Posts Tagged ‘animals’

Judge Calls L.A. Zookeepers “Delusional”—Then Balks. Ugh.

August 2, 2012

In his concluding remarks in his evaluation of the L.A. Zoo’s “Elephants of Asia” exhibit, Judge John L. Segal wrote: “The evidence at trial shows that the three elephants at the Los Angeles Zoo are emotionally and socially deprived.” After consulting experts, he acknowledged that the elephants are “stressed, frustrated, unanimated, and unhappy, and that the zoo is not meeting [their] needs.” He called the zoo employees “delusional,” acknowledged their history of abuse, caught them telling lies, and questioned whether they will even follow his court orders to discontinue the use of bull hooks. Full articles on the ruling here and here.

BUT. After his scathing review, Segal stopped short of shutting down the exhibit, as called for in the suit, because the situation was “not cruel beyond the ‘ordinary’ circumstance of captivity,” he said.

WTF? Infuriating doesn’t come close to properly describing this failure. What would have to happen—that has not already happened—in order to be considered “abnormally” cruel? (Versus “normally” cruel, of course.) Is this lashing fake? Is it just a slap on the wrist to placate the public so business can continue as usual? Would it shock you? Judge Segal has been under fire for alleged corruption and deprivation of rights in his courtroom before.

By the way, this abusive, useless exhibit, funded by L.A. city council, cost tax-payers $42 million (excuse my language) fucking dollars. Meanwhile, the L.A. Unified School District has a $400 million budget deficit for the 2012-13 year, which caused massive recent layoffs and will result in classrooms with roughly 44 students per teacher next year. The elephant money alone could have provided salaries for over 900 teachers who would have been educating about 30 kids per class, 5 classes per day. I know funding is complicated and I’m no economics wizard, but this seems one of a million ways the money could have been better invested.

This is not the end of the story. Plaintiff Aaron Leider, who initiated the lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers (thank you!), and attorney David Casselman, who has worked pro bono on this case for five years (bless his soul!), both hope that Segal’s orders for the exercising of the elephants, the roto-tilling of the soil, and the discontinuation of bull hooks—however superficial it may turn out to be—will cause the public to heed the zoo’s lies and failures and in turn put pressure on city council to ultimately shut down the exhibit.

SO HERE’S WHAT TO DO:
•If you live in L.A., In Defense of Animals makes it easy. Use this form.
•If you’re outside of L.A., you can use IDA’s text in the form above and email it to our mayor and every city council member, addresses below:
mayor@lacity.org or (213) 978-0600 or (213) 978-0721
councilmember.reyes@lacity.org
councilmember.Krekorian@lacity.org
councilmember.zine@lacity.org
councilmember.labonge@lacity.org
paul.koretz@lacity.org
councilmember.cardenas@lacity.org
councilmember.alarcon@lacity.org
councilmember.parks@lacity.org
jan.perry@lacity.org
councilmember.wesson@lacity.org
councilman.rosendahl@lacity.org
councilman.englander@lacity.org
councilman.garcetti@lacity.org
councilman.huizar@lacity.org
councilman.buscaino@lacity.org
And if you’re really feeling ballsy, here’s Judge John L. Segal’s phone number.

Madagascar 3: It’s personal.

June 22, 2012

Sigh. We just took Akira to see Madagascar 18, I mean 3. While she thoroughly enjoyed herself, Justin and I white-knuckled our way through the movie, suppressing our fantasies of lecturing the audience. The disappointment began one minute into the film when the first goal of the gaggle of main characters is to escape their free lives in the wilderness of Africa and return to the confines of the New York zoo. Ugh.

 

The plot tracks this gaggle’s adventure on the lam from an animal control officer who wishes to add Alex the Lion’s head to her taxidermy trophy wall (see, with kids we can address killing animals in the context of a villain’s work, but not our own everyday habits).

In order to catch a ride “home,” the crew joins an animal circus where they experience the “joys” of performing for humans—zebras love being shot from cannons (it’s like flying!), lions are thrilled to jump through hoops of fire, the primitive, speechless bear rides a bike (wow, wild animals are dumb!), the hippo is a master on the tightrope, and horse-llamas (?) love to wear makeup and dance. It is even stated outright by Alex the Lion that people don’t make the magic of the circus—animals do.

