Experiences From A Fish Yet to Find Water

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

This Week in Animal Rights: Some Victories Won While Some Still Need Fighting For--All of Them Are Being Questioned.

Perhaps it is too easy to comment here on a blog entitled “California Conservatives: speaking out for the silent Majority.” However, it seems that it is just as easy to find needlessly angry liberals as it is to find needlessly angry republicans. On the other hand it is also quite possibly that a blog such as this is useless to comment on due to the bias that is not only used in this blog to communicate opinion but also used to communicate what are supposed to be the “facts.” Regardless, it was an interesting undertaking and good practice in attempting to communicate to someone who is only going to listen to me if I present my argument with a sense of inclusiveness. The fact that Spain is actually going to pass a law allowing great apes more rights is a huge deal in the eyes of myself and many others, as I have worked directly with Chimpanzees and hope to work in the future with many other primates. For decades people like Jane GoodallRoger and Debbie Fouts have been fighting to make the lives for captive chimpanzees and other primates better, considering the futility of trying to fight for there to be no primates in captivity at all. To think that finally somewhere there is a little ray of light breaking through is great. To think that anyone could misconstrue this rather benign law being passed as having a threat to the rights of human beings is laughable. Those issues are completely separate and it would be a shame if they were lumped together. The bottom line is, when people don't know the facts about great apes, they'll scoff at the notion of them having more rights. Hopefully, with some education, the laughter will stop.

In a slightly different vain, very sane minded, animal loving people grow angrier and angrier by the actions of animal rights extremists, rightly so. However it seems a shame that because of these extremists who go to horrific violent acts, even those who are using less violent tactics are being written off as worthless human beings worthy of death or worse, worthy of being treated the way we treat animals. Posting a response here, was very important because it seems people are so quick to gloss over what is really going on, and jump to conclusions or gross overstatements that essentially throw away the validity of one persons life because they don't agree with that persons actions. The fact of the matter is it is very easy to be scared of people who seem to care enough about animals as to use the famous “holocaust” analogy. However, as much as I hate to say it, one of the definitions of the word reads as such: any mass slaughter or reckless destruction of life. Understandably used, but maybe not in the best taste. The point is it is very easy to think that animals are expendable, but it’s impossible to believe when you have actually had first hand experience with the type of emotions and intelligence an animal such as a chimpanzee is capable of. It’s jarringly familiar. They can communicate with us. Not many people realize what that means. I do not support acts of violence in the name of animal rights; I do not support the act of reducing the rights of humans in favor of rights for animals. However, revolution has never been a pretty thing. Maybe the three people who were sent to jail for harassment even deserve to be there. On the other hand, the amount of hatred that rises from people so uninvolved with these human's lives is quite unnerving. These are not people are trying to kill abortion doctors and restrict the lives of women. They are people are willing to go to jail, willing to test the limits of a corporation that is exploiting animal life to better our own. They are people testing what our systems of belief are really founded on. The reason why I posted my response was not because of what these activists did, that was not my mission here. My reason for posting was, instead to respond to the resounding response of other posters who had quite a bit of anti-animal sentiment as well as anti-human sentiment in regards to those who were sentanced. Quite frankly, I find this sad and hope to lend some helpful perspective to the matter.

"Only when we understand can we care, and only when we care sufficiently will we help"-Jane Goodall

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Foie Gras Debacle: Chicago and Maine Take Slightly Different Stances

Animal rights activists should be dancing in the streets. Foie Gras was banned starting last month in Chicago, and recently The Maine Animal Coalition, though small-scale, has begun to protest the food by setting up outside of restaurants with signs in tow. Though some of their protests have been as small as 2 people present, it seems the people of Maine are not only tolerant of their presence; they are also on their side. Foie Gras is one of those delicacies made by humans that is historically and culturally weighty as it is a classic of French Cuisine enjoyed all over the world. However, the meal is produced in cruel ways that are arguably inhumane and unfair. However, it seems Maine and Chicago are having slightly different reactions to the phasing-out of the food. While these two states battle the issue slightly differently it stands to question: Can you make people care about animals by restricting their rights?

Some people believe that any attention is good attention. In many cases this can be very true. If you get something out in the open, even if people hate it, at least they are talking about it. Open discourse is one of the fundamentals for change and progress. However, when rights are violated and people are told what not to eat it seems the backlash of this move could be counter active. Just to fill in those of you who do not know: Foie Gras (Fatty Liver in French) is the enlarged liver of a duck or goose that is force fed food through a feeding tube three times a day. The condition is actually medically known as hepatic lipidosis, hepatic steatosis or hepatic encephalopathy. The process of force-feeding is often painful and can injure the animal and can continue for up to a month, though in more animal friendly places these things are not necessarily true. However, Gourmet Cruelty.com, there is a high pre-slaughter death rate for these animals due to the traumatic pain and debilitation inflicted by the force feeding. Some chefs upon seeing how the dish is cultivated, immediately vowed to never make it again. However, not all feel this way, as has been shown by the people of Chicago.

The efforts that Chicago locals are going to in order to preserve their rights to eat foie gras are a bit unnerving, considering the meal is really not a viable food staple. However, we do love our luxuries, and Chicago has made that clear in a lawsuit against the state itself. The reaction from the people in Chicago is not exactly a letter of recommendation for this type of action for animal rights. However, it is encouraging to know that a state government in this country would agree upon such a law which reinstates these animals with a small shred of the dignity they were put on this earth with.

