Ask a Vegansaur: Vol. 06 »
Dian asks: I did the Cancer Research UK “Relay for Life” two years ago, and since then I’ve gone vegan. I’ve just been asked to join a team this year, and I agreed—until I realised, wait a minute. Research. Animal testing. According to their website, they only test on animals when they absolutely have to, as a last resort, and they no longer use monkeys, or dogs, or anything like that. But they do still test on animals. At the same time, they do amazing work. I don’t know what to do! It’s a lose-lose situation, I’ll feel awful if I do it, and money I raise goes towards testing on animals; and I’ll feel awful if I say “No, actually, I can’t help you raise money, because I’m vegan.” I realise there are other cancer research charities that do not test on animals, but CRUK is the main one here. I don’t know what to do.
Oh, Dian, my heart breaks for you. First, good on you for running. That is an exercise I cannot do; I get shin splints immediately. But moving on: I know how it feels to have to weigh one evil against another. You could say that the main point of this column is, “Hey, at least we’re trying,” and I’m going to offer a variation of that here. I did some digging, and while you’re right about CRUK being predominant in your corner of the world, there are a few other options to hit the pavement and raise money benefiting people who have cancer. Many charities do not fund research but rather promote awareness, support, and care for people with cancer, none of which involves animal testing. I know it’s not the same as cancer research, but it seems that you’d be hard pressed to find cancer research that does not test on animals; hell, stateside it’s hard to find cancer charities that don’t hate women and their ladybusiness! That might be a good compromise. This is what I would do if I were in your running shoes. Here is a big fat list. Good luck!
Patty asks: I had a “friend” ask me what I couldn’t help but feel was a really “weird” question. He asked how vegans can really consider themselves vegan since, as he put it, “Vegetables are grown in animal sh*t.” He was totally asking this question in the vein of “catching” me in some way, and it was more of a statement question. I could not answer him. I thought that I could go look up and learn about fertilizers and growing, but then I thought I’d ask you what you think, know, etc., both about the fertilizer aspect, but also, how I maybe could have responded to this.
Yeesh, Patty, this is a rough one, quite the dilemma, yesiree. My research is inconclusive, but I do know that people who feel threatened by our dietary choices try to make themselves feel better by pointing out what they see as inconsistencies. There are “veganic” veggies—those grown without any animal products whatsoever. My response to a question like that, quite frankly, would be, “Go fuck yourself,” but in more eloquent terms, it would be something along the lines of, “If you go to that level of commitment and compassion in your diet, then we can talk about where the fertilizer used to grow my vegetables comes from. Sucka.” [Ed. note: I’d also like to add that being vegan is about doing as little harm to animals as possible. It’s not about being perfect!]
Matthew asks (via Twitter, @mattheworbit): Omnis have a prob with us giving non-vegan names to vegan food items. How should we get around this?
As Jenny Bradley put it, “Omnis have another problem with us?” Yes, it’s true, the list of problems people think they have with vegans is never-ending. In this case, we don’t have any sort of burden of proof; we don’t have to get around it. Half the time we put a disclaimer in there anyway, right? “Tofu dog,” “soy yogurt,” etc. If omnis don’t like what we’re calling our food, they can shove off; there are a lot more important issues to worry about than renaming seitan barbecue wings something that omnis are more comfortable with. Because you know our lives and dietary choices are primarily to make others comfortable, right? Christ, I can’t stand this kind of bullshit. Omnis can call their pile of chicken nuggets “kale salad” if they want. I don’t give a fuck, so long as I don’t have to eat it.
Want to Ask a Vegansaur a question? Email me, and try not to be a jerk!
[Photo credit: John Baxter via Flickr]
This is a very bittersweet video and it contains no animal cruelty whatsoever [ed. note: so don’t be scared!]. These friendly lab beagles had lived in cages their entire lives and stepped on grass and saw the outdoors for the very first time. The poor things had no idea what to do with themselves, and were scared but curious. This video captured their very first experience on grass and being outdoors.
It’s so beautiful. They are now adjusting to their new lives and are able to live the way dogs should—as cherished family members [ed. note: Amen!]!
For more information, please visit the Beagle Freedom Project web site: http://www.beaglefreedomproject.org/
Guest post by Gina Guillotine. Gina Guillotine lives in Northern California with her husband of 24 years, her two kids, and her two rescued shelter cats.
