“In addition to our household cat, I had numerous pets – frogs, lizards, rats, turtles, fish, a rabbit and a family of adorable ducks. My childhood was replete with books about animals, animal toys and images of cute and cuddly animals… There I was, like most children, growing up believing I loved animals yet I was consuming animals daily. Whilst my love of animals was fostered, my taste for animal products was simultaneously cultivated.”
New Zealand-born prizewinning vegan artist Claude Jones describes her childhood – conditioned like every typical child into sustaining two completely contradictory ideas about animals at the same time in one brain. What we now, of course, call cognitive dissonance.
“My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”
Her work which appears quite simple, has a lot going on under the surface. She employs a deceptively innocent fairytale style, delicately drawn and in soft colours, as if for kids’ storybooks. The animals she depicts are anthropomorphised just as they so often are in children’s books. But our minds struggle to make sense of what our eyes are telling us – the shocking incongruity of the actions they are engaged in. Rabbits, universally viewed as timid and gentle, are seen wielding knives against other animals. A dog is bullfighting, or acting as circus ringmaster to a performing elephant, or experimenting on a hapless rabbit. Any given animal can appear as either perpetrator or victim. And yet all of them portraying ‘normal’ human activities that are not only legal but culturally acceptable, and accepted.
But let Claude continue her story: “For some time [as a child] I could only assume that we ate animals when they had died of old age. … we attempt to compensate for the murder of our fellow sentient beings in bucolic images in stories and animated films of happy, healthy farm animals grazing and sunbathing in lush fields, joyously bounding about, scratching, sniffing the earth, cuddling their human companions, and so on. I soon came to understand the brutal truth and simply could not reconcile my love of animals with harming them, let alone killing them. With plenty of other food options to choose from, at age 16, I decided to become a vegetarian.”
“Much later, in 2010, I finally made the connection between all animal products and animal suffering and decided it was time to shift from vegetarianism to veganism.”
“I find myself simultaneously fascinated and frustrated by our contradictory treatment of animals. Our human-centric perspective of the animal world positions rabbits, for example, as both cuddly companion animals but also as, laboratory specimens, meat and fur “products”. We support an industry that raises millions of pets that are accepted members of families yet trap, cage, torture and kill billions of animals annually for food, fur, leather. My work seeks to expose such obvious contradictions in the face of widespread, culturally ingrained acceptance of this schism.”
Much of Claude’s work reveals her concern about modern science’s meddling with nonhumans. In an earlier post I wrote about the science of gene-editing, CRISPR. Using CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) humans can now edit the genes of both animals and plants to ‘custom-build’ them in any way considered desirable and/or profitable. So already you can for example, if you have the money, order yourself a designer dog with black and yellow stripes – or brown with red spots – yes really. Maybe the creature Claude depicts here isn’t so very fanciful.
Take a look at some of the other bizarre creatures of Claude’s imagination in her Gallery collection, ‘Hybrid”. At one and the same time amusing and nightmarish, I think you’ll agree. But too close to present day scientific reality for comfort.
Fantastical hybrids appear in many world mythologies. The ancient Greeks, for instance, told of the dread Chimaera, a flame-belching monster made of body parts from three different animals. Nowadays the all-too-real ‘chimaeras’ don’t breath fire, but are every bit as monstrous – gene-edited pigs made to grow up with human hearts, ‘harvested’ at the right time to remedy the shortage of human-donated organs for human transplants.
“Jones questions the domination of humankind over all animal life, and our assumed right to meddle with the natural order of other species.”
– Simon Gregg, Art Curator
For me Claude’s powerful art epitomises the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. It speaks volumes about Man’s rationally untenable, schizoid relationship with his fellow creatures.
Visit Claude’s website to learn more, and browse through her gallery of disturbing and thought-provoking pictures. There’s a good chance you will feel the need to fix a conflicted mind (and soul, and life), the inevitable result of attempting the impossible: making sense of schizoid presumptions about our fellow animals that are, unhappily, conventional wisdom today.
If that resonates with you, you could do much worse than trying vegan. It’s not hard and the rewards are great. As great as bringing your life into sweeter harmony with Life. I guarantee it.
“Polish born Dr Alex Hershaft believes he survived the Warsaw Ghetto in order to commit his life to stopping the oppression of animals in the meat industry. Speaking at the final leg of his European tour at the Jewish Museum in London this week, 82-year-old Alex told the astonishing story of how his harrowing experience resulted in a lifelong passion for animal rights.”
Last week the London Evening Standard featured the story of Dr Hershaft, one of the few Jewish survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto.
To put the miracle of his survival in context:
400,000 Jews were trapped inside the ghetto (1940-1943)
245,000 of them were sent to Treblinka concentration camp
In all 300,000 Warsaw ghetto Jews died in concentration camps
A further 92,000 of them died of mass shootings, starvation and disease, in the valiant uprising against the Nazis, and the final destruction of the ghetto
Estimates of the total number of Jewish people annihilated by the Nazis in World War II – between 6 – 11 million.
Each one was not of course simply a statistic, but a real person with a life of his/her own. And mere facts and figures cannot convey the unspeakable horror of the World War II Holocaust. So it’s even more inspiring that Dr Hershaft, this incredible man, channeled his years of suffering and trauma into compassion for other sufferers of oppression – those others now confined just as he was then, often brutally treated, robbed of dignity, and denied their basic rights as sentient individuals – the animals that humans farm for ‘food’.
Estimates of animals killed in the world every year? More than 56 billion, and tragically rising. That is even without counting fish and other marine animals.
