The Rights of Nature

“Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.”

The Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth

Nature has Rights! And not just in our wishful pipe dreams. Two countries hit the headlines recently with court rulings acknowledging the legal personhood of three rivers. In New Zealand the Wanganui River, and the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India now have rights. On 31st March India granted Himalayan glaciers the same status. They are legal persons.

A similar judgment has been made in Costa Rican law courts for the planet’s second largest reef which happens to lie in their waters.

Costa Rica’s not too distant neighbour Ecuador was already well ahead of the game – in 2008, the first country in the world to embed in the nation’s constitution itself, the Rights of Nature. The constitution was then put to a referendum of the people, and they voted yes. Ground-breakers indeed.

Not to be left behind, Bolivia was next to achieve a milestone for Nature’s Rights. Half a century after the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma, drove forward the initiative to present the United Nations with a draft of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Since that time:

  • Nearly 40 municipalities in the US have adopted Nature’s Rights
  • The dignity of all beings is recognised in Switzerland’s constitution
  • Spain recognises the rights of apes
  • And Romania is in the process of doing the same for dolphins

The EU is lagging behind! But there is hope, as we will see. First, how law for Nature operates in most countries of the world now.

The law with reference to Nature at present stumbles along under one of three paradigms. All outdated, none holistic. Take your pick:
  • mechanistic – viewing the world as made up of separate unconnected objects interacting in a predicable way
  • anthropocentric – viewing the world as existing solely for the use of human beings – our own ‘natural resources’ or ‘natural capital’. Nature is judged only by its economic value to Man rather than on its own intrinsic value
  • adversarial – where one party wins at the expense of another. Guess who nearly always wins? It’s not Nature.
But we already have laws to protect wildlife and the environment – like our own UK Wildlife and Countryside Act. So why does Nature need legal Rights?

Generally speaking – though as we have seen there are exceptions – the law as it stands recognises only two kinds of ‘holders of rights’: humans and human-created entities such as corporations. Everything else – animals domesticated, farmed and wild, land and water, Nature itself – is ‘property’. Nature our thinking goes, belongs to us, is our possession. So laws of protection that come, can just as easily go, depending on the prevailing governmental winds.

The classic example is the USA’s iconic gray wolf, already extinct over most of its historic range. The wolf was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, delisted in 2012, relisted in 2014, and now once again loses  protection in Alaska, in national wildlife refuges fgs, under Trump. The man is hell bent on sweeping aside just about every protection U.S. wildlife and wild places – so hard striven for over decades – now enjoy. If ever there was someone out of tune with Nature….

Rights on the other hand give the highest level of legal protection.

Rather than treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature… acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.  And we – the people –  have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant [and in courts of law we can be its advocate].

And so we come to the ECI – A European Citizens’ Initiative for the Rights of Nature

vII8ChdUxsdMEueu8GoGHUsKT6xziUJ5k45bQMJKNm07IeMjECZMyq0pleanp1K3ViJy7gVg9qoqwzJo0jtlRpmUrAvHLW_lnSsI7h0k0O34H1o5KH6D9wTTRj5NsMGkHrS_3IUQ.pngThe European Citizens Initiative scheme was established five years ago with the aim of increasing direct democracy by enabling “EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies”. Now, a group of lawyers, environmentalists, academics and others from 13 EU countries have come together in a project to present the Rights of Nature to the EU Commission and get those rights enshrined in EU law.

Their Project Vision

Humanity flourishing in harmony with Nature.

Project Mission

To establish nature’s rights – legal personality and rights for ecosystems and other species – in law throughout Europe.

Project Aim

To launch a European Citizens’ Initiative to propose nature’s rights to the legislative agenda of the EU – see our Draft Directive.

Why This Initiative?

Ecosystems and other species are alive. Yet the law treats them as objects separate to us. This has wide reaching social and economic consequences that drive the environmental crisis. Rights of nature is a game changing solution that brings fundamental and systemic transformation to our legal and economic system by re-characterising nature – ecosystems and species – as a subject of the law with legal personality and tangible rights that can be defended in court by people. This ensures that economic activity operates to enhance rather than undermine the resilience of ecosystems so that humanity can thrive in harmony with nature. It forms a powerful counterbalance to corporate rights and a viable alternative to the financialisation of nature.  To find out more see this article – Rights of Nature – Why Do We Need It? and this TEDx Talk.

Nature needs us to create new legal systems that promote

  • respect for the profound inter-existence of all life
  • respect for the intrinsic value of all life
  • healthy relationships with all life
  • harmony with the universal laws that govern all life

Sadly, since the European Citizens’ Initiative first came into effect, only three ECIs have managed to collect the 1 million signatures required for a response from the EU Commission. And of those three, only one was approved for a follow-up proposal. (One of those rejected by the Commission was a proposal for the European Anthem to be sung in Esperanto!)

But with our support the chances for the ECI – Rights of Nature are hopeful. And here are ways you can help

If you have skills in the following areas and would like to be involved in co-creating this exciting history-making initiative, please get in touch with Mumta Ito, as representative of the organising committee, at mumtaito@gmail.com. The specific areas additional assistance is needed are:

  • Administration/administrative support; fundraising; accounting; research; IT/websites/social media; branding; education; advocacy; lobbying; project management.
  • Additional members to join the existing 13 country teams (UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Latvia)
  • People who would like to lead the initiative in the EU countries where we still don’t have people (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Austria, Estonia, Bulgaria and Greece)
  • We also have places for self-funding internships in Findhorn and Andalucía.

Offers of skills support could be in a purely ‘advisory’ capacity or more hands-on – (no offer of assistance is too small). To be kept in the loop subscribe at the Being Nature Project.

We look forward to hearing from you and to creating together the legal frameworks needed to form a more resilient, thriving world for all of our future generations.

Of course here in the UK we have Brexit looming. But until the two years after the triggering of Article 50 is over, we can still have our say and make our contribution.

