Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Focus on AETA Skews Priorities, Resources

Last week as a woman in Denver drove home from the gym, her ex-boyfriend forced her off the road and shot her in the head.

According to Amber Cremeens' new boyfriend, Tyler James Martin had "been stalking the hell out of her." Cremeens had moved to Kansas City and then to Denver to escape him, but Martin found her each time.

After killing Cremeens, Martin fled to Illinois and fatally shot himself.

Also, last week an ex-boyfriend of Nova Henry was charged with her murder and that of her 9-month-old daughter. They were found shot to death Jan. 24 in their Chicago condo.

Henry had filed an order of protection against Fredrick D. Goings.
In 2007, Goings was charged with domestic battery and phone harassment of Henry. He allegedly threatened to shoot her cousin in the head.
These two women -- and many, many more just like them -- experienced daily terror, never knowing when they'd be assaulted next, never knowing when the ex-boyfriends or husbands whom they'd finally had the courage to leave would reappear.

Yet Martin and Goings will not be labeled terrorists.

Four people in California, though, have been branded terrorists. Why? Because they protested against people (and the institutions that employee them) who torture animals for money.

Will Potter has a great blog post (when doesn't he?) at Green Is the New Red, complete with a link to an affidavit by an FBI agent investigating the protests at animal experimenters' homes. In the affidavit the agent focuses her attention of how their alleged acts violated the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.
On Sunday, October 21, 2007, a group of approximately twenty people, some wearing bandanas covering the lower portion of their faces, drove to University of California at Berkeley Professor Number One's residence in El Cerrito. Professor Number One conducts bio-medical research involving the use of animals. The group of protesters trespassed onto Professor Number One's front yard and rang his doorbell several times. The group was making a lot of noise, chanting animal rights slogans [...], using a bullhorn. Professor Number One told protesters that he was going to call the police and the group was subsequently detained by officers on site.
If this information is worth including in an affidavit to request a warrant for the four activists' arrests last week, why weren't they arrested on the day the protest occurred?

DNA testing

Another thought that went through my mind as I read the affidavit was this: Somehow taxpayer-funded law-enforcement agencies have the staff and money to analyze the DNA from bandannas allegedly used during a First Amendment-protected protest, yet agencies across this country have been complaining for decades about not having the resources to analyze evidence from rapes and murders.

Earlier this month the Los Angeles Police Department identified about 4,400 unsolved rape cases in which the DNA evidence had not been tested. A total of 403 of those must be tested soon to avoid the statute of limitations expiring. After the statute of limitations expires, a suspect cannot be tried for the assault. Officers found 118 such files with untested evidence.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department has a backlog of 800 untested DNA samples.

Consenting to a rape kit takes courage on the part of the victim. After being raped, many women want to forget it ever happened. They want to take a shower and remove the physical, mental, emotional traces of the assault. But going to a hospital and allowing a doctor to conduct an exam -- that can take hours -- and collect semen, blood, hair and skin samples are what will allow detectives to find the rapist.
"You are making a commitment to participate in the criminal justice system and provide evidence that will aid in the prosecution of your case," said Gail Abarbanel, the director of the Rape Treatment Center at the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. "Not opening rape kits is just a profound betrayal of the victim's belief in the criminal justice system."
So while rape kits remain untested and rapists and murderers are free to repeat their heinous crimes, and while women are killed by jealous, controlling men, law-enforcement officials dedicate their resources to quashing freedom of speech and protecting those engaged in "animal enterprise."

(Photo courtesy of the Center for Constitutional Rights. It is not a photo from the protests mentioned in this post.)



Monday, February 23, 2009

Animal Ag Joins Fight Against Workers

Animal "agriculture" organizations have joined agricultural groups to form a coalition to oppose a federal pro-union initiative.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the National Chicken Council and the Arizona Cattle Feeder's Association are among 35 groups that comprise the deceptively named Agriculture for a Democratic Workplace. (You may have to register to gain access to link.)

