Monday, March 28, 2011

Sentience....

I ran across an elaboration on the meaning of this word that I liked very much...Sentience:
Sentience is a capacity to have the basic experiences—called “qualia” in the Western philosophical tradition—that are fundamental to being alive: seeing, hearing, smelling, experiencing pain and pleasure and emotional attachment. This is not the same as human consciousness: when animal rights advocates talk about animals’ sentience, we don’t mean that they can engineer bridges, compose verse in iambic pentameter, draft a constitution, or perform open-heart surgery. (By the way, there is very good research to prove that some animals do experience something very close to human consciousness—the capacity to prioritize, to think in a premeditated way, and so on. But for the purposes of this particular point, let’s put that aside). When we say that animals are sentient, we mean that they participate in the most fundamental parts of lived experience, and that this makes them worthy of our reverence and care....
This passage is part of an essay titled Vegan 101: The Ethics of Veganism  on the J.L. Goes Vegan website. I recommend the essay, it is well written and informative and comes from the perspective of someone that began following a diet free of animal products for health reasons and slowly became aware of the larger issues that accompany the practice of ethical veganism.

Now, here is a visual (from Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary) showing you a living being who doesn't happen to be human but obviously enjoys being alive.



The video is an example of a sentient being participating in and expressing some of the most fundamental parts of lived experience. We human animals have no business interfering in the life of any sentient being, much less harming them. The most important way to diminish interference is to live your life as an ethical vegan. Please begin to do so if you haven't already.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More endeavoring to not use animals...

I recently wrote about a childhood incident that resonated strongly with me. Krissa, one of my most prized readers, commented on that piece in such a way that led me to believe I hadn't expressed myself very clearly or fully regarding how I felt about human animal interaction with beings that don't happen to be human.

What I was trying to get to is the notion that no being should be interfering with another being. That if you have strengths someone else lacks, then no fair using them when interacting with them. If I am physically stronger than you, no fair using that strength to my advantage. I can use it to help you, or even to help me (as long as it doesn't interfere with you). The notion is, for want of a better way to express it, to live and let live. To behave fairly.

Now, one of the things I notice (or so it seems to me) is that most human animal problems are caused by human animals. I am excluding problems that all living beings face as a function of living on the planet that we do...e.g., weather, earthquakes, disease, aging, etc. All living beings face these sorts of problems or situations.

No, I am referencing problems like war, poverty, crime, traffic accidents, suicide and on and on. If you take a newspaper and read each "news" item on each and every page, the likelihood is high that most problems you see written about are about problems that humans inflict (either on purpose or accidentally) upon themselves.

Which is really sort of weird when you think about it. Walt Kelly once had his cartoon character, Pogo, voice a thought that sort of sums it up to me. Pogo said: "We have met the enemy and he is us." Pogo was talking about environmental problems, but I think his observation goes much further than that.

I know it seems as if I am digressing, but where I am heading is here. If humans want to cause themselves problems, well, ok. We cause the problem, we can choose to not cause the problem (at least I hope we can). In other words, we have the power, it is in our control and causing ourselves problems hurts us. We cause pain, we feel the pain we cause. Fine, that's our choice.

But, when we cause pain or problems or whatever negative thing we're talking about, when we do things that inflict harm or hurt onto some being that isn't a human being...then we are (to me) into a whole different magnitude and/or order of stuff.  I am also including harm to the environment we share with other beings.

This is an order of wrongness that exceeds astronomically any sort of suffering we inflict upon ourselves or some other being that is human.

This is my logic, if I choose to take a pin and stick it in my knee...I did the sticking, I received the results of the sticking. I did something that causes pain, I felt the pain. That's my look out...no harm or discomfort (unless I yell or something) to anyone else. But, if I take a pin and stick someone else in the knee, different thing...I have drug someone else into the situation. However, if that someone else is a human, and relatively equal in terms of age, size, physical ability, etc then that other being has the power to do something about my sticking them...if they choose. They can, all else being equal, reciprocate or retaliate or or negotiate or bitch and moan or whatever...effectively. They can, if you will, look out for themselves. If they are a child, not so much, but, depending on their age they can maybe report me to someone else who will stand up for them. And, there are rules, I could be punished for causing pain to someone who is not myself. (I know these processes don't work lots of times, and lots of unfairness is virtually perpetual but that is too much to get into here, ok?...anyway that is human animal to human animal stuff...a different thing than what I am writing about right now)

