Two thousand and fourteen was a year filled with much sad news for animals: beyond the billions of animals who died in slaughterhouses, there were horses run to death on race tracks, dolphins led to their demise in the bloody cove of Taiji, animals killed in zoos, and thousands of water buffalo slaughtered in a single mass sacrifice, for example. So let’s celebrate some of the many positive changes animal advocates were able to help enact this year. Here are 12 in chronological order.

1. Canada bans gestation crates for pregnant pigs (March)

When Canada’s animal ag industry announced in March that its new Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs would include a ban on GestationCratecontinuously confining pregnant sows in gestation crates, it was big news. These cages confine sows so tightly the animals can’t even turn around, and they are standard practice on pig farms throughout North America. The new guidelines from the National Farm Animal Care Council require all new or renovated facilities after July 1, 2014, to house pigs in groups rather than cruel gestation crates.

“This is a watershed moment for farm animals in Canada and throughout North America,” said Sayara Thurston, campaign manager with Humane Society International/Canada. “It signals the beginning of the end of archaic, extreme confinement systems that consumers simply don’t support and which other countries have long-since banned. There is still much advancement needed to improve the welfare of pigs raised on Canadian farms, but this Code of Practice is a monumental first step.”

2. International Court of Justice rules that Japan must halt whaling in the Southern Ocean (March)

The ICJ’s 16-judge panel ruled 12 votes to four in favor of Australia’s argument that Japan’s whaling program was not in fact designed and carried out for scientific purposes. The court ruled that Japan must revoke current whaling permits and refrain from issuing any more.

Almost as stunning as this decision was Japan’s announcement that it would abide by it. Stunning, but not definitive, since Japan’s whaling industry recently declared it would flout the decision and unveiled plans to resume Southern Ocean whaling in 2015. Looks like Sea Shepherd is due for another busy season in the Antarctic.

3. China Southern Airlines stops shipping primates to labs (March)

CSA was the only major commercial airline based in China that was still shipping primates to laboratories for use in cruel experiments. But after a relentless campaign by animal advocates around the world—including protests in Bangkok, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, and Tokyo—Chen Qiuhua, senior cargo manager for the airline, finally stated that CSA will “stop transporting live primates for laboratory experiments on all flights of China Southern Airlines, effective from March 21, 2014.”

This leaves Air France as the only major airline in the world still willing to ship monkeys to labs. You can ask them to stop here.

4. Los Angeles City Council bans the use of bullhooks on elephants in circuses (April)

Bullhook being used on an elephant. Photo by PETA

Bullhook being used on an elephant. Photo by PETA

L.A. did more than vote unanimously to ban bullhooks—terribly cruel devices that resemble a fireplace poker. The law, which goes into effect in January 2017, also bans using pitchforks, baseball bats, ax handles, and other prods designed to inflict pain on elephants in circuses and other shows. “The treatment of elephants in traveling circuses is one of the crueler practices, and it’s time for us to stand up for them,” said Paul Koretz, the City Council member who sponsored the ban. He predicted that once Los Angeles outlawed circus elephants, other communities would follow. “At some point, this will be universally banned throughout the country,” he said. (He may be right, as you’ll see later in our list.)

5. World Trade Organization upholds the ban on seal fur (May)

When the WTO rejected an appeal by Canada and Norway to overturn the European Union’s four-year-old ban on seal fur, meat, and oil, it set a precedent that animal welfare can trump the right to trade. Thousands of seal pups are killed during the “hunting” season, often being shot and then clubbed to death. Indeed, more than 2 million seals have been killed in Canada since 2002, making the country’s commercial seal slaughter the largest killing of marine mammals on Earth. Because most Canadians oppose commercial sealing, the sealing industry relies almost exclusively on export markets to sell its products.

The decision by the WTO’s appellate body, which is final, found that complaints by Norway and Canada that their seal trade was being affected were outweighed by the EU’s objective of protecting seal welfare through the ban.

6. India becomes the best country in the world for nonhuman animals (May‒December)

Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But so much positive news for animals came of out India this year that I am just going to lump it all under one heading here. First off, in May, the country announced it was banning testing for cosmetic products and their ingredients on animals. This was followed by news in August that India banned animal dissection in universities, replacing it with digital alternatives. Then, in October, we learned that India had also banned the import of cosmetics tested on animals, making it the first animal-tested-cosmetics-free zone in South Asia. And in December, an Indian court declared that Raju, the “crying elephant” who was chained and abused for 50 years, could not be returned to his tormenters; he would remain in a sanctuary. Oh, and if you’d like to live in a meatless city, pack your bags for Palitana, India, recently declared to be a 100-percent vegetarian zone.

Let’s not forget this is the country that also banned dolphin shows in 2013, declaring dolphins and whales to be nonhuman persons.

7. Brazil bans most animal testing for cosmetics (June)

After anti-vivisection campaigners applauded the Brazilian state of São Paulo for banning the use of animals in cosmetics testing, Brazil’s federal government took note. A few months later, the country joined the European Union, India, Norway, and Israel in declaring a nationwide ban on the practice.

8. U.S. federal appeals court reinstates law on animal torture videos (June)

Ruling so-called “crush” videos that graphically depict animal cruelty are not a protected form of speech, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a 2013 ruling by the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Texas, which had held that animal crush videos are not obscene and that the Act violated defendants’ First Amendment rights. In 2012, defendants Ashley Nicole Richards and Brent Justice were arrested in Houston and charged with violating the Act for producing and selling obscene videos of Richards torturing dogs, cats, and other animals for the sexual gratification of viewers.

