Monday, December 21, 2009

Animal Rights Too Progressive for 'Social Change' Web Site?

The blogger for "Animal Rights" at Change.org has left amid questionable changes at that so-called progressive Web site.

While I don't know the behind-the-scenes details, Stephanie Ernst's last post at Change.org was Thursday.

On Friday a woman named Stephanie Feldstein posted an entry in the "Animal Rights" section, thanking Ernst and attempting to lead "Animal Rights" readers to Feldstein's new blog on Change.org -- "Animal Welfare."

Change.org is home to several progressive blogs, with such topics as global warming, gay rights, homelessness and women's rights. (Ever since its launch in August 2008, I've wondered why Change.org doesn't have a Civil Rights blog.)

Apparently, though, animal rights is just a bit too progressive for the powers-that-be at Change.org.

Last month the Web site launched Feldstein's "Animal Welfare" blog. (Click on the image to learn how animal rights and animal welfare differ.) Her first post attempted to appease vegans while at the same time give meat-eaters a pass for the cruelty they support.
I have so much respect for the vegans of the world. In over a decade of working with animal rescue, I've also learned a lot from people who love their pets and love meat, too.
I'm sure most vegans have heard similar sentiments. I have. I've been told that so-and-so respects my lifestyle, so I should respect hers. But I can't respect a lifestyle that's fueled by murder.

I have no doubt that what Feldstein wrote is true. I'm sure she has respect for some vegans and has learned a lot from some meat-eaters. However, the love the omnivorous rescuers feel for their pets doesn't absolve them from the suffering they contribute to multiple times a day.

As animal lovers we have to help others realize that a pet's ability to feel love and pain is the same as a chicken's ability, or a cow's or a pig's.

And that's what Ernst's "Animal Rights" blog had been doing.

Looking at ourselves and recognizing our missteps can be hard. But those are steps we have to take to improve our world. I used to eat meat. When I was a kid, my family bought a kitten from a pet store and two dogs from a breeder. I've brought my groceries home in countless plastic bags.

But there's a saying: When you know better, you do better. I no longer eat meat. I now know that animals should be adopted from shelters or animal rescues. I bring cloth bags with me when I go shopping.

We need to be educated, not placated. An animal-rights blog will do the former. An animal-welfare blog can still educate -- ie. telling people to adopt from shelters -- but it can also mislead. Sure, factory farms are horrendous, but chickens in "cage-free" facilities may not have better lives. Eating an "organic" cow may make people feel like they're doing good, but that cow never wanted to be murdered.

In Feldstein's invitation to "Animal Rights" readers, she notes that "writers specializing in animal rights issues" will bring "new perspectives" to her "Animal Welfare" blog.

The animals don't need "new perspectives" in an animal-welfare blog. They need an animal-rights blog. Period. Murdering an animal because her flesh tastes good is not right. It doesn't matter whether she lives in a cramped cage or roams a pasture. It's wrong. Yes, I support measures that would abolish those cages. But I don't support the murder of animals. Animal welfarists do.

Change.org wouldn't support a blog that advocated domestic violence as long as it's not too severe. Change.org wouldn't support a blog that advocated for gay rights -- just as long as homosexuals aren't allowed to adopt children.

No, progressives fight for freedom from oppression. It shouldn't matter whether those being oppressed are human animals or non-human animals. Oppression and slavery are wrong.

"Animal Rights and AntiOppression"

Ernst, the former "Animal Rights" blogger at Change.org, won't be silenced, though.

With the help of a few other animal-rights activists, she's launched a blog called "Animal Rights and AntiOppression," which "[challenges] oppression and injustice, against nonhuman animals, humans, and earth."

In today's post Ernst writes about how cattle ranchers are destroying the Amazon rainforests, thereby killing animals, enslaving people and worsening climate change.

Social-change movements are stronger if they all support one another. It's a shame that some progressives don't realize this.

Discloser: I have written a couple of guest posts for Change.org's "Animal Rights" blog.

(Image courtesy of AnimalSuffering.com.)




Thursday, December 3, 2009

'Julie & Julia' Writer Assaults More Dead Bodies

Capitalizing on the popularity of the movie "Julie & Julia," writer Julie Powell has released "Cleaving," an account of her affair and her training as a butcher.

When I saw the previews for "Julie & Julia," the film based on Powell's book, in which she spends a year making Julia Child's recipes, I had no desire to see the movie. I didn't know anything about Powell and very little about Child, but I figured the movie wouldn't be animal-friendly.

Child, I later learned, scoffed at vegetarianism.
Personally, I don’t think pure vegetarianism is a healthy lifestyle. It's more fear of food—that whole thing that red meat is bad for you. And then there are people who don't eat meat because it's against their morals. Well, there's nothing you can do with people like that. I've often wondered to myself: Does a vegetarian look forward to dinner, ever?
(For the record, I live for food!)

When I saw the sexist poster for the movie, I knew my decision to skip the film was the right one.

It seems cooking dead animals each day for a year wasn't enough for Powell, though. In "Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession," she recounts an affair that threatened her marriage and her decision to learn the "fascinating trade of cutting up meat."
It's about following the seams between the muscles, separating them in the way they're meant to be separated; about the process of ushering a dead animal into something beautiful and nourishing and sustaining.
Powell claims the work helped to focus her mind.
[It] became obvious that butchery is in the same class to me as knitting, or gardening, or certain skills that you learn, like a purl stitch.
I've never cut raw meat. Even when I was a meat-eater, I found the sight -- much less the touch -- of raw meat disgusting. I've never cooked with it. So I'll just have to trust Powell -- and perhaps numerous serial killers -- that slicing flesh is meditative.

