Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Solstice...2011...

The December solstice will occur at 05:30 (or 5:30am) Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) on December 22, 2011. Greetings and best wishes to you and yours on this holiday occasion. Please make this a peaceful and caring celebration time by living as an ethical vegan.

These images are available from VeganPeace and you can visit there if you would like to send electronic vegan holiday greetings to someone.



Be well, be kind and enjoy! Consider visiting a local animal shelter or rescue and giving some of your time and attention to the beings there. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poetry can be...

a wonderful thing. I am lucky enough to have a couple of friends that write poetry, both are published poets and I am in awe of their talents and efforts.

Some time ago I ran a cross a poem by a woman named Ella Wheeler Wilcox (November 5, 1850 – October 30, 1919) that I thought was (and still do) just great both because of the wording and the meaning of the poem. Here is a photo of her (from wikipedia).
Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Perhaps her most famous phrase was: "Laugh, and the world laughs with you; Weep, and you weep alone." This was taken from a poem called Solitude.

Her work called Voice of the Voiceless was the poem I encountered that struck me with its power and truth. The poem itself is fairly lengthy, I will reproduce a couple of the more telling passages here and you can follow the link to read the complete work.

The Voice of the Voiceless (partial)

I am the voice of the voiceless;
Through me the dumb shall speak;
Till the deaf world's ear be made to hear
The cry of the wordless weak.
From street, from cage, and from kennel,
From jungle and stall, the wail
Of my tortured kin proclaims the sin
Of the mighty against the frail.
......
The same Force formed the sparrow
That fashioned man, the king;
The God of the Whole gave a spark of soul
To furred and to feathered thing.
And I am my brother's keeper,
And I will fight his fight,
And speak the word for beast and bird,
Till the world shall set things right.
.....
Oh, never a brute in the forest,
And never a snake in the fen,
Or ravening bird, starvation stirred,
Has hunted its prey like men.
For hunger, and fear, and passion
Alone drive beasts to slay,
But wonderful man, the crown of the plan,
Tortures, and kills, for play.

There is a website that is the home of the Ella Wheeler Wilcox society and there she is described as an "American Poet & Journalist & Free Thinker". Some years ago I noticed that many of the folks from the past that I admired were described as "free thinkers". I thought it was a hoot that she also had that label applied to her.

Interestingly, Voice of the Voiceless is the name that Peter Young has chosen to call his website where he reports on the activities, efforts and philosophy of the Animal Liberation Front.

If you are a friend of those with no human voice, you should be familiar with Ms. Wilcox and her poem....and you should also be living as an ethical vegan.

By the way...this month is an excellent time to make donations to your favorite organizations. Many of them have campaigns going where public donations are matched by private funds...hence your gift is effectively doubled. I know Vegan Outreach and Mercy For Animals and Farm Sanctuary have such campaigns going right now...

Please consider giving a donation in the name of some recipient to worthy animal rescue and sanctuary groups as a Holiday gift. Your money will be put to much better use than it would be if you purchased some 'stuff' that will soon be broken or forgotten. Alleviating suffering, saving lives, providing safety...these are gifts that are priceless.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bird brain?

Bird brain is a phrase often used pejoratively to describe some behavior or being that is considered to be not very bright. Actually, birds are no more 'stupid' or unintelligent than any other species when engaging in the activities of life.

This was brought dramatically to my attention yesterday afternoon when I was escorting Nessie Rae (the rabbit we share a house with) outside for the second of her daily outdoor visits. Rabbits, being crepuscular, generally are very active in the early morning and late afternoon...one of the tasks associated with working for Nessie is accompanying her outside during these two times.

She patrols and inspects most all of the area around her house and munches on tasty or interesting vegetation, chins plants and everything else, and sometimes wants to play chase with her escort. Right now she has a big digging project going on in the northeast corner of the backyard so that is where she usually heads as soon as she is out the door.

Yesterday I was standing around watching her work (one of the perks of being retired, getting to watch others work without working myself) when a female and male Cardinal flew into the tree/shrub right above my head and just froze there. Usually Cardinals have a pretty large 'startle' area and don't get too close...but these two were not more than 5 or 6 above me. I looked around and saw a small hawk land on a fence about 10 feet from us. Obviously these two birds had spotted the hawk and were making themselves as invisible as possible by sitting inside the shrub/tree and being perfectly still and quiet.
Where everyone was located.
 When the hawk was present I was located up behind the shrub/tree pictured. When I realized the hawk was grocery shopping I shooed her/him away (I know she/he has to eat too, but please...not in my backyard). The Cardinals stayed perfectly still and quiet for at least 15 minutes, and as I looked around and listened...there were no birds visible or bird sounds to be heard. These folks (Cardinals and the other at risk birds) know what to do to minimize their chances of being harmed by hawks and other predators that they co-evolved with. One of the interesting things about this drama was they obviously believed I posed less of a threat than the hawk and were quite willing to stay fairly close to me even though they normally wouldn't.

No, these feathered folks aren't dumb and a little observation and attention would confirm that for those that care to inform themselves.

Now, this experience led me to think about something that was hammered home rather strongly in a recent novel by Jonathan Franzen titled: Freedom. My thanks to my friend D.E.M who writes the excellent Animal Rights blog for steering me to this book. One of the bits of information in the book is the fact that birds, especially North American birds have not co-evolved with cats as a serious predator. Oh, a bobcat and/or a mountain lion might occasionally kill and eat a small bird but songbirds, Cardinals and the like are not serious food species for cats indigenous to this part of the world (and maybe nowhere, I don't know)....hence....our small birds simply don't have an evolutionary background which has allowed them to develop adaptations that effectively work to thwart being stalked and killed by cats.

The estimated number of birds killed each year by 'domestic' (dependent) cats is staggering, in the millions if not hundreds of millions, and this number...horrific as it is doesn't include the number (estimated at more than a billion) of small mammals that are stalked and killed by cats. Astonishing. Human animals bring cat animals to this continent for their own amusement and pleasure...cat animals then wreak havoc on indigenous animals. Good grief, even when humans aren't trying they end up causing death and destruction. Maybe we ought to quit doing stuff. Really.

Keep your cat indoors and do not let them roam outside. Period. Not only will you save the lives of other animals you will likely prolong the life of your cat. Cats did not evolve here, the animals here have not evolved strategies to cope with cats....just like they haven't evolved to cope with automobiles, electricity, air pollution...etc...all the wonderful ways we have developed to disrupt and destroy nature and the living world.

The Cardinals I saw yesterday have evolved with hawks, they knew that sitting very still and quietly on a leafy and obscured branch was an effective strategy to avoid the hawk, even if they have to be near a human animal to do it. The Cardinals don't have a long history with cats like they do hawks. Give them a break, and the chipmunks and prairie dogs and...and...and all the other little ones who are victims of the alien domestic cats we human animals brought here. Please.

And, in addition to keeping your cat indoors, if you really want to help out a bunch of your fellow animals...go vegan.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Veganlandia, home of the harmless human animals...

Well, why not?

There could be Veganburgs (small villages of vegans), Veganvilles (vegan towns) and Veganopolises (big towns/citys of vegans....all located in Veganlandia or on the planet VeganEarth.

