Who likes adorable baby animals frolicking with good-looking dudes? YOU DO. WE ALL DO. So let’s enjoy these piglets and kids that Animal Place rescued from some shitty pumpkin patch last month. The pumpkin patch people used their “baby animal petting zoo” to lure customers, and planned to send all four little bitty babies to slaughter as soon as they closed the patch for the season.
Guest Post: Oakland’s animal slaughter proposal meets the national audience »
The Oakland planning proposal to deregulate animal slaughter and officially sanction backyard “husbandry” is the focus of James McWilliams’ blistering critique in the Atlantic. It turns out that reconstructing the city’s yards and vacant lots as “sustainable” animal farms and urban “homesteads” is a bit problematic. (Warning: some descriptions are graphic.)
Judging from the comments, the proposal is just as contentious outside the East Bay. And to absolutely no one’s surprise, vegan perspectives expressed online are greeted with frenzied blathering and digital tantrums.
The article, on the other hand, is great!
Framing the local issue for a wider audience, McWilliams makes an important point early on:
As matters now stand, Oakland could very well alter its urban agriculture code in order to allow virtually any urban homesteader not only to raise goats, chickens, rabbits, and ducks, but to slaughter them on site. And what happens in Oakland — a test case of sorts — is bound to be replicated elsewhere.
This point is important for a number of reasons. For better and for worse, the locavores of the Bay (and the East Bay, in particular) have positioned themselves as the leading voices and public representatives of Urban Homesteading and Sustainability (TM). They and those deeply influenced by their thinking would like to see this proposal put into practice, and replicated elsewhere.
For better because it’s enormously important to encourage local, organic food production, address the lack of access to fruits and vegetables in urban food deserts and schools, and foster community self-sufficiency and empowerment. These are all issues that have been championed by the likes of Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and their acolytes. They deserve credit for bringing them somewhat into the mainstream.
But it’s most definitely for worse: interwoven with this vision, and sometimes eclipsing the original goals, there’s a creepy fixation on the necessity of killing animals, despite such killing being less necessary now than at any time in recorded history. What’s more, the killing is meant to be somehow virtuous and right, a matter of social justice and cultural reclamation. Even if the amateur butchers themselves are not always particularly skillful and humane at the killing part; even if it means more inputs and less land to grow food on; even it means expensive animal products rather than the fruits and vegetables basically everyone agrees need to be made cheaper and much more accessible; and even if the push for deregulated animal slaughter is coming less from those most screwed over by the broken food system than from best-selling authors, upper-middle class hobbyists, and, bizarrely, young, usually white progressives and radicals.
The backyard slaughtering vision is wrong on multiple levels. It aspires to be an alternative to factory farming but really only offers an addition to it. And alongside the egregious and predictably “excessive” violence against animals, there’s also a crucial insight that’s been hijacked: Our food system really is in bad shape. We really could be feeding ourselves in ways that make much more sense, while also not destroying the world. Addressing food security and access were the original, stated reasons for initiating the food policy discussion in Oakland in the first place, prior to the sudden emphasis on killing animals.
A key point of McWilliams’ piece is its first paragraph, which has gone totally unremarked in 201 comments and counting (as of the time of this writing):
Over the past ten years the United States has undergone a revolution in the way we eat. Communities throughout the country have localized food systems, placed power back in the hands of local farmers, and shortened the distance between farm and fork. The benefits of this trend have been considerable. Consumers have become more critical of overly processed food, better aware of the connection between diet and health, and more appreciative of eating seasonally. I’ve been critical of this movement from the start, but I admit it has been a cultural achievement of historical significance.
This is absolutely true, and something to be recognized and appreciated.
But what we strive to put in place of the broken and ultimately self-destructive food system shouldn’t replicate its cruelties, desensitization, and inherent inequalities of access. There is at least a bit of common ground to meet on – specifically, how we need to grow hella food as much as we can – and we should take advantage of those points of agreement.
Locavores certainly need to stop being so fixated on the virtues of “honest slaughter,” for starters, not to mention on fictitious “closed systems” that ignore the existence of the rest of the world, to all of our detriment.
And vegans need to engage with these policy debates, because they’re happening with or without us. In our absence, we should probably expect a bunch more proposals like Oakland’s.
