Saturday, July 28, 2012

On behalf of Jojo...

Jojo is pictured on the left (sorry for the quality of the photo, I haven't had a good picture taking session with him yet). He is colored with the markings of the sort of bunny that is called Dutch. If you take the time to read the article I've linked to, you will discover that those markings were developed by folks living in England who fiddled around with "breeding" rabbits. He belongs to a popular grouping...you can even purchase items to wear or carry that advertise your liking for "Dutch" rabbits.

I'm reluctant to use the term "breed". I find it sort of offensive....in a number of ways. For one, it reminds us of our own arrogance...who in hell are we to be playing with the reproductive behaviors and pardners of someone else?

Use of the word "breed" is also used to obscure the individuality of each of the beings that are tagged with the term. Cliches like the notion that pit bulls are aggressive, they're "bred" for it (Petey, the dog with the ring around the eye on the old our gang movies, was a pit bull...real scarey huh?). In truth, it is a stupifying term. It may seduce you into thinking you know more than you do.

You know as much about an animal when you are told their "breed" as you do when you are told that a human animal is Finnish or Korean.  You may have some information about their external appearance (no guarantee necessarily) but except for that it is up to you to become familiar with the particular personalities, dispositions, likes, dislikes, etc of the individual in question. Stereotypes abound...but if you think you actually know anything about the Finnish human or the Korean without knowing them...guess what....you're probably wrong.

Moving on from the breed rant (smile) brings me back to Jojo, which is where I started. He's not a baby, nor is he an oldster...he's probably anywhere from a year to three years old...and that's a guess. He's really needy right now, any human he sees is vamped mercilessly by his standing up and stretching toward them. He wants attention, petting on the head, holding...needy, needy. He's also un-neutered. He's been with us for a couple of weeks, is feeling better and safer so now he also gifts the Heartland director with a urine spray when he sees her (he thinks she's cute).

On behalf of Jojo, I want to protest this:
What you see are lesions and the absence of hair covering the lower part of his body most likely because of urine scald. Jojo was forced to sit in urine for long, long periods. We're talking days, weeks, months. All because....well....because somebody failed to properly care for him.

By the way, I blocked out Jojo's "privates" because I didn't know if he would object to my showing them to others or not. He probably wouldn't care...but better to err on the side of caution.
In the lower picture you can see Jojo's tail. He still has a bit of hair on the end of it so that it looks a little like a poodle dog tail after one of those strange haircuts some of them are subjected to.

Jojo now appears to be on the mend. His "dehaired" areas are not nearly as red and raw looking as are in the photos and evidence of fuzz can be seen on much of the bare skin. Maybe all his hair will grow back. Maybe.

Jojo, right now, has a lap rabbit disposition. He really really really likes being held and petted. We can speculate that he was isolated and lonely, we know he was neglected...severely....but beyond that...we'll probably never know his history. Jojo doesn't speak English...

But I do...and I can object, I can protest...on his behalf. And I do. We human animals have no business being in control of other animals, none...but when we arrogate the power to ourselves to be so...then with that power goes the obligation to provide a safe, clean, rich and comfortable environment for them...one that meets all their needs. Jojo didn't have that...and I object and protest about this failure...on his behalf.

For a really good post about our arrogance and its impact on other animals you can read this offering over at the Vine Sanctuary News.

Living as an ethical vegan is the only way of behaving that I know of that approaches honoring and respecting the rights of Jojo, and all other sentient beings, to the life to which they are entitled. If you aren't doing that...why not?  Really....why not? If you are...then thank you...both from me and (I think I can speak for him) from Jojo.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Art can be uplifting...

John Banovich is an artist, a painter. Here's an example of his work:
Colors...John Banovich

All of the images you will see in this post are from the 2012 Prix de West show which is held annually in Oklahoma City. John Banovich usually has some pieces there and ever since I discovered his work and his philosophy I've enjoyed both. He set up a foundation to promote and assist in conserving wild places and animals.

He writes: "Art can move, reveal, and inspire us to seek a deeper understanding of the world around us. It can paint a face on an issue, cause, region, or species."

One of our annual rituals is to attend the Prix de West art show and wander through the various pieces and experience reactions to the works presented. Invariably delight will occur, sometimes awe...sometimes disgust. It is always a provoking and mostly enjoyable journey and this year was no exception.

My wife is an artist, a skilled and excellent one. I have a painting of a buffalo that she did for me that hangs where it is often the last thing I see at night before I go to sleep. I love that painting. I can't create art like that...artists with talent do art and that excludes me.

