25 November 2010

My stance.

To me, the ethical debate revolving around whether or not it is "right" to consume animal products is irrelevant, because that means acknowledging in some context that animals are already considered more than just machines or items of production.  That debate can only come about when CAFOs are nonexistent. The issue today regarding animals and food is that regardless of whether or not one believes animals deserve to be consumed, animals ought not be subjected to cruelty.  Michael Pollan makes the claim that it comes down to "being a vegetarian or not being a vegetarian" based on what animals are for; Peter Singer claims that regardless of one's views, there are no strong moral arguments that condone the current system of production.

I would  add onto these arguments by stating that the exclusion of animal products from one's lifestyle does not necessarily impart a belief that animals need "equal rights."  It is merely taking action against a structure or operation that we know exploits humans, destroys the environment, and systematically tortures sentient beings.

10 November 2010

It's Assault

Vegina recently posted a blog on a "Sensitive subject."  It is worth reading. 

I am not a "sex positive activist" or anything like that. The entire subject tends to make me blush and giggle (just ask my friends who have spent hours making me feel uncomfortable with lewd statements.)  Despite this  immaturity in discussing sex, I am acutely aware of the rape culture that permeates the United States (or the world, generally) and I am definitely aware of how the culture affects something as seemingly benign as milk. 

Like Vegina, people have scoffed and/or feigned offense at my insistence that female dairy cows are raped. And like the previous blogger stated, there is simply no other way to describe the act. The industry itself acknowledges this fact; the contraption this happens on is called "a rape rack." 

Let that sink in for a second. I mean, really think about that. Just using the term "rape rack" automatically denotes that these animals are being sexually assaulted. For a cow to give milk, she must be impregnated.  How does an animal get pregnant? Through sexual intercourse.  If an animal is locked in a cage for her whole life, how is one going to get her pregnant? By sexually assaulting her. 

This much is true: if someone tied your dog to a "rape rack" and stuck a metal rod up her you-know-what for the sole purpose of impregnating her, you would consider that animal abuse.  If you then took away those puppies mere minutes after birth and stuck them in a cage while you hooked said dog up to machines to pump the milk out, you would be horrified and accuse the perpetrator of animal torture. 

I am not here to judge anyone, but if you eat dairy ice cream, if you eat cheese, you are paying someone to perpetuate this cycle of sexual assault and violence. Those are the facts.  Unless you know some dairy farmer who just happens to make cheese whenever one of their cows gets knocked up, this is what you are supporting.  [I guarantee that Kraft and McDonalds are not friendly with small hippie farmers.]

The intersection between these two topics is controversial and it sparks a lot of debate.  People are quick to make statements such as "To compare cheese and my cousin/sister/wife/daughter/best friend being sexually assaulted is just animal rights hyperbole and you deserve to be shot."  But I know many women who have been assaulted and who do see the connection between the topics.  To see the connection is to widen one's circle of compassion to accept that all animals feel pain and fear.  It is to acknowledge and realize that no sentient being enjoys being assaulted on a regular basis.  

To add more torture to that torture, the calves that these mothers have carried for 9 months are ripped away from them and stuffed into veal crates.  To deny any mother the chance to be with her child is cruel and barbaric.  I think most of us can agree on this.  That is why videos of animals caring for their young are popular on Youtube.  It's why people go, "Awwww" any time we see some interspecies bonding.

 To refer to the dairy industry as an industry of rape is not to belittle a human being's experience. It is to strengthen it.  How? If there is a hierarchy of animals (which I do not believe, but I can't deny that most people do think this), to acknowledge the abuse these creatures go through is to acknowledge the seriousness of what women go through.  

As it is, rape culture is scoffed at, joked about, and belittled.  It is one of the only violent crimes where the victim is shamed into silence or embarrassed.  Police stations needing volunteers to act as rape crisis counselors show the Culture of Rape. When a high school girl vomiting on herself while being gang raped by a baseball team is slut shamed by the media (google "San Jose baseball rape" - I dare you), that is a Culture of Rape.

