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Mezzo-soprano star Katherine Jenkins was greeted by a chorus of boos when she arrived to open the winter harrodssale at London’s Harrods department store on Saturday. Protesters shouted “shame on Katherine” as she pulled up in a horse-drawn carriage. Harrods has long been the target of activists because the store sells real fur.

 

“We are gathered here because of our disgust at Ms. Jenkins, who professes to be against animal cruelty and the fur trade,” said John Wilson of the Coalition to Abolish Fur Trade, which organized the protest. “We understand that Harrods is now the only major store in the UK to sell imported fur,” even though the production of fur is illegal in the UK.

 

Jenkins was ushered into the store by Harrods chairman Mohamed al Fayed.

 

Earlier this year, British singer Leona Lewis turned down a lucrative offer from al Fayed to preside at the store’s summer sale opening. Various reports have suggested Lewis had been offered £1 million to attend the event. But Lewis, a vegetarian, turned him down. “I’m totally against animal cruelty,” she said. “I don’t have clothes, shoes or bags made from animal products.”

 

Harrods protests take place regularly at the store in London.

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Activists Selby, Wadham, Medd-Hall and Nicholson

Activists Selby, Wadham, Medd-Hall and Nicholson

Four members of the Cambridge-based (UK) group Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) were convicted Tuesday of blackmail for running a campaign against companies and individuals with links to Huntingdon Life Sciences.

 

Gerrah Selby, 20, Daniel Wadham, 21, Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, and Heather Nicholson, 41, were convicted over the six-year campaign, which prosecutors say was designed to shut down the animal research laboratory based in Cambridge.

 

Four other activists had also been involved: Gregg Avery, 45, his wife, Natasha Avery, and Daniel Amos, 22, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge. Trevor Holmes, 51, was acquitted.

 

The activists were accused of targeting employees of Huntingdon Life Sciences, Europe’s largest contract medical testing center, with threats of violence, vandalism of homes and businesses, letter bombs and firebombs between 2001 and 2007. A jury at the Winchester Crown Court took more than 33 hours to convict the four, who had pleaded not guilty.

 

“The sole aim of SHAC was to close down the business of Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridgeshire because they use animals in the testing of pharmaceutical products,” said Alastair Nisbet, a senior prosecutor.  

 

Steven Bird, a lawyer for the defendants, said they were very disappointed at the outcome. “We will consider any grounds for appeal in the next couple of weeks and advise our clients accordingly,” he said.

 

The four will be sentenced on January 19. They face up to 14 years in prison.

 

Update: Sentences handed down.

With the rapid spread of social-network sites and an ever-growing interest in progressive causes in a capitalist society, it’s no surprise they would all converge in cyberspace. The result is SocialVibe, a new activist model that allows you to raise funds for non-profits.

 

Through SocialVibe, members support brands and charities via social networks like Facebook and MySpace, blogs and personal Web sites. In other words, the folks behind SocialVibe have figured out a new way to advertise, taking advantage of all those Internet users and channeling money to worthy causes. And it seems to be working: SocialVibe has been growing about 300% per month since its launch in February 2008, and it is indeed raising money.

 

“I SocialVibe for PETA, and PETA has about 19,000 supporters, who are raising $5,000 by end of this year,” says activist Niranjan Amarnath of Chennai, India. Niranjan tells me they’ve already more than tripled their goal, raising more than $16,000. “The Whaleman Foundation has 39,392 supporters, who have raised a total of $26,046, and the spcaLA has 9,779 supporters, who have raised $5,214,” he says.

 

So how does it all work? Essentially, it’s viral marketing. Similar to Facebook and Myspace, SocialVibe is a social media platform where users network with other people. The difference is that on SocialVibe, members add a widget to their profile page that endorses a brand and supports a non-profit. It is through brand endorsement that members earn points that accrue toward direct charity donations, while at the same time SocialVibe members can earn perks, including travel and merchandise. The more active you are on a social network the better.