The dictionary definition of ‘holocaust’ is ‘destruction or slaughter on a mass scale.’ Yet if we dare to apply such an emotive word to the monstrous flood of life blood flowing from the bodies of those billions of individual cows, pigs, chickens and sheep, slaughtered (like Hitler’s victims) by human hands, we are swiftly shouted down with cries of outrage. But is there a better word to describe what is happening behind closed doors this very second? Click here and I can guarantee you some surprise, if not downright disbelief, at the numbers of different species being stripped of their lives second by second so humans can eat their bodies.
Is this not holocaust on an unimagineable scale, passing unseen, unremarked, and mostly unprotested, right under society’s collective nose? A horror of dystopian inhumanity, insanely become acceptable, for which society at large feels no compunction or concern.
It’s not using the H-word in this context that’s an outrage. This present day holocaust itself is the outrage. So good people, let us close our ears to those cries of indignation, and let’s not stop using the H-word. The outraged will just have to suck it up, because there can be no more authoritative validation for its use in this context than from a Jewish survivor of the Nazi holocaust himself. Dr Hershaft likens “the treatment of animals in the meat industry to his experience within a concentration camp, including the use of branding and witnessing piles of body parts on a regular basis.”
“Following a successful career as an environmental chemist, a work trip to a slaughterhouse made him realise his true vocation. As a result in 1976 he co-founded the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) and became a vegan in 1981.”
Dr Hershaft with fellow survivors on a boat to America
Dr Hershaft says of his experience:
“This is when I finally realised that there was a valid reason for my surviving the Holocaust and a valid way to repay my debt for surviving. This is when I resolved to spend the rest of my life fighting all forms of oppression.”
Ever since, Alex has spent his life campaigning for the rights of farm animals; as a member of the Advisory Council of Jewish Veg in America, Patron of the Jewish Vegetarian Society, and the current President of FARM.
Just why are Gary Grill and James Silver, Anita Kranjc’s legal defence team in the infamous ‘Pig Trial’, not popping corks and toasting each other over glasses of champagne after their client’s welcome acquittal last week?
As we all know, in June 2015 Anita was attending one of the regular Toronto Pig Save’s vigils for animals headed to the slaughterhouse. She gave water through slats in the truck to pigs suffering from heat and thirst. The truck driver angrily confronted her, and the next day she was charged with two criminal offences.
Last Thursday animal advocates everywhere were rejoicing. Anita’s act of compassion was ruled not criminal and she was saved from a possible 10 year jail sentence.
So why were Gary and James not in celebratory mood? Because it wasn’t the win they (and Anita) had hoped for. “Contrary to the claims of many activists, the case did not put the ‘industry on trial’ or result in a ‘victory for animals’.”
On the charge sheet, Anita’s alleged offences were ‘criminal mischief’ and ‘interference with property’. So in a nutshell, the trial hinged on those two things: whether or not Anita was guilty of criminal mischief, and whether or not she had interfered with the property of a third party.
As for the criminal mischief, her team argued that giving water to thirsty pigs was acting for the public good. The judge agreed and dismissed the prosecution’s flimsy argument that the driver did not know if the water was in fact just water.
He also ruled that as the driver of the truck had no qualms about sending the pigs to slaughter in spite of Anita’s action, it was evident he did not believe the animals had been contaminated. The pigs’ ‘owner’ had suffered no financial loss, and his operation had not been affected in any way. There was no ‘interference with property’.
The most important part of Anita’s defence in terms of animal advocacy was the assertion that pigs are not property. As fully sentient, social, thinking, feeling beings, they are as much persons as we humans, and should be recognised as such in law. After all, if even corporations can be legal persons (and rivers and glaciers in some countries of the world), how much more pigs?
The defence called upon several expert witnesses, including Dr Lori Marino. Dr Marino sought to provide evidence that pigs are indeed persons, based on her years, if not decades, of rigorous scientific observation of, and research into different species of animals. Justice Harris chose to dismiss the eminent biopsychologist’s evidence as unscientific and biased – presumably because Lori is a vegan and animal advocate?
Justice Harris made it clear that under Canadian law, dogs and cats are property, and there are no legal grounds for considering pigs as anything other than property. Disappointing, but not surprising.
Ultimately commonsense prevailed with Anita’s acquittal.Commonsense would wonder why anyone performing the compassionate act of trying to relieve a fellow creature’s suffering should be charged with a criminal offence to begin with.
Which leads us to the sting in the tail of this whole story. The incident that sparked the whole commotion emanated from escalating tensions between the animal rights movement and the meat industry.
Gary and James believe that the truck driver’s confrontation of Anita in 2015 was deliberately staged in an attempt to put a stop to Toronto Pig Save’s thrice-weekly vigils. Unsurprisingly, the worst nightmare for those in the meat industry would be animal activism affecting their bottom line. It’s always all about the money.
Consequently, Van Boekel Hog Farms Inc are not happy with Thursday’s verdict. Fearmans Slaughter is not happy. Livestock farmers in Ontario at large are not happy.
“Organisations representing farms in Ontario expressed their disappointment with the decision, highlighting concerns that it would embolden animal rights activists and spark further confrontations between the two groups.
“Actions by Krajnc and activists like her should not be condoned by the courts as they threaten acceptable and legal farming practices and are a threat to food safety,” said Bruce Kelly of Farm and Food Care Ontario.” The Guardian
He added, “We can’t have a food system where people can interfere with food in any stage of the delivery. It’s not safe.” Global News.Some would say, including me, that slaughtering pigs for food is not safe – not safe for the pigs, and not safe for those who keep eating them.
This time, with this pig trial, the vested interests failed. They failed to shut the lid down on Toronto Pig Save, and by default other like-minded activists.