Naming places aside, something I find missing in the writing and advocating and such around notions of ethical veganism are speculations about cultural or societal configurations that would/could evolve that are supportive of and/or maintaining and nurturing of the vegan ethos.

I have serious reservations (translate that to mean no way in hell) that "western" culture, capitalistic society, yada yada...whatever you want to term it or call it is conducive to living in a way that doesn't harm any living beings and/or doesn't destroy their living areas (habitats) and respects the planet and those that live thereon. Other brands of societies/cultures behave just as irresponsibly and destructively...I'm just more familiar with this one...I'm not excusing any of the others.

The default position in our society (or at least so it seems to me) is to consume, grow, build, destroy nature, grab, compete, win, have sex, be strong, be beautiful, overpower, excel, exceed, improve, be handsome, get rich, have kids, defeat your competitors, get richer, get better-looking, have more sex, get smarter, succeed (which, anymore, has devolved to mean get rich, no matter how), yada yada yada. All that stuff seems so trivial and demeaning and offputting and repulsive. And sad.

Think of all the thousands and thousands of tribes, cultures, peoples, nations, etc. that human animals have congregated in and lived in during the history of our species. We must have stumbled onto some good ways of being (by 'good' ways I mean vegan ways) during that time. What are they? Where are they?

By the way, when I searched for Veganlandia, only this and this showed up when I tried...a few other obscure things did but for some substance (small though it is), those two were it and there wasn't much to them. Probably some much spiffier term is out there but I haven't stumbled across it.

Earlier I wrote a post about Leavers or Takers and recently speculated a little about some aspects of a post-veganized world but that's only a tiny bit of what a world like Einstein referenced would look like. (pardon the links to my own writing, I'm doing so because this post is about poking around in my own thinking) I even have written that maybe the purpose of human animals is to serve as an example of how not to be/live. But I don't want to believe that, although we seem to be doing a damn good job of it...we can do better...can't we?


I would really like to hear some thoughts about what a vegan society might be like...I know some nifty folks sometimes visit here and what they think would beat the hell out of anything I could come up with.


For instance, taking advantage of, profiting from, using, exploiting, unjustly imprisoning, enslaving or harming other sentient beings...all those ways of behaving seemingly so near and dear to us would have to be avoided...quit...stopped...ended. Probably I most developed some of my thinking about this when I wrote about proxy morality part zwei...but I believe lots more (and better stuff) can be thought about and written about all this...and maybe needs to be. Or not.


A few quotes that I found somewhat relevant to what I'm attempting to struggle with here were located on a site called Why Cultured Meat

" Animal liberation is the most difficult liberation struggle of all because speciesism is primordial and universal. Speciesism is arguably the first of any form of domination or hierarchy and it has spread like a deadly virus throughout the entire planet and all of human history. The problem is not limited to Western culture or to the modern world, such that there is some significant utopian past or radical alternative to recover. The problem is the human species itself, which but for rare exceptions is violent, destructive, and imperialistic. Universally, humans have vested interests in exploiting animals and think they have a God-given right to do so. To change these attitudes is to change the very nerve center of human consciousness. That is our task - no more and no less. " 
~Dr. Steve Best
This excerpt by Norm Phelps was also thought provoking to me:
 " Animal exploitation and murder are no more the result of a particular belief system, political system, or economic system than are human exploitation and murder. To think that they are is to mistake the symptom for the disease. The disease is selfishness, greed, arrogance, and a lack of compassion. As Lord Acton told us, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Human history demonstrates that whenever a system (economic, political, religious, whatever) is installed that is designed to end, or at least ameliorate, human oppression, it is fairly quickly corrupted into a new mechanism for the same old oppression. Communism, is one example, institutional Christianity another. Political and economic democracy slow the process by distributing power widely enough to prevent its concentration while placing a significant share of it in the hands of those most vulnerable to oppression. As Winston Churchill reminded us, "Democracy is the worst system of governance ever devised except for all of the other systems that have been tried from time to time." Radical social revolutions simply put a new class of oppressors in charge. I wish it were not so, but it is.
 To put it bluntly, we enslave and murder animals because it is in our self-interest to do so and we have the power to get away with it, not because of capitalism, liberal democracy, the Judeo-Christian dominionist tradition, or any of the other reasons so commonly given. These are merely after-the-fact justifications. We enslave and murder animals because we can and we enjoy the results. Change the political or economic system, and that fundamental fact will still be operative, and the enslavement and murder of animals will continue unaffected except that it will now be justified by a different set of theories, one that is compatible with the new system. "  ~Norm Phelps
So, are the other animals (and us) screwed? Or can we move past our current horridness and behave veganly...and if we can what would it be like? I wonder.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Know any cows?

Most of us lead lives that do not include hanging out with large animals. Cows are very interesting and excellent beings and I recently ran across a video that does a pretty good job of showing some of the playfulness and friendliness that many cows possess. It is true that some cows are grumps just as some humans are grumps but Snow Flower (the star of the video) isn't.


Stay with the video, at about 3:30 in you will get to see some playing and frolicking and that goes on for some time, at around 4:40 she is having a great time. The video is a chance to get to see a bit of one cow enjoying her life. It is easy to see that she is an individual and that she has her own view of the world, her own preferences, her own likes and dislikes. When we lump living beings into categories we then tend to lose sight of the fact that each are individuals.

A facebook 'friend' (Wong Oi Lee) posted this video and at first I passed over it but went back and was captivated. I think it is a good chance to get to know a little about a cow for those that haven't had the opportunity to do so in the flesh. My thanks to her for putting it out there for the rest of us to see and experience.

From what I could find out on the internet, Snow Flower was eventually moved to a herd of 'pet' cows and maybe there she will get to live out her life in comfort and safety.

That isn't what happens to most cow beings. It is hard to reconcile the joy and happiness that Snow Flower obviously experiences with the casualness and ease that most humans are willing to kill such beings...or to pay someone else to kill cows like Snow Flower for them.

I was watching a documentary about the killing of the millions of humans during WWII and one of the narrators said what was so hard to comprehend was that the killing often wasn't done by sadists or madmen...rather it was done by ordinary human beings. Somehow, not participating in the horror was unusual or extraordinary rather than participating.

That's terribly frightening...just as is the casual way in which we kill billions of living beings every year...we kill them just because we want to. And very few of us ever give it a thought...so many lives extinguished, so many joys unfelt....and almost none of us seem to care.

It is hard to find hope but there are humans that care, that object, that protest....and that's important.

If you are one that cares, that objects, that protests, that doesn't participate in the ongoing slow-motion murderous rampage most humans are engaged in....then...thank you, thank you very much....you are valued and appreciated and very much needed by all (especially me).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Do you recognize this fellow?

Dr. Helmut Kaplan
He is an Austrian psychologist who is a major advocate for all animals. He has written a number of books using the German language and some of his writing has been translated into Japanese and French but...so far as I can tell...none have been translated into English. I hope this is rectified at some point because his works would be a valuable resource for readers of English.

For instance, on his website he writes about the The Theory of Everything in Ethics. One quote: "If all people adopted this rule, 99 per cent of all problems that can be solved through moral actions would be done away with in an instant!"

