Posts Tagged ‘Animals’

“Why Do You Care So Much About Animals?”

Friday, October 1st, 2010

“Why do you care so much about animals?”

My four year old grandson asked me at the breakfast table: an earnest question, and no time to prepare an answer.

“Because I have come to see them, to know them. They have feelings.”

Unsaid: How could anyone not? Witnessing so much suffering by animals at the hands of human beings over the past few years, it just seems to grow. The respect for other forms of life, those less understandable, just keeps expanding. The traits I have come to appreciate: the beauty of an underwater mollusk, the grace of a deer, the leaping ability of the cat, the loving, friendly quality of the pig, the gentleness of a calf, the amazing abilities of an insect or a fish. There is so much graphic evidence about the mass extinction of animals that anyone who cares even slightly can now witness enough horror to become convinced. How could anyone not?

Ruby Roth, in her children’s book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, says, “When we treat animals respectfully, we practice world peace.”

Seeing Ourselves As Part of the Natural World

At the root, it is about how I see myself within the context of all other life in the universe. To truly practice peace, we must treat the earth with respect, too. We do what we can, recycling, composting, walking, living simply. We make mistakes, but we try. We do not see the earth as ours to use or dominate, but rather see ourselves as part of the earth, part of nature (no matter how destructive our species has become). Respecting animal life is about peace, absolutely. It is also about recognizing others, in various forms, and their right to life, too. It does not matter their size, whether a tiny bug or a gigantic whale, the life force that exists within each animal is significant.

I remember an argument I had with my father when I was very young. Arguing against my “sensitivity” towards animals, he asked me whether I thought the life of a cat was as important as the life of a human being. “To the cat or to the human?” I retorted.  He made a lot of money out of the blood and sweat of animals as owner of a racing stable of thoroughbreds. Growing up on the racetrack, one witnesses many unfair contracts. Many of those horses run their hearts out all their lives, then get sent off to slaughter when their bodies are no longer able to earn a profit — hardly an equitable exchange. My father’s entire family goes elk hunting every year – I witnessed that at three years of age. The uncles made us little kids stand by the dead animals; I thought it was horrifying. Still do.

Early Experiences with Knowing  Animals

Then there was my grandmother, who used to raise chickens. I heard stories about killing animals, how she used to drown kittens when they became too plentiful, as soon as they were born. I heard that she killed the chickens by wringing their necks. Those stories so horrified me that I was always a little afraid of this fierce slender woman with her charming Danish accent. Yet my own mother was more of a soft heart for animals. We seemed to rescue any number of cats and dogs over the years, and I can recall her becoming overwhelmed with tears when her little dog died. She even said yes to a little dog that was going to be euthanized, even though it fell far, far short of being as cute as my pleading friend promised it was. Those animals gave me someone to love, and they loved me back, at a confusing time I desperately needed someone to acknowledge me. Seems only fair that I would see animals in return, see them as persons, as individuals.

Yet it is only since I have become vegan that I see animals with new eyes. While my respect for all species has increased, so has my understanding of the injustice we human beings have unleashed against them. Why do I care so much about animals? Because we share in this life, together. Because of a yearning for peace, justice, ahimsa, nature, life. Because I have come to know them. Because I respect them. Because I continue to recognize my own speciesism and do my best to eradicate it. Because I want to see life on this planet continue and I want to see natural habitat preserved. And, because it is the right thing to do.


Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I have studied population trends for several decades of both human and nonhuman animals. One thing is certain: as the human population has experienced geometric increase and growth, so has the number of animals slaughtered and killed annually. I set up a Google Alert to apprise me of any articles about overpopulation only to find that the articles  all related to animal overpopulation. There were articles related to the overpopulation of shelter animals, of deer, of rabbits, of birds and even bugs, everything but human beings, this even as many animal species are in danger of extinction. I guess it is all in  your perspective. And truly we are experiencing an ongoing problem with the high number of shelter animals that are killed day in and day out for lack of a decent home. I have been posting photos and articles about some of these animals and have been astounded at the reasons these animals become available: the owner does not have time any longer for him or her; the owner has had to move; the owner does not have the money to care for him or her; he or she was found abandoned on the street; the owner is getting divorced. Domesticating animals has really left millions of them high and dry, unsafe, hungry, injured, vulnerable and alone. We have used them and then, when we get tired of them or they are inconvenient or a burden, we toss them aside like yesterday’s news.

