Bikinis, vegan desserts, and PETA

In this article, Phoebe-Jane Boyd, who is vegan, discusses the latest publicity-stunt-gone-wrong by PETA at Wimbledon. This time, PETA had bikini-clad women serving strawberries and vegan cream.  According to PETAthe tennis fans loved our vegan version of the classic Wimbledon snack, which helped prove that there are delicious plant-based alternatives to every dairy-based food you can think of.  Boyd questions the efficacy of these tactics: My own interactions with promotional models at these things have never ended in increased brand awareness, but rather with a feeling of discomfort at the expectation that I’m to treat the women like walking, talking product shelves with boobs instead of human beings.

I gave up my PETA membership a number of years ago, mostly as a reaction to their tasteless publicity stunts, such as this. I am so tired of PETA parading mostly women in scantily-clad costumes to promote animal welfare and veganism. PETA’s pat response is demonstrated below (this was in reaction to its tweet about the Wimbledon event):

PETA’s response is facile at best. The fact that the women in question chose to participate in this publicity stunt does not address the notion of exploiting women’s bodies. Exploitation does not presuppose or require consent (or lack thereof), but is the use of tactics for the sake of profit, marketing, and so forth. These tactics are outdated at best.

There is a long list of reasons why I cannot support PETA: The tasteless publicity stunts, the cloying pandering to celebrities, the sexist and tasteless “sexy vegan celebs,” the aggressive attacks on people (e.g., those wearing fur coats), and their association of the killing of animals with the Holocaust. Many people object to PETA’s euthanasia policy; I am less troubled by this, as euthanasia may sometimes be the only humane solution for animals who are severely ill or injured, and who are not candidates for adoption. At least, I very much hope that PETA does, in fact, use euthanasia as a last resort.

Some tipping points for me were PETA’s attempt to exploit Detroiters’ lack of water by offering to pay their water bill if they promised to go vegan for one month. I was so incensed by this crass attempt at publicity at the expense of people who were suffering, that I phoned PETA and expressed my utter disgust. Besides taking advantage of people who were at a low point, “veganism under duress” is hardly going to produce long-term commitments to veganism, so it was nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. Another spectacular low point was PETA’s suggestion that a prison serve a teen, who had practised cannibalism, vegan meals, arguing that we are all made of flesh and blood, that we are all animals, and that the violent acts that Harrouff has been charged with are similar to those commonly inflicted upon billions of farmed animals in the U.S. each year. I can’t even begin to imagine how the friends and families of the two people that Harrouff murdered were impacted by this crass suggestion.

There is no doubt that PETA has been successful in pressuring governments and organizations into improving the welfare of some animals, but I’ve never believed in the adage that the ends justify the means. I would much rather support organizations that use compassion, intelligence, and kindness, and whose focus is upon animals and their welfare, rather than on self-promotion.

Better Eating International

I have been part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund a non-profit organization, Better Eating International, which wants to create videos to help people learn about, and transition into, a plant-based diet. The idea behind these videos is to educate people about the abuse of factory farmed animals, as well as to highlight the benefits of a plant-based diet. The organization does not intend to use shock value in these videos but, rather, animation to make its points. A lot of people can’t bear to watch the often graphic depiction of how animals are treated, thus the message can get lost; the idea is that a gentler approach might be more effective in reaching a larger number of people. As an educator, I appreciate the organization’s wish to educate, rather than to shock. The campaign overreached its financial target, which means that the project should go ahead. I look forward to the results.

Why zoos should be closed

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I despise zoos. I have written about this topic before. I have never supported the arguments that zoos help educate people about animals which, in turn, leads to better animal welfare. The continued horrific treatment of animals around the world does not correlate to increased education. Another argument is that zoos can help preserve species that are close to extinction; I doubt the price of captivity is worth it. I would rather see animals go extinct while living their lives in their natural environments than doomed to an existence of living in cages, no matter how large. In her article, Catherine Bennett discusses the state of zoos, and particularly the efforts of zoo keeper David Gill, who has culled 500 animals.

