The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA, by Norm Phelps. Lantern Books, 2007.
This well-researched history of the animal protection movement filled in for me many missing pieces in understanding both the evolution of animal rights philosophy and the development of organizations working to bring compassion for animals into mainstream Western societies. Along the way and down the centuries, we meet a host of committed activists, well-known and obscure.
Among the latter is Lewis Gompertz (1779-1865), an inventor living in London, who campaigned for slaves, women and the poor as well as for non-human animals. He was advocating a vegan diet as early as 1824 in his book Moral Inquiries on the Situation of Man and of Brutes. He published the world’s first animal protection periodical, The Animal’s Friend, or the Progress of Humanity. His organization was instrumental in getting a nationwide ban in England on baiting and animal fighting enacted in 1835. He walked the talk in his personal life as well; he refused to travel by horse or mule-drawn conveyance, which meant that everywhere he went in London, he walked. (This was before London’s subways were built.) Horses– numbering in the hundreds of thousands–who pulled carriages, wagons and streetcars, were often whipped and driven until they died, their needs for rest and sufficient food and water ignored in the name of profit. Beyond London, Gompertz went only to places within walking distance of a railway station. “It is entirely reasonable,” Phelps writes, “to call Lewis Gompertz the first modern animal rights activist.” (p. 103) Continue reading The Longest Struggle→
Three brief excerpts ( 2-5 minutes each) from an interview I did about my book The Practical Peacemaker are now posted on YouTube. The interview was part of the series “Authors at Douglas County Libraries.” The excerpts are on three topics I discuss in the book that make possible more peaceful living, both personally and in society. Click on photos below to start each of these excerpts.
The Modern Savage: Our Unthinking Decision to Eat Animals, by James McWilliams. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015.
Once again James McWilliams proves that he is one of the most articulate thinkers and writers we have on the subject of how we treat animals used for food. Regarding so-called “humanely-raised” meat, he shows readers that chickens, pigs, and cows have emotional lives, suffer and do not want their lives cut short to provide food humans don’t need. It is not ethically acceptable to claim to care about them, give them a more natural life for awhile, and then kill them. And in case you want details on typical slaughter procedures, that’s in here too.
“Humanely-raised” animals allowed to live outdoors can be even more disease-prone than those in factory farms, picking up infections from the soil and contact with feces. McWilliams cites numerous blog posts from small farmers giving their animals a marginally better life, but dealing not only with frequent diseases arising from an outdoor environment, but losses to extreme weather and, in the case of chickens, to predators–often a grisly death for the chickens. These “humane” farmers also mutilate their animals–for example, castrating male pigs without anesthesia–and farmers who do their own slaughtering can be shockingly inept, causing greater suffering than if the animals had been taken to a commercial slaughterhouse. Continue reading The Modern Savage→
5280 The Denver Magazine recently featured an article on “Everyday Environmentalists,” presenting over 40 ways to live greener. Pointing out that Coloradans are not as environmentally virtuous as we may think we are, the article featured excellent advice on such topics as home insulation, composting, gardening, biking–the usual and more. Some items were very detailed, such as the advice to buy a live Christmas tree instead of an artificial one, and then plant it outside. Readers who hike popular mountain trails were encouraged to go during the week so as to increase the likelihood that they will stay on the trail and minimize trail deterioration. Yes, yes, yes, I’m saying to myself as I read, but when do we get to the huge environmental impact of meat consumption?
This past week has seen not one but two climate change actions in Denver, both organized by 350.org. The first was to meet the train filled with people heading on to New York for the People’s Climate March September 21. We gathered in front of Union Station for speeches and singing, then went around to the back and watched the train come in at the platform. Several dozen climate activists got off and joined the rally, adding to the enthusiasm. I was able to hand out flyers and talk to some people about veganism. It was great to see so many others (about 250) who are as concerned as I am about climate change.
Then Sunday, at the same time that the People’s Climate March was going on in NYC, a group gathered in Denver on the west steps of the capitol. Keith and I were pleasantly surprised to see more vegans there than we expected, several with additional signs, to amplify our presence. Each group represented there could have someone give a brief speech, so I took a turn standing front and center. I explained that over half of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock agriculture, and urged the crowd to “make a difference every day with your fork.” The group applauded; overall, I felt more support for the vegan message here than I previously had among environmental activists. In fact, the lead speaker of the event commented, “You vegans are well organized.” After the speeches, the group marched in front of the capitol and down the 16th Street Mall downtown, chanting, waving signs and engaging passersby.
Keith and I received an e-mail from Micah Parkin, the leader of the Colorado chapter of 350.org, asking for people to submit stories about local action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We submitted our story, which has now been published in their blog, and which we reprint below, with hyperlinks added.
