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MAC3 in India

February 17th, 2015 No comments

Minding AnimalsThe mission of Minding Animals International is to advance animal studies worldwide. Every three years we partner with a like-minded organisation or a university to co-produce an international conference for scholars, advocates, policy makers, artists, veterinarians, and others. By ‘we’ I mean me, as volunteer Executive Director, and my colleague Rod Bennison, founder and chair of the board, as well as all the other directors.

The first conference (‘MAC1’) was in Newcastle, Australia in 2009 and attracted 520 delegates from 23 countries. In 2012, MAC2 was produced in partnership with the Univeristy of Utrecht and was attended by 690 delegates from 42 countries.

MAC3 Conference logoMAC3 was held in January and was hosted by the Wildlife Trust of India, in collaboration with Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. It attracted more than 320 delegates from 35 countries.

Discussions are already underway for MAC4 in 2018. Details will be announced later this year.

The MAC3 six-day conference program reflected the trans-disciplinary nature of animal studies. The program included special events, plenaries, workshops, and plenty of opportunities to network.

At the Pre-Conference Interfaith Programme and Multi-Faith Prayer Service at Baha’i House of Worship, Lotus Temple, representatives from the Hindu, Christian, Islam, Jain, and Baha’i faiths spoke about their respect for animals. It ended with me making some closing remarks. The irony!

Maneka Gandhi addressing MAC3.

Maneka Gandhi addressing MAC3.

Keynote presentations were made by Government of India Ministers Maneka Gandhi, Minister of Women and Child Development and Shri Prakash Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change. I recall when we were at MAC2 in Utrecht, Vivek Menon, WTI’s Founder and CEO, said he wanted to host MAC3 because the will help to put animal studies on the map in India. Vivek’s dream maybe coming true as there was a discussion among the government minister’s of the possibility of federal government funding for an animal studies centre on the JNU campus. Clearly, this major development needs to be carefully monitored to ensure its fruition.

The program was full and diverse thereby reflecting the richness of animal studies. For example, Lori Gruen gave the first Marti Kheel Memorial Lecture. Other speakers included Will Kymlicka, co-author, Zoopolis; Jill Robinson, Animals Asia; Lisa Kemmerer, author, Animals and World Religions; and Clive Phillips, author, The Animal Trade. A particular focus of the conference was on differing aspects of animals in India. For example, Raman Sukumar spoke about ‘Gajatame and Ganesha: the sacred elephant of Asia’ and Norma Alvares and Varda Mehrotra, Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations, led a seminar on ‘Building a Movement for Animal Protection: The Experience from India.’ I also presented my paper about Topsy, the ‘elephant we must never forget.’

The Young Scholars Panel at MAC3 book-ended between Rod Bennison and myself from left to right: Upasana Ganguly, Jessica Ison, Kelsi Nagy, Yuan-Chih Lung, and Adam See.

The Young Scholars Panel at MAC3 book-ended between Rod Bennison and myself from left to right: Upasana Ganguly, Jessica Ison, Kelsi Nagy, Yuan-Chih Lung, and Adam See.

One of MAC3’s unexpected successes was an impromptu presentation I had to organise as one of our plenary speakers, Mahesh Rangarajan, was unable to join us at the last minute. Following on from the previous day’s panel which I chaired that was organised by Ken Shapiro, my fellow co-founder of the Animals and Society Institute, which considered the state and future of animal studies and included Lori Gruen, Colin Salter, Joe Lancia, Donald Broom, and Sandra Swart, I commissioned a panel of young animal studies scholars. This panel consisted of Upasana Ganguly, Jessica Ison, Yuan-Chic Lung, Kelsi Nagy, and Adam See. Each one rose to the challenge with 24 hours notice to speak about how they understood animal studies and saw the challenges they face in the field. Rod and I feel strongly that at MAC4 we would like to invite these scholars back as a panel to assess how things have progressed (or not!).

