Archive for September, 2010

Bless his little rodent heart! But he really should go easy on the carbs–they’ll go straight to his cheeks.

 

Also, I heard Jonathan Safran Foer speak today, but more on that tomorrow!

I find that when I explain my veganism to people, I get one of two reactions. Either they think I’m totally nuts, or they think I’m nothing short of saintly. The latter happened to me today when I passed on a slice of vegetarian pizza someone ordered at work because it had cheese on it.  My co-workers looked at me with a sort of astonished admiration. “Wow,” one of them said, “good for you!” Then she asked me how I did it. And I replied quite honestly, that food was the easy part, but that it was a bit trickier when it comes to cosmetics, clothes etc. When I told them that wool wasn’t vegan, they just about lost it. Call the Vatican! We’ve got someone who only wears synthetic fibres over here! I must admit, I like that people think I’m superhuman, but it’s more important to me that I inspire others to make better choices. Anyone can adopt a vegan lifestyle if they put a little thought into it, no miracles required.

Today Gawker asked, ‘Should Stupid Dogs Be Banned From Crowded Public Places,’ to which I reply, ‘only if we can ban stupid people too.’ The question was originally posed by The Washington Post after a police officer had to shoot and kill an out of control dog at a street fair in DC last week, but Gawker seems to have a much more virulent reaction to the question:

Should people be taking their big-ass dogs out to farmer’s markets and street fairs and other crowded places? Or should they maybe keep their dogs at home, for once, god damn it? What if the dog goes crazy and gets shot by a cop? That has been known to make “a young girl with a butterfly painted on her face become ‘hysterical’?” Could you live with yourself? And what about the fact that people don’t want your dog “snuffling around their chicken-on-a-stick on a hot summer’s day”? Aren’t Americans allowed to enjoy a chicken-on-a-stick any more, without your dog harassing them out of their rights?

Firstly, no, I don’t care about the kid with the butterfly on her face. And secondly, dogs get out of control when their guardians don’t have control over them, which is a serious problem, I admit. But the same is true of children. Just the other day I saw a child knock over a huge display at a department store, nearly injuring herself and another person. Should children be banned from stores? No, parents just need to keep an eye on them, goddammit.

Don’t you just love dog logic?

 

I was blinded by beauty this past weekend and bought a sweater without checking the tags… How, pray tell, did I, a proud vegan, actually purchase something without confirming that it was 100% animal free? Fall fashion–or temporary insanity–that’s how. Curse you designers of beautiful things! Why does there have to be so much ugliness behind such beauty? Thankfully, I hadn’t removed the tags yet, and will promptly return said sweater.

But if anyone out there thinks, ‘hey, what’s the big deal, it’s not like it’s fur.’ Guess again, angora rabbits suffer just as much as animals raised for fur, if not more since they live longer and are forced to give up their coats several times over.

Why angora is cruel:

  • China is the world’s leading producer of angora rabbit hair, contributing approximately 90 percent of world production. Chile is the second largest producer. Animal welfare laws are non-existent in either of these countries.
  • Angoras are farmed on a highly intensive ‘factory farm’ system.
  • Angoras are bred in hutches with grid floors to keep them clean and not damage their coats. They live in excruciating pain, often with ulcerated feet, because their delicate foot pads don’t agree with the wire floors.
  • Angoras are shorn every three months or on the French type it is sometimes pulled. This pulling method offers the advantage that new hair grows after each pulling. This method can also cause the rabbit to suffer from shock.
  • Angoras object strongly to being strapped down and clipped. Because they struggle, most end up getting cut by the clippers.
  • Many farmers kill male angoras at birth because they yield less wool than the females.

 

But we can certainly drag them away–to the brink of extinction, that is.

Corolla, North Carolina, is home to some of the last wild horses in the eastern United States. Their numbers have been decreasing each year, and now a plan backed by the federal government would see the herd, which they consider a nuisance, reduced from about 115 horses today to no more than 60, to make way for new vacation homes and further commercial development of the area.

Unlike their counterparts farther south in Shackleford Banks, the mustangs don’t have any kind of federal protection. And, sadly, the only argument being made in defense of these beautiful creatures is that they’re a valuable tourist attraction… Nope, wild horses have no intrinsic value whatsoever.

 

(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The German film At Ellen’s Age, directed by Pia Marais, chronicles the journey of a German flight attendant who leaves her cheating boyfriend, loses her job and joins a group of radical animal rights activists. Ellen deliberately destroys the foundations of her life and opens her arms to whatever comes next, good or bad. The main storyline–of Ellen trying to find herself–is paralleled by the fate of the animals the activists rescue; they too are lost when released into the wild to fend for themselves and, as with Ellen, it’s unclear whether or not they will make it.

