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11/26/2013

Book Review: Bleating Hearts By Mark Hawthorne  »

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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.

10/18/2012

Gary Francione on Philosophy Bites: Animal abolitionism is the only way  »


Gary Francione means business.

Humane treatment is a fantasy, it’s on an epistemological par with Santa Claus, bunny rabbits, Easter rabbits and things of that nature—silly. Humane treatment is impossible.

Philosophy Bites is a podcast series of short discussions of philosophical topics (duh). On Saturday, they had Gary Francione come discuss animal abilitionism.

If we take seriously the notion that we ought not to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals, the first thing we ought to do is all go vegan. … There’s something peculiar about discussing the moral status of animals when we’re killing and eating them for no reason whatsoever.

I strongly recommend you listen to the entire podcast—it is just under 17 minutes and it is pretty invigorating. They touch on the delightful (read: obnoxious) mollusk question, how disgusting Francione finds the concept of “happy meat,” and the effectiveness of abolitionism versus humane treatment.

So, let’s get into it: Where do you align yourself? Are you more of an abolitionist, or a welfarist?

One more quote to stoke the fire:

The most humanely treated animals are subjected to treatment which would be torture, which we would call literally torture if humans were involved.

There’s much more! Go listen, and let’s argue about the philosophy behind our vegan lifestyles.

[Photo by Keven Law via Flickr]

09/04/2010

One of us is all of us: Morrissey’s racism and our reputation  »

Being part of a (self-selected) minority really makes you aware of your image outside of your group. When one of you says or does something brilliant, everyone gets to feel proud of that individual’s achievement; when someone pulls a ridiculous stunt (hello, Peta!), you’re left embarrassed and angry—it’s not just that individual’s or organization’s shame, it’s the whole group’s. Such is the way of the world, forever and ever.

So when we read things like this interview with animal-rights hero Morrissey, in which he decries the use of Canadian brown bear fur to make Beefeaters’ hats and awful treatment of animals in China, we’re happy that he keeps to his longtime message of humane treatment of animals. Unfortunately, he disappoints us, going on to disparage apparently all Chinese people ever because of “the thing on the news about their treatment of animals and animal welfare,” and whoops, there goes his reputation and credibility. That’s our icon!

Of course this is a gross and stupid thing to say, and we’re sorry that Morrissey thinks that way. Plenty of us have relatives that hold racist beliefs without event understanding that those things they are saying are racist, which isn’t to defend Morrissey; we’ve heard ugly things from people we love before—we’ve said ugly, ignorant things before learning otherwise. We hope that he’ll learn better as well, and apologize and mean it, because here’s the thing: we can’t apologize for him. We can’t apologize for all the idiotic, borderline-misogynist stuff Peta does, no matter how much the public seems to expect us to, and we certainly can’t take responsibility for the personal views of one man, even if he is one of the most famous members of our little group. There’s no VeganList they post to so we can all approve of their plans beforehand.

Morrissey, we appreciate your work on behalf of animal rights. You were the inspiration to a lot of people who stopped eating animals, and your shitty racism must really hurt them, your hardcore fans. In the future, you absolutely must stop being such an asshole. If you’re going to remain a racist—which you should grow out of, lots of people your age learned differently, you know—keep it to yourself. Not everything you say is a brilliant pearl of “truth” or “wisdom.” Stick to advocating for the worldwide humane treatment of animals, exclusively, and the animal-rights community will support you.

If you persist in sullying our reputation with your nasty talk, however, we’re going to have to denounce you. The world judges us by our celebrities and spokespeople, and those people cannot hold baldly racist beliefs. Good luck making amends; we’ll be here when you’re ready to fight animal abuse without the pointless racism.

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