Follow European Citizens’ Inititative on Facebook here

Sign the Global Alliance’s Letter of Commitment to the Rights of Nature here

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It’s true UNESCO already has its own Earth Charter, approved at a meeting of the Earth Charter Commission in Paris in 2000. It lists four Principles. The problem for me lies in Principle Two :

a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and protect the rights of people.

That strikes me as reinforcing the status quo, the rights of Man to treat Nature as property – more a denial of the Rights of Nature than part of a charter to protect them. I would like to see UNESCO replace the Earth Charter with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which places Man not bestriding the Earth, above Nature with the right to own it and use it, but as just one thread in the complex web of life, each part of which is every bit as entitled to rights as are we humans.

Read the full Universal Declaration here

And sign the petition to the UN for the Rights of Mother Earth here


Postscript

Two hugely important questions arise for me from discussion about the Rights of Nature.

The first, for those of us who are dedicated to Animal Rights: if we achieve legal Rights for Nature, what does that mean for nonhuman animals? Does it mean that animal advocates like the Nonhuman Rights Project should cease the legal battle to win personhood for individual chimpanzees like Tommy, and throw its weight instead behind the fight for Rights of Nature?

Does it also mean that if nonhuman animals have the right to live at liberty in their own natural environment without interference and exploitation from humans, that the farming of animals would cease?

That we would get the vegan world of which we dream? A sentence in the Declaration seems to say so:

‘Every being has the right to wellbeing and to live free from torture or cruel treatment by human beings”

Secondly, as the capitalist system is based on extracting Nature’s ‘commodities’ and exploiting animals, human and nonhuman in the pursuit of profit and ‘growth’, don’t we need a new paradigm not just for law, but for world economics too?

Maybe I can explore these questions further at a later date, but now I would greatly value your ideas and comments on this immense subject.

Related posts

Human Rights Are Animal Rights!

A Promising Way Forward for Animal Rights?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Through Artist’s Eyes- The Wondrous Web of Life & Death

Sources

Being Nature – Extending Civil Rights to the Natural World – The Ecologist

Rights of Mother Earth

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

European Citizens Initiative – Wiki

ECI for the Rights of Nature – International Centre for Wholistic Law

ECI Project Summary – A European Citizens Initiative for the Rights of Nature

Revising the ECI: How to make it ‘fit for purpose’ – Euractiv

 

Human Rights are Animal Rights!

by Peter Tatchell for the Ecologist

Abusing animals is no more justifiable than abusing people, writes Peter Tatchell. The moral touchstone is sentience, not species, and the ‘humans first’ ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism & misogyny. Cruelty is barbarism, whether inflicted on humans or on other species. We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature.

Since we humans are an animal species, it is obvious that human rights are a form of animal rights; and that animal rights include – or should include – the human species.

“We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?”

Sadly, not everyone sees it this way. Many view humans and other animals as totally distinct: drawing a clear, sharp line between animal rights and human rights.
That’s not my view. Sentience is the bond that unites all animal species, human and non-human. I accept our shared animalism and advocate our shared claim to be spared suffering and accorded inalienable rights.

It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills and our capacity for culture and conscience.¹ But this is no justification for abusing them. Just as we do not sanction the abuse of humans – such as babies and disabled people – who lack these highly developed capacities.

We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?

There is, in my moral universe, no great ethical gulf between the abuse of human and non-human animals or between our duty of compassion towards other humans and other species.

Indeed, I see a link between the oppression of non-human animals and the oppression of human beings because of their nationality, race, gender, faith or non-faith, political beliefs, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny

The different forms of human and other animal oppression are interconnected, based on the similar abuse of power and the infliction of harm and suffering. They cannot be fully understood separately from one another.

How we mistreat animals parallels how we mistreat people. Cruelty is barbarism, whether it is inflicted on humans or on other species. The campaigns for animal rights and human rights share the same fundamental aim: a world without oppression and suffering, based on love, kindness and compassion.

Speciesism is the belief and practice of human supremacism over other animal species. It is prejudice, discrimination or violence in favour of human beings; variously involving the exploitation, incarceration, mistreatment or killing of other animals by humans.

This humans-first ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny. A form of prejudice, domination and oppression, it is incompatible with a humane, civilised society.

We humans are an animal species. We know about pain and suffering. So why do most of us hold high-handed attitudes towards other animals and accept their abuse in medical laboratories, farms, zoos, circuses and sports events?

It does not follow that our highly sophisticated intelligence and material development gives us the right to lord it over other species. Just because we have the capacity to do so, does not mean that we should. On the contrary: our brain power and conscience give us a special responsibility of stewardship over the Earth and all its beings.

We must start thinking in a new way …

My thinking has been influenced by the Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, and his ground-breaking book, Animal Liberation. In my mind, it is one the most important books of the last 100 years. It expands our moral horizons beyond our own species and is thereby a major evolution in ethics.

Singer challenges human chauvinism. By viewing non-human sentient beings as ‘other’, we allow ourselves the ‘excuse’ to look down on and mistreat them; including to insult, exploit, abuse, dominate or even kill those ‘other’ beings. We stop seeing them as living, thinking, feeling creatures.

Anti-animal prejudice runs deep. Bigots often disparage other people with speciesist epithets. They accuse them of acting ‘just like a beast’ or ‘worse than an animal.’ This bigotry echoes the vile insults that black people are ‘savages’, women are ‘bitches’ and that LGBT people are ‘perverts.’

Before we can liberate the millions of oppressed humans and billions of exploited animals we need to free our minds and start thinking in a new way: to consciously eliminate the mentality of subjugation and entitlement that allows us to passively acquiesce or, even worse, actively participate in the cycle of abuse against other sentient beings – human and non-human.

Animal liberation is in the same ethical tradition as women’s, black and LGBT liberation. It is about ending the suffering that flows from a supremacist mindset and power relations of domination.

