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Archive for May, 2011

CIWF at Lyndum House

May 23rd, 2011 No comments

Lyndum House in Petersfield where I first began to work for Compassion In World Farming.

On the occasion of a recent visit to Petersfield, Hampshire, I made a point of taking a look at Lyndum House in the High Street.

In 1976 when I first began to work for organisations campaigning for animals, my first days (well, two years) were spent at Lyndum House with Compassion In World Farming.

At this time, Compassion was a very small organisation renting a couple of rooms upstairs in the back of an old building, Lyndum House, in Petersfield’s Hight Street. Working there were Elaine, Compassion’s first and then only full-time employee, and Thelma and Pauline, part-time researcher and secretary respectively. Peter, who donated his time and expertise to Compassion, had also started a company called Direct Foods, whose claim to fame was Sosmix.

My interview with Peter was the first time I was forced to think about what compassion meant.

“Do you have a problem with the word ‘compassion’?” he asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” I replied. “Why?”

“Well,” I recall him saying, “some men are embarrassed by the word.”

“Not me,” I reassured him.

My answer was motivated more by wanting the job than understanding what compassion means. I cannot say that I understood what it meant then but it is a word that I have subsequently grown to respect, becoming one of my four key values.

Peter hired me and my professional career in the animal rights movement began unbeknownst to me. I soon realised from working at Compassion that this is what I wanted to do with my life: stop animal exploitation and secure animal rights.

 

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Testing Organisations

May 21st, 2011 2 comments

Periodically, I set tests for animal welfare/rights and vegan/vegetarian organisations in the UK and US to see if they past them. These tests are one of the ways I use to determine if the group is cost-effective, productive and deserves my support, recommendation and involvement.

My tests include signing up for e-newsletters, making donations, posting questions to their Web sites, attending events, reading publications, reviewing financial reports, volunteering my services, applying for jobs, asking others to make a donation in my name because I provided them with a professional service I would normally have charged them for and so on.

With one or two notable exceptions, most of the groups fail my test. It seems that many function on low levels of innovation and creativity. Some rely upon income from the dead (e.g., legacies) and do not care about their relationship with the living. Other aspects (usually disappointing) of their management style and campaigning or program effectiveness also become apparent from these tests.

I am not going to name any organisation–good, bad or indifferent–but I will summarise below some examples of my experiences. Do I report back to any group who fails one of my tests and explain why? No. Because I want to see how quickly or how long (if ever) it takes to make a correction or improve performance. If there is any pattern to be detected here I think it is one of lost opportunity.

One group, who I had not donated to but had some involvement with, repeatedly asked me on its Web site to sign up for e-newsletters, e-alerts and receive information in the regular mail. This I dutifully did. And when I began to realise I had signed up before and again before that, I made a point of signing up every three months just to see how long it would take to receive something. Anything! Well, I never did received anything in the mail but recently I started to receive e-alerts. This only took at least two years. This is a group with an annual budget of more than £1million. So, there’s no excuse for this incompetence. Nevertheless, the group should not have invited people to sign up to an e-newsletter without first having the means in place to deliver it. As I never received anything in the mail after I signalled my interest in their organisation, I presume they neither want my involvement nor my financial support.

To another group I made a significant donation in honour of a relevant topic for reasons it would be inappropriate for my to detail here. I didn’t a receive a prompt letter thanking me for my donation. It arrived some weeks later. I didn’t even get a phone call thanking me. I continue to receive their solicitations and mailings. I monitor carefully what they do because their work is interesting; however, I am disinclined to support them for the time being because of how they failed to recognise my donation. If they had responded personally and promptly I would feel differently.

I applied for a full-time position with one group, as I was more than appropriately qualified. Sometime after my interview, I had to call at least twice to find out the status of my application. Only then I was told I wasn’t required for a second interview, even though the position remained unfilled for sometime. I would feel differently about this group if they had not been so dismissive of my application.

I volunteered my professional services to more than one organisation. I even paid my own expenses to meet with them and donated my expertise to their projects. Eventually these situations came to nothing because of their choosing. The groups continue, from my monitoring of them, to be essentially where they were before I got involved.

I posted a question in response to a blog posted by one group on their Web site. The blog criticised a policy of another organisation which was an opponent. My question, which sought clarity on their position, was never answered. Why not?

Why not set your own tests? And see for yourself if your experience is the same as mine. If you discover a group fails a test you set them, well, question whether they continue to deserve your support.

 

 

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Thatcher and Me

May 19th, 2011 No comments

Rumours of Margaret Thatcher’s departure from this mortal coil continue. I wrote about my anxiety on how to react to the news of the inevitable here. Here’s another take from Owen Jones, which I appreciate.

I doubt any Prime Minister has ever polarised this country as much as Thatcher. The right idolise her like no other, believing ‘the Lady’ rescued a declining Britain from creeping socialism in the 1970s. But a pretty significant chunk of the country hate her so much that her death will, undoubtedly, be celebrated. Over the weekend, rumours flew around Twitter that she is on her deathbed: unlikely, but her departure from this world is probably not that far away. Facebook events encouraging street parties to mark her death have been live for years and have thousands of excited members. Let me be honest: I will not weep when Thatcher dies. Her governments ruined entire communities, and many of them still lie in pieces. People have lost lives as a result of her policies: whether it be the Argentine soldiers on the Belgrano, or miners who committed suicide in despair as their futures were taken away from them. But I won’t celebrate either. For a start, there’s a universal principle at stake: I don’t wish death on any figure, whether they be Thatcher or Osama bin Laden. I think they should be held accountable for their actions, and I don’t think their death solves anything.