This coalition joins the likes of Wal-Mart and Rick Berman's deceptive lobbyist groups in opposing the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for employees to join unions. However, it does so under the guise that the act would harm workers. Its Web site urges visitors to "Tell Congress: PROTECT WORKERS’ RIGHTS -- SAVE THE SECRET BALLOT IN UNION ELECTIONS."

However, a 2007 New York Times editorial supporting the bill illuminates why employers want to keep the secret ballot.
The most significant change in the bill is known as a majority signup, which would allow employees at a company to unionize if a majority signed cards expressing their desire to do so. Under current law, an employer can reject the majority's signatures and insist on a secret ballot. But in a disturbingly high number of cases, the employer uses the time before the vote to pressure employees to rethink their decision to unionize.
This intimidation was seen in the years-long attempt of Smithfield workers to unionize. The plant opened in 1992, and since 1994 workers had been trying to unionize. That year workers accused management of "harassment, illegal surveillance, intimidation, threats, and coercion" to defeat the measure.

In 2000 an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board found "Smithfield liable of using illegal threats, intimidation, and violence against workers" in a second effort to quash a vote to unionize, in 1997. That same year the slaughterhouse became the country's first to have its own company police force, with officers allowed to carry guns.

In December 2008 Smithfield workers were finally successful in instituting a union.

The only people big business -- whether it be animal "agriculture," retail or restaurants -- is interested in protecting are the people at the top, and they've shown that they'll use any means of deception necessary to do just that.

(Photo courtesy of Arizona Indymedia.)



Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cancer Walks Engage in Pinkwashing

Recently I've noticed advertisements for three walks to benefit the fight against breast cancer.

While I, like possibly all Americans, have been touched by cancer and admire people who participate in causes that help better the world, I find these advertisements and events hypocritical.

The organizations and companies that sponsor these walks engage in pinkwashing. The television commercials, drenched in pink, give women a false sense of empowerment, a false sense of the impact they can have on fighting breast cancer.

Just like with greenwashing, the current trend whereby companies mislead consumers into thinking their products are eco-friendly, with pinkwashing people (especially women, the targeted audience) are led to believe that participating in these walks (ie. giving these organizations money) is the biggest action they can take to fight breast cancer.

The advertisement that I hear the most is a radio commercial for the Breast Cancer 3 Day. The women in the ad sound like they're on the verge of tears, thereby appealing to listeners' emotions. The following statement in the ad, though, is what bothers me the most: "Doing the 3 Day Walk is speaking out against breast cancer in the biggest and boldest possible way."

Is this really the boldest way to speak out against cancer? Absolutely not. No one supports cancer, especially not the people one is walking with. I can think of much bolder actions to take in the fight against cancer.

Speaking out against chemicals and pesticides is more bold because you're challenging million- and billion-dollar corporations.

Educating others about the health risks of animal protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy) is more bold because you're challenging society's norms and traditions.

Even more important is that these actions fight the cause of cancer. Instead of continuing decades-long research into curing cancer, we need to devote more energy and resources into preventing the disease.

Yesterday I wrote about athlete Ruth Heidrich, a woman whose breast cancer was spreading into her lungs and bones at the age of 45. Choosing to forego chemotherapy and radiation (which I'm not endorsing), she credits her adoption of a vegan diet to the reversal of her cancer.
"All you can do is strengthen the immune system to suppress the cancer cells," she says. "I'm not cured – I still have dormant breast cancer cells. I'm convinced that if I went back to eating animal proteins, my hormone levels will change and the cancer cells will start up again."
She's not the only person who's come to this realization. Medical researcher T. Colin Campbell writes about his studies involving animal protein and cancer in "The China Study."

Other research, and people's own stories, can be found at The Cancer Project, a program sponsored by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a group that advocates a vegan diet. Instructors in this program teach those with cancer, cancer survivors and even those wishing to prevent cancer the proper foods to eat and lessons in cooking.