That's pretty ambitious...and the rule he references is, ta dah: The Golden Rule or as it is sometimes known...The Ethic of Reciprocity (sorry, the christians didn't originate this notion it has been around a lot longer than monotheism). Dr. Kaplan elaborates in his essay about the rule and I hope you will read it for yourself. One quote from his writing that I liked:
"The real problem in applying the Golden Rule to animals, or to be more precise, in putting ourselves in the place of the animals, is that it is so EASY – and that the result is so terrible in many cases: Anyone who is informed, even superficially, about what happens on animal transports, in factory farms, in abattoirs etc., and then imagines his dog or cat in such a situation (as a sort of bridge to putting himself in the place of other animals), is in danger of going mad with empathy and horror."
The real problem in applying the rule is that it is so easy...? I'm uncertain as to what he means here...unless it is that (as he writes) we often avoid using this rule because it is so compelling and would cause much change in our behavior...at least I think that is what he is saying.
"It is precisely this illustration of what the Golden Rule implies, factually and emotionally, this intensification of moral situations that cuts right to the heart of moral value and moral responsibility, that reveals what is probably the most common reason for the Rule’s rejection: All of us who accept the Golden Rule, this Theory of Everything in Ethics, are—in a moral sense—putting ourselves on the spot." 
I'm presuming "putting ourselves on the spot" means being compelled to behave in accordance with the rule?

I just wanted to introduce Dr. Kaplan and his work to those that are unfamiliar with him. I'm always gratified to find folks that are in the psychology field that are ethical vegans and Dr. Kaplan has been on the good path for some time and is a tireless and terrific advocate for all beings.

He seems to be not very well known to 'english-only' folks and that needs to be remedied.

I fully agree with his realization that most moral problems would disappear if some putting ourselves into the place of others would occur and then acting on what we thereby realize. It really isn't complicated or difficult.

One other quote:
"Our grandchildren will ask us one day, 'Where were you during the holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrific crimes?' This time around we won't be able to say, 'We didn't know it was going on.' "
Innocence or genuine ignorance among human animals is, for now anyway, sparse indeed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Enough said?

Thanks to all vegans.
Enjoy the holiday everyone

My apologies to all the animals (especially turkeys because of the time of the year) that we harm, will harm and have harmed. Someday....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The "Master" species...

For those familiar with WWII, you may know that that exhibition of human intellectual and moral disconnect from reality resulted in the death of an estimated 60 million human animal lives.

The two nation groups principally responsible for the onset of the violence and destruction were Japan and Germany. A similarity between the cultural world-view of those two nations existed that is rarely discussed or mentioned. That is of the "Master Race" delusion shared by both many Germans and many Japanese. The German Nazis considered their sort of folks to be superior to all others and the Japanese militarists considered their brand of human animals to be the best of the bunch.

The Japanese version:
We're superior to everyone else! (Hideki Tojo)
The German version:
We're superior to everyone else! (Adolph Hitler)

Obviously had those two groups been victorious, they might have had some things to argue about regarding their status of superiority. But, they weren't victorious and each moment creates more distance in time from their peculiar notions of a "Master race".

Or does it?

Well, actually no. This sort of psychopathic thinking continues today with groups associated with "white supremacy" notions. Thankfully these are 'fringe' groups and apparently attract a relatively small number of followers.

A much larger number of followers ascribe to another psychopathic notion, that of species supremacy. The "Master Species", if you will.

Indeed, if you look at the various "isms" associating with proclaiming and maintaining the 'superiority' of one group over another you find this theme over and over..."since I'm better to and superior to you, I should be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want and to treat beings that don't belong to my group any way I want. I can exploit them, torture them or kill them and be perfectly right and justified in doing so. My wants/needs should always come first in any situation." Elements similar to this are present in racism, sexism, ageism and on and on and on. "Me first and you...since you aren't like me...well...you get what I choose."

Speciesism is just a variant of this sad state of self-serving destructive silliness, this elevation of the human animal above all other animals is sometimes referred to as human exceptionalism. Somehow, because of how we are, we human animals have decided we are superior to all other animals and have the right to do to those 'lesser' beings whatever we want.

Whenever we see individual human animals thinking and behaving this way...we quickly recognize the danger and the pathology. Whenever we see groups of human animals thinking and behaving this way...we more slowly but eventually recognize the pathology and the danger. Apparently when the bulk of human animals think and behave this way...we have an enormously difficult time recognizing the pathology and danger. It's almost as if we are so immersed in it that we are unable to see it for what it is. Stupid, erroneous, foolish and destructive is what thinking this way is...but the victims of this monstrous insanity have no human voice... and the death and horror just rolls along...with little or no comment or recognition. Some object, some condemn but the numerical difference between the perpetrators or aiders and abettors and those who sound the alarm is 99 to 1.

It is curious how fairly easily we are able to identify thinking or behaving in an individual that is bizarre and dangerous...but disseminate the same strangeness to bunches of individuals...then somehow our perception and identification of dangerousness breaks down. Especially if we happen to belong to such a group.

If bizarre notions have been presented to us since birth their identification becomes more problematical. Other factors that may serve to disguise bizarreness and decrease our critical ability include the notions offering some reward for us or if the bizarre notions flatter us or if the bizarre notions elevate our status or if the bizarre notions give us reasons for our problems.

There are extensive writings on the causes of the "Final Solution" that Germany called their attempts to try to eradicate Jewish people and other people deemed "undesirable".  There aren't nearly as many sources that examine the behavior of the Japanese prior to and during WWII. This isn't because they weren't destructive, but partially because here in the west we tend to focus on countries and groups participating in western 'civilization' and to be much more ignorant about groups using other 'civilization' traditions and worldviews. Another reason is that the Japanese did not engage in the systematic and bureaucratized and horrific imprisonment and slaughter of millions. Their violence and destruction was less systematized and pervasive when compared to the Germans...but who the hell knows what they would have done in the future had they not been defeated and what they did do was horrific enough.

Our behavior toward the other animals has and is often compared to the behavior of the Nazis toward the 'undesirables'. Numerous books are available that explore these similarities and here is a superlative photographic essay that expounds on this comparison.

Many of us are familiar with the quote from the Nobel prizewinner Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote: "In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka."

Others object to such comparisons. For instance Roberta Kalechofsky wrote: "....I objected to this use of the Holocaust... The agony of animals arises from different causes from those of the Holocaust. Human beings do not hate animals. They do not eat them because they hate them. They do not experiment on them because they hate them, they do not hunt them because they hate them. These were the motives for the Holocaust. Human beings have no ideological or theological conflict with animals."

What she writes may be true, but whether someone hates or someone is indifferent...the fact is if a being that is hated or a being that elicits indifference is a being that the hater or the indifferenter feels superior to, feels more powerful than, feels unconstrained by rules in terms of dealing with them...then the being hated and/or the being toward whom indifference is felt...is at tremendous risk of being horribly treated. Here, at this point, is where the Nazi mindset and the mindset of the average human animal converge...this notion of superiority...this "Master Race" mentality...this "Master Species" mentality.

