Friday, May 30, 2014

A thought experiment.

A thought experiment refers to the consideration of some hypothesis, theory, or principle for the purpose of thinking through its consequences.

What would happen if you took 20,000 human animals and divide them into two equal groups. Make them all, say, 10 years old and equally divided between the sexes. So...you have 2 groups of 10,000 humans each (who are all 10 years old). Now...for the next 50 years one group can only eat plant based foods and the other group can only eat animal based foods. The only other stricture or condition is that no fire/heat can be used on the food. In other words, no cooking or any other application of heat to the food is allowed.

What would the groups look like (in terms of health, survival rate, etc) in 50 years? The survivors from each group would be 60 years old.

As a variant, do the same thought experiment except this time allow cooking. Actually you can find folks who have done at least the plant based food side of it...for example....Donald Watson founded the Vegan society in 1944 and died in 2005. That means he apparently lived at least 61 years on only a plant based diet. I don't know of any members of a group that only lived on an animal based diet...there might be...I just don't know about them.

It isn't difficult to see that healthy survival (e.g., Donald Watson) is easily possible on a purely plant based diet...but healthy survival for 61 years on an purely animal based diet is rather unlikely.

I can't vouch for accuracy here, but it is interesting.
Here's a link to the original graphic and here's a link to a written comparison of digestive tracts (written by a M.D.) for those who might want to explore further.

So...next time someone trots out the notion that humans are "carnivores" you might suggest the thought experiment (the one without the cooking) and see if that doesn't throw a little kink in that notion.

The only way we're "carnivores" (other than maybe eating bugs or worms) is with the assistance of technology (heat). Killing our fellow Earthlings and eating their bodies is about as natural for human animals as flying is...both require technological assistance to be accomplished to any meaningful degree. You can jump off a roof (unassisted by any technology) and "fly" for a short time...but the end result probably won't be enjoyable.

In the meantime, live vegan and you won't need to worry about your healthy survival being negatively impacted by your food choices...and your fellow Earthlings won't have their healthy survival negatively impacted by your food choices either. That's a win-win for everyone.





Friday, May 23, 2014

What we take...

from the other animals is incalculable. This photo is one of the most poignant images I've ever seen in my whole life. Ever. It combines beauty as well as loss.

Maggie and the sunset.
The bunny's name is Maggie and Christina W. (a thoroughly serious bunny friend) took the photo at Heartland. A child of Mother Earth looking through a fence...watching the setting of the sun that warms her and her planet.

The fence is there for her protection...because...while she is a child of the Earth she can't live on her own. She would die without others to take care of her...even though she is an adult and theoretically capable of being an independent resident here on this planet. And...while the fence protects...it also confines.

She can't live on her own because we humans manipulated generations of her ancestors to cause her to be born with that fluffy long covering of hair (fur)...and... manipulated the color of that hair. A white prey animal not in an arctic setting doesn't last long. Any being with a covering of hair that they cannot groom and maintain themselves is not going to last long. If a predator doesn't kill them, the matting and subsequent pulling and tearing of the skin will either drive them mad with pain or infection will set in and death will follow. She is doomed to dependency...for her to live she must be cared for by someone else. For all of her years of life she has been robbed of the ability to live independently.

Maggie is a beautiful being...with no capability of living autonomously away from human animals who will look out for her. The photo captures her beauty and her diminishment and it presents the beauty of the planet she has been denied. All in one exquisite and tragic scene.

Maggie doing what grooming she can.

I've come to realize that one of the ways you can (almost invariably) identify a fellow animal who has been diminished by humans is, once those animals reach adulthood, a fairly high percentage of people (and it is usually women who are willing to do this) who see them exclaim something like: "Oh, isn't she (he) cute!". I specify adult animals because...let's face it...almost all babies are cute. But the bunnies with drooping ears, very long fur, very tiny body size...and on and on...all of these are handicaps deliberately encouraged by manipulation of sexual pairings just for the purpose of human whim.