However, the American Cancer Society, which the public views as the authority on cancer and cancer prevention and which sponsors its own walking/running event (Relay For Life), doesn't even mention animal protein on its "Prevention" Web page. It mentions fruits and vegetables, alcohol and even soy, but there isn't a category for animal protein. People deserve to know that anecdotal evidence and even studies exist linking animal protein to cancer. Whether people then choose to adopt a vegan diet is up to them. But they should at least be given the facts to make their own decision.

Of course, a vegan diet is not a 100% guarantee that one will not develop cancer, just as not smoking isn't a guarantee. But it does reduce one's risk of developing cancer, as well as developing other diseases.

While I admire the people who fight cancer in whatever way they choose, the public shouldn't be misled by groups that pinkwash.



Saturday, February 21, 2009

'Behind the Mask' Explores the Hidden Side of Animal Liberation

I can't recommend the documentary "Behind the Mask" highly enough.

Written, produced and directed by animal-rights attorney Shannon Keith, this 2006 film examines why activists choose to break the law to help animals.

Certainly in light of the four arrests Friday in Santa Cruz, people -- especially those not familiar with animal liberation -- should watch this movie to get the side of animal rights that mainstream media will not show the public.

A dean at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told The Mercury News that the targeted animal experimenters were trying to cure cancer and Parkinson's disease, but there's so much more to it than that. Unfortunately, the reporters will take the man at his word and will not investigate what actually happens inside laboratories.

"Behind the Mask" shows us.

Even if the only animals you care about are dogs or cats, you need to see this film.

(Image courtesy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.)



Athletes Shatter Protein Myth

Olympic gold medal winner Mary Lou Retton is in the Chicago area today to publicize a gymnastics event, which is sponsored by Tyson Chicken.

During a radio interview this morning she squeezed in her obligatory references to how important it is to eat well and how one can do that with Tyson Chicken. After all, athletes training for competition need their protein.

I know that protein can come from other, safer, sources than animal flesh, but who am I to argue with a former world-class athlete?

So I'll let nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis and others do the arguing for me.
Can a world-class athlete get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to compete? I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.
Lewis is referring to his performance at the 1991 World Championships.
Lewis said, "This has been the greatest meet that I’ve ever had." Track and Field News was prepared to go even further than that, suggesting that after these Championships, "It had become hard to argue that he is not the greatest athlete ever to set foot on track or field."

[...]

Lewis' 1991 outstanding results earned him the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.
In 1996 Lewis won his ninth Olympic gold medal.

Bodybuilder
Other lesser-known athletes have found success with vegan diets. Bodybuilder Robert Cheeke calls veganism "one of the best things you can do for your health, and the well-being of our environment."
As a vegan bodybuilder, I compete in a sport dominated by meat eaters, most of whom scoff at the idea that one could get sufficient protein from plants to be competitive. I do not consume any animal products whatsoever, not even dairy or eggs. Instead, I focus on eating a wide variety of plant-based whole foods. My protein comes primarily from hemp, tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, seeds, grains, rice, fruits and vegetables. By getting my protein from a wide variety of sources, I am ensuring my body receives a balance of essential amino acids.
Football player
NFL player Tony Gonzalez went vegan after a couple of health scares and has noticed a physical difference.
In the fourth quarters of games, he found himself sprinting past tired defenders. He became more alert during team meetings. On the day after a game, he'd skip into the gym, while teammates looked sore, beat up and worn out.

"People were still making fun of me, because I think they wanted to make themselves feel better," Gonzalez explained. "I'd be ordering salad, potatoes, veggies. I think they felt guilty. Unless you've been in a cave, you know what's healthy and what's not healthy. But most of them still keep eating what they've been eating, because they think that's the only way to get enough protein and compete at a high level."
Martial arts fighter
Martial arts fighter Mac Danzig also bought in to that myth.
"I believed what everybody said," Danzig confirmed, "that you need animal protein in your diet if you're going to train hard and win."
And, like other vegan athletes, Danzig noticed a change.
Though Danzig at first feared a meatless diet would hurt his performance, he now says it has helped him recover faster from fights and workouts. Rather than heavy weightlifting, Danzig's training focuses on plyometrics (rapid muscle stretching and muscle contracting), calisthenics and various cardiovascular routines. He hasn't lost any strength, he said, and his endurance has improved, allowing him to work out longer and recover more quickly.
Ironman triathlete
While the above examples are relatively young men, gender and age are irrelevant when it comes to veganism and athletics. Eight-time Senior Olympic gold medalist Ruth Heidrich went vegan 25 years ago after being diagnosed with breast cancer that was spreading to her lungs and bones. Opting against chemotherapy or radiation, she participated in Dr. John McDougall's study of the connection between animal protein and illness.
Shortly after her operation [to remove the lump in her breast] in 1982, she watched in awe the first triathlon on television. Ruth was determined to train for the grueling 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon run.