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Ag Interests Going Gaga over Ag Gag Bills

May 17th, 2011 No comments

Jill Howard Church, my colleague at the Animals and Society Institute, assesses the outbreak of Ag Gag Bills in various US states. She writes,

By using its considerable financial and political resources to enact these “ag gag” bills, the industry is hoping the whole issue of factory farm cruelty will be nudged away, by adding another layer of legal intimidation toward those who already take great risks for the purpose of bearing witness to violence. Trespassing is already illegal, but by singling out filming on farms for special punishment, these states are hoping activists will take their cameras elsewhere or simply give up. I strongly suspect that’s not going to happen.

Indeed, enlightened responses to ag interests going gaga over ag gag bills is really encouraging. For example, the American Veterinary Medical Association made a most welcomed statement, which concluded

A variety of organizations, including the AVMA, industry groups, humane organizations, and state and federal regulatory agencies, offer guidelines to protect the health and welfare of animals used to produce our food supply. Too often, however, these guidelines are ignored. There is no excuse for this. If those responsible for the good welfare of the animals in their care are unable or unwilling to follow these guidelines, then additional oversight, either through public pressure or regulation, may become a necessity. We can do it the easy way or we can do it the hard way. But either way, it must be done.

Further insight into these developments and a comparison between the UK and US is a commentary published on the Web site, just-food.com, which describes itself as the “food industry’s leading online resource.” Discussing the Ag Gag Bills and undercover exposes in the US and the approach taken by RSPCA (e.g., Freedom Foods campaign) and CIWF (e.g., Good Egg Awards), Ben Cooper concludes,

Freedom Food and CIWF also aim to restore some form of link between consumers and animal agriculture. But they recognise that the real disconnect exists between mainstream production and mainstream consumers, rather than those buying niche, high-welfare products who in many cases will have that heightened awareness. The UK NGOs also believe that this is more likely to be achieved by cooperation between industry and campaigners than through conflict, and their results appear to be bearing that out.

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Oscar Ciutat

May 16th, 2011 No comments

Truly amazing photographs from Oscar Ciutat. See also comment from Andrew Sullivan.

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See Inside a Live Factory Farm Now!

May 13th, 2011 No comments

Live Factory Farm Feed

May 13th, 2011 No comments

Remember the live feed from the egg-laying chicken factory farm in Israel?

Now, JS West, a California-based company which owns factory farms, has a live feed on its own chicken battery. Excellent commentary by Erik Marcus here.

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A New Vegan Website ….

May 11th, 2011 1 comment

What would you like to see included in a new Website on vegan living? This is a vegan Web site which is aimed as much for vegans as it is for non-vegans who want to know how to cook and care for vegans. Please email me, Kim Stallwood, with your thoughts, comments, recommendations and ideas at kim@kimstallwood.com.

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Threats

May 9th, 2011 No comments

Whenever I read media reports alleging that animal rights activists threaten so and so because of such and such they do to animals, I always want to know if they state whether the evidence of the threats have been handed over to the police for investigation. If they don’t, I am always sceptical of the reports and their severity as well as whether animal rights activists, as opposed to unknown members of the public, actually made them.

Take, for example, this report.

Animal rights extremists threatened to “burn” the children of TV presenter Adam Henson after he investigated the bovine tuberculosis and badger cull issue on the BBC’s Countryfile programme. The threat, and other hate mail, were revealed by Mr Henson when he spoke to 185 farmers and agricultural professionals at a conference in Cornwall.

Let me make immediately clear, before someone rushes to allege otherwise, I do not support violence whether it is threatened, implied or actual. My opposition to violence is one reason why I am for animal rights. Also, I am not alleging Adam Henson is not telling the truth.

But wouldn’t any reasonable person, whose family was threatened for whatever reason, report it to the police? And would want to make it publicly known, particularly when given opportunities to do, including public speaking? Wouldn’t you want to use any situation to send a message to the aggressors that you are not cowed by them? And know full well, given public interest and a public profile if you have one as Adam Henson does, that this sort of thing the media loves to report?

Perhaps Mr Henson provided the evidence to the police. Perhaps he said so publicly. Perhaps the reporter failed it make a note of it. Or did make a note but it was excised from the published report for some reason. We don’t know.

But what I do know, and what I don’t like, is when someone gets attention for claiming something which the media rushes to publish without finding out for itself whether there is a police report to verify its veracity. To fail to do so is sloppy journalism. Perhaps the media in this case did. We don’t know.

Further, people who work tirelessly to stop violence to animals are incorrectly represented in the media in these situations, thereby perpetuating the mythology the animal rights movement is an inherently violent social movement. I don’t think this is the case and nor do I think it to be true. In fact, it’s the reverse. The social movement for animals (regardless of ideology) is very much a peaceful movement and inherent within its ethical credo is opposition to violence, particularly that which is inflicted upon animals. Yes, of course, there have been actions for animals which involve what most people would consider to be violence. In this regard, the animal movement is no different from all other social movements in that there is a minority which thinks differently. Nevertheless, I feel I have a duty to speak out whenever I can to correct this injustice.

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UK Govt’s Ideological Agenda

May 8th, 2011 No comments

Further to my post two days ago which detailed the UK government’s ideological agenda determining that it would be too much regulation to prohibit animals from performing in circuses, respected environmentalist Jonathon Porritt writes on his blog that

It is, I’m afraid, unavoidably depressing to see just how rapidly things have gone backwards since May 2010 [when the present UK Conservative-led coalition government was elected]. Instead of having a really strong story to tell at the Rio + 20 Conference in a year’s time, having built up an internationally-recognised framework for sustainable development in the 10 years running up to last year’s General Election, our contribution in Rio – as things stand at the moment – will be humiliatingly insubstantial.

For more on this, read Jonathon’s report commissioned by Friends of the Earth.

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