What’s Wrong with TEAPSPA?

by Chad Nelson 

At first glance, H.R. 1759 – the “Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA)” – seems like a big victory for animals. TEAPSPA actually seeks to abolish an entire cross-section of animal exploitation. One that is as old as mankind – circus animals. Most of the rest of the world is already aware that circus animals endure great suffering through their captivity, confinement, never-ending transport, and forced labor. Passage of TEAPSPA would bring the United States into the modern world with regard to the circus.  Not your typical piece of welfare legislation pushing larger cages and gentler torture, right? Could ending this age old institution across the entire United States possibly be bad?

The short answer is no. TEAPSPA, if passed, would be a win for some animals. But passage is a big if. And the bill itself, though a potential win for circus animals, is on the whole confused, riddled with loopholes, and perpetuates the animal-use paradigm instead of transforming it. In this sense, TEAPSPA is a muddled mess and little better than Meatless Monday.

Abolitionist Legislation? Traditional animal welfare legislation is detrimental to the very animals it purports to help. The welfarist doctrine accepts institutionalized animal use and exploitation so long as it is regulated. It is commonly held that welfarism’s crowning jewel, the Animal Welfare Act, protects animals so we don’t have to. In reality, the AWA, like all welfare legislation, is an operating manual on exploiting one’s animals. Welfarist measures unquestionably condemn animals to more exploitation, not less.

Abolitionist legislation on the other hand, does not accept institutionalized animal exploitation. It finds it immoral and seeks to demolish it. Thus, in order to be abolitionist, legislation must unreservedly end animal exploitation. It must be clear that animals are not ours to use for food, clothing, entertainment or for any other purpose, and can leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that that is its ultimate goal.

Abolitionism, simply put, says that animals are not chattel property. Abolitionist legislation makes known that all animal use is wrong, and that the particular form of exploitation the legislation focuses on is but one brick in the wall. A first step, so to speak.

But this raises the question, Can legislation ever be abolitionist? For a variety of reasons, I don’t think it can.

Treatment vs. Use. Let’s look at TEAPSPA, which again, on its face, appears to accomplish the threshold requirement of ending, not merely regulating, a specific animal exploitation industry: circus animal use. TEAPSPA even notes in its findings that exotic animals have “intrinsic value.” That is, animal’s lives matter to them regardless of the economic value humans assign them – an absolutely essential abolitionist tenet. Sadly, most of the rest of TEAPSPA’s findings focus on animal treatment. There is little to no mention of animal use as an institution.

TEAPSPA’s bold statement about “intrinsic value” is buried beneath almost exclusive focus on the conditions of circus animal confinement (as well as tons of other details that are irrelevant to the animals themselves, like regulatory cost and public safety). While it’s no doubt important to understand the incredible misery endured by animals at the hands of their human exploiters, the larger focus of any abolitionist effort must be on the simple fact that animals have inherent worth, or intrinsic value, as the bill says. If we believe  that animals have intrinsic value, that animals matter morally, we are obligated to stop using them. 

Because animals are sentient and desire to continue living (in other words because their lives matter to them), we must end our enslavement of them. Sentience is the only factor required to lead us to our conclusion that animal lives have intrinsic value. It’s that basic. Animal treatment matters, but animal use is what’s fundamentally at issue. Enslaving well-treated animals still leaves in place an evil institution, not to mention it sounds patently absurd. Can any reader imagine a 19th century abolitionist focusing his objection on the mistreatment of human slaves, instead of slavery itself as an institution? We should consider it no more ridiculous to do so in the animal exploitation context, provided of course we agree with the basic premise that it is morally wrong to use and exploit animals for unnecessary purposes. TEAPSPA never reaches this conclusion. 

I wonder whether the circus industry (provided animal use is still even economically beneficial for them) can’t respond to TEAPSPA simply by promising to refine the terms of circus animal use. Since virtually the whole of TEAPSPA (the parts that concern animals at least), is concerned with poor animal treatment – small cage size, a grueling travel schedule, unnatural conditions – the coming response from circuses seems logical.