"Never mind that no woman this old had ever completed one ... never mind that I was now a cancer patient," she says. "As I trained and got stronger, my goal of becoming
an Ironman became a reality. I've now done the Ironman six times!"
Heidrich is sure that her vegan diet reversed the progression of her cancer. (Medical researcher T. Colin Campbell found the same results in his studies and describes them in his book, "The China Study.")
"All you can do is strengthen the immune system to suppress the cancer cells," she says. "I'm not cured – I still have dormant breast cancer cells. I'm convinced that if I went back to eating animal proteins, my hormone levels will change and the cancer cells will start up again."
(Photo of Carl Lewis courtesy of WorldAthletes.com.)
(Photo of Ruth Heidrich, two days before her 73rd birthday (!) courtesy of RuthHeidrich.com.)




Friday, February 20, 2009

Four Arrested, Charged Under AETA

Four people have been arrested in connection with a series of protests in Santa Cruz, Calif., and will be charged under the AETA.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was passed in 2006 to deter activists from speaking out against animal exploitation. It tacks on up to an additional five years' prison time for each offense and labels activists as terrorists.

The four people arrested -- Nathan Pope, 26; Adriana Stumpo, 23; Joseph Buddenberg, 25; and Maryam Khajavi, 20 -- are charged with "crimes" relating to the protesting of University of California animal experimenters' work. I put "crimes" in quotation marks because I don't see how the second incident is a crime:
Crimes arrested activists are accused of:

Oct. 21, 2007: A group of 20 protesters demonstrated outside of a UC Berkeley professor's home in El Cerrito. Some wore bandanas to hide their faces. They trespassed on his front yard, chanted slogans and accused him of being a murderer because of his use of animals in research.

Jan. 27, 2008: Demonstrations, including chalking, in front of the homes of several UC researchers

Feb. 20, 2008: A group of five protesters tried to forcibly enter the Westside home of a UC Santa Cruz researcher during a child's birthday party. The researcher's husband was hit during the demonstration.

July 29, 2008: Fliers left at Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz that contained the names, addresses and telephone numbers of several UCSC scientists. The fliers said the researchers were "murders and torturers alive and well in Santa Cruz" and stated "We know where you live. We know where you work. We will never back down until you end your abuse."
While trespassing, assault and threats may be illegal, they hardly constitute terrorism. If a gang member trespasses on property, punches someone and issues a threat, he'll likely get arrested, but he won't be labeled a terrorist.

However, since animal exploiters -- whether they be college researchers, drug-company officials or slaughterhouse owners -- feared the progress that animal activists continue to make, they banded together to get the AETA passed. And they are quick to throw around the word "terrorist." In the next few days animal exploiters and those who support them will be blogging about these arrests, about this great accomplishment in saving mankind from these "terrorists."

Ironically, though, when activists get arrested, the underground activists commit more crimes in their names.

Authorities haven't charged anyone with the firebombings that occurred in August in Santa Cruz. Police, and even the media, were quick to definitively call those incidents the acts of animal-rights activists, even though no one was charged or had claimed responsibility. Some activists suspect the firebombings were the work of pro-vivisectors wanting to reignite enthusiasm for a bill to benefit University of California animal experimenters.

