (or maybe we didn't do it), it's no problem....right?

If you (or I) have been doing harmful and destructive things but one day we decide to foreswear (as much as possible) doing destructive things anymore...does that mean we're free and clear? Does that alleviate us from any responsibility to attempt to ameliorate or rectify or repair the harm we've already done? Let's say I destroy your house and kill your family...later I say "sorry" and don't destroy or kill anymore. Does that bring a smile to your face? Does that do anything about the loss of your family or your house? Does that make it all alright?

What I'm getting at is that there is no position of innocence and/or not being responsible left for we human animals to retreat toward or to occupy. Both our personal history (if we haven't always been vegan and a profound environmentalist) and the history of our species has left us with a trail of death and destruction so profound and so extensive that I suspect we are all going to be cleaning up and/or attempting to make better that which has already been done for a long long long time...probably many human lifetimes (and that's only if any fixing is even possible).

Nope, I fear sentiments like "we aren't responsible for the homeless" are passe. Those days are long gone whether we realize it or fact they never were. It's thinking and behaving like that that helped create the mess we face now. And...we've known it for a long long long time.

By now you've probably spotted the similarity in the content of the "we aren't responsible" comment to the story of the Samaritan reference in the book called the bible. There is lots of strange and peculiar stuff in the bible but, ever since I was a little kid, that particular story resonated with me. There are some important truths in it. One of them is about passing by and avoiding the victims. That was a foolish and untrue option that we've used for way way too long and now the consequences are all around are the victims. It's way past time for a change. Going vegan begins the change...but there's much more involved.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Image speak...

I recently posted about a book for children by Ruby Roth. Afterward I came across a captioned image featuring her that caught my eye...and my thinking. This image and captioning pretty much takes care of the silliness being presented by the media 'psychologist' who was criticizing her book in the interview referenced in that post.

These next two images do a masterful job of illustrating the experience that many of us who've opted for living vegan. First the down (and no...vegan isn't a's much much more), then the up.

The downs.
The down can be alleviated tremendously when the 'up' finally happens.

The ups.
My thanks and gratitude and deep respect to all who're living vegan, my consolation on your 'down(s)' and I hope you've had at least one, if not many 'ups'.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quotable quotes...

I stumbled across two quotations that are well worth sharing. The first is sort of zany and almost zen-like in the simplicity and profundity offered by it.

“I look crazy but I’m not. And the funny thing is that other people don’t look crazy but they are.” – eden abhez

What I especially like about this quote is that anyone opting for ethical veganism can appreciate the thought...since it applies not only to appearance but to ways of living and of seeing the world. Most who are vegan have likely been accused of being "crazy" or "weird" or "extremist" by people who are routinely living in ways that support and advocate for unprovoked violence and destruction. Who's disconnected (or "crazy")?

If you ever wondered about the cultural roots of the hippy movement, here ya go. George Alexander Aberle, known as eden ahbez (15 April 1908 – 4 March 1995), was an American songwriter and recording artist of the 1940s to 1960s, whose lifestyle in California was influential on the hippie movement. He was known to friends simply as ahbe. The blog tells us: "He slept outdoors with his family and ate vegetables, fruits, and nuts."

This second quote came from Ladan V. Cheybani, a woman I sometimes see posts from on Facebook. It is exquisite both in poignancy and accuracy.

"Everyday I must struggle to explain to someone why vegan is the answer to a world gone dark. It is so sad, that I must even defend love and compassion. When I went vegan, I thought I found the biggest treasure, I thought I would share with everyone and everyone would be happy to change. I never thought I would have to beg people to be loving and compassionate..... I never thought that...".

From her quote I can see that she had much the same reaction from others to her discovery of the excellence of veganism as I did (as have many). Her expression: "...I thought I found the biggest treasure, I thought I would share with everyone and everyone would be happy to change." ...says exactly my first take on living vegan. I was (and still am), just as she was, staggered and shocked and saddened at the reactions from most others. But not all, some few embraced that gift...and there's where the hope lies...some eagerly embrace avoiding harm to others.

The majority do not though...and her lovely statement beautifully summarizes that sadness. There's much work to be done...and if you're living're not alone...others do recognize and embrace that 'biggest treasure'....and many more will.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Ruby Roth...

is the author and illustrator of two children's books that provide information about veganism, animals and how they are abused, environmental degradation and how to eat and live more healthy and less harmful lives. The second book "Vegan is Love" was just published and she posted a video interview on her blog wherein a "child psychologist" decried her book and flatly admonished people to "avoid this book" because it was about "fear and guilt" and that it would be "disturbing" for children. (apologies, you'll have to watch the video on another site, I couldn't get the embedding code to work)

Well, that sort of intrigued me so I went to the library and...there was the book over in the children's section so I decided to take it home and review it. Then I thought, heck, it's a kids book with lots of illustrations, how long could it take to read? Poof, five minutes and I was through. After reading it I was even more disappointed than initially.

