Gender remains one of the areas in which inequality is still rampant. Whilst I am lucky to live in a country which has made some progress over time, I am still aware of how unequal even our nation is. Perhaps the word ‘equality’ is not even the right word. Can you really have equality when every single person is different, with different thought processes, ideals, mental capacities, ages, genders, nationalities, etc.? What is equality? Is there such a thing? Is it achievable? Everyone has different ideas. I think the best thing we can do is not to try to create equality, but to work towards giving everybody and everything equal consideration. Maybe that is equality? I’m not exactly sure. What I am sure of is that there’s not a day that goes by where I don’t read/hear/see something sexist. Sexism can be blatant and subtle, and it’s there so much that I think we become immune to it to a certain extent. If we give equal consideration to everyone’s different needs and interests, is that not a better solution than generalising everyone’s needs and interests into something that won’t even be applicable for half of them? We like health insurance to be tailored to our specific needs, rather than being lumped into a one-size-fits-all plan, and I think it’s the same thing. By offering everyone the same consideration, people are free to reach their potential as an individual, rather than having to fit into a mould someone else has created. If, whatever it is you want to do, you’re treated with respect and kindness and a lack of judgement, you will be happy. If we look at people as just people, and not females or males and letting that dictate what we expect from them, the world will be a much better place. If we treat people with the consideration to recognise their needs and interests and capabilities as a person and not a gender, we will be able to make everything a bit fairer. I will refer to the notion most commonly known as ‘equality’, as ‘equal consideration’. We’re told (and we like to believe) that feminism has achieved all it set out to. Apart from various reasons I have for not liking the term ‘feminism’, I can’t tell you how angry that makes me, because feminism, as a name for a movement seeking to create better lives for women, hasn’t, and it is far from it. We’re far from equal consideration on any front, and it scares me to think about, as sexism is still so prevalent in the developed world, how long it’s going to be before every member of the female gender is given equal consideration. Like many other forms of discrimination, sexism manifests itself in many different ways, and can be exacerbated by different cultures and religions. There’s no doubt we have made progress over time, but it is proof that we are, in general, still a sexist society that people think we’ve made all the progress we can. By saying feminism has achieved all its goals, you are joining in on the notion that women are inferior to men (because what we have now is not ‘equality’, and you’re an ignorant wanker if you think it is); you’re saying women have reached their capacity and that is a slap to an already bruised face. In this (rather delayed) Spotlight, I will talk about issues which arise from gender, and will look at things such as education, health status, attitudes, vocabulary, opportunities, limitations, rights, people who are doing things to help and some steps you can take to help close the gap. It is an issue which needs a shift in attitudes to be dealt with effectively, and I believe it is more than achievable, but it requires collaborative, zealous and persistent effort by everybody.
The amount of people who do not care about this planet and the animals that inhabit it is extremely scary.
You all realise that we too live on this earth? We need to stop destroying the place we live and every living creature on it before it’s too late.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a charity which works ‘to prevent cruelty to animals by actively promoting their care and protection.’
Their objectives are as follows:
- To prevent cruelty to animals by ensuring the enforcement of existing laws at federal and state level.
- To procure the passage of such amending or new legislation as is necessary for the protection of animals.
- To develop and promote policies for the humane treatment of animals that reflect contemporary values and scientific knowledge.
- To educate the community with regard to the humane treatment of animals.
- To engage with relevant stakeholders to improve animal welfare.
- To sustain an intelligent public opinion regarding animal welfare.
- To operate facilities for the care and protection of animals.
They are a wonderful organisation whom I have had the opportunity to work with in the past. I personally think they implement wonderful programmes which enable communities to get involved, have fun, and support animal welfare (the Million Paws Walk is fabulous, I highly recommend it). I also think the stances they take on various issues are realistic and for that reason alone they are amongst my top animal welfare organisations. Check out their website and see how you can get involved – you can donate, volunteer, foster and adopt animals (rather than support animal mills), and much more.
-JUMPS RACING: The ‘sport’ involves the racing of horses who are forced to jump over fixed obstacles usually about a metre high, for long distances and whilst travelling at high speeds. This is distressing and frightening to the horses, who are put under great physical, psychological and physiological stress. Their limb co-ordination is affected and coupled with high jumps and high speeds, the slightest mistake or misplacement of their body can be fatal. Many horses break their necks and die instantly; those who suffer catastrophic injuries are euthanased, and some horses are rendered lame after accidents. Jumps racing is now only legal in Victoria and South Australia, which disgusts and embarrasses me as a Victorian. Here is an extract from Humane Society International’s article on the topic:
'Horses are prey animals who are extremely cautious and vigilant about their safety. They are terrified of falling because of their innate consciousness of being eaten by a predator once they are lying on the ground.
‘Jumps horses are not willing participants in the extremely dangerous sport of jumps racing, which constantly challenges their physical ability to retain stability while galloping and jumping over fixed obstacles at speed and whilst fatigued.’