What's art? One of my takes on what it is that it is one of the very very few things human animals do that brings a good thing to the world. Some visual works of art, some music...created by humans is simply exquisite...almost (not quite though) as beautiful as the planet Earth and the beings that live there.  And...the fact is many of the other animals do seem to enjoy and may even be moved by some of our music.

Art and some medicine and healing activities are about the only things that human animals are able to do that has brought a unique positive contribution to our world, at least it seems so to me. We've pretty much managed to distort any of our other abilities and behaviors and "creations" into nightmare destructo insanities that put anything, except maybe the aftermath of a severe virus, to shame. 

Because I actually like to think good things about human animals I always look forward to this annual art show...there are almost always some excellent and fun and enjoyable and powerful works there...and this year was no exception. My 2012 favorite:

Sioux...Dan Ostermiller
This sculpture is about 5 feet tall, almost 3 feet wide and deep...it is massive and absolutely demands that you smile. I don't often crave artworks...but if I had an extra $50,000 and all the other animals and the planet were safe and protected...I would have taken that bear representation home with me in a moment. It is a treat. My next most favorite piece looks as if it were living, glimmering liquid.
Ripple...Ross Matteson

The duck and the water are made from black Belgian marble. They looked as if you could stick your finger into them...like they were some shimmering liquid with form. Stunning.

Those two pieces were worth the trip and the cost and the time. Everything else was simply a bonus...and there were many other enjoyable works from the artists. These for instance:

Gladness



First is a painting of a couple of beautiful foxes, much of what made this painting so powerful was the way the artist used the paint to depict light...it almost glowed.




El Pollo Loco





The rooster was a treat. Proud, brave and defiant...he was created by the same artist that did the bear sculpture.






Wild Iris



This painting of the iris was very evocative and eye-catching. The detailed renderings of the trees, branches and flowers were excellent and beautiful.







You can use this link to browse through photos of most of the whole art show. Just remember though that the photos in no way, shape or form convey the power or excellence of these works. You must be in the room with them to get the full effect...some are almost living and breathing. If you live in central Oklahoma go in person...if you live elsewhere find some venues where you can go experience some art. What little respect I have for our species is immeasurably bolstered by some of our artworks. Somehow, good and true art nourishes and enhances those who experience it.

Nourishing and enhancing (or at least not harming) our planet and all life requires that we live an ethical vegan lifestyle...but you already knew that.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Transforming...

that's the only word I can think of that comes close to capturing my experience over the past couple of years. It has been that long that I've been volunteering on a regular basis out at Heartland Rabbit Rescue. I still am unable to verbalize how I've been transformed or even why...but I know something has shifted irrevocably within me and some (if not most) of it has to do with being around these remarkable beings so regularly.
How could anyone not be affected? Certainly not me. To the left you see a baby recently rescued...she was about 4 months old when she came in and she begs for attention much like a puppy. When she spots a human she stands up asking to be picked up and fussed over. She was running the streets and someone took her and called Heartland.

But she is only one of dozens and dozens of abandoned and neglected and abused bunnies that live at the rescue. I've been lucky enough to come to know each and every one that live in the south warren (right now 78 bunnies I think). That's a lot of personalities, that's a lot of different rabbits to get to know. I've never ever known that many non-human animals all at once in my whole life. Some I am smitten with, others I strongly like...there are none that I dislike. If I were to become very familiar with 78 human animals all at once the outcome would be quite different. To know so many rabbits all at the same time is one hell of an experience. They are amazing individuals. And I don't know nearly them as well as I want to, I don't know them nearly as well as does Jeanne Patterson, the founder and director of Heartland...she's is with them many more hours a day than I am and has been surrounded by rabbits for many many years. I'm in awe of her knowledge about bunnies.

To the right is Cutie (again) and Simon and Dustin. Simon and Dustin are old hands at the rescue. Simon is pictured while he is running loose on the warren grounds...Cutie and Dustin are confined in outside enclosures so they can have some playtime. The confining is necessary because bunnies are very prone (especially when young) to engage in dominance activities (they fight) and separation in necessary to prevent injuries. Were it safely possible...we would let them all run free.

It is a phenomenal thing see all these guys and gals almost everyday.

We're able to get 20 to 25 of them outside each day for a couple of hours early in the morning...that's the only time the temperature is low enough for them to be out...now that the blistering days of summer are setting in here in central Oklahoma. Bunnies can't sweat hence temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit begin to be risky for them. They dig and binky and play when they first go out then as it warms up many will dig out an area and lay in the cool dirt.