MAC3 was very successful. Among the many highlights was hearing speak for the first time the legendary Maneka Gandhi, who berated Indian governments for not doing enough for animals. It was encouraging to be told by delegates how much they valued the conference. Many spoke about making friends with others coming from different countries who share like-minded interests. I recall one delegate expressing delight at discovering a colleague from their university who was also interested in animal studies. This anecdote truly represents for me the strength and mission of Minding Animals International: to advance animal studies globally.

MAC3 also gave me my first opportunity to visit India—a country I had always wanted to visit. But this was no time for sight-seeing, which had to wait to afterwards. The post-conference tour will be the focus of another post here.

Here are links to what others said about MAC3:

Dr. Siobhan O’Sullivan is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

My animal studies year got off to the perfect start when I attending Minding Animals 3. Having attended the first conference (which was also the third Australasian Animal Studies Association conference in Newcastle, Australia) and then the second in Utrecht, it was my great pleasure to be at the third.

Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsey is a member of the Human Animal Research Network (HARN) at the Sydney Environment Institute and a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney.

The conference covered six full days, each with 6 concurrent sessions, keynotes and invited talks. The papers were mostly social science/humanities oriented and the ones that were from the more science-y side were clearly committed to entering into interdisciplinary dialogue. To me, that represents a real maturing of the field – we’re getting more accustomed to having our work heard and discussed by those outside of our disciplinary homes.

Please email with any others to share!

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Year in Review for 2014

December 30th, 2014 No comments
Here I am in my office among the more than 2,000 books in my archive. Photo credit: Paul Knight

Here I am in my office among the more than 2,000 books in my archive. Photo: Paul Knight

This has been an extremely busy year for me and my work for animal rights as an advocate for animals who is an author and independent scholar.

The year’s highlight was the publication of Growl by Lantern Books. Part memoir and part manifesto, Growl is the book I wish I could’ve read when I first became a vegetarian, animal rights activist in 1974.

Many of my activities this year were centred around Growl and its publication and promotion, including a three-week, six-city trip to the USA.

To learn more about my year in animal rights please visit this special page. I also reveal my plans for 2015.

It’s important for me to recognise here the many friends and colleagues as well as a significant number of like-minded organisations who I have had the honour to work with throughout 2014 toward our shared mission of ending animal exploitation. In particular, I wish to thank the kind contributors to my Indiegogo campaign whose generosity helped to make possible my animal rights work this year. Thank you!

To keep up to date with me and work for animal rights, please follow me on my social media:

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My Travels in the USA

November 12th, 2014 No comments
Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth edited by Carol Adams and Lori Gruen (Bloomsbury)

Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth edited by Carol Adams and Lori Gruen (Bloomsbury)

Now that I’m at the end of the second week of my three week trip to the USA, it’s time for a further update on my activities. For example, in New York City I:

  • Spoke about animal rights to some 60 students at Pace University in two Ethics in the Work Place classes and one Animal Law class with Professors Len Mitchell and David Cassuto respectively
  • Met with and called ASI supporters and colleagues from the animal rights movement
  • Got together again with Mariann Sullivan and met for the first time Jasmin Singer from Our Hen House, who took me to a fundraising event in support of Mercy for Animals called Art of Compassion
  • Recorded a radio interview with Caryn Hartglass for her radio show, Real Radio
  • Filmed an interview with Nancy Kogel of Reaching Out for Animal Rights for a documentary she is making
  • Met with attorneys David Wolfson and Sarah Griffin from Milbank about Minding Animals International
  • Spoke to a packed room of some 100 people at Bluestockings radical bookstore to launch the new anthology, Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals and the Earth edited by Carol Adams and Lori Gruen (Bloomsbury) along with Carol and fellow contributors pattrice jones and Sunny Taylor

I left New York City Friday afternoon for Baltimore for the second stage of my six-city, three week itinerary. My next update will focus on my activities in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC during this week. On Saturday, I leave Baltimore for the final stage in my itinerary in Portland, ME and Boston, which I will also share with you later.