But Justice Harris’s summing up has practically handed the industry a blueprint for winning a conviction next time round. It’s ludicrously simple. Van Boekel Hog Farms’ prosecution of Anita fell down because the truck driver allowed the pigs to go to slaughter as usual, hence into the food supply chain. So all VBHF needs do next time is ‘euthanise’ just one animal declaring it tampered with, contaminated, and no longer fit for the food chain. Hey presto – ‘criminal mischief’ and ‘interference with property’ are proven, the defendant found guilty.
They will try again.
But meanwhile,“one of the unintended consequences of leveling criminal charges against her [Anita] is that the Pig Save movement has taken off. Last year, there were 50 such groups in North America. Now, she said, there are 150.” The Star
And here is this amazing, compassionate, fearless woman on the courthouse steps, after the trial.
Disclaimer I have tried to summarise in brief some of the main points of the trial, for my own benefit as much as anything, as a layperson. If I have misapprehended any of the legal niceties, please do not hesitate to bring them to my attention!
During the trial, in presenting Anita’s defence, the lawyers refrained from referring to the Eric Van Boekel’s facility where the pigs were reared as a farm, instead using terms like ‘operation’ and ‘units’. After all, who in their right minds would consider such an intensive industrial facility a farm? Answer: the judge. Justice David Harris impatiently swept aside the defence team’s terminology and insisted the ‘hogs’ housing be referred to as barns, and the operation as a whole, a farm. He himself, he declared, was born and brought up on a farm. Does that raise questions of impartiality, I wonder?
Other expert witnesses at the trial attempted to draw attention to environmental and animal welfare concerns surrounding the rearing, transport and slaughter of the pigs. Justice Harris dismissed these as irrelevant to the case and accused the witnesses of using the trial as a platform for animal activism. Well, why wouldn’t you?
Anita still faces another charge: of “obstructing police after a truck carrying pigs crashed near the Burlington slaughterhouse killing 42 of them. Krajnc was not blamed for the crash (the truck’s driver was charged with careless driving). But she was charged after Pig Save protestors at the scene crossed police lines in an effort to convince slaughterhouse workers to release some of the injured hogs to a pig sanctuary.” The Star
This is ‘From Truth to Justice’ Week. From the March for Science on Earth Day to the People’s Climate March this Saturday.
‘The Science March Was About Respecting Science, the People’s Climate March Is About Acting on It’
The president of the USA – who would be a joke if he weren’t so capriciously dangerous – may not care about what climate change is doing to the planet, but we do.
It is hard to avoid hyperbole when you talk about global warming. It is, after all, the biggest thing humans have ever done, and by a very large margin. In the past year, we’ve decimated the Great Barrier Reef, which is the largest living structure on Earth. In the drought-stricken territories around the Sahara, we’ve helped kick off what The New York Times called “one of the biggest humanitarian disasters since World War II.” We’ve melted ice at the poles at a record pace, because our emissions trap extra heat from the sun that’s equivalent to 400,000 Hiroshima-size explosions a day.
As for wildlife, look no further than the tragedy of starving polar bears. Which is why, just maybe, you should come to Washington, DC, on April 29 for a series of big climate protests that will mark the 100th day of Trumptime. Maybe the biggest thing ever is worth a day. Bill McKibben for The Nation
For some of us Washington DC is too hard to reach, but not to worry, we can still hit the streets and make our voices heard for the planet at any one of hundreds of the Peoples Climate Movement ‘sister marches’ all over the USA, and indeed, all over the world. Click here to find one near you.
If you really can’t make any of the marches, join the Virtual Wildlife Climate March here
Watch writer and environmentalist Bill McKibben, and his guests talk about climate change and climate action in this short video.
Week of Action From Truth to Justice: – Earth Day to May Day 2017
One amongst an exciting calendar of events in the Week of Action really caught my eye: an invitation to stand with the 21 youth plaintiffs suing the federal government for ‘perpetrating climate chaos’, in the case Juliana vs U.S. It is predicted to be ‘the trial of the century’.
The youth plaintiffs will speak out from the steps of the United States Supreme Court – where their case may eventually be heard. Joined by their lawyers, supporting U.S. Senators and others, these youth will share the latest updates on their case, as well as song, fiery speeches and invitations to show your support.
Find out everything you need to know about the Peoples Climate March here
Since farming livestock is responsible for 14.5% of greenhouse gases globally, you could do much worse than join the Plant-Powered Planet Protectors at the March. Says it all, in four words, doesn’t it – whoever dreamed up that group name deserves a medal! If you are serious about your interest in wildlife and in doing your bit to mitigate the grim effects of climate change – think polar bear – take the Center for Biological Diversity’s pledge to Take Extinction off Your Plate
Find out which species of wildlife are affected by climate change: USA here, UK here
And when all the fun and flag-waving is over for the day, sign up for the free Food Revolution Summit, a week of illuminating talks from, amongst others, eminent doctors such as Michael Greger and Kim Williams. John Robbins kicks the whole thing off with “Lift-Off: Taking Action to Heal Yourself & the World”
Other experts, include Nathan Runkle who while still a boy of 15, founded Mercy for Animals. Nathan is an internationally renowned leader in the field of animal advocacy. He is talking on “How Mercy for Animals Can Transform Your Life” Check out all 24 visionary speakers’ profiles and their topics here.
For yourself, for the animals and for the planet
Happy smiles in the rain – people and posters from the March for Science here
Further reading post March for Science & Earth Day:
Julian L Wong advocate of ‘A Whole Person Economy’ tells us that science alone will not solve Earth’s problems for us. We need a much more radical solution – overturning ‘a political and economic system based on the indefinite and continuous extraction, exploitation, and wealth-hoarding of resources by the powerful few on a planet of finite natural resources. Addressing this root cause requires much more than advances in science and technology, but also requires significant advances in our understanding of how to shift patterns of human behavior on a systems and planetary scale (essentially, world cultures) so that, for instance, we collectively stop measuring success and progress through erroneous notions of “economic growth.”’