Surely, in the twenty-first century, the time has come to emancipate non-human animals, just like we previously emancipated humans through abolishing slavery, male-only suffrage and anti-LGBT laws?

We have a moral duty to stop abusing other animal species. They aren’t really that different from us humans. Vertebrates share much of our DNA and our capacity for thought, feelings, emotions, sociability, language, altruism and empathy.

We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature. If we did that, the excuses and rationalisations for treating other species badly would fall away.


¹I love this piece and totally endorse everything Peter says – except for the statement: “It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills …” Intelligence is a human construct. Some nonhumans display remarkable intelligence even by that human-centric standard, while others show their own special intelligences that we can scarcely understand or lay claim to ourselves. As for mental-physical skills, many if not all of the 7.77 million species on our planet could give humans a good run for their money.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign the Declaration of Animal Rights


Peter Tatchell is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. Tatchell was selected as Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey in 1981.

Event: Peter Tatchell’s keynote address ‘Human rights ARE animal rights’ takes place at Veggie World London at 2pm on Saturday 8th April, Kensington Town Hall, West London. Advance tickets available online: £8 for adults and £6 concessions.


Source: Human rights are animal rights! – The Ecologist


Related posts

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Will Today be the Day Chimpanzees become Legal Persons?

A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

Vegan Rights & Why They Really Matter for the Animals

National Justice for Animals Week (USA) Feb 26-March 4 2017

If there is one thing that animals need in this cruel world, it is Justice. Thank you ALDF for promoting this hugely important issue with a special week.

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In celebration of National Justice for Animal Week, the fantastic Animal Legal Defense Fund which advocates for animals in America’s courts of law, honors the nation’s “Top Ten Animal Defenders”.
You can see which attorneys and police officers, fighting tirelessly for justice for animals, won this well-deserved accolade here. You may find you have a champion for animals right in your own backyard!

What is the Animal Legal Defense Fund?

Every day, ALDF works to protect animals by:

  • Filing groundbreaking lawsuits to stop animal abuse and expand the boundaries of animal law.
  • Providing free legal assistance to prosecutors handling cruelty cases.
  • Working to strengthen state anti-cruelty statutes.
  • Encouraging the federal government to enforce existing animal protection laws.
  • Nurturing the future of animal law through Student Animal Legal Defense Fund chapters and our Animal Law Program.
  • Providing public education through seminars, workshops and other outreach efforts.

signup-page

Sign up for the ALDF’s email newsletter and action alerts here

Celebrate National Justice for Animals Week by supporting the ALDF here

An example of ALDF’s legal victories that brings hope in this case for four white tigers in Denver. Click here


I’m a little bit late getting this out to you. So if you want to be ready in advance for future Animal Months, Weeks and Days here is a full calendar. You will also see which to avoid, like December 27th’s ‘Visit the Zoo Day’!

Related posts

Canadian’s React to Animal Justice’s Animal Charter Billboards

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 4

A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

Why I Love Loud Women, Especially Loud Vegan Women

“Well behaved women seldom make history”

… Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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.
Passionate vegans are no strangers to activism backlash. It comes in all shapes and forms, from the prosecution of Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Kranjc, and Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project’s incarceration and deportation from Japan, through to violent physical attacks on hunt sabs and vicious bullying in the school yard.
“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.

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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


Postscript
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.

 

¹Technical & Further Education

 ²Wiki

³Female genital mutilation

Source: Town Says Animal Activist Can’t Be Swiss Citizen Because She’s ‘Annoying’ | Care2 Causes

Related posts

Vegan Race Driver Leilani Münter Banned from SeaWorld

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 2

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 3

No Age Limit on Activism for Social Justice

My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

 

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A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

If the interests of animals are properly embedded in the democratic process…the laws adopted by a society are less likely to infringe their fundamental interests.

1822 is a date we lovers of justice and animals should all have tattooed on our hearts. Because 1822 was the year Richard Martin MP won for animals an important protection which was also a right: the right – for their own sake – not to be gratuitously harmed.

A 19th Century Irishman who fought more than 100 duels with sword and pistol – and obviously survived them all! – seems a most improbable man to put forward as father of the modern Animal Rights movement. But the small snowball he set in motion has just kept on rolling and rolling for the last 200 years, and growing into what we hope will soon become an avalanche.

For Martin it was who introduced a new Act to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Cattle, which made it an offence, punishable by fines up to five pounds or two months imprisonment, to “beat, abuse, or ill-treat any horse, mare, gelding, mule, ass, ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep or other cattle.”

Up until ‘Martin’s Law’ was passed, it was the animal’s owner who was considered wronged by any harm done to the beast, not the poor animal itself. The animal had no greater status than a table or a chair, so harm inflicted on it was simply damage to the owner’s property. Martin’s Law changed that.

The prolific and accomplished duellist followed up his great legislative achievement by personally bringing the first prosecution under the new Act. The criminal – a fruit seller. The crime – beating a donkey. When the MP led the donkey into the courtroom to exhibit its injuries to judge and jury, he provoked a storm of publicity. Political cartoons appeared depicting him with donkey’s ears. Instead of being praised for his unusual-for-the-times passion for animal protection, he was publicly ridiculed.

Before another two years were out, this remarkable man was instrumental in founding the SPCA –  later the RSPCA – the very first animal protection organisation in the world, prompting the birth of similar groups in Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Only welfarism as yet, but animal advocacy began to spread around the world.

But that was 200 years ago. So where is Animal Rights today?

Well, because human society and its treatment of nonhuman animals is still, it goes without saying, regulated by law, changes in the law are what we continue to wrangle for in our pursuit of Rights for Animals. And laws that win new rights and protections for our nonhuman cousins have really gathered pace in the last decade.

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But when, just to take one example, badgers – a ‘protected’ species – are being slain in their thousands year upon year supposedly to safeguard other animals, dairy cattle – which later farmers will send to their deaths in the slaughterhouse  – there is clearly still a very long way to go.