But if I do something that causes pain to a hamster, or a rat, or a dog, or a cat or any other being that is not a human being. Then I am cheating, I am in a position to cause pain with no consequences to me. Now I am assuming that I have confined or somehow else rendered that rat or dog or whomever powerless toward me...they can't retaliate or do anything else to defend themselves. They are simply mine to do toward however I want and no bad things happen to me as a result. No comebacks...I am free and clear to visit mayhem upon them. If I choose.

This is the ultimate "badness". I wrote earlier about bullying, about exploiting, about using force on others. To me, it is much much much much (think of the word much lined up to infinity) worse to hurt, harm, scare, kill a being that is not a human type being than it is to hurt, harm, scare, kill a human being because that other...that being that is not human is in the ultimate powerless position...therefore the difference in power (because of what we humans have done) is virtually infinite. That sort of power imbalance doesn't exist (generally speaking) from one human to another. Even in the example I wrote about, the boy that was bullied could have, if he had chosen to, done something to retaliate against his tormentor. (Complained to the teacher, ambushed his bully, spit in the food of the bully, something...point being he could have sometime or another gotten his licks in if he wanted).

Those beings that share the planet with us have no such recourse, not practically speaking. We confine them, we exploit them, we abuse them, we torture them, we cause them pain and suffering, we steal and kill their babies, we steal the milk meant for their babies, we kill them, we devour them. And they have no power to defend themselves, to retaliate, to run away, to help themselves. None (for all intents and purposes). They do not speak human language so we ignore their complaints, they can't hire lawyers...so they can't sue us. The few "rules" we human animals have set up to "protect" them are a joke and worse than meaningless.

They are the ultimate victims, the ultimate innocents, the ultimate powerless ones...and those that take advantage of them...are the ultimate bullies. We have met the bully, and he is us. And, I don't want to be one of those bullies, not any more (and I have much to pay penance for) ever, ever, ever.

And that is why I am endeavoring to live as an ethical vegan. Not because I am a "good" person, but because I don't want to be that kind of a bully.  Doing something bad to a human animal is lousy, but at least the human animal has recourse against me, doing something bad to a being that can (practically speaking) do nothing back at me...well that just sucks and I do not want to participate in that kind of crap any longer...ever. And piss on me for ever having done so.

There, I think that is what I wanted to say. Let me know if I got the point across, thanks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cat house....

I would like to visit Cat House on the Kings someday.....



All sentient beings deserve the chance to live their lives however they choose. The most important way to help ensure that they have that chance is to live your life as an ethical vegan. Please begin to do so if you haven't already. Thanks.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday cuteness (the weekday name is accurate this time).

Take a look at this cat and see what you think is happening...



Here is a strange human animal product. Maybe useful for when your cat person's hair is just a mess?

Now the next video is for those who may not have heard the voice of a bunny. Pay close attention because it is not very loud, but it is there for those willing to listen...



If I had to choose between watching (and/or interacting with) either or both of these fur folks vs watching and/or interacting with the myriad "celebrities" or "leaders" or "spokespersons"  that parade across television screens daily....hmmm. Glibness or authenticity, which do I prefer?

The bunny and the cat (and all) sentient beings deserve the chance to live their lives however they choose. The most important way to help ensure that they have that chance is to live your life as an ethical vegan. Please begin to do so if you haven't already. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Endeavoring to not "use" animals...

In response to one readers comment to a post (Sunday Cuteness) I made the statement that I am not a vegan because I am a good person. I am a vegan because the other animal people are terrific and fun and interesting and wonderful and I don't want bad things to happen to them...the cuteness helps remind me of what treasures each and everyone of them are...what hubris is involved in thinking we have any right to interfere with their lives. How awful this planet would be if we were the only animals on it.

Another reader remarked on how much she liked the comment...actually she liked the comment more than the post...which got me to thinking about all sorts of stuff (Thanks Krissa, I think).