Today is a big day. Today lawyer Steven Wise of the NonHuman Rights Project will be presenting oral arguments in the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan on behalf of two chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko.
In the fight to win legal person status for a nonhuman animal and what that would mean for nonhumans as a whole, this is the best and clearest article I’ve come across yet. It’s a decent length but truly worth reading through to the end. There cannot be much else as important as this for Animal Rights.
“If we didn’t have rights, all we had was some statute that said you can’t be cruel to me, or that I’m entitled to some kind of welfare, the person who gave it to me can also take it away,” [NhRP President Steven M. Wise] said. Wise cited the example of environmental protections set forth by the Obama administration, which are now being rolled back by Trump. Essentially, if legislation can be passed, it can also be erased. Rights are more difficult to erode.”
“They used to bark at me when I walked into the courtroom,” lawyer Steven Wise said in the Sundance documentary Unlocking the Cage, which debuted on HBO last month. His use of the word “bark” is literal.
Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has spent his entire legal career preparing to represent the first chimpanzee plaintiffs in the U.S. court system. While he’s no stranger to having his life’s work—of attempting to get certain animals recognized as persons—poked fun at, he’s found that the courts have taken him seriously.
The distinction of “persons,” not “people,” is important. Part of the apparent absurdity is that on the surface, arguing for personhood might sound like saying a chimpanzee should have the same rights as an adult human, like the right to own property and vote in elections. Instead, the category of “person” is a legal one referring to a being entitled to certain fundamental rights. The case of the chimpanzees, Wise said, is about their right to bodily liberty—recognizing the animals as legal beings instead of “things.”
On March 16th, Wise will be presenting oral arguments in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department in Manhattan on behalf of Tommy and Kiko, two chimpanzees who appeared in movies in the 1980s and are now living in New York State in questionable conditions—Tommy, in a concrete cell at the back of a trailer lot in upstate New York, and Kiko, in a concrete storefront operated out of a private home in Niagara Falls. According to NhRP, Tommy has frequently been left with a small TV set as his only stimulation; Kiko has been photographed with a makeshift leash made of a padlock and chain around his neck. Both animals, kept in cages, are being deprived the natural habitats and socialization that chimps, known to thrive in large and organized societies, require.
Rather than attempt to sue or criminalize the chimps’ owners for cruelty, Wise is using a writ of habeus corpus to argue that these animals are being held against their rights as autonomous beings—autonomy being a “supreme common law value” recognized by the courts, as Wise explained.
“Scientifically speaking, autonomous beings have the capacity to freely choose how to live their lives. They are not cabined by instinct,” Wise told Gizmodo. He believes Tommy and Kiko should be released to true sanctuaries, with living conditions more akin to the jungles chimpanzees are native to, and importantly, other chimpanzees to socialize with. While nonhuman entities like corporations have, in the past, been named persons in the eyes of the law, Wise is the first to seek personhood status for nonhuman animals in a U.S. court. And if it can happen once, the door will be open to recognizing personhood in other cases of animal cruelty. Wise could set a precedent that changes the way nonhuman animals are seen in the eyes of the law forever.
Animal cruelty is usually fought piecemeal: Reports come out of an inhumane practice, an advocacy organization leads a reactionary campaign, and maybe a new law gets passed, or an offender is pressured to change their practices. David Coman-Hidy, executive director of The Humane League, says corporate boycotts are an effective tool. But it’s an imperfect system, because many forms of animal cruelty (like keeping chimps in isolation in concrete cages) are perfectly legal. Some laws are in place to protect nonhuman animals, but not nearly as many as you might think. Farm animals, the focus of THL’s work, “are afforded essentially no meaningful protections, legally,” Coman-Hidy said.
“Some of the most inhumane practices, like extreme confinement, are outlawed, but there’s very little [that is against the law to practice] in terms of slaughter.”
Farm animals, though not (yet) the subject of NhRP’s work, make a strong case in point. Specific forms of cruelty remain legal until—maybe—they’re not anymore. Meanwhile, other forms of cruelty remain the status quo. Wise’s approach, of arguing that animals are being not just mistreated, but being held against their rights as autonomous beings, is meant to upend this usual order.
“If we didn’t have rights, all we had was some statute that said you can’t be cruel to me, or that I’m entitled to some kind of welfare, the person who gave it to me can also take it away,” he said. Wise cited the example of environmental protections set forth by the Obama administration, which are now being rolled back by Trump. Essentially, if legislation can be passed, it can also be erased. Rights are more difficult to erode. As Wise put it, there’s a big difference “between having rights that you can enforce, and just being the object of protections that someone wants to give you.”
It’s been a few years since Wise first made headlines for filing on behalf of Tommy in 2013, and initially being rejected by a ruling and an appeals court by the end of 2014. Since then, his firm has also filed cases on behalf of the chimps Hercules and Leo, who were being held at Stony Brook University as biological subjects for study. Wise didn’t win that case either, but a public campaign (led by none other than Jane Goodall, primate expert and NhRP board member) is now pressuring Hercules and Leo’s owner, the New Iberia Research Center, to surrender the animals to a sanctuary in Florida.
Despite its losses, the NhRP is anything but discouraged.
According to Wise, Justice Barbara Jaffe, the judge in the First Department’s ruling on the Hercules and Leo case in 2015, agreed with “virtually everything” the NhRP presented. Jaffe wrote in her decision that “‘Legal personhood’ is not necessarily synonymous with being human,” and that the concept of legal personhood has “evolved significantly since the inception of the United States. Not very long ago, only caucasian male, property-owning citizens were entitled to the full panoply of legal rights.” But ultimately, Jaffe felt bound by a prior ruling against the NhRP—Tommy’s 2013 case in Albany—where the court said that to be a person you had to “assume duties and responsibilities.”