 Which then leads me to my primary point that although true, I don't think it necessarily helps to make these connections on a massive scale.  This is where I deviate from popular animal rights thought.

To make a dent in either culture, you have to start from the bottom up or the top down.  How can anyone expect people to care about a cow when people don't care about a teenager? There are rape racks, because there are sluts. Plain and simple.  And until society can stop the slut-shaming, the name-calling, the she deserved it-ing, the date raping, the harassment, there will always be a rape rack.  Because it is said in jest. Because the Culture of Rape allows people to belittle assault (unless it's violent and/or perpetrated by a man of color onto a white woman), it allows everyone else to toss aside any violence towards an animal.

I cannot help but think back to my ethics class debate on sexual harassment where many people immediately jumped on the "But will you ever know if she is telling the truth?"  These are people who would claim that rape is abhorrent and, yet, they are immediately jumping to give the perpetrator a free pass.  This probably has to do with a few reasons.

1.  We do not want to believe that the people we know and the people we trust are capable of such atrocities. It can be said time and time again - the majority of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment happen between people who know each other - but culture is apt to not believe it.  And it is understandable.  Who wants to go out with a bunch of guy friends and believe that one of them is capable of such an atrocity? So, while we know it is possible, we do not want to believe it is possible.  Also, it is no doubt offensive to men to be seen as potential rapists.

2. There is no clear societal definition of rape as shown by the fact that raping farm animals is just considered "business" and ice cream.  Do I think men are all rapists? God no. Of course not.  I think the problem lies with the fact that there is no definition.  Men are not taught what constitutes an assault. This is why there are so many date rapes or sports gang bangs, etc.

If I may go one more step further, I would even state that the idea of rape being "the worst thing that can happen to you ever" belittles the entire experience. Because this idea carries so much ideological weight, you better really prove that something happened.  If the assault is accepted, then you get knighted as a victim for all of eternity.  (I use "knighted" to denote the infantilization and pity that is showered upon assaulted women who are able to "prove" it)

Ok, this is all I can muster on the topic for now. More at some later point. 

Wait, no, seriously, ya'll! Switch to non-dairy milk. It's better for you, the environment, and the animals. It's just a little thing, but it means so much. Almond, hazelnut, soy, rice, and hemp milks are all so much better anyways.

09 November 2010

PhiLOLsophy! John "Gay Is Bad MMMkay" Finnis Edition


My philosophy class has a different discussion each week about controversial topics.  We read a bunch of essays by a bunch of people and then the class spouts off opinions. It's pretty awesome.

I was unable to join the gay rights discussion, because I just couldn't risk the tiny amount of faith I still have in humanity on a community college philosophy class. Well, that and I had some work stuff.

I did read the essays though.  The first was by John Fennis.

John Fennis is an idiot.  I do not say that lightly either as I am not fond of making accusatory statements on public forums. But oh my god, he is a Professor at Oxford. D: And he is totally using these arguments.

Fennis decides that marriage can only be defined as a relationship that includes procreation AND friendship. Why don't I get to arbitrarily define institutions? :( I mean, technically ideas, things, feelings, stuff, etc. are all defined by people. So even if it were the definition of the marital institution, it still has the potential and opportunity to be redefined. Strike one dude.   

Here's an awesome point: Gay and lesbians are hostile to the institution of marriage. 

What about mail-order brides...shotgun weddings....my dad....?  No, seriously, homosexuals could get married by the billions and it still wouldn't match the "damage" that guy has done.

Then there is the homosexuality "bad" because no "greater good" is derived from it.

I know.

WTF does that even mean? 

How do we "greater good"? [It's a verb phrase now. Fennis isn't the only one who gets to make stuff up.]   You know what I'm thinking "greater good" is at this point in Earth's history? Not procreating.  You wanna help? Don't add to the most wasteful population ON THE PLANET! THERE ISN'T ENOUGH WATER! AGH!   NEWAYZ, putting aside in-vitro fertilization, adoption, surrogates, etc., what "group" of people are going to end up doing the greatest good?

