Snowball in Hell – Podcast #14

We let animals know that we do not care about them 56 billion times a year, when we use their bodies for food. We show we don’t care every time we put an animal down in a shelter, or crush them under our boots, or use them for entertainment. Any time there is a disaster, whether manmade like 9/11 or natural such as the floods in Pakistan and the Earthquakes in Haiti, one thing is certain:  there will be devastation and death for animals, both human and nonhuman.  But for the nonhuman animals, there is also often a lack of consideration, planning, or provisions. In a world that views these beings as “things,” they become mere possessions to save for another day’s use, or abandoned altogether. We show them we don’t care.

 

One of the first disasters we experienced was a flooding of the Russian River. We lived right on the river; our home looked like a houseboat when the river rose, and allowed lots of riverbottom for the kids to explore during the summer months. This was a seasonal occurrence, and we all knew when the water rose above a certain step on the stairs going down to the river, it was time to boogie. The only animals that lived with us were a semi-feral cat we had befriended and a wild squirrel that felt the tree growing out of our deck was his private property. He and our cat were always at it, with him screeching and throwing nuts at Slinx, and Slinx twitching his tail and growling at the squirrel.  I didn’t know the boys were leaving cashews on the porch railing for the squirrel; no wonder he never seemed to leave that tree.

Russian River Rising and the Ojai Fire

One winter’s day, the river began rising, getting precariously close to that step that spelled danger.  We were prepared for the worst, but for us, we were spared. We began watching as a parade of belongings and living beings were being swept past our window in the rapidly moving river.  We saw people’s trash cans, their lawn chairs, tree limbs, dogs, and even a deer. We felt dreadfully impotent watching those animals speed by so quickly. There was no way to help them; we lived near a curve in the river and hoped they could climb out at that point. The deer seemed particulary distressed and I wondered even if he made it out alive, would he know how to find his clan if he was swept too close to town?  We never heard any more and hopefully assumed he made it out. But it was a real wakeup call that when nature comes calling, she often knocks awfully loudly on the animals’ door.

Later, when the boys were adolescents, we were living in a small town that experienced a dreadful fire.  It was engulfing our town and we watched in horror as different parts of the land around the town would go up in flames.  Each boy was told to take one laundry basket and one cat if we had to evacuate; I would take whatever else we might need. I used to run in the early morning hours and often ran for many miles outside of town, but when I ran during the fire, I would see many small wild creatures, so close into town that it was shocking, animals I never saw before — squirrels, possums, other creatures looking for water or shelter. There was usually no one else up and about at that early hour and the animals didn’t scurry when they saw me, the way they normally would. They must have been exhausted and in shock. It was only when the fire was over and we drove over the thousands of acres of burnt national forest that we realized how desperate the situation was for the animals. Remember that famous photo of two deer in the middle of a stream, surrounded by flames? It was like being thrust into a surreal landscape, but the destruction and heat were all too real.

Hurricane Katrina

It has now been five years since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, with New Orleans suffering the worst damage due to the levees breaking. I have watched dozens of hours of film about the disaster, and there seems little doubt that the people in power failed to respond in a timely manner. It seems inexcusable. (Lewis Black clip about New Orleans after Katrina) But when it comes to the animals, it is even worse, with people being told to abandon their animals with the promise they could return in a day or two, a promise that was soon broken.  Remember the heartbreaking vision of a little boy clinging to his small white dog, Snowball? He did not want to let go of his dog; he knew a dangerous storm was coming. He was told to put the dog down and get on the bus, and he cried so hard he vomited.  That one little boy seemed more in touch with reality than all the adults surrounding him.  He left his dog, through no fault of his own, to suffer the disaster of the storm and its aftermath, alone, abandoned and distressed. And he seemed to know it was not right to abandon that helpless little dog to the streets and the storm.

One wonders what little Snowball must have experienced when that bus drove away, alone of the streets. Did he try to get back to the home he had known? Did he wander the streets, looking for food and water?  The storm arrived several hours later; was he killed by the flying debris? Did he drown in the rising waters from the breached levees? One thing is certain; Snowball was left in desperate circumstances when he became an inconvenience for the human caretakers that “owned” him. Sorry, Snowball, no room on the bus for you.

Some people stayed with their animals throughout the storm. Many left their animals with food and water, being told they could return in a day or two at most.  But when the levees broke, people and rescue services were denied access to New Orleans.  By the time rescue workers were allowed in, they found animals all over the city and tried to leave food and water where they could, but once again, the animals were left alone. Alone in homes that were devasted, without electricity, without anyone to comfort or care for them. If must have seemed like hell had descended on earth.

After the initial few days, a rescue center was set up and any animals still alive were taken to the center. Many hard-working people tried to help the animals and set up websites to match missing owners and missing animals. Many animals suffered horrendous deaths of starvation, drowning, dehydration, and disease.  A documentary called MINE tells the tales of people who tried to find their animals after the storm.  According to some of the rescue workers, many of the Katrina animals were not spayed or neutered, and many tested positive for heartworm. Some were found locked in garages or tied to stakes; many showed scars from dogfighting. For some, Katrina meant rescue from a horrible life; for others, it spelled doom and stress. Many people tried for years to get their animal family members back; some new families refused to relinquish them; a few were reunited. In some cases, the new families maintained visitation with the original families and in at least one case, the new families got their dog back when the original family member died.

