Posts Tagged ‘Roger Yates’

Giving Vegan Thanks

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

As the Thanksgiving holiday rolls round, it highlights many of the dichotomous ways we humans think about things. In order to celebrate surviving a desperate winter in a new land, a group of invaders once counted their blessings, or so the story goes, by eating and giving thanks. Not much for the locals to celebrate though – their future was to be short and painful as they witnessed, generation after generation, destruction and disrespect of all they treasured. As a vegan, this holiday is always heavy with double meaning and grief, too. It is a time of slaughter for many, many gentle animals that harm no one. It is a time many over-eat, over-consume, and participate in an increase in festivities that result in animal suffering. It is the start of a season of waste and overconsumption that will culminate in the end of one year and the start of another. It is also a difficult time for many American vegans who are often excluded, marginalized, or unappreciated at their family’s table. Many of us try to bring delicious vegan fare to share with others; some of us prefer to avoid the holiday altogether, unable to bear the sight of tormented flesh gracing the table. Thanksgiving, for vegans, is not always an easy holiday to embrace.

Vegan Blessings

For this vegan, though, it is going to be a good time to reflect on my vegan blessings. In the past year I have joined the ARZone team as an administrator. Being able to belong to a small group of devoted, passionate vegans who believe in open communication, open dialogue, and a safe place for everyone to listen and share has led me to discover so many innovative and intriguing thinkers, people who are seriously and thoughtfully working to build a better world. I have also come to appreciate the depth of inquiry of some of our wonderful members. Fellow admins include founder Carolyn Bailey, Dr. Roger Yates, Tim Gier, Jason Ward, and Kate Marples; also on the team now is the legendary Ronnie Lee, who joins us for podcasting. We are not at all alike in our thinking, in how we express our concern for others, or how we react to criticism and personal attacks, but we are united in our respect for one another and the importance of the work at hand. I am the senior member of the team by age, but not by far when it comes to experience. To learn from those who have been working for years to end speciesism is a rare privilege and one I do not take lightly. I am grateful.

I have also spent a good portion of the year getting a local animal rights group, Animal Rights and Rescue of North Texas, off the ground. Joining me as part of the executive team is Adam Little, who is helping with social media, and is a constant source of innovative ideas.We now have over sixty members, and each one is someone who cares about other beings. Our group believes in the inherent worth of each individual animal and is working to increase respect for all beings. We have done leafleting, began developing a Speakers Bureau, looked into tabling events, discussed recent films about veganism and advocacy, and began building a group of local vegan and animal rights advocates. We participated in training for disaster rescue work, so that any animals found in harms way in various parts of our nation might have a better chance of survival with our hands on deck. We have  been called on to help save local animals and have been networking with other animal advocates in our region. Not all rescues or animal advocacy groups are yet vegan, but most are willing to listen to our pleas on behalf of animals. We are learning to collaborate without compromising our positions; and we are learning to appreciate the work others are doing on behalf of animals, too, even if we might prefer a different emphasis. We attended a State Veggie Fair – and although we might have wished it to be named a Vegan Fair – it still exceeded our expectations for such an event in the DFW metroplex. And, the food was all vegan and in high demand!

Giving Thanks for Respectful Others

One of the primary tasks at hand is to increase respect for other beings, to end the speciesism that ends all too tragically in domination, commodification and slaughter. In order to increase respect for other animals, we need to be able to respect other advocates, too, even if they disagree with our ideology or perspective. Collaboration and sharing is necessary in order to tap into the wisdom of many. It means accepting the radical inclusion that is mentioned by Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet. This year, too, I felt the pain of exclusion, of being disrespected by some groups and even by a friend. But rather than being a negative, it was positive information about the various ways we advocates process our journey. I am very grateful this year to have been accompanied by too many people to acknowledge here, but know that your understanding, patience, and support have meant the world.

The other animals in my life have always been a source of comfort, affection, and delight. Whether it is the squirrels that scamper across my roof, the birds that beckon us in the greenbelt, or the tiny little aging feline that shares my office chair, these animal friends have always added immeasurably to the magnificence of life. To them, I give many, many vegan thanks.

