humans

Love does not equal ownership

This is sooooo right on.

Here is what the heck happened: You guys broke up… What additional “closure” could she have given? What kind of explanation would satisfy? Breakups are painful, and we don’t always understand the reasons for them, but after a four-month romantic attachment ends I don’t think the person is responsible for all of your feelings literally YEARS later.

Posting this in solidarity with all of my sisters and brothers out there who have ever feared humans who objectify other humans. Awesome to see this critique being articulated.

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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.

Linktown

Here are some links. Catching up.

“the fate of most livestock is that they are murdered by their benefactors”

Charlottes-Web-Terrific-Garth-Williams1Read E.B. White’s poignant explanation for writing Charlotte’s Web (io9):

A farm is a peculiar problem for a man who likes animals, because the fate of most livestock is that they are murdered by their benefactors. The creatures may live serenely but they end violently, and the odor of doom hangs about them always. I have kept several pigs, starting them in spring as weanlings and carrying trays to them all through summer and fall. The relationship bothered me. Day by day I became better acquainted with my pig, and he with me, and the fact that the whole adventure pointed toward an eventual piece of double-dealing on my part lent an eerie quality to the thing. I do not like to betray a person or a creature, and I tend to agree with Mr. E.M. Forster that in these times the duty of a man, above all else, is to be reliable. It used to be clear to me, slopping a pig, that as far as the pig was concerned I could not be counted on, and this, as I say, troubled me. Anyway, the theme of “Charlotte’s Web” is that a pig shall be saved, and I have an idea that somewhere deep inside me there was a wish to that effect.

Solution: Go vegan.

Calling all crew

Why is everybody so quiet? by Ari Evergreen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Creative Commons License
Why is everybody so quiet? by Ari Evergreen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

we think we’re the smartest species on the planet
and yet we’re the only species that has to pay to live

what does an animal need to live?
food, water, shelter
every other species can meet its needs for free.
we have to pay for all of our needs.
to pay for things we have to allow someone to exploit our labor – that is, to make a profit off of it.

the problem here is capitalism
instead of humans joining together to ask ourselves,
what are our needs and how can we best meet them?
we are stuck playing a game, capitalism

the point of capitalism is not to meet people’s needs
it’s to generate profit
so the primary goal of industrialized, capitalist society hasn’t been to meet people’s needs,
but rather, to make money.
the result is that some people (the ones with the most money) make more money,
while others make so little money they can barely afford their needs
and many more just don’t get their needs met at all.

by way of example let’s pretend some folks are shipwrecked on a tiny island
there are two builders who could make shelter
there’s someone who knows how to make sandals and raincoats
there’s someone who knows how to find and prepare food
there’s someone who knows how to make fire
there’s someone who knows how to collect and store rainwater for drinking
there’s someone who knows how to keep people healthy

logically it would make sense for everyone to work together to meet their needs
each would contribute and each would benefit

but imagine that someone on the island says,
i own all the land, and you all have to pay rent to me to live on it

imagine that the doctor says,
you have to pay me for the care i give you

imagine that the person who makes fire says,
i’ll only make fire if you pay me

imagine the two builders each have insufficient tools
but they keep their tools to themselves, rather than pooling them together, because they’re competing
they save up the best materials to try to attract the business of the doctor and the landowner
they can only offer sub-par houses to the rest of the people
but the people will take what they can get

now no one’s needs are met.
or rather, they’re only met if people are making a profit.

there’s no money on an island, so they’d have to come up with some other way to pay
humans are creative, and can be cruel
we make each other pay in all sorts of ways when we don’t have money, don’t we?
maybe they’d make each other pay with their bodies, as so many men have made women and other men pay with their bodies
or maybe they’d make each other “work off” their debt
maybe the landowner would end up with a big, fancy house while others sleep on the beach
maybe the doctor would have all the best food
maybe the person who makes fire would sometimes withhold their power, just to make others realize how needed he is, so he could raise his prices

imagine someone on the island doesn’t have any special skills or tools
do they get to live in a house?
do they get sandals, or healthcare, or food, or water?
what do they have to do to be allowed near the fire?

could it be better to just give and take
for each to give their gifts freely to others
and to expect to receive others’ gifts in return,
regardless of their contribution?

then the people’s needs would be met
they might even have free time
maybe they could join together to build a lookout tower, or keep a signal fire
maybe they’d use their free time teaching each other everything they know
maybe they’d use it dancing and singing
or maybe they’d learn how to climb trees and harvest coconuts
maybe they’d have a good time on the island

we’re not on an island
we’ve got a whole world
we’ve got so many skills
and so many resources
but so many of our needs are not met

it might be hard to imagine changing our ways
but it’s hard to live in this way
so maybe it would be worth it to do the hard work of imagining
and maybe we could learn how to meet all of our needs
instead of just making some people richer and richer.

