Archive for ‘animal rights’

November 1, 2012

Questions for the Dead.

Last night the dead were closer to us living humans, or so many believe. In the old Pagan traditions November 1st was marked as Samhain, the Day of the Dead, which brought the American tradition of Halloween. Wearing scary customs and watching gore movies only came as a result of the old religions. Just like the Christmas tree and the Yule Log, Easter Eggs and many more.

Last night I had to think of the dead I knew, or know. Some are nicer to remember than others. Some are best left dead.

My fondest memories are of my grandmother, who was clever as an old sage and mischievous as a little child. I wished so much that she would sit with me, let me ask her questions I never got to ask, personal questions, private ones, maybe about the lover she left back in the village, when was it, 1939? 1940? He wasn’t there when she returned and found no one. All were murdered. I want her to tell me. The mother and sisters who refused to leave and were murdered in the forest, was she mad with them for being so stubborn? Would she be mad with me now that I live in Germany? That I have a German man? A German Shepard…? That would make her smile, which would be nice. How was it to run to Israel, to live in Jaffa, to climb 4 floors each day till she was in her 90’s? What happened when she escaped to Russia, starving, how did it feel like to starve? What did she have to do to find food, to get food?

But most of all, as with the dead I knew, or the living that I meet, I’d like to talk to them about what’s closest to my heart – non-human animal rights.

My grandmother loved dogs and cats, those she would encounter in her everyday life were lucky to have met her. She’d always sneak little pieces of chicken to my little dackel, who would sit next to her during meals, knowing it’s the best seat in the house. My grandmother also kept a live carp in the bath until she killed it for supper. I don’t think she loved him. Once the carp escaped while my mother was little and home alone, the miserable animal jumped across the small Jaffa apartment until someone hit him or her on the head. If my grandmother would sit with me now, I’d ask her if she, like Isaac Bashevis Singer, also thinks that: “In relation to [animals], all people are Nazis; for the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka”?

Her daughter and my vegan mother already told me that the best thing would really be to have day trips to slaughterhouses and dairy/eggs farms, “Like daily trips for fruit picking”, she wrote me. And why not have people go and pick up their own meat, eggs and milk products? Hear the cow as she cries for her baby, taken from her right after birth; see the chickens in their crammed caged, beakless, with their tiny legs and heavy bodies, collapsing from exhaustion, heat, starvation. They have no strength to hold their own weight, for they are raised to be bigger than ever was natural (whatever that is), or weak from exerting so many eggs, which takes all their calcium from their bones and power from their bodies and hearts. I wonder how many people would be able to “pick” eggs or get milk from mutated utters, milk that belongs to baby cows. Those who would be able to might be murderers and thieves, but at least they are honest.

War changes you; I bet I would eat puppies or human babies if I had to. Most of us would. The rest would die. The rest might just lie about it. But we are not at war; we are not in a constant state of survival. We are indulging on bodies of others, weaker than we are, just for the fun of it. Just as if I would kick someone, break someone’s scull in cause it’s fun or cause I believe maybe it’s good for my muscles or for the heart.

I have a strong feeling that my grandmother would not have disappointed me, if she was alive now, or if the dead are closer and we could have a talk. I think she would agree that the biggest Holocaust of all times is still happening, only this time there are no “bad people”, no Nazis to fight, there are only us, humans, contributing to the cruelest, sickest industry ever, an industry that should have long been dead.

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May 21, 2012

Even Nazis have mamas.

Ich bin kein Nazi, Riko kept repeating. I am not a Nazi. But his tattoos showed otherwise and above all, when he asked me, a dog-park conversation, where I’m from and I said, Tel Aviv and he didn’t know anything about Tel Aviv, so I said Israel and then he hugged me and said – ein mensch ist ein mensch – a man is a man, a sure thing for showing you’re racist. and I laughed out loud and said – obwohl ich Juden bin, ah? – even though I’m Jewish, and he said no, no I am not a Nazi.

It’s been a long time since the German railway reminded me of Concentration Camps and water was preferably served without gas. The train is now more of a romantic adventure, picturing myself traveling with a weekend suitcase and a round hat case, being served Alpen mineral water. I’ve been back in Israel for four long years, experiencing the Middle Eastern jungle. Adding to that some history studies made me look at the world in a different, less naive way, eventually leaving me no other choice by to cancel the newspaper subscription, piling up on my table, not wanting to read more news, more realities of rape, murder, corruption and general unfairness. And above all – blindness to the pain of other animals, non-human animals.  I realized more than ever that people are just monsters, no matter where they are or where they come from. It is my proof to Nilse and to myself that I am not a racist – for me all people deserve the same amount of contempt and dislike. Sure, some might be more inclined towards violence, or killing, some may be more corrupt, but at the end of the day, people are selfish, cruel animals, not deserving protection, not deserving fighting for.

