Thursday, January 30, 2014

He fought the power...

Pete Seeger died this past Monday at the age of 94. I'm still devastated by his going away and likely will be on some levels for the time I have remaining. He became a hero of mine while I was still in high school and he remained one throughout all this time. He never never failed to delight, he never failed to enlighten and he never failed to "fight the power".

I asked my Tuesday class whether they had heard of Pete Seeger...none of them had. And that made me ever sadder.

It may be that some of you are not familiar with him. If so...here is one of the numerous pieces about his death and here's another. He made beautiful and meaningful music and he stood up against power and he stood up for those being treated unjustly. Even if he didn't make it all the way through to becoming a vegan...I have no doubt he would have at some point or other.

I've sort of had my eye out for something written about him that was worthy of him and here's a piece written back in 1990 that does a very good job.
   What does this have to do with animals?  Nothing and everything.  Pete Seeger has fought the power for a long time.  Summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1955, he pleaded not the Fifth but the First Amendment.  He declared that he had the right to discuss (and sing about) politics with whomever he pleased.  In 2003, as the nation prepared to invade Iraq, an 84 year-old man stood by himself on a cold, snowy street corner in Beacon, New York holding a hand-painted sign that simply said: “Peace.”   As Bruce Springsteen observed, Seeger’s life and work has been all about driving a “stealth dagger into the heart of our illusions about ourselves and our country.”
Mr. Springsteen's observance about driving a dagger into the heart of illusion is also a fitting statement about the job of every vegan. It is our task to puncture humankind's illusion of superiority and dominance and freedom to harm without consequence that characterizes how most behave toward our fellow Earthlings. I will forever believe Pete would have understood and sympathized. RIP Mr. Seeger...we are all lessened by your not being here. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Stranger in a strange land.

Recently one of the blogs, Animal Rights, I follow regularly posted a piece entitled Applesauce and Boiled Pigs (the author is adept both at writing and title creating). She often writes essays that are both funny and painful and this one included content that is smile making and also sad and also dismaying.

I responded with a comment that included the phrase "stranger in a strange land". Science fiction affectionados will recognize the phrase as one used by Robert Heinlein to title one of his most well known books. One that I read way back when I was fairly young and deeply immersed in the reading of science fiction. The book, by the way, centers around a character who, as an outsider, challenges many well-accepted social mores (and eventually gets murdered for his trouble).

What I was trying to wrestle with in my comment was the fact that veganism and the realizations of truths that drive someone to live life as a vegan carry a rather heavy price. Not the least of which is that taking this path is going to place one outside (and not just a little bit outside) of the mainstream way of living of most all of the human cultures on the planet. Culture and her footsoldiers (all those who practice particular ways of seeing things and doing things) do not suffer change gladly. This is a truth most everyone who has protested or resisted or even avoided participation in the murderous mayhem that is accepted as "reality" knows well.

It doesn't matter that veganism extends and places into practice behaviors and ways of feeling and thinking that are generally considered good or desirable...such as compassion, kindness, respect for others, etc. None of this matters to the cultural behemoth. What stirs resistance is change...it doesn't matter that the change is positive or that the change can only be considered good or beneficial...what matters to the culture is that it is different. Period.

If you step out of "being normal" be prepared to discover that human animals are generally not all these wonderous things we've been told that they are. Being frightened of applesauce doesn't say much for intelligence or rationality or wisdom or insight. Be prepared to discover a number to things that are painful about human behavior. Daniel Quinn addressed this phenomenon in his book Ishmael (more in this previous post). He does a great job of exploring this difficult topic.

Be prepared to learn too, if you haven't already, that: "Animals are no where near as different from humans as we’ve been taught..." (source). There's sort of a balance here...as we move toward giving up delusions of "specialness" and "uniqueness" we discover that we live in a world where special and unique doesn't just apply to one type of animal but to all animals. We find we have many more and varied beings that are enjoyable and admirable and that enrich us for knowing them.

Becoming a stranger in a strange land can be painful and disorienting and difficult to endure. But it also can make the world much bigger and more phenomenal than we ever thought it could be. I've met wise rabbits and sassy donkeys and silly ducks...and if I had continued to live in ways that included being threatened by applesauce...I would have been blind to the uniqueness of each of those beings.

Being a stranger in a strange land doesn't mean there aren't other humans there with you either. If you've opted for the strange stranger path (veganism) be sure to be kind to the other human strangers you encounter. You know it's a tough road because you're on it...it's tough for them too...so encouragement, acceptance and appreciation are always beneficial. Being vegan means living a life of kindness to strangers...those strangers being all the other animals that you will never meet that were spared harm because of your veganism...remember to be kind to the human strangers too.

One final thought. If at all possible, get involved with a rescue and/or sanctuary, not only to help them...but to help yourself. By that I mean I think it is nourishing (that's the best word I can think of) to spend lots of time around other types of beings. Especially beings that are safe from harm by humans.

Rescues and sanctuaries (vegan ones) are the closest thing there is to a vegan world that we have right now.

Being involved with a place like that lets you get a taste of what we're all struggling to achieve. It can be a transformative experience. And, if there isn't a vegan rescue or sanctuary near you...maybe you can get involved with one that isn't and begin the process of changing it. I think most of us spend way too much time around other humans and not nearly enough time around unhuman Earthlings...especially other Earthlings who are safe and who are given the respect and acceptance that they deserve. They blossom...and hanging out with blossoming beings is pretty nifty.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Please go read this..

post over at The Animal Blawg. It is one of the best discussions I've ever run across about the problematic issue of "feeding" and interacting with the free animals. The author is a gifted writer who attracted my attention and admiration several years ago and I keep an eye out for anything she writes.