The commodification of animals takes many different shapes. There are the billions that are slaughtered for food every year, that are killed for their fur, and that are used in entertainment — the list goes on, but you probably already have a good idea of how long the list is. Today’s podcast is going to look at a very bizarre form of animal commodification: animals as decorations or ornaments, and like the holiday ornaments that get put away after the holidays end, so these animals get obliterated when they become too numerous, or their decorative value diminishes, or they get scapegoated because of someone else’s irresponsibility.

The first group of animentals I want to look at today are the Mute Swans of Chesapeake Bay.  Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. For decades, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been involved in a deadly game of eradicating the Mute Swans, alleging that they pose a threat to the ecosystem.  I  guess they are not considered part of the ecosystem because they are targeted as being non-native birds.  As a non-native human being, I grow rather weary of this point of origin nonsense. Where would I belong? Am I too non-native? I am first generation born in this land as was my husband, as is my grandson.  The birds may have been brought over by Europeans two hundred years ago to grace the waterways; in short, they were kidnapped and dragged here against their will and now, two hundred years later, we are going to tell them they do not belong?

The most recent statistic I found about the swans was that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has already killed over 4,000 of the birds in cruel and terrible ways.  Celebrities have tried to save them from photographer Nigel Barker of America’s Top Model fame, Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, to television’s Montel Williams, all to no avail. Despite placing cruel and possibly dangerous tight colors on the necks of the birds with GPS devices, despite their labeling the birds non-native and therefore worthy of extermination, despite trying in various ways and failing to build a case that the swans pose any  threat to anyone, the swans continue to be mercilessly killed year after year.

There is another twist to this story, which takes us back to the same old tired horrific story. There is a link between the slaughter of the mute swans and the slaughter of pigs, cows and other animals for food. It seems that factory farms upriver are sending 500 million tons of waste into the Chesapeake Bay every year, along with some sewage treatment plants, creating dead zones and threatening the very life of the Chesapeake. But the folks who own those farms have a lot of money and a lot of power, and they are very invested in making the swans the scapegoats for the problems of the Chesapeake, so no one will look to see what is really going on.

It is not just the Mute Swans that are under attack, for when animals become objectified, they become property and “things” rather than individuals with feelings, the sentient beings they are, things are bound to go awry.


One of the other problems for the rabbits on the University of Victoria campus is that they land in the gray zone that Susan Vickery spoke about, where they are not really wild animals but in so classifying them, they may be killed in ways that would be illegal were they classified as pets. The University has been known for the rabbits, the rabbits have graced their calendars and have been a draw to the public, but when the University grew tired of them, or they became too numerous, they became the brunt of many cruelties. Some locals have jokingly placed recipes for rabbit stew on their posts and others have suggested they serve as a way to eat locally.  The rabbits and the Mute Swans are only part of the picture, with flamingos, black swans, ducks, peacocks, and numerous other animals often purchased to grace a small body of water or grass in hotels, housing developments and resorts.  Many times, the birds may have their wings clipped so they cannot leave, making them vulnerable to predators and unable to live a normal life.  The habitat is usually inappropriate for the animals.  Like gardeners without green thumbs, the animals’ caretakers may need to restock frequently to keep up the facade that the business wishes to project.

Animals originally imported as animentals who have escaped to form wild breeding populations in the western US include snapping turtles, water snakes, Himalayan tahr, doves, parakeets, parrots, and many others.  Ornamental aquatic animals are part of an international business which places many animals of all kinds in inappropriate and unnatural habitats with little chance of survival and virtually no quality of life.

As an abolitionist, I know the best thing I can do for these animals is to maintain a vegan lifestyle and encourage others to do the same. As more vegans exist in the world, the use of animals as ornaments will become intolerable.  Meanwhile, if I see animentals in any facility, you can be sure I will be speaking to the management about those animals and letting them know that not all the public appreciate their attempt at creating a false and destructive environment for fellow earthlings.  As our voices become louder, these disturbing practices will die out.