These two photos of beings transported against their will to their places of death are too similar to be dismissed.
An innocent being, condemned by those who say they are "superior".

Innocent beings, condemned by those who say they are "superior".


I think Henry Beston expressed a truth about our fellow animals that rings and resonates with accuracy and clarity when he wrote "...They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

We are citizens of Earth, as are all the other living beings. We are not superior, we are not inferior, they are not superior, they are not inferior...they are just trying to get by and they owe us nothing...we, however, owe them the right to be left alone to be themselves.

Living as an ethical vegan is a requirement in order to follow the path of leaving them alone...and of avoiding the superiority/inferiority delusion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The pleasures of the Earth.

They are there to be shared by each and every single one of the children of the Earth.

Molly, Judy and Midnite enjoy the sunshine...
Sunbathing is often a pleasurable experience, especially when the air is crisp or chilly. The three folks above were spotted when I arrived at Heartland Rabbit Rescue one cool morning. The wind was coming out of the north but they had found a perfect spot protected from the wind to catch a few rays. We human animals often forget that we don't own the planet, all of the children of the Earth have the same rights to the pleasures of living here as we do. But we forget this quite a lot.

Nessie Rae and Bobby Ray
Bob seeks the sun regularly (except during this last summer) and anywhere there is a comfortable place to rest with some sunbeams you might find him...here you can see him and his sorta friend Nessie lounging together with Bob having the added bonus of getting some warmth from the sun.

Sun bathing, enjoying the rain, the snow, the smell of fresh air...all these things we human animals tend to minimize yet they constitute serious sources of pleasure and enjoyment...and most of the animals that aren't human ones know that very well. Sometimes even we human animals remember.

Gracie Rae semi-sunning herself.
Gracie is less prone to seek the sun, my speculation is that her dark fur makes heat absorption from the sun so efficient that it quickly becomes uncomfortable for her...hence mostly she only 'semi' suns herself.

Sun-bathing, fresh air, etc...all pleasures that are birthrights belonging to each of the children of the Earth. Yet somehow, for various "reasons"...we human animals have decided that we have a right to control those 'available for all' pleasures. Either by polluting and destroying the Earth and her air and waters or exploiting her children by imprisoning and torturing and killing them.

When I look at it straight on I start to sputter...what in hell are we doing? Who do we think we are? What kind of insane trajectory are we on? What's the matter with us? We must be crazy!

In truth, it would be maybe hopeful if we were crazy or deluded or uncomprehending...then maybe we could change before it is too late for everyone. But if this is just us, if most of us are just this way and will remain this way...then there is no hope, there is no bright and enduring future available, there is only increasing degradation and destruction and misery and death.

The truth is, if you aren't living as an ethical vegan, you are paying other human animals to imprison your fellow animals, to murder their babies and to murder them...to keep them from the 'available to all' pleasures of the Earth. Or maybe you're committing those horrors yourself, directly...I don't know.

I do know, however, that whatever bloated, swollen, distorted and malevolent sense of self-importance has led us to believe we have a right to control the Earth and all her children...I do know that this sickness (or evilness) must stop. It must end, soon, and completely.

Your chance to show that your character isn't one allied with misery and death as well as affirming your recovery from some of the common destructive delusions associated with being a human animal is to go vegan.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

After abolition, what will it be like?

Once we recognize the truth that a life belongs to the being that posses that life and start trying to behave that way...then what?

Pretend human animals have grown-up or awakened or learned, finally, that you treat those with less power with care and consideration. That you don't exploit them or harm them simply because you can...and...if you do there are moral, cultural and legal sanctions.

Once we get there, what will it be like?

I presume other animals will have some sort of cultural and legal status similar to children. No more slaughterhouses, no more 'dairy', no more organized exploitation of any species (without breaking the law). The amount of misery and death dealt out by human animals will be reduced tremendously...but it won't be gone.

The current furor and turmoil over the child sex-abuse scandal and Penn State's venerable coach Joe Paterno made me think again about what will it be like in the post-abolition world.

Sadly enough, animals will still be harmed, animals will still be exploited, animals will still be tortured and killed...the litany of misery will continue just as it continues today for those vulnerable and innocent ones we call our children.

One of the many differences will be that the legal system will have avenues with which to punish those who harm the helpless.

But make no mistake, the helpless will continue to be harmed. Every human animal that occupies a status that, in the not so distant past, was considered to be eligible to be owned as 'property' continues to be more vulnerable than those that have not recently occupied such statuses. Children, women, African Americans and on and on....in fact....we're oriented toward equal opportunity exploitation...all you have to do is belong to some group or status that is less powerful than some other group and status and....we'll increase your risk of being harmed and/or exploited at no extra charge.

All you have to be is "different" and be less powerful.

And...even those who hold themselves out to be paragons of virtue and character, just like the Catholic Church and Coach Paterno did, even these institutions and humans will pose danger and risk, directly or indirectly,  for the vulnerable.

Unless...unless what? Can we do better than we do now regarding those with little or no power? Is how we behave now toward our children (I'm referencing them because I am presuming we care for them the most) the best we can expect from ourselves? Maybe we have more work to do on ourselves than we realize....because how we treat our children has lots of room for improvement. Lots.

But, providing our fellow animals with protections and considerations similar to those we ostensibly extend to our children is a big first step. You can start your own journey in the right direction by living as an ethical vegan (if you haven't already).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hearing someone scream in pain or terror...

is shocking and scary. Hearing a bunny scream is especially frightening because they are so small and vulnerable. Recently I was serving up lunch to the south warren bunch of buns at Heartland Rabbit Rescue when one of the bunny folks screamed/shrieked three times in succession. The screams were sort of brief but loud and full of urgency and alarm and pain or terror. I ran over to the area the sound seemed to have arisen from but aside from lots of rabbits being on full alert (and some were thumping in alarm) I could see nothing wrong with anyone.

I then walked the whole warren inspecting each resident to see if I could find the distressed bunny, everyone looked ok, nothing seemed amiss...I did a full walk through two times and never could discover who screamed or what happened. Slowly all the rabbits settled back down and I finally went back to my previous task. Weird.

Later, when I told the Director about it she reminded me about one of her first experiences with bunny screams. When she first started taking in homeless bunnies, her first pair of what we call 'great whites' (actually they are formally called New Zealand White Rabbits...but they are Mexican in origin...go figure) were rabbits that had been used (tortured) in a laboratory. Their backs and sides were covered with one or two inch long scars that covered over where slits had been made in their backs and various substances inserted underneath their skin...to see what would happen. That sounds like something sadistic children might do to some helpless being...but nope...these were all grown-up humans doing this...just to make a buck.

Most, if not all, animal testing is obscene and unnecessary...it is done because it is cheap and few object and corporations think it might save their butts in a lawsuit. Here is a link to see what corporations test or don't test on other animals. Harming an innocent being just because you think it might do you some good is indefensible and repugnant.

The Director said that sometimes these bunnies would begin whimpering and then screaming in their sleep, they would be having traumatic dreams reliving what had happened to them in the laboratory. Experiencing 'night terrors' and nightmares reliving their fear and pain just like us human animals might do that have been subjected to torture and/or terrorizing incidents. They would awaken themselves with their screaming and then it would stop.

