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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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Growl Two Months On

August 9th, 2014 No comments

Two months on from the publication of Growl by Lantern Books and I pause to list some of what’s happened and what’s forthcoming.

Reactions

  • Hastings Independent free newspaper says Growl is ‘fascinating and insightful book’
  • Historian Hilda Kean says Growl ‘carefully debunks the idea that real change in the position of non-human animals can occur simply by individuals altering their lifestyle’
  • Humane Research Council recommends Growl in its Summer Reading List
  • VegFund says ‘Any activist, new or seasoned, can learn from Stallwood’s experiences and apply them to his or her own advocacy’
  • Brian May’s Soapbox promotes Growl
  • Responsible Eating and Living radio interview with Caryn Hartglass
  • Growl Launch Party at vegan Moose’s Kitchen in St Leonards on Sea attracts more than 35 people
  • Mark Hawthorne online interview ‘Kim Stallwood: Helping People Help Animals’
  • Hastings Online Times says Growl is a ‘fascinating insight into the experiences of a man who has dedicated most of his life to animal advocacy and protection’
  • Speaking inquiries received from Finland, Poland, and Australia
  • Professor Marita Giménez-Candela, Director, Master in Animal Law and Society, adds Growl to the recommended reading list for the Graduate Course ‘Law and Animal Welfare’ and Master Program ‘Animal Law and Society’ at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
  • Presented Growl at the VegFest in Bristol in May

Forthcoming

  • Presenting Growl at the London Vegan Festival, the International Animal Rights Conference in Luxembourg, and London VegFest
  • Launch party for Growl at the inaugural conference of the Centre for Human Animal Studies at Edge Hill University in October
  • Presenting Growl at the 2nd Annual Humanities in Public Festival at Manchester Metropolitan University in October
  • US East Coast book tour late October to mid November includes NYU Animals and Society Initiative, Business Ethics and Environmental Law classes at Pace University, and GWU Law School

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Reading Growl

May 31st, 2014 No comments
A box of Growls on the dining room table.

A box of Growls on the dining room table.

I’m reading Growl for the first time as a book. I’ve read it before umpteen times in various incarnations as a manuscript, a work in progress (or not in progress, as the case invariably was). But now that it’s published, holding the finished book in my hands, turning the pages, reading along the lines, well, it’s all a bit strange. It was also strange to see a box of Growls waiting to be opened sitting on the dining room table. All that effort, I thought, grief, anguish, hard work, frustration, self-doubt, self-pity, anxiety…..sitting there in a box.

Of course, it’s all that and much more.

It’s a finished, printed book with my name as the author on the cover. Holding it in my hands for the first time, flipping through the pages, well, it didn’t seem real. ‘Aren’t you excited?’ I was asked repeatedly in the last weeks knowing that this moment was imminent. ‘No,’ I said. And, indeed, I wasn’t. It was anticlimactic. It was surreal. It wasn’t a moment I savoured. There wasn’t any celebration.

It didn’t help that my partner, Gary, was struggling with a horrid cold after returning from two weeks in the U.S. It didn’t help that I also felt I was coming down with the same bug. As it turns out, I was but not as badly. It didn’t help that what has taken to write, produce, and publish Growl has been years, if not decades of work. And now it seems that the book I held was no longer my own. It had a life of its own.

People, I realised, are going to make what they will out of it. And I, the author, will be judged accordingly. Rightly. Or wrongly. For there are things said in Growl which won’t make some people happy. In fact, it’s going to make them angry and, in some cases, further right me off as a sell-out. Others won’t like what I write about their animal rights work. Most likely, there isn’t anything I could say or do that would keep them happy anyway. So, I’ve prepared myself with saying,

You don’t have to like Growl. No one, least of all me, is forcing you or anyone else to agree with me.

At the Bristol VegFest last weekend, one man posed a question after my Growl-themed presentation, well, he made a statement to the effect that people are all shits and we’re all doomed. Tempted as I was to agree with him, I soft peddled it a bit by saying that I understood how he felt and mumbled something about that that way of thinking wasn’t going to get us anywhere. But what I really wanted to say was, ‘Why the fuck did you bother coming to the VegFest if that’s how you felt? Next question, please!’

