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From fires and floods to a global pandemic and a president who refused to accept reality, 2020 will be remembered as a year most of us would probably rather forget. The pandemic actually benefited animals in some ways; circuses had to cancel public performances, for instance, fewer horses were run to their deaths on racetracks, and wild bees enjoyed cleaner air.

And the COVID-19 virus put more attention on the international wildlife trade, since markets selling live animals have been linked to the spread of disease. Even the fur industry was impacted.

Although 2020 was in many ways a year of injustice—let us never forget the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Mannie Ellis, Andres Guardado, and so many other people of color at the hands of police—the past 12 months have also offered some reasons to celebrate. Here’s a look at a dozen of the top stories for animals this year.

1. Judge says vegans deserve same legal protection as religious people (January)

The year began with an encouraging decision by a UK judge, who said he is “satisfied overwhelmingly” that ethical veganism meets the criteria to qualify as a philosophical belief. “It is cogent, serious and important, and worthy of respect in democratic society,” said judge Robin Postle, ruling that ethical veganism meets the criteria required for it to be a philosophical belief protected under the Equality Act 2010. The Act makes it illegal for someone to be discriminated against because of protected characteristics, including religion or belief, race, sex, age, and physical ability.

The case was brought by Jordi Casamitjana, an ethical vegan, who said that his employer, the League Against Cruel Sports (LACS), fired him after he told his colleagues that the organization’s pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing. Jordi eventually agreed to a settlement with the LACS and wrote a memoir about his experiences, Ethical Vegan: A Personal and Political Journey to Change the World, which was published this month. He says the LACS has since changed its auto-enroll pension arrangements to make them “ethical.”

2. France moves to ban mass live-shredding of male chicks (January)

Among the dirtiest secrets of the egg industry is that every year it kills 7 billion of the male chicks it breeds shortly after they hatch. And one of the most widespread methods for killing the chicks is to dump them in machines called macerators—horrific devices that shred the birds to pieces while they are still conscious. Animal advocates worldwide have been agitating for an end to this practice for decades, and now France will become one of the first countries to halt it when the ban goes into effect sometime in 2021.

3. Mexico bill to ban cosmetic testing on animals passes first stage (March)

With each country that outlaws cosmetics testing on animals, the world grows one step closer to a global ban on this insidious practice. Mexico announced this year that its Senate had voted unanimously to ban such testing. If the law passes, it will make Mexico the 40th country (and the first in North America) to prohibit testing cosmetics on animals. The bill will next be considered in the lower house in the Mexican legislature, the Chamber of Deputies.

4. Chicago bans horse-drawn carriages (April)

As of January 1, 2021, Chicago will join many other cities around the world that have abolished the use of horse-drawn carriages. These carriages, which often take tourists through busy traffic in all kinds of weather, have meant tremendous suffering for horses. “We’re very thankful,” said Jodie Wiederkehr, executive director of the Chicago Alliance for Animals, a grassroots organization that has been agitating for an end to the horse-drawn carriage trade for years. “We’re very proud of our grassroots work. We did all this work on our own time with no pay.”

The City Council approved an ordinance to halt the issuance of new licenses and prohibit the city from renewing any of the 10 existing carriage licenses, which will expire at the end of the year. Read my interview with Jodie here.

5. Calgary Stampede cancelled (April)

One of the first signs of the year that the coronavirus pandemic might offer a silver lining to animals came with the announcement that there would be no Calgary Stampede in 2020. Canada’s century-old event attracts more than a million visitors a year who come to see a wide variety of rodeo-style events, including bull riding, steer wrestling, and the notorious chuckwagon races, which have killed more than 70 horses since they began keeping track in 1986. Unfortunately, we’ll probably see a Calgary Stampede event in 2021.

Also in April, news came that the coronavirus would mean the cancellation of the running of the bulls spectacle, held every July in Pamplona, Spain.

6. Thanks to sheltering in place, animal shelters are empty (April)

Many people saw the era of social isolation as the ideal time to rescue a dog or cat, leading shelters across the country to report a significant increase in the number of animals they were able to adopt out or place in foster homes. “Adoption rates have skyrocketed,” said one shelter administrator. “Dogs are being adopted quickly and all the dogs we sent into temporary foster homes [about 70] when we closed in March were adopted.” Rescue groups are seeing a similar increase. Foster Dogs Inc., a New York-based nonprofit that helps get dogs out of shelters and into foster homes, says that last year they had about 140 applications a month; that increased to 3,000 this year.

7. Could lockdown be the death of bullfighting in Spain? (May)

Bullfighting was already struggling to remain relevant when the coronavirus hit Spain this year. Long a target of animal rights campaigners, the blood sport attracts fewer and fewer spectators, especially among young Spaniards, who question the link between “culture” and the killing of bulls (a poll in May found that nearly half of Spaniards want bullfighting banned). With the country on lockdown, matadors and torture fans alike were forced to stay home for much of the year, which was a huge economic blow to the industry. It could be that the coronavirus will do what animal rights activists have not been able to, and the bullfighting industry has asked the government for financial assistance. Click here to add your name to the petition urging Spain not to use public funds to subsidize bullfighting.

8. Australia’s ban on animal testing for cosmetics comes into effect (July)

Perhaps you heard that on July 1, 2020, Australia’s Industrial Chemicals Act 2019 came into force. The Act restricts the use of new animal test data for cosmetics safety testing. From this date, any new industrial chemicals solely used in cosmetics cannot use new animal test data to prove safety, whether the chemicals are being manufactured in or imported into Australia. 

While this sounds great, in practice the country falls short on a total animal-testing ban. For example, in the case of multi-use substances used in cosmetics as well as other products such as household cleaners, paints and air freshener, companies may still submit new animal test data under certain circumstances. It also only applies to chemical ingredients used in cosmetic products, not the products themselves. And it permits products sold in China, where tests on animals are mandated by law for imported and special-use cosmetics, to be sold in Australia, provided companies also demonstrate equivalent non-animal test data where appropriate.

9. Colombia to become first South American country to ban animal testing for cosmetics (August)

A stronger ban on animal testing may be the one passed in Colombia this year and set to take effect in 2024. While that’s a long time to wait and will mean the suffering of many more animals, at least this one applies to ingredients and cosmetics products, regardless if they were imported or manufactured in Colombia.

10. Poland, the world’s third largest fur producer, votes to ban fur farming (September)

For years, Poland has had the dubious distinction of being one of the biggest killers of animals for fur (an estimated 6 million minks), ranking just after China and Denmark. Campaigners in Poland have long agitated for the closure of Polish fur farms, and they hope to secure a victory soon. In September, photos and video footage taken by an activist working undercover on a Polish mink farm were released and revealed appalling suffering. Soon after, a bill came up in the lower house of the Polish Parliament—and supported by the country’s ruling party—that advanced animal protection legislation to ban breeding animals for fur as well as ritual slaughter for exports and the use of wild animals in circuses.