Top 10 links of the week: a joyful skip through veganism! »
[Downer that the whale is in captivity but we can still appreciate its beauty. PS: Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!]
Sorry dudes, I haven’t done links in a few weeks, so this list spans the last month or so. Were you guys sad without links? Which kinds of links do you like the best? I want to know so I can do the best possible job!
“Here’s the big secret that no one wants to talk about: We’re not very good at keeping what’s inside a cow’s intestines out of the meat.” Ew. From Huffpo, “Doctors Take Aim at Antibiotic Resistance from Factory Farming.”
Apparently in Ukraine, restaurants keep bears and make them drink vodka. Well, not any more! Really though, wtf.
From Grist: “Is your Cheese Killing the Planet?” The article says, “bottom line: the vegans are right,” but I think their real message is one we’ve heard many a time: “bottom line: CHEESE IS YUM YUM! WEEEEEE!” Maybe we can add some comments.
Good piece from NYT: “Stop Using Chimps as Guinea Pigs.” Word.
Should we be surprised at cruelty in industrial farming? Em, no. An opinion piece from the Guardian.
Some AR peeps burnt down a building in Germany that was set to be a factory farm. Discussion topic of the week: What do you think about property destruction as a form of protest in the animal rights movement? Or any movement, I guess.
From Treehugger, study reveals mammal populations are down. Fucking A, you thought you just had to worry about the fish!
Bonus link: If I don’t say this every week, I mean this every week: don’t forget to read our Laura’s Week in Vegan over at SFWeekly every Friday! And leave comments to make her feel nice. Laura deserves to feel nice. We all do! Except some people.
North Carolina lab workers charged with animal cruelty! »
[Can’t see the video? Watch on Vegansaurus.com]
Did you ever see this horrible video? It’s a Peta video of lab workers at a research facility in North Carolina totally abusing poor animals. It’s horrible. But guess what! Four of the former employees have been charged with animal cruelty! Yay! This is a big deal because normally research facility workers never get in real trouble. I hope they get totally fucked by justice! See? Regardless of how you feel about them, you have to admit that Peta does some rad stuff.
Fish are math geniuses! Basically! »
New research shows that fish can discriminate between different numbers of objects! I didn’t read the study because Save by the Bell is on but I totally read the abstract! And I read this great summary article from One Kind. The fish involved were mosquitofish—they eat mosquito larvae, god bless them. They are super social and if they find themselves alone, they try to find their friends, asap. So the scientists put their pals behind one door with a certain number of shapes on it and then they had another door with nothing behind it that had a different number of shapes on it. Of course at first, the fish were guessing, but soon they were picking the door with their friends on the other side!
The conclusion from the abstract:
Fish are able to use pure numerical information when discriminating between quantities larger than four units. As observed in human and non-human primates, the numerical system of fish appears to have virtually no upper limit while the numerical ratio has a clear effect on performance. These similarities further reinforce the view of a common origin of non-verbal numerical systems in all vertebrates.
When they say they observed similarities between fish and humans when it comes to these numbers, they don’t mean real humans, they mean college students. They gave them a test similar to the one they gave the fish and while they performed better across the board, they were more accurate when the ratio between numbers was larger—same with the fish. And fish could distinguish between numbers in the hundreds! Go fish!
Let’s turn this into an opinion piece, OK? Like, what are your opinions. Because, see, I’m torn; I love learning about animals but I don’t like when they are in experiments. This kind of experiment is a far cry from a Draize test (just wiki, don’t be scared), or even poisoning fish with bee venom (self-reference! not scary!) to prove they feel pain. But we know, regardless of the experiment, the life of a lab animal is abysmal (scary video but educational). So I guess it doesn’t matter what we learn or how noninvasive an experiment is, we should leave the animals alone. People just can’t be trusted to take care of animals when taking care of animals is not their primary goal! I.e., if it’s in the name of science, we can’t depend on people to look out for the animals. But I love learning about animals!
Wait, I know what to do: OBSERVATIONAL research! Where they just check out the wild animals and try to stay out of their way. Yeah?