Not about the book or its was a nice book with well done illustrations and text. My disappointment was with the "psychologist", his 'performance' was rather pitiful. He started off talking about "restrictive diets" and sweets...which was totally irrelevant to the book's contents and ended up urging people to not let children see the book. After reviewing the book myself I question whether he had even read it.

I visited his website and discovered his touting that he's written over 200 articles and 15 books. I haven't read anything by the psychologist in the interview, nor will I. My impression is that his primary activity is writing and interviewing and maintaining his website. Learning about people and children and families is hard and time consuming and emotionally draining. I'm seriously skeptical that anyone actually knowing very much about these things has time to write 200 articles and 15 books.

Ironically his website has a list of topics and included are "love" and "peace". Hmmm....he's bashing a children's book about love and non-violence (veganism) but thinks those things are important enough to list on his website. On the "peace" link he calls for a one day worldwide armistice...good...and yet he bashes a children's book calling for non-violence toward animals. Since the interview was conducted on Fox "news" I presume he's some sort of hired gun they stuck up there to shoot down the book The woman doing the interview sadly brought new meaning to the term vapid.

The best part of the interview, and what I found to make it very much worth watching were two points made by Ms. Roth. She made the observation that it was curious that upset was being directed toward her book rather than toward the treatment of animals that is pointed out in her book. She also made the point that she hasn't seen any child get upset about the book rather it is the adults who get upset about the book.

Here's an excerpt from a comment about the book I found here. "If I want my kids to be able to see a giraffe or a zebra, I'm not going to shell out $6000 to go to Africa, I'm going to spend $8 for a ticket to the zoo. I'm sorry if those animals are sad, sick and angry. It's cheaper than going to Africa. I need to protein, so I do eat meat, cheese and other dairy products. I can't eat peanuts all the time....".

My thought is that if you write a book and it doesn't upset people with the mentality exhibited by that comment...then your book is probably not worth reading. Indeed, if professionals of the caliber of this 'psychologist' aren't upset by your book, you ought to rethink what you are doing.

Hey, if you're looking for a gift for a child, go buy the book and present it. You'll be doing them a favor and maybe helping our sister/brother Earthlings too. You will at least be exposing the child to some accuracy and truth instead of distortions and omissions. And...doing that is almost a guarantee that someone is going to get upset. Thank you Ms. Roth.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Rights versus 'welfare'.

It all comes down to avoiding doing harm and leaving other beings alone (where possible) as opposed to harming or not leaving other beings alone without being real 'mean' about it, doesn't it? (beings here references living entities who are sentient)

The longer I view the world and her beings through vegan eyes, the crazier and stranger a "welfare" position seems to me. By the same token...a rights position (vegan) probably looks just as strange and crazy to an occupant of the welfare position. I don't know if it works quite that way or not...maybe it does. ("crazy" here used as a substitute for the phrase "disconnected from reality")

It is generally true that vegans...humans who take the position that whenever possible no one should harm anyone else ("anyone else" = any living sentient being)...are considered to be "crazy" or "extremists" or "wackos" by the dominant human cultural narratives. Anyone who is vegan and is reading this knows this...and...anyone who is not vegan and reading this also knows this to be an accurate description of how most human animals view those who are vegan.

But...when comparing the two stances like this:

Welfare: "Well, I'm going to use or kill you (or whatever horrible exploitative thing is being done to an Earthling) for my own purposes but I will try to do it in the least awful/painful way possible."

Vegan (honoring an Earthling's right to their own life): "I won't imprison, exploit, use or harm you. You live your life, I'll live my life."

The first one looks bizarre and insane to me...and the second one looks pretty decent. Harm or no harm...simple, right? Oops...not true.

The distance between those two positions is, in many ways, very immense...especially if you consider what must be waded through (engulfed in) to get from the first one to the second one. Guilt, shame, horror at what one has done...all these awareness invoke unsettling, painful and disturbing feelings. Yet...these are the necessary emotional working-throughs that must be accomplished to journey toward genuine comprehension and persistent implementation of ethical veganism.

Without that working-through, I fear that any "vegan" stance is simply a role, a behavior with no heart and/or substance that can be jettisoned at any time with minimal or no emotional consequences. An example might be someone who sometimes "cheats" on their vegan "diet" because "cheese tastes so good".

If someone has done their feeling/comprehending 'homework' however...then vegan is a way of being and not one of simply acting. Being vegan is a transformational process that changes not only the individual's behavior but their way of seeing and apprehending and experiencing Mother Earth and all of her children...and how those children behave.