 

“SocialVibe recognizes the power and influence of the individual within social media,” says Joe Marchese, founder and president of SocialVibe. “Our platform empowers individuals to wield this power and influence for a good cause while presenting brands with a unique platform to connect with a rapidly growing number of users. Pilot partners of SocialVibe include Coca-Cola, NBA, Sprint and Nestle.”

 

SocialVibe got a big boost this year when actress and anti-whaling activist Hayden Panettiere promoted her SocialVibe cause — the Whaleman Foundation — on YouTube.

 

socialvibe

PETA is reporting today that designer Donna Karan has announced that her fall 2009 lines will be fur-free and that she has “no plans” to use fur in the future. This announcement came days after PETA launched their (now offline) DonnaKaranBunnyButcher.com Web site and after fashion guru Tim Gunn sent Karan and designer Giorgio Armani a video that he narrated for PETA showing animals skinned alive for their fur and urged them to shun fur in their designs. 

 

“Any designer in the fashion industry who does not want to watch the PETA video and see exactly what happens to animals and how they’re treated and how the product that they use comes to the marketplace, I believe, is egregiously irresponsible,” said Gunn in an interview about the video.

 

PETA and other activists have been working for nearly a year on dk1the Donna Karan campaign ― protesting outside her boutiques, crashing her runway show and exposing her cruel use of fur online. PETA spokesperson Michael McGraw said that Armani and Karan were singled out because “they have both made pledges to be fur-free, but have gone back on their word when it comes to rabbits, as if rabbits aren’t fur-bearing animals.”

 

In response to the claims, an Armani rep said, “Despite the fact that we have previously sold products made from animal fur, the Armani Group has now decided to renounce making such items with the exception of those in rabbit fur, the by-product of an animal that is a staple source of food… We must stress that PETA is exploiting our name to stir up public opinion without acknowledging that we actually include very few fur items in our collections, while certain competitors of ours base much of their business on furs.”

 

Please contact Armani to tell him that while the meat of gentle rabbits killed for their fur in China is sold to be eaten, the suffering they endure is exactly the same.

I admit it. When I was a kid, I loved watching Westerns. But as much as I enjoyed these films and TV shows, the good guy almost always became the hero at the expense of animals: horses, cows, chickens, rabbits, fish and countless other critters were hunted, branded, ridden into the ground or suffered some other type of taming-of-the-West cruelty, all in the name of entertainment. Now I rarely watch Westerns, and if I do, I sit there with my finger on the fast-forward button, poised like a gunslinger waiting for my adversary to make the first move.

 

Well, if you too watch films with growing anxiety, hoping not to see a character gleefully engaging in some form of animal abuse; or you’d like to enjoy a movie in which the protagonist is vegan — hey, maybe even an animal rights activist! — and is portrayed realistically; or you simply wish that Hollywood would depict vegans and animal activists in a more sympathetic light, I’ve got good news for you.

 

A new motion picture production company called Green Light Flix was launched this week. The company is looking for vegetarians and vegans to join their “Producers Club,” which will help develop and produce media, such as feature films, videos, podcasts, webisodes and more, all with an animal rights or environmental angle.

“Vegetarians, animal rights activists and environmentalists have a very rare and often negative representation in cinema and television,” says Dawn Black, co-founder of Green Light Flix. “Our mission is to change that. We want to show activists in a positive light while entertaining and educating audiences.”

 

The projects are financed through membership dues (starting at $25 a year), which turn fans into producers and investors. Once the productions are done, limited-edition DVDs are distributed to those same members whose annual dues financed them.

 

“There are millions of vegetarians and vegans around the world, and many of us are insulted by being portrayed in films and TV shows as pale, 85-pound hippies that look sickly and need a murdered farm animal’s carcass and dairy products to feel better,” says Scott Cardinal, Green Light Flix co-founder and director of development. “Environmentalists and animal rights activists are usually portrayed as kooks, too.”