-WHIPS: Whipping a horse to increase its speed is not even effective, but moreover, it is cruel and distressing to the animal. Shamefully, laws in Australia to regulate whipping in the racing industry were backtracked due to complaints (I find this embarrassing as an Australian, that laws regarding the ethical treatment of animals were reversed to keep people happy, placing the humans’ needs above the animals’). For more: http://www.rspca.org.au/how-you-can-help/campaigns/whips-in-racing/
'Of course there is a place in our community for the horse whip. It belongs alongside the school strap in the museum as an example of past brutality.’ – Mirko Bagaric: Professor of Law and Head of Deakin Law School
ANIMALS IN FILM:
This is an edited extract from the Wikipedia page, ‘Cruelty to animals’:
'Animal cruelty has long been an issue with the art form of filmmaking, with even some big-budget Hollywood films receiving criticism for allegedly harmful—and sometimes lethal—treatment of animals during production. One of the most infamous examples of animal cruelty in film was Michael Cimino's legendary flop Heaven’s Gate, in which numerous animals were brutalised and even killed during production. Cimino allegedly killed chickens and bled horses from the neck to gather samples of their blood to smear on actors for Heaven’s Gate, and also allegedly had a horse blown up with dynamite while shooting a battle sequence, the shot of which made it into the film. Tripwires were used against horses when Rambo III, The Thirteenth Warrior and Reds were being filmed. An ox was sliced nearly in half during production of Apocalypse Now, while a donkey was bled to death for dramatic effect for the film Manderlay, in a scene later cut from the film.’
While there are some regulations regarding the treatment of animals in films, there are countries in which animal cruelty continues in filmmaking, such as Spain, South Korea, Italy, etc. (e.g. the skinning of a live frog, the beheading of a monkey, the list goes on). YouTube also has videos which portray animal cruelty, however on the whole does not remove them, instead opting to be extremely vigilant in their deletion of videos breaching copyright. They certainly have their priorities straight, don’t they? Check for the American Humane Association-accredited ‘No Animals Were Harmed’® disclaimer at the end of films and TV programmes. Victoria’s Animal Welfare Legislation was updated in 2008, and has a section regarding animals in film. For a full list of the regulations, see here: http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/about-agriculture/legislation-regulation/animal-welfare-legislation/codes-of-practice-animal-welfare
MARINE PARKS/PERFORMING ANIMALS:
An unfortunate fate awaits a dolphin, seal, whale or any other animal held in captivity who is forced to perform tricks for adoring crowds. Let us begin with how these animals are collected, and we’ll look at dolphins as an example. The dolphins are ‘caught’ by a fleet of boats who drive them to a lagoon using a wall of sound (which distresses the dolphins – they are very sensitive to sound), before selecting the ones they deem to be good ‘show dolphins’ and slaughtering the rest. The dolphins (and other animals) are subject to a life of captivity, performing tricks and deprived of meaningful interactions and relationships with others of their own species (not to mention they would have been torn from their family, which is obviously distressing in itself). We need to stop supporting marine parks and any establishment who train animals as performers, as every cent we give to them only fuels a fire which desperately needs to be put out.
Animals in circuses are confined to tiny cages/enclosures, receive little-to-no veterinary care, are yelled at, forced to engage in unnatural behaviour, can be mishandled and are subject to abusive training, which includes the use of whips, chains and other instruments. What I would advise on this front, obviously, is not supporting circuses which contain animals. And, as with anything, contacting them to make known your disapproval is recommended, because you are letting them know it is an issue. Circus Oz is a great animal-free circus.
BULLFIGHTING AND RODEOS:
Stress and danger for purpose of entertainment occurs in both of these ‘sports’. Bullfighting is barbaric, violent and causes distress and slow, painful death. The bull is tortured using spears, spikes and daggers, causing blood loss and pain. The matador eventually kills the bull, or they drown in their own blood due to the matador piercing their lungs instead of heart. Then, the spinal cord is severed at the neck, the bull being dragged away (sometimes the bull is still alive).
Rodeos also cause distress to animals by provoking them with spurs, electric rods and flank straps, just so people can see ‘wild’ behaviour. Many animals are killed or injured and subsequently put down. Rodeos are banned in Britain and some parts of Europe and the US. Australia’s laws vary between states, but Queensland’s laws are the weakest. Victoria and Tasmania have banned calf roping and Victoria has regulations regarding electric prods. Once again, the withdrawal of support and opinionated correspondence (whether via email, letter or phone) are the ways to go.
First off, setting aside the meat production industry and all its downfalls, let’s just look at the actual process of eating meat. Humans are not the only ones who do it. If you are a vegetarian, and you think other people should be a vegetarian, do you also think all other animals who eat meat should be vegetarian? I completely empathise with wanting to reduce animal cruelty, because I want to do that, too, but here I will present my argument as to why it would be detrimental to the survival of the planet if humans were to stop eating meat.