The court concluded that “Congress has a significant interest in preventing the secondary effects of animal crush videos, which promote and require violence and criminal activity,” and that the ban is justified because these videos contain “wanton torture and killing that, as demonstrated by federal and state animal-cruelty laws, society has deemed worthy of criminal sanction.”

9. Southwest Airlines ends partnership with SeaWorld (July)

SouthwestBoth companies said the timing was coincidental, but animal advocates knew better. When Southwest announced it was terminating its 26-year marketing relationship with the king of orca exploiters, the move was clearly motivated by pressure from activists around the world who have urged the airline to end their partnership, saying the carrier was supporting animal cruelty. Call it the Blackfish effect.

Officially, Southwest and SeaWorld parted ways due to “shifting priorities.” But after a quarter century of mutual marketing (Southwest planes were emblazoned with orca and penguin images, while SeaWorld promoted the airlines in its parks), it is clear that Southwest hearing from its customers and the general public made all the difference.

10. Thailand passes its first animal welfare law (November)

It’s hard to believe we still live in a world where not every country has animal welfare laws, but that world got a little bit smaller this year as Thailand passed its first legislation covering companion animals as well as farmed animals, working animals, wild animals in captivity, and animals under human care. Police have been given the power to enter homes and businesses to investigate claims of animal abuse and neglect, and violators can be fined up to THB 40,000 (US$1,200) and/or up to two years in jail. The law has been criticized as being too broad and far from perfect, but then, can’t the same be said for the animal welfare laws of every country? Let’s celebrate this as a major step forward and praise the Thai government for acknowledging that animals have the right to legal protection.

11. U.S. military ordered to halt the use of live animals in medical training programs (November)

The U.S. military has long been one of the biggest abusers of animals, inflicting death and painful injuries on more than 300,000 dogs, cats, goats, pigs, mice, fish, sheep, birds, rabbits, rats, and nonhuman primates every year. One of their most controversial uses of animals has been for medical training programs—from the poisoning of monkeys to study the effects of chemical warfare agents to shooting goats with high-powered weapons in “wounds labs” so military medical personnel could practice treating them. As of January 1, 2015, live animals will be replaced with substitutes such as realistic human dummies and high-tech alternatives.

The Department of Defense ordered an end to the use of live animals thanks to campaigning from PETA and other vocal animal advocates. With the decision to change its policy, the U.S. joins 22 of 28 other NATO member nations that have already abolished the use of animals for training.

12. Oakland, Calif., bans bullhooks used on elephants (December)

What I love about this victory—and the similar one in Los Angeles earlier in the year—is that it not only means bullhooks will be illegal for use on “circus” elephants in the city, but that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which uses these implements of torture and lobbied against both bans, will be crossing Los Angeles and Oakland off its tour list after the bans take effect in 2017. Outlawing bullhooks in these two cities has encouraged lawmakers in other municipalities, including Austin, to consider bans. After the Los Angeles ban, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a non-binding resolution urging circuses and other traveling animal shows to eliminate the use of bullhooks and other “harmful training practices” that cause elephants pain.

And if those 12 stories didn’t impress or inspire you, here are a baker’s dozen more from the year worth noting:

SeaWorld shares tank (all year)

Appeals court refuses to hear a challenge to foie gras ban in California (January)

California state legislator proposes a ban on the captivity of killer whales for entertainment (March)

Chicago passes law banning sales of commercially bred dogs, cats, and rabbits (March)

Vietnam will no longer permit the use of Draize rabbit eye tests for cosmetic products (May)

Salt Lake City bans horse-drawn carriages (November)

New Zealand rules out animal testing for cosmetics (November)

NYC considers bill to end horse-drawn carriage industry (December)

100th Spanish town bans bullfights (December)

Bans on circuses with animals continue to spread across Australia (December)

SeaWorld CEO resigns (December)

Mexican government votes to ban the use of animals in circus performances (December)

The Netherlands bans the use of animals in circuses (December)

Here’s to another year of victories for animals! Maybe we’ll even see a federal ban on animal testing on cosmetics in the U.S.

 

There is no holiday more focused on killing the members of a single species than Thanksgiving. Each November, more than 45 million turkeys end up onMark_meets_the_turkeys dinner plates in the US. Turkeys raised and killed for food are drugged to grow so large inside windowless factory farms that they are crippled by their own weight; indeed, they can no longer even reproduce naturally. Moreover, to prevent the birds from harming one another in the confined spaces of a factory farm, farmers clip their upper beaks in a painful procedure that makes it difficult for the turkeys to eat.

Fortunately, more and more people are giving thanks by making compassion the centerpiece of their table and opting for a cruelty-free holiday. From Tofurky Feasts and Field Roast products to a bounty of delicious plant-based recipes found in an ever-growing selection of vegan cookbooks, there’s no need to kill anyone this Thanksgiving.

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/Farm Sanctuary

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/Farm Sanctuary

One activity that has become especially popular is to visit a sanctuary for farmed animals and feed the turkeys. These so-called “ThanksLiving” events give us the opportunity to interact with these remarkable animals and treat them to pumpkin pie, cornbread, cranberries, and other goodies. I’ll never forget the first time I got to meet turkeys at Animal Place; they are so gentle and curious and enjoy being talked to and petted. Check out this excellent sanctuary guide from Vegan.com to find an event near you. (Tip: If you’re an animal activist, visiting or volunteering at an animal sanctuary and connecting with the animals is incredibly important.)

And if, like me, you love cooking up a feast, visit some of these sites for easy recipes and information on vegan eating:

ChooseVeg.com

ExploreVeg.org

FoodIsPower.org

GetVegucated.com

GoVeg.com

OhSheGlows.com

Post Punk Kitchen

Vegan.com

VeganMexicanFood.com

So enjoy a delicious, vegan Thanksgiving. After all, holidays are about family and friends—not death.

