Archive for May, 2010

National Journal on the US Animal Rights Movement

May 27th, 2010 No comments

The National Journal in the US is a weekly magazine aimed at political insiders. Recently, it published Animal Rights On The March by Paul Starobin with the subtitle, “How animal rightists are bringing new meaning to the pledge “with liberty and justice for all.” Washington, watch out.” Notwithstanding this dramatic overture, the article is a reasonable and comprehensive overview of the current status of the US animal rights movement. The British animal welfare movement (as it is known here) would do well to read and study it to bring into focus similarities and differences. I’m increasigly of the view that the US movement leads the way when it is compared to the British movement. But that’s a subject for more lengthy discussion at a later time.

Animal rights, circa 2010, is a sophisticated, well organized, mainstream movement — with far-reaching implications for ordinary Americans and American businesses. So far, the movement’s greatest successes have come at the state level, but activists have now firmly trained their sights on Washington.

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Ohio Dairy Farm in Video — One Arrest

May 27th, 2010 No comments

Drink milk and eat meat?

May 27th, 2010 1 comment


May 27th, 2010 No comments

A hospital is under fire for feeding a life-long vegetarian patient meat as she lay helpless in bed. Despite her family’s pleas, staff fed it to frail and confused Dorothy Leese, 87, for two weeks. And yesterday a probe into what went wrong was under way at Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading. Mrs Leese’s daughter, Tina angrily hit out: “When I raised her diet with staff I was made to feel I was being a nuisance. “It is almost as though they’re saying, ‘She’s a vegetarian – so what?'” Mrs Leese feels so strongly about animal rights she has never worn leather. Tina added: “I haven’t got the heart to tell Mum what they’ve done because she’d be devastated.”

Vegetarian patient Dot, 87, fed meat by hospital

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The Buddha and Vegetarianism (and Jesus, for that matter)

May 27th, 2010 No comments

I’m not someone who has to have their commitment to veganism legitimized because someone is or isn’t (or was or wasn’t) a vegetarian. Frankly, I don’t care about what anyone else does. (Well, I may have a strop if someone isn’t who I think should be.) I care about what I do today as I’m answerable to no one else but myself.

Debates about whether Jesus or the Buddha was or wasn’t a vegetarian are interesting. My jaded eyes tend to glass over, however, as I hear the arguments constructed in defense of opposing arguments. How is it possible that diametrically opposite perspectives can be made seemingly legitimately? Where’s the truth in all of this? How can we possibly know for sure? I conclude that it’s all conjecture.

So, I don’t worry about whether Jesus or Gautama did or did not eat meat. What is tragic, however, is how followers of both make a decision about not becoming a vegetarian because they believe Jesus and Gautama wasn’t. Don’t these people have a conscience of their own? Can’t they make their own minds up? Do they follow blindly whatever Jesus or Gautama may or may not have said? I suppose some Christians may if they believe the Bible was literally the word of God. As far as I know, nothing exists written in the time of the Buddha, which means we can’t possibly know for sure anything he may or may not have said. It was passed on from generation to generation as a spoken tradition.

Nonetheless, from time to time, I read something about this that I find particularly interesting. For example, Norm Phelps’s books The Dominion of Love: Animal Rights According to the Bible and The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights are great places to start.

These titles are published by Lantern, which, on its blog, recently published an interesting commentary by Keith Akers about the Buddha and vegetarianism.

The blog was prompted by Keith hearing author Stephen Batchelor (Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist) speak recently at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. Keith asked Stephen “whether he (Batchelor) was a vegetarian, whether the historical Buddha was a vegetarian, and how this all related to the first precept (not to take the life of any sentient creature).” Stephen answered by saying he was not a vegetarian and didn’t think the Buddha was either. Please read Keith’s post as it is fascinating. Check out Keith’s book, too.

I agree with Keith who concludes that if the first precept of Buddhism is not to take the life of any sentient creature, well, how can anyone reasonably conclude otherwise that it does not mean a vegetarian lifestyle? And what if you conclude it doesn’t? It doesn’t matter anyway. There are more than enough compelling arguments today why you should be!

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Political Parties for Animals–Update

May 26th, 2010 No comments

In an earlier post, Political Parties for Animals, I wrote there are three reasons why I believe animal welfare political parties are mistaken and hinder the progress of the animal welfare/rights movement.