Apprehending and appreciating and affirming that all beings are equal in their 'right' to their own lives and to live those lives how they want (taking into consideration that all beings must co-exist together) is a breath-taking and incredibly profound comprehension shift vs the worldview engendered by the conventional cultural narrative about human and non-human beings. That shift, for me anyway, has changed how I see and experience so many things beyond that modest sounding phrase "concern for animals".
I am fairly sure it is a truth that if you haven't embarked on it...the working-through journey...then you will have, at best, only a faint and inevitably distorted and inaccurate notion of what I'm writing about...and...if you have begun that know exactly and precisely what I'm referencing. It's not, in the end, a word thing.

Going vegan is a journey involving behavior change and in how you see and experience both your inner and your outer world...and all living beings. It can't be described accurately, it has to be lived...and in the living of it not only does one begin to think and comprehend also begins to experience Mother Earth and her Earthlings (all of them) very differently. And it is a journey that doesn't end...there is no "I'm there" moment because there are (potentially) always new understandings and perceptions and behavior changes arising.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Skin and what's under...

that layer of your body is something to consider. Skin serves simultaneously as a barrier to the world outside you, as a container for the body that is you and as a more or less permeable membrane that takes in elements from this world in which you live. Interestingly, were you able to wear or be encased in the skin of another...then you would be, appearance wise at least, them.

This week a movie was released on DVD titled "Under The Skin". I had read a blurb about the movie and wanted to see it. I presumed it would be a bit off-beat but was stunned by some of the powerful scenes presented. I laughed out loud at a fairly intense sex scene that occurred toward the end of it. The movie is a dark and quirky work. It relies heavily on imagery and sound for expression...that sort of stuff often irritates me but...if you watch on dvd you can fast forward through any of it that you want.

I'll have to see it a few more times to decide how much I like it. But, having said all that, it is absolutely a must see for anyone who is a vegan. is a terrific way to introduce a non-vegan to some ways of seeing human behavior that are absolutely not supported by the dominant cultural narratives that shape the thinking/perceiving of so many. I think, maybe, it could be an excellent teaching tool to bring someone to view human behavior from a different (vegan) perspective. My wife complained that it was too "obscure" thinking is that it would never ever have attained commercial release if it wasn't "obscure".

I'm rather astounded that the vegan community has not been all over this movie. It is a sort of a gussied up and de-violenced version of Meet Your Meat except guess what...the meat you're meeting is you. The movie is scarey and spooky and (for me) laugh out loud funny at times. It shows humans at some of their best and some of their worst.

It is a "weird" movie. Don't think for a moment it isn' least that's what my wife told me. She didn't like it at all. It is many ways...the scene at the beach with the human baby was about as scary as any I've ever seen. I wrote on facebook:

I would urge you to watch it just for the scene that occurs on a rocky beach involving a human baby/very small child. Watch that scene and then think about how many times daily something akin to the behavior of the Scarlett Johansson character is inflicted on our sister/brother Earthlings by human animals. Consider what you think of the Scarlett Johansson character in that scene and, if you're not vegan, realize that you pay people to do things exactly like in and day out whenever you eat anything from or use anything from an animal. What we do, or cause to be done, to others...that is in truth what we are asking to be done to ourselves. Watch this movie and see...
I don't want to write more because...well...because. I would really like to hear your impressions of the movie. I want to let it percolate and settle with me then see it again after a while. I suppose why we haven't heard much about it is that there are a number of scenes in the movie that are sexually charged involving human near nudity and nudity and I'm guessing (from some of the reviews I've read) that naked and near naked people throw culturally indoctrinated human animals off their game so much that that's what they focus on. Aside from the (to me) funny as hell penetration attempt scene I didn't get much caught up in all that...but I think many viewers did and as a result maybe missed the full import of the story.

I'm just amazed that there's been such an absence of talk about this movie. Maybe you have to be a vegan to be able to wrap your mind around what you're seeing...certainly my wife was apparently oblivious to the incredible re-creation of human behavior toward our sister/brother Earthlings that was so well presented in the beach scene. It may be too big a leap for many/most to take in. This reviewer was sort of all over the place about the movie...but we agree....this is a powerful and very very important movie.

If you can watch the movie and not "get it" then it may be because you aren't living vegan. The more I think about this movie, the more impressed and excited I get about it.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Trying to make a living...

is a phrase most of us have heard or used at one time or another. I once heard it used in a context wherein it resonated with me so strongly that I can vividly remember the setting in which I heard it and that happened well over thirty years ago. I was in graduate school watching a film about positive reinforcement...the film was shot in Japan and concerned the training of bears to ride unicycles and to do various complicated sequences of actions and the training was all done (supposedly) by using positive reinforcement.

I looked around on the internet and found this image to use as an illustration. There are many images of actual bears riding unicycles and bicycles out there but I didn't want to use a real photo...that seemed to me to be ugly and disrespectful. Any bear riding or doing things to "entertain" humans is a slave and she or he isn't doing those things because they freely chose them.

