Saturday, June 30, 2012

An eloquent vegan...

That's certainly an accurate description of Phillip Wollen. You can click on his name and go to the home page of an organization he started called the Kindness Trust, there you can learn more about him and his work on behalf of animals and on behalf of the planet.

Better yet, take a few minutes and listen to him speak.

Below is the transcript of his talk. If you don't have time or don't want to listen you can read his remarks. But you really ought to listen...the Aussie accent is great. The link will take you to the page where the complete article about the debate he was participating in can be read.

On behalf of St James Ethics Centre, the Wheeler Centre,
The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, The Age
The City of Melbourne and the ABC
All of whom have worked together to make this event possible
I would like to welcome
Philip Wollen

King Lear, late at night on the cliffs asks the blind Earl of Gloucester “How do you see the world?”
And the blind man Gloucester replies “I see it feelingly”.
Shouldn’t we all?
Animals must be off the menu because tonight they are screaming in terror in the slaughterhouse, in crates, and cages. Vile ignoble gulags of despair.
I heard the screams of my dying father as his body was ravaged by the cancer that killed him. And I realised I had heard these screams before.
In the slaughterhouse, eyes stabbed out and tendons slashed, on the cattle ships to the Middle East and the dying mother whale as a Japanese harpoon explodes in her brain as she calls out to her calf.
Their cries were the cries of my father.
I discovered when we suffer, we suffer as equals.
And in their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig is a bear. . . . . . is a boy.
Meat is the new asbestos – more murderous than tobacco.

CO2, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide from the livestock industry are killing our oceans with acidic, hypoxic Dead Zones.
90% of small fish are ground into pellets to feed livestock.
Vegetarian cows are now the world’s largest ocean predator.
The oceans are dying in our time. By 2048 all our fisheries will be dead. The lungs and the arteries of the earth.
Billions of bouncy little chicks are ground up alive simply because they are male.
Only 100 billion people have ever lived. 7 billion alive today. And we torture and kill 2 billion animals every week.
10,000 entire species are wiped out every year because of the actions of one species.
We are now facing the 6th mass extinction in cosmological history.
If any other organism did this a biologist would call it a virus.
It is a crime against humanity of unimaginable proportions.
The world has changed.
10 years ago Twitter was a bird sound, www was a stuck keyboard, Cloud was in the sky, 4 g was a parking place, Google was a baby burp, Skype was a typo and Al Kider was my plumber.
Victor Hugo said “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”.

Animal Rights is now the greatest Social Justice issue since the abolition of slavery.
There are over 600 million vegetarians in the world.
That is bigger than the US, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Canada, Australia combined! If we were one nation we would be bigger than the 27 countries in the European Union!!
Despite this massive footprint, we are still drowned out by the raucous huntin’, shootin’, killin’ cartels who believe that violence is the answer – when it shouldn’t even be a question.
Meat is a killing industry – animals, us and our economies.
Medicare has already bankrupted the US. They will need $8 trillion invested in Treasury bills just to pay the interest. It has precisely zero!!
They could shut every school, army, navy, air force, and Marines, the FBI and CIA – and they still won’t be able to pay for it.
Cornell and Harvard say’s that the optimum amount of meat for a healthy diet is precisely ZERO.
Water is the new oil. Nations will soon be going to war for it.
Underground aquifers that took millions of years to fill are running dry.
It takes 50,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef.
1 billion people today are hungry. 20 million people will die from malnutrition. Cutting meat by only 10% will feed 100 million people. Eliminating meat will end starvation forever.

If everyone ate a Western diet, we would need 2 Planet Earths to feed them. We only have one. And she is dying.
Greenhouse gas from livestock is 50% more than transport . . . . . planes, trains, trucks, cars, and ships.
Poor countries sell their grain to the West while their own children starve in their arms. And we feed it to livestock. So we can eat a steak? Am I the only one who sees this as a crime? Every morsel of meat we eat is slapping the tear-stained face of a starving child. When I look into her eyes, should I be silent?
The earth can produce enough for everyone’s need. But not enough for everyone’s greed.
We are facing the perfect storm.
If any nation had developed weapons that could wreak such havoc on the planet, we would launch a pre-emptive military strike and bomb it into the Bronze Age.
But it is not a rogue state. It is an industry.
The good news is we don’t have to bomb it. We can just stop buying it.
George Bush was wrong. The Axis of Evil doesn’t run through Iraq, or Iran or North Korea. It runs through our dining tables. Weapons of Mass Destruction are our knives and forks.