 

Activist Jodi Chemes of Florida Voices for Animals observes that although many animal rights groups produce footage of slaughterhouses and other animal cruelty, many people refuse to watch the disturbing videos. “While this information needs to be made public so people can learn the truth,” she says, “we also need positive videos showing what the world could be like without dependence on animal products. Green Light Flix will do that, and we are excited to support them.”

Green Light Flix members will help make major business decisions, including logo design, web design, film development, marketing and distribution. Members will also receive VIP perks, such as a free member T-shirt, DVDs and 25% off all products. The company says it will donate 10% of net profits to animal rescue, rights and welfare organizations selected by its members.

And you can bet that if Green Light Flix ever produces a Western, common cowboy practices like whipping horses, branding cattle and roping steers will either be absent or addressed for what they are: cruelty to animals. I won’t fast forward through that.

 

PETA’s long-running campaign against Donna Karan was just kicked up a notch. For years the pressure group has been working to get the designer, who runs the fashion labels Donna Karan and DKNY, to honor her one-time promise to stop using animal fur in her collections. To help put an end to Donna Karan’s fur cruelty, PETA has launched a new parody Web site, DonnaKaranBunnyButcher.com. (Warning: graphic images.)

 

The new site allows activists to take action, watch and share videos, grab wallpaper for your computer and stay up to date on PETA’s campaign to stop the Bunny Butcher.

 

PETA launched this campaign to help animals on fur farms, who spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest killing methods available to end the lives of animals, including neck-breaking, suffocation, poisoning and anal or vaginal electrocution. Many animals on fur farms are electrocuted by having rods inserted into their rectums and 240 volts of electricity sent through their bodies, frying the animals from the inside out in order to keep from damaging the pelts. The animals convulse, shake and often cry out before suffering painful heart attacks.

 

There are many ways that you can share this information, which will help countless fur-bearing animals. A couple of simple ways are by emailing PETA’s parody Web site to friends or by adding one of PETA’s new “Donna Karan: Bunny Butcher” videos to your own Web page or online profile.

 

Please be a voice for these defenseless animals! Tell Donna Karan you will boycott her collections until she no longer uses the skins of dead animals. Please write to or call Donna Karan now.

 

Please send polite comments to:

Ms. Donna Karan
Donna Karan International, Inc.
550 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10018
212-789-1839
212-789-1856 (fax)
sparham@dkintl.com

 

Other ways to help stop the Bunny Butcher:

 

  • Join PETA’s A-Team if you want to be on the front lines to help stop Donna Karan from selling fur and to get involved in other animal issues at local and national levels.
  • Support PETA’s work to help them put an end to Donna Karan’s support of killing rabbits in ways that would break your heart.
  • Ask your friends, family, and coworkers to contact Donna Karan to build even more support for the boycott.
  • Post a banner to your personal Web site or your MySpace or Facebook page to let the world know that Donna Karan butchers bunnies for their fur.
  • Join the “Donna Karan, Bunny Butcher” cause on Facebook, and tell your friends to join too.
  • Share the videos on MySpace or Facebook—or wherever you are online. Whether you have five friends or 5,000, sending the video to your friends is a great way to expose the cruelty that goes into wearing the skins of dead animals.
  • Subscribe to the official PETA YouTube channel so that you will be the first to know about their newest videos.

Two months ago I blogged about the case of Setha Sann, an undercover officer from Victoria’s Security Intelligence Group in Australia who posed as a vegan named Andrew and joined Animal Liberation Victoria.

 

Well, the media in New Zealand are reporting a similar case today. The story involves Rob Gilchrist, who was gilchristwell known for a decade as an animal-rights campaigner. Turns out he was also a spy, informing the police about the activities of such groups as Auckland Animal Action, Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) and Wellington Animal Rights Network. It was actually his girlfriend, animal activist Rochelle Rees, who discovered Gilchrist was working for the police. 