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Update from NYC

November 3rd, 2014 No comments

USAIt’s great to be back in the USA and in New York City! I’m truly appreciative of the 20 years I spent living and working in this country. So, yes, it’s great to be back!

I arrived late Wednesday and I write this post early Monday morning. These past few days have been very busy. Here are some highlights.

Animals and Society Initiative at New York University

More than 70 students, faculty, advocates, and others joined me for my presentation, ‘The Animal Rights Challenge,’ at a public lecture hosted by NYU’s Animals and Society Initiative. It all went well with some excellent questions forcing me to come up with some thoughtful answers. Earlier versions of this presentation are on this website. Check out the section ‘Animal Rights Challenge.’ My research, writing and presentation in this subject is part of a larger project which will be part of my second book (see below Lantern Books and A Brighter Green). NYU’s ASI is an outstanding project and in the forefront of the development of Human Animal Studies. It is among a handful of universities who are investing in this emerging field of academic endeavour. I strongly believe HAS, along with Critical Animal Studies, will contribute to deepening our understanding of our relationship with other animals and help to redress our past wrongs in our treatment of them by informing public policy. Prior to my presentation, I met with Nicolas Delon, who is Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow, NYU Animal Studies Initiative in the Department of Environmental Studies. Along with NYU’s ASI, please also check out Wesleyan Animal Studies at Wesleyan University and the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University, where I am a member of the Advisory Board.

James Jasper

Protest: A Cultural Introduction to Social Movements by James Jasper.

Protest: A Cultural Introduction to Social Movements by James Jasper.

Jim is a sociologist whose research and writing in social movements has been a major influence and is internationally recognised. When I was the Executive Director of Animals and Social Institute and co-produced with the Culture and Animals Foundation the International Compassionate Living Festival, we were honoured to have Jim present research from his book, Getting Your Way: Strategic Dilemmas in the Real World. This is recommended reading as is his classic work, The Art of Moral Protest. Jim is very informed and sympathetic to animal rights and his insights are invaluable to helping us understand more about how to make social justice happen. We had an excellent discussion about the challenges facing social movements and, in particular, the animal rights movement. Jim kindly gave me a copy of his new book, Protest: A Cultural Introduction to Social Movements, which includes animal rights and I look forward to reading it. To learn more about James Jasper, please visit his website. We met for lunch at Blossom vegan restaurant in Chelsea. Fabulous meal!

Lantern Books and A Brighter Green

I met with Martin Rowe of Lantern Books and Mia MacDonald of Brighter Green. As you no doubt know Lantern Books published Growl and the anthologies of articles I edited from The Animals’ Agenda magazine. For more information please visit my author’s page at Lantern Books.

It was an opportunity for us to bring ourselves up to date with news and developments. For example, Mia spoke about her work with Brighter Green, which is a ‘public policy action tank that works to raise awareness of and encourage policy action on issues that span the environment, animals, and sustainability.’ We discussed a number of projects, including, in my capacity as editor of Philip Lymbery’s website, the publication of a guest editorial from Mia in the coming months. Philip Lymbery is Chief Executive of Compassion In World Farming and co-author of Farmageddon.

Martin is my editor and I wanted to use the opportunity of our meeting to talk in person about the next book I want to write. Presently called, The Animal Rights Challenge, we discussed various aspects to it and approaches to take to get it produced. This included feedback on my NYU presentation and other matters. It’s too early to say more about my second book other than it will follow on from where Growl ends. This is to say that its focus will be on the status of the animal rights movement. Martin kindly gave me a copy of his The Elephants in the Room, which I look forward to reading as part of my research into my project about Topsy, the elephant electrocuted in NYC in 1903.

Animals and Society Institute

ASIFurther to these activities, there have also been other meetings related to my work with the Animals and Society Institute in which I have been getting together with our supporters and bringing them up to date with our activities and thanking them for their continuing support.

