Teaching violence

Standard
Teaching violence

20131105-095316.jpg

We were enjoying a drive through the mountains and woods of Pennsylvania the other day. Fall is a beautiful time of year; I’m always drawn in by the dramatic colors, the quiet, cold air, and the sunlight that breaks through the gloomy sky. As we drove, we looked to the field on our right and saw two hunters, with their bright orange gear on and weapons in hand. Suddenly, the startling sound of a gunshot broke the silence, and the hunters watched as a bird fell to the ground. We later drove by other hunters, and were disheartened by how many there were just in this one area on this one day. We made noise to scare animals away. But, I have no doubt that lives were taken and families were torn apart. And it was too late for the bird, who alive just minutes before, lay dead on the ground. My husband said quietly that the bird had been close enough to see the two humans standing below and decide that they meant no harm and presented no reason to try to fly away. Why would this bird even be able to imagine that we would inflict such senseless violence?

Even before I was vegetarian or vegan, I couldn’t understand hunting. I would debate with hunters. I couldn’t understand how anyone could see an animal, look him or her in the eyes, and take their life. And for what? To have a “trophy” on your wall? To prove to yourself that you can “conquer nature?”

I still don’t understand hunting. But, I have made a connection that I wasn’t ready to make then. Our cruel exploitation of and violence toward animals is not isolated to the woods of the “country,” but permeates our everyday lives and every corner of the world. That bird shot from a tree had no more right to live than the chickens we abuse and kill for eggs and meat. As we continued our drive, we also passed the unmistakable sight of a “free-range” or “cage-free” chicken farm. You might have the image of chickens peacefully roaming a green field in the sunshine in your mind, but the reality is a much different picture. The chickens were packed into a long shed with a window on the end. They will suffer for the remainder of their short lives, and in the end, will be met with the same fate that so many other chickens face on a daily basis.

We are all connected on this planet, and we affect others with the choices that we make every day. As a hunter fires a gun, a life is taken. But we can also choose to support violence with every meal on our plates. In a world filled with violence, we have to start teaching compassion. As we saw a hunter with his young son armed with weapons, I wondered, “If we teach violence, how can we expect not to live in a violent world?”

Advertisements

Tell EVERYONE: Watch “Blackfish” tonight!

Standard
Tell EVERYONE: Watch “Blackfish” tonight!

tilikum

If you’re wondering what all the hype is about, tonight is your chance to watch “Blackfish!” The movie will air on CNN tonight October 24th at 9pm ET/PT. I’m asking you to watch this movie, and ask everyone you know (or don’t know) to watch this movie.

I was lucky enough to see it in the theater, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Spread the word: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/us/cnn-films-blackfish/index.html.

Watch and share the trailer below:

Photos: Magnolia Pictures

Cow: $1,800

Standard
Cow: $1,800
Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

This month, thousands of cows, including calves, froze to death in a blizzard in South Dakota. While this made some headlines, it wasn’t major news, and most of the news stories focused almost solely on the profit loss suffered by ranchers. These words in a Time article on the story pretty much sum up the media’s reaction: “When your business is living animals, there’s no shortage of ways things can go very wrong.”

We have indeed turned living animals into a business. Many businesses: food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation. Most of those animals, either by the direct intention or neglectful or harmful nature of the industry they’re used in, will die. We know this. But sometimes those living animals die not by our hands or not for the purpose which we intended them to die. Then to some, it suddenly becomes a tragedy that lives were lost, despite the loss or taking of lives that these businesses involve daily; to others, it is tragic only that we lost profit.

The article continues, “With each lost calf costing ranchers $800 to $900, and each cow valued at $1,800—not to mention the unborn calves who would have swelled herds come spring—South Dakota officials estimate that the total losses could be in the tens of millions of dollars. Worse, most ranchers lack private insurance for covering storm-related damage—or their insurance doesn’t cover death from suffocation—which will make it that much more difficult to recover from the catastrophe.”

Pregnant cows and heifers of breeding age” will soon be sent to South Dakota to increase the cattle numbers.

I’m not saying don’t feel sympathy for anyone suffering financial burdens. I know the panic. But, we have placed no value on living beings beyond how much they can benefit us. We did our cold calculating and put a dollar amount after our word for these animals…”Cow: $1,800.” But, I wonder, as one of these cows lay freezing in the snow in her final moments, what her life meant to her. Or, when these cows go to slaughter (the way we have decided they should die), what life means to them as they bleed out their last bit of it.

Some things about turkeys

Standard

At this time of year, turkeys especially are on my mind. I think it’s a good time for me to share some info about turkeys with you. You might not know that they’re pretty amazing birds. So, please take just a few minutes to get to know them.

Some things about turkeys:

turkeys

Wild turkeys have a lifespan of about 10 years.

Turkeys are devoted mothers who care for and defend their young, who will stay with mom for the first five months of their lives.

tom

Wild turkeys fly and run, and can fly at speeds up to 50mph.

Male turkeys will attract females by fluffing up their feathers, and strutting.

tom1

Contrary to their reputation as dumb birds, turkeys are curious and intelligent animals who like to explore, and also remember people who they meet.