I remember being in the 2nd or 3rd grade and two boys in my class got into a fight at recess. It wasn't a fist fight...more shoving and wrestling around. One boy was considerably larger than anyone else in the class and the "fight" really was no contest...he ended up sitting on top of the other boy and "winning", the bell rang and we all headed back toward the schoolhouse. The boy who lost was crying and all snotty in the face and such and I so powerfully remember feeling awful for him...feeling like it wasn't fair...the other guy was so much bigger and the fight wasn't about self-defense or retaliation or anything it was more the big guy wanted something to go his way (hell if I remember what) and the smaller guy didn't want to so....big guy imposes his will on the littler guy. Bam, that's it...way of the world right?

Now such stuff would be called bullying...which is what it was and maybe much would be made of it...or maybe not. I don't even know how to describe very well what that incident did to me or impacted me, I do know it made me never ever want to be in a situation where I "imposed" my will on someone else just because I could simply to get something I wanted with no consideration of the other person or what they wanted or whether it was good or bad for them or if whatever.

I hated the whole thing, the whole situation...it all just felt awful to me and has stayed with me all of my life. In a strange way I am still sorting out and comprehending all the feelings I had as a result of witnessing that small slice of fairly typical behavior on the part of young male children in the culture I was born into.

Now don't get the idea the big guy was a perpetual jerk and the little guy was the angel. Actually as the 12 years of public school played out I ended up liking the big guy more than the little guy. The one never devolved into full blown bully (probably partially because, over time, the size differential shrunk between the rest of the boys in the class and him) and the other guy, the smaller one, turned out to have a personality I will describe as a smirky, jerky putz type person...hell if I know why.

I do know this, part of the foundation of me, of my weltanschauing, of my feeling repertoire, of my personality has to do with being repulsed and disgusted by a more powerful being imposing their will on a less powerful being...just because they can....or even beings of equal power imposing their will and forcing the other to do something they want.

I am excluding situations where a parent restrains a child from danger or forces them to do something that is necessary (for the child's health or whatnot). Or if a human animal forces another animal to receive a medical treatment or confines them to their house because being outside unsupervised would be dangerous. I'm not talking about stuff like that, I am talking about using or controlling someone else with force simply because you can and because you want to.

I hate that crap, I think it is one of the biggest wrongs that there is, don't push others around or take advantage of them...just don't do it. I don't feel that way because I am a "good" person, I feel that way because I feel that way.

Look, another term for what I am so ineffectually trying to describe is exploitation. The free dictionary gives one definition for exploitation as being: "Utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes".

It is not ok to use others, whether you use them because you apply force or whether you apply guile or manipulation. It is ok to engage in interactions with others where there is a mutual benefit (i.e., you "use" each other) and the benefits from one to the other are approximately equal...that's fine. As long as everybody knows what is going on and agrees (and has the capacity to agree). But no force and no using unfairly...everything should be aboveboard, out in the open and agreed upon. No profiting at someone else's expense.

I don't think that way because it is "good", I think that way because I don't like that exploitation crap and I also believe the whole world and every being in it would be a hell of a lot better off if we all tried as hard as we could to operate that way. Wouldn't it and wouldn't we? Life would likely be so much more pleasant and fun and satisfying if we all tried our utmost to operate that way...at least I think it would.

If that is an important thing to me...and it is...whether I have lived up to it all the time or not (or most of the time or not)...then veganism is a given. Because that way of operating applies across the board...to everyone...cats, rabbits, next door neighbors, chickens, Canadians, Texans, muskrats....you name em.

Ethical veganism is a given for me because any other way of interacting with any kind of animal (by that I mean human animals too) would include exploitation...and I hate that stuff. And hell if I know why it took me so long to figure it out. There are other reason for my operating as a vegan, but the exploitation thingee is a big one for me. And I knew it a long long time ago...

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sunday cuteness.....

The numbers on Youtube indicate this brief video has been viewed over 43 million times...if you were left out then here is your chance...(no images of cruelty)



Here is another video from Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, a tour conducted by Jenny Brown (the Director)...(no images of cruelty). Enjoy.