She speculated that the screaming might have come from a nightmare that maybe Pippin or Brett had experienced. She mentioned those two because both are fairly recent arrivals at the rescue and both were in situations wherein they had been terrorized. Both Pippin and Brett had been kept in outdoor cages where attempted attacks by dogs sometimes occurred (and whatever other nightime predators that might have been around). While their cage might have kept them safe from the attack it did nothing to keep them safe from terror.

We still don't know who screamed or why they screamed but it is important to realize that terror and pain and memories and nightmares and trauma are not experiences exclusive to human animals...all of us animals live on the same planet and experience life much the same and have an array of reactions that are very similar (some might be different, but the great majority are the same)...it isn't much of a stretch to say that we may look quite different on the outside but on the inside, where our feelings and our essential being resides, we are much the same.

The best way you can help ensure you don't add to the misery of our sister and brother animals is to go vegan, please....it does the animals good, the planet good and it does good for your standing as a worthy relative of all animals.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Veganacious posted these statements...

on November 1, 2010. They are excellent and well worth disseminating widely. I agree with everything written here...and that's so refreshing. Let's work toward making everyday World Vegan Day.

(the complete post is reproduced below)

World Vegan Day

We advocate peace, ahimsa, non-violence.

We believe that veganism is a philosophy, not a diet.

We believe in the interconnectedness of all living beings.

We believe in the right of sentient beings to be treated with respect, not be property, and be allowed to live their lives.

We believe that the domestication of animals has created misery and death for most domesticates. We believe we have a responsibility to domesticates as far as we are able to help them, since we created them.

We believe that the current use and abuse of animals is not only morally wrong but unsustainable; it must stop.

We believe that respect for all living beings will help heal the earth.

We believe in doing the least harm towards others.

We believe that treating all sentient beings with respect is the morally right thing to do.

We believe that veganism will help heal the individual person; feeding upon death and suffering is in no way healthy.

We believe that human animals must control their own population.

We believe that we must allow natural areas for animal habitat, where nonhuman animals may live unmolested by human intervention.

We believe in a vegan world, in its possibilities, in its potentials.

Please, join us. Please, go vegan!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Wild...

Earlier I wrote a bit about the word 'domesticated' and how often summary words serve to obscure and hide sometimes complex and weighty phenomena. Wild is also such a word especially when applied to our animal relatives.

According to the Mirriam-Webster dictionary site, wild means:

"1a : living in a state of nature and not ordinarily tame or domesticated <wild ducks>
b (1) : growing or produced without human aid or care <wild honey> (2) : related to or resembling a corresponding cultivated or domesticated organism
c : of or relating to wild organisms <the wild state>
2a : not inhabited or cultivated <wild land>
b : not amenable to human habitation or cultivation; also : desolate
3a (1) : not subject to restraint or regulation : uncontrolled; also : unruly (2) : emotionally overcome <wild with grief>; also : passionately eager or enthusiastic <was wild to own a toy train — J. C. Furnas>
b : marked by turbulent agitation : stormy <a wild night>
c : going beyond normal or conventional bounds : fantastic <wild ideas>; also : sensational
d : indicative of strong passion, desire, or emotion <a wild gleam of delight in his eyes — Irish Digest>
4: uncivilized, barbaric...."

Hmmm, the first entry about growing or existing without human care or aid is actually what the phrase "wild animal" should mean. Actually, if we look at the term wild and consider that "domesticated" essentially means dependent on humans, then "wild" actually means independent...the wild ones don't need humans. Probably a much more appropriate and meaningful way to talk about animals viz-a-viz humans would be to term them as being either dependent or independent.

But that isn't what we do. First of all, notice, we often (almost invariably) frame our consideration and thinking about other animals by primarily referencing them re humans...that is either wild or domestic. We can't use either of those terms without dragging ourselves into the mix because saying wild actually means independent of humans and saying domestic actually means dependent on humans.

But, the subtle baggage that is tacked onto wild are the various other meanings that are vaguely or specifically negative. Notice wild also means uncontrolled, agitated, barbaric, desolate. When we think about or reference another animal with the adjective "wild"...these additional shades of meaning often get covertly or overtly dragged into the mix.

So...I am going to, henceforth, try to think about other animals in different terms. Then it is easily noted that an animal is...at least insofar as dealing with humans...either independent or dependent. Because the fact is that those animals that don't depend on us to make their way on this planet and to live their own lives in their own way...why should we burden that independence with any shadings of negativity?

They, like us, have the skills and capabilities to live on this planet as autonomous beings...they don't need us for anything. We are unnecessary to their existence (in fact our principal role in their lives is as a threat to their existence). Maybe our unnecessariness is what bothers us about them and makes us reference them with a word (wild) that has additional negative connotations.

Independent or dependent...you can help save the lives of animals if you go vegan.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Subverting my usual stance...

of rarely noting some "day" or other I offer this salute and recognition to one particular "day" I wholeheartedly agree with. That is the "World Vegan Day"...someday in the not too distant future I hope that ethical veganism is no more unusual that daybreak or nightfall. Since that isn't the case currently...Happy World Vegan Day!!

Remember...ethical veganism is for this small child pictured below and all the other children and all the moms and dads and sisters and brothers of all the sentient beings on our planet (including you)...ethical veganism is the recognition and affirmation and way of living that says their lives are theirs and our lives are lived in ways that respect and honor and care for them.

All children of all sentient beings deserve respect and caring. 

If you aren't living as an ethical vegan, why not? I can pretty safely assure you that if some other group of beings possessed power over us...you would desperately want them to live as ethical vegans...why not give what you would want if circumstances were different?

Finally, I saw this last graphic on the web and really liked it. We all were handed a bunch of ways of thinking and perceiving and behaving that we had no choice but to accept...but it is our job to do just exactly what Mr. Whitman is admonishing us to do. Ethical veganism is the only way of living that I know of that doesn't insult the soul.


Enjoy your day (and if you haven't already done so...quit insulting your soul and go vegan)!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Backyard bunny...

The October days in central Oklahoma can be spectacular and Sunday the 29th was just one of those days. Nessie Ray routinely goes outside for a morning period and then again around 5:30 in the afternoon. This past Sunday afternoon was exquisite, absolutely no wind, temperature around 60 degrees F. and the last sunshine of the day spilling like gold over everything. The mums are blooming, there is still plenty of green grass and the dirt is soft and inviting after some recent rain.

Some photos of Nessie enjoying that afternoon.
Nessie looks for some tasty grass or roots.
Nessie eyes the photographer.
Nessie poses.
Resting on the rock.
In the above pic at the upper right you can see the terracotta bunny peeking out a bit.
Maybe my favorite shot of the afternoon.
The photo just above really grabbed me when I viewed it. I can easily see her age there...she isn't a youngster any longer. She has lived to the equivalent of her 50s in human years and I can easily see the weight of those lived moments in that photo of her.

There is something about the face of some rabbits that remind me of the face of an elephant...I would not find it strange at all to imagine a trunk on her face. Maybe it is the big ears, but I do think too that the big round forehead and large wide-set eyes evoke that image with me.

