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petaolympiclogoPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is taking advantage of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver to focus attention on Canada’s annual slaughter of seals. This week PETA unveiled its parody of the 2010 Olympic logo: the multicolored Inukshuk emblem with a club raised over its head and a bloody seal below. Underneath, the Olympic rings drip with blood. The group will use the campaign’s logo on trading pins and billboards and at pre-Olympic events around the world. It’s just one part of what PETA says will be a year-long campaign to increase awareness about the hundreds of thousands of baby seals who are killed each spring, primarily on the ice floes off Newfoundland and Labrador.

 

“There’s never been a better time for Canada to clean up their image by ending the seal kill,” says Lindsay Rajt, PETA campaigns manager.

 

PETA says it will join forces with its international affiliates in the UK, Germany, France, India, Australia and Asia. On behalf of every animal protection organization in the world, it will focus attention on the massacre by staging protests and sending action alerts to millions of supporters.

 

“If Canada wants to clean up its world image for the Olympics, the first thing it should do is call off the universally condemned seal slaughter,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “We want to make sure that everyone who’s interested in Canada’s Games learns about Canada’s shame.” 

 

PETA is asking people to write to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee to voice their outrage over the senseless massacre of seals.

 

For more ways to help end the seal slaughter, please click here.

After recent revelations about police spying on activists in Australia and New Zealand, did anyone think the US would be immune to such violations? According to The Washington Post this week, Maryland State Police engaged in an undercover investigation of advocacy groups, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Code Pink and Amnesty International. The spying lasted from 2005 until 2007 and relied heavily on the work of a female state trooper.

 

Using the aliases Lucy Shoup and Lucy McDonald, the undercover trooper befriended activists. “I want to get involved in different causes,” the twenty-something wrote in an email, citing her interest in “anti-death penalty, anti-war and pro-animal actions!!!”

 

petaofficeIntelligence officers created a voluminous file on PETA, calling the group a “security threat” in April 2005 because of concerns that members would disrupt a circus. By July, police were looking into a tip that the group had learned about a failing chicken farm in Kent County and were planning on “protesting or stealing the chickens.” A “very casually dressed” undercover trooper attended a speech by PETA president Ingrid Newkirk that month and waited afterward to see whether anyone talked about chickens. Nobody did.

 

Police have acknowledged that the monitoring spiraled out of control, with “Lucy” spending 14 months infiltrating peaceful protest groups. Troopers have said they inappropriately labeled 53 individuals as terrorists in their database, information that was shared with federal authorities. Among those labeled as terrorists were two Catholic nuns, a former Democratic congressional candidate, a lifelong pacifist and a registered lobbyist.

 

The Post reporters covering the scandal, Lisa Rein and Josh White, say they are aware of the actual identity of “Lucy,” but are declining to disclose her name because the newspaper claims it might compromise her efforts to conduct future undercover operations for the Maryland State Police.

 

“Lucy’s” early moves were sometimes clumsy, reports the Post: “She sent e-mails from a domain linked to the state police that could easily have been uncovered with an Internet search. She sprinkled truth across her cover story, once revealing her home county. She suddenly changed her name to Lucy Shoup and offered a new e-mail address, claiming a change in marital status. She asked lots of questions but never shared her thoughts, activists say. She also tried to use her new friendships to learn more about other groups.”

 

The surveillance ended with no arrests and no evidence of violent sedition; instead, Maryland troopers are preparing to purge files and say they are expecting lawsuits.

 

The Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union states that “despite the clear infringement of First Amendment rights, no Maryland law prohibits this outrageous law enforcement conduct or provides remedies for wrongful targets.”

In a letter dispatched to the President Bush, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk asks him to send this turkeypardonedyear’s “pardoned” turkeys, Pumpkin and Pecan, to a proper Washington, D.C.–area sanctuary rather than to Disneyland or a working farm, where pardoned turkeys are traditionally sent and where they usually die from their painful genetic defects within the first year — or even within days of arrival.

 

“You might be a lame duck,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a letter to Bush, “but you still have the power to help lame turkeys.”