Activism, Not Terrorism

Monday, July 4th, 2011

Mission Impossible Theme

Good afternoon. As you know, the earth is currently experiencing the sixth mass extinction of species. The oceans are already devoid of most predatory fish and the entire ocean may well be a dead zone very soon. Clear cutting of ancient rainforests is killing off habitat and both animal and botanical species. Billions of animals are callously killed each year, leaving the water, soil, and air quality greatly diminished. Climate instability is increasing. Human overpopulation continues unchecked.

Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to battle these forces using creative vegan education while avoiding capture and labeling as a terrorist.  This message will self destruct in 30 seconds.

Creative Vegan Education Takes Many Forms

Sometimes it feels like Mission Impossible, this work of vegan education.  There are so many creative approaches to education of the public. There are forums such as Animal Rights Zone and Abolitionist Approach. There are lectures given on college campuses. There are those who maintain vegan cooking classes, recipe blogs and information sites. Some folks are setting up vegan information tables, while others attend farmer’s markets with leaflets in hands. Some have tried going door to door with the vegan message. Others create informative and creative vegan videos.  Some are creating animated films or documentaries, helping to familiarize people with those who are vegan or with vegan ideals. Some host vegan radio shows. Some write books on the subject and promote their books on television and at bookstores. Some challenge misinformation about veganism in the media.  Some have even tried using street theater and open rescue to highlight the plight of nonhuman animals.  Some folks travel with a message of peace, teaching the importance of veganism in the process. There are a number of abolitionist vegan groups and meetups that are beginning to surface, too. Some of us podcast and try to share information and encouragement in that way. There are lots of ways to get the message out, but it is becoming more and more apparent that the message needs to be received by people everywhere. It is not an easy assignment, this idea of vegan education and the forces are many.

As many kinds of creative education as exist, there are also as many obstacles. The rise of animal welfare agency approved so-called “humane animal products” allows some in the public to believe commodified animals lead idyllic lives. They casually omit the reality of the slaughterhouse where they all meet their cruel and vicious demise.

There are forces at work to marginalize or minimize the work of activists, calling them names like extremists. Imagine, those who want all beings treated nonviolently are extremists, whereas those who want to use their poor young bodies to make a quick buck are considered normal. Some strange world we live in, huh?

Abuse as a Business Model?

A recent article in Mother Jones (How The Meat Industry Turned Abuse Into A Business Model) highlighted the built-in cruelty of a system that pushes for extremes, leading to more demands on workers, faster slaughter times, and leaves animals fighting for their lives to be seen as the enemy. Workers are often paid per animal. They need the animals to die faster or at least to be disassembled more quickly, even if they are still alive and conscious throughout the process. Who needs anything badly enough to participate in this? Even the workers are exploited, suffering injuries, illness and even death.

What do these animal exploiters do to protect themselves from anyone who might be angry enough to take action against them? When one sees the world as there for personal use, well, one exploits still other animals, of course. Here is what Jim Hightower has to say:

Hightower Commentary clip (guard dogs)

The name of that article in Mother Jones? How The Meat Industry Turned Abuse Into A Business Model. Pretty ugly business, truly. No wonder they want to keep that curtain tightly closed.

The Spanish Twelve, SHAC, and Freedom of Speech

Recently, twelve activists from Animal Igualadad in Spain were arrested because they were researching the mink industry. In the United States, activists have been arrested for hosting a website that supported underground activism, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.  The government was unable to capture those doing the actual underground work, so they went after the activists who voiced support for those trying to end animal exploitation. Extrapolating those who advocate for animal interests into acts of eco-terrorism has become Standard Operating Procdure in some quarters and nothing less than free speech is at risk. Governments have gone after those trying to protect the environment and those trying to protect animal beings. No matter where one stands on issues of direct action and illegal activities, we may all agree that our right to voice protest over the treatment of nonhuman animals is critical to educating the public. Take away free speech and the internet, and our voices will be of limited use.