She behaves quite differently in the mornings versus the afternoons. Mornings are sometimes accompanied with a binky or hop and a skip, almost always with several bouts of playing chase or dancing but afternoons are mellower, usually some digging and some laying down and soaking up the sights and sounds and just existing on this planet. Being her escort on these outings is a privilege and a pleasure. She's a nifty being and having her live with us has enriched everyone.

Enjoy the pictures, enjoy your October and the rest of last days of this year...and help all the other beings enjoy theirs by going vegan.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Domesticated...

I previously wrote a little about 'domestication' but it is a phenomenon that deserves quite a bit more attention. Like many summary words, domestication condenses some very complex and weighty behaviors down into just one little bit of sound and/or meaning and along the way can easily obscure and hide things that need to be examined and evaluated in order to fully understand what that summary word means.

If you look up the meaning of the term 'domesticate' at the Mirriam-Webster website, the 2nd explanation of its meaning reads: "to adapt (an animal or plant) to life in intimate association with and to the advantage of humans". Notice that there isn't any reference to this adapting having any benefit for the life form involved...the advantage is for human animals...not for the particular plant or animal. Much more often than not, this adapting includes decreasing the animals (and I'm focusing on animals in this instance) ability to survive on their own without human assistance. One of the meanings that tends to get lost when we use the word 'domesticated' is that dependency on humans is usually one of the effects involved in 'domesticating'.

If you look up the term 'wild' at that same dictionary website you will see that it is defined as: 1 a" "living in a state of nature and not ordinarily tame or domesticated"  or b (1) : "growing or produced without human aid or care". In other words...not dependent on humans.


I'm deliberately focusing on the dependency issue because, for most of us human animals, our primary interaction with the other animals we share the planet with is with these particular sorts of animals that have been manipulated by us to be dependent on humans. They have been changed, through our intervention, from their pre-intervention state to a condition wherein they are quite likely to require humans to assist them to survive.

The fact is, if someone wants to know what dogs were like before humans manipulated them, they would need to go observe wolves. If you wanted to know what cats were like before humans manipulated them, you would need to go hang out with some African wildcats because those appear to be the ancestors of domesticated cats.

The notion of 'animal rights' includes the idea that the other animals on this planet have the right to live their lives however they want. The truth is, most other animals, that haven't been 'domesticated' don't hang out around us very often. No one can much blame them, given the reign of imprisonment, terror, destruction and death that is pretty much our trademark behavior whenever we encounter other animals (and often when we encounter other human animals too).

Some folks get all excited and upset when you carry out the notion of animal rights to the logical conclusion that "pets" are species that have been manipulated to be dependent on humans and as such should be allowed to live out their lives but the "breeding" of such animals should be ended. And not only those animals generally thought of as "pets" but also any of the "farmed" animals that have been manipulated to the point that they have lost their ability to survive on their own. Yep, the world as envisioned by animal rights folks would likely be a world where there were no "pets".

Something to think about...the only animal that might want to hang out with you would be one that chose to...not because he or she had to but rather that they liked you and wanted to be around you. Isn't that how those that are respectful and accepting of others relate to one another?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Goodbye October...

you were and are the most gorgeous month of the year here in central Oklahoma. The weather is perfect, sunflowers and goldenrod and many many other wildflowers are putting on their last burst before their winter sleep. The air is cool and crisp and the sun bright without being oppressive, the angle of sunlight makes for a golden look and feel. Exquisite.
Some of the gold.

The purple

More of the gold (the goldenrod).

Midnite and Judy in the gold.

Molly in the gold.
 When I went out into the field to take some shots of the golden flowers, the guard donkeys (Judy and Molly) and Midnite (the magnificent) had to come over to check out the camera and see what was going on. Their beauty contrasts nicely with the gold.

October is lovely. The sun is about about 4 months away from the furthest north it travels and the staggering heat here has finally gone away. The mornings and evenings are mellow or crisp and the days are bright and warm. Thank you nature, thank you...and thanks to Judy, Midnite and Molly for allowing me to capture their images. We are fortunate to occupy such a glorious planet with such beautiful plants and beautiful animals, lucky lucky us. It is amazing!

Thank you again, October, for being yourself.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Still one of the saddest graphics...

...I have ever seen.

I was reminded of this bit of information recently because I ran across a story that included a photo I had not seen before. The story itself was posted with this photo:


The man crying in the photo is George Gillette: "who in 1948 was the chairman of the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa tribes of North Dakota, crying because the tribes’ homeland on the fertile floodplain of the Missouri River was to be inundated by construction of the Garrison Dam." (source)

The destruction of nature is an occasion for grief, one which should bring each of us to tears...but usually doesn't. Look at the faces of the whites in the photo. They are us, jeez.

Destroying forests, flooding homelands, murdering billions of animal beings (of all types)...and so few of us cry, so few of us are filled with sorrow and grief....so much devastation and misery and suffering and death and so few tears. I sometimes struggle against a desire to climb into my bed and cover up my head and not come out again...ever.

Our ignorance is so profound that we have forgotten that what we do to nature, what we do to the other animals...we do to ourselves. Opt out of this destructive insanity, as much as you can...a big step in the right direction is to live as an ethical vegan. Become someone who feels the sorrow, not someone who causes the sorrow. If enough of us join with George Gillette and begin to feel the horror and pain of what is happening then maybe we can stop the stony faced ones who are wrecking and destroying and murdering.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Newer bloggers of the ethical vegan ilk are...

always a welcome addition to the arena. I noted this blog some time ago but wanted to let the infant grow a bit before being assured that ennui and circumstance wouldn't snuff it out early on. Well Kara Kapelnikova  (great name!) seems to be in for the long haul and has written some energetic and excellent posts. Her most recent prompts me to suggest that you read it and explore all the posts and information she has arrayed on her site.

She calls her blog VeganRabbit which is a name that automatically elicits my admiration and approval (Nessie Ray approves too) and she lives with several bunnies as well as some other animal beings.

She writes in this post about the obligation we each have to speak up and advocate for the other animals, that it isn't enough to live as an ethical vegan, we must do more. I think this is true.

While at some future point there may be enough of us that advocacy isn't necessary from everyone, right now I think there is an obligation to spread the word and stir the pot. To tell you the truth, I don't much like it. My own preference is to go my own way and do my own thing and let everyone else do theirs...but the horrors that most of my species are inflicting on the other animal beings and on our planet don't allow me, in good conscience, to stay on the sidelines.

I agree, absolutely, with the notion that each of us has a "social obligation" (her phrase, and a good one) to advocate. It's sort of like...I don't want to be a fire fighter but when the damn house is burning down...well...you get the idea. The suffering and doomed animals don't have the luxury of much of anything and me indulging my own preference to live my own life my own way is simply...in a very real way...abandoning them to a shitstorm of misery and destruction. That's just not ok, it isn't.

I'm not out in the street shouting, although that may be necessary at some time or another, but I do my bumper stickers, I actually gave a talk to a student group about animal rights (lots of blank looks, an orator I'm not), I keep vegan pamphlets stocked at our local library (there have been over a thousand of them picked up in the past 2 years) and I agitate and bother people that I know occasionally about their eating habits, etc. I've written a few letters to the editor, it isn't much, it isn't as much as I want to do and I will do more as time progresses...but it is something and I suspect, if each person that understands that other beings have the right to their lives, would do a few things...I suspect all those folks together doing some things...all that would begin to make a difference.