This is the Swiss Army Knife of the future – it solves our environmental, water, health problems and ends cruelty forever.
The Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones. This cruel industry will end because we run out of excuses.
Meat is like 1 and 2 cent coins. It costs more to make than it is worth.
And farmers are the ones with the most to gain. Farming won’t end. It would boom. Only the product line would change. Farmers would make so much money they wouldn’t even bother counting it.
Governments will love us. New industries would emerge and flourish. Health insurance premiums would plummet. Hospital waiting lists would disappear.
Hell “We’d be so healthy; we’d have to shoot someone just to start a cemetery!”
So tonight I have 2 Challenges for the opposition:
1. Meat causes a wide range of cancers and heart disease. Will they name one disease caused by a vegetarian diet?
2. I am funding the Earthlings trilogy. If the opposition is so sure of their ground, I challenge them to send the Earthlings DVD to all their colleagues and customers. Go on I DARE YOU.
Animals are not just other species. They are other nations. And we murder them at our peril.

The peace map is drawn on a menu. Peace is not just the absence of war. It is the presence of Justice.
Justice must be blind to race, colour, religion or species. If she is not blind, she will be a weapon of terror. And there is unimaginable terror in those ghastly Guantanamos.
If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we wouldn’t need this debate.
I believe another world is possible.
On a quiet night, I can hear her breathing.
Let’s get the animals off the menu and out of these torture chambers.
Please vote tonight for those who have no voice.
Thank you.
 I especially liked the line: "Justice must be blind to race, colour, religion or species. If she is not blind, she will be a weapon of terror."

It is heartening to run across a passionate and excellent advocate for ethical veganism. Thank you Mr. Wollen. (And thanks to Christine...who was impressed enough by the speech that she made a point of letting me know about it.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Attending a human funeral...

is one of the activities that occurs more frequently as we human animals get older. More people that we know or used to know are dying from age related conditions. That's if we're lucky enough to have adequate nutrition, shelter, medical care and live where violence or other factors do not serve to reduce our life span.

I attended one such human funeral this past Monday. The link will take you to a brief obituary if you're interested in knowing about the person who died. She was one of the children in a family that lived near us all during my childhood.  She was considerably older than me and her siblings were also older. But I do remember her and do remember her fondly. She was always pleasant and nice to me and so was all of her family. So I didn't resist the obligation I felt to attend the funeral both to mark her death and as a gesture of respect and support to her surviving family. And...I have an older sister who wanted to attend and she asked me to drive her there. So going to the funeral (and I do not much like funerals) was a task that accomplished a number of things all at once...and I like to be able to do things that way when possible.

Culturally dictated activities like funerals are things that we all do. Here in this part of the country most occur in some religious building or other. This one took place in a Methodist Church. I vaguely remember from a long-ago Anthropology class that the one near universal constant seen in the human animal death ceremony, regardless of the culture, is that there is some sort of procession symbolically representing the journey from life to death. Most funerals here involve some sort of "procession" from the place of the funeral service to the place of burial. On this occasion I only attended the doings called the "funeral service".

One of the reasons I have a distaste for funerals (beside the obvious one of not generally enjoying death) is that most of them occur in a church. And I have some antipathy toward most of the brands of organized religions that I'm familiar with, particularly the Abrahamic religions, especially Christianity...probably because that's the sort of stuff I'm most acquainted with. I just haven't had much of a chance to get offended by other religions.

Suffice it to say I'm not too impressed with the behavior of human animals in general but when we get into some sort of "religious" mode (especially "Christian" or "Islamic")...well...we tend to suck. At least that's my take on it. And please note...I'm not trying to degrade or offend...and I'm not talking about spirituality...which a lot of us tend to confuse with religion. They aren't the same thing. (All in all, I probably lean toward spiritual notions akin to Animism more than anything else.)

Well, one of my more dreaded experiences came to pass at this funeral. The pastor running the event made it much more into some sort of proselytizing event instead of an honoring of the dead person. Which happens way too often...I guess they figure if they have a captive audience they should push their product. Anyway...when he finally got to the rather brief part where he talked about the woman who had died...he related a story that just irritated and saddened me terribly. It still disgusts and saddens me.

The story was that this woman was kind and helpful and competent and accomplished...and one of the accomplishments he talked about was that she was a "big game hunter". He told some story about her shooting and killing a deer and behaving toward the men in her camping group as if it was no big deal...anyone could do it.