We have been eating meat for millions of years, and I what I mean by that is that almost everyone in the world has eaten meat multiple times a week for millions of years, not just every so often. It has made us what we are today. Meat is also one of the most nutrient- and mineral-dense foods we could consume (and I don’t think injections and supplements are an acceptable substitute), and there is argument that we could, in fact, survive solely on it, but that would perhaps be rather uninteresting. I also believe that if meat truly wasn’t good for us, we would have stopped eating it by now, in an evolutionary sense (seeing as it has been something we have eaten for millions of years, so frequently. Something like smoking is different; it hasn’t been around anywhere near as long, it is not as widespread and is not a dominant part of a diet, so whilst we know it causes a myriad of health problems, and people still do it, it really hasn’t been around long enough to be affecting us in terms of our evolution - only time will tell, I guess), and we all know how slow evolution is, so if it wasn’t good for us, after millions of years (those millions of years in which we have advanced - I acknowledge there negative advancements, too - beyond the primitive technologies of our ancestors, to what we are today), we would have stopped eating it. You may, nowadays, be able to survive without meat, but I believe we are healthier for eating meat (though organic, free-range, grass-fed meat, not hormone-saturated, battery meat). You wouldn’t have been able to maintain optimal health on a meat-free diet a couple of hundred years ago. There are advancements (such as vitamin fortification and long-term supplements) which are unnecessary and which interfere with the natural course of things.
In terms of what the world would be like if humans stopped eating meat, I will paint a picture. There will be deforestation in order to make room for the greater number of crops needed to support our newly meat-free diet, and we all know how important trees are to the survival of the earth (and before you dismiss this, think about how many people there are in the world – 7 billion – and how much plant matter would need to be grown to sustain us all). We will have larger populations of the animals we used to eat, because we are no longer regulating numbers, and they need to eat, too. Increased numbers of those animals will strain not only the land, but water supply, and this will have a flow-on effect regarding other animals living on the same land, and the balance of population numbers will be thrown way off, resulting most probably in the extinction of some species. We may even be forced to cull to keep some animal populations under control. Plus, human population is ever-increasing, and is arguably already at an unsustainable number, so demand for not only arable land but habitable land will continue to grow. This will mean there’s even less room for us to live and grow food. It’s not just a simple matter; it’s not as easy as just stopping eating meat, you have to think about where these animals will go – we would have billions more animals in the world and that is obviously going to have an effect. In any situation where a species’ key predator is removed, the numbers of that species will increase - just look at how quickly our population is growing due to the eradication of diseases, cures and preventative measures, and the expansion of infrastructure. An alternative might be the culling of animals as a means of regulating population numbers, but I don’t think that is a viable solution, and is in conflict with the premise of actually stopping eating meat. At the moment, most animals raised for meat are fed grain or synthetic formula (which I am against), and really grains and sugars are in everything, so I believe it’s also about changing the way we eat as a whole, because at the moment, production methods are unsustainable. We have to look at what we’re supporting with the purchases we make, for buying meat which has been grain-fed is still funding the grain industry, even if you eat none yourself. The thing is, it will only get worse as we continue to overpopulate and deplete the earth of its resources. We need to implement sustainable practices before it’s too late. Let’s think about the resulting expansion of crops. Not only would we have to clear land for said crops, we would most likely be turning crops over much more quickly. Both this and the production of grains will lead the degradation of topsoil, and I don’t think it’s possible to underestimate how vital topsoil is to life. It is the basis of life, and without it, we would die. Topsoil is full of microorganisms which accumulate as organic matter decomposes. I think it’s wonderful to think that as things die they become fundamental to the creation of new life. We need death for there to be life. It’s the greatest cycle of them all. The increased production of grains (apart from not being good for us), will put enormous strain on topsoil, which will become increasingly less fertile (in a world where the rate of erosion of soil has now exceeded the rate of formation – we don’t want to be speeding up the process). Not to mention the incredibly large number of tractors and machinery which will be needed to harvest and sort and refine and process and package and deliver all these products. So we’ll have more gasses in the atmosphere (including methane from the increased cow population), which is, obviously, not what we want. Small-scale, local food production is what I believe to be the only feasible long-term option, where animals are grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free, in open pastures and adequate social, mental and physical stimulation. This goes for fruit and vegetables, too, although I don’t think they need social, mental and physical stimulation!
My family eat based on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), which is quite similar to the Paleo diet, however there are differences. The way of eating associated with both these diets, though, is not just a belief, there is more scientific proof of these dietary principles than there are of typical Western health ideas. I won’t go into it here, but basically I eat no grains, no starches, no sugar (bar honey and fruit) and no complex carbohydrates, no processed, genetically modified, refined or additive-enhanced food. We make almost all of our food, but it’s actually quite incredible. We eat incredibly well, and food is nourishing and satisfying and I literally can’t say enough how much it changes how you think about food and your body. My dad was cured of ulcerative colitis because of eating this way (a condition not thought by Western medicine to be curable), and we are all so much healthier; and healthier, too, in ways you wouldn’t think had anything to do with diet. The point of this is that meat is an integral part of our diets, and furthermore, the things which will become our primary sources of energy, such as tofu, soy milk, excessive reliance on legumes, faux meat (who knows what’s in that – eugghhh), pasta, bread, rice – i.e. carbohydrates and starches – are things we don’t eat, and I find it quite frightening, with what I know those substances are capable of doing to our bodies, to think of the enormous effect it will have on our health (really, it’s already happening – think obesity, increased cancer rates, allergies, impaired health, lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease; the list in near endless – but we don’t want to exacerbate it).