Taxpayers can rest easy tonight knowing that four "terrorists" are now behind bars. Well, maybe not that easy. Our money, of course, was used to hunt these savages down. For some reason it took three police jurisdictions -- including university police -- to arrest two of them.
The two other suspects [...] were arrested by the FBI, the San Francisco Joint Terrorism Task Force and UC Berkeley police.
I guess everyone wanted in on the self-congratulation.
Still, [Santa Cruz Police Chief Howard Skerry] said he was pleased with the progress made in the past year.

"A lot of cases are very complex," Skerry said. "We don't give up on the cases. If it takes years, it takes years."
Way to go, guys. Perhaps now you can try to catch the terrorists who actually kill people.

To learn more about the Green Scare, visit Will Potter's fantastic blog, GreenIstheNewRed.com.
To join the effort to repeal the AETA, visit the Coalition to Abolish the AETA.

(Image courtesy of GreenIstheNewRed.com.)



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pretenders' Hynde Protests McDonald's

Pretenders singer Chrissie Hynde joined protesters yesterday outside Chicago's Rock 'n' Roll McDonald's.

Individual Chicago activists were on hand with the rocker and members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which claims that McDonald's suppliers use an outdated method to slaughter chickens that results in extreme suffering for the animals.
In the slaughterhouses of McDonald's U.S. chicken suppliers, birds are dumped out of their transport crates and hung upside-down in metal shackles, which can result in broken bones, extreme bruising, and hemorrhaging. Workers have the opportunity to abuse live birds, and birds have their throats cut while they are still conscious. Many birds are immersed in tanks of scalding-hot water while they are still alive and able to feel pain.
Hynde, who opened a vegan restaurant in her hometown of Akron, Ohio, in October, helped garner publicity for PETA's reinstatement of its McCruelty campaign against Oak Brook, IL-based McDonald's. It originally launched the campaign in 2000 but suspended it after the restaurant chain made animal-welfare improvements. Since then, though, the animal-rights organization says McDonald's has continued practices that result in the worst abuses of chickens.

PETA wants McDonald's to require its suppliers to use controlled-atmosphere killing (CAK) to slaughter chickens. It claims "a 2005 study about CAK produced by McDonald's concluded that it is far better for animals than the current method of slaughter."

McDonald's European restaurants get 30% of its chickens from slaughterhouses that use the CAK method. But it's virtually unheard of in this country, which tends to lag behind Europe in most areas of reform.

I, of course, support animal rights, not animal welfare, and don't care if the chickens are killed by being sprinkled with fairy dust. The point is that they are killed, period. But for those chickens who will to be murdered until the majority of people realize it's wrong and decide to go veg, I support lessening their suffering.

(Photo of Chrissie Hynde on PETA's Dan Mathews' shoulders courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times.)



Monday, February 16, 2009

Grandin's "Humane" Seal Even More Ironic, Worthless

Last week I wrote about Niman Ranch and Temple Grandin's "humane" seal of approval, a program full of irony and hypocrisy.

Well, there's more.

It turns out that Grandin's "humane" certification only certifies that companies are abiding by their own rules!

Meatingplace.com, an industry Web site, has published a clarification to the press release Niman Ranch put out last week. (You may need to register to gain access to the site.)
There has been considerable confusion generated by the original Niman Ranch press release dated Feb. 11, 2009. The program is an existing Niman Ranch program and I am working with them to make their standards clearer and easier to audit. My seal of approval is verification that they adhere to Niman Ranch standards and have a rigorous auditing program.
My post about the program was not based on a press release. It was based on a story from another industry site that claimed to have interviewed Grandin for the exclusive piece, which was titled "Temple Grandin unveils new sustainability and humane handling certification program."
The program was unveiled exclusively to The National Provisioner and Niman Ranch's business partners, and was created in conjunction with Niman Ranch.
The story said that in order to receive Grandin's "humane" seal of approval, a company had to abide by 21 guidelines, one of which banned farrowing crates. But in her clarification, Grandin now says that isn't true.
My personal opinion on housing for pigs is much more moderate. I personally approve of farrowing stalls.
So what does a "Dr. Temple Grandin Certified, Sustainable & Humane" seal actually mean?
There have also been many questions about the Temple Grandin approved label. This label would certify that a company has a credible auditing program and that they actually are complying with their own standards. [Emphasis mine.]
(Photo of a pig in a farrowing crate courtesy of AnimalsAustralia.org.)