I appreciated the discussion of veganism, factory farming and animal testing–all were dealt with quite soberly. There are activists with different points of view about direct action and the kinds of action that are beneficial or detrimental to the cause, which I found to be an honest portrayal of the issues facing activists today.  

I did have a few qualms though:

The activists are your stereotypical dirty hippies, who live together in a dirty commune. The film made activists out to be a certain “type,” one-dimensional, and reinforces negative stereotypes rather than exploring the fact vegans and animal rights activists come from all walks of life.

My biggest problem with the film, though, is Ellen’s near catatonic passivity. It makes sense at the start of the film where she’s trapped in a meaningless existence, but she never seems to change or grow as a character, which made the story somewhat anti-climactic. Even after she joins the activists in order to “find herself,” at no point does she ever exhibit any real sympathy towards animals. She tells the activists how much she admires their idealism, but doesn’t become idealistic herself or really cares about anything other than herself throughout the whole film.

One scene that really bothered me was when the activists break into a laboratory to trash the place and release all of the the lab mice. Ellen doesn’t participate in the break-in, and when she sees that the getaway van has crashed, and that mice are all over the road getting hit by cars, she does nothing to help them, she simply looks at them and walks away. Perhaps this where art and logic clash, because seeing all those white mice on the black road at night was a striking cinematic shot, but it did nothing to help me understand Ellen’s character, on the contrary, I was more confused than ever about who this woman was.

Because of Ellen’s apathy, I thought she would come to realize that activism isn’t for her and move onto something else, but in the end she goes to Africa to help another group of activists stop Sudanese poachers! And she is just as unsure about her position on animal rights at the end of the film as she was at the start, but is still so desperate to find an identity for herself, she’ll try almost anything.

Had Ellen been a more compelling central character, with a marked change in her beliefs and demeanor as the film progressed, I might have felt differently about At Ellen’s Age. Simply put, the protagonist is a middle-aged woman who does nothing but feel sorry for herself. The animals in this film are truly fighting for their lives–watching Ellen fight to bring meaning to hers, pales in comparison.

The internet’s abuzz this week with talk of the 2011 Guinness Book of World Records. Along with the largest and smallest dog categories there is also a smallest cow category! Meet Swallow, a Dexter cow from Halifax, UK. He’s measured at 33.5 in (85 cm) from rear foot to hind.

Dexter cattle are the smallest of the European cattle breeds–about half the size of a traditional Hereford and about one third the size of a Friesian milking cow. They were not too long ago considered a rare breed, but are now considered a recovering breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. This is not because they are beautiful, charming animals, unfortunately, but because more and more people have become interested in raising their own food. The resurgence of the Dexter has been fueled by a desire for organic, local food, health concerns over factory farming, and soaring food prices. Incidentally, most of these problems can be solved by adopting a vegan diet–no killing of adorable cows required.

I’ve never heard him speak in person so I am psyched that he’s coming to Toronto to promote the softcover edition of Eating Animals. The on-stage interview, Q&A and book signing will take place at the George Ignatieff Theatre, Wednesday September 29th, 7 pm. Tickets, $23/19 students, are available only at The Cookbook Store. The ticket price also includes a softcover copy of Eating Animals. I already have a copy of the hardcover, so I plan to give away the copy I get with my ticket to an unsuspecting omnivore and hopefully show them the light :)

If you miss his event at the  George Ignatieff Theatre, you can catch Jonathan earlier that day at Indigo, 12pm, for a book signing.  

We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked, What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?
-Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
 

Oh, for heaven’s sake. I’m not even sure I should justify this with a response… If you haven’t already heard, Lady Gaga followed up her meatkini Japanese Vogue cover shoot with a meat ball gown at the VMAs last night. How desperate for attention can you get! Ingrid Newkirk had some choice words for the popstar, as did fellow vegan Ellen DeGeneres, who presented her with a lettuce bikini on the season-eight debut of her daytime talk show, taped after the VMAs on Sunday night. Gaga came out onstage still dressed in the dead cow carcass and tried to string together a coherent argument defending the outfit, which only seems to make sense to her and her “little monsters”, who cheered her on by the sidelines:

“I get most of your outfits, I really do … because I’m vegan, so that’s kind of … what is the purpose of the meat suit?” Ellen asked, holding up the cover of the Japanese magazine.

“Well, it is certainly no disrespect to anyone that is vegan or vegetarian. As you know, I am the most judgment-free human being on the earth,” Gaga replied. “However, it has many interpretations, but for me this evening … If we don’t stand up for what we believe in and if we don’t fight for our rights, pretty soon we’re going to have as much rights as the meat on our own bones. And I am not a piece of meat,” she added, holding up the magazine cover.