These (and all) sentient beings deserve the chance to live their lives however they choose. The most important way to help ensure that they have that chance is to live your life as an ethical vegan. Please begin to do so if you haven't already. Thanks.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Consciousness raising...

Thanks to a recent post on Kiss Me I'm Vegan I was exposed to this video available on Youtube produced by Farm Sanctuary. The story itself is wonderful but I was strongly struck by the portion of the video where Dienna Capers, a Coordinator at New York City Animal Care & Control spoke about Maxine's impact on her. She begins speaking at 1 minute 27 seconds into the video. I am giving a precise timing because there are a few fairly brief shots of cruelty at various points in the video...they are not gratuitous or excessive but they are very painful to watch...so be forewarned.

Ms. Capers exemplifies the astonishing power of the disconnect that permeates our society regarding how we treat the other animals. She acknowledges working at the animal rescue for 9 years...yet never put together that her food choices supported and maintained the most horrific and terrible suffering imaginable.

If nothing else, at least watch her and then beginning at 3 minutes 24 seconds watch and be delighted by Maxine's exhibition of joy and cow binkies. Again, the whole video is very well done and worth watching but if you only want the "g" rated part you can pick those based on the timings specified.



If you are still trying to sort things out, go to the post titled Alone and Afraid and look at that cow person, then go to the last post here called Dancing and watch that cow person (and watch Maxine in the last part of the current video.

What kind of world do you want to be supporting? A world where that forlorn being in Alone and Afraid is the norm for cow people, or one where the joy of the cow person in the Dancing video and the happiness of Maxine would possibly be common.

The choice is yours and you make it every time you eat...every time you buy clothing...every time you choose entertainment. If you try to live as an ethical vegan, you choose joy and dancing and cow binkies...if you don't...you are choosing the misery and suffering and death of Alone and Afraid.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Dancing?

You decide whether this fellow is dancing or not. The event occurred at the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary in June of this past year. At first I thought he was just frightened but....take a look:



Whatever was going on, it is fun to watch. Make life more fun for all animals...begin living as an ethical vegan.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Animal Rights...

I was poking around on one of the various websites and blogs I visit and ran across something by Roger Yates on the "On Human-Nonhuman Relations" blog where he wrote about animal rights.

One of the links in the entry connected to a page where there was something written called a Universal Declaration of Animal Rights.
Inasmuch as there is ample evidence that many animal species are capable of feeling, we condemn totally the infliction of suffering upon our fellow creatures and the curtailment of their behavioural and other needs save where this is necessary for their own individual benefit.

We do not accept that a difference in species alone (any more than a difference in race) can justify wanton exploitation or oppression in the name of science or sport, or for use as food, for commercial profit or for other human ends.

We believe in the evolutionary and moral kinship of all animals and declare our belief that all sentient creatures have rights to life, liberty and natural enjoyment.

We therefore call for the protection of these rights.
I sort of like this declaration, I object however to the insertion of the word "wanton" before the phrase about exploitation or oppression. Having that word there suggests there are situations where exploitation or oppression is justified...some sort of clarification is needed or the word needs to be removed.

When you have the time you might want to read the complete page containing this declaration of rights, for instance at one point the text says:
The pretence that human affairs exist in isolation from those of all other living creatures on our planet is no longer sustainable. Evolution teaches us not arrogance but humility, and the greater follies of our technological century serve to reinforce the lesson that the natural world is neither our property or our servant. The further pretence that the exclusion of others from the benefits of compassion and justice can be justified by our status as the dominant species is untenable. Power is no longer the measure of moral worth. That is the lesson of our age. 
Good stuff!

Nester (Nessie Rae)
This bunny has rights...it is time we began living up to that truth. Living as an ethical vegan is necessary in order to do so.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Who says the other animals don't learn from us?

I was alerted to these videos by Janet Weeks V over on facebook. This cat seems to have decided to imitate one of the "darker" behaviors of human animals. (Note: no cruelty or graphic images are present in either video)

Enjoy! 
 


The following eye-candy video shows a chipmunk person filmed in slow motion (400 frames per second) ... astonishing to watch.



Living as an ethical vegan establishes your commitment to non-violence as a way of life.