love

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.

A love story between a dog and a town

Huffington Post writes about Bear Dog, a canine resident of Castle Rock, Washington:

One black Lab mix is so popular that he has become the exception to his town’s “no pets allowed” rule… According to the Longview Daily News, locals love him so much that he’s been written into posted signs barring animals… The town will likely erect a monument when Bear Dog passes away, Mayor Paul Helenberg told the paper.

Loving sloths

If you haven’t heard, Kristen Bell likes sloths, and her husband, Dax Shepard, got one brought to their house for her birthday. Here they are telling the story in a cute segment from NPR’s Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! (with a transcript if you prefer that over audio). And here’s the video they talk about in the segment — personally, I think it’s pretty adorable to see someone so excited to meet a sloth that they break down.

This story is so great on one level — I love that Ms Bell loves sloths so much. I love that her husband is so thoughtful to set this up for her because he knew it would mean so much to her, and that he’s so supportive and sweet about her emotional reaction. I love that when they got the sloth in their house that they were responsible about it, adjusting their homeowners insurance and bringing in a professional handler and a little play structure for the sloth — it looks like she mostly just played around while Kristen gazed at her adoringly. I also feel like it’s really great that humans are starting to love animals so much that this is a part of our popular culture.

On another level, and I hate to be a downer, but animals shouldn’t be treated like actors, or party entertainers, because they’re not able to consent to the situation, and are deprived of their autonomy. I guess I could imagine a situation where an animal is somehow orphaned and rescued, and for whatever reason can’t be rehabilitated to live freely in a safe, natural habitat, so they could maybe be a mascot for their species to help educate people about how awesome they are (some wolves come to mind, but don’t quote me on that). But why wouldn’t an animal in that situation be given safe haven at some sanctuary? For every two-toed sloth (or pony!) who has a lovely afternoon at an adoring fan’s birthday party, there are a whole lot of other animals who probably have a really crappy day sitting in a cage or being forced to do the same uncomfortable movie shot over and over and over. (This is why I’m such a fan of Andy Serkis.)

No judgements here for Kristen and Dax — they obviously have their hearts in the right place. But if we really love animals, how should we treat them, ideally? Is it appropriate for our love to be objectifying, focused on our own needs and desires? Or should love come with respect for others’ autonomy?

What does it mean to be a vegan animal?

An unexpected part of my vegan journey has been my realizing that I’m an animal, and growing to love that part of myself. Which is surprisingly difficult, since we’re we’re raised to think we’re something special, different, set apart, and are taught that to be called an animal is insulting. But we lose a part of ourselves when we say we’re not animals. More

Love wins

Watch what happens when a subway “preacher” tries to spread his heterosexism and homophobia and hate: A gay subway passenger stands up for himself and gets the whole car cheering for him by saying, “Jesus loves me!… Jesus is love! We can hear your falsehoods! There’s love in this train!… Love wins!”

I love this video for two reasons:

  1. It really reminds me of the usefulness of speaking to people in their own language, and to respect that they may be different from ourselves. Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully is an incredible book written by one of George W. Bush’s speechwriters, a conservative republican and a conservationist, not an abolitionist intersectional vegan by any means! However, his arguments have been enormously helpful to me in speaking with people who firmly believe that humans have God-given dominion over animals. I may not agree, and I might not define god in the same way they do, but I am now able to have an intelligent conversation with a right wing Christian carnist, in which I can respectfully quote all the compassionate Bible verses needed to counter the bloodthirsty ones they might feel attached to. Imagine what a different response this gay guy would have gotten if he’d said instead, “Your religion is oppressive and your Bible is lies!” By saying “Jesus is love” he effectively showed that the “preacher” was indeed a “false prophet,” at least, in the eyes of all of the people who were watching and who also want to believe that God, if s/he exists, is good and loving, and not hateful. Who are you going to agree with – the crazy bigot screaming vitriol, or the brave young man countering hatred with a reminder of Jesus’s love? I’m agnostic and more Buddhist than anything, but I’m still voting for the young man. Amen, brother.
  2. The other reason I love this video is because once Shira and I were on the train in NYC, and an old man and woman sat down across from us with Christian-themed baseball caps on, and started hissing hateful words at us, saying we were going to hell. We didn’t know how to defend ourselves. No one said anything in our defense. It was one of the cruelest, saddest experiences of my life. I wished dearly at the time that they could have seen me as a peace and justice activist, an ethical person who practices nonviolence in my every action, a loving person in a committed and healthy relationship, a community-minded voter and taxpayer, a fellow Brooklynite. Instead they saw something disgusting they wanted to destroy. It broke my heart. So I want to thank the young man in this video for his courage, for standing up and saying what I didn’t say. Love wins.

I also want to thank my freshman year roommate, Mer, and another one of our dorm-mates, Jesse, for having the courage to stand up one night at dinner, proclaiming, “I love Jesus!” It shocked me at the time because I hadn’t seen anyone progressive, any non-bigot, say something like that before, so exuberantly and honestly and earnestly, and from such a beautiful place of open-hearted love. If it wasn’t for those two people, and the influence of Hugh and his stories of radical Catholics (thank you Hugh!), I wouldn’t have come around to where I am now. My family has been wounded in the past by unjust and oppressive interpretations of religious scripture, and it’s taken me some time to get over my prejudice against religions and to find God in my own way. (Thanks to Josh A. for help in that department!)

Via Gawker

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.

If only every dog were so loved

If only every dog were so loved

In Petsami’s “Dog Eat Dog”, watch the crazy true story of Zachary Quinto adopting his first dog companion at an LA animal shelter. As a bonus, the original soundtrack features some great trumpet and tuba. My big takeaway from this charming little film: If every animal were this loved, we’d be living in a beautiful new world. Adopt, don’t buy, everybody!

Via Jezebel