 

A few weeks ago, Gilchrist asked Rochelle, who works as a computer programmer, to help him fix his computer. When she reinstalled his email program and then made a routine check that his old emails hadn’t been corrupted, Rochelle discovered hundreds of emails with the “sender” and “subject” lines blank. Checking them, she found they were all private political emails and all being forwarded to the same anonymous address. Eventually, Rochelle traced the emails to the highly secret Special Investigations Group. (These special police detectives are funded each year under a police budget category in New Zealand called “increase national security.”)

 

At protests, Gilchrist was often the one taunting police, says Mark Eden of Wellington Animal Rights Network, who regarded Gilchrist as a friend. “If it didn’t involve adrenalin and confrontation, he wasn’t interested,” he says. (I guess police informants aren’t too concerned about getting arrested.)

 

“He was always interested in who was keen on illegal actions and would often make it known that he was keen to be involved in anything illegal or undercover,” Mark says. “On a few occasions he would take people out for a drive and sit outside a factory farm or an animal laboratory and encourage them to talk about planning a break-in or other illegal activity. He would be really pushy and persistent about planning illegal activities and then would suddenly lose interest, claiming it was too difficult or that he was busy. He was always keen on planning dodgy stuff, but on the occasions when we did break the law, he would always have an excuse and pull out at the last minute.”

 

In hindsight, Mark believes Gilchrist was inciting people to talk about illegal activities and then “reporting it to police to make us sound dodgy.”

 

“We have gone in and filmed the farms and discovered the cruelty. But instead of doing the democratic thing and stopping it, which is what the public want, they have responded by sending in the secret police. That’s the most shocking thing about it.”

 

Gilchrist now says he was embarrassed and sorry for what he did, admitting the people he spied on were not security threats. “I know they are good people trying to make a better world,” he says.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. So it’s a positive sign whenever animal advocates begin looking beyond the immediate tasks at hand and target a wider range of oppression.

 

Jenna Calabrese, Miranda Robbins, Steven Roggenbuck and Victor Tsou all former leafleters with Vegan Outreach — are doing just that with the formation of a new community of vegan activists called Living Opposed to Violence and Exploitation (L.O.V.E.). They are quick to point out this is neither an animal welfare group nor an animal rights group, but something new: an anti-oppression collective that opposes all the “-isms”: ableism, ageism, classism, heterosexism, racism, sexism, speciesism, etc.

 

L.O.V.E. opposes animal exploitation, not because the animals are suffering or based on any theory of rights, but because it is wrong to use any being without their free consent; therefore, L.O.V.E. seeks the liberation of human and non-human animals alike. Part of their principle is to run L.O.V.E. completely with volunteers and an operating budget of $0. 

 

I asked Jenna to give me more details about this new endeavor.

 

What inspired you to create this community?

A really potent combination of being inspired by individual essays and articles we had been reading Unpacking the Knapsack, The Vegan Ideal, Vegans of Color and being disappointed by the actions and attitudes of many of the mainstream animal advocacy organizations led us to create a community where veganism was viewed as a response to speciesism and all forms of oppression. Many of us are human rights activists in addition to being vegan and animal rights activists, and it’s surprising and sad how rarely it is that those communities cross paths or work together, when all forms of oppression clearly stem from the same system of power and hierarchy that keeps all of these groups marginalized. We wanted L.O.V.E. to serve as a resource for writings on the topic, a guide to people looking to expand or enhance their vegan activism and a safe haven for people who agree with these ideas and want to connect with others like them.

 

So L.O.V.E. is not comprised of any groups?

Right now, L.O.V.E. is a collective of individuals, not groups. We had been pretty disenchanted with a majority of the animal advocacy organizations currently in operation, and we really wanted L.O.V.E. to be something different. There are other organizations which share in L.O.V.E.’s values, though, and if they wanted to be a part of the collective, they would be welcome to join. Anyone individual or group can do so by visiting http://www.loveallbeings.org and signing up for the website and mailing list. We are happy to have you on board.