Not everyone in the Polish government supports the bill, however, and it’s gotten quite a bit of pushback from the agricultural industry, which fears it could somehow hurt the meat trade, and from those who see fur farming as a cultural issue. The bill next goes to the Senate, though sadly the draft legislation for the ban does not include rabbits. In November, Polish President Andrzej Duda said he strongly opposes the ban.

11. “Buddy,” the beefalo who escaped slaughter, still on the lam (November)

Yes, there were bigger news stories of the year—stories in which more animals were affected. But the saga of a lone beefalo (a cross between a cow and a buffalo) captured the public’s imagination and had even meat-eaters advocating for his freedom. It began on August 3, when the beefalo later dubbed “Buddy” escaped from a transport truck as he was being moved into a Connecticut slaughterhouse. Eluding all attempts to catch him, Buddy roamed the forested hills of Litchfield County and was big news by the end of the month. Plymouth police used various traps and drones, but Buddy outsmarted them. In September, the Plymouth police union set up a fundraiser to buy Buddy from the farmer who “owned” him and thus ensure the animal would not be sent to slaughter. The police say that Buddy will go to a sanctuary for farmed animals in Florida—if they ever catch him.

12. UK dairy farms have a year to stop killing male calves (December)

A cruel and common practice in the dairy industry is to kill newborn male calves, since they don’t lactate. New rules mean the UK’s dairy farmers will have until the end of 2021 to prove they no longer do this. Advancements in technology mean farmers can use “sexed semen” to reduce the number of male calves born. An estimated 60,000 male calves are now killed on-farm in the UK every year.

***

This was also the year that activist Regan Russell was killed. Regan had been campaigning for animal rights since 1979 (she was also active for women’s rights and the Black Lives Matter movement). On the morning of Friday, June 19, 2020, she was attending a peaceful demonstration outside a pig slaughterhouse in the Canadian city of Burlington, Ontario. She was standing outside the slaughterhouse entrance—waiting to give water to pigs being brought in on one of the hottest days of the year—when the driver of an animal transport truck suddenly accelerated, turned in her direction, and ran her over. “He went straight at her,” said one witness.

Regan’s death came two days after the passage of Bill 156, ag-gag legislation intended to prevent activists from, among other things, showing compassion to thirsty pigs by giving them water as they are transported to slaughter. After a “comprehensive investigation,” local police determined that the truck driver did not hit Regan intentionally, and he was charged with careless driving causing death—basically a traffic ticket. Regan’s death is the subject of a new documentary short by Earthlings filmmaker Shaun Monson, There Was a Killing.

***

Other stories of the year worth noting:

Golden Globes go vegan (January)

Cows communicate using unique voices (January)

12 rabbits rescued from medical testing laboratory (January)

Borden files for bankruptcy (January)

Ben & Jerry’s will no longer claim their ice cream comes from happy cows (January)

U.S. states join global push to ban animal-tested cosmetics (February)

13-year-old animal activist Genesis Butler named Marvel hero (February)

Maryland ban on sale of dogs, cats in pet stores upheld (February)

Deer rips into hunter’s face (March)

Cow has avoided police capture for months in South Florida (March)

Canada Goose will stop using new fur (April)

China signals end to dog meat consumption by humans (April)

Slaughterhouses close due to COVID-19 (April)

Shenzhen becomes first Chinese city to ban consumption of cats and dogs (April)

USDA agrees to limit wildlife kill program in 10 California counties (April)

Former pork farmer rescues pigs now (April)

Duck market closes (May)

Alderman moves to close legal loophole in Chicago’s puppy mill ordinance (May)

Dutch MPs vote to close mink farms after virus cases (June)

GlaxoSmithKline halts its use of near-drowning test (June)

China increases protections for pangolins (June)

Dolphins learn how to use tools from peers, just like great apes (June)

Ban on sale of animals in pet stores passes New York Senate (July)

Lockdowns spared millions of animals from becoming roadkill (July)

San Francisco fur ban upheld as challenge is dismissed (July)

2 rescued pigs honor the memory of slain animal rights activist Regan Russell (July)

Reno City Council bans dog and cat sales (July)

Germany bans sow stalls (July)

Ringling’s retired circus elephants to move to conservation center (September)

Grizzly bear kills hunter (September)

Nordstrom to stop selling fur and exotic animal skin products (September)

Governor signs bill banning sales of dogs, cats, and rabbits in California (September)

Czech Republic bans cages for egg-laying hens (September)

France to ban use of wild animals in circuses, marine parks (September)

France to ban mink fur farming (September)

Clothing store Winners going fur-free across Canada after animal rights protests (October)

San Antonio bans pet store sales of dogs from breeders (October)

Israel moves to ban ‘immoral’ animal fur trade (October)

World’s biggest fur auction house plans to liquidate assets (November)

Turkey’s animal rights legislation underway (November)

Fur industry faces uncertain future due to Covid (November)

Gray wolves will be reintroduced in Colorado (November)

New Zealand High Court rules farrowing crates for pigs unlawful (November)

“World’s loneliest elephant” moving to sanctuary, with help from Cher (November)

England and Wales to ban live animal exports in European first (December)

Bees witnessed using tools in nature for the first time (December)

U.S. House votes to ban trade in big cats as pets and as props for roadside zoos (December)

Young ravens rival adult chimps in a big test of general intelligence (December)

Goat who escaped being auctioned for slaughter in October is reunited with mother and brother at sanctuary (December)

Thai rescuer gives CPR to baby elephant hit by motorbike (December)

Because aquatic animals are often excluded from the legal and regulatory frameworks that provide some protection for other non-human animals, the Animal Law Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, part of the Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS), launched its Aquatic Animal Law Initiative (AALI) in 2017. As a way to help to protect and promote the interests of aquatic animals, they have set April 3 as the first-annual World Aquatic Animal Day.

“At the Center for Animal Law Studies, we are educating attorneys to advance protection for all animals,” says Pamela Hart, executive director of CALS. “Many of our law students are passionate about helping aquatic animals. World Aquatic Animal Day gives students an opportunity to raise awareness about the global threats aquatic animals face, along with ways in which each of us can make a meaningful difference.”

The day will both celebrate and help the public understand more about these often-forgotten non-human animals who live in or near water—in other words, not only such animals as fishes, octopuses, corals, whales, and dolphins, but also polar bears, penguins, amphibians, and sea birds. “Sometimes these animals are not even categorized as animals,” says Kathy Hessler, clinical professor of law at Lewis & Clark. “That’s part of the work of AALI—to let people know where these gaps are.”

