Book Review: Bleating Hearts By Mark Hawthorne »
If you’re thinking of reading an animal welfare-themed book this year, make it Mark Hawthorne’s breathtakingly well-researched and expertly written new book, Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering. Following his activism-focused first book Striking At The Roots, Hawthorne examines the many unseen sources of animal abuse, mistreatment, murder, and exploitation rampant in our world.
Bleating Hearts features lesser-discussed stories in animal welfare that are incredibly relevant in our modern times. As a vegan who considers herself to be relatively well-informed, I am a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know about many of the specific animal abuses mentioned in Hawthorne’s book. There’s literally so much shit that people do to abuse animals that Hawthorne has painstakingly uncovered, it’s almost unreal. Hawthorne isn’t out to shock—he’s out to inform, providing generous research and sources to show the reader her blind spots and shines light on societal blights many of us have no idea about.
If I were a gambling woman, I’d bet that many of the readers of this blog have recently enjoyed a 49ers or Raiders game either on the tele or in person. If you’re an NFL fan in any capacity, Hawthorne’s book provides the not-too-fun-but-super-important awareness that 35,000 cows are killed every year so their skin can be fashioned into NFL footballs. When I read that stat, I pretty much realized I can’t watch football anymore (not that Michael Vick did great things for the sport’s animal-related PR front). Hawthorne reveals most professional sports kill tens of thousands of cows to use their skin for their balls—and we call them national pastimes.
Have you ever adorned yourself with a pretty fashion feather so popular in fashion in the Bay (and many hippie circles) these days? These feathers didn’t just fall from the sky—they were plucked from live roosters who were abused and killed in the process on factory farms. I’m not sure the anti-oppression spirit of Burning Man jives with this. I have definitely seen vegans wearing these, and would urge them to check out the section of Bleating Hearts that covers the abuse in detail.
I love how cleverly participatory Bleating Hearts feels—in addition to tons of resources sprinkled throughout, the book asks you to consider the page span of the physical book itself and shows that the factory farm cages for battery hens are smaller. I knew battery cages were small, I don’t eat eggs anyway—but it really hit home when I considered that their miserable lives take place in no larger a space than the book page-span.
Other things Bleating Hearts exposes: the humane seafood myth; the trouble with overfishing these little Omega 3-powerhouses called Menhaden; Austalia is the largest exporter of live animals and wool and sheep used for wool are totally abused—there is no way to ethically wear wool, in case that was ever in doubt.
Hawthorne definitely conveys a lot of painful information, but his perspective that sunshine is the best disinfectant is one with which I can’t help but agree and applaud. Bleating Hearts is sad, but it is also incredibly hopeful. It even starts with a story of hope: a story about someone taking a stand against animal abuse. Mark is a tireless activist and it’s impossible whether talking to him in person or reading this book not to feel you can be doing more, too. But he’s also compassionate—while not going easy on animal abusers, he explains systems that are leading to cruelty. It’s not the 20-year old seal clubbers in Canada who are to blame—it’s that the industry exists and gives them the option to earn a living while killing.
I learned in Bleating Hearts that Neiman Marcus and other “upscale” stores were selling “faux fur” that was actually made out of animal products. Imagine the disappointment of spending a shit ton on a faux fur coat, only to discover it’s “fashioned” from a real dead animal? Devastating to the customer—and of course to the animals who died to make such a travesty. Hawthorne reminds us of the consequences of letting our vegan guards down for even a moment when financial interests are at stake.
A few other little tidbits I really appreciated learning about: the fact that water bottle maker Nalgene started out as making equipment for animal testing (gross!), camel wrestling, horse fighting, human and animal abuses inherent to the silk industries, how animals are used for domestic battery, the gross practice of taxidermy as art, and the sizable demand for animals killed for spiritual rituals.
If you care at all about human- and/or non-human animals, Bleating Hearts is essential reading. There is so much to learn about, and there’s no better nor more compassionate guide through the hidden world of animal suffering than Mark Hawthorne. Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering is available for purchase here.
Nicholas Kristof gets real in his July 27 op-ed in the New York Times, “Can We See Our Hypocrisy to Animals?”
It’s another installment of Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 30 Second Animal Law! Today we learn “What laws protect animals who are raised for food?”
Did you ever see a video of horrific cruelty toward farmed animals and wonder, “Why is that legal?!” The sad truth is that there are no federal laws that govern the way farmed animals are raised. State laws are sorely lacking. So what can you do if the law can’t protect them?
By going vegan you remove your support for the cruel system under which 10 billion land animals are raised each year. A plant-based diet is healthy, delicious, and better for the environment as well.
Interview! Rory Freedman on her new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals »
New York Times bestselling author Rory Freedman is a living legend in the animal rights/vegan world. After launching a revolution with her Skinny Bitch and Skinny Bastard series, Rory Freedman has continued to work tirelessly to promote animal rights issues in Los Angeles and worldwide. The charismatic animal rights champion and kind-hearted dog mom took time out of her hectic book tour schedule to discuss her wonderful and unique new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals (Running Press).