If you like that feeling of nausea, go ahead and take a gander. 
Does this deviant live on your block?

01 November 2010

The Problem With Netflix

By the time I finally pick a movie to watch out of my Instant Play queue, it is too late to start it and I have to go to sleep.

Humans were not meant to be given so many choices.

Happy World Vegan Day!

Vegan (activists) are fond of mini-holidays where they can proudly display their vegan-ness. World Vegan Day, Meatless Mondays, Hug A Vegetarian Day, etc.; these "holidays" serve as annoying reminders to omnivore friends that they are still paying someone to torture and butcher a cow. Yours truly is not exempt from this shouting at the rooftops.

I have come a long way from the days when my self-esteem was so low that I felt the need to identify fully and completely with movements for social changes and/or subcultures. Despite having a "vegan" tattoo and spending 5% of my time hugging animals and rescuing little creatures, I actually do not think of "vegan" as something I am. Veganism is something I do

It is also one of the (if not the) smartest choices I have ever made...in my life and it is definitely something I know I will never regret. 

Why am I vegan?
Animal Acres' own Oliver the Sheep
Well, look at this little guy right here.  My first visit to Animal Acres was in September 2008.  A friend of mine was writing an article on it for a community college journalism class and knowing how partial I am to 4-legged creatures, she invited me along. Changed. My. Life. Forever. I had already been a (shady) vegetarian for a few years, but I had never entertained the thought of "going vegan." Why? For all the excuses everyone else gives...stuff like...

(1) I work full-time and I go to school...how can anyone expect me to find TIME to "be vegan"?;

(2) Veganism is too extreme and too hard. I mean, ok, I get not killing the animals, but you're not hurting them by drinking milk or eating cheese or having an omelette;

(3) I would be vegan, but I just effin' love cheese, man;

(4) I don't want people to think I'm a weirdo PETA supporter;

(5) Have I mentioned I work full-time and go to school...how can anyone expect me to spend time reading labels?!

Yes, I made all those excuses.  People forget that many of us who have gone to the other side were once on their side and most likely do understand and empathize with their own reasons.  The difference being, of course, I realized that those excuses were pointless and had no ethical or logical standing. 

You see, the first time I met Oliver, he walked up to me, placed his head against my thigh, and looked up at me with the most mischievous eyes I had seen in an animal. "Hey there, little fella," I said. "What are you up to?"  Ciddy, the Animal Acres tour guide, walked over and explained where he had come from (meat industry) and then said the first thing that shocked me that day: "Oliver was given hormones and bred to carry this extra 'meat' on his side."  I had not noticed the "meat pouch" sticking out from the side of his stomach until then.  That was the first blow to all the arguments I had against going vegan. The idea of such a wonderful creature with just as much sensitivity and affection as one of my cats being genetically manipulated for an appetite...it just...didn't seem right.

The second blow came when I was shown the battery cages and told that male chicks were ground up alive in the egg industry because of their inability to lay eggs. 

The third blow came from meeting the many dairy farm cows (both the milking cows and the unfortunate (veal) byproducts).

It is one thing to extrapolate about the evils of big business as if they existed in some kind of void.  We all know intuitively that these industries do not exist to forward the progression of mankind.  Slaughterhouses and  animal byproduct industries are about profit at any cost. They are about cutting corners.  They routinely violate worker's rights, cause irreversible environmental damage, pay "health organizations" to release manipulated nutritional data, etc. We know it's wrong. We know it's out there.  It's just not a real part of our life.  Unless a member of our family works in the industry or we have somehow been affected by food poisoning, the majority of us are in a state of blissful denial.  

It is an entirely different thing to be around  and get to know the victims of those industry.  Although human rights and environmental factors are just as important as the animal torture side, knowing about them is not nearly as effective as seeing the scars on a cow that jumped out of a moving truck grasping for one last chance of survival.  It not as effective as hearing the story of the group of piglets who had escaped a slaughterhouse together and seeing them playing and running around all while growing an insane 2 pounds a day (thank you hormones.) It is not the same as seeing the debeaked hens come up to you to sit in your lap despite their painful and dark entry into the world.

