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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Bleating Hearts by Mark Hawthorne

March 20th, 2014 No comments
Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne

Mark Hawthorne wrote Bleating Hearts because he wanted to ‘examine animal exploitation that does not get enough (or any) attention.’ (4) As you might expect, this is a book that is a catalog of our inhumanity to animals. It’s not an easy read but each chapter concludes with a ‘What You Can Do’ section. The best way to read it is to take chapters in turn depending upon your interest or need to know. Hawthorne is a writer of integrity. If he says it, you can trust it. I recognised Bleating Hearts as one of my Best Animal Rights Books in 2013. Indeed, Bleating Hearts is so important that not only does it deserve a place on everyone’s bookshelf but also it warrants further examination here.

Take, for example, Chapter 6 ‘The Age of Aquariums: Animals in Entertainment.’ Sixty pages devoted to indefensible activities such as imprisoning dolphins, orcas, and killer whales and conditioning them to perform silly tricks to entertain people. As with other marine mammal displays, roadside attractions, and zoos, there’s no real educational benefit. Studies show that visitors don’t necessarily learn anything about the trapped animals other than perhaps recalling the thrill of being splashed with water. Wild animals are no less wild just because they’re wild-caught or bred (in-bred more like). Most likely from boredom, frustration, and anger, they attack and kill people when they’re provoked or have the opportunity to do so. Hawthorne explains how parks get their orcas.

The orca slave trade took off in 1965 when Ted Griffin, then owner of the Seattle Public Aquarium, captured a young whale, harpooning and killing her mother in the process. The calf, the first in a long line of orcas to be given the name Shamu, was sold to San Diego’s newly built Sea World for what would be half a million US dollars today. Suddenly, marine parks everywhere were eager to shell out big money for these animals, and there were people willing to do anything for a piece of it. (305-6)

Then, there’s artificial insemination. Hawthorne describes how male orcas are taught to allow trainers to masturbate them and collect their semen. Female orcas are also trained to accept trainers insert an endoscope into their uterus to deliver the sperm. Next up are dolphins, who are caught, trained, and conditioned to swim with people for profit and supposedly for therapy assistance.

The rest of the chapter describes the injustices inflicted upon animals in circuses, zoos, in film and on TV, fighting (dogs, horses, bears), kickboxing (orangutans), wrestling (camels, alligators, crocodiles, pigs), and, perhaps the most ‘celebrated’ of all animals in entertainment, bullfighting.

But there’s much that can be done by everyone to dump so-called ‘animal entertainments’ into the trashcan of history.

The first and most important step you can take to help animals exploited for entertainment is not to support the enterprises and institutions that profit from animal abuse. (355)

Bleating Hearts is among the most important books anyone who cares deeply about animals would want to have on their bookshelf. The hidden world of animal suffering is that much more known thanks to Mark Hawthorne, whose writing is clear and compelling, and research impeccable and trustworthy. If ever there is a must-have book that’s well-read, this is it.

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne (2013: Changemakers Books)

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Announcing Growl

March 14th, 2014 No comments

GROWL with Brian MayLantern Books will publish Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate in September.

Part memoir and part manifesto, I’ve written the book I wish I could’ve read when I went vegan and became involved with animal rights in the 1970s. 

I explore four key values in animal rights: compassion, truth, nonviolence, and justice.

Growl‘s fabulous cover is designed by Lawrence & Beavan.

Not all souls sing; some growl—for justice, for truth, for nonviolence. In this compelling book, Kim Stallwood offers frontline reflections with feet-on-the-ground theory, centered in compassion.

Carol J. Adams, author, The Sexual Politics of Meat

An erudite, engaging, and at times hilarious autobiography from one of the wisest voices of the animal rights movement.

Jonathan Balcombe, biologist and author, Pleasurable Kingdom

 

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Badgers, Politics, and Hastings

March 12th, 2014 No comments

Tomorrow’s (March 13, 2014) Backbench Business Committee debate in the House of Commons in support of a motion relating to the badger cull states that this:

House believes that the pilot badger culls in Gloucestershire and Somerset have decisively failed against the criteria set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in guidance to Natural England for licensing of the culls[.]

The motion is brought by Mrs Anne Main, Conservative MP for St Albans, who states on her website that:

I have a great sympathy for farmers on this difficult issue and believe something has to be done to tackle Bovine TB. However this needs to be an effective policy and the pilot culls have failed on all of the Government’s own criteria, including humaneness. I cannot support an ineffective policy that condones the inhumane killing of a protected species and does not deliver on an effective way of tackling Bovine TB.

The UK’s government’s policy to kill badgers to stop the spread of TB in dairy cattle in England was criticised by its own Independent Expert Panel into pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Details from the IEP report were leaked recently. According to The Daily Telegraph, the IEP concluded that the culls ‘were ineffective and too many animals suffered needlessly.’