Please just think about the way the earth works, the natural cycle of life and death, the consequences of interfering with that cycle. I believe small-scale farming is the key to sustainability (I also think mass-production of any kind is unsustainable), with local, seasonal and produced-as-needed produce. Not only will you be supporting your own community, you will be supporting sustainability, and longevity of the planet. Please do as much research as you can, don’t just read this, as it is short and meant as a summary. But I strongly encourage you to read up on the SCD (it will quite literally change your life), read up on topsoil, or farming practices, or the already-worrying deforestation which is occurring. The further we move away from a predominantly meat and vegies diet, the worse the state of things will become, for both our health and the earth’s. I strongly believe in the considerate and respectful treatment of animals and do not condone current production methods, but that definitely does not mean I don’t think we should eat meat. I’m not saying we should stay exactly as we are today, in fact, I am saying quite the opposite, for I don’t think current practices are at all maintainable - it’s only a matter of time before our shortcuts catch up with us. I believe we need to overhaul the way we eat, and the way we think about food and the earth, to take what we need as we need it, and I believe that that is the only way we’re going to be able to create a better, sustainable and harmonious future.
The Specific Carbohydrate Diet (I will post about diet in more detail later on): http://www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info/
Weston A. Price (similar dietary principles): http://www.westonaprice.org/
The Paleo diet: http://thepaleodiet.com/
Degradation of topsoil: http://world.time.com/2012/12/14/what-if-the-worlds-soil-runs-out/
‘The Vegetarian Myth’ by Lierre Keith (I’ve not read it yet, but have heard very good things): http://www.amazon.com/The-Vegetarian-Myth-Justice-Sustainability/dp/1604860804
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has asked the Prime Minister Julia Gillard to offer a personal guarantee to end abuse suffered by animals in the live export industry. Neither she, nor opposition leader Tony Abbott, will offer a guarantee. This is a really serious issue, and animals suffer extraordinary pain in this trade. For more info, visit: http://www.banliveexport.com/features/wilkie-challenges-pm.php
WHAT YOU CAN DO:-
JUSTICE FOR JACOB: Visit this page and, under the ‘ACT’ heading, you can:
- Contact you local MP (if you’re an Australian resident) with the request that they personally guarantee that Australian animals will cease to be subjected to abuse in the live export trade, or, if they are unable to offer a guarantee, to withdraw their support of live export (for letters to MPs, the website will generate you a letter - it says pretty much the same thing). You can also write your own letter, with your own wording, but please convey the same sentiment.
- Contact Egypt’s Minister for Agriculture, urging Egypt to pass and enforce laws to ensure animal welfare. Here is a link directly to this page. Please, please, please take a few minutes to send an email. Watch the interview with Dr Abdelwahab, a vet from Egypt; it’s quite something. All you have to do is send one email. http://www.banliveexport.com/take_action/call-for-animal-protection-egypt
We cannot let this go on.
By supporting brands whose priority it is to be ethical and cruelty-free, you will be helping to contribute to a more sustainable future. Your support with be drawn from money-orientated, conscienceless companies and put into ones who genuinely care about sustainability and welfare. You may not think your efforts alone will do much, but remember, someone, somewhere, will be affected by your actions. Spread the word; bring it up in discussion with your friends and family, talk about what happens, and, more positively, talk about how you can change it. It’s not hard to buy a different brand of toothpaste or perfume or oven cleaner, to buy free range/organic meat from the supermarket or a specialty butcher, but your small actions can go on to create change. Imagine if even a thousand people stopped buying Maybelline - they’re going to notice that. Imagine what we can achieve if we all just pick up a different product at the chemist or the supermarket. So please just talk about it with people. We honestly can change the way things are if we work together; for animals, for the planet and for ourselves.
A list of things you can do:
- Gather your household and beauty products and look on the backs to see if you can find the words ‘not tested on animals’, ‘cruelty-free’, ‘no animal derivatives’, ‘vegan’, etc. Be vigilant, however, as some companies can be sneaky with their wording. For products which make no mention of animals, begin by googling whether the brand tests on animals, and if nothing comes up (and I mean a reliable source like Leaping Bunny, Peta, Caring Consumer, etc.), email the company. In fact, email them anyway, just to clarify. Ask them if they engage in third party testing, whether they use ingredients which are tested on animals or if it is both the ingredients and the final product which are cruelty-free.
- Begin the process of replacing the products you have which are tested on animals with ones which aren’t. If you’re overwhelmed, replace one or two products a week. Lasting change often is a gradual process. Also, you may as well finish the products you have, as the damage has already been done, and at least their suffering won’t be in absolute vain, just don’t buy them again.
- Email companies and tell them you like their products but will not be buying them until they cease testing on animals, and that if they do, you would gladly support them. Email companies who don’t test on animals and tell them you love their products, and that you think it’s wonderful they don’t test on animals. It’s nice for them to hear it.
