Get a Taste of Farmed Animal Lives with Farm Sanctuary’s Virtual Experience

fsvirtualexperienceWhat’s it like for animals raised in factory farms, and how does that compare to their natural lives? Farm Sanctuary, a farmed animal education and advocacy organization, recently launched Virtual Experience, which is designed to teach the public about factory farming conditions. People can also learn about some of the rescued animals that live out their lives in peace on one of FS’s two sanctuaries.

Visitors to the virtual experience take on the role of a photographer who is taking pictures of animals in factory farms and at the sanctuary. Clicking on various images on the screen reveals quotes, factoids, images and video, providing information.

The factory farming section of the exhibit includes graphic photos and video, so it’s not for all ages. However, the Sanctuary part of the exhibit will help connect anyone with rescued animals.

Check it out and share it with others.

Cultivating a Compassion Footprint

Paw and handprints in sand

“When people tell me that they love animals and then harm or kill them I tell them I’m glad they don’t love me.” ~ Mark Bekoff

“Carbon footprint” has become standard jargon in talking about global warming and other environmental issues, and some people are even beginning to think about their “foodprint.” But what about our “compassion footprint”? How far are we willing to examine and extend our concern for others, especially other beings not of our own species?

Author and scientist Marc Bekoff recently wrote a great essay about our relationship with animals and our need to cultivate a compassion footprint and “compassion credits.” He says,

Every individual can make positive changes for all living beings by weaving compassion, empathy, respect, dignity, peace, and love into their lives. It’s simple to make more compassionate choices about what we eat and wear and how we educate students, conduct research, and entertain ourselves.

One of the most frustrating elements for people who care about all social justice issues is that caring for animals — as individuals with their own interests and needs, as well as being part of a species — is often completely missing from the conversation. Green guides, books, magazines and websites tout tips and tools, simple and great, but they also condone and support the exploitation and oppression of animals in reaching those green goals. There are organizations that promote social justice and sustainability for all — one magazine I adore has the tagline “supporting you in building a just and sustainable world,” an organization I support includes the tagline “…to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society” — but the justice and sustainability they’re talking about don’t extend to nonhumans.

Bekoff’s call for increasing our compassion footprint is an important and necessary one. Consider sharing this essay with friends and family, or using it to spark discussion.

~ Marsha

New Book Alert: At Rest with the Animals by Colman McCarthy

At Rest with the AnimalsSyndicated columnist, peace activist, peace instructor and founder/director of the Center for Teaching Peace, Colman McCarthy has turned his attention to our relationship with animals in At Rest with the Animals: Thoughts Over Thirty Years. Published this month through the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Society Press, the book offers a collection of McCarthy’s essays from over more than three decades (most written during his time at the Washington Post), exploring “the human family’s sometimes cruel, sometimes kind relations with animals of all sizes and stripes.” (You can find out more about the book from one of HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s blog posts.)

Since I haven’t yet read the book (it’s not even available at my public library yet), I can’t recommend it officially. However, I have read a couple of Mr. McCarthy’s books (2 are part of my own personal library), and his writing is amazing and inspiring, so I can only imagine that this book is, too.

McCarthy has been teaching courses and workshops on nonviolence and peace since 1982. When I read his book I’d Rather Teach Peace (highly recommended), I was incredibly inspired and so sad that I hadn’t been fortunate enough to be one of his students. I would have killed to be in his class! (Wait — that’s not nonviolent; uh, I would have really treasured being in his class.)

Just a few choice quotes from McCarthy:

“Wars aren’t stopped by fighting wars, any more than you can fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water. You fight violence with nonviolence.”

“Unless we teach our children peace, someone will teach them violence.”

“Over the years, I’ve had suggestions from other teachers to offer what they call ‘balance’ in my courses, that I should give students ‘the other side.’ I’m never sure exactly what that means. After assigning students to read Gandhi I should have them also read Carl von Clausewitz? After Martin Luther King’s essay against the Vietnam War, Colin Powell’s memoir favoring the Persian Gulf War? After Justice William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall’s views opposing the death penalty, George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein’s favoring it? After a woman’s account of her using a nonviolent defense against a rapist, the thwarted rapist’s side?”

So, email your local library and ask them to buy this book, and read his other books while you’re waiting. (And, once you’ve read his book(s), feel free to send us your review for potential posting.)

~ Marsha

Trust Animals to Save the Planet

I’ve always known that we can learn a lot from animals, and now Aardman Animations, the creators of Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts, has proven it, with the creation of The Animals Save the Planet, 11 cute, clever, uber-short animated films on different environmental topics, including meat eating, plastic bags, water use, light bulbs, recycling, waste and transportation. Each video features animals in their natural habitat encouraging others to make green choices (such as the farting cow, the showering hippo, the recycling lions, and the bicycling penguin).

The shorts were originally created to show on Animal Planet, and they’re a terrific way to spark discussion with (or give somewhat subtle hints to) friends and family about important environmental topics. With all the depressing news in the media about the state of the world, it’s nice to find a fun, uplifting way to encourage positive change. Share these shorts with someone who needs a laugh…or a hint.

~ Marsha