 

 

And What Else?

I’m in New York City until Friday and my schedule includes

  • Further meetings and calls with ASI supporters and colleagues from the animal rights movement
  • Meeting with attorneys David Wolfson and Sarah Griffin about Minding Animals International
  • Meeting with Jasmin Singer and Mariann from Our Hen House
  • Speaking to two Business Ethics classes and one Animal Law class at Pace University
  • Attending the Art of Compassion event in support of Mercy for Animals
  • Interview with Caryn Hartglass for her radio show, Real Radio
  • Book launch for the anthology, Ecofeminism, which includes a contribution from me

For information and links to these events, please go to the post that precedes this one.

From Friday evening onwards for one week I will be in Baltimore and from there will be doing events in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington DC. I plan to publish my next update from Baltmore during this coming weekend.

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Growling to America!

October 8th, 2014 No comments

Just three weeks to go before I leave the UK for the USA on Wednesday, October 29. This trip in support of my animal rights work and to promote my book, Growl, is made possible by the generous support of many people in my recent Indiegogo campaign.

I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who generously contributed and made possible this three-week long working visit to the East Coast. Thank you!

Further, your support has kept me very busy here in the UK with several speaking engagements promoting Growl, including at the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, London Vegfest, 2nd Annual Humanities in Public Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University, and the forthcoming inaugural launch conference of the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University.

Here’s my US itinerary:

Thursday, October 30: Presenting my talk, ‘The Animal Rights Challenge,’ at a public meeting hosted by the Animal Studies Initiative at New York University
Friday, October 31: Lunch with sociologist James Jasper, which is followed by an interview with Caryn Hartglass of REAL Radio
Saturday, November 1: Meeting with my publisher Martin Rowe at Lantern Books
Tuesday, November 4: Presenting my talk, ‘Growl,’ at Professor David Cassuto’s Animal Law Class, which is followed by making the same presentation to Professor Len Mitchell’s Business Ethics Class at Pace University
Wednesday, November 5: Second ‘Growl’ presentation for Professor Len Mitchell’s Business Ethics Classes at Pace University, which is followed by a meeting with Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan of Our Hen House (we may be also, schedule permitting, recording an interview for the Our Hen House TV program)
Thursday, November 6: Speaking at the launch party for the anthology, Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with Other Animals & the Earth, at Bluestockings radical bookstore, NYC
Friday, November 7: Meeting with attorneys Sarah Griffin and David Wolfson about Minding Animals International
Monday, November 10: Presenting ‘Growl’ at the vegan cafe, Grindcore House, hosted by The Humane League in Philadelphia, PA
Wednesday, November 12: Presenting ‘Growl’ at Red Emma’s bookstore and vegetarian cafe in Baltimore, MD
Thursday, November 13: Lunchtime presentation of ‘Growl’ for the staff, volunteers and trustees of Alley Cat Allies, Bethesda, MD
Thursday, November 13: Presenting ‘Growl’ at a public meeting hosted by Alley Cat Allies at the Washington Humane Society’s Behavior and Learning Centre
Friday, November 14: Consultation with Dawn Moncrief, A Well-Fed World, which is followed by an afternoon presentation of ‘Growl’ for the staff of the ASPCA’s Washington DC office
Saturday, November 15: Evening presentation of ‘Growl’ hosted by Maine Animal Coalition at University of Southern Maine
Sunday, November 16: Eventing presentation of ‘Growl’ at the vegan Grasshopper Restaurant hosted by the Boston Vegetarian Society
Monday, November 17: Evening reception hosted by GREY2K USA Worldwide at their offices in Arlington, MA

Additional dates to my itinerary are being finalised. Please visit the Events section on this website to keep up to date with the latest news and information.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re interested in me speaking in your area or working with you on your animal rights campaigns.

Thank you for doing all that you do for the animals!