The narrator of the film was the psychologist who had been hired to serve as the trainer for the animals associated with this entertainment company and he was explaining the processes he used to "teach" the bears how to do various complicated unbearlike behaviors (like riding a unicycle). Basically the idea is that you reward (immediately) any small behavior near what you're looking for and chain small behaviors together into long sequences which then appear to be more complicated behaviors. I'm not going to write a treatise on "learning" theory (behaviorism) so I won't go into any more detail now (and believe me, there's lots and lots of detail).

At one point, after the subject (the bear) had completed a behavior and been rewarded for it, the narrator said that it wasn't difficult to get the bear to do things, that he (the bear) was just "trying to make a living" like the rest of us. When he said that I nearly fainted, it hit me so hard right then (and has stayed with me) that we're all the same. That captured and confined bear was just trying to get by, trying to live his life...just like all of us.

I wish I could say I went vegan right then...I didn't. Somehow I was able to encapsulate that awareness (I kept it, I didn't get rid of it) from my behavior and from other areas of my knowing and kept on operating pretty much as always. But that phrase...and that bear...haunted me.

I still retain many memories and images from that film, and when I did finally wake up to veganism...memory of that bear and his doing what he had to do to "make a living" came rushing back and brought with it a deep sadness and sorrow that I hadn't grasped what I was seeing and hearing enough to go vegan then and there.

It amazes me on some level that I can, on occasion, get worked up into some state of indignation and outrage over human behavior toward other animals and toward Earth...amazes me because of my own blindness and my own participation in awfulness in times past. Getting upset about some non-vegan now is, in one way, nothing but me getting upset with my past self. And...had some vegan been angry with me back then...I probably would not have seen what they were pointing toward...I would only have seen their anger...their upset and outrage...and thought they were peculiar or strange.

It frightens me about blind and oblivious I can be...and yet...I was trying to tell myself something...otherwise the images of that bear and that phrase wouldn't have stuck and resonated...I just didn't figure out what I was trying to tell myself until much much later.

Don't ignore your own messages to yourself...if you haven't gone so now. And if you've gone vegan...thank you for listening.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Looking through a book

is different than reading one. Recently I received a copy of a book titled: "Animal Madness, How anxious dogs, compulsive parrots, and elephants in recovery help us understand ourselves" by Laurel Braitman. After reading some passages located via the index test...well...I looked through the book, I didn't read it.

Reading the title will tell you most everything you need to know about what is contained in the book (it should...that's a very long title). The last four words "help us understand ourselves" let us know the book is about what humans might get out of the deal. Pretty much par for the course in terms of human beings interacting with other beings. The author is listed as holding a Ph.D. from M.I.T in the history of science. On her website (one wherein she sorta seems to be quite impressed with herself) she touts herself as being a TED fellow...what that means I'm not quite sure. I was overcome by three letter acronym fatigue.

The index test shows that "animal rights" is mentioned in 5 locations in the book...that seems like a good thing except the first mention is brief and dismissive, the second mention is a snarky swipe at PETA, the third is a more lengthy write up about the fellow who trained Flipper the dolphin...with a primary focus on whether suicide occurs in other animals. For some reason that seems to be a hot idea to a certain group. Why, I'm not sure.

The fourth reference is several pages that includes this passage:

"This is why I never trust an animal rights activist who is misogynistic or thinks that Homo sapiens are, at heart, more rotten than any other species. Human rights activists are animal rights activists by default. The reverse should also be true."  p. 281

She seems to be doing some peculiar mixing and matching here, I'm presuming she's referencing the fact that humans are animals hence human rights activists are by definition animal rights activists. She coyly leaves out the fact that most human rights activists do not advocate for the other animals nor do they refrain from harming or eating other animals. The word definition seems to be enough for her. She doesn't say anything about not "trusting" human rights activists who aren't vegan...which should be the case if she's being serious. (I'm also presuming she misuses the word misogynistic when she means misanthropic...or maybe she meant to use it the way she did and was coupling misogynistic (the term) with a definition of misanthropic.)

I'll just say that I would be a bit suspicious of any animal rights activist who isn't a little misanthropic or who hasn't or doesn't entertain misanthropic thoughts and/or feelings based on the actuality and the history of the way human animals behave toward our sister and brother animals. For me any animal rights activist not being a bit leery of humans and their behaviors bespeaks of someone either being much more saintly than seems genuine or extremely naive or disingenuous. Believing we ought to feel all animals are equal in their right to live their own lives is one thing, ignoring the actuality of how different animals behave in regard to this (specifically human animals) is either symptomatic of cognitive malfunctioning or a serious denial of reality.

