Another ethical grey area: Duck cuddling

duck and veteran

Image description: On a suburban street, a burly man in sunglasses and a trucker cap tenderly cuddles a white duck in his arms, talking to him or her and scratching his/her tummy. The duck is relaxed and cozy-looking. Three more ducks walk around behind them, among chain link fencing and an orange construction fence.

This is one of those things that I see as a vegan and wonder if it could be done ethically. The story behind the image is that this guy is a veteran living in Ohio who keeps ducks for therapy. According to this short Gawker post and the AP article it links to, this “keeping” apparently consists of caring for them, watching them, and spending time with them. It doesn’t say anything about taking their eggs or feathers, or eating their bodies, or breeding or selling them. Maybe some of that is involved; maybe the particulars of this situation are in some way exploitative. My guess is that these animals weren’t rescued from a factory farm, for example.

But what I’m seeing here is the potential for a very sweet and symbiotic way for veterans and other humans to take a lot of solace in the company of animals who need homes. If sanctuary animals in need of adoption were paired with humans who need their company, that seems like a smart, benign, and even beneficial relationship. Could the concept of “therapy animal” be expanded to become an explicitly mutual, respectful relationship intended to benefit both parties?

Read the article and tell me what you think about this subject.


Postable intersectional social response graphics

I don’t know what else to call these? They’re very specific, what can I say. I made them to post on Pinterest and Twitter. I suppose they’re a little passive aggressive, but I’m not as confrontational as I used to be back in my Flickr heyday, and I like the idea of these perhaps being reusable and less direct than having on-the-spot dialogues. I don’t like making folks feel attacked or making them feel obliged to engage in dialogue. But I don’t mind if they see something I post.

This one is for Pinterest. I admit it, I like tipis. But they are not cool. Consider this a PSA. #cultural appropriation #racism

This one is for Pinterest. I admit it, I like tipis. They’re beautiful. But they are not something white people should use decoratively. Tents are fine, tipis, not fine. Consider this a PSA. #cultural appropriation #racism #interior design

This one is also for Pinterest. I never want to call anyone on these things, and I can't hide or block particular images (I think?). I guess I just wish folks cared more about whether interior designs include corpses. #fur #skin #rug #hide #leather #head #hunting #throw #sheepskin #lambskin

This one is also for Pinterest. I never want to call anyone on these things, and I can’t hide or block particular images (I think?). I guess I just wish folks cared more about whether interior designs include corpses. #fur #skin #rug #hide #leather #throw #sheepskin #wool #sheep #animal #lambskin #vegan #violence #ethics

Dudes, please. Just do this. I shouldn't have to say it. #mansplaining #sexism #patriarchy #privilege #communication #microaggressions #equality #feminism

Dudes, please. Just do this. I shouldn’t have to say it. #mansplaining #sexism #patriarchy #privilege #communication #microaggressions #equality #feminism

I’m going to go post these on Pinterest right now, and will probably continue to do so whenever I’m feeling annoyed by photos of tipis and sheepskins, and whenever I’m getting particularly tired of the #mansplaining.

(I love everyone, by the way. I live by Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s words, “We should regard those who point out our faults as if they were pointing out treasure” and work hard at rooting out and working against my own racist cultural appropriation, my own whitesplaining, and my own oppression of animals of many species, including sweatshop workers and other humans. So call this a cultural critique, not a personal one. Please know that I’m taking issue here with actions and not people, and that I critique my own actions even more critically. These graphics are offered in a spirit of good humor and arty experimentation, as a public way to work out a frustration with something happening in a public forum. Peace and love!)

I have more of these planned, I think. Let me know if you have any intersectional gripes you want drawn / written, or make your own and tell me about them. If you know of other art like this I’d love to hear about it.

And please tell me what you think of these. I’m deciding if I want to be at all negative; I’d been trying so hard to be positive for a while that I was lacking in honesty, but I’m still very much up in the air about it. Thanks for your opinions and ideas!

Will you stand up for animals in this year’s Ithaca Festival Parade?

Just saw this on Facebook:

Please join Finger Lakes Animal Rights on Wednesday May 29th, to march in the Ithaca Festival 2013 Parade, themed “Where the Heart Is”. We’ll be walking resources — carrying signs displaying titles of books, podcasts, films, etc. related to making the world a better place through veganism. Anyone is welcome to join in. A great opportunity to show our community that it’s a win-win situation to Wear a Heart for ALL animals.