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Growl Feedback

October 1st, 2014 No comments

A pleasure from Growl I didn’t anticipate is receiving feedback from readers. Well, that’s not entirely true. I did think about negative comments and how I should react to them. Of which, I’m pleased to say I haven’t received any ….. yet! So, the favourable comments come as a very pleasant surprise, which goes along with the kind reactions I’m receiving from the public readings and talks I’m currently making. One comment from someone who asks to be known as ‘Ireene V’ has given me her permission to share it with you here.

We met at the animal rights conference in Luxembourg. Me and my husband bought your book and you asked as to send you a feedback after reading it. I did read it and liked it very much. I liked that it was written on a personal level, not just theoretical. Although it is important to read theoretical works about animal rights, from time to time one just needs to hear about personal stories and struggles to know how to cope better, to know that someone else has had a similar experience, that someone else has felt the same. So thank you for that! After leaving the conference I woke up next morning and went straight to the Misanthropic Bunker. I haven’t really experienced that before but the contrast between the “real world” and the atmosphere of the conference was too much to handle. I started reading the “Growl” and it helped me address these feelings. I also appreciated the history and the background information of British animal rights movement. I am very interested in history of veganism and animal rights. I share your view on non-violence. I think it is extremely important that animal rights movement differs from animal abusers and violence should not be accepted. As I don’t have any companion animals I haven’t felt that magical connection with animals yet. I do hope to experience it someday. I am sorry there are too many thoughts to write down coherently. But all and all I do think it is an important book and I do hope people will read it. I am definitely going to recommend it to my friends.

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News from Growl!

September 19th, 2014 1 comment

In six weeks time on Thursday, October 30 I will be in New York City as the guest of the Animal Studies Initiative at New York University making a presentation about Growl and the issues that I raise in my book. This date marks the beginning of a three-week working visit to the East Coast of the USA.

My recent Indiegogo campaign helped to raise the funds needed to make possible the following itinerary. I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who generously contributed. Thank you!

Additional dates to my itinerary are being finalised. Please visit the Events section on this website to keep up to date with the latest news and information.

Please know your generous support of my Indiegogo campaign also helped to make possible my presentations at the following:

And between now and leaving for the USA in six weeks, I will be also speaking at:

Please watch my presentation at the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg here.

I will be back in touch soon with further updates, including announcements about book clubs reading Growl and more public events.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re interested in me speaking in your area or working with you on your animal rights campaigns.

Thank you for doing all that you do for the animals!

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Watch My Growl Presentation

September 15th, 2014 No comments

The presentation that I made at the recent International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg is now available to watch. It was called ‘Animal Witness’ at the conference but is given the name ‘Why Animals and Their Well-Being Matter to Us’ on YouTube but more importantly it reflects the essence of what I have to say in Growl.

 

To watch my presentation from the IARC 2013, please click here.

To learn where I will be presenting in the future, please visit Events on this website.

For more information about the IARC, please click here.

 

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Spying on Animal Rights

September 3rd, 2014 1 comment
A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre

There’s something fascinating about the so-called Cambridge spies: Anthony Blunt, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and Kim Philby. They all came from the upper middle class and met at Cambridge University in the 1930s. They went onto hold various powerful positions in society while acting as double agents for the U.K. and U.S.S.R. or worked in the Foreign Office or for the Windsors as the Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.

I’m not delusional about the severe damage the Cambridge spies caused to Britain and its security as well as the deaths of many hundreds of people that their espionage resulted in. Nonetheless, I cannot but help find appealing the heroic, romanticised view of the Cambridge spies as they’re presented in, for example, the plays of Alan Bennett (e.g., ‘An Englishman Abroad’ about Burgess and ‘A Question of Attribution’ about Blunt) and in the telly series ‘Cambridge Spies.’ Not quite the same thing but I keep promising myself to read John le Carre’s spy novels but have yet to get round to doing so.

A book I have just finished is A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal by Ben Macintyre (Bloomsbury), a writer and editor on Murdoch’s The Times.