You might not know her name, but you probably know her work: vivid, haunting photographs that capture the exploitation of animals for food, fashion, experimentation, entertainment, WeAnimalsand more. Actually, the odds that you don’t know Jo-Anne McArthur’s name have gotten a lot less likely recently, with last year’s release of the documentary The Ghost in Our Machine (directed by Liz Marshall), in which she figures as the human subject, and the publication this year of the award-winning We Animals (Lantern Books), a collection of Jo-Anne’s photographs and the stories behind them.

A decade ago, Jo-Anne interned at Farm Sanctuary, so it’s no surprise she has a soft spot for the rescued animals there. Indeed, Jo’s lens is often also focused on animals who are no longer oppressed, though she’s documented animal abuse in more than 40 countries, frequently undercover. (And as I’ve mentioned here before, one of her photos is featured on the cover of Bleating Hearts.)

I asked the Toronto resident to offer some insights into her work and advice for other activists.

What inspired you to use your lens to help animals?

I’ve always been inspired by the change that photojournalists can help create. Their lenses are a door pried open into worlds, situations and conflicts that we wouldn’t otherwise see. Advice from my friend Larry Towell, a world-renowned photographer, helped put me on the right track. He told me to focus my work on what I knew best, and what I loved. And what I love is helping animals. I started the We Animals project over a decade ago and it has since become a large archive of animal rights issues and cruelty issues from around the globe. Stepping back, though, and looking at what we can all do to help animals – is to find what you love doing, what you’re good at doing, and employ those skills to make the world a better place for animals. There are so many ways that we can all help animals. Do it in the way that you know how to do it best. You can fundraise, write, campaign, make art, hold and host events, support other organizations, volunteer, speak out, leaflet, teach, cook, etc. If you’re doing what you enjoy doing and what you’re good at, your activism will last longer and be more effective.

Why do you believe photos are such a powerful activist tool?

Jo-Anne’s work includes photographing vigils led by Toronto Pig Save, which bears witness to the suffering of pigs en route to slaughter.

Jo-Anne’s work includes photographing vigils led by Toronto Pig Save, which bears witness to the suffering of pigs en route to slaughter. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

Photos are windows into what’s hidden, and when it comes to animals industries, from fur farming to “food animal” farming to bear bile farming, all of these things happen behind closed doors. Those who run these industries know that people may not want to support the cruelty that goes on there, if they knew, so it’s important to have good documentation of what these facilities are like, so that consumers can learn, and make more compassionate decisions. As we all know, images can instantly draw attention to an issue in a way that text can’t. They can make people feel instantly, be it empathy or revulsion or anger or happiness. Images are a key part of the animal rights movement.

What software, sites, etc., do you recommend activists use to share their work?

There are many sites and routes for publishing images. It’s easier than ever now, of course, because of social media. But to keep people’s attention, keep them coming back to your work, the work must be constant or at least consistent. Creating an audience will get people sharing your work on a regular basis as well. Tight, ruthless editing is key, and getting editing help (by editors or photographers whom you respect, for example) is important in your learning process as well.

It’s also helpful to reach beyond the choir. Your friends and animal-loving folk are going to like your work, but reach farther, so that people who need to know about animal issues can see the work. Send your images to local publications on a regular basis, offer to do a column or supply images regularly, so that you can broaden your reach and your audience.

What advice do you have for activists who are just starting off with photography and want to use it to advocate for animals?

Documenting the work of Sea Shepherd. Photo by Fiona McCuaig

Documenting the work of Sea Shepherd. Photo by Fiona McCuaig

Just start now. As Goethe famously wrote, “Begin it now.” You don’t need to be a traveler, and you don’t need to own expensive photo gear. Start close to home. Unfortunately, animal cruelty is all around us. It’s at the local meat markets. It’s at the pet stores, where exotic animals and dogs from puppy mills are sold for profit. It’s at the local zoo, or circus, or rodeo, or fishing hole. There is much to document. Just go out and document it, and share those images via social media, local media and wherever you can. Get creative about getting your photos out there. It’s important to take really great photos, too. People turn away from cruelty; no one wants to see it, so it’s important that the images are engaging, which will draw people in, make them wonder, make them ask questions. Don’t just take photos, but, tell a story. If you are a traveler, a great way to document animal issues is to volunteer for organizations who are helping animals. Be it at an oil spill, where groups are helping save lives, or at sanctuaries that are constantly bringing animals into their care. You can document their work, and so not only do they benefit from your donated photography, but it helps promote their work, and expose the issues at hand. I’ve done this for many groups, from Farm Sanctuary to Sea Shepherd, for groups helping birds at the Gulf oil spill to groups helping end the bushmeat trade across Africa. Whatever you want to or can photograph, begin it now. The animals need you.

You see a lot of terribly distressing things in your work for animals. What do you do to keep from burning out?

Mama cow with newborn calf at dairy farm. Soon they will be separated so humans can steal mama's milk. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

Mama cow with newborn calf at dairy farm. Soon they will be separated so humans can steal mama’s milk. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

This is what so many activists struggle with. My best advice is to nurture your joy. I know that it can be hard to do that when there are billions of animals suffering at every moment. How can we be happy when this is going on? The animal rights movement has seen too many people jump in and then burn out only a few years later, because the issues are so distressing, and people aren’t taking care of themselves. Yes, there is a global emergency for animals. All the more reason to pace yourself so that you can help animals for as long as you possibly can. Whatever you need to do to look after yourself, don’t neglect doing that. Whether you need community or silence, being active of being meditative, or all of the above, look after yourself so that you have the energy to continue the fight.