 Here's Pippin, about whom I wrote back in August, napping in an area he scooped out so he could be next to the cool earth.

The level of play and running and jumping and nosing around is fairly closely tied to the age of the bunny. Just like human animals...if you go to a first grade playground you're going to see very different behavior than if you go to some park area where a bunch of 50 or 60 year old human animals are hanging out. The outdoors is enjoyed by everyone of all ages...they just act differently while doing the enjoying.

I guess that's a big part of the transform. It has become an indisputable fact to me as a result of my interaction with these bunnies that they are as different from one another as human animals are different from one another. Each one is a unique individual who shares some similarities with the other rabbits, just as we humans share similarities yet at the same time they differ each from the other...just as human animals do. They are as complex and as sensitive and as emotional and as intelligent as human animals...they just show these phenomena differently than human animals do. And, just like us, they vary one from the other on the range of sensitivity, emotionality, intelligence that they possess and those features vary in strength and precision depending on how the bunny is feeling and what situation the bunny is in...just like human animals. Some are elegant and graceful, others are sort of clumsy and galumphing, some are acrobatic, some aren't.

They tend to be full of beans and boisterousness and play when very young, when they're adolescents they can be real jerks and are prone to stir up trouble, once they reach adulthood they tend to be calmer and more mellow but still full of energy...(and some are feistier than others) as they enter their later years they may get grumpy and cranky and quirky. They may get arthritis, they may like to doze...their senior years are so much like humans that if you dressed them up in a human suit you probably wouldn't notice much difference at all. Except the rabbit would probably be more appreciative of dinnertime...they do tend to enjoy their food. And they don't talk much...although they do have a rather wide range of grumps, honks and growls (or a scream in an emergency) they can trot out...and some talk much more than others.

Their interests differ from us...because...well because they are rabbits. They have a different evolutionary history than we do...they've traveled a different path...learned different things...developed different skills and strengths. But...where they are identical is that they are children of this planet...just like we are. They have feelings, they think, they feel joy, they feel attachment, they feel fear, they feel hunger, thirst, heat, cold, illness, sleepiness...and on and on and on. They love their children, sometimes they love their brothers and sisters and parents...sometimes not. Some have a good sense of humor and like to tease and be teased...others do not.

Howard
Howard for instance...the big galooty white fellow I wrote about in an earlier post has as mellow and fun a personality as you could ask for. He often likes to be chased...he will put on the most excellent head-fakes and high-jumps you could ask for and then he stops and watches you to make sure you are still participating in the game.

And then there is Brett, who has a disposition that is so amazingly sweet and friendly. He patiently will let a human hold him and if you sit down near him he will climb up in your lap and put his hands on your chest asking you to pet him. He also likes to tease Marshall and Russell...two sort of macho acting bunnies that live at the warren. 
And what I'm now certain of is if I had the opportunity and time to get to know 70 dogs or bats or weasels or pigs or cows or horses or wombats or sparrows or or or...I would find exactly what I have found with the rabbits. Each one is different from the others, each one is an individual.  Each one is unique....and yet...we're all the same in that we're all just trying to get by, the best way we know how.

In the end, it is the emotional universe we inhabit that matters most to us. We tend to seek that which increases our good feelings and tend to avoid that which prompts unpleasant feelings. In this respect (and many others)...a rabbit is me and I am a rabbit. We each are children of Mother Earth. We each were valued enough by her to bring us into being.

Ingrid Newkirk is supposed to have said:  "When it comes to having a central nervous system, and the ability to feel pain, hunger, and thirst, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy". There are lots of other feelings that are common to all of us...probably all feelings....whatever I can feel...any living being with a central nervous system can feel. Time for us human animals to step off of our self presented pedestals and realize that all of us...all living beings are in this living stuff together...and no one is any more equal or better than anyone else.

Well, except for the bunnies that are called Dutch. Many of the Dutch bunnies (who originate from England...go figure) I have met seem to be pretty impressed with themselves.
Here's Griffin, he's Dutch...and I must admit he's quite an impressive fellow. He may well be better than all of us...but he isn't an a**hole about it...that's better than many human animals do when they get bitten with the superiority virus.

Living as an ethical vegan is the only way I know of that honors the lives of my brothers and sisters, the rabbits, the gophers, the birds, the kangaroos...all the many sorts of children that Mother Earth chose and living as an ethical vegan also honors Mother Earth's power to choose the children she wants. She's much more wise than I am...and wiser than you too...I betcha!