The fifth mention really isn't about animal rights, it's about animal welfare (arguably as are all the others). I suspect this author is the sort of person that would be characterized as an "animal lover". She seems to have been around lots of other animals and seems to care about them...up to a point. She is a human supremacist, make no mistake about it. She's the sort of supremacist (white, or human or otherwise) who would treat her slaves well...but...she absolutely believes that some sorts of animals (those not human) should be slaves and some shouldn't (humans).

Her notion of some future goals of "animal rights" includes this:

"We could stop eating mentally ill pigs, chickens, and cows, and do away with corporate farming practices so cruel they're often institutionalized torture. We could stop trimming our coats with the fur of compulsive mink, foxes, sable, and chinchillas and quit testing our drugs, cosmetics, and medical procedures on lab animals housed alone and in terribly uncomfortable conditions." p. 284

She goes on in the next paragraph to say we should accept that we're just another kind of animal and then she says (rather hilariously): "This kind of change will not be easy or fast." What "change" this would entail, based on her book, seems to be to not be so "mean", I's ok to oppress, enslave and kill and eat the other animals...just don't be ugly or mean about it.

I laughed out loud when I read the statement about not eating mentally ill pigs...that's a catch 22 for pigs. Sort of: "If you're crazy, little pig, we won't kill you and eat you but if you're not...well...tough're bacon." One of the first things I thought when I read that was there goes any notions that MIT grads or TED fellows are the brightest of the bright. does give us a beautiful example of how denial creates stupidity. When we deliberately blind ourselves cognitively or emotionally then we are going to be oblivious to some absurdities. We are at risk of voicing, in a perfectly serious way, really grotesque and ridiculous (and sad) statements. And MIT or TED or Harvard or Yale or Stanford or or amount of or excellence of education, no superior going to prevent our viewpoint from being warped and incomplete and distorted if we engage in denial. It is the all purpose stupefier and get you it will if you are under its influence.

Back in February I wrote about the index test, this book has animal rights in the index...but...there's no listing for vegan (or vegetarian) in the index...big big clue right there that here's another book ostensibly about the other animals that is actually about human exceptionalism/supremacy. This book really doesn't need the index test because the title tells you it is all about what human animals might gain from the other animals (help us understand ourselves). Given the denial exhibited by the author, I'm not too sure she has received much help in that respect impression is she's out to gain for herself...her website is rather self-promoting and I suppose she's trying to "milk" the book for all she can.

I presume this is a "well-meaning" human...I don't think she is personally deliberately cruel to other animals (she just pays others to enact the cruelty) and I think she would like to see some of the more horrific ways that we torture and enslave and kill other animals be reformed or eliminated. That's a good thing. But...she's a human supremacist...period. She wants to keep right on oppressing, enslaving and killing, just not do it in such openly cruel ways.

I will give her credit for writing one of the more zany (in a tragic and sad way) statements I've ever seen. Stop eating mentally-ill pigs. Good grief.

I'll tell ya what...just stop eating pigs (or any other beings), whether mentally-ill or not...go vegan. That way you don't have to do any diagnosing for mental-illness or compulsivity or loneliness or anything else.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence day...

is celebrated here on the 4th of July. Like most who were born in the U.S., I've been drenched and soaked in the hoopla and celebrations and fireworks associated with the holiday.

The other day, in a fit of something, I re-watched one of my all-time favorite movies called The Contender. For me, this movie does a superlative job of highlighting and addressing some of the oppressions associated with sexism. I then rewatched another movie (Gentleman's Agreement) which is concerned with racism...another issue of freedom...which gets conflated with independence. Somehow we sort of roll freedom and independence all up into one big ball and celebrate both on this holiday.

Last week I was standing in line at a local grocery and in front of me was an African-American woman and her young daughter. I found myself wanting to approach her and apologize to both of them for any and all crap that they had and would experience because of sexism and racism from their fellow citizens. It was a pretty strong urge, but I talked myself out of it by telling myself that some old white man coming up to them and saying something like that would probably scare them more than anything. So I didn't say anything. But I strongly wanted to, and the thoughts and feelings which urged me still haunt me.

The more I think about and read about speciesism, the more I find myself also thinking about sexism, racism and all isms that have to do with ism implies some sort of system and I find it more than ironic that we, as a nation and culture, fail so often at living up to all the high-flown rhetoric we spout about ourselves regarding freedom and equality and all that liberty stuff. We struggle terribly to implement and uphold such very simple notions and more often than not...we simply fail at doing so...but instead of saying this...we talk and write and think as if we have.

For example, our continental neighbors Mexico and Canada both abolished the legal slavery of humans some 30 years before it ended in the U.S. And both did it without having a bloodbath of epic proportions or even a small bloodbath. We call our bloodbath the Civil War and few of us now apprehend how epic the death toll was. This source estimates anywhere from 600,000 to 750,000 deaths. Around 2 to 2.5 percent of the total population of the country died as a result of a violent argument over whether it should be legal to enslave a human. a country that annually goes into an orgy of celebration of "freedom" and independence around the 4th of July. "Freedom for all" is an aspiration, not a truth or a reality.