“The problem is,” Wise said, “millions of New Yorkers cannot assume duties and responsibilities.”
Wise is referring to what animal ethicists often call the “arguments from marginal cases”: if we define humanity, or personhood, as possessing a certain ability—in this case, the ability to assume responsibilities—what does that mean for the human beings who don’t? Are young children and those with disabilities less entitled to rights?
Few would say so. And this is where it gets messy when scholars and judges try to make logical distinctions between humans and other animals. The particular distinction the Albany court went with in the case of Tommy was that collectively, humans are able to assume duties, and chimps are not.
Wise is now armed to attack that assertion. The team has collected 60 pages of expert affidavits attesting to how chimpanzees in fact do assume responsibilities, both in chimpanzee-only and human-chimpanzee communities. At this stage, NhRP’s hope is the Manhattan court sets them up to appeal the Albany ruling. Considering it took almost 30 years between Wise getting the idea to argue for legal nonhuman personhood at all, and filing the first case, the process feels like a slow one. But Wise and his firm are in it for the long haul, and it’s entirely possible that one of their clients could be recognized as a person before the end of 2017. What’s more, NhRP is already looking outside of the Empire State.
Wise sees the bigger picture as a movement. He says the firm is in talks with lawyers in 11 different countries.
“We may be arguing in this courthouse way out in rural New York, but…people all over the world are paying attention to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” he said.
As of now, NhRP is gearing up to file a personhood case on behalf of circus elephants, and it’s looking into building a case for the orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego. Though the nature of the abuse and mistreatment is secondary to Wise’s legal argument, these cases are likely dire ones—abuses against circus elephants and SeaWorld orcas are well-documented. Large animals in captivity often suffer illness and developmental issues as a result of cramped and unnatural living spaces and breeding practices. Even worse, reports of violent abuse (beatings, confinement, use of ropes and shocks) in performing animal conditions are tragically common.
It would be no small victory for Wise to rescue even one of his clients from an unhappy life. But the greater value is the chance to set a precedent for the future. Future cases for nonhuman personhood in New York would be able to refer directly to the NhRP ruling, and a model would be provided for other states, even other nations.
“We’ve known from the beginning that ours will be a long-term fight continuous with and similar to other struggles for recognition of personhood and fundamental rights,” Wise said. That they’ve even made it this far, he says, is “a turn away from speciesist thinking.”
Kiko and Tommy, in other words, are only the beginning.
Juliet Gellatley’s personal story of undercover animal- rights investigation, by Viva!’s Tony Wardle for Barefoot Vegan Magazine. Thank you Tony! Had to share this.
Tony says: I’ve known Juliet Gellatley a long time – a very long time – 26 years to be precise. When I first met her she was a young youth education officer at the Vegetarian Society but within three years was its director. She then left to found the vegan campaigning group, Viva!, which she still directs from its Bristol offices.
That’s a long time to be constantly fighting for animals but in truth, it started way before that, as a 15- year-old on the streets of Stockport, handing out leaflets against seal pup slaughter, snaring and other barbarities. It was also then that Juliet blagged her way into a ‘model’ pig farm and the suffering she witnessed – particularly a limping, lame old boar who implored her with his eyes – determined the rest of her life. She was compelled to try and turn Britain – the world – vegan.
There have been many farm visits since then but if you are so ripped apart by animals suffering, why oh why would you continue to expose yourself to it? There’s no equivocation in Juliet’s answer:
“I do it because I care about animals and someone has to tear away the veil that disguises their pain with constant hype that encourages people to believe that they have to eat animals. It is a massive deceit built on terrible cruelty and self-interest yet it is the source of so many human diseases and is destroying our world.
“Our children should know this – it should be on the school curriculum but the opposite is happening. Their environmental awareness consists of recycling and biking, which suits the establishment perfectly as no one talks about the huge damage done by livestock on so many fronts.
“We know that children hate cruelty to animals and their parents hide them from it, taking them to lovely, cuddly petting zoos. And so they are woven into the thread that runs through society – that animals are well- cared for. It is almost a conspiracy and we’re all part of it. The industry would fall apart if the truth was known and that’s why I do what I do.”
Juliet is mother of 14-year-old twin boys, Jazz and Finn, directs the Viva! team in Bristol and is responsible for an equally big team at Viva! Poland in Warsaw. And she’s still taking part in exposés, deciding how best to connect with you and me.
“I try to personalise it, which is why I talk to the animals and say things such as, ‘this little girl will never see a vet.’ I named one pig Blue because of her penetrating blue eyes, to remind people that pigs are every bit as complex as us and in the wild run free, often for miles, have a complex social structure and here she is, locked into a rape rack so small she can barely move, desperate to escape – transformed into a commodity, a tiny cog in a huge machine.
“We know from our Face Off street viewings that the cruelty affects people deeply and challenges their perceptions, which is why we have to keep doing it.”
“We have to stop seeing animals as things. They are not here for our use, for us to abuse, ours to kill. Someone has to show what happens or no one will believe it.”
Most people would not want to do what Juliet does and I asked if there was anything she found particularly difficult.
“Normally, I carry a camera but on the recent Face Off pig investigation I didn’t have that barrier between me and the animals, I was talking straight to camera about my emotions and had nowhere to hide. I found it very difficult.
“It was the same breeding sow, Blue, who ripped a hole in me. I bent down to her level, talked to her and made a connection with her. She had probably never before heard a kind word from any human in her life and I could see her trying to work it out. I so wanted to take her out of that dreadful place but couldn’t. I left feeling absolutely dreadful and on the train back I started crying for Blue and the millions of others who are subjected to relentless suffering.”