Would not Congress and the American people be pacified by a regulatory scheme which improves these conditions? Shorter distances traveled, more natural conditions during animals’ layovers, limits on the number of shows, more frequent veterinary care. If the problem is mistreatment, as TEAPSPA firmly indicates, why isn’t improved treatment the solution? Average Americans will view the commonsense solution to circus animal abuse as a welfarist middle ground where their entertainment is left intact. And they will wonder why TEAPSPA seeks to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In this regard, TEAPSPA (and the legislative approach generally), is much like the noxious “humane meat” movement. Almost all of the welfarist organizations focused on animal agriculture claim to have an end-goal of abolition; yet they’re willing to promote “happy meat” as a step towards that goal. All in the face of rising global meat and animal byproduct consumption. At no point during these welfarist campaigns does the audience come to understand that all animal use, without exceptions, is what’s problematic. Because welfarist campaigns tell them it isn’t.

The TEAPSPA Coalition. In order for TEAPSPA to have any realistic chance of passage, the very politicians who must vote in favor of it, and the constituents they represent, have be made to feel comfortable with its message. Think of how broad-based that coalition has to be. It must encompass people across the political spectrum and people with widely varying beliefs about animals and our relationship with them. As far as I know, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker is the only vegan member of Congress. That means virtually all Congressional support for TEAPSPA must come from people who exploit animals every time they eat or get dressed. Animals who suffer every bit as much, if not more, than the circus animals who stand to be saved by TEAPSPA. What kind of message does that send to the general public about animal use and exploitation? Certainly not an abolitionist one.

I’ll tell you the message it sends, because it’s plainly stated in the text of TEAPSPA. It tells the public that exotic animals forced to perform in traveling circuses are mistreated and that it should stop because regulation is too difficult; but that exotic and wild animals used by zoos or for other “educational” purposes, lab animals, animals used for sport, circus animals who don’t get shuffled around too much, and all other domesticated animals (including the ones we kill, wear, and eat), are doing just fine. There is no other way to interpret the carveouts in TEAPSPA.

Before you object that TEAPSPA is just trying to tackle one problem at a time, consider that the bill could do so while simultaneously declaring in one simple sentence in its findings that all animal use is objectionable, including the uses for which TEAPSPA makes exceptions. TEAPSPA would not do that though, because it must derive support from people who each and every day of their lives demand more animal exploitation by engaging in those activities. To declare such a bold abolitionist finding, TEAPSPA would have to take its entire support base to the mat.

Supply vs. Demand. Realizing that TEAPSPA requires support from people who demand the torture and death of animals on a daily basis isn’t about ideological purity. It’s about recognizing that legislative efforts to curb animal mistreatment necessarily have to be watered down in both their message and  objective in order to achieve broad appeal. They can never address the immorality of animal exploitation as an institution because they’d never get off the ground. 

Attacking the supply side of animal exploitation is an exercise in futility. Addressing our demand for animal exploitation must be the focus. Most animal advocates remark that grassroots education and outreach aimed at demand are too small-scale to achieve a meaningful difference for animals. I find this hard to believe. With food consumption being the overwhelming driver behind human exploitation of animals, it’s an odd claim that the worldwide growth in veganism, and its resulting offset in the demand for animal death, is fruitless. Consider also that large-scale organization and funding for vegan advocacy and education pales in comparison to that of welfarist non-profits, most of whom believe the path to abolitionism lies in reforming the suppliers. There is little doubt in my mind that if all of the funding and energy behind these non-profits magically shifted to community-based vegan advocacy and outreach overnight, animal exploitation would be dealt a crippling blow.

Vegan EducationFrom a practical standpoint, TEAPSPA will have been a colossal failure if it does not ultimately become law. Like all large animal welfare organizations, Animal Defenders International (ADI) has invested vast amounts of its supporters’ limited resources on its project. Those finite resources, if TEAPSPA goes no further than becoming a proposal, will have been squandered. But waste is not its only problem. Like all legislation, TEAPSPA suffers from being a top-down tactic, rather than horizontal and decentralized.

In other words, legislation is a dictate from above that you shall not do X. There has been no transformation in the population as a whole; no learning experience comes from the legislative process. Thus, in the case of animals used in circuses, what is clearly an issue of demand and not supply, as noted above, has not shifted one bit. There are still large portions of the American population who would like to see animals perform in circuses, and who are no more enlightened about animals’ status as chattel property after TEAPSPA than before. Legislation offers no teachable moment, only resentment in many consumers and a false sense of having done enough for animals in others.