“The idea is to educate people,” says AALI Fellow Amy Wilson. “Who do we mean when we say ‘aquatic animals’—who’s included in this category? What are the threats that they face? What does the law say? What are different ways that people can protect them?” Adds Professor Hessler: “We want people to take a beat—take a minute—to think about these animals and then maybe choose whatever advocacy is comfortable for them.”

Among the actions you can take:

Educate: Help others understand the threats aquatic animals face. (Click here for more information.)

Recycle, Reduce, and Clean-up: Collect and recycle plastics. Reduce your use of plastics or products containing microbeads.

Get Active: Sign or start a petition supporting a ban on single-use plastics (such as this one or this one) or other practices that threaten aquatic animals.

Get the Word Out: Write a blog post or letter to the editor of your local paper about issues facing aquatic animals.

Use the Law: Identify issues in your jurisdiction that negatively impact aquatic animals; work to effect positive change through legislative initiatives, lawsuits, and agency guidelines.

For the complete list of AALI suggestions, and more information about World Aquatic Animal Day, click here. (Note: These suggestions were compiled before the coronavirus crisis hit the United States. Please stay safe in your activism and observe social distancing guidelines.)

 

It wasn’t very many decades ago that campaigns for animal protection were largely focused on the treatment of dogs and cats. But in the last 10 years, we have seen what were once considered fringe issues—such as animal captivity and farmed animals—move from the margins to the mainstream, and this year saw some tremendous victories. Consider that more and more cities and countries are making an effort to ban trophy hunting, animal testing, declawing, elephant rides, and shark fins. Even the fight against fur, which seemed to be slipping through the fingers of the animal rights movement, made tremendous strides in 2019. None of these would have been possible without a seismic shift in the public’s attitude toward how we treat animals—coupled with their growing embrace of vegan foods. Can you imagine just a few years ago consumers clamoring for plant-based options the way they do today? This is one of the principal reasons dairies are going out of business. (So, activists: keep fighting the good fight!)

Yes, 2019 was full of misery as well. But it’s time to celebrate some wins. From foie gras to fur, here’s a look at a dozen of the year’s top stories for animals.

  1. U.S. Supreme Court Upholds California Ban on Foie Gras (January)

Ever since a California law banning foie gras went into effect seven years ago, those who enjoy or profit from this cruel product have devoted their time and money to getting the ban lifted—and activists have been diligently fighting them. The law was challenged in a 2012 lawsuit by foie gras producers from the Canadian province of Quebec and New York’s Hudson Valley and by a Southern California restaurant chain, after which a U.S. district judge ruled that the ban violated the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act, which prohibits states from imposing their own conditions on the sale of bird flesh. In 2017, the California state attorney general appealed the ruling, and two years later, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed it. But the appeals court put a stay on the ban so that the plaintiffs could petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case. Now, by refusing to listen to further arguments, the highest court in the land affirmed that the “fatty liver” of force-fed ducks and geese cannot be produced, served, or sold in California.

  1. Sheep Farmer Takes Lambs to Sanctuary Instead of Slaughterhouse, Goes Vegetarian (January)

Two-lambsAfter nearly 50 years of raising and killing animals for food, farmer Sivalingam Vasanthakumar of Devon, England, had a dramatic change of heart. While taking 20 lambs to the slaughterhouse, he turned around and drove them nearly 200 miles, delivering them instead to the 92-acre Goodheart Animal Sanctuaries. “I just couldn’t cope any more and I had to say no,” he said, noting that he had made the same journey many times before and could always sense the terror the lambs felt. “They would try to hide in the back of the trailer and wouldn’t want to come out. I would have to push them out, it was very stressful for me and the animals.” He said he’s a vegetarian now and will grow vegetables rather than raise animals. Goodheart manager Dave Bourne said this was the first time a farmer had brought lambs to the sanctuary.

  1. Colombia Bans Recreational Hunting (February)

Citing the need to protect animals and the environment, Colombia became the second country in Latin America (after Costa Rica) to ban hunting for recreation. “Animals are not things, they are beings with feelings,” said magistrate Antonio Jose Lizarazo, who was behind the legislation. The ban, which goes into effect on February 6, 2020, was the result of a lawsuit filed by activist and attorney Laura Santacoloma, who sought to have recreational hunting outlawed as environmentally detrimental to a country with such remarkable biodiversity.

In trying to fight the ban, hunters in Colombia apparently argued that shooting animals for fun fit into the national culture and that it was even an educational pursuit.

  1. Australia Bans Use of Data from Animal Tests in Cosmetics (March)

When the Parliament of Australia finally passed the Industrial Chemicals Bill 2017, it began a new chapter in the history of Australian animal rights. The new law takes effect on July 1, 2020. Under the legislation companies will be banned from using data taken as a result of animal testing when introducing a new chemical or ingredient for the beauty market. According to the Department of Health, “As technology has advanced, there has been an international move away from the use of animals for this purpose. Animal tests are expensive, time consuming to conduct and are questioned on both ethical and scientific grounds.”

The ban is far from perfect, as it only applies to ingredients used exclusively in cosmetics products. Also, although the ban restricts companies from relying on animal test data for regulatory testing, it does not necessarily ban tests on animals. This means that products sold in China—where tests on animals are mandated by law for imported cosmetics—may still be sold in Australia provided companies also demonstrate equivalent non-animal test data where appropriate. But it’s a step in the right direction.

  1. Cuba Has Its First Animal Rights March (April)

In what is considered to be the first independent protest of any kind allowed in the country in decades, activists in Havana, Cuba, organized a short but significant march on behalf of animals. More than 400 animal advocates, some carrying signs, walked about a mile with their dogs and chanted slogans as they demonstrated peacefully and called for an animal welfare law.

“It’s not easy to see the situation of many abandoned animals, who roam the streets without food and safe medical care and are mistreated by irresponsible people,” said co-organizer Beatriz Batista. “That’s why this type of action is very important at this time, when Cuban society is gaining awareness and is increasingly involved in this issue.”

“It’s unprecedented,” said Alberto Gonzalez, co-organizer and publisher of The Ark, an online Cuban animal-lovers magazine. “This is going to mark a before and an after.”

Marches in Cuba had until now been strictly controlled by the government and were mostly limited to demonstrations celebrating the 1959 revolution or religious processions.

  1. Indian Court Rules That All Animals Have Legal Personhood (May)

On May 31, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ruled that animals, including birds and fishes, have legal rights like humans and declared citizens the “guardians of the animal kingdom” with a duty to ensure their welfare and protection. The ruling came after 29 cows were packed and transported nearly 400 miles in appalling conditions from Uttar Pradesh to Haryana. “We have to show compassion towards all living creatures,” wrote Justice Rajiv Sharma. “Animals may be mute but we as a society have to speak on their behalf. No pain or agony should be caused to the animals. Cruelty to animals also causes psychological pain to them. In Hindu Mythology, every animal is associated with god. Animals breathe like us and have emotions. The animals require food, water, shelter, normal behaviour, medical care, self-determination.”