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Grandin, Niman Ranch Develop 'Humane' Certification

Temple Grandin, designer of "humane" slaughterhouses, and Niman Ranch have joined together to create a "humane"-certification program.

I wrote about Grandin last month when her hypocritical book about creating good lives for animals was released.

The "Dr. Temple Grandin Certified, Sustainable & Humane" seal will be offered beginning in August to companies that follow 21 guidelines.
"[The program] is founded on the belief that animals should be treated with respect and allowed to fulfill their instinctive behaviors without damaging the environment."
I'd argue that one of the most basic instinctive behaviors that all animals have is the instinct to protect one's self from death, more specifically from being murdered. Yet the animals who are stamped with the seal wouldn't have been allowed to fulfill that instinctive behavior.

One of the 21 guidelines assures that "[a]nimals must be given the opportunity to care for, interact with and nurture their young. In the case of swine, farrowing crates are not allowed." It's ironic because animal exploiters have argued that farrowing crates (tiny pens with bars that separate a mother pig from her nursing babies) are necessary to prevent a mother from rolling on top of her babies.

I'll repeat what I said in my previous post about Grandin: If she truly cares about animals -- and about the environment, as this program implies -- then she should devote her energy to advocating a vegan diet. I wonder how much money she's charging companies for her seal of approval.

With regards to Niman Ranch, I'm sure this certification process is somehow linked to its recent financial difficulties. Because Niman Ranch never made a profit in its 40-year history and was "up to its eyeballs in debt and defaulting on loans," it merged last month with a Chicago company, Natural Food Holdings LLC.

Niman almost went under because people didn't care if the flesh they were buying was "humane." But now it wants to offer all companies the one tool that had made Niman stand out from the competition. If you have any theories as to why Niman has made this move, please share them in the Comments section.

I also encourage you to check out HumaneMyth.org to learn why "humane" is sometimes nowhere near humane.

(Photo of Temple Grandin by Joel Benjamin courtesy of The New York Times.)



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

PCRM President on Terrorist Watch List

It boggles my mind how our government considers animal advocates on par with people who fly planes into buildings, killing thousands.

In its mind we're all terrorists.

That includes Dr. Neal Barnard, the president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which advocates a vegan diet and opposes animal testing.

A judge this week dismissed a lawsuit Barnard had filed in pursuit of information pertaining to his being detained at airports 17 times between 2003 and 2007. On at least one occasion he saw "Terrorist Organization Member: Caution" on a computer screen at airport security.

Barnard filed the lawsuit after the Department of Homeland Security refused to release documents related to his Freedom of Information Act requests.
The ensuing litigation revealed that the feds had, at one time, "an open and pending criminal investigation" relating to Dr. Barnard, and that is why the documents couldn't be released. [...]

On Jan. 29, 2008, Judge Kollar-Kotelly accepted Homeland Security's arguments and dismissed Barnard's suit. On Feb. 4, [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] informed the judge it had discovered still more material. Turns out, among other things, Customs and Border Enforcement did have several hundred pages of documents relevant to Barnard. [...] By then, he was no longer a subject of an investigation. Barnard still sought release of the documents, hoping to find out, among other things, the extent of government monitoring that was taking place.

But in the ruling this week, Judge Kollar-Kotelly concludes the documents were properly withheld in order to protect law enforcement.
What a waste of government resources and taxpayer money to investigate a man whose work focuses on helping humans improve their health.

(Photo courtesy of PCRM.)



Animal Activists an Inspiration

While I was watching a video of a Portland, Ore., pet-store protest last night, I was reminded of how I felt at the Animal Rights Conference last year.

I felt so good knowing that people across the country -- and even around the world -- are doing what they can for animals.