Somethings were learned during Katrina – here is how things have improved for Gustav survivors. (Clip from IFAW podcast about Gustav)

Pakistan, Haiti and the Tsunami

The floods in Pakistan have devastated the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and many animals along with them.  For many of these people, animals represent a food source, and thus are a low priority when there is not enough food. They are dragged along as they flee, but many have such spare frames it does not appear they could possibly last for very long in such gaunt conditions.

Right after the Haiti earthquake, one of the vegan forums I was frequenting found people searching for an organization that would help the affected animals.  There were groups like HSUS that were working to save the livestock, but only so they could be killed another day.  The stray dogs had a very slim chance of survival with people starving and in the streets, too.

When the Tsunami hit the shores of the Indian Ocean on December 26th, 2004, a different animal story emerged. This disaster resulted in more human tragedy than nonhuman, at least for the land animals. (clip on the animals in the Tsunami) There is still much we do not yet know about animals; many of us still do not know they have feelings and are social beings.

I wonder about that little boy, the one who cried himself sick over Snowball. Did he learn to stuff his feelings and not care so much for other beings? Did he get another puppy and forget about Snowball? Or did losing Snowball haunt him? I wonder if he will become vegan one day, a quiet protest against an unfeeling society.  I hope he didn’t learn to adapt to all the sleeping people around him. I hope he has stayed awake and alive and kept in touch with his natural feelings for other beings.

Speciesism and Moral Confusion – Love Them or Want Them?

The speciesism and moral confusion that run rampant among human beings is apparent in the film (MINE) about Katrina animals. Some of the original families claimed that their dog was a family member, but the new families often felt the same way. Due to the long period of time before Katrina victims were able to stablize and return, many of the animals had already adapted to their new families and homes. At times, ownership becomes apparent in the dialogue: He is mine! He is MY PROPERTY! If they were truly family members, then why were they left behind when the rest of the family evacuated?

Hurricane Katrina happened in part because we destroyed the wetlands that would normally protect the coast and failed to create substantial levees to protect New Orleans.  The fire that we experienced in the Ojai Valley was man made, yet all the manpower went to protectiong property, not animal habitat and lives.  Even the BP oil disaster is evidence that mankind sees disaster though his own narrow lens. The ocean is already so toxic and contaminated that it could well be a giant dead zone within this century.