This film is a clear example of how children become desensitized to the use and abuse of animals. It is full of both obvious and subtle moments that normalize the idea that some animals are to be loved, celebrated, and protected, while others are literally worth no more than garbage. On a high-speed car chase, the good animals employ their “Omega Slick” escape-tactic which involves dumping a barrel of oily fish (whether they’re dead or alive is unclear) onto the road behind them in order to lose the antagonists—who incidentally run over the fish and skid to a halt.

Once the main characters finally land back in their dreary New York zoo cages, they do have a change of heart—but it only marks the desire to return to the circus. Ugh, ugh.

Are the anti-animal subtleties lost on kids amidst the 95 minutes of whizzing, zooming, flashing, crashing, dancing, songs, and maximum color-saturation? Maybe in the moment. But the naive supremacy that allows us to use and abuse animals in adulthood is a miseducation that begins in childhood—on our plates, at the zoo, and in the movies.

The one modicum of truth that I enjoyed occurred when, while jumping on a bed, a penguin’s pillow explodes and he laments, “Chimichanga! These pillows are filled with baby biiiirds!” Of course, the audience “awww’ed” in sympathy while they chewed on hot dogs.

If you do go see Madagascar 3, let your kids have fun, laugh, and enjoy the crazy feats of animation. But afterwards, maybe even a couple days after—please make sure to remind them that often in cartoons, animals seem to enjoy being in the zoo and circus, but in real life, real animals do not.

Animals in Entertainment

May 16, 2012

Image: Reuters/Ognen Teofilovski

A few years ago I went to the Los Angeles Zoo for the last time. As I stood amidst a rowdy crowd of laughing frat boys, parents with cameras, and children tapping at the pane of glass that separated us from a troop of chimpanzees,  I felt a profound shame. I was fixated on the graying shoulders of one elderly chimp who sat alone in a corner near to us, his massive hands laying still on the concrete.  He had the muscly forearm of a strong old man, so eerily familiar, it was dizzying. I was staring at life-sentenced prisoner who had lived, aged, and would die in this enclosure…for what?

Image: Suzi Eszterhas/Getty Images

The zoo and marine life park industries know the discomfort their visitors are apt to feel.  In the face of growing eco-consciousness, their public relations committees have responded with concerted efforts to market themselves in the same unified way across the board—as centers of civic pride and educational enrichment. At every turn, they assure us of their benevolent mission of conservation, sensitizing children to animals, and protecting endangered species so that we ignore what’s obvious before our very eyes.

The reality is that zoos and marine life parks are the opposite of what they purport themselves to be—and industry insiders all know it. They are not in the business of education or conservation, but rather entertainment, and they only further desensitize us to the use and abuse of animals.

Even the best zoos and marine life parks have track records of abuse, unnecessary death, and the illegal trafficking of animals. The majority fail to engage in effective programs for conservation or the protection of endangered species. With limited access to a broad gene pool, the infrequent success of breeding endangered animals tends only to produce weak specimens. In the rare case when an animal is successfully bred, their survival in the wild is unlikely—especially because animals born in captivity are hardly ever released into natural habitats, but more often used to propagate the industry.

A vast number of zoo and marine life park animals suffer stress-related diseases, abnormal maternity, self-mutilation, and aggression. Tilikum, the infamous orca who landed at Sea World San Diego after being stolen out of the waters of Iceland in the 1980s, has been responsible for the deaths of three people,  yet Sea World continues to “rehabilitate” and keep him at work for profit. A vast number of zoo elephants are fed a daily diet of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to hide ailments caused by inactivity and confinement in artificial enclosures. The list goes on.

Animals in entertainment also exhibit stereotypies—repetitive movements associated with schizophrenia, trauma, and autism. If you’ve been to the zoo, you may have noticed it. Swaying, rocking, tics, and marching in place—common to captive animals—are signs of suffering, trauma, and poor conditions. In many cases, stereotypies are caused by the abnormal growth of brain cells called dendrites in the seeking systems of the animals’ brains, a consequence of solitary confinement and lack of stimulation. These signs signify that these captive animals live in consistently frustrated states. The worst rescue cases don’t exhibit stereotypies whatsoever, but stand still and unresponsive, having biologically “given up” on exerting their instincts. Because dendrite growth is like a scar on the brain, recovery is rare.

What do we really learn from the captive animals we observe on display at zoos and marine life parks? They are but representations of the idea of their wild counterparts, whose movements, eating and hunting habits, and familial behaviors remain unseen.  The placards we read tell us about the lives of those free and wild animals, not those before our eyes, whose individual stories the park directors hide.