Even after all those deaths, the south (and some other areas) substituted segregation laws and poll taxes for slavery...trying to avoid freedom for former slaves. Most Americans don't realize that the U.S. was becoming seriously embarrassed on the world scene because of our oppressive and backward racial policies. WWII brought many face to face with one outcome that can accompany racism...the holocaust of the Nazi era. Immediately after WWII the cold war started and Russia didn't hesitate to point out the hypocrisy of the U.S. styling itself as the "leader of the free world" even as many of our citizens weren't "free" in any meaningful sense because of racism.

It is no accident that the civil rights movement began gaining strength and started expanding during the 1950s and the 1960s. This was the height of the cold war and there was serious pressure from other countries on our administrations to do something about racism. We looked stupid bellowing about freedom and liberty considering how we treated some of our citizens based on "race". Many of us believed our own lies to ourselves...but we were getting our noses rubbed in the hypocrisy by the communist countries.

I recently watched an excellent documentary named Traces of the Trade. It concerns a number of members of a well respected, upper class family from Bristol, Rhode Island. Ironically the documentary includes some home movie clips of one of the family members as a very small child waving an American flag during the Bristol Fourth of July parade...which is apparently the oldest Independence day celebration extant. I say ironically because her prominent family amassed a humongous fortune by trading slaves. In fact, one of her ancestors, at the time of his death in 1837 was reputed to reputed to be the 2nd richest man in the U.S. He was sort of the Bill Gates of his time and also was a respected and powerful U.S. Senator and his wealth and concomitant power was built on the slave trade.

The documentary concerns some of the family members getting together and tracing the route taken by the slave trading ships that belonged to the family and their trying to come to grips with the stunning knowledge that their family prominence and respect was gained via the oppression and enslavement of human beings. It is a very well done documentary...and 3 or 4 brief (very brief) scenes we see enslaved beings who don't happen to be human. There is no mention made of this in the film but my eye caught them and my comprehension resonated with the bizarreness of what I was seeing. A film about coming to understand the hollowness of prestige and wealth acquired because of evil...and yet the presence of evil practices are shown in the film and are not commented on and are accepted so fully they aren't even recognized as evil.

I think many committed to animal liberation and animal rights don't realize how much of a boost it was to the movement against racism here that there were countries who were our military and cultural rivals that were capitalizing via propaganda on our hypocrisy of saying we were "free" when the truth was dramatically different. Wouldn't it be cool if there were a human run country we could point to and say...see...everyone, including animals not human, are safe and free there. Not only would it be would serve as a serious pressure point and as a tremendous beacon of hope.

The graphic above is from some children's animal liberation literature dated 1913. Someone was imagining a place of genuine freedom over 100 years ago. Some country will have to be the first to become vegan in practice and in law. Predicated on our past (and our present) I have doubts it will be the U.S. We seem to be the world leader in talking up 'freedom' but we seem to mistake the word for the deed.

I won't be celebrating anything on this 4th of July. Because I know that independence has little or nothing to do with freedom and all the hoopla and such is in honor of something not real. I really don't see much sense in honoring fake stuff. I'll go empty and clean some poop boxes for some of victims (Heartland Rabbit Rescue) of oppression and try to give them some comfort and maybe some pleasure. They won't be celebrating hypocrisy...they're too smart to be fooled by false words and empty slogans and meaningless gestures.

Honoring and practicing and supporting freedom means living vegan...anything else is a shortcoming, a failure. I would urge you to take this holiday and think about what actually is versus what we say is. Watch these three film/video examples of rhetoric or false belief versus reality then think about the oppression and absence of freedom for beings of all sorts and sizes. We are all animals and "freedom" remains, for most, an aspiration...not a reality. Go look, with honesty, in the mirror and see if you can spot an oppressor of others, a racist, a sexist, a speciesist. If you can't, thank you, if you have some work to do before you do any celebrating.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Please help the animals.

Often, several times a week, the local daily paper will publish stories and/or photos of cruelty or abuse on the front page. Most who are mesmerized by the dominant cultural narrative (viz. the other animals are ours to do with what we want) about our sister and brother Earthlings do not identify these stories as being about cruelty or terror. Even though they are. For instance on Monday of last week there was a story touting a local deli that had a spam cookout to celebrate flag day. Then on Saturday of the same week there was a front page story with photos about a local rodeo.

This sort of incessant drumbeat underscoring and reinforcing that cultural narrative is served up all over the place. A spam cookout and a rodeo, what's so bad about that you ask? Well, if you're an ethical probably didn't ask. For those who don't realize it, the 'cookout' involves the murder of innocent pigs and the rodeo involves terrorizing babies (calf-roping) and many other 'events' of enslavement, abuse and sometimes even death.