The decision saw the court issuing several “mandatory directions” for the “welfare of the animal kingdom” in Haryana. This isn’t the first time such a judgement has been declared in India. Last year, the Uttarakhand High Court accorded the status of “legal person or entity” to animals in the northern state, and in 2014, India’s Supreme Court ruled that all animals should have constitutional and legal rights.

  1. Canada Bans Keeping Whales and Dolphins in Captivity (June)

orcaCanada’s House of Commons passed the Ending the Captivity of Whales and Dolphins Act, known colloquially as the “Free Willy” bill, which was introduced in December 2015. It bans keeping whales, dolphins, and porpoises in captivity and bans their use in performances. Cetaceans who are already in captivity are grandfathered in by the bill, however, meaning Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, can keep all the animals they currently exploit—55 beluga whales, five bottlenose dolphins, and one orca—even though they strongly opposed the bill. Phil Demers, a former Marineland trainer-turned activist, called the bill’s passing a “historic day for Canada.” He has been an outspoken critic of Marineland and says keeping mammals in captivity is abusive. “This is validation for all the concerns that … former Marineland employees and activists alike have been stressing for many decades.” Former Senator Wilfred Moore, who introduced the bill four years ago, said, “We have a moral obligation to phase out the capture and retention of animals for profit and entertainment. Canadians are calling upon us to do better—and we have listened.”

  1. England Bans Wild Animals in Traveling Circuses (July)

Coming into effect in January 2020, the Wild Animals in Circuses (No. 2) Bill is the result of more than 20 years of investigations and campaigns by animal protection organizations, including Animal Defenders International, which began exposing circus cruelty in the UK in 1993. “Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st century and I am pleased that this legislation will put an end to this practice for good,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who introduced the bill in May of this year. The legislation follows similar bans recently passed in Ireland and Scotland and a ban under discussion in Wales.

  1. Zoo Trade in Baby Elephants Banned Internationally (August)

After a contentious debate at a meeting of parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species held in Geneva in August, the member countries decided to impose a near-total ban on snatching African elephants from the wild and selling them to zoos. The decision was strongly opposed by Zimbabwe, which, along with Botswana, is the main provider of wild African elephants to zoos outside the continent and tried to block the vote, saying they view elephants as an “economic opportunity” and should be allowed to sell them. The ban went into effect on November 26, 2019.

  1. California Becomes the First State to Ban Fur Trapping (September)

Demonstrating that just because a practice is “tradition” doesn’t mean it’s worth keeping, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Wildlife Protection Act of 2019, banning the trapping of animals for fur. “Fur trapping is a cruel practice that has no place in 21st century California,” said Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who authored the ban bill. “The fact that the majority of California taxpayers overwhelmingly disapprove of this archaic practice and have been unknowingly subsidizing it for years is simply unacceptable.” Trapping animals for their skins has had a long history in California, dating back 200 years, when thousands of trappers plied their trade while cruelly killing countless bears, rabbits, beavers, racoons, coyotes, otters, foxes, and other species.

  1. California becomes the first State to Ban Fur Products (October)

AB44_TY_California_2Just weeks after banning fur trapping, California took an even bigger step into a compassionate future by banning the manufacture, sale, and display of clothing, shoes, slippers, hats, keychains, or handbags with fur. After signing it, Gov. Newsom called the legislation “one of the strongest animal rights laws in U.S. history.” It even bars residents from donating fur products. Other states may soon follow in California’s footsteps: Hawaii and New York have introduced their own fur-ban legislation.

The Fur Information Council of America condemned California’s ban, which goes into effect on January 1, 2023, as being part of a “radical vegan agenda” and has threatened a court challenge.

  1. Animal Cruelty Officially Becomes a Felony Across the U.S. (November)

I admit I debated whether or not to include this among the top 12 victories of the year—which is always a subjective list anyway. On the one hand, this new anti-cruelty legislation is a significant statement against animal cruelty, making it a federal crime to crush, drown, suffocate, sexually exploit, stab, or burn animals (thus making it easier to prosecute the makers of so-called “crush videos,” which I examine in detail in Bleating Hearts). On the other hand, it does not cover the estimated nine billion farmed animals raised and killed every year for food in the U.S., nor does it include fishes killed through fishing or animals killed by hunters. So we’re left wondering: just what is animal cruelty? And the answer to that should never be subjective.

 

Other stories of the year worth noting:

Veganuary ends on record high with 250,000 participants (January)

Pig escapes transport to slaughterhouse and ends up in Iowa animal sanctuary (February)

Chimps use branch as ladder to escape from Belfast zoo enclosure (February)

Milk sales declined by $1.1 billion last year (March)

Escaped lamb finds home in sanctuary (March)

Dick’s Sporting Goods removes guns from its stores (March)

Madrid bans wild animals in circuses (March)

Rhino poacher killed by elephant and eaten by lions (April)

Animal rights protest causes chaos in Melbourne (April)

Norway to end fur farming (April)

How a B.C. cop crossed the protest line for animal rights (April)

Rescued ‘bile bears’ find sanctuary in Vietnam (April)

Prada bans fur (May)

‘Historic day for Scotland’ as beavers get protected status (May)

Hundreds of animal rights activists march against slaughterhouses in Paris (June)

Nevada becomes second state to ban cosmetics testing on animals (June)

Animals trapped in notorious Russia ‘whale jail’ begin path to freedom (June)

Fur farming banned in Ireland (June)

Canada becomes first G7 country to ban shark fins (June)

New York becomes first state to ban cat declawing (July)

Wild animals in circuses to be banned in Wales (July)

79% of respondents say they would support a federal law prohibiting animal testing for cosmetics (August)

Record 12,000 vegan activists march for animal rights in London (August)

SeaWorld blames ‘radical animal rights activists’ as British Airways cuts ties (August)

Illinois becomes latest state to ban animal testing for cosmetics (August)

The ACT become the first jurisdiction in Australia to change the legal status of animals from being purely ‘property’ to sentient beings in their own right (September)

Animal rights activists win free speech ruling in California (September)

Squirrel blocks woman’s path then leads her to injured baby by ‘tugging at her leg’ (September)

Taylor Swift cancels Melbourne Cup performance, animal rights activists applaud (September)

California bans most animals from circuses (October)

Scottish farmer drives 275 miles to rescue lamb she sold for meat (October)

Hen escapes egg farm by hiding out in delivery truck (October)

Slovakia bans fur farming (October)

New York’s elephant act ban goes into effect (October)

TripAdvisor will no longer sell tickets to attractions that breed captive dolphins and whales (October)

Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s ditch fur (October)

California’s oldest dairy is closing its doors after more than 125 years (October)

Queen to go fur-free for first time says official dresser (November)