Zoos and marine life parks may elicit a feeling of wonder from our children, but they do not encourage an authentic or lasting reverence for the lives of animals. If they were effective, people would run straight from the zoo to join animal protections organizations. Instead, most families head to the park’s café for hot dogs. In fact, under the San Francisco Bay Aquarium website’s “Conservation” tab you’ll find a seafood restaurant advertisement masked as a call to sustainable action. Why not list the bay area’s many veg restaurants instead? That would truly be “voting with your fork!” At San Francisco’s Steinhart Aquarium, you can admire the octopi downstairs and then dine finely on them upstairs at the Moss Room.

Photo: San Francisco Bay Aquarium

Photo from the Moss Room.

Nearly every option on Sea World’s dining menus is animal-based.

Don’t we have “bigger fish to fry than zoos and sea life parks?” some people will ask. I say turning our attention to the use and abuse of animals reveals a great number of issues we need to face—and they are all connected. To patronize live animal displays reinforces the anthropocentrism our society tends toward. This self-involved outlook is the root cause of the environmental, ecological, economical, and health crises we find ourselves in.  It teaches us that our technology, education, material objects, and daily desires are more important than the very ground we walk upon, more important than the wellbeing of all living things across the world. The same mindset that allows us to abuse animals and irreversibly violate nature drives our desire to eat what we please without consequence, buy homes we can’t afford, and dangerously fracture the earth for temporary supplies of petroleum.  These are distractions from true solutions and change. It may seem invisible at first, but this kind of corruptive education begins in youth—at the zoo, at the marine life park.

We don’t have to miss out on anything. We can explore new ways of instilling a reverence in children for nature and the true lives of animals, ways that have an authentic impact on our hearts and minds. This kind of education lasts a lifetime.

Find a local animal sanctuary to visit or volunteer at a shelter near you.

The Protein Myth

May 10, 2012

There are so many myths that meat-eating-vegan-haters have constructed over the years about why a plant-based diet is bad for you—it’s just straight up laughable.  But the greatest myth of all is the all too familiar question “Where do you get your protein?” The question is so ingrained into the consciousness of the American public, I can remember asking it myself when I was young.  The best part is that most people who ask that question don’t even know what protein is.

As meat loving Americans, we are obsessed with protein. Back in the days, athletes used to eat steaks before competitions because they thought it would improve their performance.  Shiiiit, I used to eat raw eggs after working out because, like Rocky, I thought I needed it to build muscle.  There is this idea that without animal protein, you will not only perform poorly, you may just wither away and die.  Well I’ve been vegan for sixteen years…and I’m thriving.

As Americans we usually get too much protein, not too little (remember that extra protein is stored in the body as fat).

So what is a protein? In layman’s terms,  proteins are made of chains of amino acids, which are found in all foods, not just meat and dairy. Of all the different amino acids, only eight are essential, meaning we need to consume them in food because our bodies do not produce them. As all plant proteins contain the full array of essential amino acids—albeit in different amounts—plant-based foods become entirely sufficient suppliers of protein when you go vegan.

Here are some amazing sources of vegan protein: dark leafy greens like kale, chard, mustard, and even Romaine lettuce; hemp seeds or rice protein powder, nuts, beans, seeds, and superfoods like spirulina and chlorella.  Typically, one needs about 0.4 grams of protein per day for every pound of healthy body weight. Some people need more protein, some less, but in any case, plant-based foods can certainly and easily fulfill anyone’s dietary needs.  If you start your day with a hemp powder smoothie, have a bowl of lentil soup for lunch, and a big salad topped with spirulina and pumpkin seeds and a side of quinoa, you’re good. On some days you might consume more, on some days, less—the key is adding new foods to your weekly repertoire. Let’s not forget where Popeye the Sailor Man got his knock-out power—spinach!!!

If you don’t think that you can get diesel from a plant-based diet, think again. Just ask Iron Mike Tyson—vegan.  Olympic medalist Carl Lewis—vegan. Mixed martial arts fighters Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, Jon Fitch…the list of vegan superheroes goes on and on until the break of dawn…myth dispelled.

The protein-deficiency myth has pushed been by the meat and dairy industries to instill fear of veganism, sell crap, and make us doubt that nature has not done enough to nourish us with greens, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.  Seriously?  Let’s not forget that the largest most powerful animals on the planet are herbivores. Gorillas, giraffes, hippos, horses and rhinos—WHAT!  I personally feel strong as an ox—oh snap! Oxen are vegan, too!