Interestingly, Maine is next on the band wagon with what seems to be some positive response already. Though not all local restaurant owners agree with the focus of the Maine Animal Coalition, many seem to care about the cause. The owner of Fore Street Restaurant, Sam Hayward, only buys foie gras from a Montreal-area farmer whose farm he has visited. The conditions the animals lived under were much higher and higher moral was evident as well, says Hayward. He evidentially witnessed birds readily coming to the workers and opening their mouths at the sight of the feeding tube. This brings the important issue of fighting the right fight. Telling people they can not eat meat will only make people want to eat it more. People hate to be told what to do. It seems a lot of breath is wasted by people who have their hearts in the right place, but can not figure out how to use them. Fighting the farming regulations in the American meat industry would be a much better place to throw down fists. Is there a right way to battle for the rights of another creature? That question has yet to be answered, however in every type of battle it seems that change only comes with a little bit from everyone. You always need the people who do things just to get a reaction, but you can not win a battle with just shock factor. However, it seems today the battle against foie gras in Chicago, is at least helping a little. The more that restaurateurs know about the cruel punishment of these creatures, the more it seems they care. If the attitude that Maine is taking in the matter is any proof in the case, it seems that perhaps Chicago's huge debacle over the issue is at least spreading some light on the once closeted issue.

"Only when we understand can we care, and only when we care sufficiently will we help"-Jane Goodall

Dying For Animals: Selfishness or Selflessness?

It is fairly obvious that human beings have encroached upon the other animals and all living things on this planet for centuries. We have affected the course of the future of our environment since the day we got here. The involvement of human beings in nature and what our role is here on earth is something that has recently come to great controversy even in the public and arguments continue as to whether or not Human beings are creators of science and not subject to its laws. Do we have the right to use the planet and its creatures for our own survival regardless of the consequences? But even more recent than this is a question raised by the death of one of the more prominent media icons in animal education and environmentalism, Steve Irwin. Know to most as The Crocodile Hunter, the Aussie's animal antics have raised eyebrows and rolled eyes across the world. Some found hiridiculousus, some found him endearing, others found him irresponsible but after today, September 4th, 2006, Steve Irwin'’s wild eyed fascination with the animal world is a thing of the past. Irwin is one of a handful of people who got to die doing what he loved best. He was filming a show about aquatic animals and was stung in the chest by the poisonous barb of a sting ray. Death by such a thing is usually very rare, as the poison is excruciatingly painful at best. However, Irwin, being the esoteric lover of the animals he observed, died in the same vain, with an uncharacteristic barb to the heart. The question comes up from such an event, as seen in the past by others dubbed brave, or stupid: Did this man's love for animals prove an honorable, maybe unsurprising, death at the hands of a creature he sought merely to educate the world about or was it is a brazen man conquering the wild” attitude that made his death inevitable and for the better? With all the damage human beings have done to the animal world already, is there any validity in this sort of contact with wild animals or, should we be avoiding contact at all costs? What is more, if it is beneficial to both wild creature and human to interfere with these’ animals’ lives, where do we draw the line?

Steve Irwin is not the first to bring up such a question; some might remember Timothy Treadwell, the author of the book Among Grizzlies: Living with Wild Bears in Alaska and subject of the 2005 film Grizzly Man. Timothy Treadwell was a man who spent 13 summers camping in Alaska wi
th Brown Bears and referred to them as harmless party animals which is not only a false statement, but a dangerous and irresponsible one made by someone who was allegedly attempting to teach children and the world about the animals he grew to love so much and die at the hand of. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Treadwell was dubbed by Chuck Bartlebaugh of "Be Bear Aware,'' a national bear awareness campaign, as one of the leaders of a group of people attempting to show the world that bears are not dangerous. There is little else known about Timothy's actual motives, though it is known that he had been an alcoholic and drug abuser whose life was supposed to have been changed by these bears. The Regardless of whether you deem to him to be psychopath or environmentalist, the end of the story is sad for man and beast. Not only did Timothy sacrifice his own life by being with these bears but also the lives of his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard and two of the bears he loved so much. The fact of the matter is this was a tragedy that could have very easily been avoided.

To quote a popular movie, With great power comes great responsibility.” For better or for worse, human beings were given great power but we have yet to live up to the responsibilities we have in hand. It seems that there is no cut and dry about the situation. Without education and some hands on action there is little hope for the survival of some of the world'’s most beautiful creatures. If we do not try to make an impact, our children won't have the possibility of knowing these animals other than fantasy stories seen on re-run episodes. However, the responsibility to educate comes in many forms and one of them is educating accurately. Media is a strong tool. One image without context can set a reactionary response to group of people, a species of animal or the state of the environment. Steve Irwin was a man who wanted to spend his entire life saving animals, and has done a few brow raising stunts to make the world question his motives. However, at the end of the day, there is a sense of responsibility that a man like Irwin took that is commendable and appropriate, not to mention he knew how to make us pay attention. As for the actions of men like Treadwell, it is hard to know what his motives were, but it seems that he crossed a line somewhere from selflessness to selfishness that not only endangered himself, but also the creatures he wished to embrace.

"Only when we understand can we care, and only when we care sufficiently will we help
"-Jane Goodall