The video featured the Radical Cheerleaders for Animal Rights, a group of women (and their pompoms), standing outside a pet store in the middle of a mall, chanting, "Rise up! Resist! Puppy mills should not exist!" among other catchy phrases. I give those women a lot of credit for having the moxie to stand in front of strangers and shout for what they believe in.

Fortunately, these Portland activists are not alone. Every day I read about the work of animal activists via my connection to people on Facebook.

A woman in Tennessee makes frequent trips to the city pound and shelter to pick up dogs facing imminent deaths. She then drives them to Chicago, where they have a better chance of being adopted.

Through her Podcasts, Colleen in the San Francisco area has convinced dozens of people, including me, to go vegan.

Vegan Outreach volunteers across the country pass out veg literature on an almost daily basis.

People gather to protest fur, foie gras and the horse-carriage industry every week.

Organizers, like two hard-working ones in Chicago, plan veg*an get-togethers so people have the opportunity to meet other veg*ans. These are a great way to re-energize after being surrounded by meat-eaters every day.

Still others try to raise awareness of animal issues via blogs or e-mail lists.

This list is just a tiny sample of the work that is being done on behalf of animals. It's inspiring to know that while I'm typing in the Midwest, someone else is passing out "Why Vegan?"s in the Southeast and others are shouting on behalf of dogs in the Northwest.

Admittedly my contribution pales in comparison to others'. But to paraphrase Colleen, it's not about doing everything; it's about doing something. Even those who don't consider themselves activists, but who simply choose not to eat meat, are helping animals in a huge way.

But I really admire the activists who get out there and raise awareness of animal issues, those who shake their pompoms in the face of the status quo.

(Photo courtesy of the Radical Cheerleaders for Animal Rights.)




Sunday, February 8, 2009

Former U.S. Rep. Argues for Horse Slaughter

Although more Democrats than Republicans support animal issues, one notable exception to this rule is former U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm of Texas.

Stenholm yesterday criticized animal advocates' initiatives to ban the slaughtering of horses. He was interviewed on Chicago's WGN radio during Saturday's "Noon Show," which focuses on farming and animal "agriculture."

I first read about Stenholm, who served Texas as a U.S. representative from 1979 to 2004, in December in an e-mail from The Humane Society of the United States. The HSUS had written about possible nominees to fill Barack Obama's Cabinet positions. Stenholm was someone the HSUS did not want to see as Agriculture secretary.
During his time in Congress, Rep. Stenholm was hostile to even modest animal protection reforms, and he has since lobbied Congress on behalf of the factory farming and horse slaughter industries.
According to the HSUS, "[s]tate legislatures [...] acted to stop horse slaughter, shuttering the last remaining foreign-owned horse slaughter plants in the U.S. in 2007." Northern Illinois had been home to one plant, and two were located in Texas.

During yesterday's interview Stenholm argued that horse slaughter shouldn't be banned in the United States because unwanted horses are suffering more than ever due to being transported to Mexico and Canada for slaughter. But instead of supporting a current bill to ban that transportation, Stenholm argued against it, saying horse slaughter plants in the United States should be reopened.

Instead of making the owners of "unwanted" (and therefore killed) horses the enemy, he preferred to criticize animal advocates. He employed a fallacy common to anti-animal arguments: It's tradition in Europe to eat horse meat. So why not give the Europeans what they want?

One interesting part of the conversation with Stenholm was his repeated use of the phrase "Humane Society PETA." By omitting "and" between the two entities, I believe he is hoping to tie the HSUS to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. If someone dislikes one organization (most likely PETA), then she must also hate the other. And since these two are the biggest animal-advocacy groups, they are often viewed as the only pro-animal groups. Therefore, if one is distasteful, then all animal advocates are viewed as being on the wrong side of animal issues.

The host of the show, Orion Samuelson, a supporter of animal "agriculture," acknowledged that not all listeners would agree with Stenholm's views and encouraged people on the other side to weigh in with their opinions. Of course, then the show ended, so no one could call in to dispute Stenholm.

(Photo courtesy of WorldProutAssembly.org.)