There are so many deficiency worries when it comes to the vegan diet, I can only think that most people just take for granted that the mainstream information they’ve been fed their whole lives is accurate. Proof? The other common questions are always the same: “Where do you get your calcium?” “Where do you get your iron?”  “Where do you get your Omega 3s?” And of course the only one that’s actually justifiable: “Where do you get your rockstar clear skin?”

Damn, I feel good…but that’s just how you feel when you’re vegan!!!

U.S. gets punked: Mad Cow in America

December 1, 2011

Photo from Farm Sanctuary collection

Just when we think that nothing else about animal agriculture can shock us…The following post is summarized from Gabe Kirchheimer’s incredible, must-read article Bovine Bioterrorism and the Perfect Pathogen.

While the US government continues to deny the existence of mad cow disease in America, autopsies, studies, statistical probabilities, and private research proves—as usual, that the USDA serves to protect agricultural and financial interests rather than protect the American public (expected from an entity notorious for corroborating with their buddy-lobbyists, for example, at the National Cattleman’s Beef Association). Meanwhile, a massive epidemic is brewing. Just another goddamn good reason we don’t eat animals to begin with. Here’s the deal:

The parent group of chronic wasting diseases that turn brain tissue to sponge in cows, deer, sheep, goats, and humans is called TSE, transmissable spongiform encephalopathiess. BSE aka “Mad Cow” disease is the bovine form; in humans it’s called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), in sheep and goats Scrapie, and in deer Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). In humans, it is a devastating disease, starting with tremors and memory loss and increasing with violent seizures, hysterical breakdowns, mental deterioration, and loss of speech and faculties.

The disease is caused by forced cannibalism (routine in U.S. animal ag), feeding cattle corpses back to animals. These animals become infected with abnormal “prions”—malformed proteins that comprise an entirely new class of pathogens. With no genetic material, and able to withstand routine sterilization (scary! Even HIV is neutralized in boiling temps), these abnormal prions spread upon contact causing a cellular domino effect until the host loses nervous system function, suffers fatal holes in the brain, and dies.

SOME FACTS ABOUT DOMESTIC INFECTION:
•Some autopsies of patients who had Alzheimers/dementia have tested positive for actually having CJD. With upwards of 2 million Alzheimers cases in the U.S., there could be a “hidden epidemic,” even if only a fraction of Alzheimers turned out to be CJD.

•On animal farms, BSE “mad” cows, who behave just like downer cows (thought to be just too sick to stand), are often rendered into animal feed without testing, possible leaving thousands of infected animals unchecked as they are processed and distributed.

•In 1985, a Wisconsin investigation of a mink encephalopathy outbreak revealed that the minks’ diet was primarily downer cows.

•One in a million cows develop BSE naturally. With 100 million cows in the U.S., approximately 100 cows could be infectious carriers at any given time.

•Leading researchers from the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control’s National Prion Disease Pathology Surveillance Center, the Consumer Policy Institute of the Consumer’s Union, and a Nobel Prize winner who discovered prions all contend that mad cow exists in the U.S.

THE DANGERS:
•Meat: The USDA has banned feeding cows to cows. But concentrated in brains and spinal tissue, TSE can not easily be kept out of the human food supply because of modern slaughter practices. AMR (advanced meat recovery) machines, widely used in modern slaughterhouses, mechanically strip flesh from spines, often leaving spinal cord fragments and nervous system tissue in the meat. AMR meat paste (which looks like pink ice cream) is used to make hundreds of millions of pounds of hot dogs, nuggets, hamburgers, pizza toppings, and taco fillings.

•Blood donations, transfusions, etc: CJD can take decades to incubate. Meanwhile, infected blood donors, whose donations are fractioned and sent around the globe (in one particular case to 46 different countries), could be responsible for spreading CJD to thousands of people around the world.  Because the USDA denies mad cow’s domestic existence, entities like the American Red Cross don’t test their blood collections for CJD.

•Vaccines: Vaccines use and are grown in human/animal embryonic fluids, for example fetal cow serum, which cannot be guaranteed free from abnormal prions. These vaccines include polio, diptheria, tetanus, flu shots, and hepatitis.

•Drugs: Many drugs contain bovine by-products including growth hormones, adrenaline products, cortisone, insulin, ulcer medication, and common blood coagulants used in surgery.

•Supplements: A currently popular supplement (especially in Eastern medicine and popping up in the non-vegan raw food world) is Deer Antler, which may be high risk for CWD as velvet is collected from growing antlers that contain nerve tissue and blood.