It’s not going to bother me if people disagree with what I have to say. In fact, I feel even more emboldened to speak the truth as I see it. But if there are truly reasonable opportunities for respectful, rational, and reasonable debate, well, I welcome them.

Meanwhile, as I continue to read Growl–the book, it strangely feels that I’m following the thoughts of someone else but who is a lot like me. Yes, of course, I wrote it, and many people influenced and helped me along the way. I had the great fortune to work with finest of editors, Martin Rowe, who challenged me to do better. But I recall what I’ve heard authors said. Once it’s published, a book has a life of its own.

Have a good trip, Growl. It’s been (mostly) nice knowing you. Now, it’s time for me to take my next voyage of discovery–except that Growl is demanding its promotion and marketing.

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Categories: Animal Rights, Books Tags:

Art and the Making of Animal Rights

May 18th, 2014 No comments

 

The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights by Stephen F. Eisenman

The Cry of Nature: Art and the Making of Animal Rights by Stephen F. Eisenman

Stephen F. Eisenman is Professor of Art History at Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, and author of The Cry of Nature — Art and the Making of Animal Rights (Reaktion; 2013). This is a fascinating read, which, I believe, deserves the attention of advocates and scholars alike who care deeply about animals, and why I wanted to interview him. 

1. What inspired you to write The Cry of Nature – Art and the Making of Animal Rights?

I have been a vegetarian for 25 years and a vegan for about five. In addition, about ten years ago, I started to become engaged in the relatively new research field of Animal Studies.

But the real impetus for The Cry of Nature came in 2008. After publishing a short book about the photographs made at Abu Ghraib prison, (The Abu Ghraib Effect, 2007) I realized that the issue of human rights and animal rights are essentially the same! Animals like humans are sensitive and empathetic. Both require love, freedom and companionship to thrive. Yet both have been systematically denied these things by kings, tyrants, presidents and regular people willing to look the other way. In addition, the great artworks we see in museums generally show dead animals or slabs of meat as both natural and beautiful! I wanted to write a book that would make that violence strange again. I also wanted to highlight the work of artists who rejected violence, anthropocentrism and the turning of sentient beings into mere commodities.

2. The book’s subtitle is ‘Art and the Making of Animal Rights.’ How did artists help inaugurate the animal rights movement?

In the 17th C, the painter Rembrandt rejected the Cartesian distinction between body and soul, and between human and animal. He showed the latter – even in death – as possessing of a soul. So did William Hogarth and George Stubbs in the 18th century, and the French Romantic, Theodore Gericault in the 19th. Hogarth in particular was cited by the philosophers of the late 18th Century who started the modern animal rights movement. Without Hogarth, John Oswald and Joseph Ritson – both pioneers of animal rights – would never have written their books. By the way, the title of my book derives from Oswald’s amazing, radical, but little-read 1791 manifesto, The Cry of Nature – or An Appeal to Mercy and to Justice on Behalf of the Persecuted Animals.

3. Which works by Hogarth do you mean?

William Hogarth, The First Stage of Cruelty, 1751

William Hogarth, The First Stage of Cruelty, 1751

There is of course, his great portrait of his pug dog, Trump! But more important are the great engravings called The Four Stages of Cruelty. The first two prints are a veritable encyclopedia of animal cruelty and were intended to shock the conscience of viewers. And they did! Of all the works he made, Hogarth was the most proud of these.

4. What is your view of 20th and 21st century artists like Pablo Picasso, Chaim Soutine, Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst, and Sue Coe? How did they depict animals?

Kim, that’s a big question, and readers will have to look at my book for an answer. But I will say that excepting Hirst, they all rejected in one way or another the cruel clichés of speciesism. Coe of course is the greatest moralist-artist active today. She proves that you can be both brilliant at your craft (drawing, painting, printmaking) and a powerful force for social change. She has single-handedly made more vegans than all the animal welfare groups put together!