On his arm, just where my grandma had been marked with a number, Riko has a Swastika. Old and sun-faded, but it’s there. And I asked what does it mean for him and Riko said Adolf Hitler and saluted to the dead Führer. And I said na ja, well I don’t like it. And he said, yeah I know, I was 14, it was against the DDR, these were hard times, you know. And I said, trozdem and asked what it means for him. He said, it means I am German. I asked, against others and he said no, not against others, people say ich bin ein Nazi Schwein, I am a Nazi pig, but I’m not. And I said Adolf Hitler murdered my family and he said yeah, Adolf Hitler was dumb, that’s why. Just dumb. And I laughed and felt sorry for that man, drunk already so early in the evening, so used up. Speaks not a word of English for the Russians toughed them all Russian. And Riko went down on his knees and took my hands in his and he had long, skinny fingers and repeated, ich bin kein Nazi. I will remove the tattoo. Versprochen. Promise. Then his phone rang and he answered hallo mama and told me she’s sick. He sounded worried and caring and I thought, even Nazis have mamas.

And he said his family were all in the SS and I thought, my family was murdered by the SS. And he said his Father sent Juden to Russia, to Stalingrad and I said it wasn’t to Russia it was to death. And he said the soldiers didn’t know, don’t blame the soldiers, the soldiers are not responsible, they did what they were told and I thought, what a cliché, and I said soldiers took my family to the forest and shot them. He said nothing.

He said no one knew what was happening. I said everyone knew and had to think of different kinds of trains and trucks, today, at this very moment, carrying different kinds of animals, to death and people, they say, we didn’t know, it’s not like that. But everyone knows. It’s easier to not believe.

And I went home to my German Nilse and locked the door, a double lock, and felt nauseated, weak. Felt afraid. As if these monsters I saw in films or read about in books, became three dimensional. Alive. That damn Swastika has so much power. Is it the movies or my family’s history that give me fear? Does the Swastika have extra strength because humans gave it more power through art and stories? So many times I have heard Israelis send each other to be burnt or gassed, sent me, a damn lefty Askenazi, Hitler should have finished the job. Is it less frightening because Israelis wouldn’t actually get up and do it, because they are not so motivated, don’t have the organizational skills that Nazis had? Just too lazy, perhaps. That’s our luck, my Mother always says about the Arabs who surround Israel and don’t necessarily like this Jewish state. That’s our luck, that they are not so.. well, efficient. I’ve seen many neo Nazis in Berlin, while living there years ago, but never really conversed with one. Not knowingly, that is. Riko asked me to marry him five or six times during that talk and said that in Merseurg you don’t meet such people like me, so eine schoene Frau, and that made me think that with all our complexities, we are such simple beings. And remember what my sister always says – that a dick is still a dick. Racist, Nazi, Xenophobic – a hard-on is still a hard-on.

August 27, 2009

– Of what’s wrong with the new ‘Anonymous’ campaign as an example of how welfarism damages animals.-

It was 2002 in Seattle, and a very good friend gave me the first “free range” eggs I ever had in my fridge. They were from her family’s very small farm, where they kept many dogs, cats, a donkey and some chickens. The chickens were not separated by male/female and the eggs had to be pre-checked (by holding them up to the light), making sure that they were not fertilized. Being vegan for a while then, I remember how disgusted I was by the idea of eating eggs again. Sadly, I couldn’t give my friend an explanation as to why it is morally wrong to eat these eggs, without seeming like an “extremist”.

Understanding the meaning of animal rights is important not only for those who still choose to use animals for their culinary pleasures, but also for those who do not. Because realizing the facts about veganism helps in staying calm when facing annoying Q&A sessions during family dinner and to be able to educate others.

When people talk about veganism they pretty much always have a set of questions and anecdotes and as more guilty they feel, the more their words become desperate and surreal. Many are certain that they are quite original, but the truth is, that 99% of the anti-vegan things said is a never ending circle of the same recycled ideas. But once the main reason for veganism is clear, then it really doesn’t matter what people may say, because the facts remain facts, clearer than any excuses given: we have no right to use animals and there is no justification for supporting an industry based on exploitation of the weak.