Creative vegan education, on the other hand, is transformative. Because it is decentralized and can be done by anyone, anywhere, it reaches hearts and minds in ways legislation never can. It forces people to think. Imagine if ADI had used the massive amount of time, effort, and money spent on TEAPSPA to implement a 50-state educational program about the reality of animal use by circuses. A truly grassroots campaign to show both children and adults that animals used in circuses have families and relationships, desires and feelings, and lives they want to continue living. And that the circus destroys all of those things so that humans can have one fun night on the town. None of that is learned through legislation.

It is ultimately the battle for human hearts and minds that will free animals from the grips of human domination. Governments, as everyone knows, lag behind the will of the people. They only follow, however late, what is absolutely and unabashedly demanded of them. Legislation won’t save animals from their long nightmare, and it’s not something animal advocates should continue sinking their energy into any longer.

I maintain that, while TEAPSPA might have a more significant short-term impact for animals than your run of the mill welfarist measure, its long-term impact on institutionalozed animal use and exploitation will be little different than “cage-free” egg campaigns. Post TEAPSPA, humans will still be using and killing more animals than at any other point in human history. Few if any minds will have changed with respect to the human-animal relationship. Humans will continue to demand more animal bloodshed.

Arguing Over Cage Size

EcoRI News recently reported on a dance that’s been going on for ages between animal “advocates” and animal ag. You know, the one where both sides spend enormous sums of money and time studying and refining animal confinement. All so you, the animal eater, can feel at ease about what’s on your plate. As long as someone else is concerned about the issue, the consumer need not be.

This time, we’re back to debating battery cages vs. “cage free.” What a joke. If you’ve ever taken the time to see what so-called cage free looks like, you’d wonder why animal advocates ever waste their resources pushing for it. It’s one giant overcrowded, filthy cage that’s flat out torture for chickens. Which means the Humane Society is comfortable lobbying for animal torture. Can you imagine a human rights advocate lobbying a government to stop ripping out prisoners’ teeth in favor of waterboarding them instead?

IMG_2506.JPGAttaining a cage free Rhode Island is not the kind of campaign Rhode Island animal advocates should feel good waging. Cage free confinement is cruel to birds in its own unique ways. Not to mention it makes people more comfortable with killing and eating chickens by deluding them into thinking the chickens live happier lives. So long as groups like the Humane Society refuse to acknowledge that it is wrong to exploit and kill innocent animals, their welfarist campaigns will continue to lead to a confused public. A public who claim to care about animals, yet pay to have them killed merely for palate pleasure. Welfarist campaigns help create this hypocrisy and further entrench the animal-eating paradigm we live in.

We seem to recognize that animals matter morally when we express concern about the terms of their confinement. Yet nobody bothers following that obvious notion through to its logical conclusion: If animals matter morally at all, then we owe them the most basic of obligations. To respect their right not to be used as chattel property. But no, instead we engage in this silly dance arguing over which forms of confinement, torture and death are most satisfying to our delicate sensitivities.

It’s really quite simple – either animals matter morally and we are obligated not to use them as expendable resources, or animals do not matter morally and we may continue to eat, hunt and wear them. Debating cage size is part of the latter mindset, no matter which cage you think is most proper.

Wondorous Animal Kingdom Locked In Human Crosshairs

by Frank Carini

The following article originally appeared at ecoRI News. It is reprinted with the author’s permission.

PROVIDENCE — A recent panel discussion at Brown University focused on plastic pollution, most notably the amount of it polluting the world’s oceans. The four speakers were wonderfully entertaining and informed. The discussion was both depressing and heartening.

But one of the speakers, Carl Safina, author of the exceptional book “Song for the Blue Ocean” and the first endowed professor for nature and humanity at Stony Brook University, focused less on the magnitude of plastic overwhelming the planet and more on humankind’s disregard for life.

Safina, whose most recent book is titled “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel,” said as humans we only seem to care about ourselves, and only see other creatures as how they relate to us. He said asking if animals are conscious is the wrong question.

