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05/02/2013

Interview! Rory Freedman on her new book, Beg: A Radical New Way of Regarding Animals  »

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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.

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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.

04/12/2013

Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use  »

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It’s Paul Shapiro's Animal News You Can Use! Yay, Paul! Yay, Animals!

Big week, so buckle up!

First, the Sunday New York Times had a cover feature about the meat industry’s efforts to ban investigations by HSUS and fellow animal protection groups. It even included a full-color HSUS photo of a crated pig on A1 of the paper. As well, the NYT editorial board condemned the industry’s effort, noting “the ag-gag laws guarantee one thing for certain: increased distrust of American farmers.”

(Another interesting NYT story)

Speaking of pigs, remember last year’s major HSUS investigation into a then-Tyson supplier gestation crate confinement facility? Well, we announced this week that several of the people caught on the video were convicted of criminal animal cruelty.

Finally, I did a half-hour segment on Miami’s NPR affiliate this week about the need to reduce per capita rates of meat consumption.

Have a great weekend!

P.S. Video of the week

P.P.S. Live in Mass? Hope to see you Sunday!

03/18/2013

Why are tens of thousands of pigs dying in China?  »

NPR investigates, but fails to find out why 18,000 pigs died during January and February in the Zhejiang village of Zhulin, or why nearly 3,000 dead pigs were found in the Huangpu River last week. The Huangpu supplies Shanghai with drinking water.

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post quoted Zhejiang villagers saying farmers dumped pigs in the river because there were too many for government disposal areas. In addition, villagers said some farmers may have dumped pigs because of a crackdown on selling diseased pigs for human consumption.

Pork is the most popular meat in China. Half the world’s pigs live there, as The Salt has previously reported. China’s state media reported this week that 46 people have been jailed in Zhejiang for selling diseased pigs. Last year, police in the province confiscated about 11 tons of meat from sick pigs, according to the state-run China Daily.

The only things we know for sure is that those pigs lived terrible lives, and that they didn’t deserve whatever awful death came to them. Better check the sources of all your pork products, omnivores.

[Photo by Wolfgang Staudt via Flickr]

03/15/2013

It’s Paul Shapiro’s weekly Animal News You Can Use!  »

Want to read a great AP story about the proponents of anti-whistleblower “ag-gag” bills getting part of their bodies (I’ll let you be the judge) handed to them at a legislative hearing in Nebraska yesterday? Also, the ag-friendly Bakersfield Californian editorial board slammed the supporters of a similar California bill this week, saying how they’re “amazed by the audacity of the cattle industry.”

Good week in statehouses for farm animals, with a New Jersey ag committee passing a bill to ban gestation crates and a Colorado committee doing the same on a bill to ban dairy cow tail-docking. We’ll continue working hard to further advance these bills.

There’s a fascinating story out today about a meat industry front man who admits he created a fake Facebook profile posing as an animal activist in order to criticize HSUS and encourage other animal activists to do the same.

After extensive dialogue with HSUS, Bob Evans is the latest food giant to announce it wants to phase out gestation crates. And the National Pork Board did a survey with promising results about the changing attitudes of pork producers to the gestation crate issue.

Think you’re the only one who finds promise in plant-based products? These billionaires are with you.

Finally, students! If you want “Skinny Bitch” Rory Freedman, VegNews editorial director Elizabeth Castoria, and HSUS’s Kristie Middleton to read your essay, enter HSUS’s Meatless Monday essay contest now!

Video of the week: Justin Timberlake on SNL singing about vegan eating. Words can’t describe how great it is.

Photo of the week: My cats enjoying their catio!

01/24/2013

If you are in New York, you know it’s painfully cold. When it’s this cold, I just start to think about all the people without homes and how effing cold they must be. It’s terrible. What I forgot about was all the animals like these pigs being transported in these conditions. And this is in Toronto so I can’t even imagine how cold it is there. I could hardly stand walking to the corner store today and these pigs are just out there exposed in their bare skin for who knows how long. Awful. 

From Toronto Pig Save, check them out.

01/14/2013

Remember beautiful Eric? A year later, Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Baur shares this new photo of beautiful Eric snuggling with his friend Sebastian. BEST PIG FRIENDS. Is there anything better? Happy New Year, Eric and Sebastian! Happy New Year, Farm Sanctuary! Happy New Year, vegans!