If you look at Juliet on camera at www.viva.org.uk/faceoff you will be in no doubt about how deeply affected she was. But there is also a powerful positivity about this seasoned campaigner for the animals.
“What helps me is being surrounded by people who feel the same as I do. I let my feelings pour out on social media and the messages come rushing back so I know we’re not alone. Society is changing and we are part of that change. Blue now has a place in my heart and the pain of her comes back to me at the most unexpected times – and so it does with the hens I recently filmed. I want to rescue them all but it isn’t an answer as they will simply be replaced with others.”
I guessed there must have been some hair-raising moments over the years and I was right.
“One of the first undercover exposés I did was into duck farming. My colleague and I were so naive – two women chatting up a worker so we could see inside a duck shed. The noise and stench and overcrowding were overwhelming but I dropped to my knees in the crap and filmed.
“The managers weren’t as gullible and I was suddenly surrounded by angry men so I surreptitiously ejected the tape and hid it in my knickers. They wouldn’t dare search there! It was all worth it as it got enormous media coverage – the first-ever view inside an intensive duck farm.
“You have to be robust to do this work and know your limits. I filmed in one slaughter house and struggled to suppress the urge to shout out, ‘stop it, stop it you bastards, you can’t do this!’ I won’t film slaughter again – others do that.
“We know from our Face Off street viewings that the cruelty affects people deeply and challenges their perceptions, which is why we have to keep doing it. Our Face Off chicken film has also been viewed by 260,000 people on one Facebook page alone. I feel no sense of elation as I know the scale of what’s happening. But we have to change people – we are changing people and the pace of that change is now quite extraordinary!”
10 million pigs killed in the UK each year equates to:
833,333 per month
192,308 per week
27,397 per day
1,142 per hour
19 per minute
1 PIG KILLED EVERY 3 SECONDS
A Happy Pigs’ Tale
Mother & babies find a forever home thanks to Viva! and Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary
Viva! and Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary have rescued a sow and her six piglets from a pig farm going out of business. The mother and her babies will now enjoy a life together in the beautiful Welsh countryside! Not only that, it’s their hope that these pig ambassadors will help to educate people about the horrors of factory farming by juxtaposing their new lives with Viva!’s shocking footage from Britain’s factory farms.
On helping to secure sanctuary for these lucky pigs, founder and director of Viva!, Juliet Gellatley said:
“When I was doing the filming for the Face Off campaign, I saw so much cruelty and neglect. One of the overriding feelings I came away with was that I felt terrible that I couldn’t rescue them all. But I was determined to find a way of rescuing at least some pigs.
I hope this mother and her babies can represent the millions of their brothers and sisters that are still on factory farms. Hopefully through seeing them, and how wonderful they are, people will give up meat. Because, of course, the only way to truly rescue animals is to stop eating them.”
Tony Wardle is a journalist, author, associate director of Viva! & editor of Viva! life magazine. He has been with Viva! since its launch, and his time is consumed mostly with words, writing for and editing the supporters’ magazine, in addition to editing a large output of written material as well as conceiving and writing much of it. You can read Tony’s blog by clicking here.
Dutch-born vegan Nancy Holten is a long time resident in Switzerland. Her kids were born there. She’s raising them there. But because her activism for the animals is “too annoying”, she has had her application for Swiss citizenship turned down for the third time.
“People were telling me to kill myself by drowning in milk or by cutting myself with a razor blade. One teacher at the school told me I should go to TAFE¹ because I am ‘not a mainstream student’.”
… 16-year-old vegan schoolgirl Kaila Mackay.
More commonly, vegans experience backlash in the form of vitriolic abuse on social media. Unpleasant though that may be, the personal cost to the vegan post-ers is hopefully not as life-changingly prejudicial as being refused citizenship of the country where you’ve lived most of your life. Nancy Holten’s case has to be a first.
Speaking for myself, I was a child of the 50s and the youngest of 3 – a small girl in the shadow of two bigger, stronger, faster, cleverer brothers. In the small island where we lived everyone knew everyone, and you fell over backwards never to give offence. A setting for a golden childhood, but sterile soil for growing gobby girls with the promise of sprouting into loud proud women. It would have taken someone very special, and that very special someone I was not. So on the outside I became exactly what the island community thought I should be, a “well-behaved” girl who kept her maverick thoughts entirely to herself. This little girl had felt to her cost at a young age the angry stamping-on those kind of thoughts invited if she dared to speak them out loud. I never looked like making history.
You could be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ and ‘good’, all acceptable ‘feminine’ qualities. But if you were loud you were clearly none of those things, because being loud was the very antithesis of what was expected of the female of the species.
From then until now I’ve always had problems with my throat and my voice. My daughter puts it down to my having been effectively silenced, unable to ‘speak my truth’.
That was all last century though, before second-wave feminism came along. You would hope that kind of suppressive social pressure is long departed. But apparently not. It seems it’s alive and well in vegan Nancy Holten’s little Swiss town of Gipf-Oberfrick. Nancy however, is not to be silenced.
We’ll let you be an animal activist as long as you’re not too darn active, is what the residents of Gipf-Oberfrick are saying to her. It’s OK if you have views as long as you play nice, keep them to yourself, don’t be loud, absolutely don’t go public, don’t shove them down our throats, and above all don’t be annoying.
And what these good burghers think of her actually does matter, not just because the power of peer pressure is in inverse proportion to the size of a town’s population, but much more specifically, because under Swiss law they all have the right to sign off – or not – on her application for Swiss citizenship. The town’s spokesperson, Urs Treier, says they keep rejecting Holten’s application not because of her opinions but because she makes such a public display of the things she objects to.
Nancy is described as “not the quiet kind”. The local branch president of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, says Holten has “a big mouth” and doesn’t deserve the “gift” of Swiss citizenship. Jeez!