Both stories are instances of juxtaposing the ideas of fun and entertainment with fear and death...with the fun and entertainment being experienced by the human animals inflicting fear and death on animals who aren't human. It's pleasurable to have "others" killed and then eat the flesh of their bodies. It is a "sport" to terrorize baby animals. Whee, good clean family fun. Sort of a variance of the minstrel show except promoting and reifying speciesism instead of racism. Sadly though, lives are lost in this variation.

I wrote a letter objecting to the rodeo and the glorification of is difficult to interject any reality in the brain-dead megaphone honking that tends to characterize most forms of corporate media but sometimes letters to the editor manage to do a little of this. The editor reacted by not printing my letter...this happens quite often.

But. Today in the paper a rather poignant letter was printed titled Please Help the Animals. I was glad to see it, very glad, in any given year very few letters are ever printed that take the side of the animals (and most are from me). In a city with almost 100,000 residents...that's really pretty pitiful. It wasn't a letter countering speciesism...but it was asking for kindness and compassion. And by golly, that's a hell of an improvement over celebrating horror.

Write a letter to your editor, write more than one. I was informed recently (after submitting letters for several years) that there's an informal policy here to limit letter writers to no more than one printed per month. Given that almost every daily issue carries some story or stories glossing over barbaric cruelty and oppression toward Earthlings who don't happen to be human...that's not many objections. Twelve per year vs at least three hundred and sixty five (actually more because there is almost always more than one story in each edition that promotes the harming of the targeted Earthlings)...not a very good ratio. But...if others were writing too...and getting printed...that ratio could improve.

Write a letter to your editor, write more than one. Please. And, if you're not living life as an ethical vegan...remember that you're supporting the misery and suffering and death of innocent beings. Don't do that. You can do better...go vegan.

Friday, June 20, 2014

It doesn't matter?

This is a relatively brief video, only a few minutes long (no graphic images). If you're unfamiliar with this fellow and you're vegan...then you probably should become acquainted with him and his efforts. If you are familiar with him...then this clip offers an interesting summation of some of his advocacy.

He speaks truth (at least for me) when he notes that those whom we admire and revere are generally not 'politicians', rather they are the activists. That's an interesting thing to consider.

Is it the case though, that it doesn't matter what you say or how you say it (as long as it is truth)? In some respects I agree...people cannot hear something until they are ready. Facts generally do not change attitudes.

On the other hand though...isn't it true that how you say something can serve to exacerbate or activate defenses and create resistance to a message...irrespective of the accuracy of the message? Was Mrs. Green wrong when she said maybe it hasn't been said well enough?

While you think about this (and always)...please live vegan.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Vegans visiting Vegans.

It was a first for Heartland Rabbit Rescue. A few weeks ago several members of the Red Earth Vegans of central Oklahoma chose to visit HRR.

REV, a recently formed group of vegan advocates and activists who, as part of their mission, wanted to become familiar with and to help the various organizations in the area that are devoted to rescuing/sheltering the victims of human depravity.

Getting ready for a group visit is sort of like having company come to your house...lots of picking up and tidying in addition to your usual tasks. Several faithful HRR supporters pitched in and helped with the extra effort but as usual the brunt was carried by Jeannie (the director) and Brad (her husband).

The bunnies are usually interested when visitors come because that often means treats for them and this visit was no exception...carrots were shared with everyone who wanted them and peas with those who had different tastes.
Buckley takes his carrot from Gillian.

It is always an interesting experience when we have visitors. This group was particularly unique in that all were vegans of the ethical type hence their perspective was different than most who come to encounter the Heartland rabbits.

First time visitors have no idea what to expect when they arrive...and...many of the rabbits are always a little anxious when meeting strangers.

Mark (human vegan) and Judy (donkey) in foreground.
In the past there have been some disconcerting happenings when HRR has visitors so it can be a little...well, not tense really...just sort of full of anticipation.

By disconcerting I mean the time (I was told about this, I wasn't present) a visitor casually reached over into one of the bunny enclosures and started picking up one of the bunnies by the scruff of the neck like kittens or puppies are sometimes lifted. This was a visitor who thought she knew all about rabbits and was perfectly self-assured that she knew how to "handle" a bunny. Often those who think they know about the rabbit tribe are humans who have the most misinformation and pose a real risk to rabbit safety. Rabbit mothers do not carry their babies the way mom cats and mom dogs do and rabbit physiology is not conducive to being manipulated in this way. A danger of serious injury to a rabbit exists if one is picked up by the skin on neck/back area. Picking up a bunny, even correctly, is always a tricky and somewhat risky maneuver...doing it carelessly or ignorantly can lead to disaster.