What makes this book different from the many others about Philby is that it’s about his friendships and particularly with Nicholas Elliott, who, like Philby, was a spy in MI6, Britain’s secret intelligence service. What’s fascinating is how Philby was able to hide his spying for the Russians from his wives and closest of colleagues and friends who all knew him intimately. There is, of course, a lot more to say about all of this but this briefest of descriptions will have to suffice.

There’s one aspect to the Philby story that stands out above all others, which made me very angry as I read the book. Philby was protected by his class because it couldn’t be possible that ‘one of them’ could be a traitor. This privileged status ensured that for years Philby, while in our employ, spied for the Soviets unchallenged. 

Read more…

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Almost Direct Action Everywhere

August 19th, 2014 1 comment

I was hoping for more from reading The Evolution of Veganism: Is Empowered Activism the Next Stage? by Wayne Hsiung, founding organiser of Direct Action Everywhere (DAE).

His three conclusions are:

  1. The first is that we have to move beyond simply creating an environment that accepts and tolerates vegans.
  2. The second is that a confident and assertive approach — playing offense rather than defense — is key to our movement’s growth.
  3. What we need, if our movement is to grow, is more and stronger activists.

Now, of course, I could quibble with each one of these three points but it’s the absence of a much larger point that I find troubling: the exclusive reliance upon individual action to make institutional change while ignoring the democratic, political process.

Yes, which vegan wouldn’t want to have to campaign for an environment that embraces us?

Yes, haven’t vegans been playing offence since they became, er, vegan?

Yes, of course, we need more and stronger activists.

As I discuss in my book, Growl, I do not believe everyone is going to go vegan, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try; nonetheless, the reality is that not everyone will care about animals as much as we do. Moreover, not everyone will understand animal rights within a progressive agenda of social change.

This is why we need to think beyond animal rights as an optional lifestyle choice. Yes, I agree with DAE about what we do to animals is violence. Nonviolence is one of my four key values in animal rights. We need to challenge the institutions that perpetuate the violence toward animals as the social norm. Yes, their campaign targeting is Chipotle is fine, and I wish them every success in all that they do.

But there will never be enough individual vegans to challenge the thousands if not millions of enterprises like Chipotle across the planet.

Of course, we must try, and that is essentially what animal rights activism is all about: fomenting the same change in others we experienced in ourselves whereby we have a personal transformative moment when animal cruelty is no longer hidden from view, and consequently we boycott products of animal exploitation by going cruelty-free, vegan.

But individual change will only go so far. We need also institutional change.

We can no longer naively believe individual vegans and animal advocacy organisations will change the world.

We have to work within the mainstream politics to embed the values of animal rights within their culture. They are the people and the organisations who we elect to represent us, form governments, and pass laws.

In short, the single greatest challenge we face is making animal rights a mainstream political issue.

Of course, anarchists and those who have written off the political process will disagree with this premise. There’s nothing I can say or do to change their minds. We will just have to agree to disagree.

Take note, however, of how gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people organised not only as a social movement (coincidentally, as disparate as ours) and worked within political parties across the world to achieve significant lifestyle and political change as a legislative issue.

As public sentiment moved to accept those who were previously considered as outsiders, informed and sympathetic public policy makers and elected representatives fought for and won legislation protecting them, thereby bringing together public education and public policy into legislation and its enforcement. While there’s still work to be done, G/L/B/T folks presently enjoy legal protection as never before. Further, individuals who do not respect these laws are liable for prosecution.

A case in point is Britain’s Hunting Act 2004. Now, I know is far from perfect; however, it had the effect of criminalising those who previously enjoyed the protection of the law when they legally chased and killed wild animals for fun, and it reinvented in part the role of hunt saboteurs as hunt monitors to help ensure the law is enforced.

This combined strategy of public/political and individual/institutional is the message that I look for from not only DAE but also the entire social movement for animals. So far, I don’t hear it very much.

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