Vegansaurus: I loved the book! I read it overnight and was really impressed by the depth and feeling you’ve put into this work. How do you consider Beg to be different for readers who may be familiar with the Skinny Bitch series?
Rory Freedman: I think that the good news for fans of Skinny Bitch is it’s the same heart that drove me to write Skinny Bitch that had me writing Beg. I had a spiritual transformation while writing this book, and I’m no longer swearing. The good news is the book is still funny and deep in the way Skinny Bitch is. This language is a lot gentler, for people who might have been offended. Funny.
What inspired you to write Beg?
In Skinny Bitch, I found thousands of people whose lives had been changed and now went vegan. I thought great—now what? Great, these people now know about the animal issues, but will they understand about rodeos, zoos, circuses, animal testing, and other things that cause deaths and misery and torture of millions of animals per year? I thought that people were primed and would get it, so I think it’s a natural follow up for Skinny Bitch. Skinny Bitch is really a vegan manifesto cloaked in a diet book. I wanted to write this book once and for all to document everything that happens to animals.
What can animal lovers learn from Beg?
Researching and writing this book was an important part of my transition from a regular-human animal lover to more aware animal lover. It is about learning each of the ways we can do better for animals. As much as I knew about things in broad strokes, as an animal lover and vegan, I had to ensure details were correct and accurate. It’s always eye-opening to think about things that go on so easily and are so pervasive.
Even still, a lot of people who are dog and cat lovers don’t understand what happens in order for animals to look a certain way we’ve deemed appropriate for breeds. Tail docking and ear cropping, which I discuss in Beg, are examples of this. I didn’t know about this as a child or as a younger adult. Then one day when I was 30 I met a dog that opened my eyes to this. I grew up with a mini schnauzer, and when I was 30 I met a schnauzer that was strange—it had bigger ears than the childhood dog I knew. I didn’t know some had bigger ears, but it turned out they all have bigger ears naturally, it’s just that some when puppy breeders will have the dogs’ ears chopped off or tails dropped off. I stood there astounded when I found this out. I didn’t know what they were talking about. Doberman pinschers normally have floppy ears, but they covet that mean, agressive look in breeders. That will come as a shock to animal lovers.
What are some animal activism tips that might surprise Vegansaurus readers?
I’ve had a transition that’s been happening lately and gradually over many years as an activist and vegan. It’s evolving so I’m becoming a better activist. I am still as passionate, but I am feeling more diplomatic. I’m allowing this journey for many people to come from where they are now from where we’re hoping they’ll end up. Animals are suffering each day. I’m really getting that everyone is on their path and I have to love and accept everyone while on this work, and allow that people will find their own way. By the grace of God I found vegetarianism, animal activism, and veganism when I did. It doesn’t say anything about me. It just works out the way it did. I have to allow that it will be by the grace of God for others to find their own path. It is important to take action while also being loving. The most attractive thing we can be as activists is loving.
The author with her three dogs
Vegetarians and animal lovers often love seeing animals in films and in cute Internet videos/websites. You discuss animals and entertainment at lengh in your book. Care to elaborate?
We’re always being accused of anthropomorphizing animals, of giving animals human qualities we don’t have. Sometimes they’re wrong. We just understand that animals feel pain, like humans do, but as moviegoers, some might be confused when we see a chimp that seems like he or she is smiling in a movie or TV commercial. Chimps don’t smile in the wild. It was something that was new to me when speaking to primatologist while doing research for the book. Chimps have what’s known as a “fear grimace.” Even though it looks like a smile because it seems like our own, they’re actually scared because in the wild when chimps are frightened, they grimace. They don’t do it when they’re happy. There is also no way to provide for them in entertainment the way mother nature could. We can’t provide for their unique needs. We’ve seen time and time again that movie sets are dangerous for animals.
Some of my friends want to adopt pigs (myself included). You have a pretty intense section about pigs and what happens to them on factory farms. Have you ever considered adopting a rescue pig, and how easy is it to adopt?
I’ve never been asked that. Adopting a pig has crossed my mind, but not in my adult years as someone in the animal rights movement. I’ve had dogs now for 12 years. It’s such a big responsibility, it’s so all-encompassing, I can’t imagine adding to my brood right now. I can see the temptation. They’re darling animals. They are so smart and individualistic. I can imagine having one would be great fun and it’d be beautiful for anyone who is committed to taking care of one.
What is the “Beg for Change” campaign?
The Beg for Change Challenge Campaign is an exciting way to get people involved, for vegans and activists and “normies.” You can hashtag #BegForChange and/or share a picture of your adopted dog. You can brush your dog and share a pic after you’ve bushed him or her, you can tag a photo of their pile of hair. Then, we can notice leather or animal skins, and use social media to document what we notice. If you spend 15 minutes on peta.org, you can tell the world what you see that is shocking. You can watch “What skin are you in?” and share your experience. This starts off easy to get people involved and becomes more interesting, challenging, and eye-opening, and activists can spread the world.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, Rory! Thank you for putting this great book out there.