5. Is the focus of your current research animal rights? If so, what can you say us about it?

Yes, I can’t leave it behind. I am writing about animal agency in the late 18th Century and after. In all previous emancipation struggles, the oppressed group has fought for its own freedom. I have discovered that animals – for example the ones brought to Smithfield Market in London — did that too, and that their oppressors recognized it. I know this sounds a bit crazy, but I am a careful scholar and I have the evidence! Rampant bulls at Smithfield killed in order to obtain their freedom. Sheep cried out in such a plaintive way that they attracted human supporters. I am giving illustrated lectures about these subjects at conferences this year in England and the US, so please come and hear for yourself.

But Kim, as you know so well, scholarship is not enough. I am becoming more and more engaged with activism. For me, the one supports the other, and I am trying to teach my students at Northwestern the same lesson. The best scholar is the engaged scholar.

 

PS Here’s a video of Stephen giving a talk to the Chicago Humanities Festival which outlines what he explores more fully in  his book. I find it to be important and fascinating research and analysis that’s relevant to understanding our complex relationship with other animals.

 

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Categories: Animal Rights, Books Tags: ,

Growl’s Foreword by Brian May

May 11th, 2014 3 comments
Brian May

Brian May

It’s my great honour that Brian May has very kindly written the Foreword to Growl. In the last few years, Brian has spoken out against the present UK government’s threat to repeal the Hunting Act and bring back fox, stag, and deer hunting as well as the government’s policy to kill badgers allegedly to halt the spread of TB among cows raised for their milk. He established the Save Me campaign, named after his song, to champion all, but predominantly British, wildlife.

Around the world he is, of course, known and beloved as a founding member of Queen and a world-renowned guitarist, songwriter, producer, and performer. He’s also a Doctor of Astrophysics and an authority in 3D stereoscopic photography. Officially, he is known as Dr Brian May, CBE, PhD FRAS; but to Britain’s wildlife, he’s known as our friend Brian.

Growl‘s Foreword by Brian May

I was honoured to be asked to write a foreword for Kim Stallwood’s definitive book about the journey of men and women towards decency. Did I say ‘definitive’? Yes, I believe this book is important enough to be essential reading for anyone who has begun to listen to what their conscience says, as regards how we, as humans, behave towards the other beings on Earth, whether human or nonhuman.

There is, in human evolution, a time for ideas to germinate and become powerful social movements for change. It is highly significant that Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, in a foreword he wrote for The Global Guide to Animal Protection,

I have seen first-hand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.

This, from Tutu, a man who spent most of his life fighting against injustice to blacks, women, and gays, is a signal that our sensibilities are growing up. It is a call to us all to stand up for what most of us believe is right, on a larger stage than ever before.

The fact that you are reading this foreword is probably an indication that you are already in that group of humans who feel profoundly uncomfortable with vast areas of our everyday treatment of animals, and would like to make a change. I count myself in that group. Yet, for most of our lives, busy and ambitious as we are, and concerned with providing for a growing family, we turn a blind eye to that inner dissatisfaction. How can we turn ourselves into an instrument for change towards decency in human behaviour?

Kim Stallwood’s fascinating account of his ongoing journey towards this goal is the best answer to this question I have ever seen. Although Kim is modest and self-critical, his life has already inspired many of us in our quest to give animals a voice. In this book, he chronicles his own passion as he makes a journey that is both real and symbolic, towards true decency. The only good parallel I can think of for his often painful honesty and sharp perception is John Bunyan in his Pilgrim’s Progress. This book explodes many myths and bubbles; it levels all the high ground that many have believed they stood on, and plainly beckons us in humility and simplicity to a better way of thinking, in which we cause no unnecessary pain to any creature. Better than this, it opens the door to a world based on compassion, our greatest hope for us and our children, and our children’s children.

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World Day for Laboratory Animals 1984

April 23rd, 2014 No comments
In London's Trafalgar Square on World Day for Laboratory Animals in 1984.

In London’s Trafalgar Square on World Day for Laboratory Animals in 1984.