Remember beautiful Eric? A year later, Farm Sanctuary’s Gene Baur shares this new photo of beautiful Eric snuggling with his friend Sebastian. BEST PIG FRIENDS. Is there anything better? Happy New Year, Eric and Sebastian! Happy New Year, Farm Sanctuary! Happy New Year, vegans!

11/09/2012

It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use!  »

It’s Paul Shapiro's weekly dose of all things animals! Yes!

Pork Magazine editorialized this week about what a “tough year” HSUS created in the US with its “laser focus on pork production.” Pork’s editor concludes: “Now, HSUS won’t go away; in fact it has gained strength. It has the formula down and will replicate its strategies within the pork sector as well as across the agriculture sector.”

Related: Metz Culinary Management is the latest major pork buyer to demand that its pork suppliers end their use of gestation crates…

On the other side of the world, Forbes has a sobering yet hopeful look at the challenges the animal movement faces in China and how Humane Society International is working to move the ball forward there. This interview is really worth the read.

Finally, check out this interesting new article on how the rise in demand for vegetarian food is largely coming from meat-eaters who are reducing the number of animals they’re eating.

Six years ago this week, Arizona voters made their state the first in the US to ban veal crates, and second to ban gestation crates. And four years ago this week, Californians banned both of those practices, as well as cramped cages for laying hens. Congratulations and happy anniversary to the thousands of awesome animal advocates who labored so tirelessly on those campaigns!

Video of the week: Ever feel like someone else is freeloading off your hard work? This cat may feel the same!

10/30/2012

Pig factory farms are really bad for the mostly poor, non-white people who live near them  »

Some really depressing news from EHP about how pig factory farms are and how they impacting the lives of the people who live near them. SPOILER ALERT: it’s not giving them magic powers or helping them live really long happy lives!

Wired breaks it down:

… in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, which finds an association between air pollution and odor in the near vicinity of swine farms, and hikes in blood pressure in local residents. When you put the pieces together — most hog confinement operations are in poor, non-white areas; cardiovascular disease is endemic in African Americans;  North Carolina lies within the worst US area for cardiovascular disease, known as the “Stroke Belt” — you can see that anything that makes blood pressure chronically worse is bad news for public health.

That study, though, is just the latest in a long string of publications that Wing and team, and the community they have been studying, have brought forward over the past decade. During the meeting, Wing gave a comprehensive overview of the major problems with confinement agriculture, setting it within a context of environmental injustice and worsening public health.

Ugh, this shit is so bad for everyone, especially poor, non-white people, the folks who are shit on by society the most are now being literally shit on.

I get it, bacon tastes great, I’m not denying that, but the fact is, there are lots of fatty, salty, smoky foods that taste just as good (or almost as good, if you’re truly a crazy person for bacon) and the price that we pay for this obsession is ruining lives. Just fucking give it up, please, it’s better for your health, and the health of everyone else.

10/26/2012

It’s Farm Sanctuary rescued pigs eating pumpkins, how cute are they!? Eat those pumpkins, you little maniacs! 

10/12/2012

It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use!  »

Paul Shapiro is back with all the animal news you need. Let’s go:

Ever wonder what the meat industry’s tired of? Well, Pork Magazine’s editor wrote this week, “I am getting tired of the constant barrage of announcements driven by the Humane Society of the United States against the U.S. pork sector, and I know you are too.”

One thing you may not be tired of is good news like this: industry publication Feedstuffs has a story this week about a formerly pro-gestation crate animal scientist who now concludes that a transition away from the crates will indeed work, and that producers seem to be getting dragged “kicking and screaming into another inevitable change.”

Other good news: HSUS is proud to be named this year as VegNews magazine’s “Nonprofit of the Year!”

A new undercover investigation by Mercy For Animals documented egregious cruelty at a large dairy producer.

Finally, an interesting story about how more and more black men are getting into veganism. One guy in particular is a pretty good example, I’d say!

Video of the week: Rescued ducks hit water for the first time! [Ed.: UGH THIS IS TOO AWESOME]

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