- Don’t buy leather/wool/silk/fur etc., unless you know it has come from a sustainable source. Once again, I just want to say I’m not against using/eating animals. I don’t believe they deserve to suffer, though, and so I am very strongly against using them as disposable objects, and treating/viewing their needs as inferior to ours. I think we need to respect animals, and adopt a ‘nose-to-tail’ philosophy, which would mean we eat/use all parts of a slaughtered animal, which includes the leather and meat and bones, etc. It’s sustainable when the animal has a good life, free from distress and suffering. We are part of a food chain, a cycle which everyone benefits from, and for thousands of years we have been using animal hides for warmth, their meat for food and their bones for tools – the difference is that we used to respect that they had provided us with these things.
- Talk to your local butcher about free range/organic meat, and ask whether they stock any and/or if they could get some in. If you’re at the supermarket, there is usually a section (but it is so small it’s hard to find…) dedicated to organic and free range meat.
- Don’t buy cage eggs, barn eggs or eggs made at Pace Farm (they produce both cage and free range, so you know they are only in it for the money – support the brands who actually care) – only organic, free-range (also be careful because some companies just operate within the law (in terms of stocking density/conditions), so it’s best to support locally produced free-range/organic eggs.
- Don’t buy meat products from McDonald’s, KFC, Red Rooster, Hungry Jack’s, or any other fast food chain, as you know their meat is very cruelly treated. I get that most people aren’t going to want to do this, but by letting them know why you’re concerned, and boycotting them for a while, hopefully they will take notice, use better meats and then you can eat there to your heart’s content.
- The above applies to literally almost every restaurant, convenience store and cafe. So my advice is be vocal, and not in an abusive way, but enquire about the meat they use, and let them know your concerns. There are more and more cafes/restaurants using free range eggs, but don’t just assume they are. Also don’t just assume that because you’re paying a lot for a meal, that the meat was raised/killed ethically.
- Check your fish, too. Fish often becomes forgotten in the animal cruelty debate. Many people who claim to be vegetarian on animal cruelty grounds in fact eat fish, and often support unsustainable and cruel fishing methods/processes. Once again, just email, call or ask. Line fishing is preferable.
- Don’t buy pets at pet shops, only support breeders you know are ethical, and, best of all, adopt from shelters.
- You can donate to shelters and organisations, you can foster puppies and kittens and seeing eye dogs, volunteer at an organisation, get your community and family involved in fundraiser events, text or call talkback radio stations saying animal cruelty is an issue you want them to discuss, distribute printouts around your neighbourhood saying something like, ‘Swap one of your household products to a version not tested on animals.’ etc. There’s a lot you can do. Be creative, but don’t be rude!
- Don’t attend circuses with animals, rodeos, horse races, marine parks, etc. Some zoos are better than others, and there are arguments both for and against them. I personally think Werribee Open Range Zoo in Victoria is more the kind of zoo we should be supporting.
I know this seems a lot, but you don’t have to do it all at once. Start by doing a few things, and work your way up to doing more. Some is better than none, so give it your best go. You will make a difference.
Some notes I took from The Cove (the quote in the title is a something Ric O’Barry quotes a worker at the cove as saying, regarding the dolphin hunting):
- Ric O’Barry is a former dolphin trainer and former Sea Shepherd activist, seeking to expose the cruelty in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan.
- In the ’60s, O’Barry helped capture and train dolphins for the TV programme ‘Flipper’.
- A realisation came when a dolphin committed suicide in his arms by voluntarily closing her blowhole so as to suffocate. He has been an activist for their freedom ever since.
- Taiji, Japan: mass-slaughter site, shrouded in secrecy, concealed from the public – supplies marine parks (performing animals, etc.) and meat industry.
- Extensive security, concealment and denial – threats of arrest/abusive and intimidating behaviour from the local police and local government towards people who try to photograph/film activities at the cove. Foreigners in Taiji are questioned by police, on suspicion they are trying to expose operations.
- Dolphins are ‘caught’ by fleets of boats who create a wall of sound to drive them into a lagoon – they are ‘stressed to the max’.
- An isolated cove nearby is surrounded by barbed wire, ‘Keep Out’ signs. The team hide cameras in fake rocks and, late at night, stealthily hide them amongst existing rocks in order to obtain footage of the dolphin slaughter. Some dolphins, as previously mentioned, are sold into captivity, but most suffer extreme distress and pain before they finally die and are sold to supermarkets.
- Dolphin meat contains dangerously high levels of mercury, and is sometimes mislabelled and sold under the guise of another type of meat.
- A 2006 report in the journal, ‘Science’, predicts a total collapse of the world’s fish stocks within 40 years, at the current rate of fishing.
- The Japanese control the world marketplace in fish – buyers in every major port in the world. They are apparently worried there’s not enough fish so they whale instead.
- The Japanese government approaches small, bankrupt countries and offers them financial support (and really whatever it takes) in return for the country joining the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and voting in Japan’s favour.
- These countries have ‘prostituted themselves for a few yen’. The film shows images of representatives from these countries asleep at the conference.