Thirty years ago in London’s Trafalgar Square, I was the lead organiser of a national demonstration to recognise World Day for Laboratory Animals, when I was Campaigns Officer at the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.

The protest was at that point in time the world’s largest animal rights demonstration with nine thousand people, with the greatest number ever involved–six hundred–in street theatre.

Under BUAV’s hallmark slogan of ‘Every Six Seconds an Animal Dies in a British Laboratory’, we constructed a large doorway, which was painted to represent an entrance to a vivisection laboratory. We dressed a couple of people as vivisectors, with bloodstained white coats, and stationed them by the doorway. From the plinth at the Square, we announced that for the ninety minutes of speeches and music a tape loop would play the sound of a bell chiming every six seconds. Each time the bell rang, large numbers were turned on the stage to count to six hundred while one of the vivisectors took a protester through the door, ‘killed’ them in front of the plinth, and laid them on the ground as dead animals. Eventually, the area was filled with 600 ‘dead animals’.

At the 1984 World Day for Laboratory Animals demonstration in London's Trafalgar Square, I help Sue Croshaw speak out as a disabled person against animal experimentation by holding the microphone stand.

At the 1984 World Day for Laboratory Animals demonstration in London’s Trafalgar Square, I help Sue Croshaw speak out as a disabled person against animal experimentation by holding the microphone stand.

This protest was part of a coalition, the Mobilisation of Animals, which opposed the government’s proposed legislation to replace the Cruelty to Animals Act 1876. The coalition consisted of Animal Aid, Scottish Anti-Vivisection Society, National Anti-Vivisection Society, and BUAV. We opposed the proposed law because it wouldn’t even ban particularly egregious examples of animal experimentation—such as using animals for testing the negative effects of tobacco and alcohol, and the toxicity of cosmetics, as well as employing animals in research for military and psychological purposes. These experiments had been the focus of the 1979 and 1983 General Election Coordinating Committee for Animal Protection campaigns I helped to lead. We organised a lobby of Parliament, which was attended by seven hundred people, and a rally, emceed by myself, with sympathetic Members of Parliament of all political parties, and others.

Although the government ignored our demands on the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act, I believe BUAV and its companion organisations succeeded in highlighting what needed to be done when the new legislation was enforced. For example, the U.K. government subsequently banned the testing of cosmetics on animals in 1997 and the LD50 oral toxicity test in 2001. In 2003, the European Union agreed to a membership-wide ban on cosmetics animal testing by 2013.

The Talon Conspiracy, an online archive preserving the history of protest movements for animal rights and environmentalism, offers an opportunity to read back copies of BUAV’s ‘campaigning newspaper,’ The Liberator, which I co-edited. Here’s the link to the issue which included a report on the Trafalgar Square demonstration.

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Henry Salt Died April 19, 1939

April 22nd, 2014 No comments
Henry Salt 1851-1939

Henry Salt 1851-1939

It’s important to remember the passing of Henry Salt in Brighton, England on April 19, 1939. He lived an extraordinary life championing social justice that had at its heart animal rights. He wrote his own eulogy, which was read out at his funeral,

When I say I shall die, as I have lived, rationalist, socialist, pacifist, and humanitarian, I must make my meaning clear. I wholly disbelieve in the present established religion; but I have a very firm religious faith of my own—a Creed of Kinship I call it—a belief that in years yet to come there will be a recognition of brotherhood between man and man, nation and nation, human and subhuman, which will transform a state of semi-savagery, as we have it, into one of civilisation, when there will be no such barbarity of warfare, or the robbery of the poor by the rich, or the ill-usage of the lower animals by mankind.

I’ve written here about Salt on previous occasions (here and here and here) but a wonderful resource about Salt and all things related is here.

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Radio Interview with Caryn Hartglass

April 14th, 2014 No comments

REALPlease listen to my radio interview with Caryn Hartglass of the NYC-based Responsible Eating and Living.

We discussed many issues, including being vegan and my forthcoming book, Growl, as well as reminiscing about an infamous protest at an animal rights conference some years ago!

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