World Week for Animals in Laboratories »
That’s right, it’s World Week for Animals In Labs (WWAIL)! There’s a listing of events by state on WWAIL.org. The events in California are all on Monday, Apr. 25 and there’s one at Berkeley—check out the facebook event page. From WWAIL:
In 2009 UC Berkeley had a total of 1,155 animals: 15 cats, 32 guinea pigs, 683 hamsters, 174 rabbits, 18 non-human primates, 26 hyenas, 29 moles, 7 squirrels, 80 tuco tucos, 51 voles, and 40 wild mice. Their labs are completely underground and go unnoticed by not only anyone just walking by but especially to their students. They are expanding their laboratories which means even more animals will be tortured and killed behind closed doors.
So you should go if you can! And you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to help plan an event in your area. I didn’t see any in NYC, does anyone know anything about that? I know NYU does some screwed-up shit. And I’m not just talking about allowing Laura to graduate! Sorry, it’s hard to be funny when talking about such awful sad stuff but if we don’t laugh, we’ll jump off a bridge, ya know? And then no more Vegansaurus and how depressed would you be? The answer better be VERY DEPRESSED or I’ll jump off a bridge!
If you want to read all about the shortcomings of animal testing, go to PCRM. The US Department of Health and Human Services has info too. There are such better ways to do things but, as always, money makes people go cross-eyed in the face of ethics. Gotta love humans! Or you don’t. Whatever.
Animal testing or killing children: fun with false dilemmas! »
Reader Anne M. sent us this amazing billboard she encountered. That sure is something! There are so many reasons I love this ad! Where to begin? Let’s not even address the many shortcomings and inaccuracies of animal testing; let’s just talk about slapping kids on ads and screaming, “WHAT ABOUT THE BABIES?!” That is precisely what I love so much about pro-life advertising. Nothing like a close-up photo of a kid’s face to prove your point! It’s like, evidence is cool BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BABIES?! Because really, what about the babies? Am I right?
But the best thing about this ad is that it makes up this bullshit dilemma for you—lots of times you have to make up your own bullshit dilemmas, but they’ve got this one all done for you. You either test on animals or you let children die. Nice and simple! But wait guys, bad news: If you ventured to think, you might look into the many modern alternatives to animal testing that exist and by golly, now it seems like it doesn’t boil down to torturing animals or letting children die!
Man! Options are the worst. So just for you guys, I made a new ad! It’s more up my alley and I hope you’ll enjoy it too:
The awesome “RAT-HER” wordplay is lost a bit but the cell could very well be from a female so maybe “HER” is still in order.
Oatmeal, obese monkeys, and breast-milk ice cream in this week’s link-o-rama! »
First, and most important! IT’S MY BIRTHDAY! Happy birthday TO ME! You can thank my parents for their gift to the world.
[Latest documentary/cartoon from Cats Vs Human. What if I just call cartoons “documentaries” from now on? And phone calls will be “radio interviews”!]
They are selling breast-milk ice cream in London. BREAST-MILK ICE CREAM. While I’d rather die than eat breast-milk ice cream (right now I’d rather die than move, though), I’m in full support of this because it’s hilarious and brightens my world. Well Ok, I think maybe I’d try breast-milk ice cream for like $20,000. But is it going to pull in weird fetishists? Survey says: Probs.
Hey! Did you know that the SF SPCA appointed new presidents last month? Yes, more than one president! Two presidents—they’re calling it Four-Legged Leadership! One a super-savvy business man and the other a genius veterinarian.
Jerk scientists are getting poor monkeys fat and not letting them exercise, because we definitely can’t find any people like that to test on. The New York Times will tell you all about it!
PCRM is suing the federal government because the new nutrition guidelines are crap! They don’t like the “doublespeak” and “mumbo jumbo” the USDA uses when it should be calling out meat and dairy. I have a bone to pick with them too! Three servings of dairy, really? REALLY? CRAP!
UNC and Duke have picked Eating Animals as their summer reading requirement! I was supposed to read the biography of George Washington. Definitely did that.
From Mark Bittman, we have the most in-depth discussion of oatmeal I’ve ever seen! Specifically, oatmeal from McDonald’s: “Incredibly, the McDonald’s product contains more sugar than a Snickers bar and only 10 fewer calories than a McDonald’s cheeseburger or Egg McMuffin. (Even without the brown sugar it has more calories than a McDonald’s hamburger.)” Yowza!
Do you have a vegan tattoo? A tattoo with vegan subject matter? Super! Submit it to new website veganink.com and let’s get this party started!
Over at veganbaking.net, you can read an interview with Cinnaholic’s Shannon Michelle! Read all about how Cinnaholic came together and get advice for your own vegan baking biz! Can we all agree that Shannon Michelle is dead-sexy?!