It’s hard to do this. I know this! I’ve almost burned out a few times, and have needed therapy, and tools, to help myself not focus exclusively on the suffering of animals, and stay focused on creating change. A really great book that has helped me deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the onset of depression in the face of so much cruelty has been Aftershock by pattrice jones. It’s a great and useful read for activists of all kinds, who struggle with finding balance, self-care, and living in a world where most people don’t understand your point of view. Please go out and get yourself that book!

You can follow Jo-Anne on Twitter @WeAnimals. Visit her website at WeAnimals.org.

Vegetarian and Vegan Youth—or VegYouth for short—is high school group created last summer by Chloe Falkenheim. The group is an international network of more than 50 student club leaders—and growing—that provides inspiration and support needed to ensure that their activism is successful. “We are the place for like-minded student activists to have regular discussions,” says Chloe, “and we provide mentoring opportunities, activism guides, a student activist of the month with a $250 prize, and a connection to the broader movement.” I asked Chloe to explain why VegYouth is unique, what motivates her activism, and what inspired her.

You went vegan at 13. What inspired you to make this change at such a young age–and what kind of support did you get?

1937430_749951995057630_5485090348623836842_nMy story dates back to when I was three years old. I had just finished watching the movie Chicken Run and came to the shocking revelation that chicken indeed does come from chickens. And then when I was six years old, I read Charlotte’s Web and decided to never eat pork again, and became vegetarian when I was nine.

I became vegan at age 13 after learning about a vegan celebrity, but became passionate after looking into the eyes of animals in my first factory farm video and learning about the interconnection between animal rights, environmental, health, and social justice causes. I realized that literally the best thing we can do to prevent suffering overall is to create a much more vegan society.

I was incredibly fortunate that my parents supported, though sometimes reluctantly, my choices, as so many youth are held back from living compassionately due to lack of parental support. I created VegYouth to help youth overcome any lack of support and help them change their diets.

Like many teens, though I fit in mostly, I was teased by my friends for being vegan. I also never met another vegan for the first two years. This led me to recognize and really appreciate the importance of community in staying vegan, and I was determined to create a community for veg teens.

What forms of activism do you enjoy most?

School clubs are my favorite form of activism.

Imagine if every non-vegan was exposed to a positive vegan message every single day, was given an opportunity to try vegan food every single month, had access to delicious vegan options whenever they dined out, and was surrounded by a friendly community which provided them all the support they need to change their lifestyle.

This is a reality I achieved with my high school club, persuading my school cafeteria to add vegan options, running awareness raising campaigns that reached every student, adding plant-based nutrition to our schools health curriculum, starting a vegan mentoring program, and more. This is a reality we could achieve with veg school clubs on every high school and college.

Student groups are so effective because schools are where students spend their day, and because peer-to-peer activism between students is most effective. Students have a voice in their schools, while outside activists don’t.

Was it difficult to start VegYouth Alliance?

Starting a high school club was one of the most difficult things I did, and I found no support or resources to help me out. I made mistakes and did not have any guidance to implement my projects, and often felt discouraged by lack of positive feedback and the slow speed it took to make changes at my school. But I learned a lot from my mistakes, wanted to pass on my trial-and-error learning, and hungered to connect with other groups to share ideas, tips, success, questions, and community with other club leaders.

I also realized that what I did with my club would not make a dent unless it was replicated everywhere. If only a few students learned about why to go veg, that wouldn’t make a huge difference. But if students at schools everywhere in the world took action, that would make a huge shift. I wanted to spark that societal shift! Therefore, I created the VegYouth Alliance.

What can we expect from VegYouth as you begin another year of outreach?

chloeExpect to see more youth engaged in the movement, changing their diets, talking to their family and peers about these issues, and beginning activism! We’ll be recruiting more school clubs to join the VegYouth Alliance from states across the U.S. and in countries around the world. And we’ll be expanding our online community to provide support to young vegetarians and vegans. We’ll also be improving our programs based on feedback from youth, adding more articles and guides to our website, speaking at vegfests to expand our outreach, and becoming an official non-profit.

How can people get involved and support VegYouth?

Donate in honor of our one-year anniversary. We also have a bunch of ideas for simple ways you could raise funds for VegYouth, like a bake sale, rummage sale, or with race pledges.

Join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and if you’re a veg youth, join our Facebook group.

Intern with us!

What do you do to de-stress from a day of activism?

I run regularly, and I’m doing cross country next year!

I love people and hanging out with friends, and I love listening to music and watching movies. I’m obsessed with the musical Wicked. I also play the flute.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (well, of the blogs I infrequently post here, anyway), you know that I’ve written a couple times about the power of online activism – notably here and here. While there are other forms of advocacy I prefer, I don’t think there’s any question that online petitions have become an influential force in the movement. We need look no further than SeaWorld for evidence.

Yesterday’s news that Southwest Airlines is ending its quarter-century relationship with SeaWorld came as a surprise to no one who has noted SA_SeaWorldthe growing popularity – and power – of petitions hosted on social-change platforms like Care2 and Change.org. Southwest’s marketing partnership irked many of its customers, leading some to boycott the airline altogether. One such customer was Robin Merritt, who launched a petition on Change.org calling on Southwest executives and its board of directors to dump SeaWorld. “Southwest Airlines has a choice,” read the petition. “Will it support the animal cruelty at SeaWorld or make a compassionate choice to end this partnership of cruelty?” More than 32,000 people signed the petition with a simple click, and the air carrier finally made the compassionate choice.