This unstoppable lady has publicly voiced her opinions about piglet racing, hunting, animals in the circus, and horse breeding. But the one that really gets up the townsfolk’s collective nose, is her rant against their cows having cowbells slung around their necks. Is that so terrible? Yes, when you see the size of the bells, as in the pic below. They weigh in at 5kg apiece and rub and burn the cows’ skin. Plus the sound of the ringing must be deafening to the cows at 100 decibels. That is loud.
The good people of Gipf-Oberfrick’s though view her campaigning as an attack on treasured Swiss tradition:
“The importance of the cow bell is highlighted in Swiss folklore, which reflects a period when a great Trychel, or large cow bell, was a rare and much-coveted item. The legend of the Simmental tells how a young cowherd strays inside a mountain, and is offered by a beautiful woman the choice between a treasure of gold coins, a golden Trychel, or the fairy herself. He chooses the Trychel.”²
But tradition can never be a justification for inflicting harm. In 2016, 200 million women in 30 countries suffered FGM³ because it is ‘traditional’ in their communities. That doesn’t stop it being wrong.
Let’s face it, the crowd, the majority of folk who prefer to do what’s expected and think what they are told to think, will always lash out at someone swimming against the current and threatening to rock their comfortable boat. These ‘loud’ activists are speaking the truth no-one wants to hear like the Old Testament prophets, who were invariably persecuted for their pains.
Speaking out the truth is never without cost to yourself. If you stick your head up above the parapet, nothing is more certain than that you will get it shot off. What immense courage it takes to stand up and be loud, especially for a woman. But loud vegans’ courage is fuelled by compassion for the suffering, outrage at the injustices humans are inflicting on animals everywhere, and burning passion to see equality, liberation and justice prevail.
Here’s to all loud vegan women. I salute you. Heroes, everyone.
As for Nancy Holten, she knows full well what is at stake, having had her citizenship application turned down twice already. Yet still she refuses to shut up, refuses to stop being “annoying”, refuses to stop ruffling feathers in her little Swiss town. Because the fate of the animals is so very much more important than a few ruffled feathers – more important even than the coveted Swiss citizenship. I hope she finally does get what she wants. Switzerland should be proud to claim as one of its own an amazing person like Nancy who refuses to sacrifice her principles for her own expediency.
Give that loud annoying vegan woman a medal. We need more of her kind.
“Never be bullied into silence.”
… Harvey Fierstein
We can’t all be Nancys. I know I’m not. If you are struggling with simply maintaining a veg*n lifestyle, you are not alone. 63% of new vegans polled said they couldn’t hack sticking out from the crowd.
If you are depressed at all the horrors you see, or burned-out from all your activism, you are not alone.
Don’t give up. Awesome help and support is available here. For the sake of the animals, and for your own, please check it out.
After the tragic death of Tilikum, the 35-year-old orca held in captivity at SeaWorld who was the subject of the popular documentary Blackfish, Münter made a symbolic gesture to commemorate the orca’s life. She posted:
“I attempted to leave this sign for Tilikum at the entrance to SeaWorld today along with 33 red roses – one for each year he spent in captivity. For this offense, I have been banned from all SeaWorld properties indefinitely and they said if I ever set foot on any of their property again I will be arrested to which my response was, “That’s cool, I’m not a huge fan.””
The ban includes “Discovery Cove, Aquatica, Florida Festival, Places of Learning, Corporate Offices, Contact Center, Busch Gardens-Tampa, Adventure Island, or any SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Properties,” and the complaint read:
“Subject was mourning loss of orca on property w/roses and sign without permission.”
Münter also posted live videos where she explained the incident in detail, which you can view here.
Vegan outreach with a vengeance. Way to go Leilani!
Feature by Kat Smith for One Green Planet
If you were to imagine a race car driver on the spot, then Leilani Münter probably isn’t the first person you would picture. First of all, she’s a woman who competes alongside men in a male-dominated sport. That’s never stopped her from being successful — Sports Illustrated actually named her as one of the top 10 female race car drivers in the world. What else is surprising? She’s a biology graduate, a vegan, and an environmental activist.
In a sport where cars are decked out with advertisements from fast food, gas companies, and more, Münter “does not work with companies that produce fossil fuels, meat or dairy products, fur or leather, or any companies that test on animals.” Back in 2014, she teamed up with the Oceanic Preservation Society to deliver a message of conservation to millions of viewers by driving a Blackfish-themed car. Münter also adopts one acre of rainforest for every race she completes, a tradition she started back in 2007 – and she has shared the story of how she got into racing and why she fights for the planet with audiences across the United States. But this is hardly where the extent of her dedication to raising awareness for animals and the planet ends!
Next month, Münter will be debuting a new car at Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway – one that will deliver a vegan message while also providing hunger relief to families and provide care to rescued farm animals, thanks to A Well-Fed World.
How will she do it? By driving this snazzy-looking, leather-free car, which is decked out with the words “VEGAN POWERED.” You can’t miss it and millions of viewers certainly won’t, either.
A car with a cause —according to the Vegan Powered website, they intend to debut the car with “a large display tent with free food, vegan starter guides with recipes, coupons, and more.”
Check out the video below to see the car being assembled:
When asked what inspired her to sport a vegan-themed car at the upcoming Daytona races, Münter told One Green Planet, “I have been dreaming of driving a vegan-themed race car and giving away vegan food at the racetrack since I went from vegetarian to vegan 5 1/2 years ago.”
