Friday, June 21, 2013

Mother Jones on Mother Pigs

It's one thing to hear about the cruel confinement conditions imposed on the millions of sows who give birth to nearly all the pigs in North America from PETA or your friendly neighbourhood vegan. It's another thing when a vivid description of the shameful truth comes from a writer who starts by admitting “I love pork.” Here's how the always exceptional food and agriculture columnist Tom Philpott spells it out in the July/August issue of Mother Jones:
“Throughout their four-month pregnancies, many of these sows live in cages just large enough to contain their bodies. As the sows grow bigger, the tight confinement means they can lie face down but can't flop over onto their sides. The floors under these ‘gestation crates’ are slotted so that urine and feces can slip through into vast cesspits. Immobilized above their own waste, the sows are exposed to high levels of ammonia, which causes respiratory problems. Just before they deliver, they're moved to farrowing crates, in which they have just enough space to nurse.
“Once the piglets are weaned, it's back to the gestation crate for the breeding sow, which averages two and a half pregnancies per year. After three or four years, the sow is slaughtered for meat.”
And this, among other disturbing peeks into the world of captive sows:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Why Vegans Don’t Drink Milk

There are many reasons why vegans don't drink milk – the male calves who are killed at birth or raised in solitary crates to become “veal,” the brutal toll that modern intensive milk production takes on the bodies of dairy cows. But this moving video from Mercy for Animals tells a story that, in its own way, says it all. Certainly, it says all one needs to know to say “no.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Saying it with video ... and music

Six years ago, a friend and associate asked me to produce a Christmas video of a different kind – a video, using footage shot in North America and Europe by her investigative group and others of the “farm to plate” experience of countless animals we rarely see in any other context than, say, a warm and fuzzy Christmas dinner. Hence the commissioned title – “Do They Know It's Christmas?” – and the timing: it was released on YouTube on December 21, 2007.

You can view it here.

Unfortunately, the version I had wanted to release was largely set to KD Lang's sublime cover of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah,” but I was unable to get permission to use it on time. In fact, the permissions people at Sony wound up doddling so much, I concluded they simply couldn't be bothered. So a year later, I uploaded that original version – slightly tweaked – without permission.  So there! I also used excerpts from a couple other carefully chosen songs without even trying to get permission. I had gone rogue! The resulting video, “Hallelujah, Silent Night,” is embedded right here, below the next paragraph.

The Witness – a screening and a review

One of the most moving – and surprisingly delightful – documentaries in the world of animal rights advocacy is now free to view online. I reviewed it when it came out over a decade ago (reprinted below). Here it is: the gripping story of a “wise guy”-style New Yorker who became a passionate animal advocate – and a never-look-back vegan.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Little Buddha

Sometimes it takes a morally precocious toddler to help us tell right from wrong.

(To watch this extraordinary video in English, view it here on Youtube where you can click on the transcripts icon next to "add to" just below the video. The translation will then scroll below the video in real time.)

I must have started leaking tears around the same time the boy's remarkable mother did. How many parents just say “shut up and eat your octopus!” Flash forward five years, and this loving, fair-minded little boy may be happily chowing down on a Big Mac with his mother – such are the pressures and inducements of our meat-mesmerized culture.

Or he and his lovingly flexible mother may be helping to lead the movement against our species’ history of violence.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

As long as I can't free you, I am bound to help you

An email exchange between a very hard working, long-time animal advocate the same age as myself and a very young (I would bet) idealistic one who has internalized the philosophy of Gary Francione has prompted me to try and articulate in a simple statement my view on the schism within the animal rights movement between the absolutist abolitionists and the rest of us: 

Simple compassion and fundamental moral logic say we should strive to alleviate the unnecessary suffering of anyone who is unjustly imprisoned or exploited no less vigorously than we fight for that person's freedom. The two struggles – so-called “welfarism” and “abolitionism” in the case of animal advocacy – are neither contradictory nor incompatible. In fact, in my experience, they’re very highly correlated among the most hard-working animal advocates. Uncompromising abolitionists like Gary Francione and his followers who are hostile to all animal welfare efforts and even achievements are among the exceptions, as are true welfarists who believe it’s acceptable for people to exploit and kill other animals for selfish human purposes as long as we’re reasonably nice to them.

Finally, in my view, when humans “possess” other animals in a benign, nonviolent symbiotic relationship, there is no need for “liberation.”