Mark Your Calendar: Jeffrey Masson at Powell’s April 3

faceonyourplateWell-known for diving into the depths of animal emotions in books such as Dogs Never Lie About Love, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals, and The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson has a new book out this month that focuses on who ends up on our plates and the consequences of eating them.  Heralded by one reviewer as “Intelligent, absorbing and very easy to digest, this is an essential book for any person who thinks and/or eats,” The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food (W.W. Norton, 2009) examines the health, environmental and spiritual impacts of industrial agriculture and of eating animals.

Masson will be appearing at Powell’s (1005 W. Burnside) here in Portland, Oregon  on Friday, April 3, at 7:30 pm. Here’s his current book tour schedule.

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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

Peter Singer on Animal Rights, Poverty, Food Choices

petersingerI’m a little slow in pointing it out, but in case you haven’t already heard, there was an interesting commentary in Newsweek by Peter Singer recently. “The Rights of Animals” looks at the current and potentially future states of the rights and treatment of animals (mainly through the lens of Western countries). Here’s a nice tidbit:

“The notion that we should recognize the rights of animals living among us rests on a firm ethical foundation. A sentient being is sentient regardless of which species it happens to belong to. Pain is pain, whether it is the pain of a cat, a dog, a pig or a child.

“Consider how widely humans differ in their mental abilities. A typical adult can reason, make moral choices and do many things (like voting) that animals obviously cannot do. But not all human beings are capable of reason, not all are morally responsible and not all are capable of voting. And yet we go out of our way to claim that all humans have rights. What, then, justifies our withholding at least some rights from nonhuman animals? Defenders of the status quo have found that a difficult question to answer.”

Singer also has a new book coming out in March. The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty argues that our current methods for dealing with poverty are (obviously) failing terribly, and he outlines a plan for what citizens can do to help truly make a positive difference.

By the way, if you haven’t yet read Animal Liberation or The Ethics of What We Eat, I highly recommend both. Animal Liberation was one of the major springboards for the modern animal rights movement. It outlines Singer’s arguments and views regarding animal rights and provides a detailed overview of what’s involved in animal experimentation and in the factory farming and slaughter of animals. Singer provides this information in a factual, unemotional manner that makes what’s happened to the animals all the more horrifying. The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter (The original edition was called The Way We Eat), which he wrote with activist Jim Mason, outlines the impacts of our food choices on people, animals and the planet.

(Irrelevant tidbit: Although I don’t agree with some of what Singer says, enough of his views resonate with me that we named our cat after him :))

For a bit more about Peter Singer, check out:

His website

His Wikipedia bio

~ Marsha

White Privilege in the Vegan and Animal Protection Movements

animalhumanliberationGo to a vegan or animal protection conference or attend a local veg potluck or animal rights meeting, and you’re likely to see mostly white faces. It’s well-known that the animal protection and vegan movements are primarily composed of white folks (and the leadership is mostly men, even though the majority of the members of these movements are women). So, why is that? Why are people of color not more involved in these movements? And why are animal protection and vegan activists so blind to the role white privilege plays as such a barrier to participation by a broader coalition? (By the way, I don’t think this situation is limited to the vegan/animal protection movements; I’ve also seen it in many environmental and peace organizations.)

Recently I came across an insightful two-part essay about veganism, animal rights and white privilege (both are long, but worth reading). The first part of the essay uses objections by people of color to PETA’s Animal Liberation Project as a springboard for looking at white privilege and differences in perspectives.

Here are a couple of excerpts:

“The neutrality of the word and idea of ‘animal’ for white middle-class animal advocates means something quite different to people of color who are always at risk of not being fully human in our racist society. Thus, when white vegans say that because they are not offended at being compared to animals neither should people of color, they equivocate between two grossly different contexts. One veg*n of color explicitly addresses this point on her blog:

‘Many white folks are perfectly happy to insist that *they* have no problems at *all* being compared to animals–but it is not white folks that are being killed on genocidal turkey shoots either… this comparison of brown human beings to animals/insects, is not something in the past that is occasionally drawn on to make a point is something that exists in the very fabric of our current society and as such, carries very real repercussions.’”

“That Afro-Americans understand that there is nothing wrong with being an “animal”, will not ultimately end their ongoing oppression and trauma in America as subhumans unless PeTA (and other groups) move beyond single-issue politics. It’s not that ‘We are all animals,’ but that ‘None of us are subhuman.’ Until AR groups incorporate this anti-oppression stance into their philosophy and/or mission statement, these organizations and philosophies only superficially address ‘liberation’ and ‘oppression’ since it is institutional privilege–be it white or human–that is at the root of subordination, not simply bigotry.”