This woman was thoroughly mis-informed and, as is often the case with those brimming with erroneous information, absolutely certain that she knew what she was doing. So...visitors are fun...but....

That wasn't the case this day. I kept noticing a different feel to the atmosphere (compared to other visiting events) but I couldn't figure out what it was until some time passed. Finally I realized that the difference was that each of these people had already made the leap to grasping that each living being is an individual and that each living being is worthy of value and respect simply by virtue of their existence. They weren't meeting "animals" or "things" or an "it". They were meeting unique and complex and feeling beings who were different from them and also the same (in many ways) as them.

It was a really powerful experience for me to see a whole group of humans approach these former victims of human neglect, greed and callousness with interest and respect and care and without condescension or entitlement or patronization or superiority.  Those latter attitudes are ingrained in most of us throughout our lives as "appropriate" ways of viewing and interacting with Earthlings who aren't human. There was none of that present during the visit. I was truly blown away. It was terrific and exciting and just impossible to reduce to mere words.
Griffin 'pancakes' for rubs from Amanda.

The visitors were attentive and eager to learn and to help and pitched in on some cleaning and other tasks...but one of the most important things that visitors can provide for bunnies is interaction.

Humans tend to view 'petting' as a casual, optional kind of thing but providing socialization and contact comfort experiences for the bunnies is very important and one of the most needed yet often underdone because it is so time intensive and other tasks are so pressing.

Consider...there are more than 100 bunnies currently living at HRR, if 5 minutes of interaction were to be given to each resident that would take one human more than 8 hours to achieve each day. Scenario that out to 7 days a week then you're talking more than 56 hours...every week. Couple that with the time needed for the necessary daily tasks of providing food, water, hay, cleaning, nail-trimming, medical attention and on and on. You get the idea...there just isn't enough time. So...whenever extra kind and caring hands are available it is a major boon.

The group members were helpful in many other ways too, including pitching in with some of the near constant sweeping that is required.

I noticed that many of the bunnies were not as shy or apprehensive as they often are when meeting new people. That's just an impression and obviously it could be wrong but it might accurate and maybe...just maybe it could be because the bunnies knew their visitors were vegan.

Consider the results of this suggests that even poor smellers like human animals can detect differences between the body odors of those who eat meat and those who don't. Rabbits have about 20x more cells devoted to olfactory detection than do humans...hence it is not unlikely that the bunnies knew they were being visited by folks who don't routinely ingest the results of violence against others...or at least don't smell as unpleasant as those who do.
Buckley (bunny) and Sandy (human vegan).

So, the bunnies had carrots and attention and massages from nice smelling humans...what a day!

The bunnies recognized (nose-wise and attitude-wise) that this group was different. The whole experience was unique and very very positive.

It made my brain start running out scenarios...for instance...maybe it would be a good idea for vegan groups or individuals everywhere to start making trips to rescues and sanctuaries (especially those facilities that aren't vegan) on a regular basis. To serve as ambassadors and carry the message to our fellow Earthlings that not all humans routinely harm others. Think about the residents of those rescues and sanctuaries who provide refuge for the 'domesticated' Earthlings who are routinely harmed or killed by human animals...the 'farmed' beings. It might be an uplifting experience for them to discover that all human beings aren't eaters of beings, or that their rescuers aren't the only vegan humans on the planet.

What would it be like if you lived among beings who controlled everything you did...who had power over you...and also killed and ate your relatives (and/or you)...and you never knew that some of those beings with power were harmless...were conscientious objectors in the war on you and your kind...who didn't kill or eat living beings. It would be like living in a nightmare and never knowing that the originators of that nightmare could be any different. How awful, how terribly and deeply awful.

Marie (bunny) and Angie (human vegan).
To bring a glimpse of hope, a crack of light to a world of human created darkness, can't be a bad thing. It isn't often we have the opportunity to do these sorts of things but if you become the first  vegan an Earthling meets. Well, there ya go.

Consider how few vegans there are (relatively speaking) and how many human harmed beings there are. How many of the victims died never having met any humans who were their allies?

The HRR residents interact with human vegans daily, on this occasion they were able to meet and interact with many human vegans. The whole day was one of smiles and good feelings. It can be difficult to detect duck smiles...but they were there.
Duck smiles all around (green peas in water...a big treat)
A big thank you to all the Red Earth Vegans who visited and comforted and gave smiles to those who live at Heartland...thank you for the visiting and the comforting and the smiles and thank you most especially for living vegan. Your way of life brings light to the darkness created by human harm. And...if you are vegan consider making regular visits to the places where our sister and brother Earthlings are rescued. Their meeting you just might be a first for them. And...if the human operators of the rescue aren't living vegan...then it's an opportunity to show them that vegans aren't only harmless, they're helpers too.

Thank you Amanda, Angie, Gillian, Gina, Mark and Sandy.