She also revealed where she got the idea to set up a tent that will distribute vegan food to attendees at Daytona next month. “I brought vegan chicken wings for my race team to the track and they were really shocked to find that they loved it!” said Münter, “… about two weeks later I got a text from my tire carrier asking me what company made the vegan chicken wings because he was going camping with his friends and wanted to bring vegan wings instead of chicken wings and that was when I knew getting people to taste the food was key to growing this movement. I want to do that same experiment but on the scale of 100,000 race fans at Daytona Speedweeks.”
In addition to sharing awesome vegan food for all the racing fans, Münter is also looking for sponsorships from vegan meat, cheese, milk, and ice cream brands in an effort to “feed the race fans all the standard types of foods they would normally find at the racetrack — just vegan versions of it.” She continues, “We want them to understand that going vegan doesn’t mean you are eating salad (although I love salads) for the rest of your life.”
The car will be debuting during the ARCA Racing Series season opener for Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on February 18th (live broadcast on Fox Sports 1), but A Well-Fed World, the charity that has sponsored Münter’s car, is still accepting donations in order to make the vegan food tent possible– and continue Vegan Powered as an ongoing initiative.
To learn more about the car, visit Vegan Powered, here.
Fine artist Amy Guidry is a Louisiana-based painter who has been making art since she was 3 years old. Her surrealist art tackles the subjects that she’s interested in exploring — she has looked at depictions of women via fairy tale narratives, and the wide variety of human experience. In her newest series, “In Our Veins,” she delves into the human relationship with animals and the natural world.
What was the impetus for your surrealist series about animals and environment, In Our Veins?
I’ve had an interest in animals and the environment since I was very young. I’ve been vegan for almost 18 years now. However, despite the fact that animals and the natural world were often present in my work, I felt the need to up the ante. I wanted to challenge myself both technically and conceptually. My paintings were becoming progressively more surreal, lending themselves to dreamlike backgrounds and unusual imagery. Surrealism allows me to delve into environmental issues and animal welfare issues, creating strange worlds that reflect the current state of our planet. What seems illogical can come to life through a painting. Though in many ways, I feel like what I paint is a mirror-image of our reality.
How do you use psychology in your work?
This series focuses on our relationship to the natural world and our connection to every living thing. As humans, we often view nature as a means to an end. Animals are viewed as pieces and parts — head, rump, wing, and so on. They are no longer sentient beings but things we eat or wear or put on our walls. If they are food, animals are renamed: cow becomes beef, chicken becomes poultry, etc. It’s as if we’re distancing ourselves from nature. While I have depicted this common viewpoint through paintings of just the head or bust of an animal, I have endowed them with personalities or traits that would be considered more “human” to emphasize their importance and do away with the notion that animals are less than humans. So each animal, be it mammal, bird, etc., has been endowed with something we consider a “human quality.”
I’ve also explored what I consider the opposite approach to these paintings. While in some works, I rely on eyes and facial expressions to convey a sense of connection and relatability to animals, other paintings show animals without faces or covered faces. I wanted to explore the idea of anonymity vs. connection. Without seeing their faces, does that make them any less personable or meaningful? And how does this apply on a global scale? For me, even without seeing their faces, I still see so much life and personality in these animals. I still see them as sentient beings.
‘In Our Vein’s is dominated by horses, deer, bears, wolves, rabbits, cows and humans. Why these animals?
I feel like a lot of these animals blur the line between what would be considered domestic and what would be considered wild. As more wild habitat is being encroached upon by new houses and shopping malls, these animals are being forced out of their homes and find themselves having to adapt to this new urban landscape. They are wild, yet at the same time, people either think of them as cute nomads or dangerous intruders, depending on the species.
I’ll use cows because I feel like they are the epitome of the agribusiness animal. They are used for meat, dairy, and leather, and it’s because of them that forests are cleared and “predatory” animals are killed — all for the sake of ranching.
As for incorporating humans, I do so to emphasize that we are all part of the animal kingdom. I’ll sometimes combine a human with another animal to illustrate that connection. Other times, I may just paint the human brain as a symbol of sentience and our moral obligation to the welfare of these animals.
How do you find your images when you create a new painting?
The images I come up with are inspired by issues or events that I feel a need to cover through my work. I start out with thumbnail sketches of the basic concept behind a painting and I’ll do maybe 50 variations on that concept until I have the right one. Then I’ll draw out the piece to size. If I feel like it would work better a bit larger or even smaller, then I’ll draw it out again. Once I have that final composition worked out, I’ll then transfer that drawing to canvas, sometimes just tracing what I just did with tracing paper. I try to keep my drawing on canvas fairly basic, and work out the rest with paint. Then I do a rough layer of paint, just working out the basic image and getting the colors down. The subsequent layers of paint are to build the colors, and refine the details of everything, getting more detailed until the final layer of paint.
If I need a reference, I rely on my own pets, myself, or my husband as live models. I also have anatomical models and books, though I use that as a guide. I take a lot of artistic license because sometimes a literal translation just doesn’t suit what I’m going for.
How does your local environment (or another one) find its way into your paintings?
So far what I’ve been painting has been on more of a global scale, really, though I do plan on doing some pieces more specific to this area (Louisiana), especially because of our wetlands. I’ve been focused on climate change, so oceans have been a dominant theme as of late. I also incorporate desert scenes for not only an apocalyptic feel, but to also illustrate the change in landscape due to the clear-cutting of forests.
Your color palette is very specific; is this to make it easier to reproduce colors time and again or for some other reason?
The colors are really dictated by the subject matter, that being said, there are some choices I make regarding the background which are completely intuitive. I may use a more dramatic sky if I want the overall feel of the piece to be a bit dark.
“Stunning work of tremendous depth, sublime imagination, tranquil visions, and an attention to detail that is second to none. It should be no surprise that Guidry’s work is garnering serious attention in the art world, and rightfully so”
Ryan Kittleman, Collector and Editor of Noble Row, San Francisco, CA