 

In her letter, Ingrid points out that turkeys raised in factory farms are drugged and bred to grow so quickly that they are beset by painful, crippling injuries and deformities. Because of these problems, the birds’ lives are cut short by years and only a credible sanctuary can meet their critical medical needs. In addition to theme parks, other “pardoned” turkeys have been shipped to Kidwell Farm, a petting zoo at Frying Pan Park in Virginia, where many died within a year — and some within days — of arrival.

 

At least Bush’s turkey-pardoning ceremony was not the gruesome affair Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s was.

At the recent Animal Rights 2008 conference, pattrice jones distributed a wonderful report titled

pattrice jones with Franny the hen and cats Pearl and Pyjama.

pattrice jones with Franny the hen and cats Pearl and Pyjama.

“Strategic Analysis of Animal Welfare Legislation: A Guide for the Perplexed,” which is, thankfully, available online. Her report considers the importance of activists working on campaigns for welfare legislation in the animal rights movement. “Animal welfare and animal liberation need not be separate projects,” she writes. “In the case of factory farming, welfare reforms can provide immediate relief of suffering while at the same time contributing toward economic strategies intended to drive these exploitive industries out of business.” Ultimately, according to pattrice, “Welfare reforms that offer substantial relief of suffering while also raising the costs of animal exploitation should be favored, so long as no harms can be demonstrated.”

 

She contextualizes her position with a bit of background:

 

“In recent years, a hardline ‘abolitionist’ position in which efforts to improve the well-being of currently existing animals are condemned as ‘welfarist’ impediments to the future liberation of animals has gained momentum within animal advocacy. The absolutist style of discourse favored by the most vocal proponents of this position has had the effect, over time, of obscuring the important distinction between true ‘welfarists’ — such as members of the ‘North Carolina Responsible Animal Owners Alliance,’ who believe that animals are rightly property but who argue that animals ought to be treated humanely — and true animal liberationists who support measures to improve the welfare of animals either as interim measures or as steps in a strategic plan for the liberation of animals. Thus such prominent women in animal liberation as Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (who has argued that any recognition of any animal rights by legislators is a step toward the recognition of full rights) and Karen Davis of United Poultry Concerns (who has argued that the interests of individual existing animals ought not be ignored by humans who purport to speak for animals as a group) has been mischaracterized as welfarists, often in quite insulting terms. Such derisive mischaracterization has created a bullying atmosphere in which persons who are less certain of their position in the movement may hesitate to depart from doctrinaire opinions for fear of being similarly smeared. Female activists, in particular, may shy away from expressing concern for the welfare of actual animals for fear of being labeled soft-minded or sentimental. This state of affairs makes it difficult for activists to collectively talk through the nuanced details that always must be discussed when people try to put principles into action in the real world.

 

“At the same time, some proponents of animal welfare legislation also have engaged in discursive practices that make productive debate difficult. Here, the distinction that has been blurred is the all-important difference between condemning specific inhumane practices and promoting ‘humane’ exploitation of animals. While most animal rights organizations that sponsor or promote animal welfare initiatives are very careful never to cross that line, a few high-profile slip-ups have given an aura of legitimacy to the mistaken equation between the abolition of specific factory farming practices and the promotion of ‘happy meat.’ Gratuitous public insults of imprisoned animal liberation activists by proponents of more moderate tactics amplify the illusion that working for ultimate animal liberation and caring for animals in the here-and-now are necessarily two different projects. The opacity and lack of accountability of the upper echelons of national organizations promoting welfare initiatives has, like the discursive stridency of some abolitionists, made productive dialogue difficult. Disenchanted and angry at powerful organizations that neither explain their actions nor accept responsibility for their impact on the movement, grassroots activists who ought to be helping to think through and implement the coordinated strategies we will need if we are ever to make more than a dent in the production and consumption of animals retreat into alienated silence or join the ranks of the ‘abolitionists’ actively working to undermine efforts to reduce ongoing animal suffering.

 

“This sorry state of affairs might rightly be called a crisis. Animal advocates represent a rather small minority within the population of the world we hope to change. We cannot afford to be divided against ourselves. Nor can the animals afford for us to indulge in the luxuries of self-satisfaction, unthinking preference for particular tactics, or insular groupthink.”

 

In addition to being a long-time activist, pattrice is an author, public speaker, blogger, teacher, sanctuary founder and much more.

 

I encourage all activists to devote some time to carefully reading this well-considered report.


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