“I started my petition on Change.org because Blackfish got so many people talking about how these orcas are confined to tiny tanks, and then 32,000 people joined me,” said Robin. “I’m so ecstatic. This just goes to show that companies do really value customers’ opinions, and I thank Southwest for listening to us and making this decision.”

This was just the latest in a string of anti-SeaWorld victories animal advocates have been celebrating in recent months, and let’s be honest, we owe a lot of thanks to Blackfish – that heart-wrenching 2013 documentary that is turning the tide against animal captivity. The film has not only raised public awareness about the plight of confined and exploited marine mammals, but it’s inspired scores of everyday animal lovers to launch online petitions against SeaWorld and other businesses that keep animals. And we’re experiencing a sea change.

Last year, says Pulin Modi, senior campaigner at Change.org, people launched successful petitions asking Willie Nelson, Barenaked Ladies, Heart, and other musical acts to cancel scheduled SeaWorld performances. “I think they were successful because the petitions were generally started by fans who were very sincere in their disappointment, and the artists realized it probably wasn’t worth risking their reputation for one show, and the right timing with people buzzing about Blackish on social media.”

When it comes to online petitions, strategy is more important than the number of signatures. “You can have one million people asking Congress to shut down all the factory farms, but that’s not winnable at the moment and not terribly interesting,” says Pulin. “But if you can get people to get behind a specific campaign to pressure an influential company to make a change, that’s more likely to win, appeal to media, and show the power of consumers.” One example he offers is Daelyn Fortney, whose  Change.org petition urging Starbucks to stop using a food coloring made from crushed bugs got fewer than 7,000 signatures. “But the media coverage was pretty widespread and led to a relatively quick decision from Starbucks to switch to a non-animal-based coloring.”

So what makes one petition more successful than another? “There are free tips and guides for everyone right on Change.org,” says Pulin. “The main advice I have is to tell an authentic, compelling story where your ask is realistic, the timeline is clear, and you are clear why someone signing your petition can actually make a difference. For animal campaigns, a compelling photo is especially important. Then share it on your social networks, notify reporters, and constantly – but politely – try to engage with the decision-maker to make sure they see it as a way you’re bringing concerns to them rather than approaching it antagonistically.”

Oh, and after your victory, don’t forget to do what Robin Merritt will do this weekend: celebrate!

 

Kim Stallwood is not only a longtime animal activist and a terrific chef, he is, in my opinion, one of the wisest voices in the movement. His campaigning experience includes working with the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection, Compassion in World Farming, PETA, and the RSPCA. He also co-founded the Animals and Society Institute in 2005 and is their European director. In addition, Kim was the executive editor of The Animals’ Agenda (1993–2002), and he is the editor of Speaking Out for Animals and A Primer on Animal Rights.

GROWLNow, finally, comes Kim’s first book. Growl: Life Lessons, Hard Truths, and Bold Strategies from an Animal Advocate was just published by Lantern Books. Kim took some time out to answer some of my burning questions.

Growl is such a terrific read, and you have been an activist for many years, I have to wonder, why did it take so long to write your first book?

The simple truth is that I couldn’t have written it until now. I had to accrue from a lifetime of working for animals a deeper understanding of what caring profoundly about them truly meant. I needed to learn that, although we humans are capable of unimaginable malice towards other living beings, we can also be astonishingly kind. It was necessary to gain a comprehension of animal rights—and through that wisdom discover not only the transformative potential of kindness towards animals but how we need to apply that kindness to ourselves—to realise that although animal rights is, of course, about our relationship with nonhuman creatures, it’s also about locating meaning in our lives and finding out who we truly are.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying the premise of Growl hinges on what you call four key values, which must animate our commitment to animal rights. Can you elaborate on this a bit?

I came to the conclusion over a period of time that at the centre of any effort towards implementing social justice—whether for human or nonhuman animals-there are four key values:

Compassion: our motivation for helping animals

Truth: our ethical relations with animals

Nonviolence: our value in the relations we have with animals

Justice: our commitment to all animals

Not only are these principles more powerful in combination than singularly, but they’re ones that most of us have already accepted for other members of our species (although perhaps only recently, and still only partially). These values, therefore, possess a certain strategic value, since they form a quartet that people who may not share our dedication to reducing animal suffering can understand. Growl explores these values in detail.

One of the successes you discuss is the anti-fur campaigning in the 1980s and how your protests and the protests of several others brought a once substantial industry to a halt in the UK. What lessons can activists in other countries take from your campaigns and apply to their own anti-fur activism?

The UK anti-fur campaign was over a prolonged period of time and involved many individuals and organisations and different tactics. Generally, the campaign was successful because it positioned fur as an indefensible and inexcusable product. The secret to its success was the combined strategy of public education and public policy. This approach is the one that I advocate for all animal rights campaigns. Presently, we tend to focus more on public education (lifestyle choice) than public policy. The reality is that if we want laws for animals we have to get involved with the political process.

You once worked in a chicken slaughterhouse. How does that experience inform your activism today?

Kim Stallwood and Shelly

Kim Stallwood and Shelly

When I was a full-time student, I worked one summer in a nearby chicken slaughterhouse, and since it paid well, would only last 10 weeks, and I wanted to buy my first used car, it looked like an attractive option. I cooked and ate chickens without thinking about them, so why not work where they were slaughtered?

I spent 10 weeks that summer on the post-slaughter section of the production line, and I could never bring myself to watch the birds as they were killed. I also couldn’t buy the oven-ready chickens that were offered for sale at a reduced rate as an employee benefit every Friday afternoon. Nonetheless, I continued to eat chicken bought elsewhere—naively believing that, because my plant wasn’t where they were killed, I wasn’t directly responsible for their death.