- 'Beautiful islands in the Caribbean becoming neon-lit whorehouses for the Japanese.'
- A case of ‘misplaced national pride. They had had enough of the West telling them what to do and when to do it.’
- Schools receive free lunch meat (i.e. dolphin meat) under government subsidies.
- They also interview people on the streets who claim to have no idea about what happens, or that dolphin meat is distributed under other names. Some say things along the lines of, ‘surely not’.
- There is a saying in Japan which goes: ‘The nail that sticks up must be pounded down.’ I think that pretty much sums up the attitude towards people trying to expose what happens in Taiji.
I highly, highly recommend this film. It’s incredibly eye-opening, moving, distressing, horrifying and above all, true. Give it a watch – it’s important that we try to learn what we can and support those who try to teach us.
A serious issue which threatens the existence of hundreds of species; every year, what we take from the ocean is 2.5 times greater than what it can reproduce. Click the links for more.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:-
http://worldwildlife.org/threats/overfishing (click the ‘how you can help’ tab)
Whaling is a practice defined as the hunting, killing or processing of whales, and can be dated back as far as 3000 BCE. Various ethnic groups and coastal communities have long engaged in what is known as ‘subsistence whaling’ – small-scale, low-technology (e.g. nets, harpoons, arrows and rod and tackle) hunting – however it was not until the 17th Century that whaling became industrialised/commercialised. Whaling became so competitive and out of hand that by the late ’30s, over 50,000 whales were killed annually. In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) banned commercial whaling, so stocks may recover. It still exists, shrouded in secrecy and denial.
We are perhaps most aware of Japanese whaling, notoriously defended by the Japanese government as ‘scientific’. This is what they are ‘researching’: biological parameters, resource abundance, elucidation of stock structure, role of whales in the marine eco-system and elucidation of the effect of environmental changes on cetaceans – nonsensical, meaningless cover-ups, because let’s be honest, if they really are concerned about the aforementioned issues, their research could be obtained by non-lethal means. It’s probably no secret where I stand on whaling, but I do not have an issue with subsistence whaling, provided it is done with consideration and respect and with the intention of reducing the animal’s suffering.
What I have a problem with is the mass slaughter of animals who are forced to endure great and prolonged suffering. I also have a problem with people breaking the law and using ‘scientific research’ as a guise, and fishing in sanctuaries which are clearly out-of-bounds (e.g. the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary).
Let’s look at commercial whaling. The typical method of slaughter is as follows: a harpoon with explosives in its tip is shot at the whale, and issues with accuracy mean whilst some will die instantly, many are left to suffer extraordinary pain and are still alive as they are carelessly hauled up onto the ship. Any whales still alive are then shot at several times, sometimes taking up to an hour to die.
I’ve never tasted whale meat, and I don’t intend to (there are also issues with high mercury levels), but I get that it is part of some traditional diets and I am fine with that, because subsistence whaling is small-scale and will not affect cetacean populations, and on a smaller scale, slaughter methods are often more effective (however, due to the fact that some species are close to extinction, and varying slaughter methods, I feel there should still be regulation and restrictions). This also plays into the debate about the fact that we should eat locally and seasonally, which includes meat and fruits/vegetables, but that is another whole post.
It is a complicated issue (read: corruption), as all issues are, really, and what I’ve written is a brief summary. I highly recommend the documentary film, The Cove, which is a frightening look into dolphin slaughter in Japan.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:-
- Don’t buy whale/dolphin meat (in Japan, some dolphin/whale meat is purposely mislabelled as being something else – background checks are essential, as with anything).
- Buy dolphin-friendly, sustainably-fished tuna, salmon and other fish/seafood (a lot of tinned fish will say this on their tins, but you can always email them; for deli/market fish and seafood, you will have to enquire). Steer clear of processed fish fingers and prepared fish fillets, etc.
- Do not attend marine parks, as, for example, the majority of performing dolphins are sourced from Japan, and your money will only be fuelling the industry (you will see this in The Cove) – not to mention how wrong training them to perform tricks is.
- What You Can Do, Greenpeace Australia Pacific (select your country at the top for the appropriate website): http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-you-can-do/
- Support the Sea Shepherd: http://www.seashepherd.org/support-us/
You can also visit these two sites to find out about the Rainbow Warrior (Greenpeace) and the Sea Shepherd, who, whilst they use slightly different means, are both seeking to put an end to illegal commercial whaling:
I have seen in person the devastation animal mills cause to the animals they so cruelly exploit, and it is something I will never forget. I volunteered at the RSPCA, and was involved with the rehabilitation of female dogs seized from a puppy mill in Victoria. These dogs varied in age, but all had been pregnant the majority of their lives (which puts strain on their bodies and alters their nutritional needs, amongst other health considerations). Some were aggressive, some were anxious and petrified of humans. And you can’t say, ‘I’m trying to help you,’ because they have been traumatised by humans and to them, you are no different to the people who abused them. Animals, particularly dogs, are such lovely, benevolent, trusting creatures, and to see them in this state is very confronting. Couple that with the thought that the majority will be put down because the damage that has been done is irreparable, and I found myself in a very difficult situation. All you want to do is make it better for them, but like a human, the scars will always remain. Our society is one big hypocritical, selfish mess, and like a human who has witnessed/experienced unthinkable trauma, the time and effort needed to help someone heal is great, and they might get better, they might not. One thing is, human life is viewed as being sacred and generally speaking, a lot of time, money and skill will be expended in the treatment of a human, where animals are given only weeks to make significant enough behavioural improvements to save themselves from euthanasia. Personally, I do not hold the view that any life is sacrosanct, but I think we need to rectify our attitudes regarding the dispensable way we treat animals. It is hard, because there are billions more animals than humans in the world, and we can’t save them all, and a lot of the time putting them out of their misery is the only kind thing to do.