I recently read Dara Lovitz’s book, Muzzling a Movement, which delineates the injustice of labeling animal activists terrorists, along with Will Potter’s book, Green Is The New Red. Most of us are aware that terrorists employ tactics of fear by striking at random targets. They use violence. Their goal is to create chaos and destabilize the governments of those they attack. They induce fear by killing random civilians. Animal and environmental activists, on the other hand, choose specific targets related to what they see as injustice. They do not use violence and have never caused the loss of life nor damaged property of anyone outside the animal or environmental exploiters. In fact, it is the animal and environmental exploiters who are usually the ones taking life unjustly. (Those involved in underground activities have used tactics such as arson to attack the financial viability of exploitive industries, but most social justice movements have those who chose tactics unappreciated by the majority. They have not, however, been labeled as terrorists.)

At stake is the well-being of multinational corporations and an international power grab. Such corporations have grown in strength during the last few decades to the point that they have almost no accountability.  Using their financial wealth, they buy their way into governments and put pressue on the officials they have bought to make certain they get their way. These bully tactics have caused the erosion of democracies around the globe. During a global recession, they cast themselves as the purveyor of jobs, thus the activists are erroneously painted as a threat to the global economy.  The fact that innocent beings are being tormented and killed is not of any significance to these folks. They need to keep the curtain closed so that more people do not find out what ugly business they purvey while keeping the heat on those that defend the innocent and try to open the curtain.

Environmental and Animal Activists as the Number One Domestic Terrorists

In the United States, we passed the Animal Enterprise Protection Act in 1992, followed by the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006.  Labeling activists as terrorists has serious consequences. Some have been forced into Communication Management Units, incarceration which further limits the activists’ ability to communicate with the outside world. They are unable after they serve their time to travel freely and remain on carefully scrutinized watch lists. Some of those so labeled have done nothing more than host websites or write slogans in chalk on the sidewalk.  These laws open up a loophole which means any effective advocacy which may hamper the ability of these corporations to make money exploiting animals might come under scrutiny and anyone supporting the actions of others who use direct action may be liable.  One only has to look at recent legislative attempts to make illegal any photographs taken at an animal enterprise to see to what extent animal exploiters are willing to go to protect their dirty business while sacrificing our liberties.

Here is a clip from an interview with Will Potter of Green Is The New Red blog and book fame:

Rabbi Moskow interview w/Will Potter Clip

Back to vegan education: it seems important that we learn what works most effectively in order to maximize our ability to spread the word about what is going on.  Filmmakers have helped with such exposes as Earthlings and The Animals Film. Undercover videos help, too, although there is the danger that the public will believe these are anamolies, not standard business practices. One need only look at the intense emotion elicited from the Four Corners film of cows slaughtered in Indonesia following live export to see that people initially look towards more humane practices rather than towards ending animal use. Is there a humane way to murder living beings? Even those who have witnessed lethal injection report it is horrific to watch. Killing is simply ugly business. Stealing one’s very life is the ultimate show of disrespect and injustice and there is no way to pretty that up or make it humane. Killing is killing.

Animal Rights Activism, in Context

A recent post, Rotten to the Core, by Dr. Roger Yates  of On Human Nonhuman Relations, states:

If new and recent  animal advocates could be transported back to the late 1970s and early 1980s just for a day or two, I think that they would see that things have changed and changed for the better.

Don’t think this is about complacency or sitting back – its about context.

We need to stay strong as activists of whatever stripe we chose to be. We need to work hard to maintain our freedom of speech and stand with those whose rights have been violated. And we need to make certain that we are free to continue providing as much vegan education as possible to the rest of the world. We need to seize every opportunity to highlight the plight of our fellow beings and awaken the sleeping majority to our natural connectivity with all other forms of life. Things are changing, even if entirely too slowly. As Dr. Yates said, its about context. We must remember that.

Vivos Inc. – underground hideouts for the wealthy (as referenced by Hightower Commentary)

ARZone Podcasts

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Imagine trying to get people from all over the world together at any given time, with each living in a different time zone. Imagine trying to get people, especially animal rights activists, to agree to music, format, or even the proposed topic. Then imagine different technical problems, different audio levels, and different visions, and you may have some idea of how challenging it was to get the inaugural ARZone podcast out the door!