“Animals have eyes, ears, noses,” he said. “They have the same senses we have.”

He noted that dolphins have bigger and more complicated brains than we do.

“We do a lot of things in the ocean to hurt it,” Safina said. “But a killer whale in the wild has never hurt a human being. They eat seals and don’t bother us. There’s a lot going on in the minds of the creatures we share the oceans with. We don’t bother to ask what.”

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Carl Safina 
Animals most assuredly feel pain. They can be sad or depressed. And much of their hurt is needlessly caused by human greed. I’ve had people unconcerned about manmade climate change say to me, “Who cares if all the polar bears die.” It’s not a question. It’s a shrug of the shoulders.

Our brutality against nature seems to know no bounds. Every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, three species become extinct, often because of our reckless actions. Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way, but since we show little respect for the lives of fellow humans, the fascinating creatures we share this planet with are, unsurprisingly, treated more as pests than equals.

The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted, for instance, to overturn federal law that prohibits hunters from shooting or trapping wolves while in their dens with cubs, using planes to scout for potential grizzly bear targets and luring bears with food to get point-blank trophies, even those animals living in wildlife refuges.

Wolves and bears compete with hunters for elk and moose. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and other opponents of this federal law whine about unfairness, and scream about federal overreach.

Mama Grizzly herself was a fierce advocate of aerial shooting during her limited time as Alaska’s governor. In 2007, the administration of the the reality-TV persona offered $150 cash rewards to aerial hunters who returned with the left forelegs of the wolves they killed.

The barbaric program was eventually overturned by the courts. The NRA no doubt complained about government interference.

Wild horses are protected by a law that was unanimously passed by Congress in 1971 and designates mustangs as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”

Ranchers, however, don’t like the competition, so taxpayer-funded helicopter raids are used to chase these magnificent animals off public lands — the same taxpayer-subsidized lands ranchers graze their livestock on for cheap.

These airborne raids terrorize mustangs, young and old, chasing them into pens. These air assaults are dangerous, as wild horses are often injured and some die.

We treat the criminal Bundy clan with more respect and compassion.

But our disregard for life is a longstanding tradition. By the late 1690s, with much of their forest habitat destroyed by humans, the flightless dodo was erased from the planet. Three-plus centuries later, we haven’t stopped erasing the natural landscape.

We pushed the iconic bald eagle — the very symbol of American freedom — to the brink of extinction. The species rebounded largely because of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 — a popular federal law now under attack by bought-off lawmakers who claim it unfairly protects animals that sometimes poach livestock and bitch that it unfairly restricts land use.

The White House and self-serving members of Congress also want to open up more federal lands to mining, drilling and ranching — a shortsighted money-grab that would leave plenty of species homeless and damage countless ecosystems. The scars would be visible long into the future. But exploitation, of each other and the environment, is the American Way.

Last year Rhode Island bankers and politicians inflicted unnecessary wounds on the Johnston woods, to build a corporate office park. The same people are now fighting to get a fossil-fuel power plant built in the woods of Burrillville. At least 200 acres of forest will be destroyed. One of Rhode Island’s most important wildlife corridors will be significantly damaged. Those pushing the project for selfish reasons just shrug their shoulders.

Unfortunately, the natural world is rarely seen as anything more than an economic driver — an instrument to be used and abused for profit.

The flight of passenger pigeons would sometimes darken North American skies. Nobody alive today ever witnessed it. By the beginning of the 20th century, passenger pigeons no longer lived in the wild. The last one of its kind died in captivity in 1914. We hunted them to extinction.

Wolves, whales, African elephants, rhinoceros, lemurs and gorillas are just a few of the animals now in our crosshairs.

“We keep passing legislation to not improve things,” Safina said at the March 4 panel discussion. He noted bills that would ban protesting, protect hydraulic fracturing and support the manufacturing of more plastic.

Rhode Island can’t even pass a statewide ban on plastic shopping bags.

Safina noted that our actions are changing the heat balance of the planet, acidifying the oceans and damaging the atmosphere. We shrug our collective shoulders.

“It’s not the kind of relationship we should have with nature,” Safina said. “The creatures and life still on this planet are not less than us. They are us. Are we capable of loving them enough to simply let them exist?”