Some things about turkeys:

Turkeys raised on factory farms are hatched in incubators before being crammed by the thousands into large, windowless buildings at less than one month old. They never get to be with their mothers, who are artificially inseminated and called “breeders.”

turkeyfarm

Newborn turkeys have claws and beaks cut off, as well as the snoods (the red flap of skin under their heads) of the males, without anesthesia.

Still, the sick and injured turkeys can become aggressive or injure themselves due to the stress of the conditions.

turkey

To maximize profit, oversized turkeys are bred, leading to injuries and organ failures.

Those who survive the conditions of the farms and do not die from disease or injury, are slaughtered at less than a year old.

Each year, 45 million turkeys are killed for Thanksgiving alone. Nearly 300 million throughout the year. That’s just the United States.

Thank you for taking a few minutes of your day, as the holidays approach, to learn some things about turkeys.

Factory farm photos from an investigation by Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals and Djurrattsalliansen, the Swedish Animal Alliance. See more here.

DC VegFest!

Standard
DC VegFest!

Let me start by saying it felt so good to see thousands of people at DC VegFest! Yes, it still felt good even when we were waiting on the line of hungry people in front of the Vegan Treats booth..but more on that later. We didn’t get there until about 12:30pm, but Yards Park was already packed with herbivores and othervores taking in the festivities when we arrived. 

Of course, we were hungry, so we started with food. Have I mentioned before how much I love Everlasting Life Cafe? If I haven’t, now you know. Somebody please stop me from eating their mac and cheese for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Their food truck was dishing out hot plates with BBQ tofu, mac and cheese and collard greens. The picture really doesn’t do it justice. Sorry, food.

Everlasting Life's VegFest hot plate

Everlasting Life’s VegFest hot plate

After we ate every last bite, we went to see the many amazing organizations with tables full of stuff and info! The non-profits included Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM), Compassion Over Killing (which hosted VegFest..nice work, COK!), For the Animals Sanctuary, Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, Mercy for Animals and more! Plus, there were plenty of commercial vendors with stuff to buy like Herbivore Clothing Company, Vaute Couture, and Compassion Co. And the food, there was tons of food! Woodlands Vegan Bistro, Randy Radish, Sticky Fingers, so much!

A crowd at the Woodlands Vegan Bistro truck

A crowd at the Woodlands Vegan Bistro truck



Here’s some of the stuff we got, some of which was free!

Goodies from VegFest

Goodies from VegFest

I told myself, “Take a lot of pictures for the blog.” Of, course I didn’t…I got caught up in the festivities. But, here are some pictures I did take!

Yup! One of the many shirts at the My Voice for Un-Herd Animals booth.

Yup! One of the many shirts at the My Voice for Un-Herd Animals booth.


I wish I could remember which booth this was from! Sorry, people from this booth!

I wish I could remember which booth this was from! Sorry, people from this booth!



A gentle giant saying hi to VegFest humans

A gentle giant saying hi to VegFest humans


Beautiful photos by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals around a booth with free vegan food samples

Beautiful photos by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals around a booth with free vegan food samples

I didn’t just go as an attendee/eater of all the food. I was also there to do some shepherding at the Sea Shepherd booth. So, after a while we had to head to the Vegan Treats line so we could get some treats before I had to head over there. I’m not exaggerating when I say that their line spanned most of VegFest for most of the day. The wait was about an hour and some people saw the line and walked away…but my love of chocolate and peanut butter combinations is stronger than that, quitters! If you look at the food in the picture below, you’ll know why we waited. And you can’t even see all of the food that was on that table.

Some Vegan Treats treats

Some Vegan Treats treats

Almost to the booth…

Almost there!

If you’ve ever heard anyone rave about Vegan Treats’ Peanut Butter Bombs, you might be starting to understand why I’d wait for an hour for one of them. When I say rave, I mean they probably said these amazing desserts have ruined others treats for them permanently. “Why can’t you be more like Peanut Butter Bomb?” Seriously, what are they putting in that peanut butter mousse?

Along with Peanut Butter Bombs (they fell apart as you can see, but they were still amazing), we picked out a mini chocolate and marshmallow cake and a piece of pumpkin cheesecake on a stick. Okay…and not pictured were  two whoopie pies (one chocolate and one pumpkin). Don’t judge! It was a long line, we were hungry, and we shared!

Our Peanut Butter Bombs fell apart, but they were still the most delicious thing to ever exist

Our Peanut Butter Bombs fell apart, but they were still perfection

Then it was off to the Sea Shepherd booth! I love how enthusiastic, generous and all-around awesome people who stop by the Sea Shepherd booths are. It was a good way to end the day! And here’s where I mention: support Sea Shepherd!

Photo: Sea Shepherd Baltimore/DC

Photo: Sea Shepherd Baltimore/DC

It was a great VegFest, and I hear it was an even bigger crowd than last year’s!

A big crowd at VegFest!