ARZone Promotes an Open Search for Ideas

One of the important ideas presented in the podcast was brought up by ARZone developer, Carolyn Bailey. Ms. Bailey highlighted the fact that, although we admins disagree, and often disagree passionately with one another, we still remain friends and remain respectful towards one another. That is one of the reasons I recently accepted the invitation to join the ARZone admins in their efforts. It is one of the few venues where I could voice my opinion or ask questions without concern of being shunned or banned. It was the only place I knew that openly encouraged an open exchange of ideas, rather than promoting a singular position.

The ARZone site offers a variety of options for the animal rights person. There are the live chats weekly, with invited guests, and have included such people as Gary Francione, Dan Cudahy, Ric O’Barry, Paul Watson, Colin Blakemore, Bruce Friedrich and many others. Tom Regan was recently interviewed, and responded to questions following his interviews; our first podcast related to some of Professor Regan’s comments. On occasion, rather than chats with a live guest, we have workshops that discuss AR issues. All chats are then transcribed and are available for further discussion on the site.  There are groups, blogs, and discussion topics, too.  And, there is always the opportunity for spontaneous chats if others are on the site when you are on, too.

Intersectionality and the Need for Innovation in Animal Rights

One of the twenty-first century innovations in thinking is that of intersectionality. It suggests that a multiplicity of ideas is needed in order to find the gems among them. It also speaks to the subject of collaboration and alliance politics, as we did on our first podcast. If you have yet to join the conversation, please stop by ARZone. For further information, read the blog posts done by Dr. Roger Yates, a long time animal rights activist and stellar human being, listed below.

ARZone’s first podcast

Is ARZone a Platform for Neo-Welfarists?

Wikipedia: ARZone


Tom Regan, ARZone, and the Challenge of Diverse Perspectives

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

As someone relatively new to the Animal Rights movement, I am always trying to absorb as much information as I can. I am fortunate to have access to a wide number of books due to my reviews, but find that some books I wish to read are not as likely to be sent my way. The local libraries are not well stocked with such literature, leaving my options for affordable sourcing rather limited. Online resources are plentiful, and with forums, podcasts, and chats, there is a lot of information free of any charge. Of course, the trick is to find valid information, because there is also a lot of misinformation out there, too.

I remember receiving something in my email last year about an interview with Dan Cudahy on a site called Animal Rights Zone, or ARZone.  This type of site was rather new to me, but I wanted to hear what Dan had to say. I knew he was part of the abolitionist movement, and frequently linked to his articles in my own blog. Following in short order were other interesting folks, including Vincent Guihan and Jo Charlebois, Gary Francione, Roger Yates,  and others with sometimes divergent perspectives.  I was able to ask questions of such noted people as Ric O’Barry of The Cove and Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson. They also profile the occasional grassroots activist, such as my good friend and technical advisor, Jordan Wyatt of Invercargill Vegan Society (and podcast Coexisting With Nonhuman Animals), an end-of-the-world one-man abolitionist incursion.  A few of the guests have been quite controversial, including those with very different viewpoints than my own, such people as Bruce Friedrich of PeTA, Matt Ball of Vegan Outreach, transhumanist David Pearce, or former vivisectionist Colin Blakemore.  Even the administrators have a wide range of views, with the shared commonality of being abolitionist vegans. Transcripts following chats are available for anyone who cares to further the dialogue and often the guests will return to answer questions, too.

The past few weeks on ARZone have been of particular note, with Tom Regan’s interview being published, and a workshop related to that interview taking place on Saturday, May 22, 2011. For any of you who know nothing of him, he is a one-time butcher who became a leading proponent of Animal Rights and has written extensively on the subject. He reports that if he could become an animal rights activist, anyone can. Of course, Tom Regan is far from your garden variety ARA, he has been one of the prominent voices in the movement for decades. His humility and quest for justice have stood the test of time. For further information, check out his interview or read the workshop transcripts on ARZone. If time permits,  read some of his many books on the subject.