The full-timers are out there, Vegan Outreach, Mercy For Animals, Farm Sanctuary, United Poultry Concerns, Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary and on and on. They are there and working hard for the world we want, but it is going to be the individuals, you and me, that actually make it happen...and I don't see a way for that to occur unless we start doing some educating and advocating and agitating ourselves...each and every one of us...for as long as it takes...and as much as it takes.

I'll make it easy for you, click on this link and it will take you to a page where you can get a free TryVeg bumper sticker...no postage, no cost, no effort beyond providing an address to send it to. Get the sticker, put it on your car and...there ya go...you're a passive activist. Thank you.

Many of the folks that read this blog do much much more, Bea and DEM  and Patty  and HGV and Andrew and Harry to name just a few, they do much more than I do and I salute and admire them for it. I'm addressing any of you that are doing nothing beyond living as an ethical vegan. I think we have to go beyond that...how much beyond is an individual and situational thing that will wax and wane but beyond we must go...the crap has gone on too long and it is too widespread and too entrenched. Objections must be made, information must be spread and protests must be voiced by each and every one of us. Over and over and over...until the change occurs.

My thanks to Kara for calling me out, for calling all of us out...the other animals need us, the planet needs us...now and in the future. Like she said, this isn't about personal choice, ethical veganism is about justice...it's about being in a world that isn't a grotesque death camp, it's about being in a world not controlled by murderers and destroyers, it's about making life be about life...not about exploitation and misery and suffering and death.

Friday, October 7, 2011

You animal you....

If you're reading this, and avoid classifying yourself as an animal, then take a look at this.
Now relax, if you were concerned about being considered...gasp...an animal. The above drawing is apparently inaccurate even though it was widely used in textbooks for many years. The drawing is attributed to Ernst Haeckel who was the proponent of recapitulation theory ("ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny") which claims that an individual organism's biological development, or ontogeny, parallels and summarizes its species' evolutionary development, or phylogeny. It is suggested that he fudged the above drawings to make them more closely support his theory because they aren't quite accurate. I remember being taught the recapitulation notion and thinking it was a really neat idea. Well, neat it is but accurate it isn't.

However, take a look at these illustrations of two embryos...one human, one pig.
I came across them here, and they are attributed to a medical textbook and are apparently accurate. I am presuming the one on the left is the human but since the author on the website doesn't specify (that I saw) which is which, your guess is as good as mine. If you like these guessing games, here is another one with answers included.

Nature isn't into "neat", nature is primarily interested in results, not how something looks. We are all animals, our ancestors were all subject to the same environmental and evolutionary pressures that resulted in each species of animal possessing the particular bundle of behavioral and anatomical characteristics that distinguishes them. Many of these characteristics overlap and are similar between species and some do not and aren't very similar. Nature doesn't much care how easy or difficult it is for us to identify and/or understand her workings.

But...anyone that looks around at the amazing plethora of different life forms on Earth and somehow believes we human animals aren't the product of exactly the same process that resulted in all the animals...well someone thinking like that has little evidence to support their position as well as likely having some serious reality-testing issues.

My inspiration for this post occurred because the Haeckel drawing was floating around on facebook as an illustration of how closely related all the animals are. Well, we're all closely related and while that illustration isn't particularly good evidence, take a look at this one .
Human soft tissue tail.
 Humans are sometimes born with what is called a vestigial tail as the photo above shows. I couldn't find any data on the frequency of such occurrences but for Jack Black fans there is a quirky movie (called Shallow Hal) starring he and Gwnyeth Paltrow that has a character with a vestigial tail. The movie is a little far-fetched but sort of interesting and the behavior of the vestigial tail is featured in some scenes.

You're an animal, I'm an animal, Bobby Ray (one of the cat beings that resides with me) is an animal...we're all animals...so let's just all get along...and to do that we human animals have to live as ethical vegans. That's really not so tough...and...being vegan makes us much better at being able to be neighborly to our fellow animals.

Monday, October 3, 2011

I'm currently reading a book titled:

Original Wisdom by Robert Wolff. The author also maintains a modest web presence and on that site I found the following writing that resonated fairly strongly with me.
 ...As I age I feel more and more obsessed by simple. Doing without rather than getting more. One of my favorite authors, Ursula K. LeGuin, writes "Owning is owing; having is hoarding." Very true, very wise.

 The human world is not simple. The world we made is a tangled disaster of rules and regulations forcing us to be what we were not born to be. We may think we can but we cannot own this planet. We are as much part of the planetary ecology as a virus or a tree. What we call civilization is a top down system designed to acquire always more. Obviously impossible. We invented power we can no longer control. And with that power we abuse and destroy this planet, our only home. Poisoning its precious soil, the water, the air all humans need to live. Our destructions are eradicating thousands of species; gone forever. An impoverishment we cannot restore. Mother Earth needs to be honored and nurtured -- today it seems we cannot stop (trying to) control...
 The author isn't writing from an animal rights perspective but rather about ways of living and being that human animals once embraced but have now (for the most part) moved away from or lost. We seem to have destroyed some critical connection to our planet and her other beings and the stories in this book attempt to describe some of what we have lost.

We seem to be on some mad power trip that is insatiable and when we encounter a difficulty we  attempt to overcome that difficulty by applying more power and control.

Many years ago I ran across Sheldon Kopp's Eschatological Laundry List and was struck by the wisdom in many of its formulations especially the one that says: "We must learn the power of living with our helplessness." I sometimes think that much of western culture is an avoidance of and a denial of that truth. And the denial has made us monstrous.

At the heart of the concept of animal rights is the notion that living and letting live is a pretty good guide to how to behave. We seem to have a lot of trouble with leaving the other beings to themselves. We're big on the idea of control...and we can see where that has gotten us.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A few photos found on facebook...

Mundane horror... 
More mundane horror.
????
We murder, imprison or fear and avoid any being...that we perceive to be..."different" from ourselves.

In a poem, Ralph W. Emerson once wrote: "Things are in the saddle and ride mankind...". Observing the kinds of behaviors we direct toward those we perceive to be "different" makes it difficult to believe that whatever impels human animals to behave as they do comes from outside themselves...we, ourselves, seem to be the "things in the saddle".

Last pic...

 To be their voice you must live as an ethical vegan, that's just the way it is.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

An obvious conclusion ignored...

In the well done movie Contagion , currently playing in theaters, we are given a look at a potentially deadly problem. The ending presents an obvious conclusion and solution. This conclusion and solution is apparently eluding reviewers and probably most audience members too.

It is serendipitous that I attended this movie right after the previous post. Once again in a movie we are presented with violence toward animals that is ignored and invisibled but in this movie we are given the clear and compelling information that killing and then handling the corpses of the murdered animals is inviting diseases to jump from the victims to the murderers. The whole movie is about the devastation waiting to happen when a viral organism present in another species mutates and begins making the rounds in the human species.