So what if we didn’t need to change the law concerning animals at all? What if nonhuman animals had the right to have their interests properly taken into account before any human proposals were cemented into law?

Well, we just may have an exciting new way forward for Animal Rights, a way that could sweep aside the drawbacks inherent in all the various AR theories to date: it is the principle of political theory called the “all-affected.”

“The interests of animals are affected – often devastatingly – by collective decisions and, therefore, they, or – more specifically – their representatives, have a democratic right to have some say in the making of those decisions” says Professor Robert Garner.

If I can beg your patience a little further? To appreciate just how promising this approach could be, we need a super-quick run-through of Animal Rights in the past 40 years or so. Animal Rights is, as it always has been, dependent on two disciplines:

Philosophy, which deliberates on human perceptions of nonhuman animals, and their status relative to us.

And Law, which regulates that status.

I am neither a philosopher or a lawyer, so forgive my lack of expertise, simplifications of a complex subject, and any glaring omissions in my brief summary. This is a personal view, not by any means a definitive account of Animal Rights.

Utilitarianism

One of the first and most influential in recent years to grab hold of Richard Martin’s snowball and give it an energetic push down the mountain was Australian philosopher Peter Singer. He famously shook things up in the 1970s with his book Animal Liberation. His approach to Animal Rights was based on two principles:

  1. The separation of ‘human’ from ‘animal’ is illogical and arbitrary – there is far more difference between a great ape and an oyster than there is between a human and a great ape
  2. The utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham that ethics and morality are dictated by what will achieve “the greatest good of the greatest number”

It necessarily follows from his first principle that nonhumans must not be excluded from that “greatest number” for whom it is our moral duty to obtain “the greatest good”.

Drawback

The problem with this approach to Animal Rights is that if it can be established (by humans, nonhumans having no say) that the greatest good can only be achieved for the greatest number by the use of animals, even if this means inflicting pain upon them or causing them to die, then such actions are justified. Singer for example condones the use of animals where ‘necessary’ in medical research – a position I for one totally reject.

Subjects-of-a-Life

Following quickly on Singer’s heels, Tom Regan gave the snowball another hearty shove with his book “The Case for Animal Rights”. His was a very different argument. He proposed that if animals are ‘subject-of-a-life’ as unquestionably humans are, then their value lies in more than just their usefulness to humans.

“Such an individual has inherent value independent of its utility for others. Because of this inherent value, a subject-of-a-life has rights to protect this value and not to be harmed. Other subjects have a duty to respect these rights.”¹

Drawback

It seems a promising approach until you realise how high he set the bar for non-human animals to be worthy of consideration as ‘subject-of-a-life’, strangely, higher than is set for human beings.

The Big Stumbling Block – Species Criteria

For Regan, to be ‘subjects-of-a-life ‘ nonhumans must have “beliefs, desires, memory, feelings, self-consciousness, an emotional life, a sense of their own future, an ability to initiate action to pursue their goals, and an existence that is logically independent of being useful to anyone else’s interests” – his criteria any species must fulfil.

Humans all have rights independent of Regan’s requirements: newborn infants, certain disabled people, elderly people with failing mental and physical health – none of these could fulfil his criteria, but their rights are nevertheless guaranteed.

He is said not to be speciesist but so many species would be left by the wayside. Would the honey bee, for instance, reach Regan’s bar? Does the honey bee have ‘an emotional life’ and ‘beliefs’? And who decides? Humans of course. When it comes to nonhuman animals, Regan limits those supposedly deserving of rights to ‘normally mental mammals over a year old, several species of birds, and possibly fish’.

Apart from the few wild animals that qualify, certain farmed animals – cows, pigs and sheep – could benefit from his approach. But not calves, piglets or lambs, and very probably not (in spite of what we now know of their intelligence and complex emotional and social life) hens. Certainly not the millions of day-old chicks that drop off the conveyor belt into the grinder.

The criteria he has set would leave billions of animals, and a very large slice indeed of the estimated 8.7 million species on the planet without rights.

Abolitionism

In the here and now, animal advocates fall broadly speaking into two camps: the abolitionists and the welfarists. The foremost spokesperson for Abolitionism is Professor Gary Francione. As a lawyer with a background in philosophy the Prof is peculiarly well qualified, one would think, to set out the ideal path for the AR ‘snowball’ to travel.

Abolitionism is based upon the philosophical premise that all animals, human and nonhuman, have the basic moral right not to be treated as the property of others. Therefore any human use of nonhumans is unjustifiable, just as human slavery is unjustifiable. All animals exist for their own purposes, not others. The moral baseline is veganism.

The battle for Abolitionism is legal as well as philosophical since in law, with a few notable exceptions, such as in a limited way in France², the status of nonhuman animals is still that of property. And most laws that relate to animals simply protect their welfare to a greater or lesser degree – without changing their status.

So how to get that legal status changed?

Two ways the status of nonhumans can be changed:

  1. By governmental legislation
  2. In the law courts. If a change in status can be established in a court of law, a legal precedent is set which would subsequently apply to all similar cases.

There are heroes for animals like Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Animal Rights Project in the US, and the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) in Argentina, toiling tirelessly to get that status change from property to person accepted in a court of law.

Drawback

It’s a tough battle, less like giving the AR snowball a gentle nudge on its way, much more like pushing an elephant up a mountain. And once again there is a major problem. We are back to the dreaded Species Criteria. Bringing a case to court, a lawyer has to limit him/herself to a particular client or clients on whose behalf he/she is pleading. And we’d be crazy to think a judge would grant personhood to, say, a silkworm, let alone to the entire animal kingdom. The right client has to be chosen.monkey-256420__340

So what are the criteria by which a lawyer selects a client that has the best chance of success in court? The NhRP’s current plaintiffs are “members of species who have been scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales.”