This orangutan’s ‘personhood’ victory brings hope to U.S. animal rights movement (November)

Paris moves to ban wild animals from circuses (November)

Tuna seller Bumble Bee files for bankruptcy (November)

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor Wat (November)

Russia releases last of captured whales into the wild (November)

The Humane Cosmetics Act is now in front of Congress (November)

Biggest U.S. milk company files for Chapter 11 (November)

New York City bans foie gras (November)

House approves bill to eliminate sale of shark fins nationwide (November)

Newfoundland fur farm closes due to sagging market (December)

Federal judge halts enforcement of Iowa’s newest ag-gag law (December)

Ontario passes new animal welfare legislation with stiffer penalties (December)

Greeting card company stops selling images of captive apes after campaign by animal rights protestors (December)

Half the UK population is cutting back on meat or giving it up, according to market analysts Mintel (December)

Russian circuses face calls to ban performing animals (December)

Federal judge blocks law that would stop ‘fake meat’ from marketing with ‘real meat’ terminology (December)

Anti-fur activism is on the rise. What does that mean for Canada Goose? (December)

 

fur-killsThere has been a lot of great news about animal-based fur in the last couple of years. Not only did California just become the first state in the U.S. to ban the production and sale of fur, but it banned fur trapping. New York City is also considering a ban on fur sales. Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s made headlines this month when they announced they would no longer sell fur, adding their names to an ever-growing list of department stores, designers, and fashion houses—including Burberry, Calvin Klein, Georgio Armani, Gucci, Michael Kors, Prada, and Ralph Lauren—that have gone fur-free. In 2018, designer Donatella Versace, long known for her support of fur, said, “Fur? I am out of that. I don’t want to kill animals to make fashion. It doesn’t feel right.” Meanwhile, Norway and Slovakia recently said they are closing their fur farms, joining more than a dozen other countries in Europe that are banning fur farming and removing an important link in the supply chain. Even London Fashion Week ditched animal fur last year.

With all these advancements for fur-bearing animals, it’s tempting to think fur is finally dead. Sadly, it’s not, and activists can’t make the mistake of believing we’ve crossed the finish line—yet.

Just as many people are surprised to learn that whales are still being killed—they ask, “Didn’t that end in the eighties?”—activists have not put the final nail into fur’s coffin. After anti-fur campaigns in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, it looked like the industry was on its last breath, but fur made a comeback in the 1990s, buoyed by newly affluent buyers in China, South Korea, and Russia. By 2004, the global fur industry was worth $11.7 billion. Now, according to the International Fur Federation, the industry is valued at $40 billion. In the U.S., fur hit a 17-year high last year with $531 million in sales, up from $337 million in 2014.

So what happened? Part of the answer is that the fur industry found new markets for its cruel products. They began targeting the next generation of consumers with dyes to create a “modern” look. They hired new celebrity models. They looked beyond coats, gloves, and hats and used fur to adorn household items like furniture as well as shoes, keychains, pillows, scarves, and cat toys. And they created thinner fur garments that could be worn in warmer climates.

They also got into design schools, subsidizing the fur used by students—even in high school.

One of their biggest efforts has been the greenwashing of fur. As I discuss in Bleating Hearts, to divert consumer attention away from animal cruelty, the industry now touts fur as the ultimate “eco fashion,” such as in the Fur Council of Canada’s print ad featuring a model decked out in fur beneath the headline “Environmental Activist.” The ad copy explains that “wearing fur also helps protect nature, by supporting people who live on the land.” By “people” they mean trappers, who “depend on nature for their livelihoods.” Absent from the ad is any mention of the millions of “trash” animals trappers routinely kill while they are being “stewards of Earth.”

Indeed, the Council would have us believe that fur garments and accessories only come from animals caught in the wild. “In nature, each plant and animal species generally produces more offspring than the land can support to maturity,” reads the their website. “Like other species, we live by making use of part of this surplus that nature creates.” This is a preposterous lie, as far as the fur industry is concerned, because the majority of fur used in the trade is produced in farms from animals specifically bred for this purpose, and they know it. (Canada’s market for fur-farmed animals is three times the size of its wild-fur market.) A 2011 study on the environmental effects of mink-fur production found that it takes 11 animals to produce 1 kilogram of fur, and that the industry has a higher impact than other textiles in 17 of 18 measurement categories, including global warming and toxic emissions.

But fur’s carefully orchestrated comeback goes even deeper.

“The animal rights movement once before underestimated the fur industry and prematurely celebrated its supposed imminent demise,” says Ryan Shapiro, PhD, a longtime animal rights activist and now executive director of the transparency organization Property of the People. “Not only did this allow the industry to rebound, but the fur industry is just as committed to eliminating the animal rights movement as we are to ending it.” Ryan notes that documents he has obtained from one of his many Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against the FBI reveal it was the resurgent fur industry in the late-1990s that secretly met with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to coordinate a federal assault on the animal rights movement. “It was the fur industry that pushed the DOJ and FBI to target the animal rights movement as a terrorist threat. It was the fur industry that gave the DOJ and FBI lists of activists and organizations it wanted neutralized. And it was ultimately this lobbying behind closed doors by the fur industry that gave rise to today’s Green Scare. The fur industry poses a double menace, both to animals and the movement for their liberation. We cannot rest until this vicious industry is entirely eradicated and consigned to the dustbin of history.”

Not everyone agrees that recent victories mean activists might shift their efforts to other campaigns.

Camilla Fox, executive director of Project Coyote in California, says she doesn’t believe the state’s new anti-fur legislation will slow down activists. “I think if anything success like this re-inspires people to stay engaged and continue pursuit of related issues—especially if they’re tapped into email alerts from organizations like ours to stay apprised of what other issues need attention.”

And Camille Labchuk, executive director of the animal law organization Animal Justice and one of Canada’s leading animal rights lawyers, told The Star that the recent fur-related bans in the U.S. and Europe have created an “unstoppable momentum” that she hopes will extend to her country, where activists continue to take action against outdoor clothing company Canada Goose for its use of down and coyote fur.

I hope they’re right. We’ve come a long way, and we do indeed have momentum, but I fear we could see a repeat of the nineties, with fur coming back strong, especially if the industry has the FBI and DOJ watching their back.

“Activists need to keep the pressure on fur to make sure that it stays away for good,” says animal rights advocate lauren Ornelas, who attended her first anti-fur protest in 1987. “We just need to keep reinforcing the fact that non-human animals are not ours to exploit.”