We call this sort of despicable behavior "breeding"...remember though, that just a word to obscure what is actually being done...forced inbreeding. It is exactly the kind of thinking that drove the "racial" policies of the Hitler era in Germany. It is rationality untethered to full consideration of reality...and when you have that...you and all other living beings and environments would do well to run like hell because what is going to happen is not going to be nice...but the resultant beings might be seen as "cute" (or "profitable" or useful or whatever).

No thought or care for what price the beings are paying, no consideration of the fact that, in addition to the physical handicaps inflicted on the bunny, dog, horse, cat, etc., inbreeding almost invariably introduces defects in immune system functioning and also organ and/or dental and/or skeletal and/or mental defects. Nope...cute, attractive, cuddly, desirable (to human animals)...these are the driving motives and to hell with the price Maggie is paying.

There's a degree of hubris involved in doing these things to living beings for our own desires that is of such a monstrous enormity that I can hardly wrap my mind around it. We're a scary bunch of primates and that photo exemplifies our terrifying ability to inflict horror on a living being, horror of untold depth and...when we see the results we say "isn't she cute?". We scare the crap out of me.

Take the easy way out of creating tragedy and horror and misery and death, live vegan. Maggie will thank you (although it is too late for her) and all other children of Mother Earth will thank you. Well...Maggie might not thank you...she might ask why did you let this happen? (and who can blame her).

Friday, May 16, 2014

Reading...

has been an activity that has been with me a long long time and has brought me much...in many many ways. I read...often...and a lot. I read lots of "mind candy", fiction books without much import nor insight or wisdom in them. Not that fiction can't contain all those things...and the best fiction does...it's just that light reading is what I do before sleeping and I try diligently to sleep pretty much every day.

The field I worked in (psychology and counseling) demanded lots of reading and over the decades I read many articles and books related to that and then when I eased over into teaching computer programming that required tons of reading in a brand new subject area...in addition to keeping up with whatever was going on in psychology. Fiction served as a break from academic writing and it has been something that continues to be a constant source of mild (and sometimes profound) pleasure. For instance, one of the absolute best writers living today is a fellow named J. M. Coetzee...if you want to see fiction illustrating truths...you would have a hard time finding better than his work. (especially his book Elizabeth Costello)

Then came veganism. Ouch. I say ouch because snapping into seeing and comprehending and understanding the world without the crutch of human exceptionalism...or at least trying to divest myself of the distortions and stupidities engendered by this fantasy...has really played havoc with my reading. I alluded to this recently and I'm touching on it again because it seems to be so dreadfully ubiquitous.

I seem to be stumbling into writing semi-regularly about not what I've read...but about what I didn't read and why I didn't read it...sort of a guide to being un-read (as opposed to well-read) and reasons for cultivating such a status. Hmmm.....

I recently obtained a copy of a book called "How Animals Grieve" by Barbara J. King. I was looking forward to reading this and jumped into it as soon as it arrived. By page 5 I started feeling some unease when I read: "The terms "chicken intelligence" and "chicken personality" struck me as oxymoronic, not reasonable descriptions of chicken reality." Now granted, I am/was as immersed in the delusion of human exceptionalism as anyone but undergraduate and graduate studies taught me, quite clearly, that "intelligence" was obviously a relative thing (as well as a human created concept) and that no living organism on this planet existed that didn't possess "intelligence"...yet here is this highly educated person writing that she didn't think chickens possessed intelligence. That might be ok for an uneducated human animal to think...but not someone with a Ph.D.

I kept on reading but page 7 produced this bit: "In writing about animal bereavement, I walk a line stretched taut between two poles. The first is this wish to recognize the emotional lives of other animals. The other is my need to honor human uniqueness." I added the underlining. I stopped reading soon thereafter. When I read that underlined phrase I flashed back on the book title...and thought...she isn't writing a book about the grieving of animals who don't happen to be human...she's writing a book driven by a need to honor human "uniqueness" and she's going to reference grief from the other living beings to do so. I appreciate her honesty and I wonder whether she grasps just how honest a statement that was.