Due to their confinement, the dogs lose muscle tone and weight, which in turn alters the kind of sustenance they require. Like humans, dogs’ nutritional requirements change when they are pregnant, and with females in puppy factories kept pregnant continuously, they likely suffer various deficiencies (hypocalcaemia is calcium deficiency. Calcium has a role in muscle contraction, enzyme function, blood-clotting, nerve-impulse transmission, hormone secretion and milk production, and chronic deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, osteomalacia and malformation of bones in developing dogs), which have a domino effect, not only on functions within their own bodies but on offspring.
If you’re buying a pet, please make sure you know where it has come from, and what kind of practices your purchase will support. Please also consider adopting an animal from a shelter. The animals up for adoption have been through a lot, and are among few who are rescued to make it to this stage of rehabilitation. You will not only be supporting the work of the animal shelter, you will be giving a home to an animal who truly deserves one.
The Lost Dogs’ Home: http://dogshome.com/dog-adoption/
Speciesist sayings and phrases punctuate our speech with considerable frequency. The truth is, many of the words we use are derived from sayings and words which are racist, sexist and homophobic. I think getting too pedantic about it is a waste of time, as a lot of words have changed in meaning and it would be (I think) a bit precious to remove them from our vocabulary. However, there are sayings which we use frequently which are blatantly speciesist:
- ‘I’m sick as a dog.’
- ‘What a pig.’
- ‘He/she is a cow.’
- ‘It’ll be a bitch to clean.’ (‘bitch’ has a slang meaning, now, as well, but still, it is derived from female dog)
- ‘That was dog as!’; ‘You’re a dog.’
- 'You can be my guinea pig.'
- Humane treatment (to treat someone with kindness and compassion, an attribute which sadly, and ironically, is not universally possessed by humans.)
- Brutal behaviour (animals used to be known as ‘brutes’, and ‘brutal’ is used to indicate ferocious, cruel, ‘savage’, ‘inhuman’, ‘unreasoned’ behaviour – that says it all, really.)
- ETC., ETC., ETC.
The atrocities inflicted upon animals in the food production industry are unfathomable. Only recently footage emerged of workers in an Inghams turkey abattoir stomping on, punching, kicking birds, throwing them to the ground repeatedly and slamming them against walls (unfortunately this is not a one-off, this kind of thing occurs all the time, all over the world). We all have good and bad inside us, and I think animal cruelty can be an avenue through which some people channel their sadistic tendencies – maybe they feel hard done by, cheated, angry at something, maybe they’ve been having troubles regarding relationships or finances, maybe they have subconscious insecurities and an inferiority complex, but whatever the underlying issue, when they’re shuffling cows into the abattoir (or in any situation with an animal), an extra-violent prod or shove or punch is their twisted way of releasing some stress or frustration. I do not condone it, but I feel we should pay more attention to our minds and the way we think, what we think and why we think it, and find appropriate measures of dealing with our thoughts. There is much unfairness in society, and the way as a whole, we can treat some people is shameful; that we have people wanting to harm themselves, harm others, or people feeling inadequate or lonely is proof that we’re not a very nurturing society to grow up in, and I believe if we can at least try to be more egalitarian, just and kind, we will have happier people, and therefore happier animals, as people will not inflict pain on ANYone to assert some kind of authority.
Animal cruelty in the food production industry is widespread. Regulations can be lax, and there are almost always loopholes. Stocking densities are far too high, which causes stress and anxiety in animals, as it would a human should we be forced to live squashed amongst thousands of others, unable to move. Chickens, for example, are debeaked when they are young to prevent them from pecking other chickens in a bid to claim some space. Debeaking (not usually the whole beak, but part of it) often occurs in chicks a few days old, and involves the beak being cut using a heated blade, usually without anaesthetic. The beak has an extensive nervous supply, and the consequences of beak trimming include both acute and chronic pain, which can lead to reduced social behaviour, reduced weight (reluctance to use the beak, as that would cause pain and therefore the animal can become malnourished), neuromas (tumour/growth of nerve tissue) and a reluctance to engage in beak-related activities (including preening, feeding, drinking, exploratory pecking – all things a chicken should be able to do, from a health and development viewpoint). Now, even if beak trimming was painless, it is wrong. It is wrong because it deprives the animal of a feature fundamental to their existence – everything they do involves their beak; it is wrong because the animals should never have to live in such confinement in such proximity to thousands of other birds, and so should not be necessary; it is wrong because it is demonstrative of our inclination (and the fact we think it’s acceptable) to change everything – nature, animals, each other – to fit what we want; it shows us putting our needs above those of others.