This list of the species that qualify is even more meager than Regan’s. The idea, of course, is to ‘get a foot in the door’ for one species, which would pave the way for others. But I’m guessing it will be a long long while before science decides silkworms are self-aware and autonomous, the first hurdle they need to jump if their advocates are to pursue this particular route to legal rights.

I applaud their efforts and don’t wish to sound unduly pessimistic, but short of turning the entire world vegan, it is unclear how in practical terms Prof Francione is going to achieve his Abolitionist goal.

Protectionism/Welfarism

Certain animal charities such as PETA, Animal Aid, Viva, also advocate total non-use of animals for human purposes. But where out-and-out Abolitionists are at odds with them, is their pursuit at the same time of incremental welfare improvements to reduce the suffering of animals alive now.

Drawback

It could be – and is – argued that campaigning for greater protections is a distraction from the goal of Animal Rights. Or worse, counter-productive, allowing the public to believe they can keep right on using animals, as long as it is done ‘humanely’. Abolitionists certainly think so and reject single issue campaigns. But that’s an argument we won’t get into just at the moment!

And the majority of other animal charities like ASPCA, HSUS and the RSPCA make no bones about their purely welfarist agenda.

Out-and-out revolution

There is absolutely no doubt that nearly all the exploitation and abuse, legal or illegal, humans inflict on nonhumans is in the service of the great capitalist god Profit. When it comes to lining their pockets humans have no regard for the rights of animals. So the answer is simple –  bring down capitalism.

Drawback

Or is it? Personally, I can’t see the overthrow of capitalism stopping people wanting to eat meat and cheese, use leather or wear fur. Isn’t it likely, or at least possible, that today’s capitalist factory farms would be tomorrow’s communist or socialist state-run operations?


Finally, the good news!

At last we come to Professor Garner’s exciting new paper Animals and democratic theory: Beyond an anthropocentric account” published in Contemporary Political Theory less than two months ago. Even the title whets the appetite!

The Prof bases his thesis on the ‘all-affected principle’, already current in political theory. It goes like this: in a democracy, the interests of every sentient being affected by legislation must be considered. And those who clearly cannot speak for themselves must have their rights represented by those who can.

“A democratic polity should take account of animal interests, not because a substantial number of humans wish to see greater protection afforded to animals, but rather because animals themselves have a democratic right to have their interests represented in the political process.”

So exactly why should we believe Garner’s new political theory could do better for animals than what has gone before?
  • Firstly, because it removes disputable questions of morality, ethics, and humanity (humaneness) from the equation. Under this principle Animal Rights is a purely political matter. You don’t have to believe it immoral to exclude nonhumans from democracy – it’s enough that it’s undemocratic.
  • Secondly – and I think this is huge – because it sweeps away all those contentious species criteria we were talking about. Here there are no criteria to fulfil, except that of sentience alone.

So no longer does AR depend upon humans deciding whether an animal is ‘intelligent enough’ or has a ‘sufficiently complex emotional life’. A life need only be sentient. And that, says Professor Marc Bekoff, author of a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience³, is now beyond dispute:

“After 2,500 studies, it’s time to declare animal sentience is proven.”

Not so very long ago black people and women, though most certainly affected by the collective decisions of their society, were entirely excluded from the democratic process. They battled hard for their rights, their vote, their say.

And won.

Because the ‘all-affected’ principle is surely the very heartbeat of Democracy.

Animals next!

To get general acceptance for Professor Garner’s new approach to AR, to help turn that snowball into an avalanche, please share widely!

You can read his complete paper here

Check out CASJ (Centre for Animals & Social Justice) who commissioned his work, and whose aim is to achieve:

• an overarching legal/political status for animals
• the institutional representation of animals’ interests within Government
• a government strategy and targets to improve animal protection

¹Subject-of-a-life – Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy

²What France’s New Animal Rights Law Actually Means For Animals – The Dodo. This change in French law “only applies to pets or wild animals tamed or held in captivity. The sentience of wild animals, meanwhile, is not recognized.

³A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience – Psychology Today

Footnote: The EU already implements something approaching Prof Garner’s thesis.

“In terms of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the European Union (EU) is the most progressive one in regard to including animal welfare in its sphere of policy work. Its activities in this area are based on the recognition that animals are sentient beings.

An amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into effect on 1st December 2009, now includes this principle and made it a binding condition to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing policies in relevant areas.This puts animal welfare on an equal footing with other key principles such as: gender equality, social protection, human health, combat of discrimination, sustainable development, consumer protection and data protection.”

 

Other Sources

There are three Animal Movements – Armory of the Revolution

Animals have democratic right to political representation – CASJ

The Case for Animal Rights – Wiki

Animal Rights – Wiki

Related posts

Persons Not Property – Could The Tide Be Turning?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

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What Are Your #WildlifeGoals for 2017?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Pigs are animals, lions are animals, dogs are animals. We are not animals. We are human beings. We are different, and belong to a higher order of life. We stand at the apex of evolution.

That is nonsense of course, because we are animals too. But we are conditioned by our culture to accept without question the notion of our superiority and our rightful position of power over all other life forms. It’s called “anthropocentric patriarchy”.
And that is the first of four myths we humans choose to believe about our uniqueness and pre-eminence on Earth.  But now we’re going to debunk them one by one.

MYTH: Humans are different from animals

FACT: Humans are animals

Ok then. Well, we don’t think of ourselves as animals, but of course we know we are really. So let’s correct the myth and say ‘Humans are different from other animals’ then. That’s more like it, isn’t it?

Well, no actually. That is no better. That’s still setting us apart and above, when in fact ALL animals are different from other animals. Yes, we may have some unique traits, but so do many other species. We can’t fly like birds. We can’t change colour like chameleons and squids. We can’t walk on water like the basilisk lizard. We can’t regrow an amputated limb like an axolotl, and we absolutely can’t live forever like the immortal jellyfish. The list is endless.

But we do have attributes exclusive to us, right?