Buckminster Fuller saw this
he said our planet is our spaceship.
Marshall McLuhan pointed out,
“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

our ship looks pretty dysfunctional
we’re pretty much destroying it and its ability to sustain us
and how is our crew doing?
is it okay with us that some crew members can have everything they could ever desire, even the lives and bodies of other crew members?
is it okay with us that so many crew members’ needs are not met?
is it okay that so many crew members are treated as expendable?
if this was a ship, what would we do?
would we have a mutiny?
would we call a crew meeting and change up what we’re doing?
would we just say, “this is the way things are”?
would we just continue to allow some folks to destroy the lives of other folks?

i think we need a crew meeting
i think we need to ask big questions
and look for big answers
or our spaceship won’t continue to function
and our crew will be unable to live, let alone work for the common good

if we’re truly such a smart species,
we need to ask ourselves,
what are our needs?
what is the most equitable and efficient and healthy and joyous way for us to meet them?

Oppression in Games: What are we learning?

Awhile back we got a smart phone for the first time, and I downloaded a game based on the cuteness of its icon. It turned out to be Triple Town, and I got briefly obsessed, even finding it on Facebook when I ran out of credits or points or whatever it is they give you until you have to start paying money to keep playing.

It’s an addictive puzzle game, which is what I found appealing about it. You combine icons to make higher-value icons. But these icons tell a story. They’re not just little jewels or tiles or something. Triple Town is set on land, populated by bears. You combine grass until you have flowers, and you combine those until you have bushes, and those in turn become trees, which then become buildings, and then churches and cathedrals. Along the way you trap the bears, turning them into tombstones. Enough tombstones and you’ve got a church. You encounter “ninja bears” who can move around more freely and block your moves, and you kill them, to turn them into tombstones, too. At some point the game tells you you’ve been working on colonies; there’s a mainland which sends out ships to them to get their resources to bring back to the “Capital City,” where they can be used to build monuments, armaments, and coin-making farms and factories to fund further exploitation of the islands.

So not only was I a bear-killer, I was an imperialist. I got deeply uncomfortable and after a while it wasn’t even my “guilty pleasure” anymore, it was just an addictive thing I felt creepy about. So I stopped playing.

In the back of my mind I wondered about Triple Town. I imagine a lot of people don’t have issues with killing tiny animated bears and stealing their resources; the game is very popular. Were the game producers just idiots, unaware of what they were teaching people? Or were they deliberately brainwashing folks? More

A sad but touching video showing the depth of animal emotions

Sorry to share something so sad, but it’s also quite beautiful. This video captures a moment when a sight-seeing boat from Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point, California crossed paths with what seemed to be a funeral procession: A grieving mother dolphin, slowly carrying her dead child’s body on her dorsal fin, surrounded by other dolphins.

In the video, Tony Green, one of the passengers, says,

The last thing I expected to see today was a funeral procession. And it was pretty profound for me to think about … emotions that those animals feel. And how much, really, more alike we are…

I’m so glad this video exists. If you ever doubt that animals have feelings or consciousness, remember this funeral procession. If you ever worry that humans are heartless, remember the natural empathy and grief felt by the unseen human observers in this video.

Captain Dave Anderson says, “In my nearly twenty years on the water whale watching I have never seen this behavior,” but my guess is that this is nothing new. We just have to look and learn. Just for starters, When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is full of amazing stories as well as useful perspective into why we humans hear so little about anecdotal evidence of animal cognition.

Via Huffington Post.

“Who is smarter: a person or an ape?”

dog-and-Thomas-Cheng

“New research shows that we have grossly underestimated both the scope and the scale of animal intelligence. Primatologist Frans de Waal on memory-champ chimps, tool-using elephants and rats capable of empathy.”

Via Josh

Photo: Thomas Cheng and a dog, from the article

The 47 Percent Filmmaker likes people and animals

I noticed when reading about Scott Prouty, the ’47 Percent’ Filmmaker who helped bring down Romney, that he’s not only a friend to working people – he’s a friend to animals. The article reports that he “spent his free time volunteering with his girlfriend at a South Florida SPCA, where he gave a HuffPost reporter a tour of the horse rescue operation” and offers this link to donate. He also once saved a drowning woman from a canal full of alligators – incidentally saving the alligators, who were going to be shot if other rescue folks had got their gun in time. Proving, once again, that having a love for animals doesn’t mean you can’t be a humanitarian too!