Author Archives: jasonlmorrow

Prioritizing the Trivial

Priority. keyboardSome people say you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. I know that’s not true because I make my omelets with tofu. But I might say that you can’t break systems of oppression without stepping on a few toes, and you can’t always eliminate cruelty in a way that the people who rely on cruelty will like.

There are a few different stories that I’m thinking of. The first is the story of Laquan McDonald and the protests/riots that happened once the video of his death was released. Then there is a story about forcefully weaning dairy cows, and another story about corporate reaction to an anti-dairy ad. The stories are all different but share one thing in common: they tell me that our priorities are all messed up. Continue reading

The Impact of Roadways

artemis-w-deerTwo weeks ago I hit a deer with my car. I drive an hour and ten minutes to work every day and this has been one of my worst fears. It was a rainy night so I was driving slow but I still wasn’t able to react in time. The deer wasn’t much bigger than a big dog and probably had just barely lost his or her spots.
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Pagans and Plants

Ayahuasca_prepOne of the first things I did as a new Pagan was roam the hills and woods near my home looking for flower faeries. I felt, at the time, like I had seen a few, as well as the faery of the tree in my back yard. When I did my self initiation as a solitary eclectic Wiccan (I don’t call myself Wiccan anymore) I used fronds from a local willow tree to form a circlet to wear. Weeping willow is still sacred to me to this day. I’m typing this with a willow frond in henna on my arm, and “willow” remains part of my magickal name.
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Sacred Vision

sacred-purpose-600x400I’ve been writing for Pagan Activist for almost two years, and in that time I’ve barely mentioned Paganism, other than to say that my awe at the cycles of life and death has informed the way I look at Gaia, Demeter, Persephone, and Artemis.

That’s because I’ve always been suspicious of religious ethics. An obvious reason is that it’s impossible to prove which, if any, gods are the right ones, so how can we be sure which religious ethics to follow? But Socrates explained the deeper reason better than I can.
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Why We Care About Cecil

Zimbabwe Lion KilledBy now, the story of Cecil the lion is old news. For about a week I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing or hearing about his story. In case you’re not familiar, Cecil was a lion living in Zimbabwe who was killed by a trio of hunters led by an American dentist. He apparently spent $50,000 to pay for the privilege. The killing was illegal, as Cecil was a protected lion living on protected land and was lured away from that land with food. After being shot, Cecil lived for another two days before he succumbed to his injury.

While a lot of my friends were quite upset, even calling for the dentist’s execution (in many countries, poachers are shot on sight, after all) a few were annoyed that the story was getting so much attention. They said it wasn’t important news and was distracting from real things going on in the world. In a way I (at first) agreed, but not for the same reason. You can say my first reaction was cynical. Continue reading

400 Million Lives Saved

Yorkshire_pigs_at_animal_sanctuaryI’m writing to share a huge success story. A larger success than I ever imagined. Last year, 400 million fewer animals were killed in the U.S. than in 2007. That’s more lives saved in America than there are American citizens.

As a vegan I would love to take credit. But it’s not just vegans and vegetarians; in fact it’s not even mostly us. Most of those lives were spared by people who are simply eating less meat. It’s a known trend that as societies get wealthier they demand more animal products, but that trend is being reversed in the U.S.
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Our Cousins the Chimpanzees and Bonobos

Bonobo group hug

Bonobo group hug

I think it’s safe to say most people reading this will have heard that humans and chimps are more than 98% genetically identical. We’re just as close to bonobos, another great ape, though they’re not the same species. Like two distant cousins, we share the same amount of genes with each, while they remain distinct from one another. They are about 99% identical to one another, and together are the only two species in the genus Pan.

As Jane Goodall points out, chimpanzees are more like us than they are like gorillas. Like us, they have long childhoods in which they form intense bonds with their mothers and siblings, usually forming life-long relationships. Chimp childhoods are full of play, learning, and seeking reassurance and attention from their family. They reach sexual maturity relatively late in life, compared to a lot of other animals, again like us. While research is showing more and more that animals other than humans have emotions, we’re better able to recognize this in chimpanzees because their facial structure and expressions are so similar to our own. They show joy, sadness, and even signs of clinical depression.
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Food Politics

I almost said that I’m expanding my focus with this article, since I usually write about animal rights. But really I’m narrowing my focus to one particular animal: the human animal.

I’m used to boycotting foods that cause harm to non-human animals. These include all animal products, and lately I’ve started being careful to avoid palm oil unless it’s certified rainforest-safe. Palm oil is often grown in a way that destroys orangutan habitat. I’ve recently become aware of how harmful the banana industry can be to its workers and it’s gotten me thinking about human exploitation in our food system.

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I Understand

Raw_vegan_lunchA friend’s dad has been going through some serious health issues that have impacted his quality of life. Though it’s hard to point to a cause in any particular case, his symptoms are all strongly associated with animal foods. She’s been frustrated and scared because even though all the evidence is there, he won’t make even minimal changes to the way he eats. Not even to save his own life.

When confronted with death, a lot of us make big life changes to avoid it. We stop smoking after a cancer diagnosis, start exercising for heart disease, and so on. But not all of us do that. When my friend’s dad’s concession to his health was to only eat beef three times a week (as a treat) and eat other types of meat for the rest of his meals, I kind of got it. I don’t know him, but I can see someone’s thought process going like this:

Option A: Enjoy every moment of my life, as much as I am able, and eventually die. Meanwhile I’ll probably increasingly suffer from this disease.

Option B: Radically change my life. I won’t enjoy any meal again because healthy food is gross. I will never feel full. My disease might get a little better but I’ll be suffering constantly in a different way. It might take longer but I’ll still die.
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Our Power as Consumers

baby-elephantYou may have heard recently that Ringling Brothers is phasing out elephant performers.

I don’t usually write about “single issues” because I like to go after the fundamentals – compassion, moral exclusion, and so on. But the news that Ringling Bros. will free 13 Asiatic elephants is exactly why we take action: to save innocents from misery.

Going to the circus seems innocent, and for the attendees it is. I’m not ascribing malice to them. People like to watch elephants perform and marvel at them, at their beauty and skill. It’s the same for Seaworld, aquariums, or zoos. People don’t go to those places because they dislike animals or want them to suffer. They go there to celebrate them.
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