Perhaps not. A mounting stack of research papers is almost daily uncovering other animals’ capacity to experience the same emotions we do, and communicate with each other in complex languages of their own.

Many also have much the same thought processes. The human brain not so special after all. Did you know pigs can play computer games with humans, for example, and give them a run for their money.

Or that calling someone ‘bird-brained’ should be a compliment not an insult. Relative to their size, birds’ brains are large and remarkably similar to ours. Birds are smart! Watch this clever creature who goes by the name of 007, sizing up and solving an 8-stage puzzle with ease.

But we do have culture, yes? Surely in this we are unrivalled.

Again, sorry to disappoint, but many nonhumans have their own culture too. Culture is defined as ‘socially transmitted behaviour’. And there’s been “an avalanche of recent research” throwing up new discoveries of culture among cetaceans, fish, insects, meerkats, birds, monkeys and apes.

Whales, dolphins and songbirds, it’s been discovered, actually have local dialects. That means they’ve passed down through generations their own unique communication culture that differs from group to group, region to region – just like humans.

The New Caledonian crow makes incredibly precise and sophisticated tools to extract insects from the bark of trees. Research has established that over time, the design of the tool has become more and more refined – proof that it is always the latest improved blueprint that is handed on to the next generation. The exact model of the tools, again, varies from locality to locality.

Orcas can be observed working together as a pod, taking it in turns to dive down under a school of herrings, creating a circle of bubbles around the fish, forcing them up to the ocean surface in an ever-tightening ball. “Each whale has a role. It’s like a ballet [and] they move in a very coordinated way and communicate and make decisions about what to do next.” The strategy is called ‘carousel feeding’, one of several hunting practices developed, refined and passed on that scientists consider warrant the label ‘culture’.

A more bizarre example of cultural transmission is the trend among capuchin monkeys to poke each other’s eyeballs with their long, sharp fingernails. It’s believed this strange custom started small, but over time caught on in a big way among the capuchin population  – who knows why!

We do not have a monopoly on morality either.

A study from as long ago as 1964 showed that hungry monkeys would not take the food on offer if it meant other monkeys getting an electric shock. Likewise rats. And we are not alone in our ability to make character judgments by watching others’ behaviour. Chimps can too.

What about art then? Nonhumans, match that if you can.

lyre-bird-1140064__180They can. Take the lyrebird of Central Australia who has the audio version of a photographic memory. He (it’s always he) samples not just birdsong from a variety of birds, but any other sounds he picks up from his surroundings: chainsaws, beaten nails, car alarms, human speech. Then he puts together the snippets he’s picked up in a unique continuous sequence of song. Exactly like a DJ sampling old recordings and creating something new. Absolutely an artistic endeavour, chainsaws and all.

Then there is the amazing bower bird, as seen in many a wildlife documentary. He crafts a sculpture out of twigs – the bower. And then designs a decorative courtyard in front of it, using flowers, leaves and pebbles, bottle tops, paper clips, plastic straws – anything colourful that’s to hand. He plays with perspective exactly as a human artist might, placing the largest objects furthest away. The effect is to make them look even larger than they really are. It’s what is called a forced perspective. Clever arty stuff, and all to entice the ladies.

‘Well but phff’, you may be thinking. ‘These guys are hardly in the league of Mozart or Michelangelo.’ But perhaps it is simply that we are deaf and blind to nonhuman animal art because our human superiority complex prevents us knowing where to look for it, and understanding what we are seeing when we see it. I believe the same holds true for their other abilities too. We even judge their ‘intelligence’ according to how closely or not it resembles human intelligence. Our perception of nonhuman animals is completely skewed by our own self-importance.

But back to art. Art News magazine believes there is still much to be discovered about nonhuman animal art. “Looking at the spectacular dams, nests, webs, and other elaborate constructions found in the natural world, it remains difficult to leave our art-world sensibilities behind. Indeed some scientists are convinced that animals have the emotional complexity to perceive beauty, make esthetic choices, and produce forms (or song) for art’s sake.”  

MYTH: Humans evolved from chimps

FACT: Humans evolved alongside chimps

africa-1299202__180We didn’t evolve from chimps. We and chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans all evolved from a common ancestor, most likely from the Nakali ape Nakalipithecus nakayamai, 8 – 10 million years ago in Kenya’s Rift Valley. The four evolutionary paths then diverged, and so we have the four different species now. We evolved alongside them, not from them. Man is, in fact, an ape.

MYTH: Each of us is a distinct, coherent individual

FACT: Each of us is no more than an ecosystem, a habitat, a landscape for other life

Who knew, except biologists of course, that our bodies are actually made up of 90% microbial cells and only 10% animal (ie human) cells?! What a staggering statistic. It’s making me feel quite peculiar just writing that. Scientist working on the Human Microbiome Project have discovered 29,000 unique genetic proteins from only 178 bacterial species living in our bodies – and that’s so far. It could be the tip of the iceberg. Compare that with the human genome’s total of 23,000 genes.

It seems then, we are the perfect habitat for unknown numbers of bacteria, fungi and viruses, busily exploring our body’s landscape, and thanking us for our kind hospitality. Some are helping us, others are harming. We don’t yet know who does what. But we do know they far outnumber our simply human components. Eek!

MYTH: Humans sit atop the evolutionary ladder

FACT: There is no evolutionary ladder. Every species is evolving in parallel to every other

We are not, as is commonly believed, more ‘highly evolved’ than bacteria. On the contrary, you could say we are less evolved than bacteria because they have been around longer. They have evolved continuously for the last several billion years. We are relative newcomers. There are, it is true, more and less complex life forms, but no higher or lower.

“All the species alive today that have evolved and adapted to find their way through the world long enough to produce offspring are ‘equally evolved’. In the context of biology, newer isn’t necessarily better: evolution isn’t a process of gradual refinement towards an improved version, but rather a question of stumbling along just well enough to make it into the next generation.”

