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Ahimsa

Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World

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Activism

PETA: A Response

As regular readers may know, I am in no way a PETA supporter. However, I think discussing PETA’s tactics and role in the animal rights movement is fascinating. They are undoubtedly one of the most controversial organizations in the country.

The comment below is one I left at the fabulous blog Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes. I’ve been reading this blog for months and the recipes are fascinating, especially for someone who adores Indian food. However, I strongly disagree with the recent piece about PETA.

Please jump over to Holy Cow! to read the original post, “So what do you think about PETA?”

Here is my comment in response to the above post:

I’m always interested in discussing PETA, especially with other vegans. I respect your thoughts, but I completely disagree. Here’s why:

In the case of PETA euthanizing animals, it isn’t as simple as “all shelters do it because there isn’t enough room.” I used to live close to PETA’s headquarters in Norfolk, VA where their “shelter” is located. They don’t advertise to the general public that you can adopt animals there. If people don’t know, they won’t adopt. And then there was the case a couple years ago where PETA workers threw the bodies of euthanized animals in the dumpster in NC. According to news sources, they were supposed to have been trying to find homes for the animals, not euthanizing them without a second thought. Also, the percentage of animals PETA euthanizes is unacceptable – according to Newsweek, over 80%.

As for using naked women in advertising, just because the rest of society does it doesn’t make it ok. When was the last time PETA used a woman who wasn’t beautiful by society’s standards. I don’t recall ever seeing an overweight woman used. And their use of men in similar situations doesn’t even compare.

I don’t doubt that PETA on the whole has done some good. Their undercover videos are amazing, and they can afford to hire decent lawyers. However, they waste money, and along with being sexist, are anti-fat (i.e., the billboard that went up a couple months ago calling overweight people whales). Remember the whole George Clooney tofu deal? They need new management, and instead of focusing on shock factors and nothing else, they should be an intelligent source of information for people curious about animal rights.

If anything, PETA has made the animal rights movement a joke, and it’s a shame organizations such as Mercy for Animals don’t have the far-reaching effect as PETA.

For more information:

PETA+Euthanasia (The Newsweek article I mentioned)
George Clooney Tofu
Euthanizing animals and throwing them in dumpsters

My past posts on PETA:

Screw you again, PETA
PETA needs a new tactic
PETA: Part One, History
PETA: Part Two, Euthanasia

PETA

PETA needs a new tactic

I don’t think the people at PETA even know how to be active without resorting to nudity. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a PETA ad that didn’t feature naked or scantily clad women? I am by no means a prude, but using sterotypically beautiful naked women in order to advance a cause simply furthers the fact that it is okay for women to be used for their bodies. One of the main reasons I no longer support PETA is because I refuse to be associated with such an anti-feminist organization (and anti-fat too).

PETA has created some fantastic nudity-free ads in the past, and I’d like to see it again. Here’s the ad that brought about this post:

And here’s an older Joaquin Phoenix (!!) Thanksgiving ad:

Gets the same point across, minus the sexism.

How to Please Non-Vegans?

Over at Vegan Soapbox, Eccentric Vegan has written about how vegans can more easily get along with non-vegans by lying about their reasons for being vegan, making up allergies, and calling themselves a vegetarian rather than a vegan. Apparently, by following said advice, you can become a non-confrontational vegan and make friends with non-vegans. Here is the comment I left on the site, which I wanted to share here:

I disagree with you. No vegan should ever have to “play nice” or apologize about being vegan. Vegans should be proud of who they are and what they are doing for animals. So don’t say it’s just for health or the environment, don’t call yourself a vegetarian instead of a vegan, and don’t lie about having an allergy. The only way veganism will ever be taken seriously is if people learn what veganism is about. Animal rights is a social cause just like any other: the women’s rights movement and the civil rights movement. If activists of either of those causes had been apologetic nothing would’ve gotten done. We’re well on our way to a more vegan-friendly world, it’s just going to take time.

