Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When "pig-related" books really are upsetting

Tristin Hopper in the National Post provides comic alternatives to books with plots involving pigs (e.g. Babe, Animal Farm, The Three Little Pigs, Charlotte's Web), in response to the news that England's Oxford University Press is asking authors to "avoid anything pig-related" so as not to upset Jewish and Muslim readers.

People are framing this as a free speech issue, but it's more than that: how is it that we aren't repulsed and upset by "pig-related" cookbooks, and tomes on pig-raising for the slaughterhouse. Let's hope there are some kid-lit writers are willing to write books about -- dare one say it without upsetting someone -- being vegetarian, or being humane in our dealings with other species.

Isn't there something gross about handbooks teaching kids to raise, care for and feed farmyard pigs (4H style) -- and then kill them?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stupidly dense or openly sprawling -- what should cities do? (Shrink.)

"Dense" may mean packed, but the other meaning of dense is "stupid." "Sprawl" on the other hand means to open up. Which do we want for our cities: openness or stupidity? Those who study the effects of nature on children have learned that outdoors play in natural settings stimulates intelligence, observational powers and confidence as well as physical fitness. Cities apparently make people stupid, even as they've made raccoons and crows smarter.

In Countdown, George Monbiot explains, country by country, how overpopulation makes urban places unlivable, while destroying natural environments and animal habitat.

A good companion read is Jim Sterba's Nature Wars, which describes the history of people's relationship to wildlife in the New World. First: they were a resource (the furbearers, especially the beaver, suffering near wipe-out), then for recreational enjoyment (hunters enjoying killing but not in the numbers that the first pioneers killed), and now we see wildlife as a nuisance as it invades the cities because growing cities have eaten up the wild animals' habitat.

Although Sterba seems self-consciously choosing to be unsentimental about eradication of wild "pests," there is much interesting factual information in this book about species and their extinctions. But beware: they guy hates cats.
Getting old, but still good (the problems analyzed haven't gone away):
The End of the River: Dams, Drought and Deja Vu on the Rio Sao Francisco, by Brian Harvey (ECW Press, 2008)

  -- about the rotten deal for fish, i.e. that we "seed oceans with engineered fingerlings" while destroying rivers for industry and industrial agricultural. Harvey visits the Sao Francisco watershed in Brazil and compares it to the Fraser system of British Columbia, Canada, where the commercial fish boats bank along the entrances and river mouths as salmon return. What chance have the fish? Or the orcas who depend on the Chinook salmon for their diet?

A study this year (2014) has shown that the Chinook are in more trouble -- things only worse since Harvey brought out End of the River.

Solution? Nobody eat fish!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

What would a kinkajou do without him?

A great Christmas tale from the Daily Mail:

"Bennett volunteers with Pilots and Paws, the South Carolina-based charity that enlists small plane pilots to take animals from overcrowded shelters that have high euthanasia rates to foster homes, rescue groups and less-crowded shelters that don't kill them.

Bennett estimates that he's flown about 1,100 hours in his small, four-seat Cirrus aircraft since starting his volunteer work with the group six years ago.
"Most of the time I do puppies and kittens, but I've done snakes, rats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, snakes, tortoises, sea turtles, falcons, pigs and a kinkajou," he said."

See the rest here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-2877771/Florida-man-flies-3-000th-rescue-animal-safety.html

Nice story for the season of goodwill to all. Now if only someone could rescue those millions of turkeys.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Don't have a rotten little Christmas

At this time of year, everywhere you go there are boxes collecting items for food banks. A fine idea, but we have to be sure not to put food in there that's past its "best before" date. The food banks won't use it for their human recipients but they will pass it on to farmers for animals.

Whatever is not fit for human consumption isn't fit for other animals either. They are not garbage cans, any more than the poor are. They don't deserve stomach upsets, and if they contract certain germs they could pass them on, when they too become "food." Once in the food chain, the rotten stuff could come back to bite you.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Season of Good Will to Turkeys?

Here we go again: avian 'flu in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia. Thousands of birds dying or being euthanized at two (or more) farms.

What a sinister ring the phrase "for the Christmas market" has, in terms of the market for dead tortured birds. Millions of these will hold pride of place on Christmas dinner tables all over the western world on December 25th ... a bizarre feast, isn't it? A ritual centred on bird torture?

The turkeys and chickens raised in the Fraser Valley's poultry factory farms never experience a happy moment in their short lives. Not only are they squashed into tiny wire cages, held under harsh fluorescent lighting, fed rubbish, throat burning with ammonia burn and dust, but many now also suffer the 'flu as well -- before being slaughtered early. Never fear, it "won't spread to human consumers ..." say the producers. Oh that's alright then ...

But the buck stops with us. When consumers stop buying them, producers will stop selling them, and way fewer of those sensitive clever birds will suffer a horrendous life.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Google these animal experts for a wealth of stimulating writing

A listing from the blog of Steven Wise, Nonhuman Rights Project:

Lori Marino the NhRP’s former science advisor, now working for her Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy; Joyce Poole, the internationally esteemed elephant expert who is working with the NhRP right now to develop the affidavits we need for our litigation; Chris Green, my former star Harvard Law School student, now ALDF’s director of legislative affairs; Carter Dillard, ALDF’s director of litigation; Marc Bekoff, former professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, now a writer and animal activist doing more things than any one person should be able to do; David Casselman, LA Animal protection attorney extraordinaire; as well as many others who came up to me and wanted to know more about the NhRP, or already did know about us and wanted to know how they might help.

At a conference and celebration of the Performing Animal Welfare Society, the work of NHRP (in filing suit in a NY court for Tommy the imprisoned chimp as a person with rights) received a standing ovation.

Yes - let's all stand for standing for animals, in courts of law.