I was only one of several students who spent the summer of 1973 working inside a chicken slaughterhouse. Because I’ve lost touch with all my workmates I’ve no idea if our shared experience impacted them in the same way that it did me. I recall them as working-class folks and wives of soldiers living nearby in the military barracks. I doubt very much they had the same freedom as I did to walk away from something they’d rather not be doing. For many, working in a slaughterhouse may have been the only employment available in that region and/or for those with few skills or little education—particularly as Britain was undergoing economic retrenchment at the time.

This situation is as true today as it was 40 years ago. Slaughterhouses sometimes provide the only work options in small towns or rural areas around the United States and other parts of the world—particularly for the poor and financially insecure, women and racial minorities among them. Annual job turnover can sometimes be higher than a hundred percent. Sectors of the U.S. animal industrial complex have broken laws by employing undocumented migrant workers who, because they fear deportation, have little recourse to protesting poorly compensated labour and a dangerous working environment.

Any genuine exercise of compassion here would require not only the acknowledgement of the mistreatment of the animals, but also a recognition that the workers inside—whatever their individual feelings regarding animals might be—are also being exploited by a system that dehumanises as well as kills sentient beings.

So, yes, the slaughterhouse experience transformed my sense of social justice and commitment to social justice practice to recognise not only the chickens but also the working-class folks who worked there.

How do you think animal activism has changed since the 1980s?

In some respects, it hasn’t changed, and that’s the problem. Animal rights is still very much framed as an optional lifestyle choice. How we become animal advocates frames how we seek to influence others. If we can change through a moral shock, then so can you. Sadly, not everyone is going to respond favourably to the moral shock of animal cruelty and exploitation. That’s why we need public policy and legislation with tough enforcement. Presently, we focus more on cruelty-free lifestyle choice than anything else. Now, this campaigning work has to continue and, indeed, by and large, it has done so for the four decades that I’ve been involved. But we need to broaden our understanding of where power lies in society as it’s not just with the individual but with the institutions that constitute society. This is why public policy development is so important. The biggest difference in tactics between now and the 1980s is the Internet and all that it has made possible. How I wished we’d had social media much earlier!

What activism advice would 2014 Kim give to 1984 Kim?

In Growl I imagine an exchange between Kim the Chef and Kim the Vegelical-the name I call ‘evangelising vegans,’ of which I am one, although a bit more tempered as I get older. So, my advice would be to the 1984 Kim is to read Growl, as this is the book I wished I could’ve read when I became involved with animal rights. Within Growl’s pages aren’t solutions to every problem; however, it does, I hope, contain wisdom and insight that only experience can bring. Of course, you can lead a young animal activist to Growl but you can’t make them read it. Sometimes, human nature is such that all we can do is learn through our experiences when they cannot be taught for whatever reason.

 

You can learn more about Kim and his work at http://www.kimstallwood.com. Follow him on Twitter: @grumpyvegan

 

Back in April, I attended a small animal rights conference at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. Organized by activist Andrea Gung, the Conference on Animal Welfare in Mainland China and Taiwan featured topics ranging from the farming of bears for bile to China’s ever-growing fur industry. But what I was most eager to learn about were new efforts to halt the annual dog meat festival in YuLin, Guang Xi, a city in southern China. Andrea, a vegan and founder of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, addressed this issue, as her group began campaigning to end the festival last October.

dog meat festivalIt’s a mischaracterization to say everyone in China eats dogs, but there’s no denying the popularity of the YuLin Dog Meat Festival, where tens of thousands of canines arrive on filthy, overcrowded trucks, significantly increasing the risk that they carry rabies and other contagious diseases. YuLin officials maintain that the dogs are raised by local farmers, which is a ridiculous claim: many of these dogs are still wearing collars as they are removed from the tiny cages, and others are clothed in the outfits their guardians dressed them in the day they were stolen. Every dog is then slaughtered for human consumption, often right on the street in front of children. This year’s festival is slated for June 21.

I asked Andrea to explain a bit about the festival and her group’s efforts to shut it down.

When and why did the festival start?

In YuLin, local people have had this tradition for years, but it was a very small scale. Since 2009, some local merchants decided to make it a bigger event to attract out-of-town tourists to make more money.

Where do the dogs used for the festival come from?

They are from all over China, but most of the dogs are from adjacent provinces (less transportation cost). About 10,000 to 50,000 dogs are killed during the festival. There are no official records to verify how many are killed.

Are you seeing an increase in animal activism in China?

Yes, especially in the last 5 or 6 years. Here are two of the reasons:
1) Social networking. Because of the spread of social networking and video/photo sharing among young people, awareness of animal cruelty issues has increased dramatically, and the animal rights movement is growing. Photos from past festivals have sparked outrage in mainland China.

2) Many young adults who grew up in China under the one-child policy had pets as their companions, and today they feel more compassion toward animals and have less toleration for animal cruelty than the previous generations.

Besides the festival, what does your work for animals include?

At this time, all our work and resources are for stopping this festival. After the festival, we are going to work on the dog and cat meat trade in GuzngZhou, which has more dog meat consumption. It’s just more spread out and has gone underground, not like YuLin, where it’s out in the public and open. We are also going to start our neutering and micro-chip campaigns. We believe we have to start from the top to stop the dog-stealing business. We will also help the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan — one of the guest speakers at the conference — to reach out to Taiwanese-American communities about the animal welfare for the farm animals and lab animals issues in Taiwan.

Andrea Gung, founder and executive director of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project

Andrea Gung, founder and executive director of Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project

What can compassionate people do to help end the festival?

Spread the word and tell people about this cruel festival. Share our campaign on Facebook and tweet about it.