What You Can Do

Looking to get involved but don’t know where to begin? One place you can start is the Fur Free Alliance, an international coalition of animal protection organizations working to end the deprivation and cruelty suffered by fur-bearing animals both in wild trapping and industrial fur farming. They offer a number of fact sheets that you can use in your activism, which can be as simple as talking to family and friends about this issue, sharing information on social media, or signing petitions like this one, this one, or this one. You can write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or you can participate in a Fur Free Friday protest on November 29 (do an online search for an event in your area). You can even speak directly to retailers that still sell fur and tell them you won’t shop there until they remove the cruelty from their racks. And you can contact fashion brands that use fur in their designs and tell them you won’t support them. Of course, you can also contact companies that have ditched fur and thank them! Whatever steps you take, large or small, each one makes a difference for the animals.

 

There’s no question that social media has benefited animal advocacy in remarkable ways over the last decade. Activists are using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to organize protests, promote veganism, distribute online petitions, announce campaign updates, post news about animals ready for adoption, share animal rights documentaries, and much more.

But social media has a dark side, and I’m not just referring to its insidious influence on the election process or the amplification of hate. Companies leverage the expertise of “attention engineers,” who use our psychological vulnerabilities to make social media apps and platforms as addictive as possible. Why? Because your attention—the hours you spend on your mobile device, for example—results in profits for these companies. Facebook, for instance, uses algorithms to track your preferences and present you with content your online history tells them will make you feel good. Then you’ll see an ad, followed by more fun content—and another ad. Meanwhile, companies such as YouTube and Netflix will automatically play a related video just as the one you’re watching ends. They put the burden on you to decide when to stop.

Did you know that Steve Jobs never intended the iPhone to have third-party apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook—or be anything more than an improved iPod that can make calls? True, even the original iPhone had Internet capabilities, but that was more of a bonus feature. If you look at the presentation Jobs gave in 2007 to introduce the iPhone (at about 36 minutes in), you’ll see that the “Internet” segment was all about email, Google maps, and weather widgets. Interesting.

The overuse of social media is something I’ve been thinking about for years, and I explore it a bit in the new edition of Striking at the Roots. As I consider it more and more—and I probably use social media as much as anyone—what has me concerned is how its use can specifically affect the well-being of animal activists and, by extension, their activism.

In addition to the many consequences of spending too much time on social media—such as the impact it has on our self-esteem and creating a fear of missing out on fun others are experiencing—animal advocates may be particularly vulnerable to other side effects. Here are some examples.

Depression

Animal activism is hard. Although many people claim to “love animals,” for instance, the vast majority of these same people continue to eat, wear, and otherwise exploit them. Challenging these behaviors can leave activists feeling disheartened, to say the least.

Add to this the constant barrage of graphic photos of animal cruelty that stream on social media, the offensive comments from trolls under posts, and outright cyberbullying, and online platforms can prove dangerous to our mental health. A study of 1,787 young adults in the U.S. published in 2017, for instance, found that participants who used 7–11 social media platforms had substantially higher odds of having increased levels of both depression and anxiety symptoms.

During her 12 years working for one nonprofit, Marsha Rakestraw had to monitor social media, where she was constantly confronted by scenes of animal suffering. “Having to immerse myself in that quagmire of harm and pain day after day for more than a decade has taken its toll,” she says. “Especially in the last few years of being in that job, I’ve felt that I’ve lost all sense of joy.”

Another activist, Meg York, had a similar experience. “Social media has contributed to, or possibly created, my compassion fatigue,” says Meg. “On Facebook, I have unfollowed most of the nonprofit organizations that I have liked, as I cannot bear witness to unending cruelty. It undermines my ability to be an effective activist, as I find myself mired in despair, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problem, and unable to change the reality for the specific animals who are suffering in the videos and pictures.”

I am not implying for a moment that animal advocates are the only people susceptible to depression. What I mean is that animal activism is already a depressing endeavor, and so activists may be especially exposed to the feeling of despair that social media can lead to.

Reduced attention span

Justin Rosenstein, the former Facebook engineer who created the “like” button, is among a growing number of high-tech experts who now warn against the lure of social media, which they believe severely limits a person’s ability to focus and possibly lowers IQs. “One reason I think it is particularly important for us to talk about this now is that we may be the last generation that can remember life before,” Rosenstein says.

A reduced attention span could affect anyone’s life. For the activist, it could result in a gap in learning about the issues, for example, or impact their ability to share a meaningful conversation with someone, whether it’s at a conference table or a dinner table.

Diminished human interactions

Animal activism very often relies on making connections: mingling with new people, overcoming social anxieties, and inspiring others to see the link between animal exploitation and their consumer choices. While making connections on social media can be great, there’s nothing that equals the power of making such connections in person. Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence suggests that social media is undermining family relationships and harming people’s ability to interact competently in an offline setting. Former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris, described by The Atlantic as “the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience,” warns in his TED talk that social media technology is “changing our ability to have the conversations and relationships we want with each other.” Consider this: In which form of communication would you gain more insight about someone—an online post or a face-to-face conversation? Clearly, there is a much higher quality of connection when we speak with someone directly.

As activist Sherry Morgado puts it, “I found that I was coming to rely too much on social media as a form of activism, and neglected one-on-one interaction, which I believe has much more power and authenticity. In personal interactions, there is an opportunity for a dialogue, to ask questions, and to read facial expressions and body language. I have come to feel that social media is just too removed from that energetic space between people where the possibility for real change can happen.”

Weakened decision-making

Spending too much time on social media affects your ability to think for yourself and form your own opinions. One study demonstrated how participants were more open to peer pressure within social networks. Of course, animal activists tend to be committed to their principles, but we should all treat with caution anything that impacts our capacity for informed decision-making.

Loss of social etiquette

Social media has no room for verbal nuance, tone, or body language, which are among the many important cues that help humans navigate the complex world of interpersonal communication. Because many posters of online comments can remain anonymous—or they believe they are calling out hypocritical behavior—they often give in to the temptation to be judgmental and rude.

“One of my biggest struggles with social media is dealing with all the negativity,” says Cathy O’Brien. “Many people seem to be very quick to judge and attack others, often with extreme hostility. As an activist and a human, my desire is to cultivate more compassion and respect for all beings. I want to put my voice out there and be an advocate for the issues I believe in, but I want to do it in a way that helps create more compassion and caring; I don’t want to be part of the negativity and hostility.”

Activists who participate in such online hostility may think they are doing the animals a service, but they are just helping depict activists as insensitive bullies.

Unhealthy sleep patterns

Interruption of regular sleep patterns is among the hallmarks of a social media addiction. Lack of sleep is not only damaging to our health, but it can affect our productivity and cognitive performance. Any animal advocate who wants to put quality time into their activism is going to need quality sleep. Along with eating well, it’s one of the fundamental steps we can take to avoid burning out.

*****

Am I saying animal activists should stop using social media? No. Social media is an important tool, and its influence in the movement will probably continue to grow as new, more powerful platforms are created. But social media should never be a substitute for on-the-street, grassroots campaigning. If you are able to address the public in person about how animals are exploited, please do so. I don’t mean you need to be confrontational; indeed, making a vegan meal for an omnivore or sitting down to share an animal rights documentary with them can often have a more positive impact than holding a protest sign in front of a slaughterhouse.