Many in the audience laughed as this story of her murdering an innocent and harmless animal was told. I was staring and the floor and struggling not to jump up and ask all those laughing why was murder a funny thing. Why was the death of an innocent being and occasion of humor? Especially at a ceremony marking a death! What kind of religion encourages killing, laughs about killing. She murdered somebody...that's an occasion for shame and sorrow...not laughter. But...I didn't jump up...and part of me still wonders if I didn't betray that dead deer. I guess in a way I did and I feel bad about that. I diminished myself by not confronting the vicious speciesism that was exhibited by that story and by that laughter.

Even looking back...I would still not jump up and confront the ugliness. I wouldn't interfere in whatever processes were going on in the family and friends. The meeting was about honoring a human female who died. But the ugliness and callousness and obliviousness shown by that story will forever mark my memory of that meeting. I will remember my shock at such a story being told and my dismay and sorrow that laughter and smiles greeted the telling. I often wonder if our species isn't fubar.

Here's what I'm going to do. I plan to write that preacher and voice my dismay and sadness that he's so oblivious to innocence and grace and beauty and horror that he tried to build up one living beings existence by presenting her as a murderer. I'm going to ask him if talking about the death of an innocent being honors the killer. I am going to do that. And...I will make a donation to our local wildlife rescue in honor of that long dead deer. And I will always be stained and diminished in some measure because I sat and heard the laughter and did not openly object. And I am diminished and stained because so many human animals think killing is humorous.

Speciesism hurts and diminishes everyone it touches and it permeates this culture. And it is ugly. And ten years ago that story would have only discomforted me, it wouldn't have mortified and offended and outraged me. So I have changed and if I can can others.

 I imagined attending a funeral two-hundred years in the past, and hearing some story supposedly honoring the dead human that involved their killing of an innocent slave or Native American...and I imagined hearing the laughter. And I despair...but I do realize that change from two-hundred years ago has happened and so I can also hope. I know who Donald Watson is, I live as an ethical vegan. So can other human animals. We must.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Face of War.

The Face of War is the title of a book by Martha Gellhorn. I became interested in her writing because of a movie on HBO called Hemingway and Gellhorn. She was briefly married to the author Ernest Hemingway and apparently dumped him because he was too bossy for her. She was a war correspondent and covered war beginning in 1936 with the Spanish Civil War through the horrors sanctioned and supported by President Reagan against the citizens of the small countries of El Salvador and Nicaragua in the 1980s.

The movie wasn't all that great but two things were intriguing about it. The first was that the characters were inserted into actual news footage of the various wars being reported on...and done so in a very skilled and realistic way. It is creepy how well they were able to make it look like the movie characters were actually in the scenes depicted in the newsreel footages. Very disconcerting and spooky.

The second intriguing thing was Martha Gellhorn. I liked her character enough to want to read some of her writing and The Face of War just happens to be a book my local library has. The book is just superlative. It offers an eyewitness look (by the same person) at multiple wars occurring over a period of 50 years or so. I plan to obtain my own copy of the book just a soon as possible...I can think of no better writing chronicling the violence and destructiveness humans visit upon each other and on the planet than this collection of eyewitness reports.

She received the news that Germany had surrendered in 1945 while at the Dachau concentration camp. She wrote:
 "...Dachau seemed to me the most suitable place in Europe to hear the news of victory. For surely this war was made to abolish Dachau, and all the other places like Dachau, and everything that Dachau stood for, and to abolish it forever."
Her writings begin with the Spanish Civil War. Her feelings about this conflict are much the same as mine...that anyone who helped the Republican side (the democratically elected government of Spain) was someone helping all of us. That England and the United States did nothing to help these folks was a mark of shame. There's a good chance the horrors of WWII might have been avoided if the democracies had stood together against the Spain. But they didn't.

This isn't a book about veganism...but it is in a strange way. For instance at the end of the book she writes:
"I hold to the relay race theory of history: progress in human affairs depends on accepting, generation after generation, the individual duty to oppose the evils of the time. The evils of the time change but are never in short supply and would go unchallenged unless there were conscientious people to say: not if I can help it."
Well, the fact that our fellow animals aren't recognized as the owners of their own lives is one of the evils of our time...and it is our duty...if we wish to oppose that challenge that worry and harass that evil and to refuse to participate in that evil. In that respect Martha Gellhorn and I see things very much the same. She closes the book with a statement that I absolutely and totally agree with:
"There has to be a better way to run the world and we better see that we get it."
Read the book, you'll get a rare longitudinal eyewitness look at some of the stupidities and brutalities of humans toward other humans and toward our planet that is rare and unique. You'll also get acquainted (to some extent anyway) with a remarkable human woman...someone that I believe would have understood the justice of and the necessity for the vegan way of life.