 

How does L.O.V.E. differ from other organizations?

Until now, animal advocacy organizations have mostly fallen into one of two categories: animal welfare and animal rights. Animal welfare groups are concerned with the treatment of animals, often based on the idea of reducing suffering, and do not challenge the notion that animals exist for human use. Animal rights groups challenge the use of animals, using a technical idea of “rights.” This is made more confusing because “animal rights” has become a general term to mean any work in animal advocacy.

 

We have found both approaches animal welfare and animal rights lacking. Animal welfare groups understandably try to better the lives of oppressed animals, but do so with an understanding and approach that does not challenge or weaken the system that causes the animals to suffer in the first place. By working on the effects rather than the cause, animal welfare groups are caught in an endless cycle of campaigning against one abuse, celebrating a victory, then campaigning against another abuse. So long as the system of exploitation exists, the abuses will never end and old abuses will be replaced with new ones.

 

Animal rights groups, on the other hand, do not bring an understanding of power and privilege to the situation and therefore may inadvertently perpetuate the oppression of others. For example, some animal rights groups champion the rights of only certain animals, expanding the membership of privilege, leaving large classes of animals those groups deemed less important in the lower class subject to our exploitation.

 

These might seem like nit-picky, abstract points, but they’re not. In practical terms, the animal welfare approach has led to a near disappearance of the word “vegan” from public education efforts. Worse, we have seen the largest animal welfare group in the country promoting the consumption of cage-free eggs to their members in a fundraising letter. For a flavor of the problems of the animal rights approach, please see Animal Rights and the Humane Treatment Principle.

 

How are you using the Internet to manage L.O.V.E.?

L.O.V.E. primarily exists at the webspace at http://www.loveallbeings.org our members live in wildly different geographical locations and cannot practically work together anywhere but on the Internet. We are hoping to encourage the growth of local activist communities by connecting people through the L.O.V.E. website. There is an activist mailing list, called COMMUNITY, that will allow people to discuss their experiences and events, as well as a blog on which people can discuss current events, articles and news and questions they may have about veganism and anti-oppression activism which, if you don’t have anyone in ”real life” with whom you can discuss these things, could turn out to be a very useful tool. We’re also launching a Vegan Buddies Project to help connect vegans with other vegans in their areas. They can hopefully strengthen one another’s commitment to a vegan life while engaging in local activism to bring about even more change in the world.

pigeonI was sitting at my desk at work this afternoon when an awful sound echoed through the office. THUD. I didn’t have to be looking out the window to know a bird had just flown into it. I raced outside to check on the little guy, who turned out to be a pigeon. He was sitting in the grass, pretty dazed. I didn’t see any damage to his beak or wings, but the fact that he let me get so close to him worried me. Within 10 minutes he flew away, navigating between some tall trees, and I can only hope he’s all right.

 

This incident inspired me to do a little research on the topic. Turns out that more than 100 million birds die each year in collisions with buildings and skyscrapers in the United States and Canada.

 

The good news is we can all do something about these deaths. Here are a few DIY techniques you can try.

 

  • Move bird feeders, bird houses and bird baths. Either move them farther away from large glass areas, or move them closer. Moving them closer may help by preventing birds from getting up to full flight speed before hitting the window.
  • Spray fake snow. This reduces reflection.
  • Hang a plant outside the window. (A plant inside the window may attract rather than deter birds from hitting the glass.)
  • Plant trees or shrubs. Small trees or short shrubs planted in front of your windows will break up the surface reflection of the glass.
  • Hang Mylar strips or CDs. Strips of shiny reflective plastic, hung a few inches apart in front of the outside surface of your windows, may work. They will flutter in the breeze and may encourage birds to steer clear.
  • Install awnings or plant shade-creating trees near problems windows. By reducing the amount of light hitting the glass, reflection is also reduced.
  • Use plastic wrap (i.e., Saran Wrap) or stickers to break up the reflection.
  • Place branches in front of your windows.