And so I stopped reading. At this point I'm not really interested in reading (with some exceptions) supposedly serious and non-fiction material about living beings that starts off from such a profoundly biased position. I'm just not. To me that would be very similar to reading a book supposedly about human females and their characteristics from an avowed male chauvinist or reading a book about African Americans from an openly racist author. What little accurate information that would or might be presented in those instances would be immersed in and drenched by the ugliness of prejudice and bias surrounding it.

I just don't have the stomach right now to wade around in, what now seems to me to be, silliness masquerading as seriousness. This author may have much to say that is valuable or necessary or interesting...I don't know...I'm not making that kind of judgement. Others may enjoy her work(s) and her observations but I just don't want to subject myself to it. It's too disturbing and sad-making to me...that might change in the future but right now that's just now where I am.

It seems disrespectful and somehow nasty to title a book "How Animals Grieve" and then write that she "needs to honor human uniqueness". I'll give her points for honesty in that statement but I suspicion that the honesty was inadvertent. A better title might have been "The Uniqueness of Humans, as Shown by the Grief of All Other Animals". (she also flunked the index test)

And believe me...our sister and brother animals have a lot to feel grief about as a result of the silly and sad "uniqueness" we ascribe to ourselves. Drop some of your bigger delusions, go vegan, and do your best to quit giving others reason to grieve.

Friday, May 9, 2014

In Honor of all Human UnMothers

On my behalf and on behalf of all sentient beings I want to thank and honor all of you human animal females who have avoided becoming mothers...especially those who are living vegan. Thank you Thank you and Thank you! You have chosen to not participate in or contribute to the ongoing and accelerating destruction of most of the current habitat and environment of the planet Earth. This time of the year is mostly devoted to thanking Mothers...but those who most deserve thanks are the UnMothers.

The human overpopulation of the planet is destroying other species and the environmental conditions necessary to support Earth's species at an astonishing rate. The most significant things any human animal can do to reduce their negative impact on the ecosystem is to not reproduce and to live vegan.
When scientists talk about overpopulation, they are usually referring to a population exceeding its biological carrying capacity which is defined as "the maximum number of animals that a specific habitat or area can support without causing deterioration or degradation of that habitat.” 
 Look at the bottom left corner of the graph, it is estimated that the human population of the planet exceeded 1 billion in 1804. In general, thought suggests that a human population of around 500 million (in other words, a population of humans half of the 1804 population) is a "sustainable" number of people. If you want to poke around, there is an abundance of information available...

What is important to remember is that every additional human animal on the planet means two things for our fellow Earthlings:

A. Less space and food (natural habitat) for other animals.
B. More animals killed for food by humans.

The direction of the number of human animals needs (for the sake of the planet, for our fellow Earthlings and for ourselves) to be decreasing, not increasing. We could make the number decrease by killing (and we are amazingly good at that) or by death from disease or starvation or whatever....or we could make the number decrease by not adding to it and letting death due to age begin to bring the number down. Obviously the least violent and painful way to make our numbers drop is to quit having so many children.

So...thanks is due to those courageous and heroic human females (inadvertently or not) who have had the generosity and vision to help all living beings by being UnMothers.  Your planet thanks you, your fellow Earthlings thank you...especially all mothers who aren't human animals, and I thank you. You are appreciated and valued and treasured.

Your not having children means you voted to have more tigers living in the wild instead of another McDonalds hamburger joint.

You voted to preserve, not to destroy. You voted for the future, not for the now. This is caring, this is concern, this is love...this is true "mothering". Be impressed with yourselves, you should be...we all should be. Thank you!!!
So remember this...when you encounter a human animal who lives vegan you are encountering someone living in a manner that tries to reduce the pain and misery of all Earthlings...when you encounter a human animal who lives vegan and who has opted to remain childless....well...just wow.