Frank Carini is the editor of ecoRI News.

NCAA Tournament Advertises Abuse On Top of Abuse

Literally. As I was watching the UNC-Arkansas game last night, a second half in-show advertising break featured a horse, carriage of people in tow, struggling her way down the streets of Greenville, South Carolina.

South Carolina is no stranger to horse carriage-industry abuse. The Dodo reported on a grim “accident” in neighboring Charleston in 2015, when a horse named Blondie collapsed, bleeding, for two hours in 80 degree heat. For Blondie’s abuse, we have Old South Carriage Co. to thank. Wherever there is a horse carriage industry, horses suffer.

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As if that charming Southern scene weren’t enough, the first ad laid over top of it was from Cancer in a Bucket: Kentucky Fried Chicken. KFC is hell on earth for birds. Chickens are the lowest of the low in the animal agriculture industry, so it should come as no surprise that the industry’s billion murdered birds per year are not just intensively confined, neglected and killed in horrific fashion — they are regularly beaten and tortured by sadistic slaughterhouse employees in the process.

Thanks for being such a great friend to animals, NCAA and TNT.

I Can’t Quit You Gary Francione

IMG_2437I want to be like others in the animal rights and liberation communities and ignore Professor Gary Francione. But I simply can’t. His case for the abolitionist approach to animal rights is too strong. So despite what comes across as a divisive delivery, and despite my belief that a “creative non-violent vegan education approach” (his words), by itself, is too narrow to bring about a revolution for animals, I still find his ability to issue-spot and his analyses of the problems more compelling than anyone else’s in the “movement.” In quotes, because, as Francione says, “movement” implies progress, and since the animal liberation movement began we’ve seen animal exploitation rise exponentially. If that fact isn’t enough to cause animal activists to step back and reassess, I don’t know what is.

We are still in the infancy stage of the vegan revolution wherein identifying the issues surrounding the human view and treatment of animals is of primary importance. Not until the issues are plain for all to comprehend can we move forward to meaningfully debate tactics.

I watched an old Vegetarian Summerfest talk by Francione last night and was reminded how important it is to hold large, mainstream animal advocacy orgs to account. How important calling out the welfarist approach is. And how damaging single-issue campaigns have the potential to be if not presented properly. It may seem like Francione is debating tactics when he talks about these things – but that’s not his focus. I believe he’s doing something far more important, something that, again, must precede a tactical debate.

I think Francione is trying to correct the counterproductive mindset that still exists in too many animal advocates. It’s a mindset that encourages animal exploitation however unintentional. Despite their good faith attempts to help presently suffering animals, too many activists sacrifice the long-term message of complete and total animal liberation by giving the impression that “humane exploitation” or other “less bad” exploitation is acceptable.

Francione’s biting critique of single-issue campaigns like anti-fur and fois gras was a particular turn-off for me until I really listened closely to him. His point is not that these movements are detrimental, per se. It is that when they are undertaken without clear and consistent messaging that all exploitation is wrong, they indirectly give a pass to other forms of exploitation. So when an anti-fur protest doesn’t make clear that fur is wrong because it assumes animals exist for human use, it leaves those who still wear wool, leather and down feeling comfortable and cozy, likely unaware of their role as animal exploiters.

Everyone can watch a video of a fox stuck in a leghold trap or being anally electrocuted and admit that wearing fur is repugnant. But they must also understand  why. And they have to be compelled to look inward at their own relationships with other animals for such a campaign to be worthwhile. Otherwise, the single-issue campaign perpetuates animal exploitation by omitting the central theme of abolitionism. If a non-vegan passerby can walk away from a Canada Goose protest thinking differently about fur but not about his leather shoes, the point has not been made.

This problem is even more stark in the Yulin dog-meat campaign. How many dog-lovers opposed to what happens in Yulin are simultaneously eating cows, fish and chickens for dinner? It’s moral schizophrenia, as Francione says. Unless single-issue campaigns are crystal clear about the why, they’re at risk of making their audience more comfortable with the other 99.999% of animal exploitation.