It isn’t hard to get along with non-vegans. I didn’t meet another vegan until the second semester of my freshman year of college. Almost everyone I know eats meat. If someone is not willing to accept your lifestyle, then instead of trying to make things work, just forget about them. The best thing to do is just be honest about who you are, even if there are non-vegans who will ridicule you. I’ve realized that most people don’t mean to be stand-offish about my veganism, they’re just curious, especially if I’m the first vegan they’ve ever met.

I really think this is terrible advice. A vegan, or any other activist of any movement, should never be expected to step down just because someone opposes them. I would never hide my veganism, because it’s incredibly important to me and I want people to understand what veganism means and my reasons.

Does anyone else have any opinions on this topic?

Ethics Into Action: A Review

I just finished reading Peter Singer’s biography of the animal rights activist Henry Spira, Ethics Into Action. Singer writes of Spira’s life, the methods he used for his activism, and the way his background in labor unions helped him work better for animals. Some people might think of Henry Spira as more of an animal welfarist rather than an animal rights activist, but no one can argue that he was able to reduce animal suffering. For example, he stopped the unnecessary mutilation of cats at New York’s American Museum of Natural History, helped encourage cosmetics companies to seek alternatives for the LD50 test, and stopped pound seizure in New York.

The reason I would recommend this book to anyone working toward a better future for animal rights is because it provides a blueprint you can follow for your campaigns. Singer include a section called “Ten Ways to Make a Difference” toward the end of the book, which is geared toward helping activists follow Henry’s methods to get things done. Here they are (the book contains a description for each point):

1. Try to understand the public’s current thinking and where it could be encouraged to go tomorrow. Above all, keep in touch with reality.
2. Select a target on the basis of vulnerabilities to public opinion, the intensity of suffering, and the opportunities for change.
3. Set goals that are achievable. Bring about meaningful change one step at a time. Raising awareness is not enough.
4. Establish credible sources of information and documentation. Never assume anything. Never deceive the media or the public. Maintain     credibility, don’t exaggerate or hype the issue.
5. Don’t divide the world into saints and sinners.
6. Seek dialogue and attempt to work together to solve problems. Position issues as problems with solutions. This is best done by presenting realistic alternatives.
7. Be ready for confrontation if your target remains unresponsive. If accepted channels don’t work, prepare an escalating public awareness campaign to place your adversary on the defensive.
8. Avoid bureaucracy.
9. Don’t assume that only legislation or legal action can solve the problem.
10. Ask yourself: “Will it work?”

That’s a look at the sort of stuff you’ll learn if you pick up this book. It’s more a guide to activism than a biography.

New Secretive Prisons Housing AR/Eco Activists

The so-called “Green Scare,” where the government has been accusing environmental and animal rights activists of “terrorism” and has even gone so far as to pass the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, is continuing to show how ugly the future might look.

Few people know about Communication Management Units (CMUs), which are very high-security, secretive prisons that are supposed to be holding terrorists. Communication with the outside world is heavily restricted, and many rights that prisoners at other facilities have are not allowed here.

The problem, as Will Potter writes on his blog, Green is the New Red, is that

these units have been created not for violent and dangerous “terrorists,” but for political cases that the government would like to keep out of the public spotlight and out of the press.

Potter highlights a few of the prisoners who are being kept at these CMUs, including a doctor who was arrested for violating economic sanctions by sending aid to the Iraqi people, Daniel McGowan, and Andrew Stepanian (who was recently released).

And apparently these facilities are an “experiment.” But an experiment for what? To keep dangerous criminals secure, or to keep political dissidents locked up? We are already seeing so many examples of our rights as activists being threatened, and it’s continuing to get worse. How long will it be before all forms of civil disobedience are suppressed?