  • The Fringe Factor, which perpetuates the view animal welfare/rights is a fringe issue
  • The Trivial Political Factor, which characterizes animal welfare/rights as inconsequential or a joke and perpetuates the impression among those active in the mainstream political parties that the issue is unimportant
  • The Mainstream Political Factor, which perpetuates animal welfare/rights as a trivial issue in mainstream politics

In the May 6 general election candidates for the Animals Count and Animal Protection Party received respectively 149 (0.3% of total votes cast) and 181 votes (0.3% of total votes cast). Both came last.

These results, I believe, underscore my objections to political parties for animals.

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Teaching the Animal–A New Must-Have Book

May 24th, 2010 No comments
Teaching the Animal edited by Margo DeMello

Teaching the Animal edited by Margo DeMello

I just received in the mail from the US a copy of Teaching the Animal: Human-Animal Studies across the Disciplinesedited by Margo DeMello and published by Lantern Books. Obviously, I’ve only had a chance to thumb through this volume but it looks immediately to be a very important addition to the literature.

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British Government’s New Animal Welfare Policy

May 24th, 2010 No comments

The British coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democracts published last week its “Programme for Government.” I have extracted from the section, “Environment, food and rural affairs,” the following pledges related to animal welfare.

The Government believes that we need to protect the environment for future generations, make our economy more environmentally sustainable, and improve our quality of life and well-being. We also believe that much more needs to be done to support the farming industry, protect biodiversity and encourage sustainable food production.

  • We will introduce measures to protect wildlife and promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
  • We will reduce the regulatory burden on farmers by moving to a risk-based system of regulation, and will develop a system of extra support for hill farmers.
  • We will investigate ways to share with livestock keepers the responsibility for preparing for and dealing with outbreaks of disease.
  • As part of a package of measures, we will introduce a carefully managed and science-led policy of badger control in areas with high and persistent levels of bovine tuberculosis.
  • We will promote high standards of farm animal welfare. We will end the testing of household products on animals and work to reduce the use of animals in scientific research. We will promote responsible pet ownership by introducing effective codes of practice under the Animal Welfare Act, and will ensure that enforcement agencies target irresponsible owners of dangerous dogs.
  • We oppose the resumption of commercial whaling, will press for a ban on ivory sales, and will tackle the smuggling and illegal trade on wildlife through our new Border Police Force.
  • We will bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act.

Some of these measures are welcomed; however,they are primarily pre-existing initiatives carried over from previous governments. Of significant concern is the commitment to badger culling and the repeal of the Hunting Act.

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RHS Wisley Garden

May 24th, 2010 No comments
RHS Wisley May 20, 2010

Royal Horticultural Society garden in Wisley, Surrey on May 20, 2010

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Research on Plant-Based Diet Shows Benefits

May 22nd, 2010 No comments

More evidence of a plant-based diet in this scientific paper, “Climate benefits of changing diet,” by Stehfest E, Bouwman L, van Vuuren D P, den Elzen MGJ, Eickhout B, Kabat P., which is published in Climatic Change (Volume 95, Numbers 1-2 / July 2009). Here’s their summary abstract: 

Climate change mitigation policies tend to focus on the energy sector, while the livestock sector receives surprisingly little attention, despite the fact that it accounts for 18% of the greenhouse gas emissions and for 80% of total anthropogenic land use. From a dietary perspective, new insights in the adverse health effects of beef and pork have lead to a revision of meat consumption recommendations. Here, we explored the potential impact of dietary changes on achieving ambitious climate stabilization levels. By using an integrated assessment model, we found a global food transition to less meat, or even a complete switch to plant-based protein food to have a dramatic effect on land use. Up to 2,700 Mha of pasture and 100 Mha of cropland could be abandoned, resulting in a large carbon uptake from regrowing vegetation. Additionally, methane and nitrous oxide emission would be reduced substantially. A global transition to a lowmeat-diet as recommended for health reasons would reduce the mitigation costs to achieve a 450 ppm CO2-eq. stabilisation target by about 50% in 2050 compared to the reference case. Dietary changes could therefore not only create substantial benefits for human health and global land use, but can also play an important role in future climate change mitigation policies.

Subscribers can download a copy.

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