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.