Rick Kelley is a recent transplant to the Bay, having fled the brutal Minnesota winters for warmer climes. He spends his days at a Oakland workers’ rights nonprofit and his evenings probably playing moderately accurate renditions of Propagandhi songs with his awesome partner and their rescued pup, Bandit. He’s also currently active in organizing against Oakland’s “Let’s All Kill Some Chickens in Our Yards For Fun” proposal. He used to blog, and might do so again someday. The adorable chickens above were rescued by Animal Place and they’re not for eating, they’re for feeding grapes to! And hugging maybe if you’re lucky.
Happy Veggie Kids: Olivia! »
This is Olivia with her friend Ruby! Olivia is almost five. Happy early bday, O! She’s from Nevada City, CA. and her mom has a cool vegan baking biz: Allison’s Gourmet. OMG that stuff looks GOOD! Olivia must be living the yummy vegan life. Jealous.
What is your favorite food?
Olivia: Pink Beans. [Ed. note: whaa? Is this a real thing? I love pink food!]
What is your favorite kind of birthday cake?
Olivia: Chocolate strawberry with cherries on top.
Why are you vegan?
Olivia: Because we don’t want to hurt other animals.
Do you like being vegan? Why?
Olivia: Yes, it’s fun ‘cause you can eat yummier stuff than turkey and junk like that. Mom: What’s yummier stuff?
Olivia: You know, kale, and stuff like that.
Is it ever hard to be vegan?
Olivia: No, it’s fun to be vegan. Especially for your tummy because it doesn’t have to process a bunch of junk.
What do your friends think about you being vegan?
Olivia: Um, I don’t really know how to answer that one. I haven’t asked them.
What is your favorite animal? Why?
Olivia: Ruby, the pig at Animal Place because I’ve known her since she was a baby. [Ed. note: AHHDORBS]
Do you like pink dinosaurs? Can you draw one for us? We would love it!
Olivia: Pink dinosaurs? I don’t know what pink dinosaurs are so I don’t really know if I like them. But yeah, I’ll draw one for you!
Olivia offers this final note: “If you’re not vegan, I want you to be vegan. Because it’s fun.”
As usual, if you have a vegan or vegetarian kid who wants to do the interview, email me!
Animal Place went and did some awesome shit again, rescuing these cute-ass calves from slaughter and putting up pictures of their cuteness for us to love on. Look at this ridiculous baby drinking milk because milk is for calves, not stupid humans! You drink that milk, you Cute Stuff McGee!
Because you love cows and they are the most beautiful, amazing creatures and you want to support their welfare, throw a little of your hard-earned dollar dollar bills at the good people of Animal Place. They’re doing the work a lot of us can’t but wish we could so hey, if you’ve got some extra dinero, buy me a cake. When you’re done with that, spend the rest on these awesome calves. BABY COWS I LOVE YOU.
Saturday: Berkeley Vegan Bakesale for Animal Place Sanctuary! »
Here are the details on Facebook, where you can also RSVP. If you’re not on Facebook, I get it, you’re better than me, but it’s in front of Nature’s Express in Berkeley (1823 Solano Avenue—get the Reuben and the vegan soft serve!) from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 14. All the proceeds will go to help Animal Place continue to be amazing and also, get even more amazing. So go! You know you want to! And you’ll be all happy and content like this little dude here:
Guest post: Calling all California voters! Support SB 917! »
[Olivia, celebrity pig!]
In 2004, a teenage girl witnessed the sale of potbellied piglets in a parking lot. Concerned, she approached the individual and inquired about the pigs. The man stated some were sold for pets, a couple for meat, and the last one would possibly be purchased by someone who would eventually eat her. Appalled, the girl implored the man to give her the piglet. Moved by her emotional response, he obliged, and the young woman left with a squirming, screaming pig.
Later, she and her parents called Animal Place and shared the story of the piglet. The sanctuary, already home to seven potbellied pigs, agreed to take in the animal. She was later named Olivia and is a crowd favorite at tours, with her rotund belly and drama-queen personality.
When the family asked us about the legalities of selling animals in parking lots, Animal Place explained it was allowed in California. In fact, animals can be sold alongside highways, at carnivals and boardwalks, and at any public right of way. There is no legal oversight or protection given to these animals.
In 2009, Animal Place, along with several other animal welfare organizations, worked with then-California state Assemblyman Ted Lieu to ban the practice of selling animals at flea markets and in parking lots. Unbeknown to us, there is a flea market coalition in California that apparently has more clout than an association of animal advocacy groups—the bill ended up failing.