Use any connections in China or the U.S. that can help with our campaign, such as the FDA, which can put pressure on the FDA in China to stop this festival on the grounds of health concerns. Dogs are killed in a filthy back alley, and the meat is not inspected; some of the dogs are poisoned. Write to or call the U.S. ambassador and diplomatic offices in China. Call Chinese embassies in the U.S. Donate to our campaign so we can hire more local people to do the ground work, which includes calling the YuLin local officers daily to ask for the inspection records of the meat, to make sure the restaurants have the legal license to sell dog meat, to show proof of the legal ownership of the dogs in the cages. Also, to fund more ads — billboards or radio — to educate local YuLin people that the dogs they eat are stolen and poisoned.

Please visit the Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project site for more information. You can also “like” their Facebook page

Oh, and, no, I don’t believe dogs are more deserving of our protection than other animals killed for food. I just wanted to highlight Andrea’s hard work.

 

BlackfishIf one image could symbolize the last 12 months of animal activism around the world, I argue it would be a picture of an orca in captivity. That’s thanks to the success of the documentary Blackfish, which exposes the abusive treatment of animals at SeaWorld — treatment that ultimately led to an orca named Tilikum killing one of his trainers. (Orcas have never been known to harm humans in the wild; this behavior only occurs due to the stress of captivity.) The film has galvanized the movement to free orcas from marine mammal parks and inspired countless compassionate people to speak out against the captivity industry.

SeaWorld remained silent about Blackfish for months after its January 2013 screening at the Sundance Film Festival — no doubt hoping it would just go away — but as the documentary went into general release in the spring and CNN began broadcasting it on its network in the fall, the public outcry against SeaWorld led to musical acts cancelling appearances at the Orlando location, and the company launched an inept marketing campaign to try to discredit Blackfish and the former SeaWorld trainers who appear in it. The film not only helped tank attendance at SeaWorld parks, it also prompted California Assemblymember Richard Bloom to propose legislation that would ban orca shows in that state; AB 2140 is officially known as the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, but most people simply call it “The Blackfish Bill.” (Voting on the bill has been tabled until next year.)

Of course, activists have long campaigned against the captivity industry, but there’s no question Blackfish has invigorated the liberation movement. One of the results of this nascent energy has been animal lovers turning out for the Empty the Tanks campaign, which brings the struggle directly to the animal exploiters by rallying advocates worldwide to demonstrate in front of theme parks, aquariums, and other businesses that imprison whales and dolphins.

Vallejo, Calif., 2013.

Vallejo, Calif., 2013.

Empty the Tanks is the brainchild of Rachel Greenhalgh, who was a Cove Guardian in Taiji in January 2013. “On one of my last days there I was thinking about how I could find a way to be productive and proactive in this fight against the captivity industry after I returned home,” she says. “That’s when and where this whole idea began. The captive animals floating listlessly in their tiny sea pens in Taiji are a sight that cuts you to your core. I wanted to come home and continue fighting for them.”

EmptyTheTanksTokyo2013

Tokyo, 2013.

The first-annual Empty the Tanks Worldwide took place seven months later. “There were 24 locations participating in 12 countries around the world,” says Rachel. “This year on May 24, the second-annual Empty the Tanks Worldwide will have over 40 locations in 20 countries participating. The numbers have doubled since last year, which is so amazing.”

Not surprisingly, this kind of success is the result not only of grassroots activists, but using Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. “Social media is an amazing tool,” says Rachel. “Facebook has created a way for activists from around the world to connect to each other and plan events such as Empty the Tanks. I honestly don’t know how this worldwide event could have happened without social media.”

Modern technology has given activists a tremendous advantage, but as Rachel points out, effectively speaking out for animals often comes down to good old-fashioned hard work. “If you want to make a difference in this world, you need patience and dedication. Anyone can go out there and be a part of making the world a better, kinder, more compassionate place. Come up with a plan and just go for it.”

In the meantime, you can participate in an Empty the Tanks demo near you on May 24. Just check out their Facebook page, of course.

 Empty_the_tanks_logo

 

beagle2April 24 is World Day for Animals in Laboratories, an international day to commemorate the millions of mice, chimpanzees, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats, fish, birds, and other animals tortured in needless experiments. It’s also a day to take action, with rallies and marches held around the world, including this one in Nottingham, England.

But even if you are not able to participate in an organized event, there’s still plenty you can do!

You can start by asking Air France and ABX Air to stop shipping monkeys for animal research. Just last month, China Southern Airlines ceased its shipments of live primates to laboratories, thanks in large part to public outcry, so these campaigns do work!

You can also voice your objection to your tax dollars being used to fund torture. If you live in the United States, tell Congress you don’t want your taxes used to underwrite animal experiments. Every dollar the US government spends must be approved by Congress, and since virtually all federally funded research is paid for with tax revenue, it’s important to let your elected officials know how you feel. You can find the members of Congress representing you, as well as phone numbers and links to contact them online, at http://www.contactingthecongress.org.