Elizabeth Collins of NZVeganPodcast recently said that it will be a wonderful day when being human means being vegan.  That day is getting closer with each blog post, podcast, tweet and lecture.  Adam Kochanowicz recently created the iVegan ap so that vegans can shop more easily.  Adam has generously made the ap free of charge so that it can reach the most people. He also has some wonderful brochures available online at – look for the links on Veganacious.

There is another blog I wanted to mention, too – one created by Nathan Schneider. Vegan Abolitionist has some excellent articles on it, including one I just linked to on a forum that was lauding Veggie Pride parades. Nathan saved me a ton of time because his article had all the salient points listed in clear and concise manner. You can find Nathan’s blog at

New on Veganacious is Veganacious/Recipes.  The recipe blog is accessible via the top navigating buttons on the veganacious blog, or you can go directly to

Another new project which will be a long time developing is the Vegans Directory. This directory is at and will display international vegan businesses. While it is only in the preliminary stages, it will eventually allow interactive use, with comments and a rating system for the businesses.  If you know of any vegan businesses you would like to see included, please contact me at babs (at) animail (dot) com.

Music in this podcast was from Nabi Camara’s M’Soumbulle, highlighting his wonderful expertise with the balafon.

Montel Williams – Stop Killing the Chesapeakes Mute Swans

Animal Voices – Bunnies on a Deadline

iVegan on iTunes

Vegan FM brochures

Vegan Abolitionist

Nabi Camara – music

The Vegans Directory

Supreme Injustice

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Recently I received a notice from one of the documentary organizations to which I subscribe relating that they were celebrating a recent Supreme Court ruling. That ruling overturned a law that had prohibited anyone from profiting from films showing cruelty to animals. Documentary filmmakers were concerned that the law, being so broad, might have made it difficult for them to make the ilms they want to make or cover the topics they want to cover.Others, especially animal lovers, disparaged the ruling and feared a resurgence in crush videos, films of small animals being crushed under a woman’s high heels as a sexual fetish. The man challenging a conviction under the federal law had been making videos of dogfighting and profiting from them, feeding the public’s appeitite for gratuious violence. Here is what the International Documentary Association said in their notice:

Your IDA, along with Film Independent (FIND), the Independent Feature Project (IFP) and the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA), filed an Amicus Brief to help the Court understand the threat to documentary filmmakers. The case involved a documentary filmmaker by the name of Robert J. Stevens, who had included clips of a legal Japanese dog fight in a film he produced. The government did not argue that Stevens shot the film or was even present at the shoot. Since dog fighting is illegal in the United States, Stevens was arrested, tried and sentenced to 37 months in federal prison–a term longer than Michael Vick received for actually participating in dog fights in the United States. Whatever one might think of Mr. Stevens and his films, the threat to filmmakers had to be removed. That is when IDA stepped in.


How to Bash a Vegan

Monday, April 19th, 2010

Lately there have been quite a few snarky articles denouncing the horror that is veganism and the people that promote it.  We are an insensitive lot, they relate, that try to force our will on unsuspecting omnivores, who want nothing but to be left alone with their personal choices.  One article denounced masked vegans who threw a cayenne-laced pie — evidently that reader did not understand that true vegans do not resort to violence, it is antithetical to a belief in non-exploitation, respect and non-violence; I would denounce them too.  Yes, some very well-know groups call themselves animal rights groups and they do use unsavory tactics like sexism and assaultive techniques, but most self-respecting vegans I know distance themselves from such organizations.


Cultural Narcissism

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Narcissism and sociopathy share traits, including  a lack of empathy. Narcissism allows the person to detach from concern for others and allows them to focus solely on their own desires and needs.  People with these disorders are usually experts at manipulation, denial, and callous disregard for the consequences resulting from their choices and behavior.

Trademarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are:

  1. inflated self-importance
  2. deflation of importance of others
  3. lack of empathy for others
  4. a sense of entitlement
  5. interpersonally exploitative*

As a society, we have behaved in similar fashion in our treatment of animals. Every imaginable excuse, justification and denial have already been expressed; they all represent a horrendous injustice. (more…)

Beware of Attack Iguanas!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

My older sister and her family were never much for animals.  In fact, when her daughter’s bird died, her comment was, “oh, good, I do not have to feed it any more.”  To make matters worse, her husband is highly allergic to animal fur and dander.  I never thought the day would come when my sister would have an awakening, but the animals of the world had much in store for her. I know she has fallen in love with at least five creatures, loved and cherished them each.  They all found her, too, when she wasn’t looking. Critter, Ed and Buddy all have their own stories, dogs who found a home under impossible circumstances – but their stories are for another day. Animals can do that to you, sneak up to your well-protected heart and climb right in, even when there is a “No Vacancy” sign clearly displayed there.


Help! I’m Becoming a Speciesist!

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

After several recent articles hit me in the face (ouch!), I realized that I am in danger of becoming a speciesist.  First let me explain about the articles.  I read on the VeganViews forum (Friends of Animals) that some creative person thought it humorous to develop a stuffed animal that is roadkill.  They have taken a stuffed animal, put tire tracks on its back, and have stuffed blood and guts coming out of it.  The “toy” sells for $40.  If there has been a recent sign that humans are detached from reality, that is it.

At least that only encouraged suffering by encouraging a detachment from the reality of animal lives.  But then I heard about a new process of frying fish and keeping them alive while serving them to be eaten (see above video, but beware, it is HORRIBLE).  You have to be pretty far gone to “enjoy” eating something that is still alive and has been suffering mightily.


Why I am a Vegan: World Vegan Day

Sunday, November 1st, 2009


I am a vegan because animals have feelings.

I am an animal and believe I should treat other animals the way I would like to be treated.

I believe I should not do to others what I do not want done to me.

I do not want to be trapped, hunted, imprisoned, slaughtered, tortured, disrespected, shot, skinned alive or eaten.

Becoming vegan has meant:

  • meeting a world of intelligent people
  • creating an international community of compassion
  • lowering my cholesterol 100 points, while eating anything I want
  • lowering the cost of groceries
  • having better relationships with the animals around me
  • opening my eyes to things I would have missed
  • enjoying food for the first time
  • loving to cook for the first time
  • blogging
  • new friends
  • fighting for justice
  • discovering animal sanctuaries
  • renewed respect for the natural world
  • awareness of what we are doing to ourselves, to the planet
  • grief, because of what I know
  • solace, because of what I can do

If anyone is interested about becoming vegan, there are lots of resources out there to help you. I am one of them; write to me.  Join with all of us vegans on this important day. Save the animals, save the planet, save other humans.

Vegan Patience

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

bee2I recently was invited to go along with a fellow student on a field trip to the Botanical Gardens in Fort Worth. We are both enrolled in a DSLR photography class at UTA (University of Texas at Arlington). Since the weather was expected to be a downpour and the professor had insisted unless there was lightning the field trip would take place, I was happy to accept the invitation and avoid driving in the drizzle. I am not all that familiar with the area where we were going and it would save energy to carpool. My fellow student is a long-time Texan; I know I am not typical, being a California transplant and a progressively-oriented type, AND a vegan.

When we got to the beautiful gardens, it was only misting, but I received a call that the professor had decided to cancel the class – great timing, after being on the road for almost an hour! So we decided to go ahead and shoot our photos and call it a day – and a field trip. The lovely wet weather was perfect for photography; I took many misty photos with clean, green foliage. I even found a spot where I could place my camera on a post and get a slow shutter speed effect to allow lots of light and motion into the shot. I shot waterfalls, Japanese architecture, flowers, fountains. We has plastic bags over our cameras to protect them, and it did keep raining pretty hard intermittently, but I was glad to get the assignment behind me and get back home – I had articles to write.