Keith wrote: “My wife and I got solar panels in our backyard, thus generating all of our own electricity, some years ago; and we also massively insulated our house, cutting our heating requirements by nearly 2/3. We also ride our bikes on errands; before we retired, Keith rode the bus and Kate rode her bicycle to work. But the most effective single local action we’ve undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to go vegan. According to an article in WorldWatch magazine, over half of all greenhouse gas emissions are due to livestock agriculture (“Livestock and Climate Change,” November/December 2009). We also encourage others to go vegan. We’ve started a local meetup group, “Denver Vegans” (DenverVegans.org), which helps everyone from people who are just interested in cutting back their consumption of animal products to fully committed vegans. This is about as local as you can get — you can fight climate change three times a day just with your fork.”
While tabling on behalf of Denver Vegans at the city of Denver’s Earth Day Fair, I had several chances to increase the effectiveness of my outreach by talking with people who influence many others. A friend had told me that 50PlusPrime, the TV News Magazine for Baby Boomers, was in town looking for stories on boomer generation people involved in community service, and would I be interested in talking to them? I would.
It turned out that the program’s president and founder is a vegan himself! So he was glad to film a segment on that topic. He and a cameraman came to the Earth Day Fair, interviewed me on camera and showed our vegan literature table. The program will not air until this fall, in limited markets, but will be available for viewing online after air date.
I also mentioned that I would like to encourage boomer-age viewers not to give up on personal goals or dreams they’d had in their youth, out of a fear that maybe now they were too old to achieve them. I’d wanted to be a published author since my youth, but put that on the back burner as I gave my attention to other worthwhile projects. I picked up that dream in my late 50s, and wrote my book The Practical Peacemaker: How Simple Living Makes Peace Possible. It was picked up by New York publisher Lantern Books, published just after my 60th birthday, and launched with an author event at the Tattered Cover Bookstore. I was filmed talking about this for a separate segment of 50PlusPrime. Continue reading 50PlusPrime Interview and Other Earth Day Encounters→
Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting an animal sanctuary devoted mostly to chickens. The Rooster Sanctuary at Danzig’s Roost is located near Bennett, Colorado, and houses around 50 roosters and over 100 hens, plus eight ducks, four inquisitive goats, two gentle horses, and an unforgettable potbellied pig. Not to mention countless wild rabbits who burrow under the coops. The goats definitely wanted to engage with us; one kept trying to untie my shoelaces! The horses came over to the fence to greet us, and were rewarded by the treats we gave them. The hens scurried around us, making soothing hen sounds. Among the hens and roosters, we saw a variety of breeds of varying sizes, some with stunning coloration, feathered feet, or other unusual features. We were impressed with the grounds, the numerous sturdy coops and fenced enclosures, a nice pond for the ducks, and plenty of space to explore. Continue reading A Delightful Visit to Danzig’s Roost→
The following is a letter I sent to three organizations–Food & Water Watch, Natural Grocers, and Colorado Interfaith Power & Light–who are sponsoring a forum in Denver this week on the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms. Working to change laws on this is fine as far as it goes, but the best solution doesn’t require legal or corporate change: we need to encourage people to reduce or eliminate their use of animal products. That viewpoint will not be represented on the forum, although grassfed beef and dairy interests will be. I call on the sponsors to include the veg viewpoint in any future events on this topic.
To Lisa Trope, Food & Water Watch; Alan Lewis, Natural Grocers; and Colorado Interfaith Power & Light:
I just picked up a flyer at Natural Grocers about the potluck and forum you are sponsoring April 2 regarding antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I know that Food & Water Watch has a petition campaign urging passage of the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act, related to factory farms, where routinely-given antibiotics endanger the health of everyone. I applaud this campaign.
However, regarding the April 2 event, there is a glaring omission among those invited to be on the panel. No one is speaking to the approach that is simple, effective, and would greatly benefit human health, the animals, and the environment: namely, encourage people to reduce or eliminate their consumption of meat and other animal products. This requires no petitions, no changes in laws or corporate agricultural practices. Unlike the approach of the non-factory farmed meat producers, this would benefit the environment (e.g. grassfed cattle emit more methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas, than feedlot-finished cattle, because grassfed animals must live longer in order to reach market weight). The meat-reduction solution also benefits human health because only animal products have cholesterol; they also contain saturated fat and no fiber. This solution also addresses the cruel practice of animal slaughter, which occurs at a time far short of the animals’ normal lifespan. Continue reading A Missing Viewpoint about Antibiotics on Factory Farms→
Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians, from the Breakfast Table to the Bedroom, by Nick Cooney. Lantern Books, 2014.
A very helpful little book for veg activists, Veganomics brings together data collected in recent years about a number of topics, such as: what motivates people to reduce or eliminate meat consumption (answer: primarily animal cruelty and health concerns), what demographic group is most likely to go vegetarian (young women), what are the most effective ways to tailor vegetarian outreach to make it appealing to people (one example: refer to food as “meat-free” instead of “vegetarian”), why to emphasize cutting out chicken, fish and eggs instead of red meat (chickens and fish account for 92% of the farm animals killed for food in the U.S. and represent 95% of the days of animal suffering caused each year by omnivores). Continue reading Veganomics→