In addition, you can write to research-funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health:

Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, Director
National Institutes of Health
Shannon Bldg., Room 126
1 Center Dr.
Bethesda, MD 20892
301-496-2433
francis.collins@nih.gov
You can Tweet the director @NIHDirector

UK

In the United Kingdom, you can write to the Home Secretary and ask for the most progressive and compassionate laws governing animal research. You’ll find contact details at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk. You can also use the website of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection to lobby your MP. Visit http://www.buav.org/lobby-your-mp

Canada

In Canada, let your Member of Parliament (MP) and Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) know how you feel. Find your MP online at: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilations/HouseOfCommons/MemberByPostalCode.aspx?Menu=HOC. You can find your MLA at www.leg.bc.ca/mla/3-1-1.htm

Australia

In Australia, you can find your federal electorate here: http://apps.aec.gov.au/esearch/

New Zealand

MPs in New Zealand can be found here: http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/AboutParl/GetInvolved/Contact/2/9/d/00PlibHvYrSayContact1-Contact-an-MP.htm

South Africa

South African Members of Parliament can be located online at http://www.parliament.gov.za/live/content.php?Item_ID=36

When writing letters, be sure to make the following two points:

  • Animal experimentation is an inherently violent and unethical practice, and you do not want your tax dollars used to support it.
  • Testing on nonhuman animals is also bad science; therefore, funding for research into health and ecological effects should be redirected into using clinical, epidemiological, in vitro, and computer-modeling studies instead of laboratory experiments on animals. (See this handbook from Animal Aid for more information on this point.)

Product Testing

In the US, animals also suffer for the “safety” testing of household products, such as cosmetics, cleansers, and even foods for companion animals.

  • Only buy products from companies that don’t test on animals! A comprehensive list is available at http://www.leapingbunny.org.
  • Encourage your friends and family members to support humane companies as well.
  • Let companies currently testing cosmetics on animals know that you will not buy their products until they stop. Most companies have toll-free numbers or websites you can use to contact them.
  • Avoid pet foods that test on animals, including Iams, Eukanuba, and Natura Pet Products (owned by Procter & Gamble); Hill’s Science Diet (owned by Colgate-Palmolive); Nestlé Purina/Friskies (Alpo, Bonio, Felix, Go Cat, Gourmet, Omega Complete, Proplan, Spillers, Vital Balance, and Winalot); and these brands from Pedigree/Masterfoods (owned by Mars Inc): Bounce, Cesar, Chappie, Frolic, James Wellbeloved, Katkins, Kitekat, Pal, Pedigree Chum, Royal Canin, Sheba, Techni-cal, and Whiskas. For information on pet food companies that do not test on animals, please visit: www.iamscruelty.com/nottested.asp

Other campaigns and groups worth checking out include AAVSAnimals Australia, The Bunny Alliance, BUAV, The European Coalition to End Animal Experiments, Humane Research AustraliaThe Italian Anti-Vivisection Society, NAVS, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, The New Zealand Anti-Vivisection Society, PETA, SAFE New Zealand, and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.

Finally, please consider supporting organizations that rescue animals from labs, such as Beagle Freedom Project and New Life Animal Sanctuary, which I profiled in August 2013.

P.S. I devote Chapter 3 of my new book Bleating Hearts to vivisection—it’s a chapter that took me a year to research and write. You can download the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or iTunes, or buy a hardcopy from your local bookstore.

With Easter just days away, a lot of parents are thinking of ways to give their children a little holiday joy. Chocolate is a nice treat (at least when it’s not tainted by animal cruelty and child slavery), as are vegan jelly beans. But many well-meaning people think this is the perfect time of year to bring home a rabbit for their kids. Not only is this usually a terrible idea—countless rabbits end up abandoned after children become bored or Mom and Dad discover the animals require as much attention as a dog or cat—but many parents buy a bunny from a pet store rather than adopting from a shelter or rescue group. (Ouch.) It seems parents believe rabbits, children, and Easter are a perfect combination.

Rabbit advocate Tracy Martin and friends.

Rabbit advocate Tracy Martin and friends.

This is the kind of myth Tracy Martin has worked to disabuse people of since 2005, when she founded an education campaign called Rabbitron, named for a bunny she brought home many years ago. “Sadly, when I had her I did everything wrong,” says Tracy. “Wrong food, housing, and care. I just didn’t know any better. Later, when I learned more about rabbits and I realized my mistakes, I was inspired to try to educate others on what rabbits need to be healthy and happy. I also wanted to make others aware of the plight of rabbits at Easter, when so many are purchased only to be discarded afterward. My rescued rabbits have taught me so much—they even inspired me to become vegan.”

A skilled graphic designer, Tracy uses her talents to create vivid ads that are displayed on buses, in newspapers, andRabbitron_ad on billboards around her Spokane, Washington, community. She’s even done some public-service announcements for television. “I try to reach more people through my Rabbitron Facebook page, as well as taking every opportunity to do radio and TV interviews as they come up to try to reach as many people as possible. Besides the campaign, I also answer questions about rabbits online and conduct ‘bunny tours’ in my home to show people what it’s like to live with rabbits.” Tracy and her husband not only care for 20 rabbits, they also share their home with pigeons, hens, dogs, and cats.

Rabbitron_billboardTracy used to fund the Rabbitron campaign on her own, saving money all year. “In recent years I have been able to get some help with donations from friends and people who want to help,” she says. “Also, after partnering with River’s Wish Animal Sanctuary, we pool our resources to benefit the campaign as well as spread awareness for the sanctuary.” River’s Wish primarily rescues rabbits, though they are also home to horses, chickens, goats, and pigs. The sanctuary adheres to the House Rabbit Society standards and philosophy for rabbit adoptions, which means potential rabbit adopters must first understand the responsibilities involved in living with a house rabbit.

So what’s the biggest misconception people have about living with rabbits? I ask. “I think the biggest misconception is that people have no idea how fun and silly and opinionated rabbits are,” says Tracy. “I think most people’s interactions with rabbits are limited to looking at them in a cage. They are not seeing what rabbits are all about, the personalities they have, and that they are just as personable and fun as the dogs and cats they are familiar with.”

For more on why rabbits and Easter don’t mix, visit Rabbitron. You can also follow Tracy on Twitter @RabbitronTracy and like her Facebook page.

 


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