Finger Lakes Animal Rights parade banner

Finger Lakes Animal Rights parade banner

More info and ongoing updates:

Contact & RSVP:

Masculinity in the kitchen

In Do We Have The Courage To Raise Our Sons More Like Our Daughters?, Lynn Beisner tells a story about how changing gender norms have allowed her to continue a treasured family tradition of passing on a beloved (presumably non-vegan, but that’s not the point here!) toffee recipe — because her son was ready to take up the torch when her daughter wasn’t. She writes,

I love how my son is challenging all of the gender assumptions I didn’t even know I still had. I love that somehow, against all odds, I managed to raise a guy who cannot have his masculinity threatened because it does not reside in what other people think of him.

As I read this lovely post, I thought of all of the amazing vegan men I know, who are willing to stop eating animals, though so many human cultures seem to equate meat eating and dominance over nature with masculinity. I love that so many men are becoming so willing to help build a more equitable, peaceful, cooperative culture, in these different ways. Maybe the kitchen is a good place to start, since it’s a place where women and animals have been oppressed for a long time.

Maybe one day women won’t fear men, and animals won’t fear humans. Can we make that happen, together?

Yu Chan swims again: A sea turtle with prosthetic flippers

Yu Chan swims again: A sea turtle with prosthetic flippers

yu-sea-turtle-prosthetic-finsThe researchers who made these prosthetic fins for Yu Chan are working on another, even more comfortable version (this is her 27th pair). I feel bad for her that she’s apparently lost her freedom, but it looks like the folks that are working for her are trying to get her to a place where she would be more able to survive on her own outside of captivity – so maybe that’s still in the cards. Anyway, this is an amazing video. Beautiful swimming, Yu!

As an aside, live animal exhibits at aquariums and zoos are usually profit-driven. If you want to go to places like the one shown in this video, please make sure they’re rescue- or sanctuary-based. For instance, at the “aqualife park” where Yu is living, there are dolphin and otter shows. Why are they not allowed to just do whatever they want, instead of performing for crowds of humans? Why are they not free, swimming in the ocean, instead of living in captivity, in tanks? What happens when they get old and are no longer attractive “exhibits”? Is their captivity for their benefit or for human benefit? If it’s primarily for our benefit, how can we morally justify continuing this practice?

Via Jezebel

Photograph from Suma Aqualife Park via Reuters

Veganism: Freedom from ethical contradictions

Well, not entirely! Read my bio for contradictions aplenty. But veganism does allow you to avoid a lot of, shall we say, moral discomfort. I remember worrying a lot more about the impacts of my actions before I went vegan – it was a source of stress for me to think I might be causing suffering (as indeed I was). Once I took the plunge and went vegan, I felt very free. That’s why I think of veganism as a liberatory process.

For instance, I used to say “I love pigs.” And yet if Facebook had existed when I was a carnist, I may have posted photos of a cute piglet on a farm without thinking very much about how he was about to be separated from his mother and would one day face a trip to the slaughterhouse, or about how this farm I’m seeing in this image isn’t at all like the horrific, factory-like farms on which the vast majority of piglets are raised. I may have posted recipes that included “free-range” pork sausage. Back then, I would not have seen the contradiction, but I know I often felt oddly “not right” about my decisions. And I felt really bad when I heard people mention the slaughterhouse, because no matter how much the small farmers we were supporting said what they were doing was humane, I had a hard time imagining what that might look like.

Today, I have a different perspective. I say, “I love pigs,” but I think it’s more important that now I know I should say, even more importantly, “I respect pigs,” because they are not objects for me to desire or want or eat or use or confine or buy or sell. They are individual persons, just like me, who desire autonomy and freedom.

So today on Facebook, the new me posted a recipe for vegan traditional pork pies, and a photo of a rescued pig at a Spanish sanctuary. No guilt.

I know that’s good for me personally. But even better, I think it’s really good for the animals I used to exploit, before I realized there was a way to opt out of the violence I was causing.

Dave Thomas and Buzz Lightyear, reunited: An object lesson in animal personhood

This viral photo is the sad document of the moment when Dave realized he was going to lose Buzz. Click here for the heartwarming story of how these two friends were reunited with the help of a photographer named Maria Sanchez. More