Lots of humans and dogs were at VegFest

Saying goodbye to Harvey

Standard
Saying goodbye to Harvey

It’s taken a while for me to bring myself to write this post. But, now it’s time for it  to be written, for a little rabbit who deserves some words in his memory.

Harvey was the kindest soul you could meet, and a friend to everybody. He loved his human friends, and he loved Liv (a dog), and he even loved Mister (a cat) who couldn’t hang out with him much because he didn’t understand that you can’t play rough with a bunny. He liked to sit with me and listen to classical music, and he even liked watching I Love Lucy. Harvey was an old soul.

Harvey was fine and then he wasn’t. He was eating and acting as he usually did until the night he died, and we didn’t know anything was wrong. We rushed him to the emergency vet that night, but he didn’t make it there. It’s been so hard to process seeing him pass away and being right there but so unable to help him. As my husband pointed out to me as I struggled with it – he came home with us sitting on my lap, and he passed away on my lap too. Harvey and I had come full circle in our journey together.

When we came home without him, Liv and Mister could see how upset we were and looked all over for their friend. Liv laid down where he had been before we left. I sat on the floor in tears and she came and let me hold her as long as I needed. There’s no doubt in my mind or in my heart that animals feel the same feelings of love, grief, loss, and pain that we do. Our little family lost someone who is loved and missed by all of us.

Those of you who have loved and lost an animal companion, I’m sending healing and happiness. I know the pain feels like it just won’t ever get better. It does a little eventually, although our furry family members seem to leave holes much bigger than they were in life in our hearts.

Prince Harvey Bunny Buns, I love you. I miss your silly hair and your big ears and your adorable little nose twitches. I especially miss your rabbit happy dances you did when I came in the room. I hope you’re doing happy dances now. I will try my best to do one for you.

harvey5

From inside the tank walls

Standard
From inside the tank walls

You’re reading this from a screen right now, hopefully safe and sound wherever you are. It can be hard to put ourselves somewhere else in our minds, or in someone else’s place. But I want you to close your eyes and imagine you’re somewhere else, and you’re someone else.

The ocean is surrounding you. The water is peaceful, and the sunlight is breaking through the surface as you come up for a breath of air. You’re a beluga whale swimming with your pod, your family. Their familiar sounds are comforting. As you glide gracefully through the water, large shadows approach. You’re not sure what these objects are, but they’re approaching quickly. Vibrations surge through the water, and you and your pod members are becoming disoriented. The relentless barriers begin to push your frantic pod, and in your state of panic, you don’t know which way leads to escape, to freedom. Your pod huddles closer in an effort to stay together. The sounds of your frightened family members become louder and louder, as you’re being pushed further away from the open ocean. Suddenly, an object closes around you and you’re trapped within it. You propel your upper body out of the water to look around, but you can see only some of your family trapped with you – mostly the younger members of the pod. Others were not caught, or managed to swim below the surface and away. They’re calling to you frantically, and despite your best efforts, you cannot swim to them. You see one of your family members entangled, struggling to break free and come to the surface to breathe. She stops moving after a few moments, and your calls to her go unanswered.

Your new enclosure tightens around you, and for a while you swim in circles, looking for a way out. You become exhausted and you see your pod members have stopped their attempts to escape. You float along at the surface listlessly.

The strange animals operating the machines come closer to look at you and your pod. You try to swim away from them but are unable. After a few long moments of selection, you and several others are hauled into the air and brought onto an unfamiliar surface. You’re placed within a tiny space, and you’re in salt water somewhat like the water that made up your icy home, but you’re surrounded only by darkness and confined by walls. You don’t know how long you’re confined in that small, dark place but it feels impossibly long, and you can feel that you’re being moved somewhere. When you reach the next destination, you’re lifted back into the air and lowered into another enclosure. There are the few members of your pod who were captured with you, but the rest are strangers.

You don’t know how long you’re there, but after a while you’re lifted again out of the water in a small sling. You are placed back in a claustrophobic enclosure, and moved once again. The trip seems to take a lifetime. You’re finally raised back into the air, and lowered into yet another enclosure – the ocean is nowhere to be found, only a strange new place, and you are with new whales. You’re sick from the stress and changes in environment. Your calls bounce off the walls of your new surroundings, disorienting you. Your eyes burn in this new water, which contains chemicals unknown to you. All you can do is swim in circles – endless, short trips around your tiny new “ocean.”

You’re hungry, but you don’t want to eat the dead fish that are given to you. You’re used to hunting with your pod. You’re force-fed at times, other times you don’t eat. You quickly learn that this is the only food available. And you quickly learn that food comes when you perform certain tasks that are now expected of you, and it doesn’t when you don’t.

You can see an endless stream of onlookers on the other side of the clear barrier, pointing and staring back at you. They bang and tap, sending frightening vibrations through the water.

Time goes by, and you realize you will not see your pod here. You stop calling for them. You will not be going back to your home. You feel isolated, despite the other whales or dolphins that surround you. You swim in circles and look at the shrunken world that goes by your tiny window.

beluga

“No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal.” – Jacques Cousteau