Moreover, I encourage activists to use social media and our devices with more intention. You might also consider a digital detox, including such steps as:

You might even reduce your use of social media by cutting out one or more platforms or going without them altogether for a week or a month. You may be amazed by how much more you get done, how it improves your sleep, and how it lifts your mood. It might even make you a more effective activist.

I will speaking more about the importance of self-care at the Animal Rights National Conference in July. I hope to see some of you there.

 

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking at an Evening of Kindness event in Melbourne, Australia, organized by Edgar’s Mission. I spoke to a roomful of animal advocates about compassion fatigue and burnout, and I offered some suggestions for self-care.

I’ve spoken on this topic for 10 years or so at various animal advocacy venues, but this time, when I addressed some of the triggers that can lead to burnout, I felt obligated to mention sexual harassment in our movement. After my presentation, the only questions and comments I got were about this topic, and they were all from women, including one who disclosed that she had experienced it. Clearly, the animal rights movement has a sexual harassment problem—and it has for a long time.

Sexual harassment occurs everywhere, but within the animal rights movement it is especially pervasive, in part because there are so many more women than men and in part because of the higher status men often have. Men are hailed as “heroes,” regarded as lending legitimacy to campaigns, and looked upon as natural leaders. Many of these men use their status to manipulate, harass, and even sexually assault female employees, volunteers, and interns within AR organizations. Women are told that if they speak out, they will be hurting the animals. In some cases, the victims are threatened with lawsuits or physical violence if they go public.

Consider for a moment the tragic irony of how sexism and misogyny (coupled with no small amount of male privilege) impact a movement that prides itself on working for liberation. Do the male CEOs, managers, supervisors, and others who treat women like objects and property not see how their attitudes and actions contradict the most fundamental philosophy of animal rights—not to mention how they’re forcing so many talented, hard-working, and compassionate women to leave?

With the growth of the #MeToo campaign, we are beginning to see certain men in power (and men almost always hold the power over women) held accountable for their behavior and crimes within politics and the entertainment and media industries. That rising tide seems to be lifting the animal rights movement, as well. Men are being terminated from their positions within animal protection organizations for harassing women—something I cannot imagine would have happened even a few years ago. Pressure is coming from donors, too. Tofurky, for example, now requires nonprofits that want a donation from the company to show they have a written policy for dealing with sexual harassment and protecting whistleblowers.

If you’re a man (or you identify as a man) in the animal rights movement, and you truly respect women and value them as colleagues, please:

  • Be a strong ally.
  • Believe them when they tell you they’ve been harassed or assaulted.
  • Ask what you can do to support them.
  • Do not tolerate sexist jokes or campaigns.
  • Respect women’s boundaries.
  • Do not normalize the behavior of abusers by making excuses for them or giving them a platform.

Remember, men, that you are fighting injustice; campaigning against one form of domination while participating in or allowing another perpetuates systemic oppression. Women drop out of the movement because of this.

I cannot overstate how serious or pervasive this issue is. Please take some time to read these recent blog posts by longtime animal activists lauren Ornelas, pattrice jones, and Carol J. Adams. These are very illuminating reads.

Finally, if you are a victim of sexual harassment or assault (or you’re not sure if you have been victimized), there’s a new resource called the Coalition Against Nonprofit Harassment and Discrimination that you can turn to for guidance.

You are not alone.

 

LaunchDayI have been a vegan since 2001, and a social justice activist for about a decade longer, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to understand how systems of oppression interact with one another. Shortly after going vegan, I threw much of my energy and time into the animal rights movement, and like many activists, I held a narrow view of how we should agitate against speciesism.

After reading The Sexual Politics of Meat—Carol J. Adams’ pioneering book exploring the link between the (literal) consumption of animals and the (visual) consumption of women—I had to consider our movement’s approach to activism. I began to recognize that all the “isms”—sexism, ableism, racism, heterosexism, ageism, anti-Semitism, classism, sizeism, etc.—are inexorably tied to speciesism.

My understanding of this has been augmented over the years by the work of Lori Gruen, Breeze Harper, pattrice jones, Marti Kheel, lauren Ornelas, and many others. Their efforts are sometimes referred to as “intersectionality,” a term coined in 1989 by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw to illustrate how feminist issues and Black issues overlap. (Today the term is also used rather broadly to express how multiple forms of discrimination and oppression are experienced.)

It was the work of these activists that inspired me to write A Vegan Ethic: Embracing A Life Of Compassion Toward All, which was officially published today by Changemakers Books (they also published my two previous books). A Vegan Ethic serves as a concise introduction to animal rights and veganism, but with that as a foundation, it examines how other devalued groups are oppressed, and how their oppression is linked to nonhuman-animal exploitation. I devote an entire chapter to the environment, and another chapter to answering some of the questions vegans are commonly confronted with.

I also produced a short trailer for the book, which you can view on YouTube.

Woven throughout A Vegan Ethic is my acknowledgement of privilege, and I give full credit to the many activists who have influenced me. I hope you’ll give this book a read and, if you like it, a review on Amazon, Goodreads, iTunes, etc. And, if you live in the Pacific Northwest, I hope you’ll come to Herbivore Clothing in Portland, Oregon, on August 27 for the official launch of A Vegan Ethic. All proceeds from book sales will benefit one of my favorite nonprofits, Food Empowerment Project. Click here for details about the launch party.

Finally, I did a short interview with The Huffington Post this month, and it provides more details about the book.

Thank you.

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

 

Shortly after Striking at the Roots was published, I embarked on another literary endeavor: a book about animal suffering that takes into account the many forms of exploitation that do not receive a lot of mainstream media attention. We see, read, and hear so much about animals raised for food, for example, but how often do we see a story—or even a Twitter post—concerning donkeys who toil in the brick industry, or pigeon shoots, or bear baiting, or the plight of birds in the feather industry, or xenotransplantation, or bestiality? The distressing roll call of animal abuse goes on and on.