To learn more about Beg and get involved with the Beg for Change Challenge campaign, check out Rory’s website.
It’s another episode of Animal Legal Defense Fund’s 30 Second Animal Law video series. Today we find out whether it’s legal to keep a tiger in your backyard from a very nice lawyer who wears Paul Ryan’s eyebrows way better than than the human Poochie ever could.
ALDF’s new series “30 Second Animal Law” is interesting and useful! »
Animal Legal Defense Fund has a great new series on YouTube! “30 Second Animal Law” explains legal issues for and surrounding animals in tiny clips for your attention-deficit-addled brain. Check out the first installment, Legal Problems for Animals:
[Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!]
So far ALDF has got three videos in this series up, which you can either watch on YouTube, or watch in the coming weeks on Vegansaurus.
You know how humans are awful? It’s interesting to think about how the propositions “humans are awful to animals” and “humans are awful to other humans, especially disabled ones” connect. Luckily we’ve got some super-smart people at UC Berkeley who are gonna do just that, at a lecture/discussion tonight from 6 to 7:30 on the Berkeley campus .
The flyer is above, and check out the Facebook page for more info on the event, it’s one of a series on Critical Animal Studies. It sounds really engaging and smart! “Critical Studies” always sounds smart.
Protest animal testing at UCSF on Sunday for National Primate Liberation Week »
Animal experimentation is the fucking grossest. When did you first learn about it? When did you first connect actual animals with that torture? My little brother and I, after we bought up all the Calvin and Hobbes books, began spending our allowance on Berkeley Breathed’s collections, so it must have been sometime in the early ’90s that we read The Night of the Mary Kay Commandos, which featured the story of Opus’ quest to rescue his mother from a Mary Kay animal testing lab. The image of those bunnies in those cages with their eyelids pried open—I couldn’t believe it, except I did, you know? I was 10, he was maybe seven, and we were both very sad. He’s been a vegetarian for eight years now.
This week is National Primate Liberation Week, and across the country groups have held demonstrations all week at labs that misuse animals. San Francisco’s demonstration will happen at noon on Sunday, Oct. 24 at UCSF, at 513 Parnassus Ave.
According to Stop Animal Exploitation Now, UCSF holds over 900 animals in its laboratories, and that “at least three research projects at UCSF deprive primates of water for as much as 22 hours per day, five days per week.” That seems quite necessary, yes. Here’s something grosser: Rats, mice, birds, amphibians and other animals are excluded from coverage by the Animal Welfare Act, so laboratories/research facilities don’t even have to mention their presence on official reports. Rats and mice! The most common “test subjects” treated like office supplies. It’s sickening.
Demonstration organizer Shani Campbell reminds us that animal testing is government-funded as well, meaning that our tax dollars pay for torturing bunnies and rats and monkeys and pigs and guinea pigs and cats and sheep and squirrels and mice and voles. We pay our elected leaders not to pass legislation, and we pay the National Institutes of Health to fund medical testing on chimpanzees. Chimpanzees, for heaven’s sake.
If this bothers you at all, you should come to the protest. You don’t have to say anything, or hold a sign. Just being there shows how you feel about these atrocities, and that can be enough sometimes. Lab animal never have a choice to participate in the tests they undergo; they don’t get any warning, or reward; they don’t get to return to their life and freedom after the experiment is over. No living creature deserves that treatment. Come out to UCSF on Sunday and stand against it.
Please RSVP to Shani by phone at 925/819-6725 or by email. Contact her with further questions as well.
Colorado Bureau of Animal Protection’s chief investigator is “anti-animal rights” »
Nope, not even kidding a little bit. Check out Scot Dutcher’s Twitter, which as of this post is still up and functioning, despite the state’s Dept. of Agriculture Deputy Director Jim Miller’s admission that Dutcher’s Twitter was “unauthorized,” and moreover, that “[I]t was something that we spoke with [Dutcher] about. He understood that he wasn’t supposed to be doing that.”
But I guess the guy in charge of animal protection for the entire state of Colorado is too, shall we say Mavericky to be silenced by mere policy. He is anti-animal rights and proud! Never mind the 860,000 pigs, 115,000 dairy cows, 400,000 sheep and lambs, “more than” 2.70 million beef cattle and calves, and approximately 6.25 million layer hens counted among Colorado’s top agricultural commodities*—Scot Dutcher thinks their living conditions are just fine, thank you, and doesn’t need any pesky USDA or FDA inspectors or anyone else telling him how to take care of them; they’re commodities, not precious little puppies. Would you tell a wheat farmer to be kinder to the wheat? A strawberry farmer to harvest the berries more humanely? No—and to Dutcher, animal rights appears to sound just as crazy.
This definitely seems like the right guy to call when you suspect farm animals are being abused. How much would you bet one of his first questions is whether they can still produce milk/eggs/wool/meat.
*Latest figures available were from 2007
In this video interview with Big Think, Jonathan Safran Foer discusses Eating Animals, the recent egg recall, why he’s an animal-rights advocate but not an animal-lover, and how facory farming is a pressing global issue. It’s really good!