On the way back, my very kind fellow student wanted to stop for lunch. I knew then that my cover would be lost – I would have to tell her I was vegan. I told her, among other things, that I was not particular and could find something to eat most anywhere. Her comment was thus: “On no, you aren’t particular, you just have the entire kitchen working to make you something to eat.”  That was in response to a recent situation I shared, when my son invited me to go to lunch with him at On the Border, a Mexican restaurant that had nothing on the menu that was animal-free. I asked to speak with the restaurant manager and gave him my business card, explaining that I write for a dot com and would like to review his restaurant from a vegan perspective. He was lovely and brought out some food that probably required little effort and was most appreciated by this vegan: shredded lettuce, tomatoes, avocado in tortillas with lime cilantro rice and delicious black beans. The manager/owner seemed to appreciate the challenge and I certainly appreciated being able to eat.   It seemed like a win-win and allowed me to let this restaurateur know that we vegans exist and to let vegans in the area know they will be accommodated at this restaurant. Let me set this up: this is cattle country, this is the area of barbecue and steak. I once went to a luncheon where there was not a single item I could eat. But there are over 400 vegans in the local DFW vegan meetup, so we vegans exist. And our numbers are growing. Still, the attitude in the comment seemed a bit hostile, but I let it go. This was a very nice woman; she had even brought a bottle of water along for me, in case I got thirsty.

Throughout the entire lunch, there were comments about meat. She would not eat a bison burger but her family member would – she could not bear to think about the dead bison. (I guess cows, pigs, chickens have no nerve endings and do not feel.) She told me that she doesn’t think chickens are very smart as if that made it okay to harm them. I interjected that it wasn’t about how smart they were but if they could feel. Right over that comment she went into a dialogue about meat again while I tried to change the subject. It was hard to face my vegetarian vegetable soup and my whole grain cracker,  with images of slaughterhouses running through my mind.  I said that I became vegan when I found out what happens to animals and my bet was that most people would become vegan if they knew the truth.  She said she could appreciate someone standing up for what they believe just so they don’t try to change her. Time to change the subject again: How about that rain? Imagine that guy canceling on us? And two of the students had taken off work to attend. Bet were they mad! What on earth was going through her mind that forced her to discuss meat, a topic I obviously find abhorrent?  Defensiveness, amusement at my oddity? Trying to figure it all out? I was perplexed.

When I returned home, I was left feeling relieved but a bit discouraged. I realize that there is no way for someone to know what I now know, not instantly anyway.  Everyone has to find their own answers in their own time.  Learning to walk the fine line between being obnoxious and encouraging someone to think outside their large enclosed box is challenging.  There were political comments and religious comments that made me wince – I did not line up in any way.  Still, I could tell she was trying, and for a Texan, she was moderate.  At least she did not try exorcising my demons or any of that, and she did not offer to pray for me, as others have done in the past.  She seemed like a good person. But I felt like I was unprepared, like there was something I could have said or done that would have given her more information or made a bigger impact. She did offer to call me again to go photoshooting; maybe getting to know a real vegan would make the biggest impact of all, as long as that vegan is not too over the top. Where is the line? It left me thinking…

A few days later, I was invited to go out again with the same fellow student. This time the weather was perfect, and I got shots of two turtles, bees, butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, trees, brooks – a great photoshoot.  It was a wonderful break from nose-to-the-computer-grindstone that comprises most of my time these days.  When she offered to take me to lunch, her treat, I told her to select wherever she wanted; I can always find something to eat.  But instead, she went out of her way to suggest a soup and salad bar where she knew I would be accommodated (SouperSalad).  It was a far better experience than my first meal and such a gracious gesture – and not a word about meat or my weird eating habits.  Given how few vegans are in this part of Texas, I can imagine how shocking my stance must have seemed.  But my colleague had time to reflect and I was touched by her graciousness. This time, I returned home, feeling slightly elated and very affirmed.  I didn’t feel like an outcast or an oddity; I felt accepted and appreciated. At times, it really pays to take a deep breath and let the chips fall where they may.  Beyond the veganism, we even found a few things we shared.  It was a lesson for me in patience, towards myself as well as others. I hope her attitude towards vegans has changed as positively as my attitude towards omnivores and Texans!