There are also a variety of commercial products available, such as Window Alert.

 

Finally, here’s some advice from Bird Watcher’s Digest on how to help a bird who has hit a window.

 

Carefully pick up the bird and put him in a brown paper bag with the top folded over or a cardboard box with flaps or a lid. Make sure that the bird is upright — prop him up with a supporting circle of paper towels or tissues if necessary. If the weather is very cold outside, bring the bag or box inside to warm up the stunned bird. If the weather is warm, you can leave the bag/box outside, but place him out of reach of pets.

 

Do not try to give the bird food or water. Leave him alone in a warm, quiet, dark place for a couple of hours — it may take this long for the bird to recover.

 

Once the bird recovers, you’ll hear him scratching around inside the enclosure. Take the bag/box outside before peeking in case the bird gets out — you don’t want him fluttering around in your rafters. To release the bird, simply open the enclosure and let him find his way out. Resist the urge to handle the bird any more than necessary, and don’t toss the bird into the air when releasing him. If you must hold the bird before releasing him, simply open your hand and he will fly away when ready to do so.

 

If the bird seems not to be recovering, contact your state or provincial fish and game or wildlife agency, or a local veterinarian for the name of a licensed wildlife rehabilitator near you who might take your bird. Get the bird to a rehab expert as soon as possible, because he will need food, water and perhaps medical attention.

Saying they are prepared for their most violent confrontation yet with the Japanese whaling fleet, campaigners from the animal-rights group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have set off from Brisbane, Australia, heading toward the Southern Ocean. “We believe the Japanese will be more aggressive and more violent than last year because they are getting desperate, but we feel we have to take these risks to keep the pressure on,” said Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd.

 

The organization’s four-month campaign will be carried out in the Antarctic waters. Japan uses a loophole in a 1986 global agreement that allows lethal research on whales (which is why you see Japan’s whaling ships labeled “Research”).

 

paulwatson_darrylhannahJoining the anti-whaling crew this year is US actress Daryl Hannah, who said the killing of whales would come to an end if governments enforced the anti-whaling laws and Greenpeace worked in unison with the Sea Shepherd. “They are hunting endangered species in a marine protected area,” she said. “It is surprising and shocking to me that governments are not doing this work ― that it is up to individuals and non-government organizations to uphold international law and protect endangered species. If Greenpeace would join forces with Sea Shepherd they would shutdown the whaling industry right away. If they were really serious and held their convictions they could accomplish this.”

 

Captain Watson said there was a need for a second fast ship, which he said would help more than halve the quote of kills and sink the whalers economically. “How much longer can [the Japanese whalers] keep losing profits?” he asked. “Last year they made a $70 million loss. For three years they have been making losses.”

 

Last year’s hunting season saw the Japanese return home with 551 minke whales — almost 300 less than their planned quota, thanks to activists.

 

This year, Sea Shepherd’s campaign has been named “Operation Musashi” in reference to the legendary Japanese strategist Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645), known as a great samurai warrior, strategist and tactician and a role model and hero to Captain Watson.

 

Musashi’s Book of Five Rings includes the approach of the Twofold Way of Pen and Sword. Sea Shepherd has thus adopted a campaign logo of the crossed feather pen and katana (sword) under the skull with the imbedded sperm whale and dolphin yin-yang symbol with a Banzai flag background, which gives reference to the ecological imperialism that the Japanese whalers are committing against the whales of the Southern Ocean.

 

The Japanese fleet, run by the so-called Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, set sail from the port of Innoshima, near Hiroshima, last week. The whalers plan to catch up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales but no humpbacks, Japanese fisheries officials said.

 

Rest assured that all the drama of this year’s high-seas animal activism will be played out on the new television series Whale Wars.


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