Some 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 →
Two 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. Continue reading →
One 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. Continue reading →
I’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. Continue reading →
By 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 →
I’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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
A 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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
After the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of talking heads said that the people deserved what they got because they knew the storm was coming but didn’t evacuate. What a lot of them didn’t realize is that many of the people didn’t have the means to leave, or anywhere to go if they did.
We’re often blind to our own advantages. Discussing privilege is necessary and important. Having someone point out your privilege is like having someone point out your blind spots. It provides context and, hopefully, compassion as we learn to walk in someone else’s shoes.
When the talking heads criticized the folks hurt by the hurricane, they were really just dismissing them out of hand, which is an important aspect of othering. When we dismiss others, we deny them any possible reasons or causes for their actions; if they behave differently than us, it’s because they’re just deficient. Continue reading →