BleatingHeartsLittle did I know in 2008 that Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering would consume five years of my life, researching or writing nearly every day. I am so pleased to say the book is being released this month in both print and electronic form (it’s already available from some online sellers). In addition to covering lesser-known topics, Bleating Hearts examines issues we hear about, such as animal testing, but may not fully understand. The contents include:

Chapter 1 – Bleating Hearts: Animals Used for Food

Chapter 2 – Dressed to Kill: Animals Used for Fashion

Chapter 3 – Trials and Errors: Animal Testing

Chapter 4 – Poachers, Pills, and Politics: The Persecution of Wild Animals

Chapter 5 – Ruthless Roundup: Animals Used in Sports

Chapter 6 – The Age of Aquariums: Animals Used in Entertainment

Chapter 7 – Animal Rites: Animals as Sacrificial Victims

Chapter 8 – Conceptual Cruelty: Animals Used in Art

Chapter 9 – The Horse Before the Cart: Working Animals

Chapter 10 – Secret Abuse: Sexual Assault on Animals

Chapter 11 – Achieving Moral Parity

That last chapter is a Q&A session with some of the leading voices in the animal rights movement. I couldn’t spend 10 chapters exploring many of the cruelest abuses imaginable and not end the book with some ray of hope. So I turned to Carol Adams, Marc Bekoff, Mylan Engel Jr., Harold Herzog, James McWilliams, and Richard Ryder, who all respond to questions relating to what it might take for animals to receive full moral parity with human beings. I think you’ll find their insights genuinely fascinating.

Here’s a short video interview I did with activist Michelle Taylor Cehn of Vegan Break that explains a bit about the book and why I wrote it. I was also on Our Hen House recently discussing the book in a little more depth.

I see Bleating Hearts as a companion to Striking at the Roots—one book examining animal exploitation and the other giving advocates tools to campaign against it.

Anita Krajnc of Toronto Pig Save, lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project, Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals, and Mark Hawthorne

Anita Krajnc of Toronto Pig Save, lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project, Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals, and Mark Hawthorne

I am especially pleased that the book features a cover photo by Jo-Anne McArthur of We Animals. (You may know Jo-Anne as the human subject of the new documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine.) Jo-Anne took the photograph during one of the vigils organized by Toronto Pig Save, an organization founded by the tireless activist Anita Krajnc. The group bears witness to the suffering of animals raised and slaughtered for food, and lauren and I were delighted to spend some time with Anita and Jo-Anne in Toronto a couple weeks ago. We participated in a demo outside one of the city’s slaughterhouses, and I was more than a little surprised to see Anita not only speak to the owner, but present him with a copy of Forks Over Knives, which he promised to watch!

Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering is available from the usual online book sellers in several countries, but if you can, I’m hoping you will support your local independent bookstore or the animal rights groups and vegan e-tailers that will carry it, such as Herbivore and Vegan Essentials. Please check my website for updates. Thanks!

Back in 2009, I wrote about the value of “one-click activism”; that is, using the Internet to participate in positive changes for animals. Since then there have been a number of headline-grabbing stories that involve activists using the Internet, from the more than 31,000 Change.org community members who helped convince the Food Network to stop featuring sharks as food to an online protest that led to the cancellation of a dog-meat festival in China last month. Now, I’m not suggesting that such armchair activism can ever replace more traditional avenues of campaigning. But as a tool for change, Web 2.0 activism is becoming undeniably important.

Change.org is one organization in an emerging field that is using the Internet to help people turn clicks into social change. To get an idea just how valuable online petitions have become, I asked two Change.org editors, Sarah Parsons and Stephanie Feldstein, to offer their insights. Sarah writes about food-related subjects on the site, and Stephanie is focused on animal issues. I began by asking Sarah how petitions on the site are created and who can create them. “Anybody, anywhere can create a petition,” she said. “We’ve had everyone from individuals to national non-profits. We try to promote petitions that have broad appeal to a fairly sizable audience. We do feature local campaigns as well, but they should be something that people in other parts of the country can relate to. We also want to make sure it’s something that is timely — that we feel can make an impact in the immediate future, rather than something that might take several years to accomplish.”

In addition to the recent success story about the Food Network, Change.org features a number of victories for animals, such as Urban Outfitters apologizing for selling real fur and a town in the UK halting a factory farm. But are all such victories directly linked to petitions, or are other factors involved? “It depends,” said Sarah. “Sometimes the online petition is the driving factor that creates the change; other times it’s just one piece of the puzzle. There could be an organization or individuals who are doing some on-the-ground organizing, who are holding protests or rallies or who are working with other groups to apply pressure. Sometimes the online petition is the main pressure point and other times it’s just one tool that is being used as part of a broader effort.”

I asked Stephanie how animal issues rank with Change.org’s members. “While we don’t have a ranking system among our causes,” she said, “animal issues are consistently among the most popular, both in terms of people coming to Change.org to sign campaigns and to start campaigns.” Okay, I responded, tell us a little about those campaigns. Which petitions for animals strike you as particularly meaningful? Stephanie said that one of the biggest victories they’ve had was working with the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) to push for reform to British Columbia’s animal cruelty laws. (Ian Somerhalder is anactor best known for his roles on Lost and The Vampire Diaries.) “When the story broke earlier this year that 100 sled dogs had been executed after a slow tourist season, animal activists around the world were furious,” explained Stephanie. “Ian wanted to make sure this kind of cruelty didn’t happen again, so ISF started a petition on Change.org, which laid out an ambitious list of improvements to British Columbia’s laws. More than 60,000 Change.org members joined the campaign. When the Sled Dog Task Force — which had been appointed in the wake of the public outcry about the 100 slaughtered sled dogs — submitted its final report to the government, it cited ISF’s Change.org petition, and nearly every recommendation from the petition was adopted by the provincial government.” She is also proud that their petition in support of the California bill on the sale and possession of shark fins attracted more than 27,000 signatures. The governor signed the bill into law last week.

One of the most encouraging aspects of online petitions is that they don’t take a lot of signatures to become an agent of change. “We had one campaign targeting Citibank Singapore, which was offering an incentive for new members to get a discount at a restaurant that served shark fin soup,” said Sarah. “The petition had about 75 signatures in 24 hours, and that was enough to get them to pull that promotion. So it’s not necessarily the number of signatures; sometimes just bringing it to a company’s attention is enough to get them to move on something.” But, I wondered, when a company like Citibank makes a change, how do you know it’s because of the petition? “You have to look at what else is going on in the space. If there are other organizations working on the same issue then you can’t say it was only because of this petition. But in the Citibank case in particular, there was really only this online petition that was calling them out to stop running this promotion. And as soon as the petition started, they ended up pulling the offer. We’ve also had companies respond to our petitions, and sometimes we work with them. It’s not always an antagonistic relationship. Sometimes a company is very willing to work with you as long as you bring it to their attention.”

Sarah acknowledged that a lot of activists consider social media activism to be a waste of time. “Certainly there’s this criticism that just signing an online petition is slacktivism, and that criticism will probably always exist,” she said. “But I think what our platform shows is that online petitions can be very powerful, and as we move into an increasingly technological age, communications via the Internet is really the wave of the future. It’s not slacktivism; it’s just modern.”

Sarah ended our conversation with this advice: “Don’t ever feel there’s nothing you can do. If you see a problem in your community or the country at large, there is a way for one person to make an impact. There’s no issue that’s too big or too small. It doesn’t cost any money. All you need is an Internet connection.”

 


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