In his talk, Francione gives other examples where groups, like PETA, are not just giving the tacit impression that animal exploitation is okay, they’re outwardly praising exploiters for “advances” in animal agriculture. Yes, I get it: sometimes this partnership-with-the-devil-approach is necessary to achieve gains in the short term. But I’m back to the overarching fact that animal exploitation is on the rise. At what point do we acknowledge that partnerships with animal exploiters, while perhaps making animal lives marginally less horrible now, are at least a waste of time, and worse, probably leading to more animal exploitation overall?

The vegan paradigm is first and foremost centered on a steadfast recognition that animal lives have instrinsic value. That is, their value doesn’t derive from the economic worth humans assign to them. Sentient beings have an interest in living, and thus, they have the right not to be treated as human property. If this basic point is lost in any animal advocacy, then the advocate must retool or else risk contributing to continuing animal exploitation.

Las Vegan Life

As evidenced by recent posts here at PALL, I’m a big believer in art as activism. The animal liberation message often falls on deaf ears because it’s such a strong dose of medicine. The idea that animals are not ours to do with what we please, I’m sorry to say, is too radical a paradigm shift for most humans to consider with an open mind.

That’s where art can come in handy. Art has a slow burn effect. Once its message has been seen or heard the after effects are usually long lasting, as one digests and contemplates what he or she has taken in. Art is often subliminal too. So when its underlying message celebrates social justice movements like veganism and animal liberation, which challenge the unjust status quo — it becomes sneakily subversive.

My good friend and vegan extraordinaire Nathaniel Hill gave me some great subversive vegan swag at our recent Strong Hearts/Syracuse meet-up. The items are just a few of the many cool ones he’s produced as part of his line of repurposed gear called Las Vegan Life.

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Nathaniel is a Buffalo, NY-based vegan who has been following the righteous path for as long as I’ve known him, and then some.

In addition to being a strong friend of animals, Nathaniel is an avid bicyclist, doing some wonderful advocacy work in his local community for GObike Buffalo. I think he would agree that there’s an important intersection between bicycling and helping non-human animals…but that’s another post for another day.

I particularly like my “Go Vegan You Fuck” patch. When Nathaniel first showed it to me I had a hearty laugh. The patch now adorns my fridge until I can find an appropriate piece to put it on.

I had a few non-vegan friends see it in my kitchen and they too found it hilarious. It became an ice breaker to talk animal lib and veganism where one wasn’t readily present. Humor and art are a powerful combo, and we animal allies need more of it in our arsenal. Bravo Las Vegan Life!

Veganism as Today’s Multi-tool

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As a “vegan for the animals,” I sometimes find myself incredibly frustrated with vegans whose primary motivation is something else. How in the world can humans’ terrible mistreatment of animals be put anywhere other than atop the list of reasons one ought to live a vegan lifestyle? I often wonder if those “other” vegans are truly animal allies.

But the multipurpose case for veganism (when one justification is not cited as more important than the others) is strong, especially when put forth in a powerful image like the one above. I’ve  definitely found myself wanting to be a more well-rounded vegan. I’m always trying to become more fluent in the health and environmental benefits of veganism, and occasionally employ them as arguments to those unwilling to receive the animal message. When looked at as a multi-tool, veganism seems even more like the only sane way to live.

So are environmental or dietary vegans animal allies? I don’t know. Certainly if we’re looking at it as a sliding scale, they’re far more allied with animals than any non-vegan (I think). I guess I’d have to judge it on a case by case basis but I do know this: If those “other” vegans are as eager and open to learning about the inherent worth of animal lives as I’ve been about personal health and environment, I think they’re well on their way to becoming animal allies.

“The Process”

I’m a big fan of radical ecological artwork. Pittsburgh’s artist collective Justseeds has a great variety for those interested. One of my favorite works is Roger Peet’s intricate web showing some of the dynamics at play causing the Sixth Mass Extinction, which is rapidly unfolding before our very eyes. Some causes are obvious and well-known, like deforestation and industrialization, and others exist in a more shadowy underworld, like the pet trade and “superstitious” medicine. Some of the victims of the Sixth Mass Extinction are depicted as well, like pangolins and menhadens*.

From Peet’s description of the piece:

This is a time of great and sustained dying; the web of life facing assaults previously impossible in its 3.8 billion year history. Many mass extinctions have winnowed the species of the earth, but this one is different: it’s not an asteroid, or a series of enormous volcanoes, or a drastic shift in ocean chemistry that’s causing it. This time it’s a species. It’s us.