The second part of the essay looks at how “the animal/vegan movement(s) systematically ostracize people of color…most often without any consciousness of doing so.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“Instead of sending an anti-oppression message, which used to be inherent in the definition of veganism before its appropriation, many vegans come across as the enlightened colonialist exercising his/her privilege over Other cultures. Johanna at Vegans of Color describes how animal activists come across to many people of color allover the world through the methodologies employed in anti-whaling campaigns:

‘[W]e in the West feel it’s our high-and-mighty duty to go & tell other countries, with which we have had an adversarial & racist relationship, what to do. Instead of listening to local activists & supporting them if & when they request it (& in the manner they request), US activists love to barge in, without thought to cultural context or self-determination & autonomy for folks in the countries they’re horning in on… There’s a difference between not entering ‘the international debate’ & doing so in a way that is helpful, respectful of other cultures & people.’”

As an activist, I have witnessed activists looking to the handful of people of color at an animal rights, environmental or peace conference as spokespeople for how to reach out to all people “like them.” I’ve heard activists say “It’s not my issue” when referring to issues such as modern slavery, racism, sweatshops, environmental justice, and so on, completely oblivious to (or ignoring) the fact that all these issues are interconnected. I’ve seen activists of color attend conferences, giving talks about how to bridge vegan/AR issues with communities of color to only a handful of activists, while the majority of activists were attending sessions about direct action or how to deal with police.

White privilege is an unfortunate reality in the vegan and animal protection movements, and it’s important that we address it as a core challenge, rather than relegating it to the sidelines. While it’s essential that we work for the protection of all animals as individuals, it’s also essential that we work for the rights and freedoms of all who are oppressed and exploited. As a friend of mine said recently, “I tend to think that in any new social or political movement, trend, or shift there are ‘first adopters,’ and it is very important that these first adopters, whoever they are, remain open, welcoming and enthusiastic about huge diverse masses of others joining their ranks or they will find themselves to be not only the first adopters, but the last adopters as well.”

To keep up on issues of race in the vegan and animal protection movements, check out blogs like Vegans of Color. The bloggers there share some great perspectives.

~ Marsha

Mark Your Calendar: Conferences to Help You Take a Bite Out of Global Warming & Create a More Compassionate World

Rumor has it (actually, it’s well documented and has been in the news frequently in the last few months) that two of the biggest contributors to climate change are who we eat and how we transport ourselves — cows and cars.

If you’re looking for ways to create a healthier, more humane world and want to reduce your carbon footprint (and your “foodprint”), then you might want to check out these upcoming conferences in her Portland, Oregon in June.

Try Vegan Week

June 7-14, 2008

You know it’s a healthy, humane, sustainable way of living, but you think it’s too hard, or you feel like you just can’t give up your addiction to choose. No worries! Try Vegan Week is a great opportunity to get your toes wet in the vegan pool and grab some support while you’re doing it. If you’re a newbie, or vegan-curious, you can get hooked up with a veteran mentor. There are also plenty of workshops, dine-outs, store tours, and fun events — like the Vegan Prom! Don’t miss out on this chance to go vegan and transform yourself…and the world. Come on! Oprah’s doing it! Find out more.

Towards Carfree Cities Conference

June 16-20, 2008

Carfree Cities Conference Logo

If becoming less dependent on (or totally independent from) your car is more your mix, Portland is hosting the 8th international Towards Carfree Cities Conference, June 16-20 at Portland State University (among other locations). The purpose of the conference is to bring “together people from around the world who work to promote practical alternatives to car dependence.” This year’s theme is Rethinking Mobility, Rediscovering Proximity, which focuses on promoting “discussion of urban livability, mixed-use development, local agriculture, pedestrianization, strong neighborhoods, accessible public space, and sustainable transportation.”

Tuesday, June 17 is the conference’s “Public Day,” free and open to the public (registrations and small donations preferred).
Find out more.

Just after the conference, on Sunday, June 22, is Portland Sunday Parkways, a special six-hour event in which six miles of local streets in North Portland will be closed to most car traffic, so that people can bike, walk, rollerblade, skip, etc., in that area without having to worry about cars.
Find out more.

Let Live NW Animal Rights Conference

June 27-29, 2008

Let Live NW Animal Rights Conference LogoWant to help animals? Want a more compassionate world? Learn effective skills and strategies for becoming a better animal advocate at the Let Live NW Animal Rights Conference. Friday night features a keynote speaker, and Saturday and Sunday bring workshops on all sorts of topics, from media training to “moving the message” to understanding the audience to developing campaigns and strategies. Find out more.

(Portland MOGO will be tabling at this conference. If you’d like to volunteer to staff our tiny table, let Marsha know: pdxmogo@gmail.com.)