It is most unfortunate that “happy meat” (“free range”and/or “organic” ) industries, stores like “whole foods”, the “conscious chefs” in fancy magazines and above all the welfarist movements (and with that I must sadly include PETA), were kind enough to provide people with more excuses to eating animals and their “products”. So many excuses in fact, that many have actually went back to eating animals, claiming that animals “don’t suffer” anymore.

A few years ago, as the “free range” industry was getting popular, I realized the dangers of it, but only now is the catastrophe becoming clear. As the industry blooms, more and more people get the chance to use animals without feeling guilty.

‘Anonymous’, an Israeli welfarist organization (which was the first real animal rights group in Israel but has changed much and became welfarist), has began  a new campaign against battery cages.

‘Now is the time to advance the industry and implement international standards!’ the new campaign’s site exclaims. “International standards”? since when are animal rights groups interested in “international standards”? And what do “international standards” even mean?

Chickens In Battery Cages

There are a couple of serious problems with the “free range” industry:

A. People are deluded into thinking that “free range” means better lives for animals and so statistically, this industry has made more people consume animals and their products. Many are going back from being vegan to milk drinkers or animal eaters. More eggs are sold in stores that offer “free range” than were before.

And what is wrong with “free range”? Here are 3 main points:

1. Male chicks are killed immediately after hatching. Check in garbage bins behind any hatchery in Israel, and you’ll find baby chicks suffocating to death. In Europe they are gassed.

2. Chickens used to produce eggs, including eggs labeled “cage-free,” have their beaks cut, in order minimize the damage they cause each other when crowded together.

3. At all farms, large-scale and small-scale, laying hens are killed when their production declines, typically within two years, as feeding these worn-out individuals cuts directly into profits. Often the bodies of “spent” hens are so ravaged that no one will buy them, and they are ground into fertilizer or just sent to a landfill.*

B. But more importantly than what goes on in factories, is that the basic rights of animals are ignored and they are, again, nothing but products. We decide to exploit them, but to do it “more nicely”. We still give our money to a terrible industry, based on suffering and murder.

So how can a group like ‘Anonymous’ start a campaign encouraging people into buying this stuff? Simple: money. By creating more “friendly” campaigns, they are able to address more people. They don’t seem so “extreme” in the crowd’s judgmental eyes, and therefore are able to raise more cash. Maybe the thought behind this campaign is to get money so they can work on other campaigns, or maybe they’ve grown tired of a society that won’t listen. But the truth is, that Anonymous is damaging animals by promoting “free range” eggs. Damaging animals by further establishing their place in this world as products and by helping to create the illusion of buying these “products” guilt free, and so increasing demand. If we increase demand even more, there won’t be an option for happy meat etc., because the cost will have to increase to a point that people will stop buying. They will stop buying not because of a true understanding of some animal rights theory, but because it will be too expensive for them to buy. The industry will then make changes and again we will have battery cages, or an option worse than I can conjure up at the moment. This is not a theory based on my negative imagination, unfortunately. It is based on the history of factory farming and the understanding that people will always want something, a lot of it and for cheap. That is why we go back to the beginning: understanding the meaning of animal rights and not contributing money to an industry based on lies.

A wonderful woman in Anonymous once told me that the organization’s name is about giving a voice to those who cannot speak out for themselves, those who are indeed, ‘anonymous‘. If these animals were given a voice, they for sure would not promote killing their families, exploiting them and killing them off when they are no longer productive.

I wish that they would consider that when they start their next campaign.

* Information taking from the Humane Myth site.

July 16, 2009

– Of Blindness and Hypocrisy.

Our minds are over saturated with “global warming” warnings and promises. Many websites offer “green tips” in an attempt to help save “our” miserable planet. These user friendly tips are usually the kind you can and should do in your everyday life, such as switching off the light when not in use, etc. Not many sites, however, tell people to stop eating animals as the single, most efficient way to stop polluting. Greenpeace are a superb example of hypocrisy, not caring to mention “don’t eat animals” in their “what to do” section. When a search is placed for “meat“, it’s all pretty much about whales. Interestingly enough, the word “beef” brings out quite a few articles on the subject.

One article, talks about the damages of farming, in general, as the main polluter, omitting the fact that most grains produced are used to feed animals, so people can then eat these animals:

“It is not only these direct effects that contribute to climate change. Cutting down forests and other natural cover to make way for agricultural land for grazing, growing animal feed and other crops, removes vital carbon sinks so increasing global warming.”

The article states that “(…)The second biggest direct emitter is animals. Cattle and sheep in particular, produce large amounts of the potent greenhouse gas methane when digesting; levels are increasing as a result of the growing demand for meat.”

Cattle“?

Cattle:

1: domesticated quadrupeds held as property or raised for use.

The word “beef” in used to describe cows as a product, as the apple dictionary defines it:

beef |bēf|
noun
1 the flesh of a cow, bull, or ox, used as food.
beef 1
• ( pl. beeves |bēvz|) Farming a cow, bull, or ox fattened for its meat.

Dictionary.com has really outdone the apple one:

1: the flesh of an adult domestic bovine (as a steer or cow) used as food2 a: an ox, cow, or bull in a full-grown or nearly full-grown state ; especially : a steer or cow fattened for food <quality Texas beeves> <a herd of good beef>

“Cattle” = “beef” –> cows –> animals. Aren’t animals a part of the planet that the fellows in Greenpeace work so hard to protect? I would be the first to say that cows should not exist at all. But they are here, and they are here because of us.

I have seen this sort of phrasing around the media, implying that, seriously, it’s the animals’ fault, and using the words “beef” and “cattle”, allows people to forget that these are live beings who, by their nature, omit methane. Under the “what can be done” section, it is written that:

“By reducing the use of fertilisers*, protecting soil and biodiversity, improving rice production and cutting demand for meat, especially in developed countries, the devastating effects of agriculture on the climate can be reversed. (…) Reduction of methane produced by rice, one of the world’s staple foods, is vital. It can be achieved by using less water and fertiliser* without sacrificing yield. And slash demand for meat.”

* The spelling here is from the original, Greenpeace article.

The sentence “By cutting demand for meat” does not imply, in any way, that the good readers of Greenpeace should now, right now, stop consuming animals. This article does not call people to reduce, or to stop eating animals. All is written in a very careful, indirect way. ‘We’re only mentioning this, not suggesting. Yeah, a “slash demand for meat” would do some good, too. FYI’.

A search for the word “cow” on the Greenpeace site, shows much anger over GE soy beans that are grown “as animal feed” and are “sneaking in” to the “regular crops”. Treating the syndrome, instead of the problem, as usual. The first search results, btw, are about “sea cows”.

Vegan sites offer much information on the relation between raising animals for food and global warming. So there was a general feeling in my mind that most people are aware of these facts and are just too stubborn in their habits to discontinue this madness, but a facebook message I got a couple of days ago reminded me that it is not so. The person wrote that he has “taken a look” at my blog and that his own personal site might interest me. The site, in Hebrew, is filled with ‘green goodies‘, suggesting canvas bags, instead of these evil plastic ones, creating art from old materials etc. etc. you get the idea. Don’t get me wrong – cleaning with vinegar is one of my favorites, but even if I’d commit myself to each and every tip on their website, it wouldn’t even begin to have the affect that simply not eating meat would. And you know what? forgetting my “organic market” basket at home and carrying everything in my overflowing bag is much more annoying than just not eating animals. Not eating meat is easy and passive. Recycling is much harder.

Another point that got on my nerves was the following sentence (translated here from Hebrew): “Every housewife will tell you…” hmmm, how 50’s.

I wrote back, suggesting he would take a better look at my articles, that his site is missing the most important information and I even sent him a few links. I haven’t heard back from him yet.

The employees of Greenpeace, who stand in the street asking for signatures or money or who knows what, are appalled when I ask them if they are vegetarian. They don’t make the connection.

It makes me wonder why must these facts stay so confidential.”With the world on the brink of runaway climate change,” they write, “millions are anxious about the effects that a warmer globe will have on our everyday lives.”

Here are the ‘Take Action’ ideas posted on the Greenpeace site:
+Become a Cyberactivist

+ Be Part of the Solar Generation

+ Volunteer in your country

+ Save energy and save the climate

+ Donate to Greenpeace

If someone would be kind enough as to send me a link to a section in the Greenpeace site, offering real information about how we can help save our planet, I’d be most delighted to post it here. I just don’t think it needs to be so hard to find.


animals, not food.

animals, not food.

 

March 15, 2009

– Of how disconnected people are from the reality of the meat industry –

This weekend, an article in the ‘Globes’, an Israeli economical newspaper, gave an account of the veterinarian authority’s state under the subject of “public health”.
The article describes the usual illegal actions of the meat industry, not from an animal view, obviously, but from a financial one.
One of the points were about  “importers” (great word for describing a transfer of live creature) who brought over calves, which were younger than the Australian “humane act” allows, so they won’t be needing vaccinations. The math is simple:
70 US$ a “head” x 9,000 “heads” per boat x 8 boats per year x 3 years = 15 million US dollars “saved” by the importers for not vaccinating the calves. At 70$ a “head”, the profit margin is immense. Though many of the calves die on board, never getting the chance to arrive in the holy land and get slaughtered in the cruel kosher way, the money attraction is a great one. The article makes a case from how some of the shipments of calves (the word used was, naturally, “veal”, but on the euphemism of the meat industry there is much more to write about) get stopped at the border, causing the farmers a loss of money, but never taking into account the animals on board, waiting in conditions which disgraces even the hypocritical “humane act”.
This article is not much different from many others written in Israeli newspapers, which fall under scary red titles of “fraud investigations” etc. demanding the reader’s attention. Only in this case, the numbers are actual live beings, who feel pain and fear, just like we do.

While only two weeks ago people were outraged to find that an Israeli fashion chain was selling fake fur, which turned out to be dog fur, not many people would read this article and be moved by the fact that calves are brought over all the way from Australia, in conditions more terrible than could be imagined, only to lie down next to some overly cooked greens and mashed potatoes.
Again the question arises, why people would be so shaken, deciding to boycott a chain selling dog fur, but then head on out to the nearest Murder King? Small images of cows, pigs and horses, standing docile, with titles of diseases written all over. During the disaster of the bird flu, a while back, certain “actions” were taken to overcome the problem. Meaning that many animals were gassed, chocked, mass murdered. We produce them, for our pleasure, we keep them confined in tiny spaces, preventing them their most basic rights. These methods we use today were “developed” back in the 50’s, when farmers wanted to produce more for less. They didn’t take into account that these were live animals, not products made out of plastic, and once forced to survive under certain conditions, will become sick and later on a danger. Though the irony here might be sweet, the ones getting fucked over are, again, the animals. How many people heard the radio  reports about chickens being gassed by the millions and felt sorry for them? I bet that most people were just happy to get rid of the “problem”,  so they can safely feast on dead animals and their “products”. We are the problem, we are the reason for this never ending holocaust. We, who choose not to give up our nuggets and omlets and sushi and spare ribs. We who take money from our little pockets and keep this mad industry running. If it wasn’t for our flesh greediness, none of this would have happened in the first place.


December 29, 2008

-Of what is considered a “waste of time” when it comes to animal rights-

a little baby lamb on a farm sanctuary.How much of an animal rights organization’s budget should go on saving dogs and cats during a crisis when this money could have been spent on education, teaching children and adults how to treat animals in the first place. The catch, in my opinion, is that sometimes, help must come immediately. For example: the attacks on the south of Israel from Gaza has made many leave their homes and forsake their animals, just like in the north during the summer 2006 war and during the ‘disengagement’. These cats and dogs are often left to starve or die of thirst. Some are strays who feed on leftovers and when the shops, factories and houses are deserted, no food is left for them to feed on. Should we then come in and feed these animals? And what of the ones who are here in Tel Aviv or in the other parts of the country who are in dire need of help? And if we consider the numbers, should we spend thousands on saving hundreds or should we spend the same amount on saving millions in the food industry, by explaining to people how animals are treated in the industrial farms?

How can we find better use for the money which is donated to animal organizations?

The problem is, that many organizations receive donations because they save dogs and cats, and not because they save chickens. In this way, organizations that wish to deal with the fundamental problem of how people perceive animals, must take on other projects in order to get money in. And as they grow, they forget their initial plan, or choose to concentrate on other matters, knowing that most people prefer Fredi-A, the puppy than Fredi-B, the lamb who was just taken from his mother, to be slaughtered. Since most people can be good to some animals, as long as it doesn’t interfere ideologically with what’s on their plate. With one hand they will sign a check for Fredi-A, while with the other they will eat their goat cheese pizza (‘organic pizza made with milk from free ranged goats’), with milk taken from Fredi-B’s mother, who got impregnated only in order to lactate for people.

And that is the fundamental problem we should work on  – People who choose not to think of how a dog and a pig have the same awareness, and feel fear and pain and love. That in order to produce food (“but I can’t go vegan, I just loooooove cheese!”) we deprive them of their most basic rights.

December 22, 2008

– Of Changing Our Views or Changing Our Friends –

“If you have a racist friend, now is the time for your friendship to end. Change your views or change your friends…,,

Tocotronic.

Many people would agree with this song, but only a few would say the same thing about meat eating friends.

Obviously I wouldn’t share a table with a person who tells me that “Jews control the American economy”, then why be friends with someone who believes that factory farms are a necessity? That drinking milk from a cow, who’s children were taken from her to be slaughtered is something we, in this world, must have because this person “really loves cheese”?

We meet new people all the time and choose who to befriend. We should influence our friends and our family. We should have vegan holiday meals and show how easy and fun it is being a vegan, not some sacrifice we must make, cause it really isn’t.

Many new vegans come to the point in which they have to deal with their old meat eating friends and think twice before they make new ones. Should we depart from our old meat eating friends since our views have changed? Or should we have faith that they too, will change? Because it’s not really about whether or not seeing meat on the table bothers us or not, it’s about knowing that this person, which you call your friend, has speciesist views.

So just how tolerant should we be when it comes to speciesism? Sadly enough, I just don’t know.

December 21, 2008

– Of how horses and donkeys in the city fall through the cracks –

Working for an animal rights organization in Tel Aviv, I organized an event for horses and donkeys, to try and ban a primitive practice of using them to pull carts to transport Altesachen. in Yiddish, ‘Altesachen’ means ‘Old Stuff’, and though most don’t know what this word means, for Yiddish is not usually heard on Tel-Avivian streets, it is to this day yelled by the owner of these miserable creatures, calling people to give him their ‘old stuff’.

For some people (too many), the use of horses in the city for cart pulling is something nostalgic and romantic. While for the “hard core” animal rights activists the subject is almost meaningless when is compared to the suffering of billions which are used in the food industry. People do not identify with donkeys and horses like they do with dogs and the subject is not a media attractor like fur is. People regard it as a luxury for us to deal with this, like a German woman visiting Israel, who asked if Israelis have “nothing better to do than to worry about a couple of horses and donkeys in the city” or as one of the club owners who hosted us for the event noted, he’s having a “real hard time with it”, since it’s “just not sexy”. And that is how sometimes, these animals fall through the cracks.

It is important to understand that in suffering we are all equal, that animals suffer just as we suffer (even though it’s hard to understand why people insist on having to identify with another living being only to relate to his or her suffering), that we all share the same basic rights.

It is true, that in numbers, the horses’ situation in Tel Aviv is a small, insignificant percentage, in comparison to the number of people who starve around the world or animals used in laboratories, but still – we each have to work to reduce the pain and the suffering around us. No matter how small the numbers may be, the pain is the same, and we all must fight to stop it. Whether it’s by calling the municipality or writing letters about a horse we see on our street, or if it’s in the choices we make when we buy groceries. Every single time we choose, we can make a difference.

To find out about the struggle to stop skinning animals for their fur, go here.

Written on the day before the longest Night of the year, 2008.

April 24, 2008

– Of Tuna-Free-Dolphins –

Looking through the paper this morning I came across a recommended dish at a Tel Aviv restaurant featuring veal. The header was “a healthy meal”. To produce this “healthy meal” a calf had to spend his short life in a small cage, in the darkness, without having enough space to even turn around so his precious meat will remain soft and white. Maybe I’ll start putting out ads for fake restaurants offering dishes with main ingredients such as baby seal’s cheeks, tuna-free-dolphins and roasted dog paws. In some countries these “dishes” wouldn’t cause much excitement. However in the western world, where the norm reigns, they can and probably will create quite a stir.

April 17, 2008

– Of why we destroy X to produce Y –

My sister, who loves animals but eats them on a daily basis, has been wanting to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary. Without giving it much thought I have agreed to take part on this pilgrimage, mainly because it didn’t occur to me that she would actually follow through with this idea and be prepared to travel 30 hours by plane only to get up at 6am to feed animals. But when my beloved sister started sending me links to different websites, explaining about the everyday duties we will have at the sanctuaries, I realized that this adventure was close at hand and had to really invest some thought into it. While volunteering I would be feeding orphaned predators with cow flesh. Cows that have been raised on what were once lush jungles. It’s a known fact that the amazons are being ‘cleared off’ (another term that is used in our modern day euphemistic language: ” cleared off” instead of “cut off” or simply “destroyed“) to make space so cows can be raised for their meat, or that soy can be grown to feed ‘cattle’.

So let us consider the twisted facts for a moment: First we “clear off” land in order to raise animals for food, and by that, destroying the lives of it’s inhabitants. Then we build sanctuaries so we may protect those who were there first. Then we feed them with the same animals, which we produce, raise and kill in the place where these wild animals used to live and care for themselves. So basically:

We kill X to produce Y so we can kill Y and feed it to X.

It has already been written that many endangered species organizations have caused considerable damage to farm animals. Teaching people to care for wildlife has caused an immense gap between jungle cats and house cats, between wild boars and genetically engineered pigs. Over the last decades, we were taught that some animals, which were hunted for their exotic furs, tusks or skins are to be protected. The WWF, for instance, has educated us that some animal populations are diminishing and should be protected from the modern world, where hunting is done not with a bow or a sphere but with guns. There are many sanctuaries specializing in caring for wild animals and only some (depending on the country, of course) to protect those whom we do not only murder by the billions each year but manufacture them to become our products.

So why do we feel compassion for one and appetite for another?

One theory I managed to conjure up is simply historical: Over the years, since people have gathered berries and roots they also hunted animals. Since then they also “learned” to raise and produce animals so they will supply them of all their needs: milk, eggs, leather, fur, wool and meat. Some wild animals were in real danger of getting extinct (while others went ahead and became extinct), and people realized, eventually, that they simply must protect what is left of these species. And so, wildlife organizations sprouted, and people donated money to them and in return received personalized name and address stickers. Unfortunately, while killing white rhinos (couldn’t say that anymore for the South African elephants!) is not only illegal but considered “bad” by most, killing cows is a worldly routine.

Abandoning the Bolivian sanctuary craze I have decided to contribute my time at a place which is idealistically pure: a vegan farm sanctuary. A place where animals are given a chance to live out their lives in peace. Animals who were found dying on the way to the slaughterhouse, on the side of the road, or simply not “fit for sale” at auctions. The people at the sanctuary do not eat or use these animals in any way. Heaven. I will be volunteering at the British ‘Friend’ during the month of June.

Animal Rights organizations are relentlessly trying to show just how “cute” or “clever” farm animals are, how much they resemble “house pets”. Maybe the reason for this effort is to produce compassion. Meanwhile, wildlife organizations prefer to show us how beautiful wild animals are, how exotic and basically: sexy. With wildlife it’s not really about compassion. It’s more about respect.

Maybe, what farm animals need is respect. Respect for being live creatures who share this amazing planet with us and would rather not be born and raised only to become one’s lunch. Without the need to be “sweet” or “lovable”, but simply because they are creatures who feel pain, fear and love.

Being vegan is not about what one has to “give up”, nor is it about our own pleasures or the compassion we possess. It is about the most basic idea that no one is ours to use in any way.

My sister decided not to join me at the sanctuary, for in her own words: caring for horses and pigs is not so attractive as caring for tigers and monkeys. Many people think in this way. My cousin who journeyed with me a couple of years ago to the Gaza Strip, in order to save dogs and cats who were left by the settlers, enjoys burgers at McDonalds at any given chance. Mostly she likes the ‘Happy Meal’, which is far from being happy. Yes, it is great that she came to help, but it is complete hypocrisy to adore kittens and murder lambs. To send a check out to save lions and go out for a steak dinner. These two things simply contradict one another. If you want to save wildlife, stop taking their space: stop consuming animals who are raised on their land. It’s really that simple.

April 5, 2008

– Of Shooting Heroin and Eating Animals –

People have no right to use animals: no right to take those who are not physically or mentally capable of defending themselves and turn them into products. No right to abuse, exploit, artificially impregnate, genetically modify, chop off body parts, skin alive, starve, force feed, experiment on, use for entertainment, pump-up with antibiotics and hormones; separate entire families, imprison, put in solitary confinement, refuse basic rights for food, water, sunlight, community lives, and of living a full life. All these things that we take for granted.

Some people claim that animals are “ours to use”, being less intelligent than we are. But the question is not whether animals are intelligent. For if so, all the above cruelty can also be inflicted on babies or children, adults with autism and just any men and women who are considered ‘weak’ by society.

The right question to ask is whether they can feel pain, love, fear, gratitude or loneliness. Whether they have awareness.

Animals know when Death is coming. They know when It has arrived for those around them, and that their time will soon come.

People try to get what they can. But the fact that we can doesn’t mean that we should. From a young age we were taught to differentiate between “wrong” (murder, rape, war, slavery) from “right” (love, peace, friendship). We learned to maintain two separate “boxes”: The “right” one, and the “wrong” one. Throughout life we place things into these boxes: things that we hear on the news or read in the paper, what friends or family tell us, that which we see on the street or while traveling and what we experience at home. Most of us know very well what “wrong” is. Some of us choose to ignore it.

The lives of animals in factory farms are most definitely placed in the “wrong” box. There is nothing comforting about their agony-filled everyday life. Only death at the end. And so, choosing to ignore that eating animals and their products is wrong, taking money out your pocket and purchasing these dead animals is in fact, a wrong act.

Just in the same way that I will not shoot heroin, for instance, as much pleasure as it may give me, for it is a dangerous and an addictive drug but also morally wrong (by purchasing heroin I would be contributing to a violent industry, often run by terrorists), I will not eat or purchase animals and their products.

Most people would define themselves as being “good”. At best they are neutral (although if a person witnesses a crime and does nothing, is she/he still neutral?). If one walks this life with open eyes, if one is aware of the gruesome lives animals must endure, and still decides to not only do nothing, but to contribute to this industry, then the “good” can not remain “good”, it is the opposite.

April 5, 2008

– Humans are not Humane.

A  beautiful person I know encouraged me to write. When I asked what about, the answer was: ‘You know, humanity and things like that. You should just write.’ I sat down to write, and realized that the term “humanity” is too positive of a term. It brings out associations from the word “humane”. Sadly enough, there’s not much “humane” about humans.

A better word to describe this human race of ours is simply: “people”. And in any case, it’s not humanity that concerns me so, but what it does to others.

There are number of questions, which are constantly on my mind: Why do people distinguish between wild animals they observe and photograph to those they hunt? Why do people use their religious beliefs to reaffirm themselves that using animals (whether it’s for food, sacrifice or any other form of murder) is indeed the word of god? And the question of the day is: why do people differentiate between “pets” to farm animals?

I would like to believe that the love for domesticated animals, as well as compassion for the farmed ones go hand in hand. Maybe it’s a good start: first learning that cats and dogs can feel pain, fear and love, and then relating these ‘attributes’ to other animals. Because isn’t this what it’s all about: people learning to empathize with animals, come to realize that they can also feel the same feelings that people can, and by that show some compassion?

The past week I have spent in Tel Aviv, which is where I was born, partially raised in, escaped from, returned to, left again, and now longing to come back to. Tel-Avivians are very helpful when it comes to cats and dogs. It is also true that vegetarianism and veganism is much more common in Israel than many other western countries (are we a “western” country? there’s another debate), definitely more than Berlin, which is where these words are being written in. However, Israel had and still has an acute strays situation and although there are barely any stray dogs to be seen roaming around Tel Aviv, there are many stray cats, feeding from trash bins, kittens dying from eye infections and very sadly: abuse. Still, I honestly can’t think of a single person or a family that does not have a dog, a cat or both living in their apartment.

My aunt is a perfect example. Living on a ground floor in a very nice area of Jerusalem she has been feeding, caring for and giving shelter to an endless amount of cats over the years. She has also started an organization for helping stray cats in Jerusalem; their main cause is to spay and neuter strays so they don’t reproduce. But meat she eats eagerly and wants nothing to do with my veganism talks.

A short stop by an animal shelter, somewhere in the middle of Scotland’s highlands, demonstrated to me, again, just how bizarre people are: The workers get dispatched and save animals that were neglected, lost or abused. They bring them in, take care of them and hopefully find them a good adoptive family. Only one girl from the team doesn’t eat animals. Sure, the job that these people are doing is not less than angelic, but again I lose connection to reality when faced with the question of why do people make that vicious distinction between different species? How can someone save animals 8 hours a day and then go home and have a steak dinner? Sadly, I know, that the question is how can one save humans all day, like a doctor and then go home and have a steak dinner. Why save one life and take another? But on the differentiation between humans and animals I will write later on. What is so illogical is still that ultimate question of saving one animal and killing another.

<First published on March 24th 2008>

 

 

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