Conservative MP for Hastings and Rye, Amber Rudd, has supported the cull when it has been voted upon in the House of Commons. I emailed her on March 6 asking for her support by voting in favour of a motion being debated in the House of Commons tomorrow. Ms Rudd replied on March 11 saying in part that

I assure you that I am listening carefully to the different views that are being expressed by Constituents of Hastings and Rye. I know that you have strong views on this and I am always grateful to get you expert opinion on these matters.

The lives of badgers lay in the hands of Amber Rudd MP

The lives of badgers lay in the hands of Amber Rudd MP

Whereas parts of the Hastings and Rye constituency are rural which may include some dairy farms, most of her constituents live in the urban area of Hastings. The electorate in the constituency is 76,422 but the population of Hastings is about 86,900. Further, the constituency is home to many badgers and their setts. Many constituents appreciate living alongside badgers. Even if they don’t because they dig up their lawns or trample their allotments, they are generally not supportive of killing badgers. One national YouGov poll stated ‘opponents outnumber supporters of the cull by 42%-35%.’

Of particular note is that Hastings and Rye is a marginal constituency. In the last general election Amber Rudd won 41.1% (20,468) of the vote but her Labour opponent, Michael Foster, came a close second with 37.1% (18,475).

It is my sincere hope that Ms Rudd will change her position from supporting the badger cull to voting against it in tomorrow’s debate. Friends of badgers such as myself will be watching closely. The badger cull may well be the decisive issue that determines whether Ms Rudd is reelected at the next general election.

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Badger Cull & Amber Rudd MP

March 6th, 2014 No comments

My MP is Amber Rudd, Conservative, who represents Hastings and Rye. The following is an email I sent today to Ms Rudd asking her to vote in favour of a motion brought by Conservative MP Anne Main to end the badger cull.

I write to ask for your support by voting in favour of a motion to be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday 13th March. The motion calls for an end to the badger cull and is proposed by Conservative MP Anne Main. The Independent Expert Panel report into the pilot badger culls in West Somerset and West Gloucestershire concluded that they were ‘ineffective and failed the humane test’. The conservative think tank, the Bow Group, has also subsequently come out as saying that culling badgers is ineffective, costly and unscientific and recommends vaccination as the only current option. The alternative to killing badgers is to vaccinate them. Several trials are now underway. Please advise me as soon as possible on your commitment to vote in favour of the motion to end the badger cull. Thank you.

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Best Animal Rights Books 2013

January 7th, 2014 1 comment

There were many fine books about animal rights and related matters published in 2013. So many, in fact, that I’ve had to devise two lists: my five favourites and four noble mentions. So, let’s deal with the latter group first. I’m cheating a bit with the noble mentions. I’m reading them or they’re on my to read pile tottering by my side of the bed.

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

The impact of art on animal rights fascinates me. Just started this book and can’t wait to read his study of my favourite living artist Sue Coe.

Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict by David Nibert (Columbia University Press)

This progressive perspective is refreshing in the era of blandness. It will be like a breath of fresh air albeit a strong wind that will knock my thinking sideways—no bad thing.

Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism, Animals, and The Sexual Politics of Meat edited by Kara Davis, Wendy Lee, with a Foreword by Carol J. Adams (Lantern Books)

Carol J. Adams and her books have earned themselves a place in my life in which they have significantly shaped my thinking. Discovering her impact on the lives of others will be interesting.

Entertaining Elephants: Animal Agency and the Business of the American Circus by Susan Nance (Johns Hopkins University Press)

One unfinished project is to write a contemplation about the life of Topsy, the elephant electrocuted to death in Coney Island, NY in 1903. Susan Nance’s book is part of my research.

Onto my top five animal rights books of 2013.

Undercover: The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police by Paul Lewis and Rob Evans (Faber & Faber)

During the 1980s when I organised the campaigns of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection and U.K. animal rights movement came into its own with many actions of different kinds, I suspected there were undercover police, agents provocateurs, and corporate spies in our midst but never had the evidence to prove it. At the end of one national demonstration I organised which attracted thousands of protestors, I went to the local police station to check on some activists who had been arrested, and witnessed demonstrators emerge as on-duty police officers as they walked past me standing at the counter, started chatting with their colleagues in uniform, and take off badges from their coats and drop placards onto the floor. Researched and written by two Guardian journalists, Undercover documents Britain’s secret police forces and how they infiltrate and influence not only legitimate social movements like ours but also act morally reprehensibly by initiating long-standing, intimate relationship with activists, including fathering children. Every activist has to read this book and understand that much worse goes on around and among us.