Personally I find chopping vegetables to be relaxing, and no one had to die for me to do that.

I wish Powell would view living animals as beautiful. She acts as if the animal died accidentally and now she's making amends for his death. But their deaths are entirely preventable -- if people would start recognizing whom they are eating and stop spinning meat-eating as something done to honor those "who gave their lives." If people such as Powell would stop romanticizing the cooking of murdered animals.

(Image courtesy of Vegan Underground.)



Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Chicago Sun-Times Criticizes Martosko, CCF

While some newspapers continue to publish absurd rants by the goons at the Center for Consumer Freedom, the Chicago Sun-Times has actually criticized the group -- and specifically David Martosko -- in a recent editorial.

While I don't agree with everything the piece supports -- that somehow we can kill and eat animals in a "humane" way -- I love that a "blue-collar," mainstream newspaper both "outed" Martosko and the CCF's tactics and highlighted the harmfulness of factory farming.
It is a cause that has found common ground among vegetarians and meat eaters alike, united in a conviction that modern animal agriculture is inhumane, bad for the environment and bad for our health.
But first to Martosko.

Martosko is the so-called "director of research" for the CCF, a group run by a PR guru and which is paid for by the meat, dairy, restaurant, fish and high-fructose corn syrup industries, among others.

Martosko sent the Chicago Sun-Times (and I'm sure dozens of other papers, too) an essay about how the only things Americans had to be thankful for this year are dead turkeys -- and how animal-rights activists wanted to take even that away from them.

As I read his snide pieces, I can see him getting off on his cheesy wordplay. He's the kind of guy my mom would call a "blowhard." But I digress.

The Chicago Sun-Times accused him of using a "straw-man" argument -- inserting some easy-to-dispute entity into the argument and then knocking it down.
Martosko's tactic is to demolish a straw man -- the fringe element of the animal-rights movement -- so as to divert attention from a legitimate and increasingly mainstream issue: the way this nation produces and slaughters poultry, pigs and cows.
The editorial then goes on to describe the lives of "broiler chickens" -- chickens raised for their flesh, as opposed to those raised for their eggs.
As journalist Elizabeth Kolbert describes their plight in a recent New Yorker article, they "spend their lives in windowless sheds, packed in with upward of 30,000 other birds and generations of accumulated waste. The ammonia fumes thrown off by their rotting excrement lead to breast blisters, leg sores and respiratory disease. Bred to produce the maximum amount of meat in the minimum amount of time, fryers often become so top-heavy that they can't support their own weight. At slaughtering time, they are shackled by their feet, hung from a conveyor belt, and dipped into an electrified bath known as 'the stunner.'"
The piece then describes the pollution that factory farms create and the health risk posed to people by the overuse of antibiotics in farmed animals.

I commend the Chicago Sun-Times for both criticizing Martosko and the CCF and for taking a stand against factory farming.

While I'm at it, let me also thank Martosko. For if it weren't for his outlandish letter, the Sun-Times likely would not have written an editorial disparaging the very entity -- conventional animal agribusiness -- the CCF seeks to protect.



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Turkeys a Different Kind of Centerpiece at Sanctuary Celebrations

While much of the country was looking forward to sinking their teeth into the flesh of dead turkeys recently, some -- more compassionate and aware -- people were celebrating "Turkey Day" with alive turkeys.

Farm Sanctuary and Maryland's Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary both hosted parties on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, in which animal lovers could interact with turkeys -- and other animals -- and watch them feast on food.

As I read about and viewed photos and a video of the celebration at Poplar Spring, I was struck by the actions of the children who attended.

Deb, who blogs about the sanctuary at "Invisible Voices," posted a video of children following two young pigs around and petting them. She also posted a photo of children watching intently as chickens and turkeys ate.

In addition to the two pigs the children petted, some also got to caress Opal, a turkey who escaped a Virginia slaughterhouse.

Opal sat contentedly while many people showered her with love and offered her handfuls from the feast of grapes and bread and melon and lettuce and corn and apples that made up the turkey's feast. Little kids would crouch down next to her, making them almost the same size, and just sit with their hand resting on her back.
I didn't realize until I started writing this post that Opal may be the same turkey who caught my friend's eye.

Kathy Poynton, whom I met at the 2008 Animal Rights Conference, had a "blast" at Poplar Spring's event and shared some of her photos with me.

One turkey loves to be petted and rather than running over to eat, [she] wanted the little girls to pet [her]. Very, very cute.
I love this photo because it starkly contradicts what one of my aunts said during Thanksgiving dinner: that turkeys look "scary." These girls don't look frightened at all.

In fact, Kathy learned that she was quite loving.
The caretakers told us that before the turkey got to the sanctuary ([she] was saved from a slaughter truck -- long story), [she] slept at the foot of the bed for two weeks and loved to be petted and would also hang out on the couch while everyone was watching TV.
Kathy also "found out while at this sanctuary just how gentle turkeys can be and [that] they have their own personalities."

(Photo of Opal courtesy of "Invisible Voices.")
(All other photos courtesy of Kathy Poynton.)