Developing into a respecter of our fellow animals (as well as being, on my part at least, a "lover" of them too) can be a struggle and can be difficult.

By the way, the same sort of perspective applies to interacting with your fellow human animals. Jumping in and doing everything for some other human that you care for is, in general, not a particularly good way to express caring. It's also sort of invasive and can be demeaning...and can be damaging. Why would we think what doesn't work for us...does work for the other animals? Ah well, when has reasonableness and perceptiveness ever defined human activity?

I'm not going to wade into this issue much further. Ms. Stachowski has written well and thoroughly about it...go read it.

And...obviously...if you want to quit harming the innocent...go vegan.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Giving toxic "food" to animals.


Many are aware that about six years ago there was a scandal because a pet food supplier from china had used melamine as an ingredient (because the presence of melamine causes tests for protein levels to be higher...and I presume melamine is cheaper than protein) and this had caused death for a number of pets. Melamine has also been used to boost apparent protein level in foods designed to be used by human animals. "Melamine is a by-product of the coal industry. It is a chemical compound with numerous industrial uses, including the production of plastics, dishware, kitchenware, commercial filters, laminates, adhesives, molding compounds, coatings and flame retardants." (source)

One of the lessons to be learned here is that the desire to make a profit can result in harm to living beings.

Recently Heartland Rabbit Rescue took in two bunnies from different situations where the rabbits were returned along with some of the food they had been being fed. One of the foods came from Walmart, a brand called Small World, that is apparently manufactured for Walmart by a company called Manna Pro. The other bunny was being fed a house brand rabbit food (called Ranch Pro) that is carried by a farm supply retailer called Atwoods. The negative effects of these pitiful "diets" on these two remains to be fully seen.

The link to the Small World brand food goes to a page that lists the ingredients, they include (in order of how much there is of each)....dehydrated Alfalfa Meal, Wheat Middlings, Roughage Products, Soybean Meal, Feeding Oatmeal (whatever that is) and the list then degenerates into a litany of chemicals and vitaminany sounding names, e.g. "sodium selenite".

The Ranch Pro brand sold by Atwoods list ingredients (in order of how much there is in the "food") as being "plant protein products, processed grain products, roughage products, dehydrated alfalfa meal...and then the list degenerates again into a listing of chemicals and vaguely nutritional sounding stuff like "copper sulfate". The Ranch Pro brand does say right under the logo that "This feed is designed to be fed to grower and breeder rabbits." In other words...it is designed to make the bunny get as big as possible as fast as possible because getting big fast increases profits that can be made from the bunny. The Small World brand touts itself as "Complete feed for rabbits".

Both of these "foods" are absolutely and totally unacceptable items to give to a rabbit...unless you care nothing about the well being of the rabbit.They will have the same effect as a poison...slow acting poison maybe...but poison nevertheless.

In contrast to "complete feed for rabbits" you might want to look at these nutrition guidelines from the Minnesota House Rabbit Society. They note: "Overfeeding of pellets can lead to obesity, heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease, chronic soft stools and bladder stones." And even on the Minnesota page, they aren't clear about the fact that alfalfa should be given to adult rabbits only in rare instances...alfalfa is not hay (grass) it is a legume...from the same plant family as peas. Here's another (and maybe better) source to consult concerning food for rabbits.They note: "Perhaps the single most important item in the rabbit diet is grass HAY, and it should be fed in unlimited quantities to both adults and baby rabbits." Notice they specify grass HAY, not alfalfa.

What's all this about food for rabbits? Well, the truth is, most human's are clueless about what rabbits should be eating (I promise I was) but most of us humans simply take Walmat's word that they are selling us a "complete feed" for rabbits and go merrily on our way of slowly poisoning the rabbit(s) in our care.

Furthermore, most of the food "manufactured" (manufactured food is a strange combination of words when you think about it) for rabbits is created to make "growers and breeders" of rabbits happy. That means the rabbit grows large quickly so they can be killed or they can start "breeding" quickly. None of this food is designed to assist the bunny to be healthy or long-lived...it is designed to satisfy the needs and wants of those who exploit rabbits for profit. The fact is, most commercial rabbit "food" is slow acting poison. Period.

I came across a couple of videos recently that do a good job of injecting humor into a topic that is really not humorous. Food for your rabbit (or for any living being) is literally a matter of life or death...and that's really not funny. Never ever ever pay heed to information coming from an exploiter ("grower", "rancher", "breeder", "exhibitor or shower") of living beings about what is beneficial for the beings they exploit. In the end, they don't know or care, they care about profit and what they can get out of those they exploit. 

I'm including one of the videos here...the other on uses a clip from a movie about Hitler that I actually thought was good too...but found myself conflicted about it because it shows Hitler advocating for rabbits. And the juxtaposing of an evil being advocating for beings I care about left me dismayed and ambivalent.

You can find that other video here if you want to see it. Look...we are an ignorant species and our ignorance...even when we are well intentioned...means if we are responsible for someone else then they will likely suffer because of our ignorance. If you are going to take on the awesome power of caring for someone else....you have an obligation to minimize your ignorance. Harming someone you care about is very painful...for you...and even more so for the one you harm.

Even if you don't live with another species...you have to live vegan to minimize your harming...so quit harming...if you haven't already done so.