So it is human arrogance alone that classifies creatures according to our own human-centric notion of their place on the ladder. The idea of a ladder at all, of a hierarchy, of higher and lower, is a human construct, nothing more than a thoroughly unscientific value judgment.

“Like every other kind of life on Earth, we may be unique but we are not special”

Evolutionary biologist Seeder El-Showk

It is we who place ourselves at the top, decreeing the rank of all other creatures by the measure of their likeness, or unlikeness, to us. A few rungs down the nonhuman apes, a few further the other mammals, continuing down through birds to reptiles, fish, amphibians etc. Bacteria just about the bottom of the pile. According to us.

But there is no bottom or top. There is no ladder, no up or down, higher or lower. Evolution has no hierarchy. There is no evolutionary or biological justification for this myth. We are just one among many.

Debunking this particular myth could hardly be of greater importance for our fellow animals, or for the planet itself. Our self-bestowed crown of superiority is illegitimate. We have placed ourselves on the throne so we can look down on all other animals and view them as existing just for us, the kings of creation. But our claim to the throne is spurious. We have granted ourselves the royal prerogative of making other animals our slaves, extracting whatever we can from them, carving up their bodies to satisfy our whims. As for those we choose not to eat or wear, once they cease making themselves useful to Our Royal Highnesses in some other way, or are simply surplus to our requirements, or just get in our way, become a nuisance to us, or a threat, they too are sentenced to death.

It is by perpetuating the myth that we are top of the tree that humans have stripped all other animals of the autonomy that is their birthright. We’ve reduced creatures that are miracles of nature to commodities. It is by this myth that mankind justifies – no, embraces without even seeing the need to justify – the most unspeakable cruelty. It is this myth that gives its blessing to the wholesale ravaging of wildlife and nature. And it is this myth that paves the bloody road to the slaughterhouse.

James Brabazon sums up Albert Schweitzer’s philosophy of Reverence for Life like this:

“Reverence for Life says the only thing we are really sure of is that we live and want to go on living. This is something that we share with everything else that lives, from elephants to blades of grass—and, of course, every human being. So we are brothers and sisters to all living things, and owe to all of them the same care and respect, that we wish for ourselves.”

Science speaking in the voice of Evolutionary Biology agrees:

We are but one among many

Update

22nd November 2016 Ants behave as mini farmers in Fiji study – The Guardian

1st December 2016 Research shows Birds Have Skills Previously Described AsExclusively Human – The Scientist

23rd December 2016 “I am NOT an animal” video from the Kimmela Center

 

Sources

 5 Common Biology Myths – ZME Science

10 Incredible Things Animals Can Do That We Can’t – ListVerse

Strongest Evidence of Animal Culture Seen in Monkeys & Whales – Science Mag

How Orcas Work Together to Whip up a Meal – National Geographic

Six ‘uniquely human’ traits now found in animals – New Scientist

Can Animal Ever Be Artists? – IFL Science

The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman

Related posts

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Meet Rocky the Calf – Star of Veganuary’s London Tube Ad Campaign

Veganuary is posting 2,000 ads around London’s tube stations to persuade travellers to go vegan in the New Year 2017.

An online campaign successfully in raising £23,000 to pay for the ads.

The final designs for the ads are secret but rumour has it we can expect to see Rocky the calf, a piglet called Ernie, and Little Eric the chick.

veganuaryrocky0211

Clea Grady, marketing manager at Veganuary said: “The rise in veganism may be influenced by celebrities but the number one reason that people give for taking part in Veganuary is to protect animals. Farming is a brutal business. 

“Male chicks are killed at a day old because they aren’t able to lay eggs, unwanted calves are shot, and pigs are locked in crates and treated like breeding machines. 

“Our London Underground adverts remind people of this unnecessary suffering and ask them to try vegan for one month, and discover a new way to eat that is better for them, better for the planet and – of course – better for animals like Rocky, Ernie and Little Eric.”

23,000 signed up to Veganuary 2016, celebs like the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, food blogger Jack Monroe and actor Peter Egan among them.

Here’s hoping for many thousands more in New Year 2017, and steady and speedy progress towards a kinder world.
It can’t come soon enough for the animals.
No need to wait till January. Start your vegan journey now.
Here is Veganuary’s awesome website

Source

London Tube Station Campaign Launching to Urge Londoners to Go Vegan – The Evening Standard

Happy World Vegan Day!

Wishing, praying, working for a natural life lived in peace
Free from all harm and exploitation
For all our fellow creatures who share this planet
We humans are just one animal among many

 

From the tiniest ant to the biggest whale, each life is of infinite value

Reverence for Life

All Animals have Rights.

Please sign The Declaration of Animal Rights

And make World Vegan Day a happy one for the animals

elephants-160153__180

My Vegan Path – Interview with Hanna Golan

Hanna,  passionately vegan for nearly 50 years, is  founder and coordinator of the Global Vegan Registry, just one of her many achievements

Q:  Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview Hanna. Let’s start with your earliest memories?  Where were you born? Did you have a passion for animals in your childhood?

A:  I, Hanna Golan, was born in Communist Poland in 1951 to a pair of Holocaust survivors, and that is where my vegan inclinations began to sprout.  The following are a number of evident scenarios:

1  At about 4 years of age, I recall accompanying my mother to the market where I spotted a caged dog.  I immediately broke into tears and begged to take the “jailed puppy” home.  Instead, my mother guided me to the fishmonger.  There she selected and paid for a live carp that, gasping and writhing, was tightly wrapped in a few layers of newspaper.  I cried all the way home.  As soon as we entered the front door I dashed to the kitchen, retrieved the largest container I could find and filled it with tap water.  I then demanded that my mother release the fish and she obliged.  Once the poor creature revived, I became its instant guardian – feeding it bread crumbs, singing to it and vigilantly observing its every move.  Tragically, the next morning my mother fished my swimming charge out of the water, hit it hard over the head and proceeding to prepare it for dinner.  Needless to say, I would never again eat fish!