This post is somewhat of a repeat of an earlier honor to UnMothers...in the meantime I've been lucky enough to meet several women who opted to live the role of an UnMother and they enlightened me about something I'd not thought of before. Apparently women who don't become mothers tend to get lots of comments and nudges about this. "When are you going to have a child?" is probably one of the least offensive ones. I admit to being rather stunned...and truthfully...rather angered when I heard this.

And yet...such obtuseness is way too often characteristic of our times. Where, more often than not, the default or expected position or behavior is a destructive and unconsidered one and when thoughtfulness or astuteness or kindness or concern for anything or anyone more than ones own self is met with skepticism or derision or rejection. Anyone asking "when are you going to have a child" may be exposing their own small-minded ignorance and absence of concern for Mother Earth and all her Earthlings.

If mothering is about caring then vegan UnMothers exhibit care most of all.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Consumerism...

is defined as: "a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts."

I spent my last few years working as a numbers/database wonk and the data I sliced and diced mainly had to to with people who accessed mental health services. There was, during that time, a concerted effort to change the term used to refer to people who used M.H. services from client to consumer. The first time I heard that sort of goofy sounding word "consumer"...I thought it was a joke. It wasn't.

There's a bit of history here. I'll do a very brief summary (necessarily incomplete and inadequate). The word patient has some connotations that Carl Rogers (an influential...and quite interesting and insightful) American psychologist objected to and he pushed fairly successfully for referring to the people seen by psychotherapists and psychiatrists as clients instead of patients. Patient carries the connotation of a supplicant seeking assistance from an expert as well as medicalizing the notion of psychotherapy. Dr. Rogers felt that an individual was the expert about their own life and the term patient disregarded that fact and hence he advocated a more neutral term like client...he eventually called his therapeutic approach "client-centered" and later still just called that approach "person-centered".

I lived through the transition of terminology from "patient" to "client" (not complete, by any means) and here I was seeing a push for a terminology change from one which was designed to empower and recognize the individuals expertise about themselves to a term designed to fit the person into some sort of business/marketing model of the world.

Although curiously, when pressed, those advocating for this change really didn't know why they wanted it, just that "client" sounded old-fashioned and consumer sounded, well, business-like or something. One argument for the change was that it "empowered" individuals by making them into "customers".

As far as I can see the change is one from a structure or equality to a hierarchical one...i.e. whomever has the most purchasing power wins. Fifty thousand customers spending ten dollars each is trumped by one customer spending one million dollars. In other words, the idea that all "consumers" are equal is erroneous...but...this notion that the "market" is "empowering" is one of the persistent (and misleading) myths of our times.

That's no kind of "empowerment" I want anything to do with. At the core it encourages...no....demands...greed, i.e. those with the most money exert the most influence. Unless...there is a system in place that ensures that all purchasing power is equal for all "customers". But...it never includes that provision.

What in hell does this have to do with veganism? Well actually, I think maybe a whole whole lot. When the Donald Watson group defined vegan they referred to the exploitation of animals. A vegan human society/culture is going to necessitate much more of a change than is often thought.

The whole idea of "using" must be drastically re-examined...and maybe even done away with. Consumerism/exploitation/business/marketing/advertizing/profit...all those things/concepts/approaches are going to face major revision or maybe virtual elimination in order to achieve a standard of human behavior that doesn't include harming/using others and/or harming/destroying the place where we live. A standard where justice and/or fairness and/or harmlessness is the measure of value...not money or "markets".

I've been struggling with writing this post for several weeks and interestingly I recently ran across some other writing that included some lines that resonated for me:
 "...we cannot get even close to what we want as vegans within the present social and economic structure. A wider, more systemic vision of social change is necessary if we are really serious about bringing about the liberation of all animals, and determined to protect the environment."
This is from a blog called On Human-Nonhuman relations written by Roger Yates who is a sociologist and a long time (really long time) vegan.

This vegan thing just might mean much much more than it appears if we want to achieve a "life-centered" or "Earthling-centered" human society.