Even if the USDA does officially “discover” that BSE exists in the U.S., they would most likely try and avoid an industry collapse by suppressing the information. The revolving door between the government, the USDA, the FDA, and animal agricultural lobbyists is always in full effect. They don’t like to let each other down.  If you still think the USDA is like a good parent watching out for us, you’re getting punked. Your best bet? Stop eating animals, use 100% vegan supplements only, and get help to wean yourself from unnecessary medications. We don’t even think it’s a crazy idea to bank your own blood in case of emergency.

But I only eat grassfed bison…

September 12, 2011

Years of study has led us to the following rule: Whether it’s a feather hair extension or grass-fed bison you’re buying, whenever and wherever animals are exchanged for money, you can bet it’s dirty business.

Switching from factory-farmed meat to grass-fed bison, for example, doesn’t eliminate environmental degradation, water and energy waste, water-deprived truck rides to the butcher, slaughter, or lowlife politics. Switching meats often just changes the set of problems. For example:

•Many bison ranches are adjacent to natural parks where wild bison and wild elk roam. When wild animals carrying brucellosis (an infectious bacteria transmittable to humans and other animals) cross park boundaries during their winter migratory routes, they can infect ranched herds—the common consequences being that the rancher must kill his entire stable. So in the interest of cattle farmers, the state of Montana, under, for example, the Interagency Bison Management Plan, drives back its wild bison herds using helicopters, hazing, slaughter, and penning. In 2004 at Yellowstone National Park, 264 wild bison were rounded up and slaughtered in order to protect 180 cows grazing on land nearby. Another 198 were rather corralled until the following season, but for lack of space in the pen, 57 were killed without even testing for brucellosis. In 2008, 1,616 bison were driven from park borders and slaughtered.

•North America used to be home to 50 million bison.  Now, the last free-roaming, genetically pure herd—descendents of 23 wild bison that survived mass slaughter— exist in Yellowstone National Park, numbering 3,000. Wildlife advocates have been working to restore Yellowstone’s bison populations for relocation onto protected areas nationwide, but ranch lobbyists around the country stand in the way. Because of ranchers’ fear of brucellosis spreading to their cattle, wild bison may never be allowed to repopulate public land again, especially because the competition against livestock owners for cheap grazing land is fierce.

•Even if your grass-fed bison is “organic”  today, it still may have been genetically modified and bred in the past. Being that the only pure herd exists in Montana, the many ranched bison across America are not as natural as a consumer might hope, but rather mixed with cattle genes.

So think about it: Are organic grassfed bison farmers the people you want to be giving your money to? What side of  politics do you want to be on?


Sources: LA Times1, LA Times2, and Save the Buffalo Campaign.
Photos from: Photos from http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org


WHY VEGAN?

August 22, 2011

1. ANIMALS:
Whether animals are “free-range” organic or raised on a factory farm, there’s no such thing as humane slaughter. Even most small, local farms must “process” their animals at USDA slaughterhouses in the end.  Check this short overview of standard practices in the pork, poultry, dairy, beef, and seafood industries. If you eat meat and dairy, you’ve had this in your belly:


2. FOOD & HEALTH:
We know that on a plant-based diet, Diabetes is being reversed (1) and people are living healthfully into their 100s (2); we know that an average MD gets less than 20 hours of nutritional training (3, 4), that Big Pharma literally has hires cheerleaders to rep their meds (5) and provides their loyal doctors with trips to Hawaii (6, 7); we know that the masses fighting for  healthcare plans—eating the way they do, will continue to be sick unless they aim for health instead. We’re over getting played. We now have access to the most innovative information and the best foods and natural medicines on Earth…and it turns out, the keys to health and longevity are simple.

3. POLITICS:
What we eat is linked to every major political issue there is: world hunger, environment and climate change, energy, water waste, civil and labor rights, healthcare, oppression, wildlife and endangered species, and more. By going vegan, you push and pull your support of these issues more directly and more often than you can at the voting booth. Put your money where you mouth is and use the most powerful political tool we have to influence change.

4. ENVIRONMENT:
The U.N. reported in 2006 that animal agriculture causes more pollution than all forms of transportation combined. Both eating and wearing animals is dirty business, directly contributing to global land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water waste and contamination, and loss of biodiversity. This is not the trail we wish to leave behind.

5. CONSCIOUSNESS:
If we hear one more animal-eating yogi utter “Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu” (May all beings everywhere be happy and free); if we are solicited by one more Greenpeace street-volunteer who still eats fish; if we’re invited to one more hot-dog barbeque in celebration of Juneteenth…you get the picture.



%d bloggers like this: