Celebrating 10 Vegan Years By Biking 600 Miles for Farmed Animals

People honor anniversaries in different ways.  Some throw parties, some go on trips, some buy flowers, some turn within and meditate, some drink copious amounts of liquor….and some ride their bikes 600 miles.

Herbivore Clothing Company owner Josh Hooten has decided to memorialize his 10 years of being vegan by biking from Portland, Oregon to the Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California. Josh is recording his training and trip on his blog, Bike Ride for Animals. He’s also hoping to raise $10,000 for Farm Sanctuary. Josh says:

“I’m going to ride my bike 600 miles to help rescued farm animals. The first week of May, 2009, I will leave Portland, Oregon for Tillamook, then ride South to Orland, California. My final destination is Farm Sanctuary, one of my favorite animal advocacy organizations.

I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the farm several times and I always leave inspired. Getting to meet the animals and the people who care for them is a very powerful experience. I’m raising money on this ride to help Farm Sanctuary provide that experience to others.”

If you’re interested in supporting Josh’s efforts, you can give a donation; you can also spread the word if you have a Facebook account by becoming a fan.

If you’re not familiar with Farm Sanctuary, they are an amazing non-profit organization that focuses on rescue, legislation, education and advocacy for farmed animals. They have  locations in Orland and in Watkins Glen, New York (I went there for the first time last summer and couldn’t get enough pig and cow snuggles.)

In addition to their website, they’ve recently debuted several blogs, including:

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of Josh’s Facebook page.


National Justice for Animals Week

I just discovered that this week is the first ever  National Justice for Animals Week, sponsored by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.   The goal of this annual campaign is to increase “public awareness nationwide about how to report animal abuse—and how to work within your community to create stronger laws and assure tough enforcement.”

The campaign has a different suggested daily action to help work toward justice for animals, as well as information and resources to help you take action in your own community and abroad. You can also sign the Animal Bill of Rights, which, while not nearly strong enough, includes language to help protect animals from the worst exploitation, neglect, abuse and cruelty.

I also joined their Facebook cause and am recruiting others who might not know about this issue.

Check it out, and join in if you are moved to help animals who cannot help themselves.

~ Marsha

Lucky Puppies, Monkeys, Mice and Others: Two Examples of Pro-Vivisection Propaganda Targeting Children

My boss, Zoe Weil, recently wrote two blog posts about examples of pro-vivisection propaganda targeted to kids. One example is new, the other old; both are abhorrent. The new example is her post about the The Lucky Puppy Coloring Workbook, which features two kids who learn about the wonders and importance of animal research when they take their sick dog (Lucky) to the vet. The vet explains how well the animals who are experimented on are treated. It’s a party for everyone involved! And, of course, at the end of the tale, one kid wants to be a vet, and the other a research scientist. (You can see another post about the Lucky Puppy from the Change.org Animal Rights Blog.)

Zoe’s other post focuses on an older piece of propaganda called “Let’s Visit a Research Lab.” This piece is an illustrated poster that shows what it’s like inside a “real” animal research facility. Zoe notes:

So what do little children learn from this free educational poster provided to their schools with our tax dollars? They learn:

  • That laboratories name their animal friends who enjoy their happy lab life, when in fact animals are numbered, called “subjects,” and are killed at the end of the experiments.
  • That “testing” is game playing, rather than being force fed drugs, cosmetics, household products and other chemicals.
  • That monkeys are spaciously housed together and provided with lots of toys and enrichment, when most are in small, isolated indoor cages, with little or nothing to play with.
  • That the only reason to “treat” an animal is because she or he has been hurt by other animals, rather than burned, shocked, cut open, or drugged by those who conduct research on them.

Obviously, I’m not a supporter of animal experimentation. But, unfortunately, the issue isn’t simple or clear-cut. What is clear, however, is that it’s important to be aware of propaganda like this and to make sure that such deceit and misinformation are kept out of the classroom (unless they’re being used for critical thinking activities to analyze propaganda). It’s also a great reminder that it’s essential that information promoting and supporting a humane world be completely truthful, accurate, credible, and designed to spark people to think for themselves…not to be brainwashed.

~ Marsha

The Quotosphere: Humanity’s Cycle of Violence Toward Animals (& Other Humans)

babypigsThere have been a lot of stories in the news lately about cruelty to animals, from the 10-year old matador in Spain who killed 6 young bulls in one weekend, to the U.S. government’s poisoning of starlings and other birds to help out a cattle and poultry farmer in New Jersey. There have been more, but I’m depressed and saddened enough at just these two.

Stephanie Ernst, the Animal Rights blogger for Change.org picked up on the starlings story and did a post. One of the commenters shared a thoughtful, insightful quote about the cycle of violence that humans perpetrate on animals (and on other humans). I thought it was a terrific quote, so I wanted to share it here:

“Isn’t man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife – birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes, and dingoes – by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative – and fatal – health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year sends out a card praying for ‘Peace on Earth.'”

~ from the preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm, by C. David Coats

~ Marsha

The Question is Not “Can They Reason?…” The Question is Why Are Will Still Exploiting Animals?

cowA new study shows that fish are smarter than scientists thought.  Wired did a story a few weeks ago on “clever critters” who use tools of various sorts.  Psychologist Irene Pepperberg has just released a new book, Alex & Me, detailing her 30 year relationship with and research on Alex, an African Grey Parrot, who showed (among other revelations) that birds can understand abstract concepts.  Several months ago Joshua Klein gave a talk at the TED.com conference about the amazing intelligence of crows.   And, in my job for the Institute for Humane Education, I just finished editing and formatting a student’s lesson plan for elementary students about the commonalities that humans, cows, pigs and chickens share, such as having friends, good memories and senses of direction, and the ability to play computers games or learn from watching TV (check out this video as an example of the latter two).

For centuries we have tried to differentiate ourselves from animals, labeling ourselves as smarter – and thus better – because of our use of tools, our ability to feel, our ability to recognize ourselves and to understand abstract concepts, our use of language, our awareness of death, and so on. Throughout the years, we’ve seen these theories upon which we’ve based our superiority shattered. Animals, too, share these same (or similar) qualities. Yet, we humans continue to wear blinders when it comes to our place in the world, because it’s a lot easier to look at yourself in the mirror each morning if your conscience isn’t struggling with the consequences of your actions. As Arthur Schopenhauer once said “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

Skeptics say that the behavior in animals which some scientists say reflects consciousness, intelligence, the ability to feel and think, actually results from “natural selection and learning.” How is that any different from our own way of existing? We learn by imitation, trial and error, and cultural passage, just as non-human animals do. We often revere people who exhibit unique or rare behaviors; yet, when animals show unique behavior, it is dismissed, because science demands repeatable examples. One could argue that most people behave and react very similarly. Is it then only those who possess genius who are truly conscious and intelligent? Are the rest of us existing through the shadows on Plato’s cave?

It really doesn’t matter, though, how smart animals are, or how conscious or how feeling. Because we know that the real relevant distinction is DNA. Objectively, there is no good reason to consider animals inferior. We do so because we choose to. As scholar Brian Luke once said, “Regarding other animals as subhuman is more a choice than a recognition of some objective fact.” We can talk about intelligence and emotions and suffering, but the bottom line is: Who can we get away with exploiting? We aren’t  supposed to exploit other humans anymore — although that hasn’t stopped us from continuing to do so — but we can get away with exploiting non-human animals. So we do. Novelist Brigid Brophy said,

“Whenever people say ‘We mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it that they are about to do something cruel. And if they add ‘We must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.”

We exploit animals—we cause them suffering and distress and agony and loneliness—because we choose to. Not because it benefits our soul, but because it benefits our pockets. Or simply, because we want to.

To me, the question of whether or not animals are conscious or intelligent or inferior is irrelevant. The relevant question is: What kind of person do I want to be? Do I want to cause suffering and destruction? Do I want to rain down hell on another being that I would do anything not to experience myself? Or, do I want to choose to be the highly evolved, highly conscious being that I claim to be? Do I want to strive to be the most human (and humane) that I can, which means showing compassion and respect and reverence and responsibility? Not just to my fellow humans—but to all beings, regardless of consciousness or intelligence. Regardless of DNA.

We claim to want a world of peace and love. And we can have the world we want—it’s all in the choices that we make every day. Every choice we make carries such power. Every choice we make helps shape the world. But we won’t have that world as long as we oppress and exploit other beings – including animals. Many of us don’t directly hurt animals, but the choices that we make and the systems that we support do. So we are still complicit. We are still responsible.

I invite you to make a choice today and every day. Make a choice to see beyond outward differences. Make a choice to see that all of us—humans and not—feel love and fear and a desire to live out our lives in peace. And make a choice to live your life in a way that will truly create a world of peace and love for all beings.

~ Marsha

Mark Your Calendar: Upcoming Portland Area MOGO-esque Events

Be sure to schedule these into your iPhone, Blackberry, calendar, piece of scratch paper, or whatever you use to keep track of can’t-miss events:

The most essential ones (in my opinion — but, of course, that’s ’cause I’m helping organize them) are Zoe Weil’s appearance at Powell’s on February 4, and the MOGO Workshop on Saturday, February 7. Here are some details:

Author and president of the Institute for Humane Education, Zoe Weil, is appearing at Powell’s – Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd. ) at 7:30 pm to talk about her new book, Most Good, Least Harm: A Simple Principle for a Better World and Meaningful LifeMost Good, Least Harm shows that choosing to do the most good and the least harm is personally enriching and helps to bring about a peaceful, sustainable, and humane world for all. If you care about social change issues at all (you know, like world peace, human rights, animal protection, environmental preservation — those kinds of things), be sure to attend.

Zoe is also leading an all-day MOGO (Most Good) Workshop on Saturday, February 7 here in Portland.  Creating a humane and sustainable world is not easy.  But when you live a life that deeply embodies your principles, not only do you help improve the world, you also cultivate your own inner peace and joy.  Tap into your deepest values and make choices that do the most good and least harm for all people, animals and the planet with this terrific workshop. The regular registration fee is $110; the registration fee for students is $75; but, what’s that when this workshop could change your life and change the world?! Find out more.

Here are some other upcoming events to be sure to attend:

Internet Activism with Glenn Gaetz
Sunday, January 25, from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm, at PSU (Smith Memorial Union, Room 238 )
This workshop, sponsored by the Let Live Foundation, features Glenn Gaetz from Liberation B.C., who’ll be talking about topics like  “making a website, using social networking sites, e-newsletters, and other relevant online tools.” Let Live will be hosting a different topic each month, so be sure to check them out.

Why Farm Animals Matter
Tuesday, February 3, at 7:00 pm, at PSU (Smith Memorial Union, Room 101)
NW VEG, Vegans for Animal Advocacy and the Let Live Foundation are sponsoring this talk by Erin Williams, communications director for HSUS and author of the book Why Animals Matter. Erin will be talking about “the importance of making humane, sustainable food choices” and will share some of the exciting recent advancements for farmed animals in the United States.

NW VEG has some other great upcoming events, such as their new Happy Hour on Friday, January 30, their book club on Tuesday, February 10, and  their first annual Vegan Valentine’s Bake-off on Sunday, February 15. Find out more about NW VEG Events.

Also in the same vegan vein are the events sponsored by the MeetUp group Viva La Vegan. You have to be a member to enjoy all the benefits (about $6/year), but great upcoming events include the Garden Planning Primer on Saturday, January 31, and the free Ice Cream Social on Saturday, February 14Find out more and consider joining.

Know of more terrific MOGO-esque events in the Portland area? Let us know.

MOGOing Around Portland: Get a Yummy Vegan Meal and Help the Animals

If you live in the Portland, Oregon, area, and you’re looking for a way to fill your tummy with tasty goodness AND help animals, check out Apron Activists.  Started by vegan food guru Isa Chandra Moskowitz (author of Veganomicon, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and other delectable cookbooks) and Herbivore Clothing Company co-founder Michelle Schweggmann, Apron Activists host occasional dinners to raise funds for organizations that help animals. The next dinner is Friday, December 12 at Sweetpea Bakery (1205 SE Stark). Doors open at 7:30 pm and dinner begins at 8 pm. The menu is a Jamaican theme:

Plantain Rice Paper Rolls
Rice noodles, sweet plantains and toasted pumpkin seeds in a fresh rice paper roll with chili dipping sauce

Jamaican Curry With Roti Bread
Sweet potatoes, kidney beans and baby limas in a rich Jamaican spiced coconut curry served with flat bread for dipping

Jerk Tofu And Yucca
Marinated and grilled jerk tofu a green beans served over mashed yucca and topped with a fresh mango salsa

Pumpkin Rum Bread Pudding
A lush and spicy pumpkin bread pudding spiked with rum, served warm with vanilla ice cream

Ginger Tea will be served. Please bring your own beer and wine.

Tickets are on a sliding scale, from $40 – $100 each.  According to the info, “Diners who pay 60 dollars or more will also be receiving a really neat bag of holiday goodies that will include fresh baked cookies. 100% of the proceeds go to the Family Dogs shelter.”

The lucky animal organization this time is Family Dogs New Life Shelter, a no-kill dog shelter.

Find out more.

Image courtesy of Apron Activists.