The movie clearly and openly shows this fact yet not a single review that I have read of the movie including ones in The New Yorker,  The New York Times, The Boston Globe or by multiple reviewers referenced at RottenTomatoes.com points out the obvious and that is converting to an ethical vegan lifestyle would preclude many if not almost all of such disease transmission.

It is estimated that around 60% of all human infectious diseases and around 75% of all emerging infectious diseases originate in other animals and then are passed directly to humans or mutate and acquire the ability to infect humans. For instance AIDS is believed to have originated in chimpanzees.

Want to reduce or eliminate disease transmission between species...leave the animals alone to live their lives...quit imprisoning them, quit killing them, quit cutting them up and eating them.

Live as an ethical vegan, a compellingly obvious conclusion once you see this movie but apparently nothing is too obvious for culturally induced blindness to make invisible and....based on my sampling of the movie reviews so far...not one sees the obvious.

Go see the movie, it is fairly well done even if mildly shallow and 1950ish feeling, and see if you are able to spot the obvious.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Pledge is a movie...

that I have watched several times. I have a tendency to review or reread (sometimes multiple times) books or movies that resonate with me. For instance, Thelma and Louise is a movie that stuns me each time I see it and I have watched it multiple times. Ridley Scott, the director of Thelma and Louise was one of the first to place a female human into the role of 'hero' of a movie way back in his scary as hell classic Alien. I remember thinking the first time I saw Alien that it was a phenomenal movie and went around hustling friends of mine to go see it. Starman is another movie that knocks me out each time I revisit it although the homage paid to human beings by the alien character played by Jeff Bridges at the end of the movie is a little syrupy and too not true...I wish the makers of the movie had been courageous enough to be more truthful and accurate.

The Pledge is a good movie that is well made and acted with a number of talented folks in it including Jack Nicholson, Helen Mirren, Vanessa Redgrave, Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard and others. Directed by Sean Penn, the movie is about a retired policeman's focus and near obsession on the identification and pursuit and capture of a human that is killing small blond female human children.

This movie is not, by the way, one of the movies I place in a special category I have (Thelma and Louise for instance). This category for books or movies is made up of those that I can return to repeatedly and each time extract something new or can be reminded of some enduring near or actual universal about life or living or nature or something. Either that or they are comedies that extract humor in some way that is timeless to me. Many of Laurel and Hardy's short comedies are in this latter group. The Pledge doesn't quite make it to this classic category although it is a fairly good movie.

I say each time I can extract something new or be reminded of a truthful thing, this might occur because I notice or understand something that had eluded me before or...something new might be apprehended or understood because I have changed since the last time I read or saw this particular work. Of course something like this can happen with any book or movie or artwork or music that is experienced more than once, but some creations are much more pleasant or interesting or thought or feeling provoking when indulged in repeatedly than others.

What was so powerfully apparent to me as I rewatched The Pledge was how much my perceptions had changed since I last saw this movie. Shortly after the beginning is a scene that almost short-circuited my mind as I watched. In it we see Nicholson looking grim after having notified parents that their young child has been murdered, we also see the parents collapsing in grief and anguish. What is absolutely amazing and astonishing in this terrible scene are the thousands of babies surrounding the human characters.
The background of the scene is populated by thousands of baby turkeys.
 The distraught parents are turkey 'farmers' and they were in a turkey 'barn' when notified of their daughter's death by Nicholson's character. These are people who "make a living" by taking baby turkeys away from their parents and imprisoning them in conditions akin to a concentration camp and once the babies reach a given age they then have these babies killed. And they are anguished, destroyed, grief-stricken by the fact that their baby was killed.

This scene, to me, exemplifies the profound schizoid, psychotic like, ignoring and dismissing of elements of reality that characterizes aspects of our culture involving other animals. The horrors these human animal parents engage in as a matter of routine are ignored...not mentioned...not even a whisper and the whole focus is on the anguish and grief and discomfort of the human animals in the scene. The thousands of babies, terrified and lost and facing a certain horrible death instigated by these wounded human parents, serve as nothing but an ignored and dismissed noisy backdrop of feathered children crying in anguish for their parents. I simply was stunned as I watched thousands of victims, thousands of small feathered children...fearful and doomed...relegated to invisibility and the death of one child, one human child presented as if it were the only significant loss and tragedy while all around a multitude of small spirits wailed and asked that their existence and anguish be acknowledged and alleviated.

This ongoing invisibling of our animal sisters and brothers is ubiquitous, "normal" and omnipresent. I see and hear instances of it constantly, everyday and in everyway. From the ignored bodies of animals killed by automobiles laying unmourned and unacknowledged beside the roadway to the "humorous"  representations of cows in commercials telling us to "eat more chickin". We are awash in this invisibling and diminishing of the importance of the lives of those beings that don't look or act or sound like human animals. We swim in it, we breath it and our animal relatives are being killed by the billions, their deaths facilitated by these incessant cultural sermons about the nothingness of the meaning of their lives.

I remember clearly the consternation and confusion and upset and ridicule that accompanied the protestations and objections to racist portrayals of humans that weren't white Europeans. I remember clearly the same sorts of consternations, confusions, upsets and ridiculing that were evoked by protestations and objections to sexist portrayals of humans that weren't male. This still occurs, the battle goes on...objections continue to be raised....ridiculing and dismissals still happen. No cultural wars are won completely and often need to be fought over and over...ignorance and oppression and exploitation and reality avoidance are mighty foes and they never give up and they never go away. They have to be challenged and resisted again and again...anywhere they occur.

I would like to think that the director of this movie and the author of the novella on which it was based were aware of the irony in the scene depicted, that they were making an astute and subtle observation about the narrowness and limitations of our compassions and awarenesses. Whether they were or not, scenes like these must be noticed, commented on and discussed. The herculean task of facilitating awareness of and care for the lives of all beings requires that this happen...but for it to happen common cultural presentations must be clearly recognized for what they are and consciously acknowledged and challenged.

It is incumbent upon all to be willing to be thought of as a crank, as peculiar, as silly, as 'too sensitive', as 'dumb', as whatever...for objecting...but I think that we must again and again object to and challenge cultural messages that minimize, hide, ignore or glorify the infliction of suffering and death on my brother and sister animals...no matter what those messages are, no matter how silly it might seem to be to protest...protest we must. Again and again and again.  The messages of ignoring and of invisibling are multiple and incessant and the objections to the billions of hidden and not so hidden tragedies must also be incessant.

If you aren't living as an ethical vegan...why not?. If you are living as an ethical vegan...time to think about how you are going to expand to others the awareness and compassion you have achieved and after deciding how you want to act...then act. Our sister and brother animals need us and they have been without acknowledgement and recognition and consideration for way too long.

As a for instance, I recently discovered that our local city council keeps track of letters to the editor published in our local newspaper about topics the council is interested in. Writing to your local newspaper is an avenue available to most all and using that venue to promote a change in cultural concepts can help in consciousness raising. Every voice is important, every single one...including yours. Recently I managed (astonishingly enough!) to get a letter published locally pointing out the cruelty of 'dairy' and of the hideous ways cows and their babies are treated. We need to make heard the voices decrying injury to or exploitation of sentient beings...the voices of misery and suffering and death have prevailed for way too long.