2  My father was off work one morning and both my parents took me for a walk down the street.  Suddenly we witnessed a horse-pulled carriage tipping over and trapping the horse under one of its wheels.  My screams for someone, anyone to help save the horse were met on deaf ears as people rushed to the driver while the horse was being ignored.

I loved being taken to the nearby park where, admiring flowers, butterflies and bees, I tiptoed gingerly lest I trample an innocent bug.

Q:  Can you tell us more about your family? Clearly you weren’t brought up vegetarian or vegan

A:  By the time I was 6 (1957), my parents and I emigrated to Israel to get away from the ever-growing antisemitism in Poland.  Sincerely believing that milk and eggs were healthy for a growing girl like me, my parents took me to a working farm where they attempted to nourish me with fresh produce.  All those years ago, I did not appreciate the exploitation behind eggs and dairy but I refused them because no one bothered to ask the hens for permission to take their eggs and, likewise, no one got permission from the cows to take their milk.  It just seemed like those were stolen goods.  Thus, I never consumed eggs or dairy ever again.

Q:  Was there a particular event that made you decide to be vegan?

A:  I continued eating and enjoying poultry and beef until at the age of about 10, when my mother accidentally cut her finger and my father exclaimed, “it looks like raw meat.”  That did it!  That is the moment I made the connection that meat (poultry or beef) comes from live animals and that I had no business eating them!  Unfortunately, when I refused meat my parents had a fit, “You won’t eat fish, you won’t eat eggs or cheese, you won’t drink milk.  Now you don’t want to eat meat?!  What’s the matter with you?  Do you want to die?”  Being the good girl that I was and not wishing to upset my parents, I continued eating flesh for another 6 years.

At the age of 12 (1963), my parents and I moved to the United State – Los Angeles, California, to be exact.  I continued my struggle over my mother’s cooking but it wasn’t until 1968 (age 16) when I could no longer tolerate living that way.  I packed a bag of my school books and a few bits of clothing and moved out from under my parents’ roof.  I knew nothing about veganism back then but I was certain that I could never eat animal products again.  By then I also understood that leather, wool, silk and down feathers were products of cruelty and avoided them at all cost.  I relocated from one friend’s apartment to another while still going to school fulltime.  On top of it all, I had to get a job that would sustain me.

Q:  What was it like being vegan in 1968? Veganism was a very little known concept back then, wasn’t it?

A:  It took years before I met anyone as weird as me and before I learned the true meaning of veganism with its ramification of a holistic and all-encompassing plant-based lifestyle.  I couldn’t care less whether this was good for me, I just knew that I couldn’t and wouldn’t contribute to the exploitation and abuse of animals.  I subsisted on real food (fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, legumes) back then because all the vegan alternatives that are so readily available today hadn’t yet been invented.

Still on my own, in 1969 I graduated high school with honors and transferred to UCLA to earn my Bachelor’s Degrees in biochemistry and mathematics.  I decided to do my postgraduate work in Israel where I got my Master’s in biochemistry from the Weizmann Institute of Science and my Master’s in mathematics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  I fully intended to continue on to medical school but that was aborted by marriage and motherhood.

Q:  What sort of difficulties did you experience, practical, social, emotional? Did you ever waver?

A:  My parents and everyone else, including myself, my husband and my children, always considered me to be a nut-case, an oddball, an eccentric but none of that dissuaded me from my intended ethical path.  Except for mild chiding and teasing, people were mostly curious about what I’m doing and why and I was never shy or hesitant about giving them an earful.  As you might guess, I was a conversation piece at every gathering.  It wasn’t always easy or fun but I never wavered because I knew that this was what the Universe wanted me to do and who am I to argue with the Universe? Years later, by the way, my parents stopped eating meat and eggs although they still had some dairy.

In 1986, accompanied by my husband (whom I divorced since) and children, I moved back to Los Angeles County where I’m still living today.

Q:  You’re self-employed. Can you tell us about your work?

A:  Wanting to incorporate veganism more tightly into my professional life, I changed careers by becoming a freelance writer and graphic designer.  As of today, I’ve written and published:

  • vegan and veggie related books under my penname Hanna Getty (link here Amazon)
  • children’s books about animals under my penname Maya Lee Shye (link here Amazon)
  • and one book under my own name, Hanna Golan (link here Amazon)

I currently have 5 more vegan-related manuscripts that are awaiting publication.

Q:  What other vegan-related activities are you/have you been involved with?

A:  Attempting to spread the vegan message far and wide across the globe, I am very active on Facebook and manage multiple pages:

Hanna V. Golan
Sprout A Vegan
Vegan Blogger  & also here
Global Vegan Registry
Vegans in San Fernando Valley
Antelope Valley Vegans

In my spare time, I volunteer for a local rescue organization 2 to 3 times a week, I occasionally foster dogs and I host monthly vegan potlucks.

Q:  Are you ‘parent’ to any companion animals?

A:  I am a single parent to 4 special needs rescue animals (2 dogs and 2 cats).

Q:  Do you have hopes and dreams for the future?

A:  My dream is to establish a vegan outreach program that will be based out of an all-vegan, self-sufficient community that will strengthen vegan presence as well as increase awareness in the general public.

Q:  Finally, what would you hope to leave behind you as your legacy on this earth?

A:  The legacy that I wish to leave behind me is a world that is predominantly, if not entirely, inhabited by humans who choose compassion over cruelty.

Thank you again Hanna for agreeing to share something of your life with us. Yours is an amazing story. You are a truly remarkable advocate for compassionate living, and an inspiration to your fellow vegans.

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Join the Global Vegan Registry here

Related posts – interviews with other remarkable vegans

A Picture of Compassion Chantal Poulin Durocher

Ama’s Story

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ryan Phillips – Ambassador for the Animals Extraordinaire

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

Dale Vince – Vegan Tycoon of Unwavering Vision

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