The veal industry is widely regarded as one of THE worst forms of animal cruelty. Veal calves are confined to a wooden stall so small (roughly .5m by 1.3m) there is no room to turn around, to stretch or to lie down. The purpose of the confinement (whilst also saving space) is to keep muscle use to an absolute minimum, so as tissue wastes away (known as atrophy or atrophia) and leaves us with the supposedly ‘gourmet’ meat. The calves are deliberately deprived of iron and other essential nutrients, by being fed synthetic formula, and resulting in the pale pink and even white colour which is regarded as ‘desirable’. The calves are not only anaemic, but lacking in all sorts of nutrients they need to survive, their immune systems barely function and are hence susceptible to numerous diseases (pneumonia, diarrhoea, etc.), and are fed several different antibiotics just to stay alive. Dehydrated and craving iron, they lick urine-saturated floors and metal poles, drink copious amounts of formulae and develop sores and other injuries from being so tightly confined. After a life of social, physical and developmental deprivation, the calves who have never seen the sun, have never felt the grass nor spent time with another of their kind are slaughtered, thus ending a tragic existence, the diseased, drugged meat made the hero of a dish in some restaurant, in some town.
Alternatives to these atrocities include ‘red veal’ farming, which would eliminate nutritional deprivation and chemically-formulae, or just ceasing to manufacture veal. At the risk of this becoming too long, I will briefly mention some other circumstances of cruelty. Like the turkey abattoir I mentioned before, many, many animals are subjected to torture every day. The production of foie gras (duck/goose liver) carries its own controversy (the force-feeding of the birds, feeding them so much that they develop fat deposits on the liver, the buttery meat considered a delicacy). Force-feeding a human is classified an act of torture, so why is it acceptable to do to an animal? Shark fin soup is an East Asian soup, yet the demand for it fuels the unsustainable numbers in which sharks can be caught, as once they are de-finned, they are thrown back into the water and left to die, slowly and incredibly painfully. Not only does this threaten marine ecosystems by unbalancing the food chain (overfishing is another issue I will talk about), shark meat, like dolphin and whale, contains high levels of mercury which then goes on to be consumed by people. Gelatine is made from pork/pork skins, horses and cattle bones/split cattle hides, by-products of the leather and meat industry (I personally encourage the use of all parts of an animal, so long as the animals are treated with kindness and compassion and respect, free from suffering - the only problem is I’m yet to see a gelatine packet saying ‘sourced from free range/organic suppliers’, so I suggest staying clear, but be vigilant, it is in a lot).
While the Australian Standards require that before sticking (bleeding out), stock cattle are to be rendered unconscious or insensible to pain, and must not regain consciousness or sensibility before dying, there are exceptions regarding kosher meat production. Whilst in Australia, Islamic authorities have agreed to animal stunning, the ritual slaughter of kosher meat requires the animal be fully conscious. This brings up many issues: the animal may not die instantly, and can still be conscious for up to 32 seconds, restraining devices cause stress, the actual process of slaughter can cause pain and trauma, and most of all, it shows a clearly speciesist attitude regarding the interests of animals as opposed to those of humans.
A list of some of the species used in food production: cow, pig, chicken, turkey, turtle, cat, dog, quail, frog, snail, horse, kangaroo, eel, fish, cetacean, lobster, crab, prawn, octopus, caviar, wasp, duck, squirrel, possum, sheep, goat, camel, crocodile, alligator, buffalo, rabbit, reindeer, silkworm, ostrich, emu, llama, pigeon, and many, many, many more.
I think what’s important to remember is that animals, like humans, have emotional, social and physical needs, and these needs mustn’t be regarded as second to ours. I personally believe we need to eat meat, and I will talk in-depth about why, however my concern is the welfare of the animals and the injustice of disregarding their wellbeing. We should be ashamed to regard other living beings the way we regard animals, and we should be disgusted by how we treat and exploit them. Please check the labels of the products you buy, and don’t be afraid to email or call companies to enquire about their policies and practices. They need to be aware that people are concerned about these issues. I will be posting a list (unfortunately it won’t be extensive) of brands of meat, eggs and milk (as well as other products) you can buy which are doing the right thing by animals. Stay vigilant, stay concerned, stay ethical.
This is a fabulous essay. Give it a read if you have time: http://www.lawsociety.com.au/cs/groups/public/documents/internetyounglawyers/063776.pdf
TOP: Animals have been killed and dumped in bins to be disposed of.
REST: The squalor in which these animals are confined. There is little information on mills which breed other animals - puppy mills in particular have been the main focus, perhaps as people feel such a connection with dogs, so for some reason their suffering affects them more. Nonetheless, the suffering of other animals is worth our equal concern. These animals’ social, environmental, behavioural and physiological needs fail to be met.