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering by Mark Hawthorne (Changemakers Books)

Mark Hawthorne is a writer of integrity. If he says it, you can trust it. This is why Bleating Hearts is so important and deserves a place on every animal activist’s bookshelf. It’s encyclopaedic in its summary description of all the different ways in which we treat animals. An important resource.

A Theory of Justice for Animals: Animal Rights in a Nonideal World by Robert Garner (Oxford University Press)

Living in an imperfect world, how do we go from moral rights to legal rights for animals? This is the question that Robert Garner, professor of politics at the University of Leicester, seeks to answer. Not everyone will agree with his conclusions and that, I think, doesn’t matter, as we have to have this debate. For example, he writes: “[i]t is my contention that moral obligations regarded as being outside of the sphere of justice collapse, in practice, into the realm of charity and voluntarism precisely because there is a much weaker link with legal compulsion.” (8) (emphasis in original)

This Is Hope: Green Vegans and the New Human Ecology by Will Anderson (Earth Books)

The big picture view of animal rights and veganism and their relationship to environmental protection are the issues explored by Will Anderson, a long-standing social justice campaigner. There is so much to learn from this well-researched book. One of its special attributes that I appreciate is that it presents the problem as well as the solution.

Polar Bear in the Zoo: A Speculation by Martin Rowe (Lantern Books)

Martin Rowe, who is my editor at Lantern Books, is such a thoughtful and provocative writer that I would want to read anything he writes. I read The Polar Bear in the Zoo as an ebook but its richness deserves another read in the flesh, as it were, as a paperback. Prompted by the evocative photography of Jo-Anne McArthur and one in particular of a polar bear in a zoo, Martin Rowe embarks on a journey of contemplation and questioning as to what it means to care and act for animals as well as the relationship between us. “Do we open our eyes and stare or do we look away?” he asks.

Changing the Game: Why the Battle for Animal Liberation Is So Hard and How We Can Win It by Norm Phelps (Lantern Books — ebook only)

This book deserves a wider readership than I fear it has received so far. With precision and insight, Norm Phelps takes a cold hard look at the animal rights movement and our strategies and tactics. His analysis is always insightful and, when necessary, challenging. This is one of those rare books about animal rights strategy that reaches beyond cliches and stereotypes. It breathes wisdom into the discussion that preoccupies activists of all sorts. He concludes with a seven point program to change the game of animal rights advocacy. “And because neither animal rights nor human rights can be achieved alone,” he writes, “we need to set about building a universal rights movement that will win both together.”

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Animal Pasts in Hyde Park

October 14th, 2013 No comments
Although this horse stables in a nearby mews is relatively recent, London's Hyde Park has a long history involving horses and less recently sheep and cows.

Although this horse stables in a nearby mews is relatively recent, London’s Hyde Park has a long history involving horses and less recently sheep and cows.

On Saturday, October 12, I joined with 12 others on a walk, Animal Pasts in Hyde Park, led by historian Hilda Kean in London. This is the second walk I’ve taken led by Hilda. Here is my account of the first ‘Animal Pasts in London’s Landscape Today‘. Among Hilda’s books is Animal Rights. Political and Social Change in Britain since 1800, which I highly recommend.

‘Hyde Park is not just a site of human demonstrations and concerts,’ explained Hilda. ‘It is a space in which animals have also lived, died and been remembered and not only at the Animals in War memorial in Park Lane.’

Seen in the distance are the gravestones of the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery.

Seen in the distance are the gravestones of the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery.

Britain’s first pet cemetery is in Hyde Park. Although we were unable to gain access, the headstones were visible through the wrought iron fence. Hilda writes about the Hyde Park Dog Cemetery on her website:

It was originally called (it also admitted the corpses of three small monkeys, and two cats) was established in 1880 in the part of the huge park that lies adjacent to Kensington Gardens (and opposite Lancaster Gate). Although accounts vary as to the origins of the cemetery – either initiated by the Duke of Connaught or through a favour of the gatekeeper to friends who lived nearby – it is evident that the cemetery was not run for profit but as a philanthropic gesture towards grieving animal owners.

The walking tour also included two cattle troughs, the memorial for a defunct bird sanctuary which featured Epstein’s figure of ‘Rima,’ the bird-girl heroine of W. H. Hudson’s novel, ‘Green Mansions.’ The tour ended at the Animals in War Memorial on Park Lane immediately adjacent and to the east of Hyde Park.

This video is raw footage I shot with my iPad. The Animals in War Memorial is situated in the middle of a very busy road, Park Lane, with each side having at least two lanes of traffic, including many buses and coaches. So, the audio quality is not great but does improve. In any event, it is possible to hear Hilda Kean speak about the memorial and see it and how it is situated.

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