This print is a diagram that visually illustrates the ways that this 6th mass extinction works. Inside the circles are the various mechanisms at the heart of Earth’s biodiversity crisis, coupled with some of the lesser-known creatures affected.

The mechanisms illustrated include deforestation, hunting and trapping, the pet trade, industrial fishing, global trade mechanisms and invading species, traditional medicines and superstition, and at the heart of everything, the human appetite.

Species depicted are: Mountain Gorilla, Spix’s Macaw, Whooping Crane, Pangolin, Horned Frog, Menhaden, Ganges Shark, Silky Sifaka. The three circles depicting trade mechanisms are accompanied by images of the Green Crab, the Brown Tree Snake, and the Redback Spider. There’s also a Mobula Manta in that fishing net at bottom right.

* – Editor’s Note: I prefer to pluralize all animal species (like Pangolins and Menhadens) so as to reinforce the fact that each animal is a unique, thinking, feeling individual.

Vice News’s Pathetic Reporting on Vivisection

Last night, Vice News reported on the Salk Institute’s cross-species stem cell research. With large numbers of humans dying while on organ donation waitlists, scientists believe there is potential to successfully grow human organs inside animal bodies.

Salk scientists have so far succeeded on a small scale growing the pancreatic cells of rats inside mice — so the writing is on the wall for further cross-species forays. Salk’s goal is to eventually implant human stem cells into pig embryos, and then to grow them into pigs until such time as the pigs’ “human organs” are ready for harvesting.

Like most mainstream takes on vivisection, Vice’s supposed “renegade” reporting completely ignores the animals’ concerns. The story didn’t even contain a shred of the typical animal welfarists’ lip service. The only ethical dilemma presented concerned the fear that human stem cells might turn into neurons and migrate to a pig’s brain, creating a pig-human Frankenstein. No mention from Vice of the neglect, abuse, slaughter, and overall non-consideration of lab animals, all right under the inhumane nose of the Animal Welfare Act. Yes — the AWA — that weak, industry-made and -run excuse for a watchdog program.

This abysmal coverage of vivisection puts Vice squarely in the conservative status quo, corporate media stronghold. It’s a media that hopes and prays animals will always be dominated in the most degrading ways imaginable by humans. Media livelihoods depend on it.

The anthropocentric concerns Vice does report on have a silver lining though. The National Institute of Health is, as of right now, unwilling to fund any human cross-species stem cell research. So at least some pigs will be spared a life of exploitation inside a laboratory. But perhaps only until scientific “progress” and corporate profits make such exploitation too good to turn down.

Salk presently must rely on private funding from the likes of the Moxie Foundation, whose passionate advocacy of Salk’s work in the Vice segment likewise failed to address any animal concerns. Says Moxie CEO Irwin Zahn — who himself benefits from a pig valve in his heart — “isn’t this what foundations are supposed to do – make lives better?” Yes Irwin, that is what you’re supposed to do, but not at the expense someone else’s misery. That’s called slavery.

You can email Moxie Foundation CEO Irwin Zahn directly at izahn@moxiefoundation.org, the foundation’s general inbox at info@moxiefoundation.org, or you can call them at 858.255.8525. They need to hear from animal allies.

Some Links

Anti-fur protestors assemble outside of Ottowa’s Sporting Life. 

Indian children’s textbook pulled from schools for advocating suffocation of kittens as a science experiment.

A precipitous drop in drug companies’ use of animal testing is offset by increased use by academia.

According to the Medical Daily, 75 of the 98 Nobel Prizes awarded for physiology or medicine relied on animal research; the data was published in a story recounting the “long, unpretty history” of animal research.

“The idea that the work in animals hasn’t translated into humans is simply false,” Evans said. “Vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical advancement, other than clean water. Period. There’s no way around it.”

New biography of ALF founder Ronnie Lee hits shelves in April.

Author of forthcoming Ronnie Lee bio ^^^ on the 5 most anti-animal US senators.

HSUS threatens to reopen old lawsuit against USDA in 30 days if latter does not repost its Animal Welfare Act reports.