The veggie internet has been a buzz about this story from Yahoo sports: Vegetarianism is all the rage in MMA! That’s ultimate fighting. It’s a sport. I guess.
There was a big earthquake in New Zealand! The Search Dog Foundation is on the case! New Zealand has its own dogs but the SDF’s training leader is going over to help with the search and rescue. We wish them the best of luck! Be safe and save people!
Lastly, don’t forget about the East Bay Vegan Bakesale tomorrow! Get treats, get pudgy!
Good news!: Unilever stops animal testing for tea! »
Peta has been fighting against Unilever and their cruel animals tests for Lipton tea and PG Tips for many years and finally, Unilever has promised to end testing animals for tea effective immediately! Huzzah! This is super good news considering Lipton is “the best-selling branded tea in the world.”
From Unilever’s site:
Unilever remains committed to its ambition of eliminating animal testing by investing in alternative methods.
Where legal or regulatory requirements call for testing on animals to demonstrate the safety of Unilever’s tea-based beverages or ingredients, Unilever seeks to minimise the testing required and the number of animals involved, and the testing is provided by third parties.
Unilever has made a substantial investment in new non-animal approaches to research and testing including, since 2004, an annual investment of €3m on non-animal approaches for assuring consumer safety. Our research has made good progress in developing new approaches and we work continually with international research and policy groups to share our experience.
Yay for good news! Of course, according to Peta, Unilever has many other companies that do test on animals, and don’t miss the magic words “the testing is provided by third parties,” but this is progress. The tests they were doing for Lipton were all about like eating a ton of sugar and fat and seeing if tea helps you not die. First of all, it’s pretty easy to find some people who already eat a ton of fat and sugar and test the tea on them; second, torturing animals so that we humans can sit around eating poison and not die is ridiculous. Eff that!
The necessity of animal testing: a rebuttal »
When I wrote about the terrible experiments scientists are conducting at the University of Texas, someone reblogged it with a lot to say. Here’s the final paragraph:
“REALLY want to protest animal testing? Walk away from the next antibiotic your doctor prescribes, turn down the next necessary surgery you are recommended, and hope you’re never hospitalized. I can assure you that each and every one of the medications and procedures that you come across has been tested on animals, using the most extreme conditions that could possibly be encountered in real practice.”
Do you know why this is bullshit? Benefiting from things we learned in past experiments that we now consider ethically wrong does not mean we should support ethically wrong experiments or continue them in the future. There are all kinds of experiments that went on in the past that are now considered immoral—experiments on PEOPLE—and we’ve learned a lot from them. Think about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; they were despicable and I hope we never, ever see anything like that again, but we benefitted from the knowledge we gained from them.
Even in psychology—the Milgram experiment? They teach that in every psych class and it’s pretty messed up. And don’t get me started on the Stanford prison experiment and its lasting effects on participants. That inspired new standards of ethics, and now would be considered officially unethical. We also learned a lot from that study, and it is frequently discussed in classrooms.
Peta is also trying to get the president of U.T. to investigate the experiments because they may be illegally abusive to animals. That’s the greater point to many of these cases Peta takes on: the research labs are performing animal experiments beyond what is allowed. Even if you are pro-animal testing, you still have to follow the rules. For example, after a Peta investigation, University of Utah was investigated by the USDA and cited for nine violations under the federal animal protection laws.
Saying “Medical research mostly deserves to be left alone” is cruelly short-sighted. Animal testing should be illegal, but in the meantime it must be closely monitored to make sure the testers are abiding by the law; clearly they can’t be relied upon to do so on their own. If a lab conducts illegal experiments, it should be shut down. Try to find some legal tests to get behind, if you are going to support animal testing.
We have knowledge from unethical—and now illegal—experiments, and that knowledge is valuable. We can’t pretend certain information doesn’t exist when it does. We also can’t condone these experiments and can’t continue them. If we know an antibiotic can cure an illness because that medicine was initially tested on non-consenting humans, do we pretend we don’t know the antibiotic is effective? No. Can we still condemn these experiments? Yes. Do we fight to make sure they never happen again? Yes. The same can be said if the non-consenting subjects were animals. Benefitting from knowledge derived from morally reprehensible experiments doesn’t mean we have to condone them and it doesn’t mean we should continue to practice them in the future.