But Mr. Lieu did not give up. This year, as a senator, he has introduced SB 917, which not only bans the sale of animals in certain areas but also tightens up the penalties for animal abuse. The bill would prohibit puppies and kittens from being sold out of boxes in supermarket parking lots. It would stop the practice of selling amphibians, reptiles and other species alongside highways and streets. It is sadly ridiculous that this law needs to be introduced at all—every city and county should have already banned these practices in the state.
It exempts livestock auctions, 4-H/FFA events, public/private animal shelters, state/county/city fairs, and live animal markets. Which is great for shelters, so they can continue offering meet and greets for adoptable animals, not so great for farmed animals and smaller animals who will still be sold with no legal protection at auctions and flea markets, but it’s a great start to solving a serious animal welfare problem.
Passing a bill is no easy task, and this bill will face its own hurdles. Californians can help by voicing their support for SB 917—that is a very simple thing to do!
If you can only write one letter or make one phone call, make sure to contact Senator Lieu and thank him for introducing SB 917, providing such basic, commonsense protections to the animals:
The Honorable Ted Lieu
State Capitol, Room 4090
Sacramento, CA, 95814
Phone: (916) 651-4028. All you need to say is that you are a registered California voter and want to express your support of SB 917, done!
Want to make more of an impact? ContactPublic Safety Committee Chair Senator Loni Hancock and urge her support of SB 917:
The Honorable Loni Hancock
State Capitol, Room 2082
Sacramento, CA 9581
The first hearing for SB 917 is scheduled for Apr. 12, so get your letters and phone calls in soon! It’s so easy to make a difference for animals, all you need to do is pen a short letter or make a brief phone call! Olivia thanks you—but only if you give her vegan cupcakes first.
Marji Beach is the ridiculously awesome Education Manager for Animal Place. She’s super smart, so you should listen to her.
Adopt a rooster! They are rad and need your help! »
We received a call from a woman who rescued a bantam rooster after he was hit by a car in San Francisco. The little guy lost an eye, but is recovering well after a trip to the veterinarian. Not many people who have stopped for the little guy OR taken him to a vet. While we have promoted him on our website and through our e-alert, we cannot take him in: we have 50 roosters to place from a hoarding case.
So, come on, do you have room for a rooster? Or know someone who does? Holler at Animal Place TODAY!
Stop reading now if you don’t want to know way too much about me. So. By the by, I’m currently listening to "Ingnition Remix" by R. Kelly. Also, if you don’t have Rdio yet, GET IT. You can listen to whatever you want all the time. Amazing. It’s like England’s Spotify but you gotta pay a little each month. But there’s a free trial! See what you think. Also, if you love R. Kelly as much as I do, you will go apeshit for his interview (conducted by Will Oldham!). OMG SO GOOD. You guys, he doesn’t know what 30 Rock is!? Seriously, WHO IS THIS MAN? It’s like he lives in an alternate universe where 2 + 2 = Cookie (tm, Mark Shrayber). OK, what this has to do with roosters is that they’re basically the R. Kelly of the animal kingdom: all crazy and awesome and independent and fabulous so ADOPT A ROOSTER!
Rooster kills cockfighter »
No, for real. So many jokes. SO MANY JOKES. I think it goes without saying that if you play with fire—roosters who have had razor blades attached to their feet—you’re gonna get burned—your throat will be slit by said rooster. How very sad for everyone involved. Don’t fuck with roosters, people! They be crazy! Just leave them alone and let them do their crazy cock-a-doodle-DOO thang!
[Thanks to Vegan.com for the tip; photo via Animal Place, where they currently have adorable adoptable hens!]
Yo Washington state! Your turn to ban battery cages! »
In more excellent news, the awesome Humane Society of the United States and the awesome Farm Sanctuary have introduced a ballot initiative in Washington state that will ban battery cages and the sale of battery eggs by 2018. Tell everyone you know in Washington State what’s up and that they need to get involved so we can get those torture-devices abolished pronto!
End goal: Adorable chickens will run free and I will be allowed to cuddle all of them. JOKE! But really, what a world that would be.
[photo of rescued hens at Animal Place! And you can totally adopt them DO IT!]
Meet Sadie of Animal Place! She’s an older dairy cow who, because of her breeding and age, doesn’t have the same weight or winter coat as the other cows. To keep her snuggly warm, Marji says, they outfitted her in a stylish horse coat instead. Very fashionable, and very necessary during these chilly days in Grass Valley, where the average December day is 48 degrees.