Abolitionist Vegan Nation

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

A new vegan abolitionist group started earlier this year, Animal Rights & Rescue of North Texas. It has been instructive, to say the least, as to the energy, time, and money necessary to get a grassroots campaign off the ground. First expenses included meetup fees, business cards, and a few office supplies for members.  Then there was the first Kickoff meeting – with sixteen people expected. It started snowing lightly in the late morning, and despite the number planning to attend, the result was a disappointing zero in attendance. We even had the film, Bold Native, to be shown, with permission from the director. All in all, a big disappointment.

Kickoff Take Two and Beyond

Our Kickoff Take Two had a much better showing, with at least a few people in attendance. The energy was very high; every single one of us had been or continues to be in another form of animal activism, so the experience and vision were a plus.  Our first project was selected — to host a vegan sampling table.  After the meeting, I followed up by contacting the grocers who carry vegan fare, but to no avail. They were not interested in having our volunteers due to liability or for other reasons. We are currently researching other possibilities.

Undeterred, we scheduled support for an animal adoption event and then scheduled another meetup, this time at the new Loving Hut that just opened in Arlington, Texas.  This meeting was very positive, with two new members and lots of great ideas to share, along with the wonderful food.  It was like finding long-lost kin in some ways, so rare are we in these parts. Gratitude was expressed about the formation of the group; at least three members drove quite a distance, with one even taking off work to attend. Such devotion!

Promoting Peace For All Beings

Our next event, a garage sale benefit, will hopefully keep us alive financially for another year, until we can participate in an upcoming event and begin to do vegan outreach.  Our plans to become rescue ready are still on the table, but on the back burner until we increase our membership. Realizing we are in our infancy and still need a more substantial number of members, we nonetheless came up with many ideas for future projects. There is work to be done!

We now have a vinyl banner for tabling events that reads, “Animal Rights & Rescue of North Texas – Promoting Peace For All Beings” and even have a potential venue for tabling. We are part of the Federation of Abolitionist Vegans, a new collective that owes its genesis to Chris Poupart of Canada. This federation will help struggling groups like ours survive by offering support, shared resources, and forums for discussing ideas. One of the challenges for those of us in the DFW metroplex is the distance between cities, making it difficult to remain united and to plan events within a reasonable driving distance for all members. Having an international home like FAV really helps the group to feel part of something larger, to feel supported, and to feel like there are others around the world who are working on similar issues. We know we are not alone. United, we can increase our ability to reach out to our respective communities more effectively.

Vegan Pioneers and a Vegan Abolitionist Nation

A recent article (Hello Donald) by Dr. Roger Yates,  activist and sociologist with years of experience in the field of animal rights, mentioned that we are vegan pioneers.  Out here on the prairie, it can indeed feel like we are in our metaphorical covered wagons (we pull our own, though, and do not use animals), slowly traversing the unknown lands ahead of us.  But with more experienced pioneers such as Dr. Yates to help guide us, and the energy, enthusiasm, and dedication of our members, we are sure to succeed in building an abolitionist vegan nation.



Progressive Disappointments

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Recently, I have become very disappointed in progressive media.  It would seem that when it comes to animal rights, things are not all that progressive.

Huffington Post Misses the Irony in Recent Post by Jamie Lee Curtis

Huffington Post recently published an article by Jamie Lee Curtis, lamenting the Conklin Dairy Abuse revealed by undercover videos.  We now know there will be no cruelty charges for the owner of the dairy (see linked article by Angel Flinn), no matter how distressing the videos.  Where there is demand, the brutality continues.  How does Ms. Curtis think that the very product she touts, yogurt, is created? By raping the cows with artificial insemination, stealing the baby calf from his or her mother, and then stealing the mother’s secretions from her, secretions made for the survival of her baby, not for adult humans. I always find those yogurt commercials to be interesting.  They suggest their brand of yogurt will help people with digestive problems, the very problems that come from eating a highly processed, animal-based diet. The solution? Another highly processed, animal-based product of course! Perhaps Ms. Curtis has never considered the cost for other beings of the products she sells. But when she wrote that article, obviously distressed at seeing animals treated as objects, devoid of any consideration for their personhood, she missed an important connection between what she does for a living and the act of living for other beings. And Huff Post missed a chance to post an article based on the stark and horrendous reality of the more than sixty billion land animals that perish for the pleasure of human appetite each year.