GreenIsTheNewRed: Communication Management Unit Houses Environmental Activist

Interview with undercover AR investigator

I bookmarked this interview more than a month ago, and because I’m notouriously bad at doing anything in a timely manner, I’m just getting around to it now. TIME did an interview with an anonymous animal rights investigator, the kind of person we have to thank for the numerous slaughterhouse and factory farm videos we have helping our cause. As you read in the interview, it’s not an easy job. For one thing, there’s the job itself. The people who go undercover to obtain jobs at these places are expected, as workers, to do as they’re told – including helping in the slaughter of animals. This obviously raises ethical questions – if you’re a vegan, and a proponent of animal rights, how can you participate in animal cruelty, even if it is for the advancement of the cause? It is my personal opinion that it is wrong to kill an animal, regardless of the circumstances. However, if an undercover investigator is able to get hired in a factory farm/slaughterhouse in a position that is not directly responsible for an animal’s death, then I think it is a great way to spread the word.

Another hardship these people face are having to hide their identity in order to get hired at more than one farm. Companies always perform background checks, and will find out about any other farms someone has worked out, and why they are no longer there. A factory farm owner is not going to hire someone who poses a threat to profits. The person interview in the TIME article has actually changed his name twice already to continue his work.

Even though I completely stand by what I said above about participating in the killing of animals is unacceptable at any time, I am thankful for the footage. And I hope the people shooting it have jobs that keep their hands free of blood.

Another reason I like this interview: it’s good to see the mainstream news do a piece on the animal rights movement that is unbiased for once.

TIME – Undercover Animal-Rights Investigator

Mary Martin, Feral Cats, and TNR

The Animal Rights blog at Change.org has just posted the first of many posts by Mary Martin, a feral cats activist. Martin started her own TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) program in West Palm Beach after learning that existing operations had closed doors due to lack of funds. I can’t wait for her future posts, including how to start a TNR program in your own community.

I’ve written about Alley Cat Allies in a previous post awhile back, and readers will know that feral cats are a very important topic for me. From about 1999 to 2006 my family had a fairly large population of feral cats living in our 2 1/2 acre yard. We loved the hell out of those cats, fed them, gave them clean water, and played with the ones that were brave enough to allow us to get close to them. But we also saw the problems (on a small scale, of course) that an uncontrolled population of feral cats can have. The main issues are inbreeding and lack of adequate food. I hated that even though we gave them food, the more aggressive cats wound up eating the most. Sometimes we would take the smaller cats and give them their own little secret stash of food. I wish I had known about TNR back then. Here are some pictures of our cats:
pict0010qpict0062pict0064My other (huge) regret is that after our house burnt down in 2006, we couldn’t feed them anymore. So we (ugh) called PETA, whose office is in Norfolk, VA, not far from where we live. I knew that they euthanized sick and injured animals, but at the time I had no idea that they killed healthy animals too. It haunts me that I essentially killed these cats without realizing it at the time.

I’ve realized that many people don’t understand that feral cats actually enjoy their lives. Most people see a feral cat and want to take it home with them or take it to a shelter because it’s homeless. In fact, my favorite poster from Allie Cat Allies is this one:
240204779_673fbb7f99Trap-Neuter-Release is a great program to let feral cats enjoy their lives outdoors without the problems associated with overpopulation. And it’s a completely no-kill solution!

Alley Cat Allies is not the only TNR-supporting organization. There is also the Stray Cat Alliance, which I found through the very awesome Mean Kitty/SMP Films YouTube channel.

Easy ways to help animals

Helping animals is important, but a lot of people aren’t able to donate money to organizations they support, or spend a lot of time volunteering. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t still help. There are a number of ways to help animals (along with other causes) without ever leaving your desk.

The Animal Rescue Site allows you to simply click a button to feed animals in shelters. From this site you can also donate to save the rainforest, improve literacy, put an end to world hunger, provide mammograms, and improve children’s health.

Care2, a social networking and news site based around charity and progressive ideas, has a feature much like the Animal Rescue Site. You just click a few buttons and you’ve instantly helped stop global warming, save the rain forest, rescue baby seals, help the world’s oceans, save land inhabited by snow leopards and other large cats, feed primates, help children in need, help pets in shelters, end violence against women, and help find a cure for breast cancer.

GoodSearch allows you to choose an organization you support, and every time you search, you’re actually donating money to that charity.

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