Libraries’ role in helping to reduce cruelty to animals.

The British Columbia SPCA discusses how public libraries can be used to expose children to feeling empathy for animals which can, in turn, result in reduced incidences of animal abuse and cruelty. The Vancouver Public Library (VPL) has created an excellent list of children’s resources that features works about animals and their care. The BC SPCA has a list of resources that it is happy to share with public libraries. The society asks people to contact their local library with this message:

A sincere thank you for the work you do to promote literacy and child development. I am disturbed in learning about the link between domestic violence and animal abuse (learn more from spca.bc.ca/violencelink). I believe we can make a difference in people’s attitudes towards each other and animals if we help them develop empathy from a young age. I am writing to ask: will you order the books on this list spca.bc.ca/librarybooks and promote them in our library? By doing so, I am confident that your actions will help make a difference in an at risk child’s life.

This is such a wonderful initiative, and kudos to VPL. I think this would be a splendid course of action across public libraries in Canada.

 

Greyhound racing ban in New South Wales

The New South Wales government has passed a bill to ban greyhound racing, in a country where this sport – a term I use very loosely – is still mostly legal. Greyhound racing is problematic for a number of reasons:

  • It can lead to overbreeding of dogs
  • High euthanasia rates for dogs who are injured, or who are no longer suitable for racing
  • Injuries to thousands of dogs
  • Racing dogs live very solitary lives, deprived of human contact and socialization
  • Live baits, in the form of rabbits. piglets, or possums, are sometimes used to train the dogs, who are sighthounds.

Although there are several societies that rescue former racing dogs and put them in foster homes, and, eventually, in permanent homes, not all of these dogs can be accommodated by the societies. In most cases, the greyhound industry regulates itself, which is hardly a reassurance that animals will be treated well.

Greyhound racing is not, unfortunately, illegal in Canada; rather, betting is allowed on only horse racing. This means that amateur greyhound racing can occur in Canada, e.g., the Calida Greyhound Race Track in Red Deer, Alberta. Lure coursing is practised also in Canada. There isn’t much information about the treatment and fate of racing greyhounds in Canada, unfortunately.

Information about greyhound rescue groups in Canada may be found here.

1000-welfare-infographic

Source

 

Are vegans right?

Journalist David Macfarlane writes this beautiful reflection on veganism, after a promise he made to his daughter to try a plant-based diet for six months. Macfarlane does an excellent job of explaining the impact of veganism on the environment, our health and, perhaps most importantly, on the lives and well-being of animals. Macfarlane comes to an understanding of why his vegan daughter prefers not to discuss her lifestyle at the dinner table, a sentiment with which I can sympathize:

Vegans know how unpleasant a topic of dinner conversation the generally accepted practices of animal agriculture can be. That’s usually why they’re vegans in the first place. Things can be graphic and disturbing even before they start talking about intentionally broken legs, and injections of antibiotics and hormones, and animals forced to live a life that consists largely of squatting in their own feces. People can get quite churlish about this kind of thing — especially while they are eating capon or calf’s liver.

Macfarlane makes reference to a friend of his: I’m no philosopher. But Adam is. He teaches philosophy at Brooklyn College in New York City. In a letter to his students that was published in The Walrus in October 2014, Adam put his own position clearly and simply: “I believe that I have a moral obligation to reduce as much suffering in the world as I can before I die.” This is not the philosophy to which Ayn Rand subscribed. And that’s one of the reasons it’s good enough for me. Macfarlane clearly feels the same about Ayn Rand as I do; perhaps I should use the “veganism as anti-Ayn Randism” as the explanation for my vegan lifestyle.

Macfarlane has an excellent riposte to the meat-eating impact on the environment: “Because we all liked cheeseburgers so much” is going to sound pretty stupid when humankind is hauled into the principal’s office and asked to explain how the planet got destroyed.”

I wish Mr. Macfarlane all the best in his vegan journey; we need more people with his eloquence and commitment.