Not letting Snowball in the bus is just a metaphor for mankind keeping the animals outside the moral community.  We are not separate; we are all life with a capital “L.”  When we recognize our collective belonging, we will make way for the animals.  Sadly, Snowball’s time in hell happens repeatedly, day in and day out, for billions and billions and billions of animals.
~~~~~~

Abolition of Speciesism

They Don’t Care by Munga

They Don’t Really Care About US by Michael Jackson

They Don’t Really Care About Us by Karaoke Star Explosion

Lewis Black - New Orleans (Live at Carnegie Hall)

Dr. Jennifer C. – Talking Animals

IFAW – Rescue After Gustav

Creation podcast – The Tsunami and the Animals

Animentals – Podcast #13

I have studied population trends for several decades of both human and nonhuman animals. One thing is certain: as the human population has experienced geometric increase and growth, so has the number of animals slaughtered and killed annually. I set up a Google Alert to apprise me of any articles about overpopulation only to find that the articles  all related to animal overpopulation. There were articles related to the overpopulation of shelter animals, of deer, of rabbits, of birds and even bugs, everything but human beings, this even as many animal species are in danger of extinction. I guess it is all in  your perspective. And truly we are experiencing an ongoing problem with the high number of shelter animals that are killed day in and day out for lack of a decent home. I have been posting photos and articles about some of these animals and have been astounded at the reasons these animals become available: the owner does not have time any longer for him or her; the owner has had to move; the owner does not have the money to care for him or her; he or she was found abandoned on the street; the owner is getting divorced. Domesticating animals has really left millions of them high and dry, unsafe, hungry, injured, vulnerable and alone. We have used them and then, when we get tired of them or they are inconvenient or a burden, we toss them aside like yesterday’s news.

The commodification of animals takes many different shapes. There are the billions that are slaughtered for food every year, that are killed for their fur, and that are used in entertainment — the list goes on, but you probably already have a good idea of how long the list is. Today’s podcast is going to look at a very bizarre form of animal commodification: animals as decorations or ornaments, and like the holiday ornaments that get put away after the holidays end, so these animals get obliterated when they become too numerous, or their decorative value diminishes, or they get scapegoated because of someone else’s irresponsibility.

The first group of animentals I want to look at today are the Mute Swans of Chesapeake Bay.  Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. For decades, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has been involved in a deadly game of eradicating the Mute Swans, alleging that they pose a threat to the ecosystem.  I  guess they are not considered part of the ecosystem because they are targeted as being non-native birds.  As a non-native human being, I grow rather weary of this point of origin nonsense. Where would I belong? Am I too non-native? I am first generation born in this land as was my husband, as is my grandson.  The birds may have been brought over by Europeans two hundred years ago to grace the waterways; in short, they were kidnapped and dragged here against their will and now, two hundred years later, we are going to tell them they do not belong?

The most recent statistic I found about the swans was that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources has already killed over 4,000 of the birds in cruel and terrible ways.  Celebrities have tried to save them from photographer Nigel Barker of America’s Top Model fame, Guns N Roses guitarist Slash, to television’s Montel Williams, all to no avail. Despite placing cruel and possibly dangerous tight colors on the necks of the birds with GPS devices, despite their labeling the birds non-native and therefore worthy of extermination, despite trying in various ways and failing to build a case that the swans pose any  threat to anyone, the swans continue to be mercilessly killed year after year.

There is another twist to this story, which takes us back to the same old tired horrific story. There is a link between the slaughter of the mute swans and the slaughter of pigs, cows and other animals for food. It seems that factory farms upriver are sending 500 million tons of waste into the Chesapeake Bay every year, along with some sewage treatment plants, creating dead zones and threatening the very life of the Chesapeake. But the folks who own those farms have a lot of money and a lot of power, and they are very invested in making the swans the scapegoats for the problems of the Chesapeake, so no one will look to see what is really going on.

It is not just the Mute Swans that are under attack, for when animals become objectified, they become property and “things” rather than individuals with feelings, the sentient beings they are, things are bound to go awry.

~~

One of the other problems for the rabbits on the University of Victoria campus is that they land in the gray zone that Susan Vickery spoke about, where they are not really wild animals but in so classifying them, they may be killed in ways that would be illegal were they classified as pets. The University has been known for the rabbits, the rabbits have graced their calendars and have been a draw to the public, but when the University grew tired of them, or they became too numerous, they became the brunt of many cruelties. Some locals have jokingly placed recipes for rabbit stew on their posts and others have suggested they serve as a way to eat locally.  The rabbits and the Mute Swans are only part of the picture, with flamingos, black swans, ducks, peacocks, and numerous other animals often purchased to grace a small body of water or grass in hotels, housing developments and resorts.  Many times, the birds may have their wings clipped so they cannot leave, making them vulnerable to predators and unable to live a normal life.  The habitat is usually inappropriate for the animals.  Like gardeners without green thumbs, the animals’ caretakers may need to restock frequently to keep up the facade that the business wishes to project.

Animals originally imported as animentals who have escaped to form wild breeding populations in the western US include snapping turtles, water snakes, Himalayan tahr, doves, parakeets, parrots, and many others.  Ornamental aquatic animals are part of an international business which places many animals of all kinds in inappropriate and unnatural habitats with little chance of survival and virtually no quality of life.

As an abolitionist, I know the best thing I can do for these animals is to maintain a vegan lifestyle and encourage others to do the same. As more vegans exist in the world, the use of animals as ornaments will become intolerable.  Meanwhile, if I see animentals in any facility, you can be sure I will be speaking to the management about those animals and letting them know that not all the public appreciate their attempt at creating a false and destructive environment for fellow earthlings.  As our voices become louder, these disturbing practices will die out.

Elizabeth Collins of NZVeganPodcast recently said that it will be a wonderful day when being human means being vegan.  That day is getting closer with each blog post, podcast, tweet and lecture.  Adam Kochanowicz recently created the iVegan ap so that vegans can shop more easily.  Adam has generously made the ap free of charge so that it can reach the most people. He also has some wonderful brochures available online at vegan.fm – look for the links on Veganacious.

There is another blog I wanted to mention, too – one created by Nathan Schneider. Vegan Abolitionist has some excellent articles on it, including one I just linked to on a forum that was lauding Veggie Pride parades. Nathan saved me a ton of time because his article had all the salient points listed in clear and concise manner. You can find Nathan’s blog at vegan-abolitionist.blogspot.com.

New on Veganacious is Veganacious/Recipes.  The recipe blog is accessible via the top navigating buttons on the veganacious blog, or you can go directly to veganacious.com/Recipes.

Another new project which will be a long time developing is the Vegans Directory. This directory is at vegansdirectory.com and will display international vegan businesses. While it is only in the preliminary stages, it will eventually allow interactive use, with comments and a rating system for the businesses.  If you know of any vegan businesses you would like to see included, please contact me at babs (at) animail (dot) com.

Music in this podcast was from Nabi Camara’s M’Soumbulle, highlighting his wonderful expertise with the balafon.

Montel Williams – Stop Killing the Chesapeakes Mute Swans

Animal Voices – Bunnies on a Deadline

iVegan on iTunes

Vegan FM brochures

Vegan Abolitionist

Nabi Camara – music

The Vegans Directory