I stepped away from the sanctuary a changed person.  

Of course, I did not want to immediately "go all the way."  What about all the (mis)information about health? What about protein? Or B-12? What if these stories are just extreme examples? 

I did what I always tell people to do: researched myself.  In the span of two weeks I read:

1. Vegan Freak, by Bob and Jenna Torres
2. Farm Sanctuary, by Gene Baur
3. Diet for a New America, by John Robbins
4. Animal Liberation, by Peter Singer
5. Mad Cowboy, by Howard Lyman
6. Thanking the Monkey, by Karen Dawn
7. Becoming Vegan, by Brenda Davis
8. The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell

I also watched Earthlings and began to read about a thousand blog entries. 

It was horrifying. I shared what I had learned with my little brother (who I live with) and he looked at me and said, "I guess we're vegan now, huh?"  I asked, "Do we have a choice?" He answered, "Not if they're grinding up baby chickens alive."

When I first made the decision to eat a vegan diet, it seemed preposterous that other people would not follow.  It seemed like such a natural progression once one became knowledgeable and aware of the reasons. So I grabbed my little soap box (ok, maybe like a gigantic effin' soap box) and yelled at everyone. This kind of activism is obviously not effective because who the hell am I to proselytize?

Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Eating Animals, actually made me more sympathetic and aware of the culture of comfort and convenience so I put my little soap box away and decided to straight up "take it to the streets." I realized that one can only plant the seeds and hope they grow.  Of course, seeds cannot grow without encouragement so I made sure to keep myself as non-scary and approachable as possible for people to ask questions in an environment where they do not feel judged.  The truth is...some people are just never going to go to vegan. It's a waste of time and resources trying to get them to think outside themselves, but it's possible to be a good influence! To support and promote conscious eating. To support and promote healthier eating. To support and promote a few meatless meals.  Sometimes, you would be surprised.  One week before I went vegan and two months before my friend Alli went vegan, we were having dinner.  She mentioned my vegetarianism and I said something like, "I could never be vegan. Oh hell no."  Alli then said, "I could not even be vegetarian! I love chicken!"  A few years later, we are both sporting those vegan tattoos and have spent hundreds of hours volunteering, baking, and passing out cupcakes to bar hoppers.

Right?!?!?!
I also think of an early date I had with my boyfriend where he ate Oliver in front of me.  (I refer to all "lamb meat" as Oliver now, tyvm.)  I had come out of a relationship with a vegan dude so it was kind of weird and off putting to see someone scarfing down what I endearingly refer to as "a monkey."  However, I made my boundaries known: no dead animals in my house at any time and if this progresses to a FOR REALZ SERIOUS relationship, I can't have dead animals in a shared home. Other than that, I kept my trap shuuuuuut.  Two weeks into our relationship, he went vegan! To quote S., "If you were willing to get a vegan tattoo, it was worth looking into." <3


Unfortunately, because the vegan diet is a minority, vegan doers are forced to act as spokespeople and examples. It sucks. It can be frustrating.  People are essentially using you as a definition for vegans everywhere or you may encounter people who use someone else as a definition for you.  Just remember it is a way of discrediting that choice.  Even if it is not conscious, the way to ignore someone actually "living their morals" is to categorize and compartmentalize. Don't take it personally and don't allow yourself to be engaged by folks like that.  Nothing good will come out of it (except maybe a good ranty blog and a dinner bitching about omnis with other vegans.)

Anyways, to finish this off, remember to be careful about giving yourselves pats on the back.  I feel it is really important not to think of yourself as better than anyone, because if you feel a vegan lifestyle should be the standard, then you are not really doing anything above and beyond that. 

Annnnnd, HAPPY WORLD VEGAN DAY!!!!