Mother Jones Appears to Have Lost the “Fearless” in Their Journalism

Even more egregious, Mother Jones (July/August 2010) published an article by Kiera Butler, a “lifelong vegetarian,” who broke her no-meat stance to dine on “grass-fed beef” (an interesting term denoting how devoid of acknowledgement of animal personhood our thinking is — cows eat, not beef; beef is a dead animal.)  She shared that it was delicious and she felt satisfied.  In the article, Get Behind Me, Seitan, Ms. Butler reports that the “vegetarian-equals-green argument” is not so cut and dried.  She then proceeds to offer a comparison between highly processed fake meat and grass fed animal flesh. She notes that her Berkeley, California crowd is really moving towards eating more meat, not less, and she seems to move along with them. One wonders why she ever became vegetarian; she did not mention any moral concerns, health concerns, certainly no consideration for the impact on the animals themselves, no discussion of violence or cruelty.  This was all about the trend and “local buzz.”  It seems preying on baby animals is all the rage these days.

Touting the “great caloric bargains” of things like fish, there is no mention of the toxins that accumulate the higher you go up the food chain. There is no mention of the dying oceans, respect for nature, or a moral baseline; there is plenty of talk about crab feeds and pig roasts.  There is discussion of hexane, used to remove soybean oil and keep soyburgers low in fat, a registered air pollutant and suspected neurotoxin.  Ms. Kiera reports that with a processed soyburger, there are numerous ingredients but with grass-fed beef there is only one, making it somehow purer. This defies everything we know about the accumulation of pesticides and other toxins as one moves up the foodchain, making it more and more dangerous to eat other  beings. There is no discussion of the impossibility of providing enough grazing land for the way the world now consumes animals. And worst of all, there is no discussion of the animals themselves, discussed solely as a commodity for humans throughout the entire article.

The progressive media needs to become truly progressive in the arena of animal rights and veganism. A start would be to post the work of one of the really good vegan advocates who are talented writers — Gary Francione, Roger Yates, Dan Cudahy, Angel Flinn, Tim Gier, Nathan Schneider, Jeff Perz, Mylène Oullet, and many, many others.  They could select someone to write who actually has a philosophical stance that does not move with the crowd, and leaves the “fearless” in their ability to stand alone when necessary, to actually take a position based on something beside their own health, coolness or gustatory delight.  It is  much easier to be oh-so-flexible when dining out, selling out the suffering of animals at every turn, and keeping in lockstep with mainstream thinking. This is progressive? NOT!

The article in Mother Jones did:

  • present some of the problems with highly processed foods
  • discussed some of the problems with unnatural methods of feeding animals that result in disease
  • highlighted that Great Plains pastureland stores 54% more CO2 per acre than cropland

The article failed to:

  • mention the many ways to eat a vegan diet that provides plenty of protein and keeps you fully satisfied
  • investigate the consequences should the nation move towards grass fed animals
  • mention the high levels of toxins in flesh products
  • look at the fact that a vegetarian diet may not offer any moral, environmental, or welfare benefits over an omnivorous diet
  • mention anything about the lives of animals as living, feeling beings
  • mention the correlation between animal slaughter and violence in society
  • even consider a whole foods vegan diet
  • address the false dichotomy presented: there are infinite choices besides eat animals and eating fake meat.

In the end, Ms. Kiera decides to eat mostly plants, but with an occasional “indulgence.” Most vegetarians and vegans would not consider eating meat an indulgence; they would find it disgusting and nauseating. The callous disregard for the various ways these decisions impacts other living beings, the environment, or public health seems out of sync with the purpose of magazines like Mother Jones. The complete lack of any consideration for social justice towards animals, human or non-human, is a glaring omission.

Other articles online at Mother Jones include one about a “kinder, gentler, more convenient abattoir,” a man who kills animals six days a week. This sounds like ancient history, not “fearless journalism.”  Buying into the humane slaughter myth, the happy meat myth, and misrepresenting the positive aspects of healthy vegan cuisine seems more like something one would hear on Rush Limbaugh. Et tu, Mother Jones?